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the website of Sean Patrick Doles

Hail, Rex

by Sean Patrick Doles

“To Rex, King of Carnival, we lift our glass in a toast and welcome your royal highness to our fair city. Today, we are truly one people united under your reign. Hail, Rex.”

To think that some wait a lifetime to be crowned King of Carnival, and it’s over so quickly. The blur of faces streaming by, the patchwork blanket of voices, all screaming for you.

Try as you might to slow the parade and let the magic of the moment sink in, it keeps rolling along, and you are powerless to stop it.

Seeing thousands lining the streets of New Orleans, you realize how much bigger it is than you. We are all replaceable. Every one of us. Even the King. The parade will roll on, and the crowd will not know a bit of difference.

I got the most important part right, though. When the King’s float finally arrived at the Gallier Hall reviewing stand on that fine Mardi Gras Day, and all eyes were upon me, a strange peace awakened from within. I realized I had been in this position a thousand times before – in my dreams.

A tuxedoed attendant, carrying champagne and two crystal flutes on a silver tray, moved beside Mayor Bartleby on the podium fronting the stand. Bartleby poured two glasses, handing one to a mounted police officer, who carried it delicately to the page-boy flanking my central pedestal. The boy then handed me the glass, which I raised high for all to see. With both of our glasses poised for a toast, the crowd grew as silent as it would get. Even the brassy wail of the St. Augustine “Marching 100” trailing behind came to an abrupt halt. That’s when Bartleby began his traditional mayoral speech.

“Hail, Rex.” The crowd repeated along with the Mayor.

I brought the glass to my lips and sipped lightly. I cleared my throat and drew a breath before replying, nearly choking on the odd mixture of bubbly and the diesel fumes spewing from the tractor pulling my float.

“Rex thanks and salutes the mayor and city council on this most historic occasion,” I said, taking a microphone dangling from my bead stand. The crowd applauded politely.

“Your majesty,” Bartleby said, “on behalf of myself and the city council, we would like to present to you at this time the key to the city. We open up our streets, our neighborhoods to you. Today you rule the city. Hail, Rex.”

“Hail, Rex.” The crowd again chanted along with mayor as the key changed hands.

“Rex is most grateful, Your Honor,” I said. “And in appreciation for the hospitality of you and your council, I have a gift I would like to offer.”

I nodded to my pages, who produced a dozen commemorative gold medallions and handed them one by one to the mounted policemen, who, in turn, delivered them safely to the podium.

“Your honor, respected city council members, and all the citizens of and visitors to our fair city of New Orleans, by decree of Rex, I hereby proclaim that today, and every day, each man be a king and every woman a queen. Every dream is possible, for the world is truly a magical place.”

To this, the crowd responded with uproarious applause. We raised our glasses high in one final toast, and everyone cheered in approval.

“Hail, Rex.” Bartleby shouted into his microphone. The float lurched and began rolling forward slowly. Just like that, my shining moment had passed.