The thing you quickly come to realize not long after you move to New Orleans is that this city has its own time-table, its own schedule, its own little meandering way of doing things, and you’re at the mercy of it. In other words, everything and everyone is always late. Everything starts late. Movies start late. I’m not even kidding.
And Mardi Gras parades? Oh my. The tractors pulling the floats break down all the time, leaving riders marooned in front of ravenous crowds, hungry for beads and doubloons and any shiny thing they can get their hands on. Tuba players in the high school bands, weary after carrying those beautiful but heavy horns for miles, gently take them off and put them on the ground beside them. The scantily clad girls in the many grown-up all-female dancing crews (with names like the Pussyfooters and the Muffalottas and the Cherry Bombs) stand and chitchat with each other and the people in the crowd. And they wait. And we wait. We all wait. Long stops in parades are inevitable. You just get used to it.
Sometimes things start off late from the get-go, though, putting a parade way way behind schedule. Such was the case with my adored ‘tit Rex parade of miniature floats this past Saturday night. The parade was slated to roll at 5PM, following a route through the Marigny (the next neighborhood over from the Quarter). I was stationed at The Orange Couch, a really cool coffee shop on Royal Street, not far from Elysian Fields. I walked over from my house in Treme, and that was the closest spot for me to be.
6PM rolled around and no tiny floats! Or tiny throws! Nothing. 6:30, nothing. After asking around a bit, it turned out that the police escort for ‘tit Rex neglected to show up. They waited, and we waited, and no one ever came. We are not known around here for letting a little thing like “rules” stop us, so ‘tit Rex eventually soldiered on, lead by a guy who projected authority by walking tall and carrying a bullhorn I don’t think he ever actually used.
In the end, the waiting was worth it, and I was so thrilled to see all the craftmanship that went into each and every tiny float. I love this parade, full stop. Unfortunately, it’s tough to get a clear photo of a tiny float being pulled by a string past you in the dark. But one did stop long enough for me to get a good picture. In truth, though, this is just the kind of thing you need to experience in person. The artists who made the tiny floats pull them while dressed up in nice suits and even some evening gowns. I love the tongue-in-cheek dignity of it all. And being handed tiny throws from these folks is a much more intimate experience than being thrown cheap plastic beads by a guy wearing a mask from the second floor of a giant float. Don’t get me wrong — I love that, too — but this is just a whole different thing.
Behold the float I did manage to get a photo of:
And here’s my booty from this year — a tiny tamborine, a real flower, a tiny bracelet, a lollypop, and an itty bitty book, which said, “life always finds a way,” on the inside. It does indeed, and in New Orleans especially.