Be childish for the next few days
Published 12:36 am Monday, March 3, 2003
By By Paul Keane
This weekend has to be one of the best of the year, and I'm writing this before attending even my first parade of the 2003 Mardi Gras season.
Back about seven years ago, I was fully bitten by the Carnival Bug. I had just moved from Texas to Fairhope eight months earlier and had never really experienced Mardi Gras. Fortunately, my wife worked in a two-story office on the main parade route in Mobile, meaning we got to hang out on the balcony for the parades, screaming and hollering and cajoling maskers to toss as much "stuff" as they could up onto the balcony.
The kids were young (our youngest one now was even born then), and we simply questioned the manhood of the male maskers, who would then try and prove their manliness by tossing entire boxes or moon pies, beads, stuffed animals and assorted other items onto the balcony.
Being much closer to sobriety than the people throwing the stuff, we would simply have the children stand behind us, duck as the loot came flying our way and letting it hit the wall behind us. While we acted as human shields for the next onslaught, the children would scoop up the "booty" and wait for me.
It was a great scheme that worked well for a number of years.
Then, we would attend the parades in Fairhope with friends and co-workers. Since we were members of the media, it normally meant having a little more access than normal parade goers. It also meant we had an "in" with local law enforcement, which comes in handy when you're trying to park in a strategic location so your kids catch lots of stuff.
The thing that amazes me at all of these parades is that grown men and women will reach out and catch all manners of "stuff," then turn right around and hand it to some kids. Some of those children are their own, and some of them aren't. I can't even begin to count the number of unknown children I have handed stuff to over the past seven years. It boggles the mind.
But that is what Mardi Gras is all about. It's about 17 days of shaking off the winter doldrums and the post-holiday blahs. It's a time to come together in friendship and frivolity and just have come good, old-fashioned fun.
Yes, some people will point out that some of the revelry goes too far, and that some violence, drunkenness and lewdness will crop up from time to time. I'm not going to debate that, because the critics are correct.
But the critics are also missing out on the point of the season. It's a chance to revert back to childhood for a little while.
Remember when you were a kid and you couldn't wait to stand on the street corner and watch the parade go by? Where I grew up in Texas, there were two annual parades, and neither one of them threw things from the floats. Instead, everyone just rode by and waved, with the occasional politician walking past to hand you some campaign literature.
No candy, no beads, and definitely no chance of getting a stuffed animal.
Now, we live in an area where four nearly three weeks every year, we get to make up for lost time from our childhood. We get to watch in amazement as our children "oohh" and "aahh" with each passing float.
Friends of mine who have moved back to Texas miss it. I won't be missing it this year, because I'm taking a few days off to enjoy the revelry. Monday and Tuesday are going to be days of rest, relaxation and revelry. I promise not to get into any trouble, but I don't promise not to revert back to my childhood.
I'll see you on Ash Wednesday.
Paul Keane is Publisher of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by phone at 368-2123.B e