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Laissez les bons temps rouler!

March 8, 2011

Let the good times roll!  And, believe me, there’s no spot in North America today

where they’re rolling better than in downtown New Orleans.  Check it out live at

WWL TV. It’s Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), when Catholics traditionally indulge in

rich foods and refreshing beverages before the ritual fasting of Lent starts on Ash

Wednesday.  Nobody else there will stop at 11:59 pm.

I’ve been to Mardi Gras twice in the French Quarter, and neither time did I see the

crowd move toward St. Louis Cathedral for midnight mass.  I did see several folks

with marks on their foreheads, but they weren’t cross-shaped, so I’m guessing that

they had merely done face plants on the sidewalk.  That’s common practice there.

I first went in 1964, my senior year in high school.  A classmate and I took a late

train out of Shreveport to get to the Big Easy by morning.  What I remember most

is that when we stopped in Baton Rouge about 7 am, hundreds of LSU students

stormed the passenger cars.  My friend and I caught another train back home that

night.  We went straight from the station to school, where I got peer praise for my

blue-sprayed hair.

I went again two years later, just before I got married.  My friend Pete and I hitch-

hiked to New Orleans after a month in Mexico.  We ran into some ex-classmates of

mine in the courtyard at Pat O’ Brien’s.  It was packed.  Sardines would have had

more elbow room than us — if they’d been there and had elbows in the first place.

One of the group had to pee, but movement was impossible.  We formed a circle

around him and turned our backs.  Everybody got their shoes and cuffs soaked.

It helped that we had already been marinating in Dixie beer.  Dixie is legendary in

New Orleans, more like a nectar of the gods than a cereal malt beverage.  Pete and

I split from the group and wormed our way back to Bourbon Street.  Someone had

called in a fire and a truck was inching through the crowd.  In a spontaneous burst

of civic responsibility, revelers started unreeling the fire hoses.  Pete and I moved

on in the off chance there were police nearby.

Mardi Gras demands selective law enforcement.  The cops can’t do much more than

break up fights.  Imagine a party with thousands of strangers who want to be your

friend.  Like one screamingly gay man (or poseur) who had painted himself purple

and wore only a bunch of grapes over his packet.  I think he wanted to be friends

with benefits.

We wormed away from him as quickly as we could, maybe a snail’s pace.  Well into

the evening we ran into some ex-classmates of Pete.  They were heading back to

LSU and gave us a ride.  We spent the night at their dorm and hitchhiked home the

next day.  It’s not easy to stick a thumb out when you need both hands to press on

your skull to keep it from exploding.


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