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Stella and I went to New Orleans last week to visit our friends Chuck, Iris and Lianna, and while I can’t really call Mardi Gras art, the whole thing is one long, giddy performance that comes pretty darn close.

So here are a few pictures — a little lagniappe (see definition below) — of the pre-Lenten bacchanal that, regardless of what you call it, employs a lot of artists in the making of floats and decorations. (My friend Chuck took the great, night-time float shot…I’m responsible for the rest.)

It’s the pattern and decoration holiday.

And while colors are dictated (purple, green and gold are the Mardi Gras colors), there’s plenty of variation.

Excess is the watchword.

In the Catholic scheme of things, it’s the big binge before the purge of Lent.

People decorate their homes. They decorate their bikes.

Street performers dress up as statues on Royal St. Call them photo opportunists. Take a picture and they want a tip.

I wondered about this little Jerry Garcia. He must have been zoned out on something because he sat there for hours working for his dogbones.

On Mardi Gras day itself, everyone dresses up and parades in the streets just for the sheer exhibitionistic fun of it.

For weeks, there are parades. Towards the end, two and three or more a day, with floats and riders and movie stars and marching bands.

And then there’s the loot. Millions of pounds of plastic beads thown from the floats.

I never realized what a job gathering beads was. Going to a parade was like going to work. Gotta go out there and get some more beads.

If you’re a pack rat with a touch of the obsessive, you might want to avoid this whole thing.

Speaking of work, my friend Chuck, who works at the Historic New Orleans Collection, took us on a quick tour of the place. Behind the scenes, in the preparator’s room, we ran into Scott Ratteree who was unwrapping some of the old Mardi Gras memorabilia in preparation for display at the restaurant Antoine’s, official watering hole of the Krewe of Rex (King of Carnival).

Anyway, I thought you might like a little color this morning. And even though these pictures don’t tell half the story, you can tell that as holidays go, Mardi Gras has got more beauty and sensuous moments than you can shake a stick…er, scepter at.

lagniappe – (lan-YAP) – Used primarily in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, the word lagniappe refers to an “unexpected something extra.” It could be an additional doughnut (as in “baker’s dozen”), a free “one for the road” drink, and an unanticipated tip for someone who provides a special service or possibly a complimentary dessert for a regular customer. Creole term for something extra.

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