Letter From New Orleans: A Tale Of Two Krewes

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was elected in 2017 as a progressive. After four years of an increasingly incoherent mayoralty, it’s hard to tell what if anything she stands for. She was easily reelected but without any opponent of stature with the money to mount a serious challenge. Mayor Teedy believes she has a mandate but for what? Beats the hell outta me.

I realize that this post may qualify as inside-New Orleans baseball to some readers. I started out as a hyper-local New Orleans blogger in 2006, after all. Sometimes I revert to that form.

New Orleans is among the most interesting cities in the world and Carnival is central to our local culture. I have oversimplified at points to make this post comprehensible to those who are, as we say in the 13th Ward, from away.

Carnival disputes have often served as proxies for political warfare in New Orleans. In 1992, a Mardi Gras anti-discrimination ordinance passed shaking up the staid, stuffy, and often racist Carnival order. It led some of the snootier all-white krewes such as Comus and Momus to stop parading for good. It was a much-needed shakeup that led to the birth of some new and more diverse parading krewes such as Orpheus and Muses and eventually to quirky marching groups such as the 610 Stompers, Pussyfooters, and Laissez Boys to name a few.

It’s happening again. The city has decided to press on with Carnival even with Omicron raging. Ironically, the only thing Mayor Teedy did right in her first term was combat COVID. City Hall has announced that parade routes will be compressed and altered supposedly because of an understaffed and overwhelmed police department. In fact, this is a change  that has been long sought by the NOPD and they’ve managed to accomplish it under cover of COVID. They’ve wanted to consolidate the peak parade route onto St. Charles Avenue, and they’ve gotten their way for at least 2022.

The changes directly impact the parades that roll up Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. It means that these krewes will no longer parade around the corner from Adrastos World HQ. That’s no big whoop for me this year: I plan to stay away from the parade route. I’ve managed to go this long without getting sick during the pandemic and while I love Carnival, it’s not worth getting sick over. Nothing is.

There’s one krewe that has been rolling up Magazine Street for many decades: the Krewe of Thoth. They’ve made it a point to parade past hospitals and other health care facilities with the aim of bringing good cheer to patients and staff alike, especially at Children’s Hospital.

Thoth is the parade I will miss the most. There’s an annual neighborhood party at the corner of Valence and Magazine Streets. It was missed last year but it will be impossible this year as the parades will begin nine blocks away. I hope to feel safe during Carnival 2023 but it’s uncertain if Thoth or the other Magazine Street parades will return.

City Hall consulted with some of the parading krewes. Thoth was not among them.

One krewe that was not forced to move its route is Endymion. They parade across town in Mid-City. They’ve been allowed to stay on their customary route with a few tweaks That’s why this post is called A Tale Of Two Krewes.

Endymion is an obnoxious parading krewe with political clout and money to burn. Most of its members live in suburban Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes. The latter is the reddest and richest parish in the Gret Stet Of Louisiana. Yet, they have more clout than Thoth, which is based in the bluest parish with an allegedly progressive mayor. What’s wrong with this picture?

A personal note: I hate Endymion and the people who camp out for days on its route. Hardcore New Orleanians call these creeps the Krewe of Chad because one year some jerk named Chad painted his name on the neutral ground of Orleans Avenue. I am not making this up:

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Trick Bag

Skeletons Fighting Over A Pickled Herring by James Ensor.

This should be Carnival’s biggest weekend. I’ll miss our pre-Tucks peregrinations on Saturday and company on Thoth Sunday. Wait until next year.

The impeachment trial ate my week, so I’ll keep this short. It’s what usually happens the Saturday before Fat Tuesday in any event. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by NOLA’s own Earl King in 1962. It’s tricky, it’s baggy, it’s early, it’s kingy.

We have four versions of Trick Bag for your listening pleasure: the Earl King original, the Meters, Johnny Winter, and Robert Palmer.

Now that we’ve pulled some tricks out of the bag, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Life Is A Carnival

I’m deep in the Carnival bubble, which is a wondrous albeit crowded place to be. We’ve had big company and small company. It’s been fun but as always I’ll be glad when it’s over. I’m so pooped that I’m repeating last week’s featured image.

There was a parade-related accident at the corner where I’ve been watching parades for the last 20 years. A parade-goer was run over by a float in the Nyx parade near the corner of Magazine and Valence. It was fatal, alas.¬† I’ll have more about that and other Carnival related issues in next week’s 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm for The Band’s 1971 Cahoots album. The horns were arranged by New Orleans’ own Allen Toussaint.

We have three versions of Life Is A Carnival for your listening pleasure: the studio original, a 1995 teevee appearance by The Band, and a cover by Norah Jones, which is new to me

Lest you think I’ve strayed too far from New Orleans Carnival music, here’s Our Mac:

I try not to spend too much time peering around corners looking for spy boys, skeletons, or baby dolls. If you understood that sentence, you know enough about Carnival, New Orleans style to jump to the break without crash landing.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Straighten Up and Fly Right

I’m exhausted from the lead up to and the aftermath of this year’s Krewe du Vieux parade. There were a series of mishaps and missteps that made it stressful for me. The political news hasn’t improved my mood either. I’m trying to get in the Carnival spirit by posting the 1939 poster seen above. Additionally, we have company tomorrow so it’s time to straighten up and fly right.

This week’s theme song was written in 1943 by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills and is based on a folk tale involving a buzzard and a signifying monkey. I am not making this up.

Straighten Up and Fly Right was the biggest hit the King Cole Trio ever had. We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the original, Diana Krall, and an instrumental by the Skatalites:

Now that we’ve straightened up, let’s fly right to the jump.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: So It Goes

Spellbound set design by Salvador Dali.

Carnival and Paul Drake’s gotcha day loom. We adopted the dear boy on Twelfth Night in 2018. I guess that means we must consume King Cake on Monday. Poor us.

I said all I have to say about the latest mess in Mesopotamia yesterday. Suffice it to say that I don’t think it’s an Archduke Ferdinand moment but it’s some serious shit,

This week’s theme song was written in 1976 by Nick Lowe for his kinda sorta solo album Jesus Of Cool, which was released in America as Pure Pop For Now People. I said kinda sorta solo album because it featured Nick’s band Rockpile on all the tracks. More about them later.

We have two versions of So It Goes for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a live medley with Heart In The City.

Both Nick Lowe and I picked up the phrase “so it goes” from Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.

Before jumping to the break another Rockpile tune. This time the guys are backing up Nick’s then wife Carlene Carter:

Now that we’ve got all that crying out of our systems, let’s dry our eyes and jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

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