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As much as I would like to encourage Kossacks to attend Mardi Gras 2006, I can't get behind it.

I could, however, get behind this instead:

Petitioning Congress for a national Mardi Gras day of celebration that will occur on Tuesday, February 28 nationwide.  And bring New Orleans to your hometown, and to your city.

Sign the petition.

As I told one Kossack, it's best not to go to New Orleans right now.  I think, really, that it would be disrespecting the rest of the population that are still fighting to return and fighting to stay.  They are the ones--the working poor and middle-class--that kept things going for the city before Katrina.  The working poor and middle-class who were once homeowners.  They are not there and the few that are would be overwhelmed. And you might be contributing to exploiting the Latinos who have been getting wise to being little more than slaves.  There aren't enough cops or National Guard around, and as you know those guys are not to be trusted in any mental state that they are in.  Don't even expect Blackwater to handle security.  That's something that the tourist people would want the city to provide for free. But the city is on life support, being broke.

It would be just like those ghouls--and that's what I think they are--taking the Gray Line tours to check out how bad it really was for people who lost everything, including their lives.

I hate to be busting some people's balloons. I know some folks just want to have fun.  But have some respect, please, and wait.

Furthermore, people seem to be under the erroneous impression that Mardi Gras is one day in the French Quarter where everyone gets soused enough to expose their mammary glands or their hairy asses.  It isn't.

Mardi Gras is a series of celebrations, parades, balls, and events that go on for about three weeks until the grand day arrives.  It does not occur just in the French Quarter and Canal Street.  It happens across the River, in different neighborhoods, and in other nearby parishes about an hour away.  There are the Mardi Gras Indians who march in feathered outfits and have their own celebration and whose costumes should be in the Smithsonian.

Sometimes, the smaller, more downhome, country parades and open houses and bars are better than coming down for three days for the ripoff show in the French Quarter.  Frankly folks, you can always get the action in the French Quarter, any day.  Get away from the traps, and you'll really find New Orleans or Louisiana culture.

Some of those communities to which I refer, however, may have been wiped out.  They too, may be slow to return and to put on a show.

I don't know what these boosters are thinking about when they say that they want to stage Mardi Gras this year.  My cousin Junior laughs about the nerve.  Can't even identify bodies, but they want to put together a Mardi Gras celebration.

It's like walking on graves.

So I am thinking that even if the petition is not recognized by Congress, have your own show regardless--at home.  

The official petition reads:

Official Petition:

In recognition of the huge cultural and economic contributions made by the great city of New Orleans to American society, we, the undersigned, call on the Congress of the United States of America to declare this February 28, (Mardi Gras 2006) a National Holiday.

We call on our fellow citizens join us in observing this Mardi Gras 2006 by organizing and participating in benefit block parties, gumbo feeds and concerts to raise funds to build low income housing for the people of New Orleans to insure that when the city is rebuilt, there will be a place in New Orleans for all its displaced citizens.

And this is not limited to just organizing feeds and concerts.  If anything, you could probably have a hometown Mardi Gras parade with floats ending up at a favorite big spors bar or restaurant where all things New Orleans will be served for a fee and you could rope off a couple of blocks and have a party, with the proceeds going towards a reputable charity (not the Red Cross) that is doing good for Katrina victims.

The favorite charities of this petition organization?

This organization is liberal/progressive and it looks serious.  

After a moment of thrashing about, America hit the snooze button. No surprise. All the stuff we've tried to forget so many years-- race, class, environment, energy, health, "law & order"-- all our dirty laundry washed into public view for the world and all our kids to see. It was too much pain, too much shame, too much betrayal to handle so close to dawn. Better to dream just a few minutes more.

That's why we're creating a National Mardi Gras. We want to revisit these issues and deal with them, in as inspiring a way as we can imagine. After the shock and the media circus, after the frantic federal response and all the promises made and broken, we will use Mardi Gras as a moment to return and refocus our energy on all the tough stuff we know we've got to wake up and work on. With National Mardi Gras, we can use the best of our shared culture to remind us how to turn sorrow into joy, death into life. We'll put the culture in the front seat and the politics in the back.

Think about it.  Wait another year and then go for the real thing.

Frankly, being a veteran of many earlier Mardi Gras holidays as a child and as a young adult, what they had last year is not like it was back then.

I still remember one morning watching a large troupe of young black men, some half in costume, some stripped to the waist, practicing the marching that they would be doing later on as Mardi Gras Indians, down Magnolia Street.  It fills me with pride even now.  The precision, the beauty, the singing and chanting.

It was a lovely morning.

