Happy Mardi Gras!
When most of the world thinks of Mardi Gras they are rightfully only thinking of the very last day big party day and night for which it is named, the ever popular Fat Tuesday. Those last hours of enjoying ones vices before the 40 days of self-sacrifice that is Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday, the very next day.
When I think of Mardi Gras it is always New Orleans 2001. I have yet had the pleasure to attend any of the balls, but I have enjoyed many of the local community parades that flow through the streets. There were the family friendly local fetes held by smaller Krewes in various parishes and of course the big parades held by the major Krewes along Charles and Canal Streets. My very first parade was the Bacchus Parade always held the Sunday night before Mardi Gras. The streets were as packed as any in New York City on a major parade route. So many people all crowded together, I felt right at home. I pushed my way towards the front and had a blast watching the colorful floats, the amazing costumes and high school / college bands. There were even gaily decorated Clydesdales prancing in tune to the joyful music. Naturally, there were the drunk and rowdy young and old. One poor child – okay college kid –had far too much alcohol and was not-so-quietly being up held by his friends as he gave back the liquor consumed. Yup, just like being home on St. Patricks’ Day, yet not.
This is Bacchus, so yes, there were brightly colored beads a plenty casually tossed out to parade watchers. I quickly noted those were beads that could be purchased by the dozen for a dollar at any given store in the Quarter. However, they were very selective in which revelers were tossed the pretty beads, the “Bacchus Beads” with flashing lights and better decorations. And you guessed it; the young women upholding the infamous tradition of flashing their breasts to “earn” beads were generally the major recipients of these. I planted myself next to one such young lady sitting on the shoulders of what I presume is her boyfriend. As the beads were flying down, I would snatch them in mid-air if they looked interesting. If I liked the beads I kept it, if I already had that design or did not want it I tossed it back to her. Suffice it to say she and her boyfriend were not initially happy, but they got over it as I partially shared. Hey, it was not my fault she was too drunk to figure out how to flash with one hand and reach out with the other and he could not hold on to her with one hand as she squirmed about trying to grasp beads. I simply took advantage of the opportunity.
That year the Bacchus Parade, known for having popular celebrities as its King, had chosen Nicholas Cage. We could hear the approach of the float he was on before we could see it. The noise level surrounding it was that intense. It took a good twenty minutes from when I first noticed his float until the monster was directly in front of us. Each step of the way the noise level increased. Between the bands, the revelers and those on the float itself, by the time it was before us, it was just deafening wall of sound and it was wonderful!
And all of that was nothing compared to the day of Mardi Gras itself. Getting up hung-over and groggy from partying that Monday night, it was pretty much a literal, was, rinse and repeat as we showered, ate, shopped, watched other parades and yes drank. There was this current in the air, this excitement, this tangible thing that my late-husband and I felt as the day grew on.
And then the sun set and we hit Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and…
It made the crowds at the parade look paltry for the sheer amount of bodies per capita. The closest thing that can come to it is Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve and really that doesn’t capture it. There just aren’t enough and yet far too many words to describe the throng of bodies on the streets, in the side alleys and hanging from the wrought iron balconies of the beautiful French Quarter. The various states of sobriety, questionably legal substances and dress, or rather undress, especially from those in the balconies. Yeah, I’m leaving those in the purview of my mind’s eye. Like Vegas, some things will indeed stay in New Orleans.
Today I wear the traditional purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras in honor of the day and the memory of the wonderful times I had there. A couple of people have commented on the beads adorning my neck knowing what they are and where they are from. I will not confirm nor deny whether or not I have engaged in such technically illegal activities as earning them the traditional way or not. I will say that I have collected a vast assortment of beautiful beads in my visits and leave it at that.
I haven’t been to New Orleans since 2007 or Mardi Gras since 2005 and I wistfully gaze at my New York City skyline knowing it is definitely a too late for this year’s Carnival. Oh, but something tells me my Tuesday, February 16, 2015 Slice of Life may contain a post direct from N’awlins. Oh yeah….
I’m putting out the siren call of Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler right now.
Who’s with me?
Check out more of today’s slices of life at Two Writing Teachers.