Mardi Gras Part 3: Your Narrator Gets Laid (up)

In addition to Mardi Gras, New Orleans hosts the coincidental pre-Lent meetings of two less-publicized guilds.  The first is The International Brotherhood of Tuba Players.  In homes and clubs across the world, you’ll find thousands of folks relaxing by playing music.  Whether they’re strumming a guitar, picking out a tune on the piano, or sitting in the window playing sax (think Gene Hackman in “The Conversation”), music provides hours of innocent enjoyment for its novice throngs.

Nobody comes home after a busy day, changes clothes, and noodles out tunes on a tuba.  Tubas require committment, devotion, and–though I’m not sure about this last one–being under the control of Satan himself.  According to the Julliard Musical Physics Lab, a tuba played in New Orleans can be heard in Flagstaff, Arizona, if conditions are right.  Also, there aren’t many tubas in the world.  Each tuba weighs approximately 3 tons, and has more valves than a Ferrari Testarossa engine.  The air pressure required to force noise from its bell roughly equals the lift-off thrust of a Saturn V “Apollo” rocket.  Also, tubas only produce three unique notes: “OOM,” “PAH,” and another “PAH.” You’re not going to play “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a tuba.  As it happens, every tuba player on Earth is required by international law to attend Mardi Gras.

The other meeting concurrent with Mardi Gras is The International Street Criminals Guild.  I think they set up shop in the New Orleans Superdome, probably with helpful seminars like “Maximizing Pocket-Picking Efficiency” or “Flim-Flammery: The Master’s Course (presented by Enron).”

Other than one minor physical skirmish (tom’s elbow vs drunk fratboy), I hadn’t seen any crime during my first night’s sojourn.  The tubas? Yeah, they were in full, gut churning brassy force, ooming and pahing and pahing some more as the parades rolled by.  By the time I was ready to pass out that first night, I felt safe in my room, and ready for a little quality, Bourbon-enhanced slumber.

Indeed the criminal element was far below.  I learned two things about my ninth-floor lair, though.  First off, there are lots of hospitals near the Raddisson, and lots of ambulances with loud sirens who patronize each of them.  The second horrible discovery was that tuba-driven marching bands started operation at 8 AM.  In other words, right around the time the ambulances stopped wailing by, it was time for the “family” parades to begin.  Grr.

It’s almost a cliche that New Orleans visitors must break fast with beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.  When I awoke that Sunday morning, this seemed like a good idea.  Surely, the tasty, traditional cafe au lait would clear my head while the beignet’s sugary goodness fired-up my system.

Then I got out of bed. Tom fall down go boom.

Apparently, if you’re drunk when you sprain your ankle, and drunk when you go to sleep, you have to remind yourself that your ankle is sprained once you become sober.  I managed to crawl into the bathroom and pull myself using the vanity so that I could pee.  Then I stepOUCHed mincingly back to my bed.  Instead of embracing the morning with beignets and cafe au lait, I enjoyed a breakfast of melted ice, room temperature pizza, and soggy Junior Mints.  I choked down a giganto Motrin, stuck my bare feet in my Nikes, laced the bad ankle securely into its protective cocoon, and headed out to enjoy Mardi Gras.

Otto von Bismarck once noted, “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.”  Ihre Satz ist richtig, Herr Bismarck.  I was an idiot American drunkard who’d just eaten pizza and candy for breakfast–how much more childlike can you get?

I mention this quote only because I’d had the foresight to remember A) my roomkey, B) my big stack of drink coupons, and C) my empty plastic bag.  The stepOUCHing was slower going than the previous night, and I realized I would likely be hanging near the hotel.  The La Salle was open, and my favorite barstool was clear.  Yay.

The barmaid remembered me from the night before.  Apparently, there aren’t that many Hagrid-sized limping Crackers in shorts and t-shirts frequenting her bar.  She traded me a drink coupon for a double Maker’s Mark rocks.  I lit a cigarette, and sighed.  I was safe.

I’m a friendly sort, I suppose.  I don’t go out of my way to talk to people, but if they talk to me, I can be engaging and personable.  A small gaggle of students from the University of Alabama came in and sat at a nearby table.  One of the girls–Megan–came to the bar to request a pitcher of beer.  She was happy and friendly, and asked if I was enjoying Mardi Gras.  I rolled my eyes, and told her about my ankle.

It’s sort of a blessing when you have an injury that looks bad.  It saves people thinking you’re a wuss.  Anyway, Megan expressed revulsion at my angry-looking purple ankle, and cooed with appropriate pity.  She introduced me to her sorority sisters and Bryan.  Bryan spelled his name with a “y.” I know this because he was wearing a shirt that said “Bryan” on it.

Anyway, the girls and Bryan started talking about their day’s adventures, sharing their stories, and I recounted some of my group’s train exploits.  The girls bummed cigarettes from me, and over the next couple hours, I was made an honorary AXO.  Megan, Bryan and the girls shared some beads with me, then excused themselves to go meet their boyfriends for dinner.  I went back to the soccer game on TV.

After awhile, Dick and Rich came in with three pretty women in their late 30’s.  They got a table, and I stepOUCHed over to join them.  I can’t remember the womens’ names, but they were friendly.  Verrrrry friendly with the father and son lotharios.  When one of the ladies suggested the five of them go up to their room, I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

Another crew from the train came in, including Heather.  Oh, dear Lord, Heather.

