Mardi Gras Through The Eyes Of A Yankee Virgin

Saturday Feb. 2, 2008 — 8:32 a.m.

This post will stray from my standard format and follow my observations during my first-ever Mardi Gras in New Orleans — observations that are best shared on a daily, perhaps even hourly, basis.

I was born in Cuba and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a transplanted New Yorker now living in South Florida, nothing scares me.

I’ve been in New Orleans for a week and to be honest, I’m scared out of my wits.

Everyone is wearing purple, green and yellow. Conversations center around drinking, balls, parades and krewes.

As far as I can tell, Carnival is a latin word whose rough translation is “get as drunk and crazy as you can because after Mardi Gras there will be no more debauchery until Easter Sunday.”

Beads are better than gold. ‘Throw me something, Mister,’ is the secret sentence that will guarantee you’ll get whacked in the head with a 50-cent string of beads you’ll most likely throw away on Ash Wednesday.

Last weekend, I attended a small parade in Waveland/Bay St. Louis, MS. I was anticipating a scaled-down version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I quickly found out that Mardi Gras parades are very much like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — on acid.

When I finally got up the courage to stop cowering behind a 10-year-old boy and walk up to a float, I was rewarded by getting hit on the head with an armful of beads that could have rendered me unconscious had I not flung my video camera onto their path at the final nanosecond before impact.

“That’s what’s supposed to happen!” I was informed.

It’s no wonder everyone looks forward to getting drunk.

So far, I’ve learned valuable lessons such as:

Bathrooms are perhaps the only thing more valuable than beads during Mardi Gras.

Don’t grab something on the ground that was thrown from a float or someone will step on your hand and break it.

Announce that you’re a Mardi Gras virgin and people will throw panties at you instead of beads — purple, green and yellow panties, of course.

If you want to be a bead thrower instead of a bead catcher, you have to pay a king’s ransom or mortgage your home to afford the privilege of joining a krewe and riding on a float. Last week I had no idea what that meant.

One of the most coveted trinkets of all the Mardi Gras parades are the coconuts hurled from the floats during the Zulu Parade. My head hurts just thinking about it.

“A few years ago, they banned throwing the coconuts because they were considered a liability,” I was told. Now they just hand them to you. Oh, damn, I thought. Who is the partypooper who ruined it for all of us?

Finding a plastic baby in your mouth after a forkfull of King Cake is good luck. I can only assume that finding the baby floating in your poop the next day earns you a seat on a parade float the following year.

Ignore the fact that the costumes worn by some of the people on floats resemble Ku Klux Klan outfits. They cost thousands of dollars and will never be worn again.

You may have heard that next to drinking, boob flashing is the main attraction during Mardi Gras. But be warned — Parades are not for boob flashing. If you want to flash your boobs, go to Bourbon Street where people will take pictures and put them on the internet so your parents can see what a great time you had.

It’s considered a time-honored tradition to place small children on the top of step ladders so they can get a better view of a parade. Apparently no one has noticed the warning on those ladders that clearly shows a person falling to his untimely death after stepping on the top step.

What is wrong with these people?

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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