Did you know it's illegal to wear a mask in public in New Orleans?
It's right there in the city's criminal code, Section 54-313: "It shall be unlawful for any person to use or wear in any public place, a hood or mask or...or any facial disguise of any kind, calculated to conceal or hide the identity of the person..."
The code provides an exception, of course. On Fat Tuesday, you can wear a mask up until 6 p.m.
Yes, it really says 6 p.m.
But I'm not here to talk about the law. Decidedly not, in fact.
I'm here with a request: Mask.
That's all I'm asking. And I don't ask much.
I'm with the purists and the righteous on this one.
You know the type: People who tell you how you should do things? They're pretty annoying folks, I'll admit. I usually avoid them.
But during Carnival, I am one. I say mask or stay home. Or, at least, wear a costume.
Why I'm so particular about this, I'm not sure.
It's a kind of Carnival phobia, I guess.
I get uncomfortable hanging out around people who aren't dressed on Mardi Gras. They tamp the revelry out of the space I inhabit.
They give a voyueristic vibe, as if they're just watching, not participating.
They give a vibe that says: I'm not from here.
Mardi Gras is an exceptional holiday; literally, according to the criminal code.
It's a day for New Orleans to display her indomitable spirit, embrace of revelry and regard for tradition. Her otherness.
A way to show the invading army - shall we say – how to live – and point out, with assurity, that elsewhere in America, it's just another Tuesday in winter.
Show them that we don't care what anybody says, we do what we do the way we like to do it and we don't cotton to anyone else telling us what that should be.
Unless, of course, you're thinking of not dressing out for Mardi Gras.
If it were up to me, that would be illegal.