Krewe of Muses 2015: Are you there, God? It’s us, Muses.

That was actually the title of their theme, in honor of their 15th year. Muses, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in years past, is an all-female krewe whose coveted signature throw are shoes that have been decorated with glitter, feathers, and beads. It’s the one parade that I’ve been to every year since I moved to Louisiana (barring the first year, 2010, because I arrived about 10 days after Mardi Gras). It’s actually kind of my Carnival season highlight, as I have zero desire to deal with the insanity of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or even Lafayette. I don’t even get the day off where I work now, because our customers/vendors are all over the world.

I was hugely disappointed to discover that Muses is apparently now drawing large enough crowds to require crowd control barriers all the way down St. Charles Street, where in the past they’ve always been limited to the intersection with Canal Street and maybe the first block down. This makes it harder to catch the throws, particularly when it’s as windy as it was on Thursday night. I know, I KNOW parades are not just about the throws. But the throws are what makes you an active participant in the parade, and not just a passive observer watching it roll/march by. It’s not about having the plastic beads and old shoes, which no one actually needs. It’s about catching them, and there’s something just sad about watching them fall short into the street.

Plus, the barriers kept me from catching another shoe. I KNOW she was aiming for me, we made eye contact, and some total douchecanoe threw his arms in my face and snatched it away. Fuck that asshole and I hope he dies a slow and lingering death of testicular cancer. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a barrier, because she could have dropped it right into my hands–which is how I got my shoe last year. I was at the start of the parade route last year, around Magazine Street, and I may try going back to that next year. It’s a more residential area and hopefully they won’t have barriers up.

Maybe I’ll try to find Airbnb accommodation in the area, instead of staying in an Uptown hotel. In the past I stayed at the Iberville Suites, but when I went to make my reservation the first week of January, they were charging over $600 a night! I about fell out of my chair. It’s expected for hotels, especially if they’re near big parade routes, to jack up their fares a bit during Carnival season, but that was more than 3 times what I’ve paid in the past. Totally ridiculous. I wound up staying at the Astor Crowne Plaza; they didn’t offer a free breakfast, but the room service breakfast I ordered did not cost $500, so I still saved money. Un-fucking-believable. It was so NOISY, though; my room was on the 2nd floor facing Canal Street, and all night it was police sirens and people yelling and cars blasting hip-hop. I don’t think I got more than 20 minutes of sleep at a stretch, until it finally quieted down around 4:00… for about 2 1/2 hours.

Anyway, I don’t want to imply that the parade sucked or I didn’t have fun. Muses were amazing as they always are, and I actually did catch a respectable amount of non-shoe throws. I’m sure the fact that I did a sign this year helped. I spent weeks mulling over possible phrases, before settling on “Throw me something Muses-ter!”. (“Throw me something mister” is a traditional phrase that’s shouted at the krewes.) I did a Google Image search for each letter in the phrase, printed out one I thought looked interesting, cut them out, and glued them onto a piece of posterboard. Except for “Muses”, I used their logo. I was pleased with the result, which was fun-looking and big enough to read from a distance without being too large to easily hold. I gave away most of what I caught, to kids that were behind me and also to a couple from Chicago I got to talking to that were at their first parade. I just kept a few things that I didn’t already have from past parades.

I didn’t have any concrete plans for my Friday in New Orleans, other than eating at Elizabeth’s and avoiding the French Quarter. My first stop was Valence Street Cemetery, which was satisfyingly old and decayed, all crumbling tombs and busted wall vaults.

open wall vault

Society tomb

Then I explored the Holy Cross neighborhood a little bit, and took some photos of the Steamboat Houses on Egania Street.

Steamboat House (color effect)

Steamboat House

Then I had lunch at Elizabeth’s (fried chicken livers with pepper jelly, fried eggs and country potatoes), did some shopping at F&F Botanica (dressed Steady Work candles, Road Opener Oil, Fortune Incense), and by then I was feeling the effects of standing all night and getting about 3 hours of sleep, so I headed home.

