There are two kinds of people in this world and I'm one of them.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mardi Bum

I’ve been so many times now that I didn’t think I needed any more reasons to love New Orleans. Well, whoa Nelly, was I wrong.

I’ve been for the 4th July and Halloween and surprise house parties and food and drink festivals and nondescript weeks in May that turned magical, but never for Mardi Gras. If I’m honest, parades and dressing up and enforced jollity (like New Years Eve) have never really bloated my float, but spending a week in a city dedicating itself to enjoyment with so much energy and conviction was something I won’t ever forget.

Random moments:

Arriving at midnight after a hellish flight delay, only to remember that it’s actually the perfect time to arrive in this city, and still very much a civilised hour to hit the local Irish pub with a bunch of people you’d really missed. As the cab driver pulled up to my friends’ perfectly Mardi Gras-decorated house, I’d forgotten the number, and he was asking if I’d recognise it. “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll recognise it,” I told him.

Waking up late morning and wandering into the French Quarter with the sun beaming down and finding a short but chatty queue at the best breakfast joint in the neighbourhood. Not only that, but the breakfast in question involves Mimosas (Buck’s Fizz, but stronger), Eggs Jonathan (Eggs Benedict, but better) and Brandy Milk Punch (a milkshake, but, er, brandier). Every day should start like this. You’d only live about a year, obviously, but what a year.

My friend Jean flew in from Chicago, and we overlapped for one stolen day, which is way too rare for us.

The first parade uptown on St Charles Avenue. Mine was Krewe D’Etat (Krewes are the mysterious societies that organise the various parades), and nothing can really prepare you for the crowds, colours, noises and the clamour for the essentially worthless cheap plastic beads that the floats dispense as they pass by. They become the most precious things in the world, even though you can buy them for pennies in the local gift shops. Best float: An Amy Winehouse-fronted behemoth, complete with mechanised arm bringing fag up to mouth.

With so many people, getting uptown and back without massive preparation can be a pain, I guess – who wants to plan where they'll get a last minute cocktail? Luckily, our super kind friend Jean had opened up her nearby house for a few select people, and so not only could we step back from the parade for food and drinks, but we could also meet a constant stream of great people.

Joining the semi-anarchist sound terrorists of the Noisition Coalition for two guerrilla parades. You have to dress in red, black and white and carry a home-made instrument, in my case home made by our amazing friend Angie – the megarocker, a four foot high maraca made of fibreglass. The first was a daytime parade down the official carnival route, the second an improvised romp down the French Quarter, cutting into bars to acoustically turf the place up for a few minutes (there are maybe 30 of us), dispersing when the police arrived and regrouping somewhere else to go to the next joint. The finale in the backroom of
Flannagan’s Irish pub was unbelievable, and I think we’d still be going if we hadn’t needed a drink so much.

Spending an entire night sat around in a fabulous bar where the only seven customers all night are friends of the bartender, our friend Rhiannon, who just happens to be one of the city’s most amazing cocktail makers. The drinks came, and we chased the conversation around the bar.

Walking around the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day itself with people in three of the best costumes I saw that day, an opinion repeatedly backed up by countless bypassers. My friends Todd, Ben and Chris going as Jackie Onassis post-motorcade, a candy store and a golden duck named (what else?) Foie Gras respectively.

Hanging out at a post-Mardi Gras party at my friends Todd and Ben’s incredible house, where lots of people you really like drop in, just as they would if there was a takeaway service that delivered your friends to your door.

Even though I was a little too spaced out to fully appreciate it, going out on the hide-under-a-duvet day of Ash Wednesday to one of the city’s best restaurants and eating turtle soup and red snapper with great company.

Too many other things to even list, new bars, new friends, familiar hangovers, but coming away with the feeling of a week lived to the full, a smile on my face as wide as a house that this place can still surprise me, and the memory of more “you should move here” conversations than the cocktails will let me remember.


Anonymous Jackie O. said...

You should move here.

7:42 am


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