I’m Irish; although I’m also several other things, I’m still Irish. And as such I feel it important to celebrate that heritage with the one holiday a year that actually acknowledges this fact- St. Patricks Day. Enter the fact that I live in New Orleans. People down here know how to celebrate! Actually, from what I’ve figured out, they only celebrate in one way- have a parade.
Now, where I’m from, a parade means hooking a flatbed trailer up to a pick-up truck, throw some cardboard and tissue paper together in some fashion, get a bucket of candy to toss to the kids and your good. Not so in the Big Easy. Forget the pickup, they use 18 wheelers. A little flatbed will now not do. They construct these huge… I don’t even know how to describe them. They’re like these two story creations covered with sequence and anything shiny. Some have huge wooden statues on the front. I’m fairly convinced they use the same float for every event and just nail new paraphenalia to the sides depending on the holiday. They are loaded with at a minimum 15 people who toss things to you. That’s where it gets interesting.
Instead of candy, people here throw strands of beads. Just cheap plastic beads. When you think about if from a detached viewpoint, you wonder- what’s the deal with the beads? What the heck do you do with them when you get home?? But in the moment, it’s like a whole other story. It’s like The Lord of the Rings and Smeagal with the ring. The beads turn into my precious. People get fanatical.
Upon first arrival, I thought I would just be a spectator… but you get sucked in. Before you know it, I’ve got several strands of beads around my neck. And then I start to get picky. I don’t want just any old strand of beads, I’ve noticed they have several varieties. I now only want the big chunky beads. And I’m sucessful in getting a few strands of those. Then I see the motherload of all beads… a strand of beads the size of christmas tree ball ornaments. And I haveto have that. Enter Jeff. Jeff is really good at getting people to give him things. He barters with everyone. And he likes to have a mission. So I send him on Operation Big Bead. After several attempts, I now have monster beads around my neck. And then I notice the boas. I’m no longer satisfied with beads… they’ve got feathers to be had!! Again, Jeff is sent on a mission. The boas are the hardest item to procure. He walks along the floats as they go by yelling “Feathers! Throw me the feathers!” That in itself was worth the afternoon. And then the moment comes. Some guy tosses Jeff a boa… and it’s like he’s made the prize kill. He returns to me triumphant and I’m elated… over a $2 strand of green feathers that I’ll never ever wear again.
We return at the end of the day with a huge satchel of beads… the fruits of our labors. After the emotional high has worn off we’re left wondering- what the heck do you do with all these beads?!