Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Your Easter Bonnet, Conclusion

What a glorious day for a parade! I'm telling you, if there is something more fun than riding in a French Quarter Easter Parade, you better not tell me, because I don't think I can handle it! It was a beautiful Spring day, and everyone looked stunning as we rode through the cobbled streets of the Vieux Carre, sling beads and trinkets to the throngs on the banquettes. It is easy to spot the visitors to New Orleans during parades: they are so conservative and far too proud to clamor for the throws like locals do, shamelessly.

We started our day with Prosecco and succulent ham and biscuits in the company of the lovely Angelique, who brought marvelous treats with her that day that ensured that we would be having lots of fun in the hours to come. We made our way to Starlight By The Park to sign in for the parade. Thankfully, my responsibilities ended with the ham and biscuits. We cocktailed for a while, and admired the many beautiful hats and ensembles donned for the day. My friend Sam remarked that Easter is interesting because you get to see the drag queens of New Orleans in glaring, natural light-not flattering in many cases.

We found our carriage toward the end of the line-up. There was plenty of space for Auntie Bob, Toenisha and myself. Throw a couple of black drag queens in the back...let's roll! The streets of the French Quarter were lined with parade-goers the entire route. Near riots ensued at intersections where literally hundreds of people screamed and waved for throws. Although the atmosphere at an Easter Parade is not as bawdy as Mardi Gras, the energy is the same. What fun!

Jesus Himself made a brief appearance.

French Quarter Style

Ever the epitome of glamour and refinement

Auntie Bob And Toenisha Light The Route With Their Smiles

The Girls...Who Is Having More Fun?

Hans And Franz

"Let's Hear It For The Rainbow Tour"

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Your Easter Bonnet

Oh, my favorite holiday is quickly approaching, Y'all. Regardless of what anyone says, Easter IS all about the hats! It has been a long tradition amongst my friends that this holiday of resurrection, renewal and divine haberdashery be observed by the donning of intricately created Easter headwear. It started in 2002 on my sister Toenisha's front porch when an astonishing array of hats were brought out for everyone to wear during one of our annual Easter brunches. Hallelujah, a new tradition was born.

Each year, during Holy Week, a special trip to the craft store is organized to accumulate the supplies required to create these one-of-a-kind art pieces. Typically, I would wait until I arrived at the craft warehouse to garner inspiration from the glorious gardens of silk flowers and accoutrements to conceive the theme of my hat for the year. In recent times, I've gotten inspiration from the window of a marvelous shop in the French Quarter that creates beautiful hats with vintage materials and price tags to match. Not wishing to be accused of producing a "knock-off", I simply seek inspiration in the form of a theme. This years theme included sprays of gorgeous calla lilies, and a wide purple ribbon to represent the Passion of the Lord.

Of course, Toenisha's hat is, as always, representative of her exquisite taste and is a study of a refined eye for what is truly breathtaking:

I've written about my particular fondness for hats and this stunning tradition previously in this post:

The tradition started a handful of years ago has been greatly enhanced by my relocation to the Crescent City. You see, in St. Petersburg, Florida, the concept of wearing an Easter bonnet has yet to reach those shores. We would gracefully alight to the now defunct (thank goodness) Suncoast Resort where the typical Sunday crowd assumed that we were members of some Big Hat Club that they had never heard of. All I could do was cry "heathenry" upon this group of colossally ignorant specimens who had no idea that it was Easter. Blissfully, after moving to the green banks of the Mississippi, I can say that I have finally come home. Not only is the donning of Easter bonnets encouraged, it is practically mandatory AND the holiday itself is observed by no less than three parades in the City that day. Toenisha and I have ben invited to participate in the most auspicious of these parades for the past two years, so that many people can admire our hats. The parade that we roll in is by far the most glamorous, featuring carriages and thousands of revelers. We bring nothing but sunshine to the streets of the French Quarter that day. And of course, glory to the risen Christ.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mardi Gras Mambo #1

"God! I don't want to see your tits!"
-Brandon Bergman

"Absolutely Indescribable!" is what I said to my mother on Ash Wednesday when I attempted to paint a picture for her of what Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Or what it was....the only representation she understands is what she has seen on pre-Katrina re-broadcasts of "COPS". Even though I think that that depiction is accurate to some degree, the daytime activities of Mardi Gras are so much more beautiful than seeing some female from Arkansas expose herself for thrice-turned beads or the evidence of someone shitting their pants around 6:30 P.M. (yes...things turn rather ugly after the sun goes down), I am only interested in celebrating the glory of this marvelous day, where anywhere else but in New Orleans, it is just Tuesday.

