he night air felt warm as I walked out of Louis Armstrong International Airport a week before Mardi Gras and dropped my bags at the curb. I flagged down a taxi, a metallic blue 70s van driven by a heavy set, nice looking Latina. She got out and opened the rear doors which were decorated with a rainbow-striped peace sign decal that I told her made me feel like I was still in San Francisco. Inside the van were pull-down blinds covering dark tinted windows, a countertop equipped with recessed beer can holders, and black velvet seat covers emblazoned with orange panther eyes. Throw in a bong and I would've been in a Cheech and Chong movie. Gave her Dave's address and off we went.
he record store in the French Quarter where Dave works inexplicably still had a working phone line after Hurricane Katrina, and I called every day for updates on the gangs of gun-toting locals roaming the city. When the National Guard eventually arrived, Dave told me he was hoping a bus out the next day, and I jokingly suggested he should hide his Sun 45 of "That's Alright Mama" in the wall before he left. After thinking about it, he stuck it in his backpack and took it with him. He moved to the Midwest and worked in his brother's record store in Omaha for a year, then returned to New Orleans last year and found a one bedroom apartment a few blocks off St. Charles near Napoleon.
hen I first walked in, I was stunned at how much larger it was than his old place on Esplanade, where I barely had enough room to sleep on the floor. His new living room was huge, and the bedroom wasn't much smaller, but even though he wasn't paying that much more rent than before, he also wasn't living at one end of the Quarter anymore either. We spent the rest of the night drinking while I upgraded the operating system on his iMac, which because I had previously partitioned his hard drive into two volumes—one for OS 9 and one for OS X—required backing up all his data, erasing the drive and then reinstalling everything.
ednesday morning Dave drove me to Whole Foods on Magazine Street, in an old warehouse that used to be a garage for city buses, and I laid in a week's worth of provisions. That afternoon I went shopping down Magazine Street, which I hadn't visited in years. I usually never venture further Uptown than Lee Circle if I'm staying on the other side of Canal Street. I tried on some Liberty cowboy boots in a western wear shop called Sputnik Ranch because I had been thinking about ordering a custom pair but didn't know how Liberty Boots' sizes fit me. At the end of the commercial stretch of the street, I waited at a bus stop to take the Magazine bus to Canal, and talked to an old timer named Apple Nelson, who said he was an R&B drummer who played with Johnny Taylor and Hank Ballard back in the day. I looked for him on All Music when I got home but didn't find him.
he air turned chilly, and the high temperature dropped almost 25 degrees from the mid 70s day before to the low 50s on Wednesday. When I reached the Quarter I walked to Rumors on Royal Street to buy a Mardi Gras mask. Leather masks can be found all over, but the masks at Rumors are made from nicer leather than ones in other shops, and I bought a black one with pointed tips that extend down either side of my nose almost to my mouth. Afterward I walked down Royal Street checking out antique stores, and in a couple of ritzier shops I asked if they ever came across old French harmonica canes, which are antique walking sticks that have harmonica reeds and blow holes set into the metal handle of the cane. Apparently one turns up every once in a while and sells for a couple of grand, but I can't imagine that the reeds would still be in tune decades later. When I got to Jackson Square, I was sad to see the La Madeleine bakery was gone, when I lived in the Quarter I stopped there every morning on my way to work. The square in front of the cathedral was completely empty. No tarot card readers, no portrait artists, no musicians, no tourists, no street punks, no one. The cold weather kept everyone indoors, but it was my first glimpse of Jackson Square since Katrina and it seemed creepy.
rowds and parking problems aside, the most fucked up thing about living Uptown at Mardi Gras is that the parade routes travel down St. Charles Avenue and then up Canal, bisecting the city and preventing buses and other traffic from driving between Uptown and the Quarter unless you loop way around up by Claiborne Avenue. The St. Charles streetcar doesn't run all the way Uptown anymore and has been replaced by regular motor coaches that only run until about midnight. I had to hurry back to Canal to catch the last St. Charles bus heading Uptown before the parade started, and I stopped by Maspero's to order a muffaletta—an Italian sandwich packed with ham, cheese, salami, and olives that originated in 1906 at Central Grocery a few blocks down Decatur Street—to go. The woman behind the bar looked at my bag from Rumors and said, Aw you bought your honey some Valentines. I'd completely forgotten it was Valentine's Day, and told her I didn't have no honey, I bought a present for myself.
