Onward March

What’s left to celebrate?  Mother Nature is giving it her best with snow and ice.  Grocery store shelves are bare as shoppers stock up on essentials–eggs, bread, milk.  And what’s up with buying snow shovels with each new storm?  Do people throw them away afterward?

In the Deep South mass hysteria prevails.  What if it snows here?  Were those snowflakes?  “Relax–those were only heavy raindrops.”

Holiday merchandise has been cleared away at retail outlets across the country.  Valentines Day is the next retailing opportunity.

In this part of the country, it’s not straight to Valentines Day.  Mardi Gras comes next.  Valentines Day plays second fiddle.  This is all we’ll hear about from now until Fat Tuesday.  Mardi Gras merchandise is displayed everywhere.  Let’s hear it for the magenta, green, and gold.

Of course to locals, New Orleans is the elephant in the room.  It takes credit for the celebration.  And, no doubt, their celebration is noisier and larger.  Mobile is where the Mardi Gras celebration started.  Mobile’s celebration prides itself on being family orientated.

Parades, parades, and more parades.  “Throw me some beads. Throw me some beads!”  Some use modified fishing nets to catch beads.  Adults that steal trinkets from children, in my opinion, are lowlifes.

Lundi Gras

Wasn’t it strange, with everyday being about the same as a retiree–this was the end of the Mardi Gras season?  This year with even more finality, as it coincided with the conclusion of Super Bowl festivities.

It’s Fat Tuesday, Lundi Gras, Fasching Dienstag–whatever you choose to call it.  For all intents and purposes this is the celebratory last hurrah.  Children throughout the state have the school day off to enjoy parades, catch prizes, beads, candy thrown by parade float riders.

This is not a holiday from school in other parts of the country.  Local businesses are closed.  Illinois school children took off for Casimir Pulaski Day.  Casimir Pulaski was a Polish priest and Revolutionary War hero.  Would this have been a holiday, had there not been more people of Polish descent in the Chicago area, than in Krakow, Poland?

There are no more official, rowdy, celebratory holidays, till Fourth of July–sigh.  Wait, what am I saying?  There’s St. Patrick’s Day and Easter parades.  OK, I didn’t mean to offend those that quaff beer dyed with FD&C green #7 once a year.

Ground Hog Day, now there’s a strange holiday dedicated to a giant rodent.  Too bad I missed it this year.  I didn’t observe the groundhog seeing/not seeing his shadow.  Does this mean winter will endure?

“Max, I just brushed you off.  You’re dirty again.”  There’s dead grass everywhere.  Spring can’t come soon enough.


–Image, http://www.lynnjordanphotography.com/




mardi gras frog

Sometimes, we humans
Are, never happy
Even, when we
Should be

That’s because
We can’t see
Happiness, through
The eyes of a
Big green frog

Like all green, wooden
Mardi Gras frogs
Named Fred, should be
Fred was always happy
The life of the party

He was a lot like
Another legendary
Bullfrog–a good friend
Of mine–named Jeremiah

Magenta, Green & Gold

Mardi Gras mask
Mardi Gras mask (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ho hum, the holidays are over.  Christmas tree and decorations are put away until next year.  Winter’s set in, nothing to celebrate till spring, right?  No, not exactly–it’s just the beginning of Mardi Gras festivities.  Break out the magenta, green, and gold.  Every week, from now until Fat Tuesday, parade after parade. …Something for kids and grown-ups.

New Orleans gets all the publicity with its flashy, bawdy, Bourbon Street bash.  Mardi Gras is celebrated around the world.  Mobile, Alabamians would quickly point out–the tradition originated in their city before New Orleans.  Their celebration is more family friendly, as it is, in other cities scattered along the Gulf Coast.  Children and adults alike wait eagerly to catch beads and throws.  Throws consist of, not only beads, but also small toys, and “Moon Pies.”  Children beg “maskers,” (float riders wearing colorful masks), to toss goodies their way.

Mobile puts its own spin on Mardi Gras with two unique parades.  Anyone that made news the past year, for notorious reasons, is skewered by the the “Comic Cowboys.”  Even local TV personalities are fair game.  Parade coverage is handled with kid gloves.  Each mystic order has a parade and masked debutante ball.  “Joe Cain Day” is celebrated during Mardi Gras.  Joe Cain, according to legend, is credited with resuming Mardi Gras celebrations after the Civil War.  He first lived in Mobile, later moved to New Orleans.  Both cities honor his memory.

Joe Cain, a Confederate veteran, paraded disguised as Chickasaw Indian “Chief Slacabamamorinico.”  This was intended as a slap-in-the-face to Union troops–as the Chickasaw were never defeated.  Every “Joe Cain Day,” a contingency of veiled “grieving widows” parade through a local cemetery, then through the streets.  Each “widow” does her most convincing, “He loved me best” routine.  Someone disguised as “Chief Slacabamamorinico,” marches followed by parade floats and brass bands.  The “Order of Myths,” mystic society parade, concludes Mobile’s celebration on Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras ends with the selection of a celebratory “king” and “queen,” someone from higher echelons of society.  On Fat Tuesday, schools and businesses close for final parades and pageantry.  Tired of snow and ice?  Come to the Gulf Coast for Mardi Gras.  Have some fun.  Try on a magenta, green, and gold jester’s hat.  You’ve always wanted to.