You're welcome to disagree.  But that's what I think.

Originally posted to on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 12:46 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am going to bed now... (4.00)
    a lot of work to do before I go to Cali for a week.

    Ta-ta for a few hours.

    An untypical Negro...since 1954.

    by blksista on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 12:53:44 AM PST

  •  Dang (none)
    I've been going back and forth on this issue.  You raise (as always) many excellent points, but...

    I think holding Mardi Gras is too important to Louisiana to not hold it.  And I don't mean for the oft-stated reason to "jumpstart" the economy, or to bring back the tourists.  I mean for the simple reason of simple pleasures, of a taste of normalacy, for a shot in the arm of the mental health of everyone there.

    I'm in regular contact with a very good friend in Slidell (and btw, my fellow Krewe of Aquila member) and what is wearing her down four months after hell arrived is that nothing is not about invades every waking moment, every conversation, everything she does.  

    Yes, there has been death and destruction and people are still living with it everyday...but they are alive...trying to forget the pain for a time is not a bad thing, IMO.

    Again, you make very good points, but I plan on being in New Orleans on the 28th...beads, go cups and moon-pies may seem small and insignificant in the face of the disaster the people there are living with...but a smile and a few hours a pure fun can go a long way...MHO.

    Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

    by Barbara Morrill on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 01:10:05 AM PST

  •  Well, I'd rather see... (none)
    ...the Wild Magnolias' costumes on folks, on the streets o' New Orleans, rather than in the Smithsonian. But I know whatcha mean.

    Maybe this year's Mardi Gras oughta be about coming home to the Mardi Gras.

    As in...y'all from 'round here? Come on home, we gonna have us a little party.

    Folks down here need it. Really need it.

    Some folks may not know what Mardi Gras is supposed to be about. It was originally a Catholic thing, manifested in a Catholic town. It's kinda about cuttin' loose and enjoying life, before 40 days of symbolic deprivation.

    Well, we've had our deprivation in a way, I guess. And we'll have more come Lent and past. I think we gon' have us a party come Mardi Gras. But, like blkstsa said above, we're not really all that set-up for company and all.

    So, y'all from 'round here? Come on home, we gonna have us a little party. Folks down here need it.

    And by all means, we should have a National Mardi Gras. I mean, I can't wait to see the clips from Mardi Gras in other parts of the country...I am curious as to how "Show Your Tits!" will play in Peoria...

    •  Only time I"ve enjoyed NOLA (none)
      was when it wasn't even close to Mardi Gras.  That time is a nightmare.   Nothin better than being packed so close body to body that it takes 20 minutes to travel 50 feet all the while being bumped around and closed in with a body to body bunch of crap with fratboys, drunks, and assholes.

      Thanks but no thanks.  Mardi Gras might be misrepresented at this point but it is the worst of NOLA and it's the outsiders that make it htat way.   NOLA is at it's best the other 90% of the year.   There's nothing I'd hate more than to see that atmosphere continued.  

      I understand why it's important....tourism dollars are what make/made NOLA thrive....but Mardi Gras is simply a fucking mess of drunks that make it so unbelievably unappealing to most people who are out of college....that...I'll leave that unended......

      This won't go over well, I know.   But I stand by it.

      George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

      by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:24:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well... (none)
        ...Mardi Gras is more than cramming yourself into the mass of humanity that is the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday.  ;-)

        Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

        by Barbara Morrill on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:44:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure (none)
          And the good points of Mardi Gras are the things that are there 24/7/365 even when what I described isn't there.  Sure there are family oriented events, parades, etc going on but it's not what the tourist dollars come from which is why NOLA is trying to get it going which is what this diary is about.    Tourist dollars don't come to NOLA via Mardi Gras via anything other than the crap in the French Quarter.

          If you want the good part of Mardi Gras that you're referring to, well it's available at its core (as is the bad part that I referred to in a way that isn't bad like I described it) every day of the year in NOLA outside of Mardi Gras, minus the parades.  

          Well....not so much now.....maybe not so much ever again....and that's the sad part.  

          George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

          by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:57:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree (none)
            I lived there for seven years and Mardi Gras was a distinct event...and I'm talking about for the people who lived there, not the tourists. And it's for the people who live there that I think Mardi Gras should be held.  

            Nothing will ever be the same there, that is true.  But I think that it's important for people there to live it up...and even if it's only for a few moments, perhaps to forget the multitude of problems that they all face.  Mardi Gras or no, the problems will still be there.  

            Laissez la bon temps roule, if only for a short time.  

            Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

            by Barbara Morrill on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:08:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •   only in the context of this diary do i say that (none)
              and maybe in the context where you're coming at this from a national mardi gras seems like a good thing.   From the point of view of those who haven't lived there though it is merely how I've described it and I may be offbased in what I'm saying but I don't think most people know what Mardi Gras entails outside of drunken debauchery on Bourbon Street and thus I disagree with the diary on those grounds.

              Coming from your point of view though, if people were to take Mardi Gras from it's base root up and do it as NOLA did it minus all the tourists and drunken debauchery on Bourbon Street and'd be a tribute.  Unfortunately, one would be hard pressed to find more people that recognized the real Mardi Gras than recognize the cultural gold mine that NOLA is and was and hopefully will represent again.

              I'm not downing Mardi Gras except in the context of a national Mardi Gras and it's only because I think it has such a bad name, even to myself who recognizes that the FQ is but a tiny spot of it, that it denegrates what people truly know nola to be even if it's all about stereotypes and bs regarding mardi gras.   I've been there many times mardi gras and not......I'll take not any day of the week because it's all there minus the parades and the insanity.....the culture...the food...the music...the people.....are what made me love new orleans.  

              But I know what you're saying.  

              George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

              by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:19:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well... (none)
                ...I don't like the idea of a National Mardi Gras.  It's an event that is unique to Louisiana and should stay that way, IMO.  Besides, I went to a supposed "Fat Tuesday" they held in Seattle one year.  What a joke.  To me, Mardi Gras is something that can't be transferred,'s a state of mind kind of thing.  And I realize that that probably makes no sense...but it does to me.


                Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

                by Barbara Morrill on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:26:14 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well I'll defer to you on this of course (none)
                  I stand by my experiences but for this:

                  .  And I realize that that probably makes no sense...but it does to me.

                  I envy you.   It makes total sense to me but probably not in the tiniest bit the way it does to you and you're lucky to have been a part of that place as your regular day in and day out.   Here's to it's healing.    

                  I'm going to bed.....thank god I have a reasonable certainty that when I wake up, my city (which is pretty benign and boring in the cultural sense) will be there the same.  

                  This is a petty dispute really that's taken place here and I didn't mean to make a big deal of Mardi Gras as I did because this diarist's other diaries are making note of some stuff that makes the cultural aspect pale in comparison to the corpses, missing people, wandering people, and other horrible things still going on.

                  Let's hope one of these days we'll both be able to go back to Nola and experience the unreal culture that it represented and breathed.    Until then, I hope our government can get its shit together and finally answer questions on who has actually died, who the bodies are, how many there actually are,  why there are still bodies being found by family members as noted in a diary here yesterday, and what they can do to prevent that from being the way family members are found from this point on.  Our govt is still failing them.   That's paramount.

                  George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

                  by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:56:24 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  That said though..... (none)
      NOLA is one of my very favorite cities I've ever visited without a doubt.   Mardi Gras is the least favorite time but besides that it's one of the best cities in the nation, music-wise, people-watching-wise,'s just top notch to chill.

      I fear we've lost one of our nation's best cultural spots for good.   I don't see how it could come back how it was before......the things that I found so unreal about the city have now become so grim.  The graveyards, the hauntings, the juxtaposition that brought poor and rich next door across the was a very very very different city in many respects.....and the things that made it so sociologically and psychologically interesting to me are now the things that make it so sad....almost point by point as they each hold some of the horrors of katrina.

      Nola will never be Nola again.   I'm glad I was able to experience it to a small degree before.....because I fear (and know) that it will never be the same again.

      NOLA isn't mardi gras.   NOLA is just NOLA and Mardi Gras is a mere spot on the map of what nola brought culturally.  

      Now Northern Cali is flooding.   Nevada is flooding.  Texas and Oklahoma are literally on fire....heard a figure of 250-300,000 acres burned if they get it under control in the next couple of days.

      Happy New Years.

      George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

      by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:39:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just wanna understand... (none)

        You tryin' to explain to me what New Orleans is and isn't, what Mardi Gras is or isn't?

        And I'd like to explain something to you, all friendly-like...NOLA is still NOLA. You need a long explanation of that? Meant all friendly-like, and all.

        •  Read what I said again (none)
          Your questions are answered if you read without pre-interpretation.

          Understand your defensivenes and understand you're not attacking out of spite but out of love of what is an inherent part of you that my post doesnt have the authority of but you're off base in your interpretation by a long mile.   Read it again.  :-)

          George W. Bush, Resign NOW.

          by tlh lib on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:40:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I read again... (none)
            ...and my question is still spot-on. And so's my four-word explanation of what you're missing. NOLA is still NOLA.

