Last week I afflicted my poetry upon you. I hope we’re still friends, but as a lover of poems, I was born in the wrong century. The Raven, Annabelle Lee, Hiawatha, Evangeline … how glorious they were and how forgotten they are. Eh Bien!
Gone, too, are dime novels, pulp fiction, Big Little Books, Lil’ Abner and The Shadow Knows. Fortunately, from that era, Mardi Gras lives.
When I tell people that my family lived almost three years in New Orleans during World War II, their comments are usually “you must have enjoyed Mardi Gras.” NOT! Those were the years with no Mardi Gras. Why? A little disagreement among nations known as World War II.
This was early in the war and the Japs in the Pacific, Rommel in North Africa, and the Nazis in Belgium (Battle of the Bulge) were kicking our butts and there was no time for gaiety in New Orleans or the nation.
Some people masked and walked around with little red wagons and baby buggies but there were no parades. There was little gas for trucks or oil for flambeaus, and a severe shortage of able-bodied young men. And guess where beads and trinkets were made? America was in total war!
It was harder on the natives, but never having seen it, we didn’t miss it.
Edward R. Morrow was on radio every night with “This is London”, broadcasting with bombs falling around him, reminding us that big cities were being bombed. For a 12-year old boy and his family to have been brought to a big city from the safe Cajun countryside was frightening to say the least.
Enough!! Mardi Gras is a happy time and we have just enjoyed two weeks of parades, floats, marching bands and adults and children having fun knocking each other down to catch the throws from the riders. The Japanese no longer make them. They now make cars, computers, IPhones, IPads and I-Hop. Scratch I-Hop … that’s for eating, not texting, although that’s done there, too. We make the cheap stuff now.
Historically, on Ash Wednesday the festivities were over and since Cajuns were predominantly Catholic, we learned early that for 40 days of Lent, we were to fast, pray, give up something, (I usually gave up cabbage), and no dancing except on St. Joseph’s Day.
But being curious youths we thought we had found a loop hole.
In the Kingdom of Jefferson, the juke joints on Grand Isle were flourishing and sometimes unplugged jukes were replugged for us to dance. When discovered, we had something to discuss with our priests in the confessional. I got by with ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers but it cleansed my soul since we had a German priest we feared more than the sheriff.
Many of the old customs have fallen by the wayside and many of our younger generation are addicted to the Internet, floating somewhere in cyber space, not knowing or caring about the world they are about to inherit.
Now THAT might scare them and ‘THEM’ are also my grandchildren, and that scares ME. Just kidding! I watch Fox news too much.
Back to Mardi Gras, I was ambivalent about parades but my wife and kids used to drag me to act as a shill, because being well known I would get many beads thrown my way, and the kids would gather them up, never mind that some of those riders could throw very hard, maybe because of my politics or my music.
My kids and now grandchildren love Mardi Gras and the parades, but my son Perry preferred to dress as his favorite characters, one day Chaplin, one day John Wayne and so on. His eyesight was always too bad to see, much less catch throws, so he had his own fun. I wonder whatever happened to him? There’s a rumor that he’s been seen with a giant white rabbit, but you know how people talk.
As the little cigarette was leaving the house, the big cigarette told him: “Don’t go out tonight and get lit up and make an ash of yourself”.
Sorry! I couldn’t resist it … today!
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Posted on Mon, February 16, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer