Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mardis Gras World - a Little Fun, N'awlins Style

Not only does MetaSwitch put on a great customer event, but they know how to have fun, and there's no better place for that than New Orleans. Last year's Harley-Davidson party was a blast, and this was even better and way more colorful. If there's one word to describe New Orleans, esp at night, it's colorful. Here's a taste of what I mean....
Crossing the Mississippi River Bridge from Riverside to Algiers, where Mardis Gras World is located. It's quite a bridge and really dominates the local skyline.

Mardi Gras World - site of the party. Having never been there before, I had no idea what to expect - I don't think anybody did. Nothing prepares you for how colorful, fun and so N'awlins this place really is.

Mardis Gras World is actually a 3rd generation family business that's world famous for designing props and floats for parades. Before getting too caught up in the good times, though, we were just a stones throw from where the locals live. This is actually quite a respectable house, but I can tell you it's much nicer than most of the houses we saw as the bus meandered through the sidestreets once we got off the bridge enroute to the venue. I don't hold any morbid fascination looking for remnants of Katrina, and no doubt, with a few detours we would have found much worse. This house is a very plain reminder that New Orleans is a huge bundle of contradictions and constrasts, with race and income being right up at the top. It was literally on the other side of the tracks from where we were, and you don't have to look far to see how our party is not their party. I'm being both figurative and literal here, as there is a live set of train tracks embedded in the road running right by the front door of Mardis Gras World, and this house was on the other side of the street.

Once inside Mardis Gras World, this kind of goes away, and you're immediately overwhelmed by an endless stream of garish, oversized heads and figures - some more famous than others. Call it what you like - macabre, tawdry, honky-tonk, folk art, surreal, circus-like - once you see it, the spirit of New Orleans make so much more sense. Reminds me of the chase scene in Broadway Danny Rose which takes place in an abandoned old movie studio on Coney Island, I think. While that was in B&W, this stuff is what color photography was invented for...

Not quite done yet. This is N'awlins right? What party wouldn't be complete down here without a parade? We got one, alright - never seen an INDOOR parade before. What a riot - complete with a police escort motorcade, blaring police sirens, kings and queens, festive floats, and of course, a local high school marching band...

Thanks to all the folks at MetaSwitch who worked so hard, no doubt, to put this together. Not sure how you're going to top this one next year, so we'll just have to wait and see!

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