Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wallet Card: Griffey Goes to Mardi Gras Day 1 - Pontchartrain, Choctaw, and Freret

For two weeks out of every year New Orleans hosts millions of people from all around the world to the country's biggest party; and being that I live and work right in the middle of it, I saw this as a great opportunity for some #WalletCard fun. By the end of it I had thousands of crazy photos, some blog-appropriate and some not, which I spent the better part of this past weekend whittling down to just under 700 photos, all with the Griffey in them.

This week I'm going to show you most of them.

If you've never been to Mardi Gras you're in for a treat. If you have been, this may encourage you to book your hotel for next year. Either way, enjoy!

This was the first year in many that we were riding on a float. The first step in preparation for that is gathering up all the beads and throws from the attic, pouring them into one big pile in the living room, and sorting them (not unlike a big box of cardboard). We separated out the keepers and organized the rest so they would be easier to throw while on the float in a beer-fueled haze. This step is crucial.

Sadly this is a thing. Around 4pm on a parade day, many streets get blocked off and the streetcar shuts down on St. Charles Ave. Mail becomes spotty in some areas. The evening rush hour happens a lot earlier, too, as most people leave work early to either make it out to the parade route or get home before the pandemonium begins. I usually do the former as I work right right in middle of Uptown where every major parade rolls by. I'm lucky because I don't have to drive anywhere to see parades - we have a private work lot a stone's throw from the main route.

That's the first of the three P's of Mardi Gras: Parking, Peeing, and Pacing. We've got that first P on lockdown.

Believe it or not those still weren't enough throws, so we had to head down to the Mardi Gras store and buy more as well as some other throws for some friends who were riding with us. Here I bought plastic swords, rubber dog poo, little harmonicas, gator grabbers, footballs, big fake cigars, rubber axes, and an insane quantity of additional beads. Oh, and no boxes are allowed on the floats, so everything has to be transported in bags.

This is what your commute looks like on the morning of a parade.

Please ignore my expired brake tag (which you probably know as an "inspection sticker").

This is the famous Mardi Gras Bead Tree (which has its own Facebook page). Every year it collects beads throughout the Carnival season, getting heavier and lower to the ground with each passing parade. Those beads remain on the tree for weeks and sometimes months after. We've made our regular spot right next to this beauty for the last decade, and we defend it from bead-takers tooth-and-nail. "You don't take from the Bead Tree; you only give to the Bead Tree."

It's early yet, but we'll be monitoring the tree's progress over the next few posts.

This is the Pardi Bar, a portable bar with a car stereo built in where we base our operations. It runs on a car battery which we keep on a constant charge cycle with a second battery. Dave got Bluetooth for the stereo this year.

We like this spot because it's in front the apartment of one of our friends in the group (we call ourselves the Krewe of Kondo). This is crucial because of the second P of Mardi Gras: Peeing. You have to have a place to pee always.

There is a song about not being able to pee at Mardi Gras. That's how important it is.

There are Shriners in just about every parade riding everything from horses to motorcycles to dune buggies.

This parade is Krewe of Pontchartrain which rolled on Saturday, February 7th followed by Choctaw and Freret. These early parades are a lot tamer than what is coming. This parade, for example, has a lot of children, elementary school bands, and dance teams comprised of kids. There are a lot of adult marching clubs and float riders here and there as well, don't get me wrong; but eventually there will be very few young'uns in the parades, if any.

People come to town for the floats and beads, but the locals know the bands are the best part.

Parades each have their own royalty: kings, queens, captains, dukes, marshals, pages, maids, evil dictators, and plenty more wacky titles I can't think of.

Lots of fake beards on parade royalty to lend to the tradition of anonymity.

The krewe riders wear masks as well for both anonymity and protection. Sometimes people throw stuff back. It's illegal, but it happens.

The Navy has a Jazz Band that rolls in several parades. There is lots of Military tradition at Mardi Gras as you will see.

The Super Star Steppers.

The Big Easy Rollergirls parade every year, usually during day parades so they can avoid rolling over beads on the ground. They're a blast.

There's been an influx of adult marching clubs with suggestive names. These are the Muff-a-lottas, a play on the popular local sandwich, the Muffaletta. We also now have the Organ Grinders and the Pussyfooters. I will never complain about these groups.

I am in this picture if you look.

I met this girl three minutes before this picture was taken and never saw her again since, but we shared a laugh and a moment. This happens a lot at Mardi Gras.

This guy gets it.

I took a lot of pictures of this group. Can you blame me?

I actually got another photo several days later during a night parade with this same girl in the same outfit. A lot of people looked at me funny until I showed them what I was photographing next to them. Everybody was cool with it.

Right after this was taken I flipped the card over so she could see it was just a baseball card. Somehow she seemed even more confused after she saw it. Can't blame her.

No Griffey here, but have you ever had King Cake? Like, real King Cake? We only get it two months a year, so we eat a lot of it during Carnival.

As you can see the tree is growing more and more opaque each time we see it. Don't worry - this isn't this tree's first rodeo, and it won't be its last.

This officer was friendly and even claimed to have had the Griffey in his own collection at some point. I've got to get me one of those vests.

A gentleman and a scholar; and check out that sweet Griffey-stache. Perfect photo.

There were still two more parades to see later this same night; but I had gotten up way too early, so I headed home with a big bowl of pho, some Man Seeking Woman on the DVR, and nice late afternoon nap. Pacing. That's the last P of Mardi Gras.

Baseball cards, guys.


  1. Awesome photos! They definitely made the Gwynn in my wallet jealous. My personal favorite is Griffey @ the Bead Tree.

  2. Just awesome. Your wallet card is getting a lot of life experience.

  3. I miss Mardi Gras, lived there for 25 years, went to Choctaw on the westbank and Pontchartrain in NO East dozens of time. Are they now both downtown? Wow I miss it bad, here its just another Tuesday.

    1. So many parades have moved uptown, those two as well as King Arthur. It's the place to be now, but there are fewer parades in the East now than ever.

  4. That is so cool Glad to see Wallet Card having such a good time!