The Arc of Beads
Posted On February 17, 2023
The value of Mardi Gras beads peak when they’re under no ownership. It’s part of the silliness of my favorite time of year.
If you’re not listening in the deep south, you may not know that it’s Mardi Gras time for us derelicts and mystics living here on the top lip of the Gulf Coast. Ships from all over the world back in the day delivered a menagerie of people here where they threw their customs and traditions into one big gurgling pot and one of the results is Mardi Gras. The story I tell is that Mardi Gras was a time for people to dispose of food that would spoil during the fasting associated with Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday next week, so they threw big parties to consume all the food. Is it the truth? I don’t know. It’s the story I’ve heard the most, so it’s the story I tell.
Folks from other places who now live here are fond of saying “I just don’t get Mardi Gras. It makes no sense.” And they’re right. It doesn’t. Don’t try to make sense of it. Just enjoy it. If you can’t enjoy it because it doesn’t make sense, stay away. L et us have our fun.
Take Mardi Gras beads as one of many examples. The value of a typical strand of Mardi Gras beads can range from a few cents per strand to a few dollars. So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume one of the strands I bought at the bead store last weekend for my parade cost one dollar. It was likely made for a few cents by some poor underpaid child somewhere operating massive machine and wondering what in the world these beads things are used for and why they need so many. Nevertheless, the bead store paid maybe forty cents for it. Its value shot to a dollar when I paid for it at the register. However, the highest value of those beads cannot be assigned a number and was not when it was owned by the manufacturer, the retailer, or me. The highest value of the beads was when those beads were ownerless after I had tossed it from my hand, and it curved in gentle arc through the air and began its descent. In those moments the beads were in the air, grown men and women, aggressive children, and people who are normally friendly neighbors saw the beads and used NBA style block-outs, tremendous jumps, karate chops and tae kwon do style elbows to friend’s ribcages to classes to catch ’em.
Once caught, the beads went around a neck for a short time. Or they disappeared into a bag already full of them. Or were tossed on top of a pile of other beads just like it. Or, they could very likely been given away to a complete stranger. Once secured and under new ownership, the bead’s value vanished instantly. In a week they’ll be in the trash.
It makes no sense to spend so much money buying beads, then give them away, only for them to ultimately be thrown away. No sense at all. But that’s Mardi Gras. If you try to apply logic to it, you’ll scream.
And, frankly, I can’t get enough of it.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.