Well, I made it through another Mardi Gras. Barely.
Someone asked me once why I donít get into ye oleí Fat Tuesday. I had to think about it for a year or two, but I finally realized I had never even heard of Mardi Gras until I was about 14. Really. While in recent years the Chitimachaís put on a parade the Sunday before Mardi Gras, when I was growing up I heard nothing about it. We didnít even get off of school as I remember, being a federal Indian school and all. My parents certainly never took me to any parades, and I venture to say that if my memory is faulty about the school and we did get off that Tuesday, my dad and I went fishing.
Those were pretty secluded, isolated days for me. There was still some lingering distrust between Rez residents and non-residents. I donít remember going to any kind of parade until I was in high school and started working for the Banner when I was 15. Iíve covered more than my share since then, believe me, and while Iíve come to enjoy them for what theyíre worth, well, in the long run Iíd still rather be on the lake with the old man.
The first jester I ever saw, gallivanting down Main Street, scared the bejeezus out of me. Hey, gimme a break, I was a born and reared Rez boy, and I thought it was Neka sama or some other of the ancestral spirits my gramma told me about, the ones that would come git ya when you was bad. Nowadays, thankfully, you donít see as many frightening Mardi Gras deities. Itís a good thing, too: My heart barely made it through that one!
The first doubloons I got were chocolate covered with gold foil. I gobbled Ďem up like a true chocolate lover, but the next year they threw us gold-colored plastic ones, and I was highly irritated. I think it was then and there that Mardi Gras lost all meaning for me. Tootsie Rolls, even in great abundance (even if thrown by the ton), are no substitute for chocolate doubloons.
Perhaps I could enjoy Mardi Gras more if I wasnít in the newspaper business. We have to work it, so we canít just bring an ice chest of beer and a folding chair to the sidewalk and enjoy ourselves, though sometimes we do anyway, donít tell anyone! Yes, Mardi Gras is a chore for us, because each newsroom staff member has to be at a certain kreweís stand to catch The Toast. Thatís when the King and Queenís float stops and they toast the captains and such on the stand. This is big news, you understand, and we simply must get that toast on film (or on a memory card, nowadays.)
As it was, in the old days before computer systems, when the royalty was announced that Monday, we had to lock up the front page in the office safe. Thatís how much people wanted to know who was King Sucrose. Today, the page is done on computer and the files are not accessible to the general public, though I believe some Krewe members have attempted to hack into our network in desperation.
Perhaps they donít go that far, but itís funny how theyíll call Monday and even as weíre readying the paper Tuesday.
"I was invited to the Sucrose ball, and I forgot who the king wasÖ?"
"This is The New York Times editor of Mardi Gras, can you tell me who the king is this year?"
"I have the Kingís robes hemmed, can you tell me how I can get them to him?"
"Who is King Fructose this year?"
And so on and so forth. Itís all, as I said, mysterious to me, having not experienced all this until I was an early teenager.
Soon as the parade is over, though, one of two things is going to happen with me: If the weatherís good and the waterís clear, Iíll head off to a pond and harass the perch. If the weatherís good and the waterís bad, or if everythingís bad, Iíll head home and take a nap. Were I not a newspaper employee, I could just nap right there in my folding chair by my ice chest, until the street sweeper comes, anyway.
Speaking of Tootsie Rolls, I wonder how they get those float-flattened candies off the road? It must take an industrial strength solvent or something. Tootsie Rolls were not originally invented as candy, you know: They were first conceived as an experimental body armor. Bullets would just lodge in them forever, never coming close to the wearerís vital organs. They later were used by dentists to remove faulty fillings or in some cases loose teeth, and finally as candy by some candy maker with a strange sense of humor.
But as Iíve said every year and will continue to say for many more, itís really comforting to see folks still throwing beads after that whole Manhattan Island thing. Before Chitimacha cancelled our parade, we would throw the beads back. Sort of like saying, "Thanks, but we want our island back, and could you please throw in the rest of the continent too? Except the Superfund sites. You can keep those."
Happy Mardi Gras. Whatever that means.