I’m having conflicted emotions regarding a couple of recent items (online & in print) regarding carnival behavior. On the one hand you have the idiot who verbally abused an autistic child and her mother (see the post on NOLAFemmes) and on the other you have a letter to the editor bemoaning the camps which spring up over the final weekend of parades (NOLA.com). The existence of the abuse in the first item explains the desire for the camps/forts in the second.
If I had witnessed the creep who abused that child (or any child) I would have gotten involved and probably escalated the situation. Perhaps the better answer than using my childhood scrapping skills, would have been (if I were a witness because I would NEVER tell a mother what was best for her child) to go and get a police officer and explain what was happening. In the same manner that a sociopath may start by injuring neighborhood pets, a jerk who verbally abuses a child will certainly escalate into other anti-social behavior…if he doesn’t pass out first.
And while the commenters on the NOLAFemmes post have focused on the age of the abuser, I would like to mention that asshattery (great word btw) is not limited to the young. I was attacked during Muses…in maybe 2007 or 2008.
Halfway through the parade, I saw a shoe hit the ground and jumped to get it. The next thing I knew someone had grabbed the beads around my neck and was strangling me. It was the extremely drunk 50+ woman who had been up on an 8 foot ladder, and the shoe was hers, knocked off in her sloppy state. As she screamed in my face, I handed her the shoe and told her to let go of me. She continued to scream and tightened her hold on the beads. Her daughter (who was in her 30s and also drunk) was involved by this time as was my 20 something brother. I repeated to the woman that she needed to let me go or I was going to make her let go. My brother was talking to the daughter (who initially joined in the screaming) to get her mother off of me before things escalated further. Later the daughter tried to apologize but really it didn’t help.
I get why families want to build their mini-compounds on the neutral ground and I get the tailgater attitude that these camps engender. They’re a good way to herd small kids and to have some adult camaraderie with your friends and family. However, they shouldn’t take over every available square inch of space in a fit of hoarding. Camps can be consolidated and most chairs picked up once the parade starts to roll. This is the practice amongst my family when we stake a spot (far from the madness of Orleans Ave) for Endymion.
And really the city of New Orleans is to blame for some of this. First they consolidated all the old neighborhood routes and put all the parades (except Endymion) on the same basic route. Twenty years ago, my brothers would drive us all over kingdom come to catch parades in Gentilly, Mid-City, Carrollton, Uptown, Freret, St. Bernard, wherever. The only way to catch all the parades on Dimanche Gras (which should be thing, y’know) back then was to be downtown past Lee Circle. Second, they don’t enforce their own laws. I saw a ton of dogs on the beginning of the uptown route, including a really big pitt bull that the owner told me would bite (but really his stubby wagging tail told a different story). Ladders were within a foot or two of the curb and were chained/roped together in many places. People had roped or taped barricades. There were cookers of all varieties with plenty of open flames on the neutral ground. And, of course, there were the canopies/tents that were everywhere by Sunday afternoon.
And this is why I cannot write a true opinion piece. I get both sides (of the camp issue) and both are right and wrong. Public ridiculousness is part of Mardi Gras…as long as it isn’t abusive. Drunkenness happens. Stake a spot if you must, but don’t get greedy. Obey the law. Share & play nice.
I’ll just stop and quote Bill and Ted. Folks just need to “be excellent to each other.”