Mardi Gras is undoubtedly one of the biggest celebrations of the year. It’s right up there with Carnival in Rio, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, the season finale of 24, etc.
Having lived in the French Quarter for years, I had a front row seat to the eccentric traditions and debauchery which accompany this grand celebration…
Translation: Several people had sex, puked and urinated on my front porch**
**Note: I need to find new friends
Translation: Several people had sex, puked and urinated on my front porch**
**Note: I need to find new friends
In mid-February the ancient Romans celebrated the Lupercalia, a circus like festival, not entirely unlike the Mardi Gras we're familiar with today. Only the ancient Romans were a bit more stringent with law enforcement in that they summarily crucified people for urinating on a street corner, flashing private parts or claiming to be the son of God.
Mardi Gras, in its early incarnation, was a time for the Romans to take a break from doing civic project, such as destroying other countries and inventing an impossible language which is only used by pharmacists, doctor's and lawyers today.
I believe at the end of the festival they also usually tossed a low income village idiot or two into the arena for the lions to maul.
When Rome embraced Christianity, the early Church fathers decided it better to incorporate certain aspects of pagan rituals into the new faith…such as pure grain alcohol served in a to-go cup, unimaginable heaping piles of trash, boobs and colorful beads along with tourists from Idaho doing things in the middle of a public street that they likely wouldn't do at a gang-bang.**
Note: Please see Porn Hub.com (keyword: Mardi Gras)
Controlled chaos indeed.
Mardi Gras came to America in 1699, along with CNN’s Larry King. The event had been celebrated in Paris since the Middle Ages until Walt Disney bought the rights and turned it into a family oriented event. This is why the French hate Americans to this day.
I eventually traded in the hustle and bustle of French Quarter life, opting for a more peaceful neighborhood located about three quarters of a mile away…which means that I may now sit comfortably on my front porch cursing myself for moving to a neighborhood where the bars actually have a closing time.
Having experienced several Mardi Gras festivities over the years, I decided to “opt out” for this particular season and enjoy it from home. That is until my neighbor, Glen, found himself strapped with babysitting duties for a single mother of two children, ages 11 and 5..
I realize that babysitting and a street celebration consisting of 1.5 million half-naked, drunk people don’t seem to belong in the same sentence but enlisting my assistance and babysitting ALSO do not belong in the same sentence. Ask any number of my female friends to confirm this fact.
I sat on my front porch on a balmy Mardi Gras morning trying to enjoy a cup of coffee (pronounced: vodka and orange juice) as Glen badgered me non stop to the point that I began to cry...and bleed from the ears.
It was reminiscent of that scene from "Return of the Jedi" when Luke relentlessly pounded Darth Vader with his light saber.
So I, reluctantly, agreed to co-babysit at a celebration which I’d hoped to skip.
If I were the mother of these two children, upon learning of this field trip, I would have immediately called the police.
Since it was 10:00am, I did the responsible thing one does to prepare for a long day in the middle of chaos-- I took a 30 minute nap in order to sober up a bit before heading out.
Our rocky start should have rang as an omen as Glen and I couldn't figure out how to open the stroller. After each of us downed a shot of Irish whiskey we executed a second attempt as the kids stared at us in the same fashion as that of an Alcoholic's Anonymous sponsor.
Finally, sweet victory was OURS! By that, I mean that the 11 year-old opened the stroller for us.
Glen and I stared in awe at this quite expensive and elaborate contraption, happily realizing that this stroller represented the fact that we didn't have to lug a 5 year-old around the city. As an added bonus...it came equipped with an abundance of spacious storage compartments!
We shoved every ounce of alcohol that we could find into the compartments, leaving just enough room for the kid and headed out for an adventure to the biggest party on the planet.
We made it to the streetcar stop when something vaguely important crossed Glen's mind…and so, I walked six blocks back to the porch to retrieve the children.
Upon my return, Glen lifted the 5 year-old from the stroller as I tried to figure out how to fold it. This literally caused us to miss the first three streetcars and resulted in me smoking four cigarettes.
Finally, as the 5 year old sat on the bench grabbing an attractive young woman’s left breast, the 11 year-old dismantled the stroller for me as I stood there wishing that I were a 5 year-old again. HOW do they get away with grabbing a random breast when I CAN NOT???
Upon boarding the streetcar I noticed that, in the stroller folding operation, a vodka bottle in one of the storage compartments had apparently broken.
Glen, the kids and I strode down the aisle of our crowded streetcar, unaware that a stream of vodka leaked from the stroller all the way down our path. I'm certain that we looked like some sort of alcoholic Hansel and Gretel.
Our fellow passengers shot looks of disgust and were likely trying to find the number for Child Protective Services on their I-Phones.
Glenn is an openly gay man. I only share that piece of information as it occurred to me from some of the glares that we received on the streetcar that we likely appeared as though we were a same sex (drunk) couple who had adopted kids.
I shared this suspicion with Glen and we agreed to do the mature thing...We had fun with it, at the expense of two tourists (a middle aged husband and wife) from Alabama.
(Insert Forrest Gump accent here)
Husband: Those your kids?
Me: (in a flamboyant vocal delivery) Oh no! I want kids but Glen doesn't...isn't that RIGHT Glen?
