I’m not a native New Orleanian, but I’ve become its adopted daughter over the years. I grew up watching the news in east Texas, wondering why our neighbors in Shreveport got a day off for a Catholic holiday. No one is even Catholic in Shreveport.
I wondered what the big deal was about Mardi Gras, even after living in central and north Louisiana for a decade. In my experience, floats were trailer beds and hay. The bands played weird songs with military precision. Dads borrowed their buddy’s soft-top Camaro and let their daughters sit on the back and wave.
That first year in New Orleans, in 2013, I got it immediately. This is not that. This is a sensory explosion.
I’ve got no claim to doing it the longest or the best, but here are my favorite ways to make the most of it:
1) Buy that bathroom pass: Yeah, it’s twenty dollars. And yeah, there’s a hell of a line. But think of what your options are. You’re not young enough to go behind a building anymore. Our balance and agility aren’t what they once were, Millennials.
2) Welcome yourself to the neighborhood: Say hello to the guy whose chair you’ll have to ask to move a dozen times because he is the best walkway. Find someone to silently shake your head with when the Tulane crowd gets too close. This is bonding. This is camaraderie.
3) Be the bringer of the king cake: Everyone loves the person who brought the king cake. You may need this purchased goodwill. Negative points if it’s Rouses. Immediate eviction to Mobile if it’s Walmart.
4) Grab the Popeyes elsewhere: If you, like me, have been forcibly moved into Jefferson Parish because the rent is too damn high in Orleans, enjoy this perk: Get your Popeyes down the street. Relish how short that line is. Give some to your friend who waited in line for an hour to be told they’re out of chicken.
5) Don’t worry about that spot you got 3 hours ago: You were there. You were early. You got your chairs out. You’re in the last possible place you could be without getting hit with a tuba. Someone is going to get in front of you anyway. Find that neighbor we talked about. Commiserate with that king cake and some more Popeyes biscuits. If the shoe wants to make its way to you at Muses, the Muse herself will guide you.
6) Get flirty with your city: Now is her time. She may look like her hair is on fire 48 of the 52 weeks a year, but baby, she looks good now. She’s got her makeup done and got her glitter on. Look hard now; you’ll need to remember this in August.