Mardi Gras: Like smoking a whole pack of cigarettes at once, except awesome

This morning, I cleared our fence of Mardi Gras beads and packed them neatly into a 12″ x 24″ x 12″ box to give away on craigslist or to recycle (whichever happens first). I shot a picture of the box of beads for the craigslist ad and thought:

Wow! This looks like a box of treasure!

Box of Beads
Whenever I think of the word “treasure” I have to say it like “tre-sha!” which is just a residual regurgitation from the brain damage I inflicted upon myself by watching too much South Park in the late 90’s.

And it is treasure, because we just experienced our very first Mardi Gras and it was nothing like what we imagined it might be. Instead it was amazing.

mike and anne on street
Awwwww. Mike and me at our very first Mardi Gras parade.

You see, when we planned to be in New Orleans for the winter, it had not occurred to us that we’d be here for Mardi Gras. When it did finally occur to us, I thought I probably “wouldn’t even go to Mardi Gras” because it’s “really not my scene.” HA! ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I had no clue how ridiculous of a thing that was to say. There’s no living in Uptown in New Orleans and “not going” to Mardi Gras. That’s like saying “yeah, I know I’m living in Minnesota and it is January, but I don’t think I’m going to go to winter. It’s kind of cold and not really my scene.” You don’t get to “not go to winter” winter is happening. You don’t get to “not go to Mardi Gras.” Mardi Gras is happening.

Mardi Gras is a season, not just an event that happens on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. You can choose to stay inside while the marching bands and drum lines a block away drown out any productive thought you might have in your head and replace it with do you hear the fun out there??

I mean, you can try…

Part I: The Parades

So you go to the parades. You get your handwarmers and a winter hat, or your tutu and your glowing stuff and you go to the parades.

I wasn’t planning on going to many parades. After all, I’ve been to parades before. I’ve even been in parades before. There’s something you need to understand about Mardi Gras parades. They’re actually fun. I’m sorry, parades in Pittsburgh and Denver, but you’re the reason I generally don’t go to parades. You’re at the wrong time of year when it’s too cold (Homecoming, Thanksgiving, Christmas), or you attract a lot of drunk people (St Patricks Day), and generally the only people participating in the parade are the people who are marching in the parade. Yes, firetrucks are cool. Yes, having candy launched at your face is kind of fun… when you’re five. But do you know what’s even more cool? Do you know what’s even more fun? This:

A massive gator
A massive gator… whose mouth we all threw our beads into
A whale that shoots smoke out of its blowhole while people launch beads at you from the top
A whale that shoots smoke out of its blowhole while people launch beads at you from the top
Installing a box on top of a ladder so you can put your kid on it
1) Being a kid sitting in a box that someone installed on top of a 6 foot ladder so you can catch all the stuffed animals being flung at you and 2) not having to hold your kid on your shoulders the whole time — freeing your hands to catch all of the throws being flung at you
This krewe that threw swords, rubber fish, candy, beads, stuffed animals, and umbrellas.
This krewe that threw swords, rubber fish, candy, moon pies, hats, stuffed animals, and umbrellas. And other krewes that threw sunglasses, shoes, TP, toilet plungers, capes, glowing rings, purses, and of course, beads. Is it more fun to throw these things or to catch them? I don’t know!
A double decker truck bursting at the seams with kettle drum players
A double decker truck bursting at the seams with kettle drum players
A whole crowd of people who are delighted just to catch a silly trinket
A whole crowd of people of all ages who are delighted just to catch a silly trinket
Loading down your parade friends and neighbors with as many beads as you can catch
Loading down your parade friends and neighbors with as many beads as you can catch while you wear glowing stuff
Confetti bursts under a streetlight
Confetti bursts raining on you under a streetlight
Catching a signature throw, like this Krewe of Nyx Purse
Catching a coveted signature throw, like this Krewe of Nyx Purse
Catching a few strands of these rare glass bead throws
Catching a few strands of these super special glass bead throws
This roll of TP from the Tucks Krewe
This roll of TP from the Tucks Krewe — oh and that was Valetine’s Day — which was completely overshadowed by parades
Hanging out with friends
Hanging out with friends who’ve done this kind of thing before
Enjoying just how damn festive the whole city is all over the place
Enjoying just how damn festive the whole city is all over the place

 

Part II: The Aftermath

There are a lot of beads strewn about the city right now. In fact, you’ll see a lot of this:

Fence covered with beads
Our fence the morning after our first parade. The bead volume quadrupled shortly thereafter.

And a lot of this:

Tree covered in beads
Mike gave himself a sore arm contributing to this legendary Magazine Street tree’s decor. Photo from nolawildandprecious.com

And an unfortunate amount of this:

mardi gras trash
Imagine this trash covering miles of streets through the city — happening every day for 2 weeks.
Image from https://whatisawridingmybikearoundtoday.wordpress.com

But the city is sleepy right now. In theory, it’s because it is Ash Wednesday and lent has started. But in reality, it’s because today is the first day in the past two weeks that there isn’t a giant party going on. We’re all a little tired. Mike compared celebrating Mardi Gras here in New Orleans to the idea that if you don’t want your kids to smoke cigarettes, you make them smoke a whole pack all at once so they get sick and will never want to smoke. I have to agree with that assessment, almost. We’re pretty partied out. But the difference is, this whole thing was really, really fun.

A friend in Denver just IM’ed me:

hey,  how are you? you disappeared into a Mardi Gras festival

My answer is:

Tired.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention boobs once in this whole post. Most people you’ll meet in life know that you don’t actually have to show your boobs to get anything. Fortunately for us, the people who missed that memo all like to hang out together on Bourbon Street. We didn’t go to Bourbon Street. We didn’t see — or offer — a single peek. But we did dance. We danced, we cheered, we shouted, we laughed, and we stayed up too late. School night, schmool night. It’s Mardi Gras!

As a final note, I’ll leave you with this photo I took as we walked up to our last parade yesterday, on Fat Tuesday, the official Mardi Gras:

This scene on the steps to someone's front door.
This scene on the steps to someone’s front door. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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