One topic of discussion here in Post-Katrina New Orleans is Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, for the unknowing, is the culmination of Carnival season, which runs from Twelfth Night to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Many outsiders have this idea that Mardi Gras is a drunken semi-orgy where otherwise normal women expose themselves for cheap trinkets. That is the image promulgated on MTV, and when speaking of certain areas, particularly the French Quarter, it is accurate. However, Mardi Gras is also a giant family-oriented street party, where exposing yourself is no more acceptable than it is anywhere or anytime else. It is a home-grown party, a time when people from all walks of life celebrate that we live here, and not in Atlanta, Dallas, Jackson or Houston. It is a time to meet friends on the parade route, see your cousins on a float and go to parties at the homes of those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to live close to the parade routes. It is a time for fun and fellowship, but in a much more laid back low key way than during the "holiday" season.
The issue here right now is whether we should have Mardi Gras this year, given the state of the city. Is it right to spend all that money (personal money of riders, not taxpayer money by the way) to have parades when so many people have blue roofs, are living in FEMA trailers or are still far from home due to the storm? Should we be trying to attract tourists when our own people do not have housing? Should we have Mardi Gras this year? Emphatically, I say YES!!! I'm a lukewarm participant in Mardi Gras generally--I go to weekend parades when the weather is nice, and to parades on Mardi Gras day, if the weather is nice. However, I say bring on the parades, we need them. We need them because this is New Orleans, not Houston, Dallas or Atlanta. Mardi Gras is part of who we are as a people and if we let Katrina take that from us, then she won. We need to spend the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with our families and friends kicking up our heels and having fun. We've all had enough sorrow, loss, traffic jams, mold, insurance adjusters, contractors, stinking refrigerators and other hurricane aftermath. We have spent the last four months paying the price for living in New Orleans; now we want one of our rewards.