Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First off, let me start by saying the column I was planning to write this week –– on what natural wonders were liked by readers –– has been postponed for at least a week. Only one reader sent in a suggestion, so I’m putting it off to see if, maybe, I get more.
In the meantime, Mardi Gras is next week! So, let’s talk carnival season.
Did I ever tell you about the time when a completely sloshed woman in New Orleans made me feel embarrassed about being a white person?
That sounds a bit extreme, but I’m being serious.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was around Mardi Gras, in 2000. I had parked my car in a parking lot on Magazine Street, on the opposite side of Canal Street from the French Quarter.
As I was walking down Magazine Street, toward the quarter, this short, obese, drunken white woman, waddling down the street behind me, yelled out to me, “Wait! Don’t go! You’re the only white person I’ve seen around here!” She yelled it out with the kind of abrasive, outspoken demeanor and southern accent that leads you to believe she might be at home at a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan.
There was no doubt in my mind that this woman was a redneck — and likely a racist as well — and she yelled this out to me just as I was walking past three black men, who were sitting on a stoop. They then looked at me, and I looked back at them with this “Please save me from this crazy woman!” look on my face.
Needless to say, there are a lot of different types of people who come out of the woodwork in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But, despite the awkwardness, and embarrassment of that first encounter, I have many more happy — if not heavily intoxicated — memories of going to Mardi Gras while I was in college.
That was the beauty of going to college in south Mississippi. The university gave students a holiday for Mardi Gras, mostly because no student was going to be in class on that Monday, or Tuesday anyway. That meant, if you had one bad experience at Mardi Gras, you could erase that negative memory of the holiday by having a very good memory of the next Mardi Gras.
And, as Mardi Gras approaches next week, I have only my memories to console me. Other places in other parts of the U.S. have Mardi Gras celebrations, but they’re really not the same. They are not even remotely close to matching what it is in that little stretch of land along the gulf coast, from southeastern Louisiana, to Mobile, Ala.
My first Mardi Gras was in 1999. I went down to Slidell with some friends from college. We stayed with another friend, whose family lived in the area, and we went with her family to see the local Mardi Gras parade pass through town.
My friend’s family went all out to celebrate the parade. They set up a big tent, brought in a big sound system to blast zydeco music, and they even had a big buffet of Cajun foods, from spicy jambalaya, and gumbo, to crawfish and shrimp.
I’ve had plenty of other good memories, including 2001, when I got to attend several parades in one weekend. One was a parade on a river in Slidell, with the “floats” being boats that belonged to local residents. It wasn’t big and fancy, but everybody was having a lot of fun.
That year, I also survived the crowds gathered in New Orleans’ Lee Circle for the Krewe of Endymion parade. I was very successful at catching beads during that parade. Actually, I came away from that parade heavily weighed down by a plethora of beads. I captured tons of doubloons the next day, at a Krewe of Napoleon parade in Metarie.
So, I can definitively say that, yes, I have had plenty of good Mardi Gras memories to outweigh that one negative memory of the drunken woman on Magazine Street.
Curt Yeomans covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at email@example.com.