No doubt about it…I love shoes. High heels, flip-flops, cross trainers, boots. I don’t discriminate. I have more pairs than any woman needs, and while I spend most of my time sporting those from the more casual end of the spectrum, I enjoy them all. Even those I wear only rarely. Perhaps this is why I am such a fan of the Muses parade, where shoe “throws” abound.
Muses is an all female crew consisting of more than 1,000 women, who roll the Thursday night before Fat Tuesday. And yes, that is tonight! They throw many shoe-related items…beads with dangly shoes, shoe bracelets, shoe note pads…the list goes on. But the most sought after and unfortunately the scarcest throw of any parade, at least in my experience, is the Muses shoe. Each rider hand-decorates a small number of real shoes which are handed (they don’t throw these!) to lucky parade-goers along the route. For the most part, these shoes are of the high-heeled variety and are adorned with glitter, feathers, sequins, ribbons, or jewels. Or all of the above. If you get one of these prized throws, give yourself a big pat on the back…and guard that shoe with your life!
I had heard about Muses for years but had never actually experienced it until Mardi Gras 2011, when Kyndall and I decided on a whim to load up and go. We were unfamiliar with the specifics of the route and decided we would simply wing it when we got to New Orleans. We ended up in a very crowded area of St. Charles, about seven people deep on the street. Needless to say, we did not get a shoe. We didn’t get much at all, for that matter, but we loved the parade and decided we should make it a yearly event.
The following year, we hit the Muses jackpot when a friend from high school saw my Facebook post about us going to the parade. She had a friend who was riding and sent us the float number and rider location. We made a sign identifying ourselves, and our new “friend” spotted us in our much-improved-from-the-previous-year location on St. Charles, and Bingo! We had our first shoe! (Ok…this might not have been as simple as I’m making it sound. Kyndall ran alongside the float and fought off other shoe hounds who were trying to grab her loot. She’s pretty scrappy, though, and came back victorious.) It was a beautiful, light green, glittery number, decorated with purple sequins and a tinsel-like substance. We were elated! We didn’t care if we caught anything the rest of the night because we had our shoe. We even donated our sign to some guys standing near us who seemed to love glittery footwear as much as we did. The prized shoe was prominently displayed on the mantel, and remained there until the Mardi Gras season was over. And unlike the rest of the good stuff we choose to keep (we donate the plain beads), the shoe did not find a home in a bag in the attic but remained on Kyndall’s dresser as a permanent decoration.
Last year, we again set up shop at the same location on St. Charles, although our parade neighbors were not quite as enjoyable as the year before. We had a new sign and knew of our connection’s whereabouts, and we excitedly awaited her float’s arrival. Again, she recognized us by our sign, and again, Kyndall chased the float down the street, carefully protecting the shoe once it was in her hands. Covered in gold glitter, lined with pale blue satin, and embellished with jeweled flowers, the beauty of this shoe surpassed that of the green and purple one from the previous year. Again, we were thrilled, and again, we did not let that shoe out of our sight. Now, it is virtually impossible to obtain a shoe without knowing a rider, and we had no hopes of “catching” another one, but much to our surprise, a complete stranger handed Kyndall her second shoe of the evening…another glittery gold heel, complete with the date etched on the side and a tuft of Mardi Gras-colored feathers near the toe. She was so shocked when she returned, she dropped the shoe. (I realize the next part of the story is going to sound like exaggeration, but I can assure you, it’s all true. Scout’s honor.) While I was bending down to pick up the mishandled shoe, the incredibly rude lady beside me lunged for it, then attempted to grab it from my hands. My fifteen-year-old child held her off while I retrieved the shoe. It was madness! Most of the time, the parade crowd is rambunctious but pleasant, however, we were not completely comfortable with our extremely aggressive neighbors, especially after the altercation, and we decided to head back across the lake. School and a 5:15 a.m. Spin class awaited us in a few hours anyway. And we had two shoes!
Tonight will be our fourth consecutive year at the Muses parade. We know our rider friend’s location, and we will be making our sign this afternoon before heading to the city in hopes of getting a fourth fabulous shoe. While the shoes are a big part of why we go, for me, the mother-daughter time is truly the highlight. I treasure those few hours that we get to spend together, just the two of us, no boys and no friends allowed. And as the years zoom past, and I realize that we won’t have this opportunity much longer, I view those beautiful shoes simply as lagniappe.