Mardi Gras 2018

I spoke to Bruce Guilden at the opening night of his “GO” show opening a couple years back.  While talking, I mentioned that my favorite book of his was his monograph on Mardi Gras, “Hey Mister, throw me some beads.”  In what was quickly becoming a trend of that conversation, he scoffed at me and said that it was his least favorite book.  When I asked him why, he said it was because it was such a hard subject to connect to.  Then it was my turn to laugh.  

“You have to experience it to connect with it” I said, “If you’re on the outside looking in, it doesn’t make any sense, but the pictures in that book were like Christmas for a kid growing up in New Orleans.  Those shots on the old NOPSI busses with the crews on their way to the parades–well I used to ride those busses and for me it makes it deeply personal.  For me there’s a deep connection.  But like I said, If you were on the outside looking in, how could you connect?”  

After that, Bruce was a bit gentler with his jabs and I like to think that I got the tiniest bit of respect from him as we continued our conversation.  That being said, he probably just tired of me–in fact it’s the more likely explanation. I didn’t have the heart (or maybe it was balls) to tell him though that he had completely botched the title though.  It should have been called “Hey! Throw me something mister!”  He would have known if he had been horse from screaming it with someone on his shoulders trying to get throws at Bacchus.

That conversation bounced around in my head for a year and finally I made up my mind.  This year we would go to Mardi Gras.  Despite the fact that I’m “taking-off” a year from photography, I decided to shoot a few of the parades and a little of the chaos that *is* Fat Tuesday in the Bywater.  It was as insane and lovely and volatile as I remembered it–or vaguely remember it as the last Mardi Gras I was in attendance, I drank a medium sized bottle of Vodka by myself, acted ridiculously indecent with many different female cohorts before eventually passing out at the K&B (presumably now a Rite Aide) on the corner of Louisiana and St. Chuck after purchasing a second bottle of Vodka that I aimed to split with a homeless Vet I had just had the pleasure of meeting named Burt.  By comparison this carnival was down-right tame and child centric, although we did get-in a few ginormous Daiquiris here and there.

It was lovely to be with family again back in a city with a soul surrounded by people who choose to live there because it’s a fantastic and special place to be.  The kids felt all of that.  They loved the old houses and the near-ancient traditions, the food and the music.  They loved it for all the same reasons I do and I’m so glad they got the chance to experience this circus first-hand and not just from the outside looking in, like some people.  They shouted and screamed for throws.  Ester got a shoe at Muses-her pride and joy.  Elliot at one point had so many beads on him I though he might fall over.  Ella caught all kids of specialty throws that would light-up and blink.  Everyone had a great time and I felt this immense sense of gratitude, respect and love for the the city of my youth for having brought my family into the folds of it’s warm–very, very warm and muggy–embrace. 

All pictures shot on my Leica M7 at 35mm on Kodak Tri-X film pushed +2 by the Icon.   

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