Mardi Gras Redux Wednesday, Feb 13 2013 

In spite of my obsession with New Orleans, I have never made it Mardi Gras. A couple of years ago, I got there four days after the fact, but folks Uptown were still ready for the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s not the drunkenness or debauchery or “Girl’s Gone Wild” atmospherics that I miss; it is the cultural and social affects that I miss. The Zulus, the Mardi Gras Indians, the dogs in the Barkas Parade, and the neighborhood-centric goofiness of the St. Anne’s Parade. These are the things I long to see. And thankfully, provides me with photos and video to give me a glimpse into what those there are experiencing.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

One of the things I used to put me in the spirit was the Times-Picayune’s JacksonSquareCam. Right now it probably shows people milling about and getting their palms read in the plaza between the Cathedral and Jackson Square, but during Mardi Gras it was abuzz with costumed revelers. And even from the distance of the camera, some appeared threatening and many of the rest, just plain weird and/or scary.

However, many of the photos and videos put on display by the Times-Picayune really capture the history and culture represented by Mardi Gras. And yeah, people are still having fun. Among my favorites, i.e. the ones that help me experience the celebration from afar:

The Skull and Bones Gangs — For some reason, these guys terrify me; however, there is a beautiful photo collection of the Northside Skull & Bone Gang waking up Treme on Mardi Gras day.

The Mardi Gras Indians processing in Treme under the I-10 overpass. I’ve seen it on St. Joseph’s Night, but not during Mardi Gras. One day. Here are photos and a video.

One of the things I’d most want to experience is thew history and tradition of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, 104 years old and going strong.

The Mardi Gras Day reopening of Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge by Kermit Ruffins.

To witness the neighborhood spectacle that is the St. Anne Parade that stumbles through the Marigny.

OK, I have to finally admit it. I have found a krewe that surpasses the 610 Stompers: the Laissez Boys Social and Leisure Club.

And, finally the ceremonial NOPD sweep of Bourbon Street at midnight after Mardi Gras.

I love it from afar, but one day I will actually experience it.


One New Orleans Music Landmark Saved; Another Lost Friday, Jan 7 2011 

Mother-in-Law Lounge, March 2010.

This week brought mixed news on the preservation of New Orleans’ music traditions. On the upside, the late Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge will reportedly be reopened by Mardi Gras. And sadly, urban renewal efforts claimed the boyhood home of traditional jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet.

On the positive side, the Times-Picayune yesterday reported that trumpet player Kermit Ruffins has agreed to lease the Mother-in-Law Lounge, the colorful, but ramshackle bar on Claiborne Avenue. Named for K-Doe’s big hit, “Mother-in-Law,” the bar passed to his widow Antoinette after he died in 2001. She ran it as a bar and museum honoring her eccentric husband until her death, on Mardi Gras morning 2009. Her daughter tried to keep it open, but it finally closed its doors in 2010, when most of Ernie K-Doe’s memorabilia was auctioned off to cover expenses.

Ruffins, one of the co-founders of Rebirth Brass Band and part-time star (playing himself) of the HBO series, “Treme,” jumped at the chance to lease the musical landmark. Ruffins has not decided what to call his new bar, but he plans for it to feature as much music as possible. And while the name will probably change,  Ruffins will do nothing to alter Daniel Fusilier’s colorful murals of Ernie K-Doe and other subjects which are featured the two-story structure’s exterior.

Bechet House, April 2010.

On a more somber note, another music landmark recently fell victim to a political promise. When elected in February 2010, Mayor Mitch Landrieau promised to speed the clearing of abandoned houses throughout the city. Most remained unoccupied in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Katrina. In many cases, these suffered structures suffered from catastrophic flood and termite damage. And in many instances, owners did not appear at hearings to stop demolition.

Unfortunately, the same fate befell the boyhood home of Sidney Bechet, the great New Orleans clarinet and soprano saxophone master. Between 1907 and 1914, Bechet and his family lived in the shotgun house on Marais Street in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward. Bechet, went on to renown throughout the United States and Europe. Even so, his former home fell into disrepair, although it remained occupied up until Hurricane Katrina.

City officials pointed out that the owner never came forward to contest the demolition and that the roof had caved in. Nevertheless, historians and preservationists bemoan the loss of yet another historical landmark.