It was the best of Carnivals, it was the worst of Carnivals, it was the time of bare masking, it was the time of warmth sought, it was the suspension of disbelief, it was the veritable cold reality, it was a season of sunscreen, it was a season of wool stockings, it was the glimmer of spring, it was the end of our disparate winter, we had baubles thrown to us, we had rainsoaked remnants, we were heading to heaven, and we were all surely going to hell — in short, the 2014 Mardi Gras season gave us everything and in the end took it all away. Maybe in a way no one would expect especially given the late date: foiled by the longest, weirdest winter the Big Easy hopefully will ever know and never repeat.
Ultimately, despite enjoying most of the holiday, this Carnival felt like two big layers of contradictions beginning with:
- The lame lack of legal enforcement: the “six foot from the curb” ladder rule and no rogue port-a-potties appeared to operate within the bounds of the new laws, but banning tents, tarps, and the like? Are we trying to redefine what a tent or a tarp might be? If so, then that may be only explanation for the rampant blue plastic ground cover devices paired with the pseudo assembled aluminum exoskeletons a la an overgrown erector set. Give me a break, NOPD: fail, fail, and fail. No amount of viral video cop wobble can save face here. And – – –
- Timing and temperature: let’s address the bigger elephant in the room too, shall we? Winter 2014 in New Orleans found the city and schools shutting down midweek due to freezing temps. The roads were bare, and citizens were told to stay indoors for 48 hours. Only on Lundi Gras eve a very comparable, albeit less lengthy, forecast crops up, and not only is that recent frozen memory handily brushed aside, the big show kept on schedule. So the takeaway becomes: stay off the freezing streets, unless of course it’s the last day of Mardi Gras. In which case, go and catch some throws!
In some time and place far, far away from here surely there’s a logical progression to an annual festivities unfolding, where attendees acknowledge the practical and embrace the orderly. But that will never be New Orleans. A place where a broken tradition places king cake babies alongside the pastry for safety. Meanwhile the limits of hypothermia get tested. And maybe its that palpable incongruity that keeps us all coming back for more. To be sure, the Mardi Gras experience anyone may wish for likely will never be the one hoped for, and if nothing else this Fat Tuesday exemplified this notion: you get what you get.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.