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MARDI GRAS MAMBO

ONE DEFINITION :

MARDI GRAS REFERS TO THE CARNIVAL CELEBRATION

BEGINNING ON THE EPIPHANY

CRESCENDOING INTO LUNDI GRAS AND FAT TUESDAY DEBAUCHERY

ENDING WITH A MASSIVE HANGOVER

IN CHURCH ON WEDNESDAY WHILE

TRYING TO STAY AWAKE LONG ENOUGH TO GET YOUR ASHES.

AND THERE'S CAKE.

WITH A BABY INSIDE.


WHEN YOU ARE RAISED IN THE EPICENTER OF SOMETHING,

IT IS JUST A PART OF LIFE.

YOU MAY NEVER QUESTION OR EXAMINE IT,

WHICH IS FINE.

IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS

I'VE RECONNECTED WTIH SOMETHING

THAT PROFOUNDLY DEFINES THE SOUTH.


I GREW UP ENJOYING A PRETTY TAME LAFAYETTE LOUISIANA VERSION

OF THIS ANCIENT PRACTICE.

LOTS OF BEADS AND STUFFED ANIMALS TOSSED FROM MODEST FLOATS

WITH THE LOCAL RADIO STATION BLARING FROM EACH ONE.

FUN HAPPENING ALL AROUND FOR DAYS AND NIGHTS

LEADING UP TO THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.


NEW ORLEANS IS A DIFFERENT BEAST.

IT IS A SERIOUSLY WELL-OILED MACHINE LIKE NO OTHER.

MARCHING BANDS, FLOATS, THE ART OF COSTUMING AND ROLE-PLAYING

ARE ALL ALMOST OTHERWORDLY.

THE EFFECT THIS HOLIDAY HAS HAD ON EVERY CULTURE

THAT MAKES UP THAT CITY COULD BE ITS OWN PSYCHOLOGY COURSE.

ONE OF MY FONDEST MEMORIES OF THE BIG EASY MARDI GRAS

WAS THRIFTING A GORGEOUS FLOOR LENGTH

GREEN CHIFFON DRESS FOR THE INFAMOUS REX BALL.

I WAS INVITED BY THE HONORARY QUEEN FROM 1965.

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE.

A WHOLE OTHER BRANCH OF HISTORY TO PONDER.


I HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO ATTEND THE COUNTRY MARDI GRAS.

COURIR DE MARDI GRAS.

FRENCH FOR RUN.

FOR YEARS I HAD HEARD TALES OF THE SHENANIGANS

HAPPENING IN SMALL RURAL TOWNS AND I WAS TRES CURIOUS.

THE STARS FINALLY ALIGNED FOR ME IN 2020.

RIGHT BEFORE LOCKDOWN.

I HAD NOT BEEN DRINKING ALCOHOL FOR SIX MONTHS AT THIS POINT,

SO I WAS STILL IN THE CRAWLING STAGES OF RAW REALITY.

COULD I ACTUALLY DO THIS SOBER?

SHOULD I REALLY DO THIS SOBER?

WHY WOULD I EVEN CONSIDER DOING THIS SOBER?


THE TRADITION OF MARDI GRAS DATES BACK TO THE MIDDLE AGES...

POSSIBLE ANCIENT PAGAN SPRING FESTIVALS AND MEDIEVAL EUROPEAN TRADITIONS.

WHEN CHRISTIANITY ENTERED THE SCENE IT BECAME A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY

HIGHLIGHTING THE UPCOMING SACRIFICIAL LENTEN SEASON.

FIND MORE INTERESTING HISTORY HERE + HERE .

HOW DID ALL THIS LAND IN SOUTH LOUISIANA?

THE BEGGING RITUAL COMMONLY PRACTICED IN CATHOLIC MEDIEVAL EUROPE

SURVIVED TIME BECAUSE OUR ANCESTORS KEPT SOME FORM OF THE TRADITION ALIVE

NO MATTER WHERE THEY MIGRATED.

ALSO, IT'S FUN AND HUMANS NEED ESCAPE FROM REALITY

AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS.

POOR DISGUISED REVELERS WOULD WALK THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE

VISITING WEALTHY MANORS PERFORMING FOR OFFERINGS

OFTEN MOCKING THE NOBLES.


THAT EARLY, EEEEARLY, MISTY MORNING, IN EUNICE, LOUISIANA

WAS AS CLOSE TO MEDIEVAL TIMES AS I'LL EVER GET.

BLANKETS OF HUMID FOG SEEMED TO DISPERSE EXTRA MYSTERY

ONTO WHAT WAS TO COME

AS HUNDREDS OF COLORFUL PARTICIPANTS SLOWLY GATHERED IN A FIELD.

I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN CONTENT

BOTTLING THE ESSENCE OF THAT IMAGERY

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

AND CALLED IT A DAY.

BUT THIS IS AN ALL DAY

ALL IN

AFFAIR.

ALL AGES.

BABIES TO ELDERS IN FULL FRINGED COSTUMES MASKING UP

GATHERING SUPPLIES FOR THE DAY LONG JOURNEY AHEAD.

THE CAPITAINE RUNS THE SHOW.

HE LEADS THE PROCESSION ON HORSEBACK.

HE LET THE RULES BE KNOWN :

WE ARE HERE TO HAVE FUN

MASKS ON AT ALL TIMES

BE RESPECTFUL

NO HATRED

HONOR OUR ROOTS

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY

HAVE FUN


HIS BAND OF VILLAINS ARE THERE TO ENFORCE THE RULES.

THEY ARE QUIPPED WITH SOFT BRAIDED WHIPS.

