This is my 5th full Carnival season in New Orleans but this year’s Krewe of Muses parade was my first time ever dancing in a Mardi Gras parade. It was amazing, like walking through the “Looking Glass” and becoming part of a wonky world full of mystical creatures – where it’s perfectly normal to see Elvis on a motor scooter or a unicorn/bicycle. It’s a place where I fit right in wearing a pink corset and white combat boots because now I’m a Pussyfooter! We had to line up very early and the last parade always rolls late so we spent a couple hours staying warm by dancing or huddling in swarms of pink ruffles and lace.
I wasn’t too nervous because, in addition to our group practices starting in September, I practiced in my living room for 30 days in a row up to the night before Muses – even on the days when I attended 2-hour double practices with the group. That said, I did find so many things distracting on the route that I made definitely made mistakes.
I’ve always been amazed that the Krewes, like Muses, pay for every aspect of their parade – from police to trash collection and every float, band and dance group between. It seems profoundly generous to put on this annual party and invite the world to enjoy it for free – all without costing the city money while filling its hotels, businesses and bars.
But, as we were marching, I realized how much all of us (bands, dancers, stilt walkers, etc.) had put into this moment just to make people smile. As Pussyfooters, we payed dues and bought wigs, boots and accessories to go with our uniforms. We learned a bunch of dances and practiced several times a month at locations throughout the city. We did service hours for the organization and hosted our Blush Ball raising $30,000 for METRO (servicing domestic abuse victims). Within the group, we designed uniforms, planned music playlists, decorated the “Pussy Wagon,” and handled every other detail that goes into putting on an 8 mile show. Then we suited up and shimmied for miles – all to see the smiles in the crowd.
It’s beginning to sink in how extraordinary Mardi Gras is and how much love it requires. Love for this city, love of pageantry, love of working hard and showing off. I love the Muses parade and chose it as my Favorite Parade 2012 and 2013. Parading since 2001, the women’s parade grows in size and appeal every year and their hand-decorated shoes have become the new “Zulu coconut” of throws (for non-locals – that’s high praise).
Though it was at times confusing, uncomfortable and overwhelming, it was amazing to see the city from inside a parade. Children’s faces light up, men perk up and women cheer us on. I saw all the signs people made to get shoes or to give appreciation to the Krewe. My favorite was simply, “Throw me somethin’, Sistah!” And boy, do they. Muses is notoriously generous with all manner of fabulous throws. They have fun and beautiful floats by Blaine Kern and many of the best bands and dance troupes in the city. The only downside to parading is missing the parade from the other side of the looking glass – arms held high hoping for a shoe.
Many of the Pussyfooters have been walking these streets since they were born, but I’ve only been a resident since 2009. For them, they are marching streets filled with a million memories. For me. parading the city was like strolling through a scrap book of my time here. I hugged DancingMan504, friends from Django Unchained, John “Papa” Gros – an amazing musician I’ve been blogging about for years, the girl that played my daughter in a commercial this week, employees from my Favorite Downtown Lunch 2012 & 2013 – K. Paul’s, fans of this blog, neighbors and Pussyfooters who were watching with their families. I can’t believe I get to do it again Sunday at Thoth!
Three of these photos are from fellow Pussyfooters. I did take a few photos from the route while parading during “freestyle” moments. I also included one of what was under my skirt since so many people got a kick out of it. The answer is Cliff Bars, jellybeans, koozies to hand out and a sewn-in make-up case with my camera and phone inside. My time is not my own so pardon my not labeling the photos or doing links. Photographs include the Rolling Elvi, the Nola Cherry Bombs, DancingMan504, the Bearded Oysters, the Camel Toe Steppers and members of the Krewe of Muses.