"Bead Me Up, Scotty"

Part iii Essay and Mardi Gras Flashing Pictures © CSWB
Page 3 of 3

More Tips on how to Take Mardi Gras Flashing Pictures...

  • For those on photo safari, I noticed different strategies being employed. One is to find a spot underneath a well-beaded balcony, then just lie in wait for whatever wildlife might be revealed on the street immediately in front of you. Another is to weave your way up and down the street with one eye on the crowd and the other on the balconies. Either method means missing some opportunities, but capturing others for posterity. (Given my limited time during one afternoon in the French Quarter, I chose the second approach). Mardi Gras Flashing Pictures

  • I had been advised by my host to wear old shoes when attending Mardi Gras. If you plan to spend any time roaming the French Quarter, heed that advice. It quickly becomes impossible not to walk on, in, or through the growing piles of wet garbage lining the streets. And if something drips on you from the balcony overhead, just hope itıs beer and keep moving.

  • The featured alcoholic beverage is called a "hurricane", which I'm told mixes different kinds of rum with pineapple and other fruit juices. Though not a regular drinker myself, I have to say I found it very tasty.

    2 men in beaded necklaces with Mardi Gras drinks (hurricanes) in their hands

  • Sometimes Mardi Gras means putting clothing on rather than taking it off: case in point were some wildly elaborate costumes being worn and flaunted by celebrants of every sexual persuasion. It's something I should have taken more pictures of - but I just kept getting distracted somehow.

    Costumed participants in one of the street parades

  • Heads up! Although beads predominate, other objects being tossed from parade floats include commemorative cups and freshly-minted doubloons (souvenir tokens) from each of the "krewes" who organize the different parades, along with mini-frisbees, bamboo spears, stuffed animals, toy umbrellas, and even coconut shells - which sensibly are now handed out rather than thrown. (If you plan on frequenting the parades, bring along a plastic bag to store your excess loot.)

  • Our group escaped from New Orleans around dinner time on that final Tuesday - back to our accommodation in Baton Rouge. For those who stay in the French Quarter to the bitter end, be warned as we were that the whole party comes to an abrupt halt at precisely midnight. The mounted police roll in, and the streets are cleared - of people at any rate; the mountains of trash require a few more days. And that means all that's left after midnight, besides the garbage, is deciding what you're going to give up for Lent.

    For me, Lent meant giving up trying to solve the mystery of those ubiquitous beads. It also meant saying good-bye to some good friends, getting on a plane and transporting back to a more rational, more familiar world - a world where colorful, fun, but essentially worthless beads remain just that. But deep inside your brain, the bead implants live on. They probe your psyche with their nanoplastictechnology. It's not logical, but resistance is futile. The beads will assimilate you.

    An aerial view of New Orleans and the Mississippi river from a plane leaving the airport

    So next time you see a Mardi Gras reveler laden with countless glittering strands, don't think of those trinkets as mere decoration. Think of them as the bedrock upon which this hedonistic community is built, the shining symbol of its time-honored tradition, the sacred, central icon of a two-week long religion, and the fundamental force driving this most uncommon economy - never forgetting that whether it's cartel-controlled diamonds or made-in-China Mardi Gras beads, if enough people in a given place and time agree to look on any commodity as being valuable, it becomes, well... a valuable commodity. How did I arrive at such a profound cultural insight?

    Mardi Gras  Flashing Pictures Mardi Gras Flashing Pictures
    Let's just say it came to me in a flash.

    CSWB photos and text İ 2000

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