ack at Dave's I zapped my cold muffaletta in the microwave and dug electronics gear out of my suitcase. I unplugged his turntable from his receiver and hooked it up to a turntable preamp I brought with me, then ran cables from the preamp into my portable Behringer mixer, which in turn I plugged into the line-in jack on my PowerBook. Dave's walk-in closet contains about nine articles of clothing and almost forty boxes of 45s, sorted by decade, almost three-quarters of them from the 50s. I dug out one of the six boxes of 60s singles and began listening to them one by one, burning .aif files of the ones with good dance grooves. Both Dave and I have worked in record stores all over the country, and while we both knows guys with record collections larger than Dave's, Dave's record collection kicks my record collection's ass, and he lets me copy whatever I want. You can't ask for a better friend in life than that.
hat night after the parades ended, I hopped the St. Charles bus back to the Quarter and attended a fetish fashion show at One Eyed Jack's. I often wind up watching these shows at goth clubs in San Francisco, and the Bay Area version is usually pretty boring, big on techno playa wear modeled by alternagirls with fluorescent hair and/or dreadlocks and/or shaved heads, along with the requisite full body tattoos and piercings. Always there are circus acrobats and a fire twirler. Often someone is lifted into the air and swung around by wires hooked through holes in their skin. I found the New Orleans designers more interesting, working with leather and latex and stretchy/shiny fabrics ubiquitous to fetish fashion but steering clear of road warriordom in favor of an old world Victorian meets punk aesthetic, with lots of carnival, animal and fantasy motifs thrown in. The master of ceremonies was wearing latex from head to toe, including a white latex bunny mask with big floppy ears. He announced a fairy parade starting in Jackson Square at 8 on Friday night, and I remember thinking that after living in San Francisco for a couple of decades the last thing I needed to see was another gay parade, but after the show I was sitting near the front of the bar and saw this flier on a table by the door.
ext to the fliers were copies of a parody newspaper called The News Orleans Levee, sort of a Big Easy version of The Onion. Motto: "We don't hold anything back." One phony satirical article after another raked Mayor Nagin and do-nothing District Attorney Eddie Jordan over the coals, along with Governor Blanco and President Bush. One of my favorite items
But as humorous as The New Orleans Levee is, authentic New Orleans news items are just as hilarious and surreal. Check out this article in New Orleans CityBusiness titled "Transvestite crime gangs pester Magazine Street owners."
fter leaving One Eyed Jack's I walked from Toulouse Street over to Molly's on Decatur, and the temperature outside was in the low 30s. Molly's was practically empty, as was the Abbey and the Whirling Dervish, and since I was freezing my ass off I caught a cab back to Dave's and went to bed, but he only had a couple of extra blankets and I was sleeping on the floor, so I froze my ass off there too and had to put on more clothes before I could fall asleep.
hursday afternoon I took the Gray Line bus tour of Hurricane Katrina damage in New Orleans. We drove past the patched up breaks in the levees and saw countless houses and apartments with blue FEMA tarps covering holes in the roof chopped by residents trying to escape the water rising inside their buildings. The news footage was disturbing enough, but when you go there and look out over one decimated neighborhood after another, wrecked abandoned houses stretching for miles in every direction, and then you imagine it all underwater, it's completely overwhelming. Gray Line initially worried about being accused of exploiting the disaster by offering the tour, but local New Orleanians were all for it, insisting that tourists needed to see firsthand what trouble their city is in. To their credit, Gray Line hired feisty local yats to conduct the tours and seems to give them free rein to say what they want. Our guide—who grew up out by Lake Pontchartrain, near where the 17th Street levee broke—said Folks this is a wake up call if you think the federal government is looking out for the welfare of the people of this country, and that's not Gray Line's opinion, that's mine. Her attitude seems to be pretty much shared by almost everyone who lives in New Orleans these days, white and black.
