Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indulge! ~ The story of my first ever Mardi Gras.

The carnival crescendo has been building, it seems, since Thanksgiving. First came the lightly racing rise in pulse of the holiday season, travel, festival, wassail, and the splendid fireplace warmth of yuletide. The serene peace of the nativity and diamond stars in a blue velvet night was a breath of respite before the joyous chorus and cry, welcoming in the New Year with masquerade, champaign, and fireworks. With the air cleared, and all that out of the way, we began Carnival in earnest, excitement mounting with every play-off victory that led our New Orleans Saints to the...

SUPER BOWL OMG!!!!!

With the Vikings in town, the streets teamed with Mardi Gras purple against our black and gold, purple that quickly disappeared in the minor explosion in the French Quarter, as fans erupted shouting from every bar when we won. The pause over the next two weeks was like the still surface of a giant river, belying the roaring currents beneath. We love our Saints, and would celebrate their glory, win or lose, when they came home from Miami, but when they went all out and won, we went all out, too, and PAR-TAYed. The Quarter was packed, and even my quiet street saw it's share of revelry in the early hours.

Now, with THAT so delightfully settled, New Orleans got down to the REAL business of partying.

Mardi Gras.

I have never seen anything like this. The air is electric with the wild-running energy of our passion for life. I wandered the streets this weekend past with a friend, and was almost overwhelmed by the force of it all. I wondered how any mere Tuesday could ever compare.

Then I stepped outside today.

I have to say, one can't enjoy Mardi Gras at it's best when one is not at one's own very best. And I'm not at my best. My head has been stopped up for days and the weekend has me exhausted still. But on a day dedicated to indulgence and license, even I have done my poor best. :-)

I first celebrated Mardi Gras by sleeping until noon. That was over twelve hours of sleep, which just goes to show that my reserves are pretty low. After getting up and readying myself to face the day, I went to pick up a prescription for my sinuses from the CVS across Canal Street and caught some beads thrown from a balcony on Burgundy.

This outing could have been much more of an adventure than it was, as some of the days parades could have cut me off from that CVS completely. I was able to cross Canal right after the end of Zulu past, and just as the beginning of Rex reached Canal and Baronne. I got my medicine and skittered back across Canal, ready to put my own personal Mardi Gras plan into action.

My favorite indulgence in the city is, of course, food. To me, Mardi Gras felt like a day to dedicate to rich and delicious tastes and treat myself to some really great food. Once I slipped back up the streets of the Quarter, I wandered slowly towards a restaurant that I knew could serve me both steak and sweet potato fries, approaching this goal slowly, savoring the anticipation, whetting the appetite, and photographing the bizarre, the absurd, the beautiful around me.

I enjoyed my steak and fries slowly while reading a good book, and decided my next stop should be the new cupcake shop I'd found a few weeks ago. I made my way there slowly through the milling crowds, and met a friend on a street corner, a masked pirate, who bowed as I curtsied, and greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks and a warm embrace. This little delight made up for the fact that the cupcake shop had run out of cupcakes and closed.

My reserves of energy were getting low, and I remembered the rock-slide brownies at the Community Coffee House on my street, and the praline crunch ice cream at Matassa's, so I decided to round off my day of indulgence with some sweet treats I could take home and enjoy while indulging in some movies or a season of X-Files on my couch.

Fortunately both of those shops were open, and my sweets await me downstairs. My very first ever Mardi Gras has been SO much fun, and I hope the next one will be even better. I will wear a costume. I will enjoy the parades. I might even have a drink. I will hopefully not be sick.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and I have a lot to reflect on seriously this Lent. There's a noon mass at the church downtown. Tomorrow I imagine the streets will be empty and quiet, compared to today. Tonight the bars close early. Everyone will go home, and life will slip back into a comparative stillness and calm.

But there are a few hours left, my friends, so eat, drink, and be merry!

Indulge!

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