Mardi Gras in Mobile: the Order of Myths 2007 ...
Mardi Gras in Mobile: the Order of Myths 2007 catepillar float (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Antique photograph, prior to 1879, of...
English: Antique photograph, prior to 1879, of “Old Slac” or Joe Cain (1832-1904) dressed as his Mardi Gras fictional character, Chikasaw “Chief Slacabamorinico” with feathered headdress and native attire. His role as Slacabamorinico (“slaka-BAM orin-i-CO”) is noted on his gravestone in Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Wasn’t Alabama just another red state full of backward, unsophisticated people?  Most people don’t know it has a beautiful coastline.  It’s a well-kept secret.  Some natives wish it would stay that way.  If you want to confuse your friends, go on vacation to Alabama.  It’ll start tongues wagging and gossip flying.  Vacationers are familiar with Florida; it sounds more sophisticated.  I’ve yet to meet anyone that talked like the cartoon character, “Foghorn Leghorn.”  Neither have I met anyone still carrying a grudge because the south lost the war.  They will quickly point out, the Civil War was about more than slavery.  It was about states rights.  Large numbers of industries moved South because of the favorable labor climate. Over the long haul, maybe the South won the war?  If you wanted to cause a near riot, bring up the subject of labor unions.

As a transplanted Midwesterner I had a lot to learn.  There were many cultural differences.  It was customary to address a person by first name preceded by appropriate title.  …For example, “Mr. Bob,”or “Ms. Mary.” Shopping carts were called “buggies.” A light switch was not “turned off” or “turned on.” Instead it was “cut off” or “cut on.” The phrase, “I might be able to get that for you,” changed to, “I might could get that for you.”  There’s the familiar “y’all,” pronounced “yawl.” A common word I’ve picked up on, is “fixin.”  …Means getting ready to do something.  I’m fixin’ to take my car to Bubba’s Garage for an oil change.  Incidentally, the word “oil” is pronounced with one syllable, like “awl.” The expression, “Well, isn’t that nice?” is a polite insult reserved for special situations–usually northerners with “verbal diarrhea.”  Roughly translated, it meant, “You can go straight to Hell, along with the horse you rode in on!”

All carbonated soft drinks are called “Coke.” Sweet tea is the most popular beverage.  You can ask for unsweetened tea, it identifies you as a Yankee, Snow Bird, or health nut.  Grits are served with everything, like potatoes.  Slow roasted pork butt (Boston Butt) is a local favorite.  A local restaurant commercial asks the question, “What will you have with your cheese grits?” I’ve tried them–they’re quite tasty.  Other southern specialities are boiled peanuts and sweet potato, (not pumpkin), pie.  Thanksgiving turkey is prepared with cornbread stuffing.  Common green garden peas are called English peas.  They’re distinguished from black-eyed peas, crowder peas, chick peas, and pink-eyed/purple hulled peas.

After arrival, the first questions asked were: where do you go to church?  What’s your favorite (NCAA) football team?  Football is like a religion.  There is a fanaticism, the likes of which, this “Yankee” had never seen.  If your favorite team isn’t in the SEC, God have mercy on your soul.  You will hear recounted, every defeat your team suffered, in every sport, in every encounter with the SEC in its history.  Be sure to allow some extra time for this.  Another tradition is Mardi Gras.  Most people are unaware the tradition started in Mobile, Alabama, not in New Orleans.  The celebrations start in late January and continue till “Fat Tuesday,” or “Lundi Gras.” Schools and businesses close for “Fat Tuesday.” Mobile Mardi Gras celebrations are more family oriented than those of New Orleans.

All persons, not born south of the Mason-Dixon line, are called “Yankees.”  Distrust goes back to the Post Civil War Reconstruction era.  Later, “Yankees,” discovered the area, bought property and stayed.  All “Yankees,” like me, are initially treated with skepticism.  My first trip was in 1984 for vacation.  The decision based solely on camping guide information.  The white sand beaches, tall pines, turquoise waters were a wonderful surprise.  There was a state park nearby with unspoiled beachfront, a fishing pier, rental cabins, a hotel and conference center.  Northerners are still resented by some.  Property investors and speculators drove up land prices.  Developers lined the beaches with high-rise condos–blocked views of turquoise Gulf waters–created urban sprawl.  The real estate boom and subsequent bust hit hard.  Now economic recovery has a strong pulse and shows signs of life.  There are  reminders–abandoned, overgrown, unsightly tracts of land with streets and utilities.

“Snow Birds” from the northern states and Canada spend winters here.  Vacationers return every summer.  Tourism is the largest source of local revenue.  On busy holiday weekends, local roadways are clogged with traffic.  I use back roads and shortcuts.  I’m not giving away my secrets!  I moved here in ’04, just in advance of Hurricane Ivan.  It was sad to see the horrible devastation.  Nature heals itself, but it sometimes takes years.  Annoyances are fire ants, love bugs, gnats, and no-see-ums.  There are far more good things than bad.  Winters are mild.  There are two major types of weather–cool in the winter and hot in the summer.  Something I like, is having greenery in the winter.  Certain oak and acacia trees keep their leaves in winter.  There are no dazzling displays of fall color.  I miss fall and “Indian Summer.”  Tulips and lilacs won’t grow here.  This is more than made up for by azaleas in spring and crepe myrtles in summer.

When I came here on vacation, it was fun to go to the beach.  Now, I’m here permanently and rarely go. Usually, it’s when someone comes for a visit.  I’ve learned that plants suited for the Miami area don’t do well here.  It does frost on winter mornings.  People here are warm-hearted, genuine, and down to earth.  I’m honored to have been accepted–in spite of being a “Yankee.”  There’s no place I’d rather live.  “Now, I’m fixin’ to go to the mall with your Mama “n” ’em.”  “Are y’all goin’ with y’all?”