As mentioned in the previous post, my wife and I have the official Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras flag. It is purple and yellow as opposed to the far-better-known New Orleans flag that is purple, yellow, and green. The New Orleans flags are often seen on the gulf coast, but you rarely see one of the Mobile flags. And that brings up some interesting ideas.
Mobile suffers from an inferiority complex relative to its better-known neighbor to the west. We were founded before New Orleans (NOLA), but the Crescent City surpassed us and is much better known. This time of year, everyone in Mobile likes to remind people in NOLA that we founded Mardi Gras in the Western Hemisphere. NOLA disputes this fact and – in all truth – I’m not that concerned about who was first.
NOLA has the world-famous celebration, while Mobile positions itself as the “family” Mardi Gras. Actually, both celebrations are successful and generate lots of interest – and money.
I do think that Mobile’s reaction to the “who-was-first” issue says a lot about Mobilians’ uneasy feelings about our place in the world. New Orleans is world famous, not only for Mardi Gras, but for the French Quarter, Creole cooking, jazz, the Saints NFL team, and lots of other cool stuff.
Mobile has its charms, but they are much more obscure. Carnival Cruise lines had been running cruises out of Mobile – and selling them out – but they recently left. They said that passengers are willing to pay more for cruises out of NOLA because they perceive that there is more to do there. Last fall, I read a story about Mobile’s Jamarcus Russell, who was a bust as an NFL quarterback with the Oakland Raiders. The story called Mobile “a junior varsity New Orleans.” And that’s the rub. Mobile may have been founded before NOLA, but it labors in NOLA’s shadow.
I have a confession to make. I love New Orleans. It’s two hours from my house to the French Quarter and I always feel as though I have left the world – and its cares – behind when I get to NOLA. Still, Mobile is underappreciated and does share many of the virtues of NOLA – great (old) architecture, seafood, warm weather, and Mardi Gras. (And if you include Baldwin County – east of Mobile – as part of the area – we have at least one thing New Orleans doesn’t have – amazing beaches).
Few people seem to have the Mobile flag, based on the “eyeball analyses” that I have conducted while driving and walking around town. In my humble opinion the Mobile flag is attractive and festive. The YWCA (http://www.ywcamobile.org/mardi_gras_flags.shtml) has them for sale for $40 if you are interested in buying one. I like the flag, but that does seem a little steep. We got ours from the YWCA for less than that a couple of years ago. And no, I have no connection to the YWCA…