Friday, March 06, 2009

Mardi Gras reflections

I wanted to say that Mardi Gras was great. The weather was great, the crowds were great, the Boeuf Gras (above) had fake smoke coming out of his nose. In my part of town, little kids crammed into seats on ladders and people on the floats threw them lots of beads and doubloons (and wimpy adults like me caught the stuff that landed on the ground around them). Older folks hustled right up there with the young people. Often someone next to you would give you some beads or doubloons they caught that you just missed. (Or, in my case, that hit me in the face and bounced. If you've never been hit in the face with something thrown off a Mardi Gras float, you just haven't spent enough time at the parades.)
The air was filled with the smell of grilling hamburgers being prepared just a stone's throw from the parade crowds. Bouef Gras, indeed. It was more like a Fourth of July picnic than a parade in the late winter.
Ladies wore purple-green-and-gold feather boas and men wore purple-green-and-gold striped polo shirts with the Perlis crawfish logo on the left side. It was all happy and peaceful and it looked like we were back to normal at last.
And then, later in the afternoon, 20 blocks up the street from where we were standing, a couple of idiots started shooting into the crowd and wounded seven people, including a young child.
Sad to say, people shooting guns in the street counts as "back to normal" in New Orleans these days. But not on Mardi Gras!
All I can say in defense of New Orleans in a situation like this is, well, most big cities in America today wouldn't even dare to attempt a celebration like Mardi Gras for this very reason. Our New Orleans police do a remarkable job of crowd control, a mix of letting things go that aren't causing trouble and jumping in immediately when things go on that are. Not to mention those great mounted patrol officers. Nobody messes with a great big warmblood horse who's been trained not to be scared of anything, bearing down on you and meaning business.
But firing into a crowd, well, there's no excuse for that.
The estimates were that we had a million people in the streets on Mardi Gras. And by and large, most of them behaved themselves and it went very well.
Don't be afraid to come back to New Orleans. Don't let the bad guys win.