Monday, March 7, 2011

Jake's first Mardi Gras

I hate Mardi Gras. I hate it because it’s something that could be so much more than it ultimately is. I hate it because all of these huge floats roll by, making fun of blatantly corrupt politicians and pundits and awful corporations (BP) and everyone yells for beads and then they go home and they don’t do anything. It’s hollow as hollow gets. The party is about getting drunk and paying too much for things you don’t want, screaming for things you don’t need, meeting people you don’t care about, and ignoring the rest of the world in favor of your own hedonism. It’s a genuinely unique and interesting part of New Orleans culture, but it’s only as popular as it is because people expect it as a part of the New Orleans culture. It’s tourism. It’s about creating a space for tourists to get drunk and spend all their money. Ultimately all of the larger parades are aimed at people that aren’t me, but worse, people I can’t stand. Drunken louts. Boorish thugs whose only real method of relaxing in life is downing poison until their minds can’t inhibit them from relaxing any more. And this is okay. This is the point of the parades and the food stands and the Mardi Gras edition Bud Light. The whole point is to reduce people into screaming children, clamoring and fighting over plastic facsimiles of necklaces. That’s what they’re here for. That’s what they paid their good money for.

That’s not why I live here. I don’t hate parades. One of the first things I did when I got here was go on an underwear march with NoiseCo. It was an absolute blast, and convinced me that there really is a good reason to live here. I went to Petit Rex and saw all of the awesome little floats. I went to Barkus and watched dogs with adorable costumes go by. I saw Chewbacchus and all of the amazing outfits they put together for that. I saw both Krewe du Vieux and DeLusion and loved the way they were both put together. These things are great! I love costuming, and I love parades where people go all-out with a theme and make it look cool. None of these other parades so far have represented that for me. They’re tourist magnets, and little else.

Really, the biggest problem I have with the parades is the same as every problem I have. I hate people. I watched Chewbacchus at its start (because that’s the only parade I planned on seeing today) and then decided to follow it for a bit to see how it worked out. It turned into a clusterfuck almost immediately after the start, with a bunch of fucking retarded drivers trying to go down St. Charles right in the middle of the goddamn parade; tons of idiot spectators either walking into, with, or through the parade, ignoring it entirely and bumping into the more elaborate costumes and then heckling them for not watching where they’re going when the people in costume can only see forward; kids fucking everywhere harassing the costumers for throws and shit and banging on the robots; people squishing them in too far as a parade; just awful shit. And the only police presence was at the beginning and end, just calmly driving through ignoring the unmitigated chaos in the line. It was awful, and it made me angry. It still makes me angry. How dare these people sit there and behave fairly rationally for a big to-do and then turn into complete dickheads for this tiny alternative parade? I can’t handle that shit and I refuse to even remotely support it, so I pretty much walked home after that, wading through crowds and crowds of people I don’t like and wish were dead. I won’t be going to any more big parades. I don’t care how fancy they are, I don’t care that ultimately Chewbacchus should have been a parade in the quarter or the bywater or anywhere that was somewhat quiet, I don’t care what they all dress up in and put up for floats. I refuse to support this bullshit aggregation of a fantasy about New Orleans as a city. If this is really what the city does for its economy and culture, no wonder it’s so goddamned fucked up.

The big parades, the so-called “Super-Krewes” exemplify nearly everything I dislike about America/Humans. There’s the mindless, get-a-buck greed on display by every single idiot with a food stand or a shopping cart full of blinking crap. There’s the careless, pointless, soulless waste of tons and tons of plastic imported from China made by people who couldn’t afford to watch them being thrown, let alone attend a parade. There’s the shallow concept of “relaxing” or “partying” by consuming gallons and gallons of alcohol because the populace is incapable of “having a good time” without a few drinks. It’s just everything that sickens me and depresses me about people. I like the parades anyway because it’s nice to see floats and anything out of the ordinary makes me happy, but I can’t stand anyone at them, from the crowds upon crowds of tourists to the rich white assholes on the floats. I can’t stand that this is what passes for a crazy and happening holiday here. I can’t stand tourism and tourists and anyone who ever says “only in New Orleans.” I want to kick the teeth in of every asshole I hear who says that.

The worst part of it is that I know there’s going to be people who tell me that I’m overreacting or that none of the things I’m saying are true or that I’m being an uptight asshole. Some of these people are even going to be people whose opinions I am very interested in. I know just because I’m not attending doesn’t mean I’ll put even a fractional dent in these parades’ popularity. Hell, they might even make more money because now my spot is being filled with someone who actually buys light-ups and chicken-on-a-stick. But god damn, I don’t have to support any of this, and I won’t. I’m not a vegetarian because I really think it’s going to make a huge difference. I’m a vegetarian because I don’t have to support your crowd-mentality food consumption bullshit. I don’t have to support the crowd-mentality parade bullshit. You can all go to hell; I’ll live how I want.


Past the anger. Back to something else. I like symbols (you do too) and I like using symbolism to understand events. The problem I had with the response to the Chewbacchus parade was that the parade conceptually represented something I cherish and value, namely nerds dressing up and wandering around and putting together their own throws made of nerdy things (I got a comic book!). The crowd for the other parade, Bacchus and later Endymion and earlier Thoth, did not respect the parade, or otherwise my joy in seeing the people in the parade. This angers me because I did not, nor did Chewbacchus, go out of my way to disrespect or disrupt their enjoyment of their parade (or tail-gating party or whatever it was for why there were there). It was rude and ultimately unjust. What really affected me was my incapability to rectify the injustice and that the people charged with maintaining order were also incapable (or unwilling) to do so. I could not stand this and can not stand for this and will not willingly support a system (the larger parades) that does/will. I know that I am only one person and incapable of rendering similar injustice to the larger parades (what am I going to do? Slash tractor tires? Bang on floats? Drive a car through the dozens of barricades set up for them? [not for Chewbacchus, though]) so instead I will do the only thing I can. Avoid them like the plague.

That said, I'm looking forward to Zulu. Hopefully that'll be a bit better.

P.S. All that “first Mardi Gras” and “Popping the Mardi Gras cherry” can go fuck itself. It’s people getting drunk and watching a parade, not a legitimate transition between life phases. I’m an angry asshole before attending Mardi Gras, and I’ll be an angry asshole afterward. The creation of the narrative that this is somehow an initiation into a cabal of Mardi Gras knowledge only serves to perpetuate the pointless and insipid waste that it is. It was made by people, not by demigods or spirits or by nature itself. Might as well celebrate “Baby’s first Bris.” Oh wait.