For my 20th trip to New Orleans and my 8th Mardi Gras, I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for over 20 years: go to one of those fancy pants black tie balls that the various krewes hold. And because I believe in coming strong, we chose the biggest one, on its 50th anniversary: the Endymion Extravaganza. And I got to go with a couple of my favorite travel companions.
Why have I been wanting to go to one of these things for 20 years? Well, when I was a wee lad in undergrad, a friend of mine’s girlfriend went “home” for Mardi Gras to Thibodaux, Louisiana to attend a ball there, and she wanted to take a good friend, so my friend took me to be his girlfriend’s friend’s date. It sounds more complicated than it was. Her parents lived in an enormous house on a sugar cane plantation with enough room for all of us to stay there, so we drove down, went to the event, and had a great time. At first. It was open bar, and 20 years ago I wasn’t used to such, which meant I lacked the discipline and willpower I enjoy now, meaning I was a victim of great overservice from the many many offerings of alcohol, and when I woke up, I’d gotten sick all over my rented tuxedo and the antique quilt wrapped around the antique bed in the antique house where our hostess’s parents lived. It was disgusting. I walked–still clothed in the soiled tuxedo–into the bathroom shower, wadded the outfit up (after wringing it out of course), and returned it in a plastic bag to the local rental place; I paid cash and ran out.
I didn’t want a repeat of the above experience, because now I own my tuxedo.
This time, my regular travel companion (see, e.g., both Munich trips, multiple Mardi Gras trips, etc.), Mike, and my favorite karaoke-at-blogging-conferences companion (a larger category than one might think), Amy were with me.
We also ate some amazing food, as we always do in New Orleans, but we tried some new places this time, and they made Sunday morning’s airport food taste positively disgusting by comparison (normally, I love an egg sandwich with hot sauce!).
For example, lunch at Company Burger and dinner at Angeline the first day. Awesome.
Afterward, I got on stage at Cat’s Meow for a karaoke number, because I can’t NOT go on stage and sing at Mardi Gras. We headed to Frenchmen Street for live music, and then, for some reason, I split from my group of friends and went to Walgreens at 4:29am to buy a manual toothbrush (I had an electric one in my room) and a box of size “small” rubber gloves. Luckily, Walgreens was willing to accept these as returns a few hours later when I showed up confused and embarrassed.
The next day, we had po-boys at a place that has served po-boys for over 100 years: Parkway Bakery & Tavern. It was excellent, but I still have to say my favorite po-boy is at Borgne by the Superdome. We hit a few bars that afternoon, and in the early evening at the Chartres House, Amy arrived from Lafayette to join our jolly crew. We all went to Red’s Chinese for dinner that night (also excellent) and then ventured back out in the Quarter, including singing new songs at Cat’s Meow and more listening at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen. Luckily, I’d had a box full of mullet wigs sent to the hotel, so I was ready for an 80s “hair metal” performance if need be. And the need was there.
Saturday, breakfast was at Mother’s Restaurant, and it was amazing.
Mike, Amy, and I then spent all day on Magazine near Igor’s, watching the parades and gathering throws before returning to the room to don black tie attire and head for the Superdome for the Endymion Extravaganza, where we joined 20,000 or so friends, a live cover band that was followed by Steven Tyler and Pitbull, open bar, fireworks, lasers, and all of the Endymion floats as they concluded the parade run inside the dome and emptied their bags of all throws from the day. It was expensive, but it was fun enough that I hope we do it again in the future.
And then it was time to fly home and throw more beads into our Mardi Gras tree in the back yard.
I’ve already put next year’s date in my 2017 calendar. I love this celebration, this city, and these people. And I hope there’s never a time in my life that I can’t or won’t make this trip.