I had the great fortune of joining a well-organized Krewe this year. "Krewe Woo-Hoo!" has been in existence for a while, and is a function of a lot of really good people who love to have a good time. Nothing more. A King and Queen are selected to represent this informal group and are paraded through the streets of the Vieux Carre to tremendous excitement and cheers throughout this unbridled day of sheer joy and merriment. The theme of this year's Mardi Gras was "Krewe Woo-Hoo Takes To The Garden". There were many representations of fantastical garden-y things: butterflies, a Grand Ladybug, a carrot, a sexy bunny and an entire troupe of garden gnomes attended the festival. The parade was led by a very talented group of musicians from all over the world, presiding over the affair with drums and bagpipes.
(Please see my videos on my Facebook page for an idea of the music provided for our romp through the French Quarter). Occasionally, a piper gnome would let out a rhythmic cry of "All hail the King and Queen of Woo-Hoo!". To which the participants and the crowd would respond "Woo-Hoo!" I am not doing the experience justice, as I said before, it is indescribable. This parade even boasts a confetti cannon that periodically blasts joy into the streets in the form of shredded paper in a rainbow of colors. Magical!

The festivities with this Krewe seemed to culminate in a sojourn by the riverside where Grande Proclamations are read and new royalty are announced for the following year, as well as the theme for the next Mardi Gras celebrations. Things are altered a bit for the coming Fat Tuesday, as there is not a King and Queen, but a single Empress will preside over Krewe Woo-Hoo's Mardi Gras festivities in 2011. Jaclyn MacCabe is the Empress Elect, and will reign over the theme of "Krewe Woo-Hoo Dreams Of Venice". I'm already imagining my costume for next Mardi Gras.

I resisted joining this wonderful band of people last year, because I wanted to experience my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans on my own. Although I have no regrets to that decision, I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Tuesday before Lent any other way but with this group of merry-makers. God Bless Us All!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

King Cake Abomination

I have recently resumed communications with a dear old friend from long ago, via Facebook. I was so pleased to find that after reading my previous post about King Cake, she was inspired to create one of her own. A King Cake was made and taken to her office in Denver, CO for her co-workers to enjoy. A bit of Mardi Gras in the Mountains. I was absolutely charmed. She related in a message that someone made up a story that whoever found the Baby in their piece was to become pregnant. This actually made me nauseous and took the wind right out of me. I was aghast. Any "charm" that I felt absolutely fell away, like crumbs of stale King Cake from the front of my sweatshirt.

How could this happen, this abomination? Taking the simple yet noble tradition of finding the tiny figure in a King Cake and having it become some retarded baby-shower perversion? I suggested that everyone involved in this unholy massacre should become pregnant, only to violently miscarry in the third tri-mester to spare the world of their ignorant, blasphemous spawn.

I did take some comfort in reading that after this outrageous assignation occurred, the baby reappeared about three times in different pieces of King Cake. That suggested that no one wished to become pregnant at all. "Pass the curse on to JoAnne....she'll eat anything."

It just furthers my point that New Orleans culture just doesn't translate to other parts of the world. When attempts like this are made, you can see what happens. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Let Them Eat (King) Cake

'Tis the time of year when grocery stores, bakeries and almost anywhere that people gather you will find a specifically New Orleans confection: the King Cake. Traditionally eaten on Twelfth Night, or the Feast of the Epiphany, the King Cake is an institution. Essentially, this is a yeast risen coffee cake that can come filled or plain. Plain being a filling of cinnamon and pecans. A filled King Cake can mean anything from cream cheese to chocolate or fruit filling enrobed in a rich, flaky sweet bread. Always present, however, is a small figure of a baby, representing the Christ Child. You are not meant to eat this. The one who finds the baby in their hunk of King Cake is declared to be King (or Queen) of the feast, and is responsible for either buying the next cake, or throwing the next Carnival party. This tradition is taken very seriously. To eat King Cake outside of Carnival Season holds the eater up to ridicule and humiliation by those who find out about it. But since, in New Orleans, as my sister Toenisha points out, shame and dignity are the first things to go, so, this is't that big of a deal. If you have an out-of-season craving for King Cake, may I recommend a regular coffee cake, without the Baby.

I have just enjoyed a piece of King Cake. Delicious!

The international sign for "I'm Choking!"

Foreign object dislodged from windpipe...

Look! I found the Baby!