Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 16, 2010, w/Updates

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Above, in the custom header, is part of the Lundi (Monday) Gras celebration of the Kings of the Krewes of Zulu (on the left) and Rex (on the right) meeting at the appropriate watering hole near the Mississippi, attended by all the bigwigs and the memberships. The meeting is also indicative of each New Orleans ‘world’–white and black–meeting amicably and equally. If that were always true…

And here is a live tape from WWL-TV of Pete Fountain’s Half-Past Walking Club for 2010. It’s graduated to having a couple of floats as well as the walking guys, mostly musicians, who started out walking slowly, or staggering quite lubricated as the case may be, between barrooms or sets from St. Charles Avenue to the Quarter. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for over sixty years (1950-2010), although some say that it started officially in 1961. Pete Fountain is now 79, so he really does need a float, as do all of his (elderly) band members. At stops, he plays a few toots from his clarinet from the float during the early Mardi Gras Day saunter.

It started out as the Half-Assed Walking Club, because Fountain and the guys maintained that they were half-assed walking–not marching, and not quickening their steps. Just taking their time getting there to the Quarter. Even though that might take until the end of the afternoon. It seems to me that it’s taken from the possibility of being arrested on the street while inebriated. After all, you can’t just sit or sleep it off on the sidewalk or the banquette, or lean on a telephone pole or against a street lamp. One has to keep going or else they’re in the drunk tank. Hence, half-assed walking or walking as slowly as possible. The city fathers didn’t like the name and didn’t like the joke, and pressured Fountain to change it or else. So he did, with a catch.

The guys usually precede the likes of the Krewe of Zulu, so they can’t afford to tipple too much walking down St. Charles. For Fountain and the older guys, one glass of wine is quite enough these days, thank you very much. But in the old days, I’m sure that they could drink a few people under the bar.

Over the years, though, they’ve extended their membership to people like actor John Goodman, who still lives in New Orleans, half-forgotten, long-dead celebrities like singer Frankie Laine and comedian Phil Harris.

From Professor Nivale’s webpage about walking clubs:

Walking clubs in New Orleans go back to the beginnings of the celebrations on these shores (after all, what were the landings of Iberville and Bienville but marching krewes in search of a place to celebrate?) It can be argued that all Mardi Gras parading organizations began life as marching clubs of one form or another. Walking Clubs offer their own joys, providing a much more intimate and interactive Carnival atmosphere that is truer to the spirit and styles that our forbears so adored.

I love a parade like everyone else…and some of those walking sticks were pretty impressive, too.

And here is Zulu:

This is an overview by CBS News this morning, but I don’t like Zulu being called wacky. Check it out. Oh, yeah. It is cold over there. Temps have been hovering around 50 degrees, and they’re claiming they’re soooo cold. Um, come up here to Wisconsin, wussies.

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The ABC News affiliate on Channel 26 had an early morning start with Zulu as well, with some interviews with tourists as well as locals. Some came from way out of town. Lotta Who Dat? bravado still left over from the Super Bowl last Sunday. The delirium hasn’t burned off yet, keeping most warm during the cold temperatures. One can confidently call this the Saints’ Mardi Gras, with fleur de lys even sewn and etched in gold on the jackets and hats of Zulu dancers.

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Finally, the Times-Picayune comes up with excitement down St. Charles way. And with some brass bands, too! Beautiful.

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Okay, this is the Zulu-Tramps group converging towards downtown and dancing in front of Gallier Hall, and I do believe I see some ringers in there; some white team mates of the Saints perhaps masking in Zulu along with their black counterparts. They’re all not quite “rum-soaked” yet it appears, although this is occurring close to mid-morning. If anything they seem high on life, and being with the guys. The Tramps are the original social aid club whose members founded the Krewe of Zulu; they were originally a walking club. They sometimes constitute the adjuncts or outriders to those in the court floats.

And last but not least, are the Mardi Gras Indians, doing their early morning bit. This is the Golden Comanches strutting their stuff. Really great clarity in this video, and of course, the costumes are down.

These Indians are returning from marching; there is still a lot of energy left in these people, young and old. Like they could do this all day. For many of the men, it is the end of a journey and the achievement of a goal. They’ve sacrificed, they’ve marched and feel strong in the moment. There is a spiritual vibe here. Notice, there’s no one here spoiling for a fight, or wishing to disrupt anything to settle some beef. And it’s a mixed crowd of whites and blacks, mostly locals with a sprinkle of tourists. Traffic slows around them. Don’t start none, won’t be none. At all.

Usually what happens is that they retire to their favorite bar, clubhouse, or home of the chief, or what-have-you final destination, and another party starts, with chests of beer, drinks, and lots of home cooking: gumbos, BBQs, chicken, crawfish, and shrimp and oysters. Red beans and rice and hot sauce. And lots more music. In some households, there will be king cake. It’s just that simple. And with that, I bid you all adieu for one more day. If there are more of the Indians, I’ll post them during the week, but I’m thinking that it’s just too early for a lot of uploads, and the news outlets don’t bother as much as the folks near the action with a video cam.

~ by blksista on February 16, 2010.

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