A perfect evening. Got there minutes before the one mile runners came by, parking at our church and walking to our favorite spot, meeting up with our son, his wife, and the adorable little boy who truly gets everything that is happening. This is his third parade; he always loved the lights and loud noises, but this year, he GETS it, gets the floats and the bands and the BEADS!
“I love this tradition,” my daughter-in-law says, leaning over to kiss me as we meet up to watch the parade and do a little-boy-transfer. He is coming to spend the night with us. He has his own room in our house.
ZOOOOOMMMMM! the motorcycle police accompany the runners, EEERRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW the fire engine, all lights and noise comes by at the beginning of the parade, and then a high school band from New Orleans with a killer beat leads the parade. Wooooo HOOOOOOOO, shouts Intlxpatr, totally into another cultural experience.
One of the optical shops had running eyeballs, totally hilarious!
This float was giving out Chobani yoghurt
“Beads! Beads! More beads!” People taller than I were catching beads – and then passing them on to the little children. So kind, so generous.
My favorite, of course, a pirate ship:
This parade is great fun. Here is a thing I love about Pensacola. About 50,000 people attend. Many walk from nearby neighborhoods, others drive down and park – there is still plenty of parking in Pensacola. People gather peacefully. There is no fighting over great spots; there are a lot of great spots from which you can watch the parade. At the end of the parade, everyone disperses peacefully – no fighting. In fifteen – twenty minutes the crowd is GONE, 50,000 people gone home, peacefully. It is a great community, all walks of life, all having a great time watching this home town Christmas parade.
Early this morning, the morning after, we started a new tradition – we got a long stick with a hook, and went after some of the beads stuck up in the trees. AdventureMan and Q got started while I went to church, meeting up with some experts who gave them tips – and beads. Such is the kindness of strangers, and the brotherhood of bead chasers.
The weather in Pensacola is crazy right now, after a couple months of cooling temperatures, we are up in the 70′s during the days and down in the 60′s at night, maybe the 50′s – it is so warm that our aloe is blossoming, she thinks it is spring.
The good news is that the Pensacola Christmas Parade is tomorrow night, and it looks like it will be a balmy evening with NO RAIN! We are looking forward to taking our grandson – this will be his third Christmas Parade, but this is the first time he is really walking and talking, and we think the sound and lights (it always starts with the motorcycle police and the fire engines blasting and all their emergency lights spinning) are going to blow him away. This year he will be able to shout “beads! beads!” and scramble with the other kids for beads and candies; the parade is a wild mix of Christmas and Mardi Gras. It is a hilarious experience, and we are eager to see it through his eyes.
We had almost a full week of grim, grey skies and little sunshine, during which I saw the sad reminders of Mardi Gras valiantly trying to sparkle in the trees:
It’s been rainy and dark the entire day, and I know what I need – I need to go to Five Sisters. We had planned to go to the huge Pensacola Mardi Gras Parade, but as the rain came down, my spirits were also dampened. There was a time – and I could see in AdventureMan’s eyes, he was hoping this wasn’t one of those times – when I would have said “We HAVE to go, even if it is raining!”
He has a little cold and I drift in and out of allergies, and standing a couple hours out in the rain and hollering and catching beads is probably not what mature people like us should be doing. (A part of me is greatly depressed at being so ‘mature’.)
But I know just the thing. Five Sisters. As we drive up, a parking space becomes available, always a good omen, and as we walk to the door, we are greeted with divine fragrances of smoke and grilling meat and we are starting to feel better already.
On the menu board, one of the specials of the day is BBQ Shrimp. Ummmm, ummmmmm, doesn’t that sound good on a rainy day. I order the BBQ Shrimp with cheese grits and a salad, AdventureMan orders the Seafood Platter. Bluesy music, some old hits from the 60′s and 70′s, and our food comes.
My BBQ Shrimp was AWESOME. Today it was tangy, vinegar-y and Tabasco sauce, the essence of Louisiana. It came sizzling hot, but the shrimp still had the shells on, which AdventureMan tells me is the way it comes when it is BBQ Shrimp in the South. Oh well, it is a good thing that the shells are on and I have to work to get them off before I can eat each one, if I didn’t have to get those tails and shells off I would probably gobble them down in no time at all! As it was, I was able to bring about half of the shrimp home to savor later.