A DETAIL SAID TO ORIGINATE FROM DARK AGE FLAGELLANTS

WHO TRIED TO BEAT THE SIN OUT OF THEMSELVES AND THE BEGGARS.

HERE,

IT IS ALL THEATRE.

IT IS AN HONOR TO BE PART OF LA FORCE.

THEY ARE REALLY JUST REVELRY PERPETUATING BOUNCERS

WHO CAN BE PERSUADED TO IGNORE YOU WITH BRIBERY

.. THEY PREFER ALCOHOL AND SHINY THINGS.


AND SO THE JOURNEY BEGINS.

WE ALL DANCE ALONG

SINGING THE MARDI GRAS SONG ( LISTEN HERE )

WITH LIVE ACCORDIONS AND FIDDLES

UNTIL WE ARRIVE AT THE FIRST MANOR.

WE BEG.

MORE DANCING.

LOOK UP!

THERE'S A FLYING CHICKEN.

TIME TO COURIR.

THERE WILL BE A BIG COMMUNAL GUMBO

MADE WITH ALL THE OFFERINGS WHEN THE DAY IS DONE.

AGAIN, HERE, IT IS THEATRICAL.

HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN.. CAJUN PEOPLE HISTORICALLY TOOK TURNS

SLAUGHTERING LIVESTOCK TO FEED LARGE NUMBERS,

HENCE, THE BOUCHERIE.


MORE WALKING, BEGGING, DANCING.

FOR MILES.

BEING PART OF A PILGRIMAGE WAS THE ELIXIR

THAT REPLACED THE ALCOHOL FOR ME.

THE ENERGETICS OF THE DAY WERE LIKE A WAVE.

MOSTLY EXCITEMENT, BUT SO OFTEN QUIETLY WALKING ALONE,

LISTENING TO RANDOM CONVERSATIONS,

WITNESSING PEOPLE TAKING CARE OF EACH OTHER,

PLAYFULNESS BETWEEN STRANGERS FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE,

IT WAS LIKE TAPPING INTO TIME TRAVEL.

SOME FORM OF THIS RITUAL HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS

AND TO BE PART OF THAT TATTERED THREAD WOVEN THROUGH CENTURIES

WAS AN INTENSE REALIZATION.


MIDWAY, THERE'S AN OPEN FIELD WITH A GREASED POLE.

A CAGED CHICKEN AWAITS ONLY THE BRAVEST MARDI GRAS CONTESTANTS.

IT IS TRULY INSANE TO WATCH A CLUSTER OF BODIES

USE EACH OTHER AS LEVERAGE, CLIMBING OVER HEADS AND FEET

TO UNLEASH A PHEASANT AND PRIMAL CHEER FROM BYSTANDERS.

DROOL, SWEAT, URINE, OCCASIONAL VOMIT..

YOU SEE IT ALL IF YOU PAY ATTENTION.

WE GET TO EAT BOUDIN WHILE BEING ENTERTAINED.

LOTS OF DANCING.

NAPPING HAPPENS.


MY FAVORITE PART WAS FINDING MYSELF IN A GRAVEYARD.

THE CAPITAINE IS VERY SERIOUS ABOUT RESPECTING OUR ANCESTORS

FOR THIS PART OF THE RIDE.

NO WALKING ON GRAVES.

PICK UP YOUR TRASH AND SHUT YOUR MOUTHS

WHILE WE SING SONGS TO THE LEGENDARY MUSICIANS WHO REST HERE.

SUDDENLY, THE AUTHORITARIANS IN THIS PLAY

MAKE THEMSELVES AS VULNERABLE AS THE PAUPERS

IN THE FACE OF MORTALITY AND HONOR.

WE ARE ALL EQUALS IN THE GRAVEYARD.

COMPLETE REVERENCE STARKLY CONTRASTS THE REVELROUS THEME.

TEARS.

TIMELESSNESS.

THIS MOMENT ANSWERED ALL MY SOBRIETY QUESTIONS.

YES I COULD DO MARDI GRAS SOBER.

I SHOULD DO IT SOBER.

WHY?

BECAUSE, FOR ME, FEELING ALL THE EMOTIONS THE DAY EVOKED

SHOULD BE CLEARLY AND FULLY FELT.

ON THAT RUN, I WAS GRIEVING THE FRESH LOSS OF MY

FAVORITE COUSIN SINCE EARLY CHILDHOOD, A BOND LIKE NO OTHER,

IN A GROUP OF SEVENTEEN MATERNAL FIRST COUSINS.

I WAS SO LOST.

THE VERY FIRST STRANGER I MET THAT MORNING KNEW HIM

SO WE WALKED AND CRIED TOGETHER UNTIL I FELT BETTER.

I DESPERATELY NEEDED TO FEEL JUST HOW THIN THE VEIL IS

AND I SENSED HIS PRESENCE AROUND ME ALL DAY LONG.

MARDI GRAS WAS A VEHICLE OF DEEP HEALING FOR ME,

BUT NOT BECAUSE OF THE AMOUNT OF FUN I HAD.

I PAID CLOSE ATTENTION TO INTENTION.

WE ARE TAUGHT TO CHASE MAGIC WITH POISONS

THAT ARE ACTUALLY ROBBING US OF LIVING AS PRESENTLY AS POSSIBLE.

TURNS OUT, UNDILUTED PRESENCE IS THE ENCHANTING GIFT

OF BEING ALIVE.

TO GATHER IN SUCH A LARGE MASKED GROUP

AND SIMPLY WALK AND DANCE AND SING AND EAT TOGETHER

AS MYSTERIOUS EQUALS FOR A SINGLE DAY,

IS THE BACK TO BASICS MEDICINAL SALVE

WE ALL FORGOT WE NEEDED.








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