Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th, Valentine's Day, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Melinda Palacio

photo by Anthony Posey

           Today is Friday the 13th, tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and Tuesday is Mardi Gras. This is the last week of carnival season. I have to admit, parading this year on a leg that's been snapped, broken, and put back together with screws and a plate has been a challenge, to say the least. Most days, I'm happy to be walking. I even posed for my photographer friend in high heels in front of street art by Wrdsmth, the person tops a stencil of a typewriter with a positive message.

            There's something about the city that makes you want to be in that number, as the song goes and join in the festivities of watching parades, eating king cake, and catching throws. What's especially fun is spotting a float rider who will hand you something special like a decorated purse or a glittered shoe or coconut.
Marching bands provide most of the parade's soundtrack.

            The first time I saw a Mardi Gras parade in 2007, I had beginner's luck and caught 7 coconuts from Zulu, the krewe that kicks off Mardi Gras day parades. When I was in middle school, I was always the kid with the glasses who was the last one picked for sports or outside games that involved tossing or catching a ball. Now that I am a seasoned parader, I can catch beads, cups, stuffed animals, cups and footballs with one hand; something I could never image doing when I was a little kid. Five years ago, when I attended the Squaw Valley Poetry Retreat, I wasn't half bad in the poets softball game; I even scored a base hit.

            Parades this week began on Wednesday. I waited for the second parade, Nyx, to begin because I knew at least one float rider, my friend Veronica. Nyx is the parade known for throwing purses. Veronica had been a longtime friend of a charter member of the parade krewe and then her friend's daughter became a member. Last year, after Mardi Gras, she decided to put her name on the waiting list for riding in the parade. In the summer, she received the invite to join.

Beautiful Clydesdale Horses
            Behind their regalia, most of the float riders look similar. I was lucky that Veronica recognized me in the crowd. I yelled out her name but thought she was the woman two seats ahead. While parade revelers sometimes feel left out because they aren't handed a special throw. Riders also find it hard to untangle beads and hand out special items, such as purses or shoes before the float rolls to the next set of hands. "I also managed to miss my son and husband," Veronica said, "and they were right underneath me, apparently!" She also cut her finger trying to hand a purse to someone.

Mardi Gras throws, including the gray peace purse from Veronica at the Nyx Parade
            On Valentine's Day, Steve and I will celebrate love for Mardi Gras by going to see the Spanish Town Parade in Baton Rouge. Their theme this year is St. Valentine's Day Masquerade. Happy Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

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