AdventureMan said on the way home “Oysters sure are rich, aren’t they?” I just laughed, I like oysters cooked, but mostly I like them steamed, and even then, they are so rich I can’t eat many of them. If you deep fry them, you just add rich on rich. His dish was fish, shrimp and oysters, deep fried, and some of 5 Sisters fabulous fries, which he didn’t eat, and didn’t need because there was so much seafood on the Seafood Platter:
As we left, it was still raining, one of those days that went from dark to dark grey to not-quite-so-dark grey to a couple moments of light grey and then back to dark grey and now it is almost dark once again. We don’t often have a day with no sunshine in Pensacola, and it is very very sad when that one day is the day of the Pensacola Mardi Gras Parade and it pours down rain just as the parade is starting. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. But Five Sisters puts a smile back on our faces every time.
We just finished a five day Doha reunion, a group of us who used to gather frequently in Doha, ironically most of us introverts, but who found gathering together forced us to exercise regularly, helped us to run our errands downtown, and helped us laugh a lot at our own foibles in a strange land. It’s not all that often you can find four women who all get along equally well with one another, but this group was that rarity, and having them in my house was a joy. We were together in worship and in friendship for several years, so having another opportunity to gather was just magical. (We also gathered in May, for a wedding.)
Yes, for those of you who are wondering, AdventureMan was here, and what a blessing he was. He cooked dinner and cleaned up two of the nights, after days when we had been out exploring all day. We could not have had so much fun without his help. I think the other husbands were jealous; they like to be a part of the conversations, too. We always have so much fun together, and such great issues to cover, big topics, small topics, family issues, political issues, fund raising, social and cultural challenges. We share frustrations and experiences, we share resources and brain-storm solutions. For us, it doesn’t get any better, these gatherings feed our souls.
Cat-like women, they all arrived on their own time and schedule, as it would fit, so there was a couple days of total overlap, and some days with fewer. The day the first visitor arrived was also the day of Pensacola’s newest parade, Marching Madness.
“Want to see it?” I asked her? They were going to try to set a new record for the largest number of people in the world doing a line dance.
“Sure!” she said, always a good sport.
This parade was hilarious. First, it was a daytime parade, and most of the parades I have been to in Pensacola have been night parades. There were like fourteen marching bands and many floats, so it was LOUD! The Happy Toddler would have loved it. Lastly, they were generous with the beads, people were loaded with beads, and some of the beads were special!
“I’ve never seen anything like this!” shouted my friend, over the bedlam of trumpets and drums in a compelling jungle rhythm. She was dancing and waving her hands madly at the passing Krewe, hoping for a strand or two to come her way. She ended up with a LOT of beads.
It was so much fun!
This isn’t New Orleans. This was a family parade, lots of babies, lots of children, lots of grandparents, so no one was underdressed, or showing off the wares, if you catch my drift. The people throwing beads were generous across the board, especially to the babies.
Pensacola is amazing. As we walked back to the car, the street cleaners were standing by, and the street was cleaned and re-opened to traffic within an hour. How amazing is that?
When I got here, the only quilt shop had closed, leaving me with JoAnn Fabrics as my only alternative. I’d been here about 10 months when one of my bible-study buddies asked me if I had ever heard of A & E? Well, yes, I had heard people mentioning they were running there, but I’d never been there. My friend took me there – took me to heaven for a quilter. You would never guess this place had bolts and bolts of just-what-you-never-knew-you-needed.
I went back yesterday looking for something exotic and out of the ordinary, and I found it – of course. As I went in, I had to laugh. I had been telling my friends what I really needed was the Kuwait or Qatar souks, where shiny fabrics are everywhere, and I needed some specific shiny fabric. I grinned because I realized this is the Pensacola souk, where you can find just about anything, especially if it sparkles. This is just a small part of the selection for Mardi Gras:
If you’ve ever watched Treme’, you will understand that there were a lot of people in A and E buying sparkle – sparkly masks, sparkly fabric, sparkly everything. As I was checking out, I even saw a separate section where you could buy beads in bulk, a really good thing in a town with a lot of parades where beads are thrown to the crowd.
But it isn’t called A and E Fabrics . . . it’s called A & E Drugstore! There is a pharmacy there, and a whole lot of home health care supplies. Just all part of the serendipity and quirkiness that is Pensacola.