Monday, February 27, 2006

Mardi Gras

Every news reporter and their mother descended into town this weekend, trying to see what juicy scoop they can get on New Orleans and its decision to celebrate Mardi Gras after the effects of the hurricanes. As expected, these reporters are crowding around famed Bourbon Street, taking notes and photos of women baring their breasts and everybody else acting like total idiots in their drunken stupor.

Unfortunately, 95% of the people on Bourbon Street are not New Orleaneans, but tourists who come specifically to get drunk and show off their boobs (or look for a free boob showing). So the reporters are getting an idea of what tourists do when they come down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. And they have unfortunately missed the entire concept of Mardi Gras for the people of New Orleans and how we celebrate it.

The locals are lined up on St. Charles Street, or along Metairie Rd, or along Veterans Hwy. Far, far away from the idiocy of Bourbon Street. And the locals celebrate Mardi Gras like how the Green Bay Packers celebrate a home football game: by tailgating.

Along the parade routes are families with their children, an occasional dog or two, and lots and lots of people enjoying the company of each other. Tables of food are set up, babies are in strollers snoozing in the afternoon sun, and the rest of us are milling around, shooting the breeze and enjoying the mild weather. And when the parade floats come around, we all holler and yell and try to get some "throws."

There's no baring of flesh. No lewd acts. Just a lot of happy yelling and celebrating. In fact, any act of flesh baring would probably result in a citation by the police, or a severe talking to by the locals, who would then inform your sorry tourist-ass that this isn't Girls Gone Wild.

It's too bad that the real side of Mardi Gras and the parades probably won't see the light of day on most of the newspapers across the country. Because it's family oriented. It's dull. And it's far from scandulous.

Instead, the reporters will write mostly about the debauchery of Bourbon Street because that's what the public wants to read about: How New Orleans continues to promote irresponsible partying, turning a blind eye to the suffering from Hurricane Katrina. They want to read about boobs and drunk people doing stupid things.

It would be nice if the headline would show the real news: That even after facing such destructive devastation, the collapse of FEMA, and the failures of the federal and local government, the citizens of New Orleans are still trying to get on with their lives in their still destroyed town, trying to recreate some degree of normalcy.

And Mardi Gras?

It's just a temporary diversion from the destruction that we live with every day. Come Wednesday, it's back to the grind: Living in our FEMA trailers, facing the traffic, trying to find an open grocery store, and still cleaning up the mess left over by the hurricanes.