Thursday, February 18, 2010

fat tuesday

So I survived my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Or rather, I should say that I survived my first pre-Mardi Gras in New Orleans, because I flew out this past Monday. But if you've ever been to the Big Easy around that time, you know that there's plenty going on right before Mardi Gras, mainly a series of massive parades over about a week or so centered in the Uptown area.

There's a so-called Big Three of these parades, and I was lucky enough to hit two of them: Endymion and Bacchus. (And yes, I also made it to the Saints' Super Bowl victory parade, which rivaled the Big Three.) Bacchus, which was on Valentine's Day, was preceded by several smaller parades, so Sunday was like one big all-day parade for me. I was on Napoleon Ave. from about 6:30 am, when we arrived to secure our parade-viewing spot, until about 9 pm. I shit you not. That's how they roll down there.

And if you've been to one of these parades, you know that they're all about sheer, unbridled excess. My friend Troy's kids brought large bags, about the size of a decent-sized backpack, to hold the beads they'd catch, and someone told us that they'd probably fill their bags. I kind of smirked, but then the floats started rolling and the beads just rained from the sky. Not just beads: mini-footballs, drinking cups, toy spears, all sorts of other cheap plastic crap. I literally had the wind knocked out of me by beads. Not a string of beads - a 10-pound bag. Somebody chucked it at me from one of the floats. I saw it coming, just mis-timed the catch because it was getting a little dark and I thought it was a stuffed animal headed my way. Went through my hands and hit me right in the solar plexus. And it was not at all uncommon to see a big bag of beads come flying off a float, interspersed with dozens of individual strands.

I will readily admit that I had a hell of a time catching stuff from the floats, especially since my friend's kids were excited to get all the loot. But I couldn't help but think: what's gonna happen to all the beads? It's not like people in New Orleans walk around draped in them all the time. And we're talking a LOT of beads. Let's say that the total attendance for all the parades was 3 million people (a pretty conservative estimate), and each person got 5 lbs. of beads (even more conservative estimate). That's, like, 15 million lbs. of beads. Every year. I would also estimate that 70 percent of them end up in a landfill within a month of Mardi Gras. I hate to be a wet blanket about the whole thing, but sweet Jesus! But what are you gonna do? Anyone want to join me on a bead-recycling campaign? No? Maybe you just have to let the good times roll ...

1 comment:

Brian said...

I dunno...if everyone has 5 pounds of beads, then it's kind of ridiculous for the women to lift their tops for a single necklace. That's not a fair trade. They should ditch the beads and replace them with canned hams. Raise the stakes, you know.