March 05, 2005

Beady eyed in Nawlins

Here's the situation. A pretty woman and I have just leaped to grab plastic beads flung by a man in a float, high above. We both close our fists on them. With an enraged look at me, snarling "Oh no, you don't!", she pulls them from my hand, almost tearing off my thumb. Fearing for my life, I return to safety by Vibha's side.

Which reminds me: honeymooning has its advantages. Some are unexpected.

Question: why has this lady behaved this way for mere beads?

Ah, but you might, too, had you done what she did for them. It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you see. Parade time, beads time. And, for females of the species, lift-your-T-shirt time. The man had dangled extra pretty -- but still cheap -- beads and motioned to the girl. They were hers if she raised her T-shirt. Beads in one hand, camera in the other, he urged her on. Finally, she plucked up courage. Camera flashed, beads were thrown. And I had my near-death experience.

Later, on Bourbon Street, T-shirts were going up and down all around us. Two shapely and laden beauties near me owed their enormous collection of beads to the salivating hordes in the balconies. Every time one pulled down the other's neckline for them, beads showered down. Though now, I knew better than to try to grab them myself. (The beads).

Whatever else there is, one thing is memorable about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It sees people doing terminally silly things. There's colour and costumes, fine zydeco and cool jazz played by 90-year-old musicians in tiny Preservation Hall. There's a zoo and a spectacular aquarium as well. And there are people by the dozen willing -- wanting -- to act silly.

As Jose, street entertainer extraordinaire, showed the next afternoon. Keeping up a constant patter, he would veer off and follow a passing tourist, imitating his lumbering walk to perfection, reducing us in his audience to tears of laughter. Or, screaming, fall flat in front of another, inducing consternation and more laughter.

But it wasn't Jose who was acting silly. Late in his show, he asked for volunteers for a short play. Kevin, Dan and Trina, unsuspecting lambs to the slaughter, jumped up. In next to no time, Jose had Kevin being villainous: holding a balloon like a gun and stomping around growling belligerently. Trina, sweet young thing captured by nasty Kevin, was adorned with enormous red lips fashioned from another balloon. Her contribution to the drama? Squeaking helplessly from time to time.

However, Jose reserved the best for Dan. Dan, I imagine, hadn't really planned to spend part of his holiday strutting before an audience, flexing his biceps, cape over his shoulders, bright red undies on over his jeans. But here he was, as Superman, doing just that. Bringing the play to a rousing climax, he stumbled over to Trina and kissed her bulbous balloon lips. Oh boy!

Vibha and I did something silly, too, the next day. We left New Orleans.

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