Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mardi Gras: Thibodaux Parade People

So as mentioned a few days ago, your correspondents were privileged to ride on "Uncle Pott's Band Wagon," a float in the Thibodaux, Louisiana Mardi Gras festivities. We took along a bunch of the snazzy (but still cheap plastic) necklaces we had caught in New Orleans, along with several bags of store-bought necklaces. At Mardi Gras, the "value" of a worthless plastic necklace is determined by the size of the beads, the length of the necklace, and if it features any bonus crazy shaped beads other than plain spheres. We had plenty of necklaces that were essentially the most worthless of the worthless.

This did not deter a large section of the crowd from finding them quite desirable. Obviously, the fun of the event is the game of catching goodies thrown by random strangers, not the true value of the items caught. Thus, the game appeals highly to children, who get very excited about catching even small prizes. Of course, many very small kids had learned to wave their arms to beg for a necklace, then cowered in fear if one was actually thrown their way.

This also did not stop a large number of grown-ups from scooping up a ridiculous amount of the necklaces and storing them in big trash bags or the like. To what end? Perhaps they were going to be riding on their own float later in the day and needed stuff to throw. Or maybe they have a wall of their garage lined with trash bags of Mardi Gras treasures dating back for decades.

We tried to be judicious in only tossing our special beads sporadically, so they would last the duration of the parade. Your correspondent took an attitude that he would not reward particularly obnoxious behavior; therefore kids who screamed for beads like they were having a tantrum got cheap beads. Older people who made gestures or remarks indicating a sense of entitlement got skipped entirely. People who seemed to be having an awesome time regardless got the best prizes. The biggest prize went to a young kindred spirit who appeared to be trying to take artistic street-photography pictures of the floats. The second biggest prize went to some young entrepreneur in front of a bar who ran alongside the float and traded me three jell-o shots for some beads. Hooray for capitalism!

Unfortunately, we were not judicious enough in our throwing. We were running low on fancy beads as we came into the African-American part of town, which resulted in no small amount of guilt on my part that we would look like racists, but I just didn't have any more cool stuff to throw. And Uncle Pott's generator blew out and the music stopped, and we wound up kind of a sad float playing no music and throwing no fancy beads. Pott was pretty disappointed about the generator situation, but there was nothing he could do. He is a showman, but his vocal cords have some miles on them, and he can't sing unamplified. The more we didn't throw cool stuff, the more people gave us indignant looks and told us not to waste our time throwing them junk. Editorial discretion prevents us from publishing more details here (nothing like mild racial tension to set the nerves on end), but the point is: I might do things differently, bead-conservation wise, were I invited for a return engagement on Uncle Pott's Band Wagon.

In any case, it was not too long after running out of fancy beads that your correspondent pretty much ran out of beads entirely, or at least let his crew-mates throw the last few beads and took pictures of the crowd in the last stretch of the parade. It's an interesting slice of humanity, including cute kids and pickups of drunk college kids and older folks who have probably been watching the Thibodaux Mardi Gras parade from their front lawns since dirt. Check out a slideshow here.

1 comment:

Zena said...

Well written article.