I decided awhile back that I would experience the old-time Mardi Gras, country-style, in Mamou. It was recommended in Country Roads magazine, and my sister told me about it a long time ago. Susan, my sister, and her husband are going to the Spanish Town parade this weekend in Baton Rouge, and I was planning to join them. Our office is closed Mardi Gras day, but I had planned to work as usual on Monday.
If you don’t know this already, I change my mind. I change my mind a lot. And, I change my mind most often when things start appealing to me in a way that I just can’t resist anymore. I love to give into temptation. I went to Mardi Gras once when I was in college. I remember it being fun, but, most of all, I don’t remember it at all. Shadows in a drunken haze, I remember being with my friends Angel and Troy, meeting some cute guy, going bar-hopping and and have an even vaguer memory of beads. But, I always felt like I’d been there, done that. I’ve been gone 30 years, and it seems that things have changed a lot in regards to Mardi Gras. Small towns everywhere have their own parades. Everybody does it now. It’s a big damn deal down here, y’all.
I don’t remember when I turned the corner, but after eating a few King Cakes and seeing way too much purple, green and gold, I texted my friend Micheal and asked if they were going to parades this weekend while they visited New Orleans. The idea started percolating that maybe I’d drive over for the day…. you know … just a little day trip to check it out. I texted my sister and asked if she thought I should go to Endymion -THE biggest parade in New Orleans – or join them for Spanish Town. She texted back: “Duh…. It’s New Orleans for Mardi Gras.” That cinched it. I’m going to the Crescent City for the Greatest Party on Earth. Woohoo!!!
I went to Calandro’s the other day to pick up a King Cake after I’d made my decision to fall headlong into the decadence of this holiday season – a holiday season that I have never experienced. Christmas pales in comparison to the parties, parades, opulence, balls and decadence associated with Mardi Gras in Louisiana. In most places I’ve lived, the time between Christmas and Easter is fraught with frigid temperatures and day to day doldrums. There’s a tiny blip of chocolate decadence around Valentine’s Day, but mostly it just sucks. Not here …. not in this place. Shortly after New Year’s Day, the stores started stocking King Cakes, and the pre-party began. Websites, my Meetup Group’s calendar and friend’s plans started to be peppered with parade dates in cities and towns all over the state. I was a little taken aback. I thought this was a New Orleans thing. I had no idea it was everywhere.
While I was in Calandro’s Supermarket checking out, I heard a little girl tell the checkout girl, “We are making mask-es-es (not masks).” I giggled to myself that all the schools were getting into the routine. Before I walked out, I said, “Have fun making your masks!” She snapped at me, “I’m the one making the mask. She’s not (pointing at her sister).” I laughed out loud at her insistence that this party was about her, and she wanted me to make no bones about it.
So, the plan has sort of ballooned. I’m now attending Endymion with at least three groups of people I know and then walking to the French Quarter along the parade route to spend the weekend with my friend Jean Ann whose family is celebrating on a balcony on Bourbon Street. I almost backed out last night worrying about logistics but was informed by not one but two of my friends that I had to experience it. I guess it’s the law. I don’t want to break the law, so I said okay…. if I have to. I don’t know if I’ll be there one night or two or the rest of my life, but I have a plan for getting there and getting back to my car on Sunday or Monday. I texted Michael:
Me: I love it when a plan comes together. We’ll see what really happens.
Michael: LOL! Yes it’s Mardi Gras. Everything is subject to spontaneity and change.
Me: I just have to get back to my car.
Micheal: Never a move without communication to the group. No worries. Breathe. You’re getting stressed for no reason.
Me: Well, if you were a gal by yourself, wouldn’t you be a little worried?
Micheal: We’ll take care of you. And it’s the friendliest time of the year in New Orleans. Everyone will take care of you… but mostly me. 🙂
At that, I started to cry. The stress of planning logistics just fell away, and I felt like the party began in that moment. I’m riding to the parade with a woman I hardly know from a Community College in New Orleans. We work together, and I asked her where to park. She offered her front yard, and we’ve been becoming fast friends all morning. She sent me a video of her digital graffiti, and I sent her a link to my New Orleans Ladies blog. I can see we are going to have a ball. Michael was right. They will take care of me. I can breathe.
I brought my yoga mats, a sleeping bag, a pillow and chips and dips for Jean Ann to pack to New Orleans for our “flop-house” weekend. I don’t anticipate sleeping very much. But I do anticipate remembering this Mardi Gras. I’ve been schooled on how to get the good beads…. I’m familiar with the streetcar routes… and I have a plan for hooking up with my friends. The rest will be a mystery. It definitely will be a party. In fact, they’ve already been partying for weeks. I can’t believe they didn’t wait on me. I’m ready …. I’m going in.