Day of the Braindead

Our author prepares for Mardi Gras, intent on paying proper tribute to his local culture.
Jim Gabour
1 March 2011

Last Saturday the Krewe du Vieux paraded in my Faubourg Marigny neighborhood with a twenty-fifth anniversary theme of “Twenty-Five Years Wasted”.  However you interpret that title, the dozens of floats and brass bands brought the heart of the carnival season to a roaring open.  Composed of carpenters and lawyers, policemen and painters, housewives and hookers, the Krewe is a very democratic and open organization that defies politically-correct rules, is completely obscene, chaotic and rowdy, and yet stays in perfect harmony with its environment, namely those of us who live here.  We love this outlandish parading mob, and stand on alongside the streets to cheer it on every year.  A mindless delight, and happily so.

Though I had a grand time, I am not quite sure I can describe what I saw and experienced Saturday night.  I can only theorize that such mental disconnection is an elemental result of exposure to the event.  I had a grand time amidst the chaos, and a release from the rigors of a working “intellectual” life.


So, it is interesting that, just a week or so back, Forbes Magazine picked New Orleans as the number one “brain magnet” city in the US.  They did qualify it a bit:  “New Orleans' No. 1 ranking, for example, is likely the product of the continuing recovery of its shrunken population, where the central city appears to be somewhat more attractive to professionals than before Katrina while the suburban populations have recovered more quickly from the disaster.”

The quickly sprouting high-rise, high-end apartment buildings in the Central Business (CBD) and Warehouse Districts downtown testify to that strong ongoing influx of young affluent world-changers.  There are more thousand-dollar suits with hundred-dollar haircuts strolling the streets daily.  Here, and within easy walking distance in the French Quarter and Marigny, there are over 200 three-star-and-above restaurants.  And the accompanying bars and clubs.  Furnishing the perfect feeding grounds for such brains.

Now, to bring us back to reality, yesterday a story surfaces in the daily Times Picayune.

Brothers Walter and Waltdell Davis are a serious pair of convicted felons, once and future drug dealers.  They do not own suits.  They live in Central City, less than a mile from the bustling CBD.  They are dangerous fellows, and unlikely to attend neighborhood parades.  On the afternoon of February 7, Waltdell discovered Walter smoking Waltdell’s marijuana.  Waltdell was not amused.  So while brother Walter, stoned and content, went into his bedroom to take a nap and dream in cannabial bliss, Waltdell rooted around, found a .22 caliber pistol, and rousted his brother for his transgression.  Awakened, Walter was not happy.

A fight ensued, and Waltdell raised the pistol and shot his brother in the head.

Fortunately/unfortunately, the slug went straight into Walter’s mouth, and… ricocheted off his front gold tooth.

The bullet then lodged harmlessly near his left nostril, from which it was later removed in the emergency room of the LSU Interim Public Hospital.  (A side note there:  This is an “Interim” hospital because, since Katrina, we are still missing a major hospital downtown.  The giant Charity Hospital complex was flooded and ruined.  Ground is being cleared for a new massive health complex as I write these words, but in the interim, our hospital facilities still remain “Interim”.)

Back in the emergency room, Walter refused to press charges against his brother for the attempted murder, but police arrested Waltdell anyway.  As a convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and for committing aggravated battery on Walter, he had broken the terms of his parole.  He was taken back to prison, and remains there.  For the moment.

Walter, though as of today remaining secluded and without further comment, can be assumed to be shopping for additional metallic teeth.  Protection for when his aggressive brother returns from jail.

We do live in the murder capital of the United States, after all.  Some consideration must be made for that grim situation, especially when one is not a highly-paid brain sequestered in a gated and locked condominium near a police precinct and a money-making tourist attraction.

Like in the Faubourg Marigny.


* * *

Meanwhile Carnival season continues for both the new intelligent arrivées and the presumably less economically-desirable Davis brothers.

And for me.

I must start my “B” costume today – a second, lighter rig that I can wear Mardi Gras afternoon.  It will be quite warm this year, what with the late, March 8, Carnival Day.  After partying and parading from dawn with La société du Sainte Anne, I normally return home to bathe and eat, before going out refreshed to spend the rest of the afternoon dancing (in my fashion) to the Brazilian drum parades.  To facilitate this physical activity in the Spring heat, I need a lighter outfit.

The smaller B costume also facilitates attendance at the jam-packed uptown Sainte Anne Ball, which happens this Saturday eve, in advance of the actual day.

I mention all this because, ironically or no, the theme for this year’s Ball is “Muertos” – an acknowledgement of the Mexican Day of the Dead.  Living here, I seem to have an ample selection of related decorative material.  Indeed, I just opened a box of costume parts to find ten three-inch golden plastic coffins with clear tops, a white skeleton inside, and RIP emblazoned in gold on the lid.

To make my attire more relevant to my home town, I am shopping online for a plastic gold tooth.

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