Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mardi Gras Moments

Good Morning on this first day of Lent 2008! Once again we have found ourselves in a wireless friendly campground and wish to take the opportunity to give you something fresh and up to date for your reading pleasure. That means we are skipping over our Alabama chapter for now, in order to bring immediate 'you are there' images of a great event.

We know yesterday was a fascinating 'Super Tuesday' for US primary elections. Last night the TV was full of reports of tornadoes hitting large areas of the South. And perhaps some of you are still recovering from Super Bowl Sunday. But here in New Orleans it was all about 'Mardi Gras', Fat Tuesday. Able at the last minute to book ourselves into a downtown KOA with free shuttle to this event, we left Dauphin Island, Alabama, Monday morning for the three hour trip to New Orleans. Per usual, we stretched this trip into 4 hours with a side trip through Biloxi. This proved to be an important introduction to the truth of 'Katrina' and its incredible impact on the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf coast. So let us begin with glimpses of the devastation still so evident after 2 1/2 years.

Among the non-evacuating survivors of the storm of the century,
were the famous, heavily rooted live oaks.

Katrina hit on Monday, August 29th 2005. In February 2006
Roy Anderson Corporation partnered with the ABC reality TV show: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to build this Katrina Memorial on the Biloxi Town Green, unveiled in a public ceremony five days later. It stands 12 feet high and symbolizes the height of the hurricane's powerful tidal surge. At the right, encased in glass, is a collage of keepsakes
donated by victims of the "worst natural disaster in US history".

Here we are passing over a bridge on Lake Poncetrain.
Above Peter's arm you can see a new bridge being replaced.
We thought about the time we raced over the 25 mile causeway
the last time we were in New Orleans 25 years ago. We were heading the other
way, trying to stay ahead of a predicted hurricane, with three little
Moffats in the back seat. The waves were already beginning
to crash over the road - one of the most terrifying drives I
ever wish to remember.
There's New Orleans - still alive on the horizon! Once there were 1.7 million who
called this city 'home'. Now there are 200,000.

You can see that here in St. Bernard's parish there is much yet to accomplish.

So many houses remain deserted and uninhabitable. Above you can see how the crews that came to check on families marked each house with the date, which team had investigated, and how many bodies were found.

So many families are still living in their government supplied 'FIMA' trailors.

An example of what a storm can do to the traditional Bayou above ground cemeteries.
But death has not had the final say here ...

New construction is higher than before.

See above one of many special projects. This one in Upper Ward #9 is called
the "music village", where Harry Connick, Jr. is providing housing
for many jazz/cajun/bop artists whose talents have inspired his own.

In a visitor's guide we picked up in Mississippi, Linda Nix says, "Hurricane Katrina knocked us for a wallop. We lost many of our historical landmarks and antebellum homes that gave us our unique charm. But while our land may be changed, our people haven't. Our spirit remains along with the basic qualities that made our people so loyal to the Gulf Coast."

Remember the traditional New Orleans funeral march?
It starts as a mournful dirge. Yet slowly, and in time, it bubbles up into a rocking,
dixieland version of "The Saints Go Marching In".

"Mardi Gras" is a lot like that .. an irrepressible party that celebrates life
even in the midst of death and loss. So come along with us and share the fun...

Come on foot...

Come by car ... but come and share the spirit.

The Zulu parade is rounding the corner onto Canal Street!

Can you hear the music?

This float was a Chicago entry, celebrating the history of Soldiers Field and the Bears.

Mardi Gras is about 'colour' everywhere!

Check out this woman taking pictures below.

This is Melanie Moffat, our niece from Huntsville, Ontario!
Through a last minute text message from
son, Tim Moffat, we learned that she was here in town! Again, through texting,
we were able to find one another in the crowd. Melanie has a special
fondness for New Orleans. She is one of the many volunteers who
have spent months here preparing properties for reconstruction.
Together we proceeded to the 'Rex' parade. Rex is the famous Carnival King.

Pardon me if I mention how fantastic this shot is. Everything about
the hospitality of Mardi Gras is right here.

Here is Rex's entourage.

And these are the official Carnival Guards in the traditional green, gold and purple.
Do they not have a kind of 'magi' cal quality?

Always, the 'jester'.

From each float, participants throw gifts - most often 'the beads'.

Mel and I caught just a few.

One float actually threw underwear! A lucky catch modeled above.

Uncle and niece modeling their own paraphernalia.
Yes, there are 'cars' on Peter's necklace.

Now, for all the wonderful characters who attend ...

The mimes are always a special addition.

Even the cars wear costumes.

Yes, this is the same car, closer up.

I got to meet this Roman guy, "Glutimas Maximus" I believe his name was.

Meet my new friend, "Cotton Candy".

Peter has a new friend too, Cotton's older sister, "Sweet Marie".

In this context, everyone becomes a friend!

The 'young at heart' in every age ..

in pairs ..

spontaneously dancing..

This is my all time favourite pic from Mardi Gras.

The 'flower-pot' children.

Here comes the bride ...

Here comes the groom?

But here are the real bride and groom .. yes, an authentic
wedding to which all were invited.

This is the officiating minister... giving me new ideas for retirement.

The balconies play a big part .. a place from which folks continue to throw beads to those below.

Even Jesus loves a parade.

Night comes, and the party goes on...

There's an open competition between 'the gods'.
(see above and below)

Some of us are just 'spiritual'.

This is David Graham, a retired farmer, and the
farmer's daughter, Darnold. They were residents
of the same RV Park and we shared a cab home together.
But not before we mutually enjoyed a preformance
at New Orlean's famous "Preservation Club".

The 'P' is behind the lamp post.

Jamille Sharif (trumpet and singer) and his band
are New Orleans newest stars .. honouring traditional
and contemporary expressions of their medium.

There is more to share about our time in Louisiana before we followed the 'Evacuation Route' signs out of town, but this is long and we consider it a boon that we haven't lost anything yet in this blog. It's just a matter of time and fate before we do. So, its now Sunday, February 8th, nearly a week since we began this tomb. In the interim we have camped at Grande Isle, the southernmost point of Louisiana's cost, toured Oak Alley Plantation (scene of many movies) and were surprised by the wonderful capitol city of Baton Rouge, where we ate lunch on the Mississippi riverfront levee watching the mighty tug boats at work. Pictures will follow ...

As we come to 'this' close, we are about to explore an Acadian (cajun) museum before heading out of Lafayette to our next stop ... Texas.