This is a column about Mardi Gras.
But bear with me.
Nearly 20 years ago, I planned to take a trip to Africa for early February. I planned it for that time because my friend, who had lived there 12 years, assured me that was when Burkina Faso was at its best — meaning that the temperature rarely topped 100 degrees and most roads were passable because it wasn’t the rainy season.
I was living on the East Coast and was accustomed to trudging my way through snow for much of the winter. That winter, however, was different for me — the cold and dark days passed much more quickly than usual. The time seemed exciting and full of anticipation. I didn’t take long to figure out it was because I had something out-of-the-ordinary-winter-doldrums to look forward to.
Every year since then, I’ve tried to plan a trip during February. I just like the way having something to look forward to in February makes my year work out.
For years, I thought I was so clever.
Then I moved to Louisiana — and learned that Louisiana was clever long before me.
Even though Louisiana didn’t invent Mardi Gras, the state has certainly perfected it, but the harsh reality is that folks in other states just don’t get it.
Really, they don’t.
If you’re not surrounded by the hullabaloo that is Mardi Gras — it’s just Tuesday. Remember the year Bobby Jindal gave the response to the State of the Union address, which happened to fall on Mardi Gras? He started off with a big, toothy, “Happy Mardi Gras!” — and it fell terribly flat.
The rest of the country hasn’t the capacity to appreciate the balls, the pageantry, the royalty or the parades. I’m convinced that they can’t get it even if they come to visit a year or two or three. Appreciating the intricacies of Mardi Gras takes time, repetition and a degree of generational perspective.
For example, most folks across the rest of the country (I could safely include the world here, but I’ll stay domestic) would not think it perfectly natural to happen upon a lady in front of her home on a Sunday afternoon as she meticulously photographed 31 highly decorated, brightly colored, glitzy, glimmery high-heeled shoes — only to be told that she was a Muse.
That should have been explanation enough.
I was (and remain) ashamed to admit my lack of knowledge before last Sunday of New Orleans Muses and their shoes. Yes, she and the other members of her krewe are each allowed to throw 31 shoes during the course of their New Orleans parade.
When she explained the situation, it all made perfect sense to me. My first thought wasn’t, “How bizarre.” Nope, my first thought was, “I wish a Lafayette krewe would throw out something handmade and beautiful like a shiny, shimmery shoe — I’d love a shoe.” Followed by, “Perhaps they do? Maybe it’s another level of the secrets of Mardi Gras that haven’t been revealed to me yet?”
The Muse went on to explain that she took about four hours to carefully decorate each of her 31 shoes she would throw to “special people along the way.”
She pointed to one shoe that included a King Cake baby, “This one’s for a friend who’s just has a baby.” She pointed to another shoe and said, “The backless shoes are the easiest, but even still they all take a lot of time.”
If you do the math, through the course of the year — or the months leading up to Mardi Gras, she spent about 124 hours decorating her shoes. By the looks of the shoes, which were basically works of art, I’d surmise that she enjoyed every minute of the time.
And such is the fun (and point) of Mardi Gras.
Laissez les bons temps rouler.