Revelry and the spirit of Mardi Gras has always been the essence of Louisiana and, to a strong cutural point, New Orleans. However it is the surrounding parishes leading out to edge of the Gulf that give a more community structured, down home feel where the neighbors are your friends and the crawfish melt in your mouth like butter.
Houma swirls its web of culinary richness and bead-ensuing frivolity with an essence of hard work that imbues the town. Inherently a fishing community which has taken the brunt of nature’s wrath from hurricanes over the years, Houma is remarkably resolute and filled with the kind of indomnitable spirit that entwines itself into every corner of life.
Mardi Gras is inherently a party to be sure but the key in any of its various forms across the Lousiana swath, the key is fun without losing the marbles totally. The base of the endeavor comparatively is one of community structure and pride.
Entering into the warehouse of the Houma Mardi Gras Parade, the sense of how seriously the experience personifies itself is seen in the details on the floats whether it revels in the chicanery of pirates or the outer space fantasy of “Star Wars”.
The staggering amount of beads, marked by those special high-end hand-made medallions that cause attendees to try whatever they can to attain them including regularly losing their minds, is a natural state of play.
The night rage begins in earnest as the lights start the train ablaze near the outlay of the Barrow Street Bridge. As the anticipation builds to crescendo, the cross generational appeal of the proceedings reaches its pinnacle.
The dance party takes shape outside the Starhouse Tavern where the DJ pumps the music loud as the rum swirls the light. The rhythm of the night permeates in the vibe highlighted by a general sense of fun where all come to enjoy, although some get more crazy than others.
The lights go dark as the beads start flying. The glowing visions of reds and blue balanced by florid costumes wrapped in winding streaks of light sticks keep the volley in tune. Screams of delight reverberate into the night as the streets swell with people.
The second parade of midday offers the possibility of the community to experience the frivolity in a different light but also allow those who might not have been able to make it because of family comittments or work to enjoy the revel.
The streets are packed six deep as coolers keep the fresh cold as the dancing on the floats reaches fever pitch.
The inherent vision of the local elders in full funk mode shows where the cool comes from, the masks swirling in knowledge.
Above on the terrace, the shots continue in whiskey as the swaying continues in earnest while below the delight of many intensifies in the funk of the moment as dragons fly by in motley lurid colors.
The wonder of Mardi Gras lies in its ability to turn any day into a massive street party where the worries disappear and the wonder reverberates in tandem.
Eating with gusto also starts the party right and the mobility and inception that motivates the want lies in the stomach of the beholder.
Boudreau & Thibodeau gets to the point for dinner. As the Abita Beer flows smoothly, an avalanche of crawfish waterfalls on the table. The little critters take work but once the aseembly line begins moving and the dipping commences, the vat of sides take precedence. The boiling pot brims with corn-on-the-cob and thick sausages that are imbibed with a dexterious flavor making it hard ro resist. The cheese steak surrounding by fried cheese simply serves to accelerate the proceedings.
Cafe Dominique, by comparison, functions with the personality of an ultra lounge in terms of ambiance but with a Lousiana flair reflecting its preciseness with an admirable balance that reflects in a smooth and cool experience. The grilled shrimp sparked with a tangy quality that was both filling and exceptional while an after dinner drink infusing cherry liquor and chocolate balanced with a cream custard dessert bathed in a thought of abstract art allowing for a tinge of irony.
Lunch requires a home spun vision that is brought in spades at A-Bear where the Shrimp Platter swirls in taste and hearty countenance topped with their signature crab sauce that hits the taste buds through the roof while the shrimp gumbo gave the hotness a run for its money.
The life that defines the bayou and the parish is the culture that permeates it bordered by the fury of nature, the vision of man and the beauty of time.
Beyond the energy of the party lies the basis of these truths which can be balanced between the necessary expression of art and the mystery of the bayou mixed with music.
Located in the midst of the Bayou Perit Caillou leading out to the Gulf lies the Chauvin Sculpture Garden swirling in mythology and creativity. Artist Kenny Hill, who has since passed, saw a world populated by angels eternally mixing the balance between heaven and hell. Despite its very basic metaphorical core, some of the images he conjures defy expectations.
Take, for example, the lighthouse vision of a man being carried to heaven sullied as the charred remains of former humans march to some unheard drum, forever stuck in time. The meaning is different for all but allows for reflection especially in the perception of this oft-hit geography where the superstition of ages still permeates.
Hidden off beyond the normal confines of regular art galleries, this labor of love reflects a man’s vision, not for money or riches, but simply for an ideal, whatever its focus might be.
On the reflective end of this perpective, journeying back into the swamp away from the confines of urban sprawl in the city allows for local culture to spring forth.
Embarking with Ron Guidry on his Cajun Man Swamp Cruise, the history and music of area are balanced with a dominating sense of the now as the machinery of decades past pump the oil from underneath this vast swath of land beneath Louisiana backcountry. It is a visceral treasure trove simply hard to get to and even more environmentally challenging to pull off.
The alligators watch warily, sunning themselves in perpetuity as the barges drift path in slow ballet, the mighty cypresses towering over the proceedings as the voice of Ron in his low drawl posterizes over the lives of time past.
Houma is place of diversive colors. The annual permeation of Mardi Gras is one of cheer and celebration as the community celebrates its individuality while perpetrating the artistic and philanthropic nature of its citizens.
Surrounding this with the essence of Down Home Louisiana cooking prepared in fusion or simply feastlike in style makes the journey that much more satisfying while unique visions like the otherworldy sculpture garden and the epic sprawl of the swamp mecca give a perspective that we are only passengers in this world.
Revel be praised for thou art eternal.