March 2010 / After the Ball
After The Ball
Mardi Gras 2010 was the best ever! But, hey, we say that about every Mardi Gras. Except maybe the one in 2006.
This year, with hardly a wound showing, we sparkled in the eye of television sets across the nation. The World? We were New Orleans in our great time of joy.
We just won the Super Bowel and elected a new mayor. Now, for Mardi Gras 2010, we dressed ourselves in colorful costumes and paraded Up- and Downtown with a spirit not seen in The City since the end of World War Two.
Plastic beads rained through the air of cold sun-washed days. Replicas of the What'a Bouts' (Saints) hard-won trophy passed on floats and atop bicycles. Revelers dressed as The Trophy. Sometimes the real thing passed held high for our cheering.
Mitch Landrieu, mayor elect, rode in parades with some of the football heroes. And throws worth saving passed from hand to hand. My favorite was a cellophane wrapped condom labeled "Mayor Nagin's Last Day, May 3, 2010, Prevent the spread of bad government."
Poor Mayor Ray Nagin, celebrating in shame and relief, toasted Krewe Kings for the last time from the Mayor's seat in front of Gallier Hall. We recalled the Thursday after The Storm when Nagin and newsman Garland Robinette broke into tears on WWL-radio.
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It must have been something like this year's Carnival when the Second World War ended. Old photographs show New Orleans folks spilling out in the streets glowing with knowledge that a century of peace stretched ahead of them.
Pray, unlike the ironic sixty-five years of round robin war that followed World War Two, today's pumped up City will not end up with the new Charity Hospital morphing into a four-bed clinic inside the world's largest football atrium.
Truths and Goodbyes
During the early weeks of Carnival we traveled to Abbeville -- where Mardi Gras, oddly, never took root. We went for something more somber, anyway. The funeral of Louisiana music great, Bobby Charles, author of See You Later Alligator and Walking to New Orleans.
I would not have believed it had someone told me, when I was a school boy, I would in twilight years celebrate the funeral mass of Bobby Charles, author of songs spilling daily from the radio. Songs that defined Life for me and my Brothers when we were doing time for the Illinois Board of Education.
How many corn-fed boys told corn-feeding girls, with a wink and a grin,"See you later alligator." Never mind we didn't know an alligator from a crocodile. We knew as clearly as Bobby Charles the metaphor of dangerous traps.
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The Sunset Limited from Lafayette to New Orleans was full. Rubens Mesa and Julieta Diaz, owners of Guamas, a popular Jefferson Street night club and restaurant, were on board, with their own bartender and his girl friend. They were bound for Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. The bar car ran out of everything but rum. We soldiered on.
After The Ball
Bound for Los Angeles, on the first Friday after Ash Wednesday, we took lunch in the diner of the westbound Sunset Limited. At my table was Robert W. Pfister, 2010's King Okeanos, LXI.
Okeanos is the last New Orleans Krewe to throw glass beads. "We get them from India," King Okeanos, LXI said with pride. He gave us a smll bag of beads and a stack of golden King's doubloons. Can Carnival end any better than that?
The train passed over the huge Atchafalya River and an elderly couple at the table across the aisle from us asked if it was the Mississippi again. This is one of those moments I live for, to bloviate as Leonard the knowledgeable. But this time I had to defer to Okeanos, who is, after all, the God of Rivers.
Copyright, 2010, Leonard Earl Johnson