            Down here, it's not considered defensive or attacking when someone tries to correct a visitor's impressions of the city and the doings of its people. It's kinda like if you go looking for a street that you pronounce "Mel-pom-i-nee", someone's bound to ask you, "You mean Mel-pa-meen?".

            This may give you a hint about the some of the parts that you're wrote:

            the cultural aspect pale in comparison to the corpses, missing people, wandering people, and other horrible things still going on.

            Like it or not, "the corpses, missing people, wandering people, and other horrible things still going on"...all that is now a part of our culture.

            •  I heard my grandparents and mom (none)
              called it Mel-po-MAIN.

              One question.  Is Dryades Street still have closed down?  You know, where Gertrude Geddes Willis has a mortuary?

              An untypical Negro...since 1954.

              by blksista on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 01:14:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  By Jackson...? (none)
                Tho' I know the area, I haven't been by there since before the storms. I think that stretch of Dryades is now named for Oretha Castle Haley. That's the area around where my mother grew up, I lived at Washington & Carondelet for awhile myself, and did some work over on Simon Bolivar. In general, I guess you might say that times haven't been particularly good for quite awhile, coupla blocks on the lakeside of St. Charles and all.
                •  Yup...around Jackson... (none)
                  where the Freret Street bus goes.

                  There was also once a library nearby that has been reconverted into something else.

                  An untypical Negro...since 1954.

                  by blksista on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 04:01:43 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If I remember correctly... (none)
                    ...a month or so back, Gambit ran some photos from the area, maybe a piece about folks who had a house on Jackson.

                    That might have been where they shot the photo of the refrigerator that was grafitti'd with "Do Not Open. Tom Benson Inside."

                    That your library when you were a kid?

                    •  Yup, that was my library...although mom (none)
                      usually got the books for me, and I just tagged along.  Not sure whether it was desegregated at that time.

                      Who's Tom Benson?

                      Dryades was the place where you got set up with a sofa, radio and TV for the front room, and maybe a toaster.  It was dying out by the time I was 12.

                      Is Mel Levitt still around, and if not, when did he die, 'zactly?

                      An untypical Negro...since 1954.

                      by blksista on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 08:25:06 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Tom Benson, Saints owner... (none)
                        ...he was not a popular person when he was going whole-hog to move the Saints out of town.

                        I'm guessing that now folks get set-up with sofa, radio, etc. from Wal-Mart - there's one over by St. Thomas. Makes ya cry, doesn't it?

                        I dunno about Mel...

  •  I agree with you... (none) one way but I love that city so much that I WANT to see it heal fast.  Then again, I think that will take such a long time.  How can we ever completely heal from this experience?  This was beyond hell for those in New Orleans.  To those of us watching from afar - it was an abomination!

    For me, so much came to light in 2005.  I was glued to the screen watching coverage of the disaster that was Katrina and the larger catastrophe of the government's (lack of) response.

    Two weeks after the storm, I was travelling around the world on my vacation that ended up in Cape Town, South Africa.

    In Cape Town, as we made our way from the airport, we passed by the townships where people ACTUALLY live.  Live may not be the right word - exist is more fitting.

    Then I had a moment in my mind where everything fit together.  It struck me!  These townships, this Katrina disaster are not problems but SYMPTOMS of poverty and racism.  In the past, I knew those things existed.  But at the moment we passed our first township, it all connected.  It became real.

    Racism leads to poverty - leads to hunger - lack of education - lack of healthcare - desparation.  The horrible cycle I had always heard about and believed became very real to me.

    So, blksista, you can't get behind Mardi Gras happening as usual?  I agree.  This country needs to have a huge national conversation about racism and poverty and then take ACTION!  No lip service is allowed.  Only ACTION!

    We all need to talk about racism and poverty in this country.  Honestly - no holds barred.

    Sorry to rant.  Great diary and thanks for all your diaries!

    -8.88; -8.62 Republicans for Voldemort

    by kaus on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:36:20 AM PST

  •  Come On Down (none)
    Wait another year and then go for the real thing.

    This year's shortened Mardi Gras will still be quite real, thank you very much.

    All of the reasons people enjoyed Mardi Gras in the past (the food, the parades, the Bourbon Street madness, the music, etc) will (mostly) occur as usual.  Sure, some parades will not roll (some shouldn't have been rolling in the past few years anyway), the crowds will certainly be smaller (again, not necessarily a negative thing), and not every restaurant/shop you've experienced in the past will be open or operating at full capacity.  But plenty of fun can and will be had by all who participate.  As usual.