he night before I flew down for Mardi Gras I watched a documentary about New Orleans on PBS' American Experience. The two hour program was impressionistic, mixing segments dealing with New Orleans past and present, and in part examined the way the city's power elite has over the years screwed minorities and poor people. This included New Orleans' enthusiastic support for Jim Crow laws that stripped away equal rights granted to black people after the Civil War, legally disenfranchising and ruining the city's professional middle class black community and driving Louis Armstrong away from his hometown in disgust, never to return again. The documentary also explored how integration and the civil rights movement of the 60s destroyed public education in Louisiana. Dave attended public school in the state back then, and told me that before integration, local schools were well funded, provided free hot lunches and had rigorous academic standards, but afterward the gerrymandering of local tax districts practically shut off funding for public schools in areas with lots of black kids.
ost of the media coverage of the Katrina problems in New Orleans focuses on the Ninth Ward, and understandably so. The dislocation of thousands of people with absolutely no money and no prospects, all forced by disaster to flee into new locales across the nation is a dramatic story that echoes back to the Dust Bowl era. And while black New Orleanians understand that the authorities have conspired for decades to maintain the status of the black community as a permanent underclass, it was a revelation to white suburbanites across the country—except those who prefer to imagine that a so-called lack of moral integrity on the part of black people is the reason for their troubles—that this sort of endemic racism and poverty is still so virulent in twenty-first century America.
he plight of more affluent and largely white homeowners living out by the lake is no less serious, but because they have more money and resources with which to cope, they don't wind up on the news as much. But as the PBS documentary pointed out with regard to the New Orleans bankers who blew up the levee in St. Bernard parish in 1927, poor and working class white people get screwed by the bigwigs as well. The woman driving the Gray Line bus grew up in St. Bernard parish, and even though the tour wasn't supposed to drive down there, she wanted to show us the house on top of which her uncle waited while people and pigs and snakes and deer swam from rooftop to rooftop, trying to escape the water. She also told us how her family had been evacuated from St. Bernard parish when the bankers flooded it in 1927 with promises of reparations for the residents that were never paid. As a bonus, she drove past Fats Domino's house, even though tour buses aren't supposed to go down his street.
hen I returned to the Quarter, I went to the Country Flame for Mexican food, and the television in the restaurant was tuned to a Spanish language news station. Suddenly a news clip came on showing hundreds and hundreds of people in San Francisco having an outdoor pillow fight in Justin Herman Plaza on Valentine's Day. I laughed and thought God bless San Francisco, the second most frivolous city in the nation. Next I went to Walgreen's and bought a couple of travel blankets, then walked over to the Louisiana Music Factory and hung out with Dave and Freeman until they closed the store, then we went to the Chart Room and started drinking. Freeman ordered a bright orange liqueur and I asked him what it was. Mandarine Napolean brandy from Belguim he said and offered me a taste. The stuff was sweet, tasty and packed a punch, you could feel it kick in after half a glass. After that, all Mardi Gras long I walked back and forth between the Chart Room and Pirate's Alley Cafe, alternating brandy at one with absinthe at the other. I snapped some shots of Freeman and Dave and of the bar. Nothing is more annoying to a dark bar full of drunks than flash pictures, so I turned off the flash on the camera and set it on the bar using a desktop tripod and left the shutter open for a few seconds, which is why Freeman and Dave look a little blurry, although after a few rounds of Napolean brandy they started to look that way in real life too.
reeman and I left Dave at the Chart Room and walked over to Canal to watch the end of the Knights Of Chaos parade, whose theme this year was "Chaos Breaks Wind." Chaos is an irreverent krewe that specializes in satirizing local politicians, including the usual suspects Mayor Nagin, District Attorney Jordan, and the recently re-elected freezer-stuffing Congressman from Louisiana, William Jefferson.
fter the parade Freeman and I walked down to Evelyn's where I ate a burger, and after more drinks we walked back to Canal for the next parade, the all-female Krewe Of Muses, my favorite part of which was a marching troupe named the Bearded Oysters. We didn't last until the end of the parade because it got down to 30 degrees again that night, almost too cold to take your hands out of your pockets to catch beads. We headed back to the Chart Room to find Dave still at the bar. We kept drinking until it was late enough to catch a taxi straight Uptown and Dave and I packed it in and headed home. The travel blankets improved life greatly.