Mystic Krewe of Barkus: Bark Wars

I have this thing where every year I try to go to one festival I haven’t been to before (this year I’m reallyreallyreally hoping that can be the Los Isleños Fiesta in St. Bernard Parish, which I always seem to miss), and every Mardi Gras I try to go to one parade I haven’t been to before. Last year was Krewe de Vieux, and this year I went to Krewe of Barkus. It was yesterday, and they had ridiculously good weather for it in New Orleans, sunny and about 72 degrees.

I didn’t get very many good photos. I could kick myself because I aaaaalmost brought my old digital camera, even started to put fresh batteries in it, then thought nah, I’ll just use my cell phone, this isn’t going to be “art” and it will be one less thing to carry. Well, my phone picked yesterday afternoon to act like a toddler not getting its way. The camera function kept crashing; or the focus would get all weirdly shallow and focus on the wrong thing. Like the crowd behind the parade would be in focus instead of the dogs, or a dog’s paws would be in focus but its face wouldn’t. And almost everything came out blurry, that camera usually has better action capture. It’s not like anything was moving fast. I deleted about 2/3 of the photos I took and wound up with less than 20 worth keeping. Oh well, just means I need to go back next year, right?

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Barkus’ human handlers must include a small army of discreet pooper scoopers; I didn’t notice any scooping but I walked back to my car along their route and I didn’t see any dog poop either.

I didn’t want to try to drive back through the French Quarter, which was a madhouse getting into–there were like 8 parades happening yesterday–so I decided to skirt the worst of by going down North Peter and getting on the freeway via Elysian Fields. Which I realized would take me past Island of Salvation Botanica, where I haven’t been in… gosh, I think it’s been a couple of years now. I just haven’t been hanging out in the Marigny, I guess. So I checked my phone and it looks like they’ve expanded their hours, they’re now open 7 days a week and even until 6:00 on Sunday.

The place has gotten a little more commercial, everything was slightly overpriced, and it even sells “Voodoo Dolls”, which I know they know is not actually A Thing, but it’s something tourists like to see. I didn’t see as many of Sallie Ann Glassman’s own oils, and the ones I did see had gone from 1 ounce to 1/2 ounce bottles–but the prices were still the same. I can’t really complain, because I know a lot of that money is going to the restoration of the city and the neighborhood–there were a couple of buildings I noticed that had businesses in them that were empty shells the last time I was there–but I think I will be buying most of my spiritual supplies from F&F Botanica when I’m in NOLA from now on.

Who went to Krewe of Muses last night and got herself a shoe?

muses shoeMeeeee!

2013 was a pretty lean year for me so I didn’t have the funds for a hotel room–especially not during the last week of Carnival, when they all jack up their rates–so I wasn’t sure until the last minute if I would go. I decided to compromise by parking on a residential street near Jefferson and Magazine (you should have seen the amazing parallel park I pulled off on Camp, there was like a single inch between bumpers) and catching them at the start of the parade, before they join up with Babylon and Chaos. They were past by 9:30 and I got home shortly after midnight.

Actually, it wasn’t that much of a compromise, because I don’t really care for the other 2 krewes. Babylon at least has some interesting floats, but Chaos’ are usually lame (and occasionally they’re grotesquely sexist), and the krewe members are assholes–I’ve seen them  like, shrug at people asking for throws. What the hell?

I thought it would be nicer watching from a more residential area too, but actually I missed my usual spot, on Gravier a few blocks down from St. Charles. There were people on porches, in yards, on the sidewalks, on ladders, on the grass between the gutter and the sidewalk, and in the streets, so the throws were more spread out and they literally threw a lot of them. On Gravier, they just drop them over the sides of the floats and into your hands. (Also, residential area = lots of children, or, as I refer to them, “throw hogs”.)

So I didn’t get as much swag as I usually do, but I can’t complain because I GOT A SHOE! A lot of the large krewes have a rare signature throw (Zulu’s painted coconuts are the most famous) that is the most coveted, and for the Muses it’s women’s shoes that have been decorated with glitter, feathers, and beads. This was my 3rd parade and I’d never gotten one; they mostly give them to little girls, people they know, or people who’ve made some kind of effort like holding a sign or wearing a costume. I wasn’t trying to get one–I didn’t even notice that one was being held out–but it dropped right into my hands!

