Last night was the football event of all football events - and it was held in my home state of Louisiana. Whether you're a Ravens' fan or a 49er's fan or just plain don't care at all about football, you have to admit there is something electric about New Orleans. Or in the case of the second half, somewhat non-electric. LOL. Beyonce really blew it out, am I right?
But at this time of year - with or without the Super Bowl- I'm always drawn back to New Orleans. Of course, I can give all kinds of reasons I long for that unique city sprawling lazy near the mouth of the Mississippi, but in February the circle always comes back to Mardi Gras. Yes, down in the Big Easy, it's Carnival time.
When I was a girl, I didn't really know a lot about Mardi Gras. In my heavily predominent Protestant neck of the woods, Mardi Gras was a sinful pagan practice dreamed up by those binge-drinking, dancing Catholics. Have mercy! In the northern part of the state, there were no parades, perhaps a few balls, and an acknowlegement of something weird going on because a few people around town had soot on their foreheads. That was my frame of reference.
In 1994, I moved to New Orleans.
And that sealed the deal for me.
It's hard to explain Mardi Gras in New Orleans to the average person. For me it was always king cake in the teacher's lounge EVERY DAY. Can you say "gain 5 pounds every year?" It's a week off from school. And above all else, it's about the parades - miles and miles of parade.
At any one time, all across the city, krewes are rolling. There can be 3-4 parades going on at the same time. There are West Bank parades, Uptown parades, Metaire parades and North Shore parades. Only a few parades actually wind their way through the Quarter, and those are a little naughty. The others are huge family affairs stretching down Canal Street or Veterans Avenue with loud music, elaborate dressing and enough throws to weigh you down on the way back to the car. On Mardi Gras day, tents stretch for miles as people get their spots, line the ladders for the kids up and ice down the beer. The spicy smell of crawfish combined with deisel fuel soaks the air and the strains of "Mardi Gras Mambo" meets you on every corner. There's second lining with umbrellas, loads of food and plenty of smiling faces. It's quite a spectacle, indescribable and uniquely Louisiana.
And to my delight, Mardi Gras has found its way up to my hometown of Shreveport - we have several krewes who roll in our city, and this past Saturday, we enjoyed the beautiful weather, fired up some tailgating and watched the floats roll by, catching beads, stuffed animals, t-shirt and whatever else flies through the air. I've included a pic of one of the floats just so you get a taste. And below I've given you another taste of Mardi Gras in my upcoming June release His Uptown Girl. Eleanor and Dez are having their first "date" at a Mardi Gras parade (Endymion to be exact).
So what fun traditions do you have in your town or state? Please share...I love to learn about other cultures.
From His Uptown Girl:
He pulled her tighter to him. “You know how after Thanksgiving, you start humming Christmas carols and wanting to do festive things?”
“Huh?” she said, reaching up to grab a plastic cup thrown off another fire truck rolling by.
“Bear with me.” He snatched a pair of beads from the air and hung them around her neck. “I like that feeling. Anticipation.”
“Like the Carly Simon song,” she said, before wagging the cup. “Hey, we don’t have a bag to store throws.”
“Give it to those kids.”
Eleanor placed the cup at her feet. “So that’s what you’re doing? Building anticipation?”
“Yeah. I like soaking in moments, enjoying the stage I’m in every minute of every day. For a little longer I want to feel this newness between us. To savor the way you feel beside me, laughing, playing hopscotch, catching—”
Her hand shot up and she grabbed a pair of purple and gold beads.
“—beads,” he finished.
She turned to look at him, nearly getting conked in the head by a Frisbee. “I don’t know what to say, but that’s kind of beautiful.”
He reached up to catch another big strand of beads. “I’m thinking we better save the serious convo for later.”
“Ow,” she said as another cup hit her shoulder. “I think you’re right.”
For the next hour they were pelted with coins, beads and other throws, even netting a big stuffed bear for Lucy. After dumping off their loot with the girls’ family, they walked hand in hand back to the parking lot behind the Priest and Pug.
“So, are we calling it a night?” Eleanor asked.
“What do you want to do?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. No one ever asks me what I want to do. My life has been a lot of what I have to do.”
“Then I definitely think you need to decide.”
“That may be the single most romantic thing a man has ever said to me.”