riday I screwed around Dave's most of the afternoon burning CDs and 45s. I caught the last St. Charles bus to the Quarter before the parades started and went to Olivier's for crab cakes and peach cobbler. I checked out the French Market, which years ago was full of vendors selling collectables and antiques and records and vintage clothes. I once bought a 1920s Underwood in perfect condition from a guy who repaired old typewriters—initially he wanted forty bucks for it, but then he asked why I was buying it and I told him I was a writer and needed a working typewriter, and since I was going to actually use it and not just put it on a shelf he gave it to me for thirty. The worthwhile vendors are mostly gone now, and today the French Market is full of cheap tourist junk and pretty much a waste of time. Then it was off to the Chart Room again with Dave and Freeman when they got off work, but then I announced to much derision and merriment that I was leaving to catch the fairy parade.
s I passed K-Paul's restaurant, three jazz players—trumpet, tuba, and snare drum—in traditional marching band outfits were standing out front serenading the diners. I pulled out my leather bag of harps, found the key and jumped in with a solo on "Jambalaya." When they finished the song I told them thanks, and the trumpet player asked me, What else ya got? Oh anything, I said, as long as it's in a major key. They played "St. Louis Blues" and I blew a couple of choruses. When I arrived at Jackson Square, I found twenty or thirty Krewe Du Fayers milling about wearing winged costumes. Even though the girls were really cute, I probably wouldn't have stayed without musicians to jam with, but a fellow in a black velvet jacket was playing guitar and singing, and as the parade started down Chartres I fell in beside him and provided harmonica for whatever folk, blues, or rock songs he sang. The procession stopped briefly at the Ursulines Convent for a fire ceremony
then resumed its stroll around the Quarter and eventually wound up at the river for a closing fairy incantation. Laura, the lovely pink poet laureate of the krewe, recited Yeat's "The Stolen Child," and at the end everyone chanted the last stanza several times in unison
Come away, O human child!
he parade thus ended, everyone headed over to Pirate's Alley Cafe, where I ordered an absinthe and continued making music with Mike, a good singer who I learned moved to New Orleans from Mississippi.
ore good times were had, more libations were imbibed, then Karissa—one of the models at the fetish fashion show and the red-caped leader of Krewe Du Faye, which she inherited when the krewe's original founder moved to Atlanta after Katrina—led us over to Bourbon Street where someone she knew at a bar let us go upstairs and hang out on the balcony. It had been ages since I hung out on a balcony on Bourbon Street, and as it turned out this was the only time I set foot on Bourbon Street all Mardi Gras.
ventually I decided that I needed to eat something before I drank anymore, so I bid farewell to my newfound fairy friends and weaved my way over to Zotz Cafe at Esplanade and Decatur and ate a muffin. Directly over Zotz is a club called the Dragon's Den where an all-girl DJ night called Chocolate Kitty II was in progress, but they were spinning regular boring club music that I can hear anytime in San Francisco, so I wandered over to the Whirling Dervish and danced to goth DJs for about an hour, then began looking for a cab home. There seemed to be none at that end of the Quarter, so I walked to Canal and tried to flag down a taxi, which took a while. In New Orleans, the meters add on an extra buck for every passenger, so cabbies avoid picking up single passengers who look like locals and drive right past them to pick up groups of tourists instead. Some cabs don't even have a meter and the drivers will want fifteen or twenty bucks for a ten dollar cab ride. Eventually I caught a cab with a normal metered fare back to Dave's and passed out.
ver the weekend, parades ran down St. Charles all day and night, and Saturday afternoon I called United and caught a taxi up to Claiborne and over to Port Of Call on Esplanade for a burger and baked potato. Eventually I hooked up with Dave and Freeman and more Napolean brandy at the Chart Room, then over to Canal for the Endymion parade, then off to Pirate's Alley for absinthe, then over to Molly's for Knob Creek. One of the bartenders, when I told her I was from San Francisco, asked me if I knew Chris Isaak because she met him once and he told her to call him if she was ever in town. As I go through life, I am continually amazed at how many girls I encounter who have been propositioned by Chris Isaak. The jukebox was silent, so I put in a couple of bucks and punched up a few songs including "Rednecks" by Randy Newman, "Torn And Frayed" by the Stones, "Innocent When You Dream" by Tom Waits, "Have A Little Faith In Me" by John Hiatt, "What Goes On" by the Velvet Underground and "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks.
