Last night I went to my first Mardi Gras parade, put on by the Krewe du Vieux, one of the newer groups, but apparently also one of the more bawdy and dedicated to the old-style satire and decadence of Carnival. It was great fun, especially because my companions were people I volunteer with who were also in need of a break. The Krewe decided on the theme Habitat for Insanity for their parade, “given that the whole damn city is foaming at the mouth mad … given that the inmates are obviously running the asylum (and the mayor obviously is not) … given that we gotta get our kicks before the whole nuthouse goes up in flames or sinks forever into the swamps…”

Many people here maintain that the only sane response to life in New Orleans is going crazy. There’s no other way to deal with the constant sight of destroyed homes, the heartbreaking stories (remembered or relayed) of Katrina, of the ridiculously corrupt and/or inept behavior of city, state and federal agencies. Last night was a wonderful chance to laugh at all the craziness, to poke fun of all that normally infuriates or demoralizes.

The King of the Krewe du Vieux parade was Chris Rose, a local journalist who had his own run-in with madness. He wrote a very moving and insightful piece about his post-Katrina depression that you can read here. Last night he put seriousness aside and fully embraced his craziness by dressing as the Mad Hatter on an Alice in Wonderland themed float.

This city is a great place to be crazy.


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