We had some time to kill before the parade began, and we saw that Pete Fountain was on a float coming down St. Charles in the opposite direction, so we walked onto the neutral ground for a better view.
All along St. Charles, the neutral ground was covered in tarps, chairs, tents, ladder boxes, grills, smokers, etc. However, no one was there. Families had staked out their turf in advance, leaving a tailgate ghost town until they had arrived. At this point, somewhere around 7:30ish, the neutral ground was still unoccupied by humans, so Teddy and I walked over to get a good view of ol' Pete.
Suddenly, we were approached from behind, and the following conversation occurred:
MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD: This is a private party.
TEDDY: Excuse me?
MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD: This is a private party.
(TEDDY looks around at the desolation of the world's most sparsely populated private party and laughs.)
MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD: You can't be here. This is a private party.
BRIAN: It's a private party on public property?
MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD: (unfazed) We've been here for days.
(BRIAN scratches his head and tries to figure out exactly who the "We" is when there is only the MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD at this groovy private party on public property.)
BRIAN: Are we getting in someone's way? When we start blocking someone's view, you let us know, and we'll be happy to leave your private party.
MIDDLE AGED DICKHEAD: Hrrrumph.
Later Teddy admitted, "I was tempted to tell him, 'Let's let the cops settle this,' but then I realized that this is New Orleans, and the cops would probably arrest us both and then sort it all out on Thursday."
Good call, Teddy.
We stayed there for a whopping 3 minutes before the party got too hot and heavy for us, so we retreated to our ideal spot along the rail for Zulu. Zulu has long been the traditional black parade in the city, and most of its participants are made-up in black face, making fun of white people who make fun of black people. Zulu also hates Rex, the traditional, crusty, old krewe of wealthy white folk who follow with a parade in more regal attire.
Zulu began when Mayor Ray Nagin rode in on horseback. It was very tempting to shout "Chocolate City, baby!" but again, my better judgment took hold and I settled for "Woo."
The big prize of the Zulu parade is catching a painted coconut. Apparently, the participants are no longer allowed to throw the coconuts because too many people got hurt in the past. Having already taken a few shots off my thick skull over the weekend, I was appreciative of the Zulus’ restraint. Of course, this also meant that it would be tough for me to catch me the desired prize.
A plastic news anchor, who shall henceforth be referred to as Kent Brockman, kept grabbing the coconuts from the floats, hoarding them and referring to them as props. He did use the coconuts in several plugs, such as, “I’m Kent Brockman for Channel 2 News, and everything is coconutty here at the Zulu parade!”
It was riveting.
Eventually, he was harassed enough times that he started handing coconuts out to people in the crowd? Of course, Kent would never hand one to ol’ Brian when there were plenty of women in the crowd. I hate you, Kent Brockman.
Kent Brockman delivers a hard-hitting report on coconuts.
Photo by Teddy.
Teddy had grown weary of this exercise, and he decided to go meet his wife back on Napoleon to watch the Rex parade. As soon as he left, the jockeying for position began, although I maintained my death grip on the rail. I was going to catch a coconut come Hell or high wat—hmmm….that’s not an appropriate thing to say in New Orleans, is it?
There were some little kids next to me, and I was happy to catch beads for them. Their Aunt had some sort of magic charm for the coconuts because this woman pocketed about 6 or 7 of them. (Later, I saw people selling the coconuts for 10 bucks a piece on the street. You stay classy, New Orleans.) Eventually, a fratboy muscled his way up to the front, shoved the kids out of the way, and set out to catch a coconut. Truthfully, this was the first real shitty moment of the entire trip. This guy was a complete jerk, and it caused me to wonder, “Does the world really need fratboys? Do they serve a purpose, aside from keeping Abercrombie & Fitch and the Coors Brewing Company in business?”
Naturally, the fratboy got his coconut. He retreated and another, more obnoxious model of fratboy took his place. It didn’t matter because I was going to catch a coconut, and this was my chance. I made eye contact with a woman on a float…She got very close, and she gently tossed it to me…I extended my hands in Willie-Mays-basket-catch-like fashion…the coconut gently descended into my outstretched palms…
AND THEN THE ASSHOLE FRATBOY DOVE OVER MY SHOULDERS AND SWIPED THE THING RIGHT OUT OF MY HANDS.
Time passed. I collected countless beads, cups, and trinkets. I even caught some Mardi Gras Caramel Corn, a delectably transfat-laden product filled with Popcorn, Coconut Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Baking Soda, Salt, Butter Flavor, Water, and Lechtin...Mmmm....Lechtin.
By all accounts, I was cleaning up, and the pockets of my cargo pants were becoming weighted down with booty, but there was no coconut until…a man on a float came by and unexpectedly tossed a coconut in a bag in my direction…I had a perfect bead on it until some overzealous woman swatted it out of my hands, and it rolled down the street.
Wait. There was one last chance. Surely the third time would be the charm. The throw came right at me…This one was all mine…well, it was mine and someone else’s, as well. A teenage girl and I both caught the coconut. Now, it would have been very easy to wrestle the coconut away from her. A swift elbow to her nose would have drawn enough blood to shock the crowd and allow me to make my getaway. Unfortunately, I just wanted to have a good time, and I didn’t really give a shit about the coconut anymore, so I just let her have it. Better luck next year, Brian.
I opted to console myself by eating, so I grabbed a zesty crawfish pie for breakfast, courtesy of a local stand. I called Teddy and J-R and set a goal of trying to meet them half-way down the route, as they were watching Rex Uptown. Along the way, I realized that I had yet to gain much weight on this trip, so I set out to change that, grabbing a giant hunk of smoked sausage from a smoker on the back of a pickup truck. It was served with a slice of Wonder Bread, which I am almost certain was only there to provide a handle in which I could hold the sausage. The sausage snapped as I bit into it, and its smoky flavor was magnificent. Succulent pork juice drizzled down my face as I ate. Screw the coconuts, I had found my treasure!
I decided to take a break from the crowds, which were filling in quickly, so I walked one block off of St. Charles, as I headed uptown. It was here that I found an enterprising local who put a port-a-john on her front yard. It cost one dollar to do my business, and it was astonishingly clean inside. As soon as I finished, she gave me some hand sanitizer and then immediately went in to clean the restroom. As if all that wasn’t enough, she gave me a ticket with a hole in it and told me that after the ticket was punched three times, the fourth visit was free. Seeing as how this was the nicest facility I’d seen in a long time, I thought about chugging a lot of liquids just so I could come back and pee again. Then I realized that this was of the dumbest thoughts I’ve ever had, and I should never share such a thought in a public forum.
I strolled around for a bit, enjoying the insanely gorgeous weather. Earlier in the week, they had been predicting rain, but Fat Tuesday was beautiful with temperatures in the low 70s and partly sunny skies. Of course, as soon as I started enjoying the weather, it started to rain, but it was only intermittent spitting, so it was no big deal. I sat on a curb and watched Rex, which was rather boring in comparison to all of the other parades. At this point, I started to notice that my neck was becoming severely weighted down by beads, so I started passing off beads to anyone who wanted them.