wandered in and out of bars along Frenchmen Street checking out bands, and as it grew late I wandered back to the Whirling Dervish where no one was dancing. It's Saturday night before Mardi Gras I thought, where are all the goth kids? I started walking toward Canal Street, on my way to the Circle Bar to see the Hazard County Girls and to the Big Top a couple of blocks away on Clio Street—or CL-10 Street, as some locals call it, malapropisming the capitalized street sign. Speaking of Lee Circle, I miss the Hummingbird Bar and Grill, I remember my first time there I was eating breakfast and a large hooker came down from one of the rooms upstairs in her slip and stopped on the staircase and yelled into the bar, Hey does anybody down here want to fuck?
s I cut through Jackson Square I ran into a crowd of goths parading my way
so I followed them back down to Decatur where they all piled into the Dervish and crowded onto the dance floor. I forgot about the Circle Bar and the Big Top, pulled off my shirt and dug in for a couple of hours of serious butt shaking. At one point I was grinding my hips with my feet apart and knees bent when a short black girl with dreads put one of her legs between my mine and straddled my thigh, keeping her crotch about an inch away from mine as we swung our hips in a wide circle together. Man, could that girl dance. She got a big sweaty hug when the song ended.
had another hard time trying to catch a cab on Decatur late that night, so I walked to Canal where several cabs drove past me, picking up groups of people instead. Finally a cabbie with a Caribbean accent picked me up, but before we were out of the CBD he stopped and asked some drunk white guy trying to hail a cab where he was going. This clown was wearing one of those stupid fluorescent fur pimp outfits and was totally smashed, and as he climbed in the cab he began arguing about the fare and then started threatening to kick the cab driver's ass. The cabbie reached under his shirt to indicate that he had a gun or a knife or something tucked in his belt. I put my hand on the door handle and got ready to jump out, while the day-glo jerk backed half way out of the cab, pulled out a cell phone and started calling the cops. Just then a gust of wind blew his dumb floppy pimp hat down the street and as he ran after it I grabbed the handle of the front passenger door, pulled it shut and told the cab driver to take off. Then as we were crossing Poydras some other dude with his face all beaten to shit ran up to the cab and pounded on it trying to get in. Eventually I made it to Dave's in one piece, but I didn't give the driver much of a tip.
y Sunday I needed a break from the Quarter and cab drivers and Napolean brandy, so I hung around Uptown all day recording 45s and watched the Bacchus parade from St. Charles. The crowd scene at that end of the parade route is kind of like a big frat party. Lots of folks from Metairie drive in down Napoleon to watch, Tulane students arrive from further down St. Charles, and now that the street car isn't running they camp out for hours beforehand on the median—in New Orleans called the neutral ground—between the two lanes of St. Charles Avenue, setting up ladders, chairs, and sofas on top of the streetcar tracks, the Mardi Gras parade equivalent of a tailgate party.
walked down Napoleon around the parade to Magazine and when the end of the parade passed by I walked down Magazine to Popeye's for a spicy four piece with Cajun rice, and you know what, spicy Popeye's ain't near as spicy as it used to be. When I got back Dave popped in a DVD of a very weird Thai flick, a sort of Kung Fu zombie comedy called Sars Wars.
onday I tossed my contact lenses and Mardi Gras mask into a backpack and hopped a bus to the Quarter, where I stopped by the Music Factory and Freeman loaned me keys to his studio in the Quarter so I could crash there Lundi Gras night and get an early start Mardi Gras morning. I ditched my bag at his place and called my buddy Harold over in the Bywater, who told me to swing by, so I grabbed an Italian sandwich at Angeli and hoped a cab out to the small cinder block warehouse where Harold lives near Poland Street.
hen Katrina hit, Harold was living in a house on Louisa Street, and at the time I remember telling friends I was certain Harold was having a blast and would never leave except at gunpoint, which as it turned out was exactly the case. Harold told me some great stories about life in the Bywater after the hurricane, everyone running around with guns, looting stores, stockpiling more booze than could humanly be consumed, taking baths in the swimming pool at the Country Club, hanging out with the soldiers camped out at the end of his block, which was entirely deserted except for Harold and his girlfriend and one 75 year old guy who lived across the street. He showed me a pile of vinyl albums he found tossed into the street by some guys emptying a house, and as they were about to pitch a refrigerator on top of them Harold ran up and screamed NOT ON THE RECORDS! Eventually the military told Harold to evacuate or be forcibly removed, so he poured a few gallons of gas that he had been given by a German documentary crew into his truck and drove to Florida.