Glen: There she goes again! Why do you ALWAYS have to be a bitch?? First you blame ME for the fact that you lost your job at Rooms To Go, then I’m the cause for your father disowning you and now it’s KIDS! Don’t even start with me girl!
Me: He’s a little edgy today; he'll be fine after a Xanax. We couldn't adopt kids anyway because Glen can’t even wake up on time for his anger management sessions much less an appointment with an adoption agency. We’re just babysitting. Would you two care for a shot of whiskey by the way?
Wife: (nervously laughing) uh, where are the parents?
Glen: The father ran off with a girl who worked at a place in Tennessee called Toot’s. It used to be called Tooter’s but Hooter’s sued them because, like Hooter's, the girls wore skimpy shirts and orange shorts and also served shitty wings…They lost the lawsuit so now it’s a topless restaurant. I heard the wings are better than they used to be though.
Me: Eeeeew! Boobies gross me out!!
Glen: I KNOW...right??? Whew! Who else needs a Xanax??
Husband: (now growing visibly concerned) Where, um, exactly does the mother live?
This is a moment that I dream about every single time I venture out into the world; spewing juvenile, uncomfortable mischief. I gave them Mike's (my editor) address.
Mike has a spastic colon and I've advised him on numerous occasions that he desperately needs to enlist the services of a hooker in order to calm his nerves. I feel strongly that this will better free his mind, thus curbing his incessant acts of evil-doing toward me when I submit a writing draft.
We arrived downtown where we would begin our trek to the Mardi Gras parade route; quickly ducking the Alabama couple before they could hail a police officer.
By the way, Mardi Gras is a time where I feel perfectly comfortable enjoying a parade without having my sexual orientation questioned by the guys. That is, until Glen smacked me on the ass in front of a group of senior citizens while I held the 5 year-old.**
**Note: The 11 year-old was dripping with spilled vodka as he unfolded the stroller. Plus, when Glen smacked my ass, I accidentally spilled a full cocktail all over both children. The senior citizens grew much edgier at this point.
As an important travel tip, taking the streetcar is quite convenient during Mardi Gras. They only cost $1.25 and drop you off, conveniently, in the middle of a median filled with 8-thousand people per cubic foot...9 blocks from where you actually need to be. But, at least you're in the middle of a crowd which consists of 20 or 30 heavily armed, drunk citizens...just in case anything bad goes down.
We inched our way to a position where we would secure our prime parade viewing spot when the 5 year-old began whimpering that he was hungry while the 11 year-old announced that he had to pee.
This is the point where I saw some fat old lady flash her breasts for beads and it caused me to laugh so hard that I spewed my shot of whiskey all over the 11 year-old
On a positive note, the 5 year-old already peed his pants so I didn't have to take him to the port-a-potty.
Glen volunteered to take the eldest to the portable toilet while I took the youngest to get something to eat. In the interest of safety, we agreed to meet back at a designated area. (I suggested Des Moines, Iowa)
I purchased the youngest child one of my favorite mid-afternoon snacks...a can of Mountain Dew a Three Musketeer's bar and a bag of Cheetos.
We all rendezvoused back at our designated spot where Glen informed me that the kid was not allowed to have ANY sugar or foods with preservatives or saturated fat. WHAT???
When did kids become so delicate? What difference does it make what this kid eats?
As Glen and I discussed the dietary requirements of a 5 year-old, the eldest kid stood under a balcony which was filled with party goers when a giant bucket of an electric blue liquor substance tumbled over the edge.
And now we had an 11 year-old who looked like part of the "Blue Man Group."
My attention diverted as I noticed that the 5 year-old, on a sugar and carbohydrate high, was strangling another young child against the parade street barrier...I suppose this explains the importance of a regimented dietary intake.
Adding more stress to this chaotic scene, a local television crew transmitted a live shot as part of their non-stop Mardi Gras coverage which I believe begins in November.
There we were on live television; Glen looked as though he'd seen a ghost, blankly staring at the TV camera, standing next to an alcohol drenched 11 year-old Smurf, a 5 year-old acting as though he were a cracked-out monkey and me...groping an attractive young woman's left breast.
Glen's phone rang immediately...the mother of the children happened to be viewing the live news coverage and, needless to say, this phone call didn't seem to go very well for Glen.
He calmly motioned for me by flailing his arms like a shipwreck victim, begging for my assistance to explain the situation in order to calm the mother's nerves.
After the phone call Glen solemnly announced that it was time to head back home.
It was a quiet ride on the street car. I couldn't help but to feel sad for Glen as I watched him sitting in tortured silence. He hopelessly worried what terrible fate awaited upon his returning the kids.
As we walked from the streetcar stop toward home, I genuinely felt bad for Glen and assured him that the mother would be understanding if he simply explained that what she saw on TV wasn't as bad as it appeared-- sort of like the Fox News Channel.
I also suggested that we toss the kids in the shower before delivering them to their mother.
We paused on the sidewalk for a moment, pouring two shots, when Glen gave me a sincere hug for calming his nerves before he had to face an uncertain fate that awaited.
It was a nice moment where the spirit of true friendship is defined.
As we downed our shots on that quiet little sidewalk something quite important crossed Glen's mind. And so...I walked six blocks back to the streetcar stop to get the kids.
|Me with some random drunk guy. Actually there are TWO drunk guys in this picture...I'm the one on the right|
copyright Pontchartrain Press 2012