Greetings, Kinja refugees. Those of you who interacted with me on Kinja in years past might remember me by my original handle, “Hello_My_Lover.” It was a holdover from a teenage AOL screen name, based on a song that my mom used to play a lot, by Ernie K-Doe (aka Emperor of the Universe). I also likely thought it made me sound cool and sexy to potential internet boyfriends.
I kept the name because while that’s not even a favorite song of mine, I think that when I grew up, he is a reason New Orleans was always in the back of my mind. I feel like he called me here, and then at the end of college I had an opportunity pop up to do some good here after Katrina, and I took it, and I stayed.
This is now my favorite Ernie K-Doe song.
Here’s some rambling.
Today is the first day of Mardi Gras. I know, you don’t care. But let me tell you what it means in my life. The New Orleans Mardi Gras you have in your mind is probably not accurate; it’s not tits and partying all night (although it can be if you want it to be). Much of it is family friendly – it’s just cookouts and parties and biking around, then at night, getting dressed up for balls and costume parties. When actual Mardi Gras Day rolls around, locals are out in the streets decked out in elaborate costumes EARLY in the morning – parades start at sunrise. It’s your whole community just halting regular life to party and be together.
This is why it’s important, and I wish more people would or could observe the season: after the obligations of the holidays – family, gifts, etc – Mardi Gras comes along and you have a season of utter selfishness (maybe a bit less so if you have kids but still). In dark times, like after Katrina, Mardi Gras was a tradition that was unbelievably healing. I have been finding it healing in our past few years. The whole point is to be shamelessly celebratory for no reason.
There are lots of issues with it and the way we celebrate it (drunk driving problems, sometimes violence, and plastic waste like you wouldn’t believe). Some of the traditions are rooted in racism, cultural appropriation, and classism. But it’s improving on those fronts. And it can be exhausting – some people leave town for it. But as a transplant to New Orleans, I cannot tell you what it means to me to have a period of time (usually mainly the couple of weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day) where you just pursue fun. You wear homemade costumes and they can be super weird, which is right up my alley.
So today, while I am deeply upset about the beginnings of what promises to be a really tough year for most of us, there is a little bit of magic in the air. You know that if we were being swallowed up by the Gulf, if the world was ending tomorrow, we’d still be celebrating Mardi Gras.
I am in an early parade, started in the 80s, that is meant to be satirical and vulgar (mostly on local issues). It’s one of the few that still is mule-drawn and the floats are handmade by the Krewes themselves instead of professional float builders. My sub-Krewe (one of 17) has its own identity as being bizarre and a little less political cartoon-esque. Our great claim to fame was being featured on Deadspin once (and in the NYT but they wouldn’t publish any pictures). We…are not exactly “sports people” but this was the year the Super Bowl was in New Orleans and like every time we lose at footballs, Saints fans had blamed a bunch of people who aren’t Saints football players. Though we do not Sports, when we came up with the name we couldn’t abandon it. Here’s a daylight view of that float (the pics on the Deadspin link are all night). I made that face and the one hand that exists (I got mad and didn’t want to make another hand). I also painted those and the big vag. Sadly the disco ball clit was not my idea but I loved it.
Ernie K-Doe’s wife, Antoinette, died on Mardi Gras Day a few years ago.
I hope y’all enjoy reading the extremely brilliant things I have to say.