At 6am on Fat Tuesday I wake up to a strange woman wearing leopard print pants, a green wig, a tutu and crazy sunglasses in my friends home I was staying at. Immediately I knew today was going to be much more than your average Tuesday.
Mardi Gras in my mind was basically a big party where girls show their boobs for beads down on bourbon street. I like big parties, I like boobs, so I figured it would be a fun time. I was right about one thing, it was a fun time. What I was massively wrong about was what Mardi Gras actually is.
Mardi Gras, I learned, is a community gathering on a mass scale. People from all walks of life and all social classes come together to celebrate with each other before lent that begins at midnight. Elaborate costumes that people worked months on are gawked at by thousands upon thousands of onlookers and partygoers.
I started my day by dressing in short shorts, bright blue tights with a lightning bolt down the side and a pig-tailed wig that somehow I associated with Dorothy from the wizard of Oz. Early morning means nothing to these excited hoards of people in ridiculous costumes ready to have a long and amazing day.
We arrived at a street corner that a friend of mine suggested we start at and met another larger group of people wearing some crazy costumes. Imagine 5,000 adults dressed up in silly elaborate costumes, standing in the street dancing to some funky tunes. A friend of mine leans over to me and says “they are all on LSD man!”. This was at about 7:30am. I had never tried psychedelics before and they all looked like they were having a pretty epic time. So when it was offered to me, after a trustworthy sober friend Leo agreed to take care of me if anything went sideways, I said sure why not!
About an hour later my world has slipped away and I have entered a land filled with beautiful creatures and colors everywhere. There were no more costumes, they were real living things and they were amazing.
After dancing and skipping my way around the french quarter I somehow attracted a human being that would rocket my day into another dimension. She called herself “Abuelita” and she was dressed up as a hispanic grandmother. She was the funnest,craziest and most ridiculous person I could have possibly attracted for that day. Abuelita would put her arm around my neck, put her face to mine with her hand up in the air and say “LOOK AT THE COLORS! THEY ARE SO BEAUTIFUL” and then laugh a almost super-villain like laugh and instantly fly over to a random group of 50 year olds and start twerking in front of them. This person was my best friend for the day, she was also completely sober.
I kept asking Leo (my sober friend who vowed to keep me safe and out of jail) if she was on LSD or maybe something different and he said “No, but you’ve definitely attracted a unique character into the group.” After dancing for hours through the hordes of people we eventually lost most of the group and we were down to three. Just Abuelita, Leo and myself.
The next 7 hours were filled with smiling till my cheeks hurt, getting lost for 3 seconds at a time and having mini panic attacks and most importantly dance battles in the streets at noon. We found ourselves somehow dancing wildly in a shop with VERY fancy and expensive handmade masquerade masks (about $400 each) when I realized where we were. Alarms went off and said “straighten the fuck up, you are in serious danger. you are twerking about 5 inches from a $500 mask and you can hardly control yourself. I grabbed Abuelita and sternly said “Holy shit stop stop stop oh my fucking god we need to leave right now.” After apologizing to the shop owner for almost destroying thousands of dollars in masks with one swift booty pop I took a deep breath and continued the party.
I had danced for Colonel Sanders who was up on a balcony and he threw me the most magical golden beads I had ever seen. So I spent my day looking out at the world with a new perspective. One with pigtails, bright red short shorts and a fancy shining (magical at the time) necklace. I had eyes that saw things in a completely new way and with a brain that knew only two things; party and friendship. I couldn’t have party without friendship because I was always worried I would get lost in the crowd like other friends did. So every once in a while when I couldn’t find Leo with a quick swivel of my head I would scream out “FRIENDSHIP!” and he would pop his head through a couple of tourists smiling and I would say “Ok, now I have friendship so I can PARTY!” and go off in my own world with Abuelita pointing at ridiculous things and getting me into what would usually be a very uncomfortable situations that I really didn’t care about in the slightest.
After the LSD wore off, we decided to join a street party for the final few hours of Mardi Gras. We danced until midnight when lent began and the party ended. The street sweepers came out like a battalion ready to take on what was now a landfill in the streets from all the plastic beer cups and paper bags. I ended the night by recalling the crazy day with Leo and saying goodbye for now to Abuelita.
I could have had a blast completely sober at Mardi Gras but I chose not to. I am all about having new experiences and this one just happened to be a pretty good one. Mardi Gras was a world class party filled with music on every street corner in the French Quarter and a positive energy that infects everyone around. What a trip.
-Thank you to Leo and Abuelita for giving me one of the best days of my life. I’ll see you again somewhere in the world.