Thursday, February 25, 2010

partying in the graveyard

Mobile's historic Church Street Graveyard is full of party people.

Locals suggest I visit the grave of Joe Cain; they talk about him with great personal affection, and I intimate that he must have passed away recently.  I find his grave colorfully festooned with flowers, beads, and moon pies - then discover that he's been dead since 1904.

It was Joe who paraded through the streets of Mobile on that famous Fat Tuesday in 1867.  He and six of his friends rode a decorated coal wagon through downtown Mobile, banging drums, blowing horns, and comically declaring some kind of victory.  And thus was Mardi Gras celebration (re)born in the U. S. of A. 

Never one to be outdone, Joe Cain always spent Mardi Gras decked out as the eternally undefeated (and fictional) Chicasaw chief Slacabamorinico (aka "Old Slac").

(And you thought you were hip.)

Another of the partying departed buried at Church Street Graveyard is Mobile's fabulous poet/translator/actor/raconteur Eugene Walter.  

A restless bohemian whose joie-de-vivre knew no bounds, Walter filled books with his poetry, stories, and recipes, co-founded the Paris Review, hosted parties in NYC, Rome, and Paris, and even played bit parts in Fellini's 8 1/2 ("American journalist") and Juliet of the Spirits ("Mother Superior").  Legend has it that Walter schlepped a shoebox packed with red Alabama clay around Europe with him.

(The fabulous Eugene Walter holds court.)

[[With grateful thanks to the indefatigable Mr. Charlie Smoke.]]