I didn’t take too many photos this year, partly because I didn’t want to spend the money on high-speed film, but mostly because I thought I’d just enjoy the parade for once. I took more at Krewe du Vieux, which I went to for the first time on February 15th, so many that I haven’t gotten them all edited yet.

LC-A+: Krewe of Muses

Happy Mardi Gras! It’s kind of a yucky day today, but I had my celebration last week.

I used 1600 film, but it was a moving parade hours after sunset so there’s still a lot of blur. That’s the kind of photos I like to take of people, though. I’m not a fucking studio portraitist.

689591-R1-34-34A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Pussy Footers.

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The Rolling Elvi.

689591-R1-20-20A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Stilt walkers. I would break my neck if I tried to do this.

689591-R1-09-9A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Some high school dance troupe, I forget which one. (And this is why I get pissy when people make ignorant boob-flashing cracks when I say I’m going to a Mardi Gras parade.)

689591-R1-06-6A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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Lady Godivas Riding Group.

689591-R1-13-13A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Heh heh heh. This year’s theme was “Makin’ Groceries”. Making groceries is a NOLA colloqiualism for food shopping. The most common explanation is that it’s derived from the French expression “faire son marché”, to do one’s market shopping–faire is literally translated as “to make” but it’s also used in the sense of “to do”.

689591-R1-07-7A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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Mardi Gras: Krewe of Muses

I shot 2 rolls of high speed Fuji Superia during the parade and 1 roll of Kodak Ektar in St. Louis Cemetery #3 the next day. These are just some shots I took with my digital Polaroid or my cell phone.

Tuesday is Mardi Gras, but the preceding Thursday is the day I’m starting to look forward to the most. This is the second year I’ve gone to see the Krewe of Muses parade and spend the night and following day in the city, and I hope to do it next year. The hotel where I stay used to be the Iberville Suites but it’s now a Marriott Courtyard. They made some much-needed improvement to the rooms (especially the bathrooms), and they also have complimentary wi-fi now. I had a great room with a view of St. Louis Cemetery #1, and far away from the elevators and ice machine–I didn’t hear a peep from any of the other guests all night. They have valet parking in an inside lot, so I don’t have to worry about my car, and it can’t be beat for convenience because it’s only a pleasant 10 minute stroll from the parade route. (Actually less, but I like to walk a few blocks down St. Charles, away from the crowds and police barriers at the intersection with Canal.)

PICT0468, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

These kids were actually part of Babylon, the first parade. Muses rolls with Babylon and the Knights of Chaos, but Muses is really the only reason I’m there. Anyway, I thought they looked like Village of the Damned kids.

PICT0481, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Camel Toe Lady Steppers.

PICT0487, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

610 Stompers.

PICT0491, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Cherry Bombs.

PICT0495, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Bearded Oysters.

SSPX0091, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I caught what I thought was just a keychain penlight–what’s cool about Muses is they don’t just throw beads, and even their beads are usually unusual or fun, they have light-up medallions, fun shapes, Muses logos. Anyway, this seems to be some kind of Muses bat signal.

SSPX0090, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Still haven’t caught a shoe–I only saw one or two all night–but I did get some shoeLACES, so…progress? They say your chances of getting a shoe are better if you hold a sign, but I’d need a 3rd arm, unless I want to forget about taking photos. Maybe next year I’ll try it.

PICT0507, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

The following morning I had breakfast at Elizabeth’s, then went to St. Louis Cemetery #3, on Esplanade in Bayou St. John. It’s one of the cemeteries they built during the bad yellow fever epidemic in the 19th century, like Cypress Grove; like that cemetery, it’s big enough to drive around in.

PICT0508, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This person died in 1893, and look at how decorated their tomb is! That blows my mind when I see it.

PICT0510, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I’ve never seen a variation of my name in a Louisiana graveyard. And the only person entombed in it died about 6 weeks before I was born! DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

PICT0511, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I knew EJ Bellocq was buried here, so I drove around looking for his family tomb but couldn’t find it. But there was an office, and a very nice woman working there knew exactly where it was and pointed it out to me on a map. I’d actually been taking photos right next to it!

