Growing up uptown I have seen quite a few Mardi Gras parades, although I grew up in a house that is on the modern Uptown route, parades did not pass the old family home in 1968. In those days parades started near the foot of Jackson Ave, traveled in an uptown direction to Toledano St., made a U turn and headed downtown on the other side of St. Charles ave. If you strategically positioned yourself on the Neutral Ground you could have floats to your back and front at the same time. At the very least you had two chances to catch treasures from each float. Being the only parade lover in the family back then, at the mere age of 12 I would take off on my own for the thirteen or fourteen block hike to the spot I liked to watch the parades. Yes in those days a 12 year old could wander the streets at night in relative safety. New Orleans was a small town in character if not by size, there was always someone in the crowd who knew my father so I couldn’t really get away with behaving badly. In those days there were fewer ladders, and that ladders that were out contained small children, not adults. The crowds uptown were never the size that we see today. One reason the crowds were not as large is because there were parades in different parts of the city. On any given night you could have a parade on the West Bank, a parade in the East. A parade in Metairie. You did not have parades stacked two and three behind each other. There was no reason to set up a tent or build an encampment the parade came an hour and a half later it was over and everyone went home.
Today with three, four, and yesterday I believe six parades on the same route, parading is an all day affair. People on the parade route have party’s and open houses, others who aren’t lucky enough to have those kind of connections build encampments. They only problem with this is they block all avenues to cross the street or walk along the parade route. It would only be common courtesy to leave a little bit of public thruway on public property. I learned many years ago that if the way I need to go is blocked I walk right thorough the encampment ignoring the curses that follow, my take on it is that it is public property and you can go fuck yourself I’m coming through. Which leads to my next point about the modern parade going crowds. Of course this is a generalization the are pockets of civility and kindness on the modern parade route, but people have become very rude, if you sit back and watch you will often see groups of people who don’t even appear to be having fun. Why go if you are not going to enjoy it. Having a party at your house where you can be comfortable may be the answer for some.
I enjoy parades even with the crowds, and everything that comes with them. I rarely stay in the same place for an entire parade. I enjoy moving around watching the people. I don’t actively go after throws and almost always get something that I usually give away. I have enough crap to decorate my mantle and the is all I am really interested in. I love taking photographs of parades and have a large collection of Mardi Gras photos. This year I have used my phone camera which doesn’t take quality pictures especially after dark. Tonight for Orpheus I am taking a real camera and hope to get some good shots of the spectacular floats in this parade.
Nothing stays the same, I am no longer twelve years old scrambling on the ground for Doubloons, but I do miss the days when Mardi Gras parade was an event where the crowd shared the fun with each other.