Today is considered the beginning of the Carnival season or at least tonight is. The tradition of beginning the first of the Carnival balls on the 12th night following Christmas is, of course, deep-seated in Christian practice. However, with Mardi Gras on February 5 this year, Carnival balls have been ongoing for at least the past two weeks, owing to a lack of available hotel space due to the Sugar and BCS Bowls. The quaint practice of the Phorty Phunny Phellows began several years back and has been revived by local journalist Erroll Laborde. The group would board a streetcar with musicians playing traditional jazz and travel along the St. Charles Avenue route promoting the start of the Carnival season. With no streetcars running the first year following Katrina, they had to change plans and last year's route was only between Canal Street and Lee Circle. However, the group has ambitious plans this year to begin the ride at City Park and continue for the Canal Street line onto the St. Charles Avenue tracks and move onto the uptown streets. That would make it the longest route for the Phunny Phorty Phellows ever! Regardless of the religious overtones to the beginning of the season, it is important to note that it is considered a cultural event these days and many diverse people of different faiths take part in the celebration that will this year only run for a month. Mardi Gras appears at the earliest it has been since 1913. That's a little bit of time to do a lot. Meanwhile, I am off to take part in two Carnival ball rehearsals this morning as the narrator and manuscript writer for the ball tableaux. Interesting times here in New Orleans. The Sugar Bowl just ended a few days ago. and now the BCS Bowl will determine whether the local LSU Tigers (Baton Rouge actually) or the Ohio State Buckeyes will reign supreme as the winner of the national championship. The Superdome is all awash in a purple, green and gold glow of lights as the French Quarter streets and hotels are filled to capacity. It's an exciting time of year and adding to it the mix of Carnival makes it even more thrilling. Perhaps, if Shakespeare were here tonight, he might write: "If Dixieland music be the food of love, play on!" Ah, yes. Nothing like the classics here!