This weekend sees the beginning of the carnival parade season in New Orleans.
Yes, it gets underway some two or three weeks ahead of Mardi Gras proper, with the early parades being just for the locals, and devoid of the 'Spring Break' college co-ed boorishness which has rather taken over Mardi Gras week in recent years. The very first parade to roll is 'Krewe du Vieux' - one of the more recent events to be established, but also the most traditional in ethos: it is the only parade that still uses hand-drawn or mule-drawn floats, and is thus the only one able to follow a route through the narrow, picturesque streets of the Faubourg Marigny and Le Vieux Carré (the old 'French Quarter'); and it gleefully emphasises the satirical - often, indeed, downright lewd or scatological - origins of carnival (something that's largely lost from the grander, motorised processions later in the season).
I have been lucky enough to behold this spectacle a few times over the last 7 or 8 years, and it is a darned good party. I was introduced to it by my good buddy John (a one-time English solicitor that I happened to meet in a pub in Hampstead a decade ago; a long-time [and not always legal] American resident, he now enjoys an elegant retirement in N'Awlins [amongst other places], where he dips his toes in the water of the local music scene as an occasional producer, talent-spotter, radio presenter, and organizer of the annual JazzFest), a French Quarter resident who has long been closely involved in this. He was once the grand poo-bah (I forget what title they actually favour - Grand Marshal, possibly) of the Krewe de Craps (one of 17 sub-krewes in the parade which each builds a float, hires a small marching jazz band, and rallies a group of supporters in wackily themed costumes to march along).
I had been trying to cultivate a habit of joining the parade every 2 or 3 years.... and I was due!
Next year definitely, next year.....
My best wishes go out to John and all the other revellers - I'll be thinking of you on Saturday night.