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Carbs For Clowns 

You're craving carbs and you're moodier than an eel slipping off a plate. Let's just say that the body, weakened by intensity and decibels, feels that it's coming apart like a string of cheap beads. It won't. We are resilient. This is the way the body has met the challenges of Mardi Gras in the past, stretched to the limit beyond which there is nothing but the infinite boredom of suburbs. But this year there are no suburbs. All there is is old New Orleans twisted and coiled around its festive stubbornness. The truth of the matter, and truth is the last thing anyone knows, or cares to hear, is that Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year is way too intentional. We need to show CNN the face of native defiance by showing CNN and the world what the world and CNN are so good at seeing: staggering drunks wrapped in beads squirming like crawfish dropped in boiling water. America loves a good time, especially on TV. It takes courage to plunge into the maelstrom of mobs at Carnival, which is why the people put on masks. This year the masks don't help much because our faces are already masks. We mask our feelings behind what might actually look like pleasant countenances. We grin, we shout, we wear ourselves out hollering over voices and music. Lying just under that good will are grinning skulls. This Mardi Gras feels more like Dia de los Muertos. And that's the thing CNN and America never see in New Orleans: the dead are and have always been more numerous than the living. The ghosts you bump into are not masked revelers, they are real. The locals, at present, feel very close to their ancestral ghosts whose presence is not scary, but comforting. This year a number of corporations were rumored to step forward to sponsor some of the Mardi Gras parades. That's a no-no in New Orleans, where the carnival takes its right to laugh at anyone and anything very seriously. The easy targets are quite visible: FEMA, Bush, Cheney, but there is also a sea of blue tarps fluttering and no one can say "Entergy" or "Halliburton" or "The Shaw Group" without seeing red. In the end, the corporations should have taken the leap: it was their only chance. The oil companies bit the bullet and claimed that they were ecologists when people got angry at their environmental crimes. This is today the MO of the Republic. Lie. Carnival in New Orleans is the Feast of Exposing Lies, big, medium and small. A lying sponsorship of demystification would end up telling the truth. No wonder the big corps stayed away. The people, they are doing the best they can this year, with imaginations steeped in anger. We are an army marching to our own tunes and under a new flag: a blue tarp. It's been a tough campaign and we are tired, but it's nothing a shot of whiskey and a plate of parmesan noodles won't fix.

Andrei Codrescu's new book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City.


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