I thought last Sunday I might go looking for Mardi Gras Indians. I had read in "Nine Lives" about Super Sunday's gathering of the tribes and recently saw a new documentary, "Tootie's Last Suit," about one of the Indians who really went all-out with costuming. I had never been to this event before, which is traditionally mostly African-American. I asked about the exact location at my church where one of the women there plays with a local band. I figured she might know, but she didn't. The parade route is "unpublished." A black man walking behind us as we were talking, interjected, Claiborne and Washington at 1 p.m.
Knowing how things go here in New Orleans, I didn't even leave my apartment until 1:30 p.m. There were an awful lot of people milling about, but no clear direction for the parade. The police had blocked off Washington Avenue, so I just parked and started wandering around with everyone else. I asked several people who looked like they "should" have known the plan, but they were just as clueless as I. Some said the indians were expected to be walking from LaSalle Street. One said they had started from Armstrong Park outside the French Quarter. Still others were sure they would be coming from the exact opposite direction, ending up in Washington Park.
I'd learned from watching the documentary that before Emancipation, slaves could become free men of color if they married Native Americans. That's how the feathers, war dances and drumming got started.
Another hour passed and no Indians. I bought some new batteries for the camera and a soda at Save-A-Lot and returned to the park.
I finally asked a redhead, standing alongside the gate into Washington Park. She knew they would pass right by her and had her camera ready. I took a spot beside her and she was absolutely right.
About a half hour later, the second line arrived and behind them, a stream of Mardi Gras Indians who paraded past us for over an hour. We had a proverbial front row seat. I took 200 pictures; she took 400.
I had an earlier conversation with a man outside the grocery store who just moved here from San Diego for his job. He said his wife has been crying ever since she arrived. I told him, tell her to get a grip. New Orleans is a lot more fun than San Diego.