Sunday Night Check-In: ‘tit Rex, Chewbacchus and Sunny Days

Chewbaccus on Frenchmen Street

Chewbaccus on Frenchmen Street

This was a weekend of making new friends. I can’t believe how many new people I talked to and met over the course of the last two days. Mardi Gras season down here does seem to bring out the best in people. It’s all smiles. At work, we’re about to start a big project involving a Utah vendor, and they wanted to kick it off Mardi Gras week. Even though we’ve been chomping at the bit for this lift-off for over a year, we are going to cram it all in this week on short notice because there’s no way South Louisiana can focus on work during Mardi Gras week. Christmas and Thanksgiving are but stepping stones to the grand dame of the holiday season, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.

I downloaded my parade tracker app in mid-January. Yes … there’s an app that tells you where all of the parades are in up-to-the-minute detail. I went to Mardi Gras once when I was young. My country parents drilled it in my head that if I ever went to New Orleans, I’d be killed upon reaching the city limits. I snuck down there a few times during college, and I have to say I did wonder if I’d been killed the next day, but apparently I’d lived to tell about the experience – if only I could remember it. I went to one Mardi Gras with my friend Angel, but it’s a vague collage of fuzzy images that tell me nothing. So, for years when I lived away, I only had my imagination to tell me what Mardi Gras in New Orleans was like. I imagined it was like the Macy’s Day parades or the Rose Bowl extravaganza. After all, I knew it was opulent and decadent, and those parades are pretty cool. But, I was dead wrong about Mardi Gras.

Last year I went to NOLA Saturday and Sunday before Mardi Gras. I walked the route of Endymion. You can read my blogs here (my favorite is the second one):

The Mardi Gras Adventure Begins

Fried Chicken, Ladders and Beads: Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The parades were nothing like what I thought. In fact, the parades were cool, but they were not the highlight of the carnival. It was the crowds in the neighborhoods, the colors of everything, the costumes, and the smiles on their faces. The Mardi Gras in the neighborhoods of New Orleans is nothing like the dark and provocative Mardi Gras in the French Quarter. Literally the whole town was dancing for days. I wanted to go back this year, but I wanted to go MORE. Parades start in January, and each week brings more and more parades until the carnival peaks that last week before Mardi Gras day. I had no idea there were so many, and so many different kinds.

Each parade is born of a Krewe that works all year to plan the parade and celebration during the carnival. There are a crazy number of Krewes and parades. You can see a breakdown here and the schedule of parades. This is serious business. I’d love to know how much money is made at Mardi Gras each year. But, last year I spent exactly $17 for my weekend adventure. It’s free to the public unless you want to go to a ball or get seats in bleachers. You can even go by yourself. You will have 12 new friends before you leave.

The tiny floats of ‘tit Rex

Yesterday, I experienced some walking parades. These are neighborhood parades that have no motorized vehicles over the size of a golf cart. The first one we saw was ‘tit Rex. This Krewe decided that the super-sized floats needed some competition, so their floats are teeny, tiny floats made out of shoeboxes. They give out teeny, tiny ‘throws’ like teeny umbrellas, a teeny plastic baby impaled on a giant diaper pin and teeny, tiny cards. The parade stopped right where we were standing, and the woman beside us asked me if the man in the parade in front of me was from The Fringe. “I have no idea,” I said. “Why don’t you ask him?” I added. I had just asked him why the parade had stopped, and he was right nice. Indeed he was the star of The Fringe. We took photos of the two of them, and the three of us carried on a conversation with a TV star until the teeny, tiny parade started up again. There were teeny, tiny bands for good measure.

We walked down the street to catch Chewbacchus. This is a parody parade theme of a sci-fi nature. Indeed, Chewbacchus was there sucking on a bottle of Crown Royal. We saw the parade on Frenchmen Street – a big music street in New Orleans. It was packed with thirty-somethings dressed in outlandish costumes. Chewbacchus was huge. I counted over 75 ‘floats’ which were mostly inebriated people dressed in homemade cheesy costumes pulling kegs and ice chests. At first glance, I thought this was ridiculous, but as the evening wore on, I started to enjoy this cheesy, outlandish activity. What a great way for everybody to be celebrities for a minute and to show off your creativity even if you aren’t very creative. By the end I was dancing in the streets, too, and thinking I might need to be a part of this next year for my couple of hours of Chewbacchus fame.

My host and I rode through the streets of New Orleans last night on a motorcycle. I got a taste of the city that I’ve only known from afar for most of my life. I mostly visited the French Quarter. But, the neighborhoods in New Orleans are magical. We zoomed through several on our way. Beautiful old colorful homes bedecked in Mardi Gras lights, flags and decorations shouted that the carnival was going on. People were out and about as if the whole town was a festival ground. I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone was in the streets. In fact, in the midst of the super-crowded parade area, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. There was no line. I stopped in a coffee house. There was no line. The streets of New Orleans are alive during Mardi Gras.

Today was a quiet day of reflection and eating healthy. It was a beautiful 70-degree day, and Ashok seems to be back to herself. I went to my women’s circle at The Red Shoes, and we had a really amazing gathering that grounded me. I came home and made a broccoli omelet with the fresh broccoli I purchased at the Farmer’s Market yesterday. That broccoli was so good it had me dancing at the dinner table. It seems that I really am enjoying what is put in front of me. And Mardi Gras is still more than a week away. I hope someone will put a piece of King Cake in front of me this week… I’d like to enjoy that. 🙂

Ashok is back to her happy self.

Ashok is back to her happy self.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Night Check-In: ‘tit Rex, Chewbacchus and Sunny Days

  1. Thanks for the recap! I’ve never been to NOLA for Mardis Gras and always heard that it was to avoided at all costs; you’ve given me reason to think twice about that advice…also good to hear you in good spirits and know that Ashtok is back to her old self!

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