PICT0515, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I left him a photograph.

I took a brief trip over to Magazine Street to buy some stationery at Scriptura, then went to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. There was an exhibit by Deborah Luster that I really wanted to see called Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish. She took long-exposure black & whites of homicide scenes, they were really haunting. (One of them was a photo of the Danziger Bridge, which nearly made me start crying.)

That was the only reason I went to the museum, but there were a couple other exhibits that were new since I last went and that I really enjoyed. One was oils by New Orleans painter Micheal Deas; painting isn’t really my thing but some of them were amazing. And there was a collection of Alonzo Wilson’s costumes designed for Tremé, mostly the Indian suits worn by the Guardians of the Flame, but also some Mardi Gras costumes worn by other characters.

SSPX0089, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I never noticed before, but most of the Indian suits in the first season employed the meteorological symbol for hurricane. And the Big Chief’s breastplate is obviously inspired by the search party graphics spray painted onto houses after Katrina. 8-29 being the date of the storm, ? being the unknown date when recovery would be complete. I’m not sure that date’s ever going to arrive.

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Mardi Gras: Lomo LC-A+, Fuji Natura 1600

Thursday I only worked until noon, then I drove to New Orleans, checked into my hotel, and walked down St. Charles Street until I found a good spot. I had originally planned to be at St. Charles and Louisiana, but the fact that the streetcar route was closed for the parade put the kibosh on that. Which worked out to my advantage, because I learned that away from major intersections, the crowds are a lot thinner and the NOPD doesn’t bother to put up crowd barriers. You can walk right up the floats and Muses will drop the beads and other goodies right into your hands. As I was walking home, a very drunk, very gay man demanded to know what the FUCK I did to get all those beads. I started to explain, then just shrugged and said “I just kept shoving people out of my way” instead. This earned me a “YYYEEEEEAAAAAHHH!!!” and a high five.

Please do not ask me if I flashed. No one does that at the St. Charles street parades, which are family events that people bring their kids to. For fuck’s sake, there are high school marching bands in those parades. It’s not Bourbon Street, okay?


675748-R1-12-25, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.


675748-R1-10-27, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.


675748-R1-07-30, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.


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675748-R1-01-36, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

obligatory new year’s post

I feel like 2011–my first complete year in Louisiana–was a pretty good year for me. I still feel positive about my decision to move down here, and the Lomography meetup group has been going well. We picked up another member–our first male member–last month. He’s been living and working in South Korea for the past few years, and he made a Shaun of the Dead reference like 10 minutes after we met, so I think we’re going to get along.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I got a Christmas bonus (a week’s wages–gross, not net) and told that I’m getting a raise. I bought myself a Nook Tablet today, as a post-holiday reward to myself. I’m still going to get most of my reading material from the library, but I can see buying new releases that have waiting lists, or obscure titles that can’t be obtained through interlibrary loan. Plus there’s magazines, music, games, movies, TV, web browsing.

Jamie and Greg went back to Los Angeles today, and Rian returned to Chicago on Tuesday. I have tomorrow off, then it’s back to the grind. But I have the next meetup–in Morgan City this time–next weekend, and Hope and I have discussed doing a Lomography road trip in March. I was thinking either north Louisiana, the Galveston/Beaumont area of Texas, or Mississippi. And by a weird coincidence, she mentioned a restaurant in McComb, MS. That’s the town that my father’s family was originally from, although he mostly grew up in North Platte, NE. So it’s probably going to be Mississippi this time, although I’d like to do more in the future.

One thing I’d like to do different in 2012 is that I’d like to do something for Mardi Gras. I didn’t last year, and I kind of felt like I wasted being in south Louisiana. I think I’ll probably go see the Krewe of Muses parade in New Orleans. That’s an all-female krewe that rolls through uptown the Thursday before Fat Tuesday. Since it’s all women, and not in the French Quarter, and not on Mardi Gras the actual day, there’s a minimum of the obnoxious shenanigans I associate with Mardi Gras in New Orleans going on: namely, drunk college girls flashing their tits and drunker frat rats trying to date rape anything with boobs.