It’s no secret that I’m from New Orleans. It’s no secret that I am freezing here in the Great White North. My secret? I miss Mardi Gras – but not for the reasons you think.
When I lived in New Orleans, almost every job I held required me to work through Mardi Gras. The experience wasn’t pleasant. Parade blocked roads meant I either couldn’t get to work on time – or couldn’t get home. The sheer amount of people entering the city meant foot and vehicle traffic beyond control. The danger of less sober individuals roaming around meant that many stores closed early, blocked services or raised prices. Getting groceries was a b_tch. Going to the bank? Forget it.
What I miss?
For a week or two, there was a kind of happiness in the air. Cold, wet, or rainy weather, it didn’t matter. The people in the beautiful city of New Orleans – resident or visitor – chose to have a good time for a while. Perfect strangers helped catch beads, showed you were the clean bathrooms were and reminded you of the dangers of walking alone to bank machine.
For a week or two, no one took themselves very seriously. Grown men dressed up as white rabbits and fairies. Grown women, knowing how ridiculous it looked sported bright coloured wigs and crazier costumes. Proud parents stood in the wind and wet waiting happily to see their children march by in their school bands – to take a blurry out of photograph and proudly display it to others.
For a week or two, the focus for the day wasn’t to forget your worries, but to recognize and indulge your vices. It is indeed true that many gave up those same vices for 40 days and nights in recognition of Lent. At the end of Lent, many realized that a better, stronger person lived inside them, regardless of religion.
For a week or two, no one counted calories, worried about their cholesterol or if they were going to die tomorrow. For a little while, they lived in the moment, in the selfies, in the “OMG did you just see that!” and the “let me get you another plate of Crawfish Etouffeé, it’s my Mama’s recipe!” Music, laughter and sheer determination to have fun filled every space of the city down to the molecules.
And as I sip my poor version of café au lait, pine for beignets and remember…. Brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, hearing “throw me somethin’ Mister!” and seeing mounds of shared food and fun… I truly miss New Orleans.
For a glimpse of the awesome chaos, check out www.nola.com www.mardigras.org and www.mardigrasguide.com