arold and I set off down Royal Street in search of the Krew Du Poüx parade and a few blocks later we ran right into it. The Krew Du Poüx is one of the renegade (no parade permit) hippy freaky bohemian carnival krewes of the Marigny and Bywater, along with Eris and the Royal Revelers of Discordia. As soon as we caught up to the parade I ran to the front and starting playing harmonica along with the band, which was swinging on a gospel hymn as they rolled down the street. The procession turned into an alley near Franklin for its annual demolition derby of shopping carts with bumpers made from attached sections of rubber car tires. At a signal from the master of ceremonies, some Poüxians rode inside the carts and while others pushed them in a circle around a black mailbox with the address 666. A guy wearing a tall paper machete three-headed clown mask ran around and bopped the participants with a giant mallet. When one cart was still left upright the round was over, and somehow after three or four rounds of this a champion was selected, which didn't happen last year because the cops broke it up before the finish.
usic critic Jon Pareles attended the parade, and afterward wrote dramatically in the New York Times, "There was humor in the competition; there was also anger and unfocused bitterness. New Orleans has always been a haven for arty misfits with a taste for decadence. In post-disaster New Orleans, they also have a taste for catastrophe: in sorrow and in rage, but also for the thrill of it." But really, the Bywater krewes haven't changed since the hurricane, they just have more effete high profile outsiders around to confound with their antics. When I asked Harold if the parades right after Katrina were smaller or different, he said Not the ones I go to. After the champion was crowned and glass Krew Du Poüx medallions sporting a big turd were given away, the band played while exotically costumed women danced in the alley, then the parade set off again and ended up at Zotz. You can watch a short documentary about Krew Du Poüx on YouTube to see them in action.
mall neighborhood parades are my favorite thing about Mardi Gras because everyone is a participant, not a spectator. One Mardi Gras I was walking past Checkpoint Charlie's when a band came marching out the front door of the bar, a few drummers and about six or seven guys playing electric bass through Pignoses and other battery powered amps. They congregated on the corner of Esplanade and Decatur shouting Bass Parade! Bass Parade! and as the drummers laid down a beat the bass players all began playing the riff from "Super Freak" in unison. Right then a cow came walking down the street and joined the crowd—not an actual cow, but two people in a black and white spotted cow costume—and the parade started down the middle of Decatur Street until we reached Molly's and detoured inside. After a few refreshments we left again amid further chants of Bass Parade! Bass Parade! and We need more nine volt batteries! and headed back down Decatur and turned onto the neutral ground of Esplanade at which point I bailed out and headed somewhere else.
wandered over to the Chart Room where Freeman sat drinking, but Dave had already gone home. I walked over to One Eyed Jack's to see if Andre Williams had gone on, but Little Howlin' Wolf, the opening act, still hadn't played so I walked over to Molly's and coming down Decatur was another renegade parade, a crowd of goth kids dressed in red and black, producing an ungodly amount of noise by pounding metal wash tubs, banging five gallon water bottles mounted on poles against the pavement, and blasting sirens and bullhorns in an earsplitting cacophony that sounded like your worst nightmare of screaming ambulances and fire trucks and squad cars accompanied by drums. I asked about the name of the parade, and was told it was called variously the Noisicion Coalition, the Krewe Of Joyful Noise, and the Noise Parade.
pulled out a harmonica and tooted along, participating in spirit if not volume, and the parade turned up St. Phillip and invaded Flanagans Pub. After taking a break, the parade quietly walked past the NOPD squad car parked at the end of the block and once out of earshot cranked up the noise again and turned down Toulouse and invaded One Eyed Jack's, where the ringleaders jumped onto the bar and kept banging away. As I stood outside of the bar
a very friendly man tapped me on the shoulder and asked, Do you have a website called wastedspace.com? I looked at him and said, Yes how did you know that? He introduced himself as Gary from Slidell, and said one day he Googled blues harmonica and ran across my site and read the whole thing, thinking at the time he would probably run into me some day, and sure enough he did. Gary said his son was one of the founders of the krewe and designed and built most of the instruments for the parade. That's the second time I've been recognized by a total stranger in front of that bar—once when it was the Shim Sham Club a guy came up to me and said, Hey aren't you that guy who dances at all the clubs in San Francisco? Here is Gary with his wife Cindy.
