We leave Tennessee on Friday March 3, while winter still has the land
only a hint of spring decorating stems and trees. We're seeking a taste of
More than 600 miles, down out of the mountains, through Chattanooga, then
slashing across Alabama on I-59, we roll through the Delta and to the coast.
Through corridors of trees decorated with redbud and flowers we can't name,
through swamps and over lakes we drive on pylons and slabs to beautiful Pass
A Gulf Coast hamlet composed of cottages, bungalows and mansions, accented by
spreading oak and Spanish moss, this is where cousin Mark McCalman and his
Donna live. They've invited 25 Tennesseans and assorted Mississippi friends
Most Gulf towns hold parades. You seldom see them on TV, because they lack the
three-story styrofoam and illuminated plastic floats of New Orleans. And
provocative. Parade watchers here normally don't resort to partial nudity to
beadsworthless but to die for. A a sea of hands evoke storms of plastic
medallions, oatmeal cakes, candy, souvenir cups, and always the beads.
They rain down Sunday afternoon, dazzling in the bright southern sun. Rainbow
arcs of gaudy, twinkling googaws that leave spots and trails of light in the
air, as floats
pass by. I'm not sure how many floats, but it seems like 40 or more, one
decked out in signs, costumes and LOUD musicblues, Cajun, Southern rock,
heavy-metal, gospel, soul, occasional rap and jazz.
Pulled by diesel-truck tractors, the floats roll, colored and shaped like
street cars and
pink Cadillacs and wagons and ships and foil-covered rockets, bearing
krewes of all
Here's the Krewe of the Outlaws, wearing eye-patches, leather, chains and
bandannas. The Krewe of the Legends, proudly displaying Mississippi favorite
Tennessee Williams to Elvis to Trent Lott to Native Americans and Civil
Here comes the Krewe of the Flintstones, with Fred and Barney and all the
The Krewe of the Romans, dressed in togas. The Krewe of the Cajuns. And on
They all favor us with beads. Everywhere beads. Down the corridor separating
floats from spectators, it looks like a medieval battle in progress, with
beads flying from
the ramparts in a bejeweled arcing haze of motion. There must be enough
positioned on hooks and shelves behind the various Krewe-members to pave the
route with beads. Kids and adults alike collect pounds of them.
Fuscia, purple, mauve, red, yellow and green. Everywhere beads, beads....
That evening, we're New Orleans bound, our car one more bead on a string of
converging cars. At last we abandon Mark's directions and exit onto Canal
navigation is easy compared to mobbed Interstates.
We park and make our way to the parade route an hour early, then stand among
cans and plastic bags behind people standing behind people standing behind
VIP's and paying customers are escorted past us to temporary stands.
It's been a long day. The kids grow weary even as the parade begins. There's
lead float, three stories high, featuring Luke Perry as Bacchus, surrounded
by bunches of
grapes. Then come marching bands. Trojans on horses, dancers twirling
at last another float, celebrating the Discovery of America. Thirty minutes
drag past with
marching bands we can barely see, then The Age of Steam chugs in, with masked
Here such baubles are scarce, as the competition is fierce, the parade route
thrill a bystander by giving her a strand that rained down earlier in Pass
comes the Age of Electricity, Telephone, and Television, and then we've seen
Back in gracious Pass Christian some of us talk into the night. Mark and
leaving their jobs later this year to explore America by van, then other
parts of the world.
The talk and humor are good. Mardi Gras is icing only on this pre-Fat Tuesday
We drive home Monday, tired but glad to be here where springtime has begun
subtle parade, composed of green mimosa wands and yellow forsythia and a
crocus peeping up by the creek. They'll gather to a flower-spangled greatness
more subtle and beautiful than all the beads of Mardi Gras.