    Not one person mentioned cancelling Halloween.  Or Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year's celebrations.  Not one person has suggested we avoid Valentine's Day, Easter, Jazz Fest or the 4th of July. There has been no talk of cancelling football games, music concerts, birthday parties or any of the many other (sometimes frivolous & ridiculous) celebrations/activities we participate in throughout a typical year.  So why in the world would we want to cancel Mardi Gras - our world-famous event that pumps billions into our economy?  Especially now.  Katrina knocked us down, it didn't knock us out.

    So come on down people. Frankly, we could use the fun, and the money (which we desperately need) will be greatly appreciated as well.

    Without music, life would be a mistake.

    by Cory on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:37:22 AM PST

  •  The pres would support your idea (none)
    as soon as he and cheney figure out how to get Halliburton at the top of the list of "charities"  that would benefit...

    explain how letting gays marry will directly affect your own heterosexual relationship?

    by bluestatesam on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:00:55 AM PST

  •  But is the country (none)
    primed for another national religious holiday?

    From the home of "Future Shoes."

    by mfinley98 on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 05:01:35 AM PST

  •  First, ELECTION DAY HOLIDAY (none)
    You realize, don't you, that if we had a national Mardi Gras holiday 99 percent of the profits would go to Hallmark greeting cards and decorations made in China.

    I'd like to see a national New Orleans culture committee formed a.s.a.p. to locate and give grant money for displaced people from New Orleans to teach us how Mardi Gras is done.

  •  I'm torn on the issue of a (none)
    National Mardi Gras, because it's an event that's so specific to New Orleans, although I love the idea of putting culture before politics for one day nationally. But your diary raises the issue, which I brought up in a diary last week, of what tourism can do FOR a community and what it can do TO a community. I've worked in and around the tourism industry a long time, and for those of you who think it's always a good thing (or at worst a benign thing), think again. Sure, it brings jobs and economic development, and there's no question New Orleans' future is tied to reviving its tourism economy. So I hope the industry there rebounds, and I do intend to visit again next year. Love the place. But there can be an ugly, rapacious, culture-killing side to the industry too, if it's not monitored by people who have their community's best interests at heart.

    As for the Gray Line tours, I agree with you. They just don't seem appropriate - too soon, too ghoulish, as you say, and we're seeing folks who live in (or lived in) those flooded districts react negatively to having their life-changing disaster packaged as a tourism attraction. If Gray Line and others had worked WITH the 9th Ward residents to figure out IF, and HOW, and WHEN such tours might take place, that's different. But they didn't; they just came in and exploited the hell out of these folks (and their website is really tasteless). I'd also ask that more of the bus tour profits benefit the displaced residents, not just the bottom line for Gray Line. Cities shouldn't let these decisions up to the chamber of commerce or tour operators alone. The community is the tourism attraction; the community should have a voice.

    "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

    by Mother Mags on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 08:54:12 AM PST

  •  My daughter in NOLA has told me (none)
    very clearly that I should come down after Mardi Gras.  She knows how much I hate crowds and being crushed in humanity.

    I think March will be a great time.  See much more of the city and surrounding area.

    Thanks,blksista, for the updates and for the gorgeous Indian costume picture.

    Out of Iraq NOW. What Murtha said.

    by maybeeso in michigan on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 10:13:49 AM PST

  •  Mardi Gras (none)
    The people who don't want to hold Mardi Gras are either too depressed to get behind it, which I can understand, or they are influenced by the residual puritanism that still defines America, or else they just don't want it to go without them. Mardi Gras cannot be held across America because it is an inherently un-American holiday. Only people in Creole cultures in Louisiana and the adjacent Gulf Coast and Caribbean have this kind of Mardi Gras because we are born with it in our DNA. You either have it or you don't; it cannot be forced. New Orleanians understand that it is our sacred obligation to commemorate the "fairwell to the flesh" via the ritual celebration of fleshly existence in its various expressions. It is a tantrik pagan ritual filtered through a gnostic Catholic culture that doesn't exist anywhere else in North America. People who don't want us to have it are entitled to their opinion, but those people are mostly not here--either in body or spirit.
    •  Number one, I was born there (none)
      and two, I am not against people there having some kind of celebration.

      I am against exploitation, which is something very easy for tourists--out of towners--to do.

      Yes, I know.  Mardi Gras would only be Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  

      I am saying, however, in the diary that people put together what a Mardi Gras can be for themselves and fundraise for those who still need help in lieu of exploiting a very tenuous situation right now.

      An untypical Negro...since 1954.

      by blksista on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:27:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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