Before I begin, I will state a few things. I am well aware that Mardi Gras
doesn't just occur in New Orleans
. It happens in other areas of Louisiana
. I also am educated enough to know that Mardi Gras did not originate in the New Orleans or in America at large. I couldn't tell you how long it has been celebrated in New
Orleans, but I'm sure it was at least a few hundred years or more.
Now I have just survived Mardi Gras here in New Orleans just the last week, and as a first hand observer of the holiday for the last 5 years, I've seen my share of freaky shit. But when I went to work this morning, my friend and co-worker Sandi told me of some horrifying accounts of Mardi Gras celebrations that went awry in other cities. For information on this, one site I found was this: http://www.msnbc.com/msn/537048.asp. I won't bother to cut and paste the details; you can read them at your own leisure. The main point I want to make is that for all the violence and hooplah from these other cities and what the participants therein went through, whoever decided to do it should not have been allowed to do it.
I have no issues with anyone who wants to throw a party in the streets and make asses of themselves. But Mardi Gras is something that, in my opinion, should be left to the pros. Now, we in New Orleans are far from safe when it comes to our merrymaking, but we also have almost two weeks to get it all out of our systems. New Orleans has known how to deal with the flux of people and knows what to expect.
Let me give you an example. Byzantine and I went out onto Bourbon two times yesterday, simply to walk around and see all the craziness. Mardi Gras day is the day the locals come out and show their creativity with over-the-top costumes and revelry. The tourists come from all over the country just to see them, just to be in the mix. Bourbon's pavement was littered with beads, garbage, mud, and God knows what else. It stank to high heaven. And yet, we were out there, tromping over piles of refuse, hand in hand, to see it all. We came back to the house and went back out after it got dark. Bourbon was so packed that you wove in and out, pressed by the crowds around you. Most people by Mardi Gras day are so fried and frazzled that they can barely move, talk or function. Most are so encumbered by beads that they can't turn their heads. And yet, with all those people, with women on balconies lifting their shirts with fat grins on their faces as spotlights shown from below, with all the garbage and mess, all I heard coming from people was Happy Mardi Gras. No fights. No arrests. No riots. No violence that I could see. Just a bunch of people having a good time.
I'm sure that's what the people in other cities desired, but for one reason or another their desire was flouted with problems. And now I read about it on the news. I hear about videos of a woman getting punched in the face, her head crashing into the plate glass window behind her. And then I read: What has become of Mardi Gras?.
I am incensed. You simply cannot create a tradition as longstanding and as deeply rooted into a city's culture and take it on as your own, expecting nothing will go wrong, or that a series of slightly bad things will escalate into a horrible experience. I'm sorry, but people down here know how to pull this sort of thing off. We are a 24 hour town whose bars are often 24 hours as well. Mardi Gras isn't just a one time a year thing, it's a blown up version of what every weekend of the year is like. Sure, we have violent breakouts, crime, cops all over the place. But we managed to have a million people cross the bounderies of the French Quarter this season and I've yet to hear of one account as disturbing as the handful I've read in other cities, celebrations I'm sure did not expect to last a fifth of the time New Orleans spends partying its brains out before Lent.
During the last few weeks, on the front page of every issue of the Times Picayune, the local newspaper, you saw blown up photographs of crowds teeming with up thrown hands, reaching for throws being tossed from passing floats. You saw whole families camped out with their ladders, beer coolers and umbrellas, having a blast the way they've been having it for generations. I did not see one account of violence of the nature I read about from other cities.
The next time anyone thinks to do this (and to be honest this was the first year I even heard of such a thing), they should seriously consider coming down here for one Mardi Gras season. Come here and see how it's supposed to be done.
To those of you who may have witnessed these events in other areas, if I am speaking out of turn here, please let me know. I don't want to offend any one person or group of people but at the idea that is at the root of the whole occurance. Just like any city with something special it wants to see preserved, New Orleans deserves a little more respect that this. As city that should have never survived due to its poorly planned location and one whose speedy demise has been predicted during almost every hurricane season, New Orleans is not going anywhere. And neither is Mardi Gras, by the look of it.