Manic Mardi gras.

Recently I read an article about 20 things you should do in the USA in your twenties and not surprisingly, celebrating Mardi gras in New Orleans was one of them. TICK. CHECK. DONE. PHOTOGRAPHED. What is Mardi gras and why all the fuss? It’s basically the American version of Shrove Tuesday, and there’s carnivals etc the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. I actually didn’t know what it was until recently, just that it was a religious holiday. I was fortunate to be able to experience Mardi gras in New Orleans thanks to the organisation skills and perseverance of my friends Courtney and Marlena.

On Thursday 12th February I kind of decided to join the world of Netflix because people were starting to wear me out. Conversation takes two people, so does communication. The way I view conversation is like playing that childhood game of keeping the balloon off the floor. And it’s not a fun game when only one person is enthusiastic about keeping the balloon up high. Plus my younger second cousin was flooding my Instagram with this TV show called Pretty Little Liars and I wanted to find out what it was all about.  I became hooked on Pretty Little Liars and spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday powering through the first and second series. It’s “A”mazing!  (Hope fans of the show like that intentional pun!) There’s so many ridiculously good looking people in it too that I almost feel intimidated! My friend Jose came over on Saturday night with his TV and we got pizza and watched films back to back which was fun.

The group and I (Erin, Michelle, Kaelyn, Alvaro, Quentin, Augustin, Elizabeth, Marlena and Courtney) left the USM campus around 1.15pm on Sunday 15th February and we drove to New Orleans in 2 separate cars. Elizabeth and I read some of Hard Times by Charles Dickens for our British literature class and munched on Shipley’s doughnuts that Marlena has bought for us all. It was a pretty smooth drive until we got into the city when we hit the expected traffic. We collected Alice from her friend’s house and arrived at our hotel not long after 5pm. We made the most of happy hour in our hotel since it was kind of free alcohol! I had four different drinks but I’d eaten well and didn’t feel drunk. I actually didn’t drink again for the rest of the night. (Saved some serious dosh by doing so!) After this we met Courtney and the rest of the gang travelling with her at their hotel and went to the watch the infamous parades. It was a lot of fun, a great experience in a fabulous city. It reminded me a lot of Burbage Carnival except obviously this was in the dark and there were a lot more people, many of whom were very drunk. The theme for the parade we saw seemed to be children’s literature because the floats we saw consisted of Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, Where the Wild Things Are and many others. On one float we saw the actors from Hot Tub Time Machine so that was a nice surprise. Alice, Elizabeth and I stayed longer to watch the parades since this really was a “yolo” experience for us all before going onto find the others at a bar called Krazy Korner.

Badass Berrie was her name…”

After we reunited with the group we walked down Bourbon Street to go to another bar. However Marlena, Elizabeth, Alvaro and I somehow got separated from the group. There were some protestors if you could even call them that holding signs that stated “ask me why you’re going to hell” and others that said something similar. I was really surprised that they were allowed to do that, or the fact they would even dare to try and cause trouble like that. They might not have been there to cause trouble but I doubt religious convergence is going to occur under the influence of alcohol, and from the smell in the air, Cannabis. Some of the things they were saying made me feel very angry and I told this man how pathetic he was thinking he had the right to say things like that. He told me that I was “going to hell because I chose to go to New Orleans.” I had no idea what he was talking about but I learned that night that the city is otherwise known as the “City of Sin.” I fired back “I’m a tourist from Britain and I don’t need some stranger telling me what my religious beliefs should and shouldn’t be.” It was one of those arguments where we could volley, forehand and backhand comments, facts and opinions at each other and I decided to walk away after telling him that “there’s no way he’s got this far in life without doing something wrong/sinful along the way and as much as you may have wiped your slate clean, it certainly doesn’t give you a right to start pointing the finger.”  I was fortunately sober and walked away telling him and his friend that “they were party poopers and they didn’t write the bible therefore I wasn’t going to be dictated to by them or listen to them.” This got a lot of laughs from the people around me. However it was minutes after this interaction that I learned just why it was called “Sin City.” There’s a tradition in New Orleans to acquire beads through the art of flashing (as in exposing certain body parts). No I’ve never done this and never will but I’m pretty sure this is what they meant by it being “Sin City.” However I’ve been out in the city on a normal weekend at night so I know that isn’t anything new to the actions of people on Bourbon Street. As you can imagine the streets were extremely crowded and we as a group held hands as to not lose each other. Out of all the people I knew I could have seen that night, my latest “ex” flame just happened to be the one we saw. Yes it was slightly awkward but we were in a hurry so after quick hellos we kept on walking. At one point Alvaro grabbed my coat pocket and I thought I was going to be pickpocketed until I saw his red coat. Moments later it became apparent that although I hadn’t been pickpocketed, a drunk Marlena had. We walked back and found her wallet on the floor with her phone and cards gone, just her student ID left behind. Alvaro and I kept walking in the hope of finding them but we sadly didn’t. We then became separated again.  After lots of walking Alvaro and I eventually decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel. All the bars were charging entry fees now and neither of us were feeling it anymore. Shortly after we arrived back, the others did too. We had an early night considering we were expecting to be up until very silly o’clock (3/4am). The following morning we walked around the city for an hour before picking up the cars and heading back to Hattiesburg in the early afternoon, where I commenced watching Pretty Little Liars again.

Did I like my experience? Yes, it was fun and I wouldn’t mind doing it again. However, I’m very glad I stayed sober because just like most cities at night, you never know how people will act and it’s not the safest of places. I thought about actually trying to give something up for lent this year. I usually say I will and then forget about it. I thought about giving up certain foods such as my favourite food pizza but then I realised that sometimes it is the only thing that appears edible in the cafeteria so that was a no go. So I’ve decided to give up something a lot easier and dedicate the spare time to myself and my new Netflix hobby. I’ve given up dating. I’ve recently been on a lot of dates that went nowhere, just like I knew they would so I’ve decided to substitute the pointless small talk with catching up with the world of TV via Netflix. Wish me luck!

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