Mardi Gras: St. Anne's Parade and Apocalypse Ball in New Orleans
Mardi Gras is an epic time in New Orleans, no matter how much one tries to avoid getting caught up in it. This year I have been struggling with money and had no fancy costume or big plans other than to work a lot at my job with NOLA Pedicabs and make lots of money to get caught up on my bills with.
My father once said, "man plans, god laughs." Well for sure we all get caught in the cosmic giggle. I am a bad ass on a bicycle but as it turns out my dharma is not to haul drunk people around New Orleans for a living. The 2nd Saturday before Mardi Gras was to be my first big money-making day because there were tourists and parades, but mama nature had other plans and chilled us the fuck out to about 35 degrees so that not even the drunkest of drunks were getting in my cab. After 8 hours all I had to show for my toils was the beginnings of a two-week long throat cold.
The night before that was pretty awesome though, as I got to go photograph the Apocalypse Ball - an annual benefit for the Louisiana Himalaya Association (LHA.) (a volunteer-staffed, non-profit organization dedicated to international social work with Tibetan Refugees in the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal). This year the ball was held at Studio 3 on Toulouse Street. I danced my ass off, had my face painted like a sugar skull from the Day of the Dead, and flirted with all kinds of beautiful people. I would like to thank my friends Kate and Trishell for getting me in as photographer.
So back to this pedicab thing. I have been entertaining my yoga students with my pedicab tales for a while now, how I would go out for hours and not make any money. How the pedicab-pep talk would always turn to how much we were going to make over Mardi Gras. As my bills piled up and I ate peanut butter sandwiches to survive I wondered a lot about my karma and my dharma.
Mardi Gras means 'Fat Tuesday', and it is traditionally a final celebration of gluttony before Christians fast for Lent (on Ash Wednesday). The fasting traditionally lasts 40 days to honor Jesus' time in the desert chatting with Satan. Hungry Christians are exempt on Sundays, which are mini-Easters. Easter ends the fast. (random fact: I was born on Easter in 1967, therefore I am an Easter expert). Traditionally Christians fast from meat, dairy and eggs during Lent. St. Thomas of Aquinas thought eating animal flesh gave people more nourishment and "greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust." Kind of gross if it was true, but fortunately/unfortunately eating animal proteins tends to make men impotent instead. Not that anyone you will meet on Bourbon Street would know or care, but there you have it, ignorant ideas that have evolved through the ages and are still with us.
I was signed up for pedicab shifts from Thursday through Tuesday, culminating Mardi Gras night. Friday night my cold from the week before, which I considered past me, came back with a vengeance. I lost my voice and could only work for about 3 hours before my headache became unbearable, long enough to make the money I had to pay NOLA Pedicabs for using the bike for the night. I paid them off and went home to rest. Saturday it rained all day and night, and I did not work. Sunday I went back to work and did OK even though my voice sounded like a squeaky mouse. Monday (Lundi Gras) I actually made a bit of money.
Photos from St. Anne's Parade
Tuesday I spent the daylight hours with the Society of St. Anne, my favorite Mardi Gras parade. It isn't a super-organized parade with floats and all the gross excess of bead throwing, but rather a meandering gaggle of costumed freaks heading from the Bywater to the French Quarter, passing through the Marigny, stopping at bars, being joined by brass bands and psychedelic portable DJ contraptions, spontaneous dance parties, and run-on sentences disguised as journalism.
After a beautiful sunny day spent with my lovely freaks, I left to go work my night away on a pedicab. On the way to the shop I got a call from NYC, which turned out to be Ganeshadas from Jivamukti Yoga setting up a job interview with me the next day. A sure mood-lifter impeccably timed by that same universe known for cosmic giggles.
Suffice it to say that after about 4 hours of being harassed by drunks on the back of my pedicab I put enough faith in that same universe to quit my job for the night and head home for some well-deserved rest. Money seemed less and less important the more I thought about it. And I like peanut butter well enough. I will still eat it now that I have been hired to move to NYC and become the web editor for Jivamukti's soon-to-be-released web site. Life is good and so am I.