Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Though I am often near the Gulf Coast during Mardi Gras, I have never been to New Orleans for the big event. The only time I was in New Orleans at the right time, my camping neighbors made Swamp People look like Rhoads Scholars so there was no need to go down to Bourbon Street to see real characters!

 If you are unaware what Mardi Gras is about, it’s actually a time where people can go out and sin as much as they can before Lent kicks in and spoils all the fun. Or something like that. They dress up in all kinds of weird costumes and throw five-cent beaded necklaces to the crowds who are begging for them like desperate masses hungry for bread. Not being too attentive, I know where lint comes from but not sure why it’s important this time of year.

 Beads end up strung on light poles and trees, kids get lost, men wander off and screaming women lose all sanity in their rush for more beads and moon pies.

 In my favorite Mardi Gras down in Pensacola a few years ago, you can’t imagine the mother-load of beads I brought home. I had Cooper to flirt with the girls on the floats and Trixie used her height to snatch away all the prized items before they fell into the hands of the little street urchins crowding around our feet.

 Pensacola does it up right. There’s not one day, but two days of parades. The second day parade goes along the Pensacola Beach coastal highway past miles and miles of families.

Cooper went along of course and stood on my shoulder to watch it all go by. The girls on the floats and walking along passing out beads were instantly drawn to the cute man and his dog and we got POUNDS of beads. Well, the dog is cute anyway.

The time tested method for getting strings of beads has always been to expose certain body parts but it seems that for men, a cute dog is much more effective. After all, who wants to see an old guy’s tummy.

 A fight broke out right behind us as some drunk woman was trying to push her kids to the front of the crowd after arriving late. Lots of swear words were exchanged, someone threw some punches and clothes were torn and ripped. And that was just the women. The police finally came and broke it up, but their kids got plenty of beads anyway.

 This year we were in Huntsville, Alabama for Mardi Gras and it had the towns “engineering” flavor to it. For those of you who don't know, this area led the charge in our leap into space in the 60's and is a very important center for technology and rockets.

So the parade was very subdued and more emphasis was placed on getting business placards posted on pickup trucks and cards handed out to the crowd. These ranged anywhere from Melvin’s Body Shop to CAV Home Builders of the South.

 Somewhere along the way, these people didn't get the memo that the parade is supposed to be about partying and beads. They even had a rule about no lifting of shirts and no bead throwing which definitely put the “hoo hoo” on the entire event. Without that, there is no chance of getting hit in the eye or the subsequent fights that ensue between spectators reaching for the same necklace.

 We watched the 40 or so decorated car trailers go by and the obligatory fire engines and ambulances. Two bands were included and that was just enough to make it seem more like a fourth of July Parade instead.

One float came by and a man leaned out and was scaring people with a live crawdad. I had been getting a few beads along when I asked for them so when I reached out to him, he handed me the crawdad – snapping claws and all. He was so shocked that I took it I guess and I just calmly put it in my coat pocket and watched the rest of the parade.

 We decided that a bite to eat was in order and “Sparky” – yes, the crawdad had a name now -- went with us. During dinner we finally got him a cup of water to sit in and he bubbled his thanks to us vigorously.

Great concern was generated amongst Trixie and my daughter, Cricket and her husband, Captain (after appearing in last week’s column they have asked for new names, too!) and so with great fanfare and not too short of a detour, we took old Sparky to a local pond. Placing him in the water and returning to the car I had to goad Trixie to leave the water’s edge where she seemed to be planning an all-night vigil for his safety. .

 Saving a small creature I guess in some way makes me a good Buddhist according to Trixie. And I hope so as now Sparky can come back as a lobster in another life, then I can eat him. Laissez les bons temps rouler!