ust as the parade was piling out of One Eyed Jack's, another police car drove by, stopped and backed up in front of the bar, and when the officers got out and went inside someone yelled Run for it! and we all took off around the corner running as fast as we could down Chartres until we reached Jackson Square, where everyone reassembled for the final march down Decatur to the Whirling Dervish, where the parade ended with the noisemakers up on the bar again. There's a video of the Noise Paradeon Blender magazine's website.
fter the parade wound down, I walked one block over to Freeman's where I fell asleep on his floor for a few hours, then woke up early, popped in my contacts, put on my mask, and went out to greet Mardi Gras morning, which turned out to be much warmer than the previous few days. I ate breakfast at a cafe on Decatur and wandered over to the R Bar on Royal near Esplanade to watch the Marigny turn out.
saw lots of pirates, harlequins, Clockwork Orange droogs, and revealingly clad Mardi Gras girls, but of all the costumes I saw, the one that made me laugh the hardest was this guy.
waited around for the Krewe Of Kosmic Debris to assemble on Frenchmen Street, but they were taking their time, so I walked across the Quarter and watched the Zulu parade on Canal Street. I caught some good Zulu swag, including cups, necklaces and a plastic Zulu tambourine, which to me is the coolest throw of any parade. Everyone says a Zulu coconut is the most prized throw, but really, what am I gonna do with a coconut? A tambourine you can make music with, so to me a Zulu tambourine rules.
dropped my Zulu stuff off at Freeman's and caught up with the Krewe Of Kosmic Debris marching through the Quarter down Decatur. I got out in front of the parade and began leading the second line down the street. Dancing in parades is just about the most fun ever, and if I do say so myself, I'm real good at it. The only jazz funeral I ever attended was for Earl King, and the band played slow and sad as his coffin was carried down the steps of Gallier Hall and placed in the horse-drawn glass hearse, but a block or two down the street they started to swing out, and I stepped up front with the dancers leading the parade, all black guys who looked like old hands at second lining. As the procession turned onto Canal heading for Rampart, I started doing my thing, syncopated high stepping in time with the music, strutting sideways, dancing backwards, spinning in circles, shaking my ass a few inches off the ground as I duckwalked down the street. You don't see many white folks dance like that in New Orleans and some of the brothers shot me dirty looks for being such a show-off. As the parade turned off Rampart heading for the cemetery, I started into the Quarter and some paraders followed me and told me what a great dancer I was. At moments like that I feel like I don't fit in better anyplace than I do in New Orleans.
osmic Debris eventually reached Jackson Square, where the fundamentalists were out enjoying themselves too.
walked up to Royal where I ran into the Krewe of St. Anne parade and jumped in behind the brass band and danced over to Canal, then ran around the Quarter checking out costumes and playing harmonica with all the musicians I encountered. I saw some folks wheeling around a replica of the city jail with a miniature glass revolving front door. Somebody else welded a metal cage onto a wheelchair and attached to it every conceivable type of drum, bongo, xylophone, pot or pan that you could hammer on to make noise. All day and night it rolled around unattended to various spots all over the Quarter where people crowded around to bang on it.
long the way I stopped to eat at Fiorella's and then headed over to Frenchmen which was packed with drummers and parades and revelers all coming and going in various states of inebriation. A klezmerish brass band led a parade down the street and over to the Dragon's Den, so I followed them for a while, and then headed back to Frenchmen as it started to get dark. I'm usually fine with running around alone and keeping myself entertained, but as Mardi Gras started drawing to a close, I stood in the intersection of Chartres and Frenchmen watching neighbors greet each other, couples making out, friends walking arm in arm and beer in hand, and with no one to talk to I started to feel a little down and grew sort of lonesome and sad, wishing I knew more people here, wishing I had a gal in my arms who loved me. Around 8 or 9 I hit the wall, walked back to Freeman's, collected my stuff, hopped a cab to Dave's and called it a Mardi Gras.
sh Wednesday in the Quarter was nice and quiet, like it used to be back before the arrival of Girls Gone Wild and Playboy and frat boys who never know when to stop. I was sitting in Zotz when a punk girl walked by with a harmonica tattooed on her back. You don't see many harmonica tattoos. I think I'm going to get one like it.