2014 Trip Two, March 17, Deep South

Monday, March 17 Mobile AL

Happy St. Pat’s Day to all of the Irish and the Irish wannabe’s out there.

No Civil War or Civil Rights today. We are in L.A.; Lower Alabama to y’all. On the advice of Steve from Berney Fly, we went to the Mardi Gras museum. I will not be able to fully describe the Mobile Mardi Gras culture but will try to summarize it a bit for you.

First, Mobile is the first U.S. city to celebrate Mardi Gras. Second, the parades are much more family friendly. Third, there are parades beginning three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. Fourth (A), there are about 60 Mardi Gras societies, about 30 of which sponsor parades. Fourth (B), each society’s parade is separate and distinct from all of the others with seniority in tenure deciding when their parade is held.

Fifth, there are two Mardi Gras associations, one black and one white and the royalty attend each other’s functions. Sixth, Mardi Gras in Mobile is an opportunity to have social get togethers, whether those be family re-unions, social groups. fraternities, what have you.

Seventh, Mardi Gras parties begin at Thanksgiving and continue until Ash Wednesday. Eighth, at Mardi Gras parties, men must wear white tails and ties and women floor length gowns. It is said that outside of Los Angeles, Mobile uses more full dress white tie and tails than any other city.

A recent King and Queen robe and  train.

A recent King and Queen robe and train.

Ninth, the king and queen must be over 21, single, and foot the bill (or their parents) for the robe and train (see pictures) which can cost as much as a new car. The heaviest train weighed 60 pounds and actually had ball bearings under the bottom end of the train to help it roll along. Tenth, the parade route is two miles but the kings and queens and court get to ride, it is at the balls that they must pull the train along and mount the stairs to their throne.

The 60 lb train

The 60 lb train

Eleventh, Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday (before Ash Wednesday) while Carnival is the entire season of balls and parades up to Ash Wednesday. Balls seem to start at Thanksgiving while the formal start of Carnival begins on the feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6).

Several of the recent robes and trains

Several of the recent robes and trains

How do we know this? From Steve and from the docent at the Museum. The museum is an amazing collection of memorabilia and history. Oh, the woman taking our admission fee was the queen in 1955. In Mobile, the Mardi Gras tradition has continued for generations and families are still involved. Schools and businesses close for the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. School bands are normally in the parades separating the floats. That is a lot of band time. We learnt a lot more; we have forgotten a lot already; and hopefully have not stated anything incorrectly.

USS Alabama

USS Alabama

After the museum, we headed out to the USS Alabama battleship complex. We spent a long time clambering up, down and through the battleship. That is one big ship! It takes about 2500 sailors and marines to man the boat. The self-guided tour goes up eight levels and down three or four. We managed to only bump heads once on the traipsing up and down. The stairs are steep and ladder like. Women are not recommended to wear skirts on this tour.

A view from  the bow of the boat.

A view from the bow of the boat.

The ship was de-commissioned after WWII and brought here in 1965 as a memorial. The memorial park has an aviation hall showcasing numerous WWII and after military planes; a WWII submarine-which we also toured; and numerous tanks and amphibious vehicles.

sub interior  corridor

sub interior corridor

The battleship tour includes going through the turrets that house the ship’s big guns. Math majors, statisticians, and engineers would appreciate one factoid listed on the tour: The big guns are accurate to 20.97 miles away. (Not 21 miles, not 21.9 miles, but 20.97 miles)

Bunk area for USS Alabama crew

Bunk area for USS Alabama crew

We have a greater appreciation of the conditions sailors endured, and probably still do.

Afterwards we had a late, light lunch at Felix’s. This is a must-see that deserves its reputation. Long, long lines are common here but today’s rain, cold, and 2 pm time made it easy to get in. The crab bisque soup was fantastic. A drive down the east side of Mobile Bay to Fairhope finished off the afternoon.

Our evening entertainment was spent at the opera-somewhat. The Mobile Opera on the third Monday of each month has an event where the opera singers come to a local restaurant and perform a medley of tunes ranging from classics like “Danny Boy” and “My Little Valentine” to opera songs that I could not identify. They sing while the rest of us eat dinner. The event is held at a very nice restaurant that is normally closed on Mondays.

We took another guest at the B and B to it. She was down here for a historic homes tour this weekend and her car broke down. She is waiting for a clutch part for a 1996 Saab to arrive from her mechanic in Atlanta. We could sympathize with her situation.

When the singing began, we three were still talking and a woman at the next table “shushed” us. We got the hint. But then we noticed that the table was quite noisy as new songs were being sung. It struck me as a little hypocritical to tell us to be quiet when they were not. At an intermission, we got to talking with a woman at that table and she happened to mention that one of the women at her table was the mother of one of the singers and would hush everyone when her son was performing. Then we understood.

We believe today is likely to be our last coolish day. Shorts, sandals, etc may be in our future.

As they say in Mobile, “Let the good times roll”.

Ed and Chris 10:15 pm March 17

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