mardi gras – take two

it’s tuesday – the day that these past weeks have been leading to – or in Bridget’s and my case, these past six days – this is the big day, it’s the day for the commoner’s ball. i’ve just realized how this works. all these parades, each one “hosted” by a krewe, a club not unlike a fraternity or elks club. people pay lots of money on their krewe, and membership can be steep. but when it gets too steep, the entrepreneur decides what we need now is a new krewe and you can belong to my krewe. they breed, and they’re all good. The end of the parade route, for the big krewes at least, is some big arena (Endymion krewe poured into the Superdome at the end of their parade. and they have their big krewe party – filled with celebrities they’ve invited to new orleans this year. Bacchus got Will Ferrell to be their king, and the story on the street is that he’s been here all week, having one serious party. I think a lot of people have been having one serious party this week. But I digress.

So here’s what I see in it: The krewe is the aristocracy and they’re on their way to the big city for the meeting/festival of the clans. We, the commonors, line the streets and receive the cheap baubles they throw at us, while off they go to their place in the big city. We, the commoners shout with rapture at the aristocracy as they go marching by – all that glitters is gold – anyways, the parades are all over and the streets of new orleans will be turned over to the commoners and their ball. everyone is to come in costume (i’m still working out the details of mine, but all in good time). Specifically instructed. It’s very feudal.

it’s a lot of other things too. overheard walking down frenchmen street “what are you here for? the food or the music?” the right answer is always both, and how could it be anything else? bridget and i are pacing ourselves on the food part – a great shrimp creole, stuffed crab and king cake last thursday night at Kathe and Paul’s, beignets to die for at Cafe du Monde, same goes for their lattes, and some Brazilian b-b-q chicken. that’s it for cuisine so far, but like i said, we’re pacing ourselves, because we know we’ve got a couple of fine meals ahead of us, but i’ll save that story for when the time comes.

today’s story is all about the music. with some filler, i’m sure.

first off – bridget and i are having the time of our lives. new orleans opens our eyes. granted, it’s mardi gras and a lot of this will clear out tomorrow. but the one thing that won’t go is the music. music is all over the place here. we’re been taking in the sights of new orleans on foot. we drive into town from Chalmette, and so far have always found a free parking spot in the marigny area, which is just a short walk over to frenchmen st. and the place that plays the music i like the most. new orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and you can hear jazz all over town, but on frenchmen street, they play the blues. our modus operendus since we’ve got here is drive down to marigny, park the car, walk along frenchmen street and over to decatur – and there at the corner of decatur and esplanade, is the BMC – the Balcony Music Club -where somebody is always playing and it’s got that beat that puts you to dancing. it’s party time. we drop into the bmc at least once a day. on our way to the french quarter and beyond or on our way back, after the night’s parade has gone by.

grooving at the BMC

there is music everywhere. on friday i was taking a stroll down royal, in search of pirate’s alley and the Faulkner bookshop; along the way, i met up with a tiny parade brass band, with its followers, a couple of bluegrass bands, complete with decked-out washboards, and last night, walking a different part of the street, a man playing the sweetest saxophone – we made sure we passed by on our way going and our way coming.

we’ve done parades and we’ve done beads. the parades get bigger and better and more of them the closer you get to mardi gras. by sunday night, when we went down to peg our spot for the bacchus parade, the revelers were out in full strength. Bridget got some great photos that night – including one of Will Ferrell doing his king thing. Check out her digitalseagull blog to see what she saw.

on a good night, it might take 15 minutes to walk from frenchmen st to canal – it’s a straight shot through the french quarter – frenchmen forms the eastern wall of the french quarter and canal st forms the western boundary, the mississippi forms the southern boundary, and north rampart forms the northern wall. sort of; it’s a bit blurry around the edges. so a couple of nights we’ve done the walk through the quarter – our first night along bourbon (after which we determined to avoid that street from that point on); it was crowded last wednesday, but the crowds grow daily, and by today, it will be a parking lot. since then we’ve walked along decatur, which runs parallel to the mississippi.

last night they had a mask market down in the French Market, where artisans from around the country had come to display and market their hand-crafted masks. An absolutely delightful display of art. and that’s another thing i love about new orleans – the art and the culture is out there – if you can afford to buy, you put your money down; if you can’t afford it, you can just get an eye and ear full of whatever you want. that kind of ambiance permeates the city and so far, everyone we meet. it’s a good feeling of freedom. unfortunately, photos were not allowed at the mask market, but they were allowed at the flea market…

the music flowing out the doors of the bmc, the apple barrel, the blue nile, and all the other bars in the marigny, musicians in the parks and down by the riverfront, the buskers out on the street, i suspect there is nowhere downtown new orleans where the music isn’t playing. it puts a smile on our faces. and all you have to do is walk down the street. with or without a drink in your hand. and another in your back pocket.

the bonus for us this past week is the music when you step inside. george porter jr at the dba on saturday night, and last night, up at Chickee Wah Wah’s, jon cleary, who blew me away with his piano playing. my first time seeing jon cleary – i shouldn’t have waited so long. george porter blew the roof off at dba, so two excellent blues shows for bridget and me, just for being in new orleans. we love new orleans!

now i gotta get some sort of costume going. we’re heading down to frenchmen st to attend the ball.

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