Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: They All Ask’d For You

Last year at this time, I brought my husband and a house full of teenagers down into the depths of depravity and revelry and righteousness which can all be included in a typical New Orleans Mardi Gras scene, during a typical year, during typical circumstances. We had a big time. We danced along to the music, we ate street tacos, we met new friends from out of state, and we snatched and grabbed for beads. I’m not going to lie, we almost lost my oldest child to a den of iniquity, but like all good stories that can’t be told until later … I’ll tell you later. He is alive and well and only lost his wallet and, for a bit, his place in our family. But we believe in mercy and redemption and Ash Wednesday, which works out because of the holiday being such as it is.

Since 2021 isn’t a typical year, and no floats will be rolling, no throws will be thrown and no bands will march down the bead-littered streets, then all we can do is sit in our sweatpants, drink wine, and reminisce about the good old days (and plan for 2022). Here goes:

1. If you get a good deal at a nice hotel in New Orleans at Mardi Gras at the last minute, it’s because you are on the second floor. This might seem great when you check in, but at 2 a.m. when the fifth firetruck has rolled down Canal Street just around the corner from your window, you will pray to any saint that fills the streets to take your life and take it now.

2. Cups are better than beads. Since my children were of walking age, I have hammered this truth into their wee little heads: We are here for the plastic cups. Focus, children, focus. These carnival cups are what they have sipped their milk and apple juice from since they were young. Float-thrown cups. I kept them in a bucket in a bottom cabinet. And I didn’t mind if they lost them or used them for making slime. Beer logos being held by little hands bothered me none. This is Louisiana.

3. Costumes make the day. You might think that you are too cool to dress up like a leprechaun when you leave for a day of parading. But halfway in you are diving for tutus and wearing a sombrero like you raided a costume store. Might as well start as you mean to go on, I like to say. And wear what you want from the get-go. Bring your own sombrero. BYOS.

4. Plan a good meal. Not one grabbed on the street or from one of your Mardi Gras-tailgating friends. For us, that meant a day-after luncheon at Meril, an Emeril Lagasse restaurant in the Warehouse District named after his daughter and featuring Meril Gras cocktails. Good food and a good reason to get dressed beyond street attire.

5. Go skiing. There is no Mardi Gras this year. Take to the slopes. It is absolutely unbelievable that no parades will roll. We must be on the verge of a zombie apocalypse. Maybe that can be the theme of next year’s revelry. Zombie apocalypse Mardi Gras mambo. Meanwhile, I’ll be barreling down the mountain in Breckenridge. #maskson

Whatever you do the week of Mardi Gras, remember the days of yore when we walked the streets of New Orleans freely, no masks, and we clamored side by side for bags of plastic nothingness. It was good fun and we rubbed shoulders with good people with good attitudes with no fear. May we see the same frivolity next year at this time. May we still rush for beads, and dance to the bands. May we stand side by side with people from other nationalities who we are not afraid of sneezing
near. Who we are not afraid of coughing near. Who we are not afraid of snatching a cup right out of their hands. Cups are king. And Mardi Gras is all Kings and Queens, my friends. Whether you are on the slopes or on the streets, the days will come again when we can all celebrate together.

Carnival style. Just bring your own sombrero.