I’d first noticed Heather on the platform back in Orlando.  She was wearing orange tights and a tight tank-top with a matching orange warm-up jacket.  She was blonde, but that kind of almost phantasmagoric pale blonde like Anne Heche.  She looked like she was 17, bursting with quiet beauty and healthy pulchritude.  I don’t get tongue-tied very often, but I was a blithering idiot when I tried to speak to her on the train.  Her skin was like delicate porcelain fired in an angel’s kiln.  Her friend was a tanned brunette named Ashley.  Ashley was louder, brasher, but the two of them were a bit aloof, huddling with their husbands, and not participating much in our train games.

So Heather and Ashley came in with their husbands, and I didn’t expect much.  They migrated to the table where Megan and the AXO girls had sat, and they were now remarkably friendly.  I found that when Heather asked about my ankle, I was able to respond in coherent sentences.  God bless the folks at Maker’s Mark for their excellence in liquid loquaciousness.  So I joined them, and Ashley and Heather talked about how many times they’d flashed their breasts in exchange for beads.  They knocked off two pitchers between them, then went upstairs to smoke a joint before rejoining the festive melee.  Before they left, Heather and Ashley each gave me a couple strands of their lesser beads, and Heather gave me a hug.


I felt like Pauley in “Goodfellas.” Here were people who’d spent their day out enjoying Mardi Gras, and they felt compelled to pay me a bead tribute, like DeNiro and Ray Liotta spiffing Paul Sorvino a cut of the Lufthansa heist.  Without leaving my barstool, my neck had gained multiple shiny baubles.  And I didn’t have to show anyone even one nipple.  I guess my ankle was enough.

When they left, I decided to go outside, just to see what was happening.  I found a convenient lamp post just outside the Radisson’s front door, and elbowed my way to it.  I leaned awhile.  The floats were colorful.  The bands were outstanding.  Beads and coins were flying.  I snagged three more strands of beads to add to my burgeoning neck bling, and I saw Quincy Jones go by.  He was real.  He was on a float, and there was a sign proclaiming his Q-ness.  Nice.  After a half-hour or so, I figured that was enough.  I stepOUCHed back into the hotel, and ordered a pizza.  The Radisson’s main concourse had a few restaurants and a food court area, including a full-service Pizza Hut Express.  I put in my order, and they said it would be about an hour.  Express my ass.

So, I went back into the La Salle.  My favorite bartender had left for the night, and the new crew wouldn’t serve Maker’s Mark for drink coupons, so it was back to Jim Beam.  Not a problem.  Not a problem at all. The only bad thing was that my barstool was taken.  Lo and behold, the Skank from the train and her taciturn biker boyfriend were  just sitting down at a table, and they waved me over to join them.  StepOUCH stepOUCH stepOUCH, sit.  The Skank said her head was still sore from where it had collided with the wall during our dance, “But you’re more fucked-up than I am.” Yes, ma’am, I am.  She was wearing skin tight jeans with a gruesome cameltoe, and a shirt that said “If I Turned This T-Shirt Around, My Mama Would Kill Me.” On the back of the t-shirt were two breast-sized holes.  I told her she should turn the t-shirt around and see what happened.

Oh. My. Goodness.  She did it.  So we were sitting there at the table: me, Sam Elliot’s roadworn doppelgänger, and the skank, with her brown, surgically enhanced breasts sticking through her shirt.  After about 15 minutes, a man in a tie came up and invited us to leave the La Salle.  I managed to convince him to let us stay, so long as the shirt were reversed.  The Skank took her shirt off completely, dawdled a bit, then put it back on correctly.

I could hear Hell’s reservation department confirming my accomodations.

They went back out into the night, and I managed to collect my pizza, stepOUCH weaving back to the elevator without any further encounters with security.  I stopped by the ice machine, loaded up my plastic bag, and survived the journey back to my room.  HBO had just started “Independence Day.” I popped a Motrin and a Prozac, mixed a big drink, and sat down on my bed to chill.  I’d spent maybe a half hour outside “experiencing” Mardi Gras.  Other than that, I’d sat drinking in a bar for eight hours, ordered a pizza, and sat down to watch a movie.  I had to laugh.  Save for that thirty minutes of lamp post leaning–and my various La Salle compatriots–it could’ve been just another weekend night back home.

I downed a couple shots and opened the pizza box.  I realized that if the aliens came to invade, and they hit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, they might just turn around and head back home.

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11 Responses to “Mardi Gras Part 3: Your Narrator Gets Laid (up)”

  1. LOL!All I can say is Wow. And of course, OW. Sprained ankles hurt like heck!!!!I love your descriptions. Lol at the "gruesome cameltoe". Oom. Pah. Pah!!!

  2. I've always been kind of intimidated by Mardi Gras. The thought of all those people (and their tubas) makes me itch, and not in a good way. I think I'd get pretty tired of it pretty quickly, and end up spending my time in a hotel bar or my room with a bottle of bourbon, sprained ankle or no sprained ankle. 🙂

  3. I can't explain it myself, but cold pizza after a long night of drinking really hits the spot. But good grief: the fact that you were standing after all that, on a sprained ankle no less, proves you're a lot stronger than me.

  4. I'll meet you (and your rash 😉 at the La Salle. Bring your drink coupons.

  5. Cold pizza is awesome hangover food. It just seemed wrong eating it there. Then again, so much of Mardi Gras is just wrong, that it actually makes a twisted sort of sense.

  6. Where exactly do these drink coupons come from?

  7. "Flim-Flammery: The Master's Course" = brilliant!
    "Liquid loquaciousness" = brillianter!
    Fabulous writing, sir.

  8. lol. so funny…

  9. The travel agency people got them from the hotel. I guess between them, they'd somehow screwed up our reservations, and we had to wait quite awhile to check in. Truth be told, I didn't really question them. I just exchanged them for Bourbon.

  10. Good plan. Don't look a gift drink coupon in the mouf. Just drink it!

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