“Everywhere else, it’s just Tuesday.”-New Orleans Pelicans’ Instagram
Every morning, I wake my son up, and the first thing I excitedly say to him is “Big (whatever day it is)”. Big Monday. Big Wednesday. Big Friday. It starts his day off positively, and we talk about what is going to be exciting that day. School. Dinner. Soccer practice. Maybe a ball game. It’s a silly little thing, but it’s important. But this past Tuesday, I skipped the “Big”. It wasn’t just any Tuesday down here. Nah, it was Mardi Gras. “Bud, wake up. It’s Fat Tuesday.”
I have never been a fan of traditional holidays. First, there’s something about observing the same old rituals over and over that has never appealed to me. Second, many of these days are completely made up. Spend a little money. Get a fake high. Why not just celebrate at 8am on a random Tuesday instead? And third, during so many of these so-called celebrations, the pace of life comes to a complete standstill, and I don’t like standstills. I like action.
I remember as a young person growing up adjacent to a college campus dreading the day the students went home in May and getting super hyped about when the fall athletes reported for preseason in August. It was like living in two different places, a bustling city of its own for eight months and a ghost town for four.
Anyways, enter Mardi Gras. Enter that 8am on Tuesday morning. Maybe you’ve seen, heard about, or experienced the madness yourself. Just a few blocks away from the parade route, New Orleans was a ghost town. But along Saint Charles Avenue, it was absolute bedlam. And as I inched closer to the madness, I knew this was going to be good by the way I began to feel.
As a first timer, I had two distinct Mardi Gras experiences this year. First, I attended the Krewe of Neptune parade last Saturday night in Biloxi with Banks, friends, and a smattering of locals. It was certainly kid-friendly, super fun, and a warmup for New Orleans. Second, I attended one of the main events, the primarily African-American Krewe of Zulu parade on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, with Christy and a zillion others. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.
On Instagram, I wrote that it was a combination of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Las Vegas, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. What I forgot to write was that it also reminded me of the heart of Brooklyn on New York City Marathon Day combined with a massive, massive tailgate.
Mardi Gras is so unique and has such energy and creativity. The costumes are ridiculous. The masks are mysterious. The floats are unreal. Christy caught a beautiful Zulu coconut. Banks caught about 20 pounds of beads, footballs, and God only knows what.
I caught some things not suitable for sharing, an excellent frisbee throw, and a packet of ramen noodles 🤷🏽♂️. You have to be paying attention, or you are going to get popped by something. I took a blow to the back and to the knuckles, which left me giggling at the insanity of it all.
People had said, “Go to Jazzfest, but Mardi Gras ain’t all that.” Incorrect. Firsthand, that is incorrect. Just another reason I go experience things for myself instead of listening to the chatter. Both the Biloxi and New Orleans experiences genuinely put a huge smile on my face, and I only scratched the surface.
Unfortunately, I can’t stand on pavement for hours on end anymore. My joints just can’t handle it. So I learned a lot in preparation for next year, the next year, and the next. Treat it like a tailgate. Bring the cooler (no glass). Bring the grub. Bring the chairs. Dress up. The parade brings the music. The event brings the people. The people bring the energy and the vibe.
I’m sure over on Bourbon Street it can get a little rambunctious, no doubt. But over at Saint Charles and Girod, nestled five or six rows deep next to the magnificent restaurant, Herbsaint, it was an utter and complete vibe. And I will definitely be back next year, better prepared, dressed to the nines, and ready to go.
Have a great week.-Benj
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One thought on “Deep South Diaries: Mardi Gras 2020”
Just a super trip, Benj. Thanks for taking us with you. I felt like I was right there and your excitement makes it even more realistic. WoW! Fantastic!!
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