Mardi Gras 2015: Five Ways to Mardi Gras
Thoroughly, completely, and totally random advice for fellow newbs
By Andy Campbell,
8:00AM, Tue. Feb. 3, 2015
The closest my people get to Mardi Gras is a spring holiday called Purim where, as saying has it, you’re to get so wasted that you can’t tell the difference between boys and girls. So, yeah, Jews basically invented shit-facery. You’re welcome.
The first time I visited New Orleans was with Kate X to see Prospect.1, the now triennial contemporary art event, in January of 2009. It’s a heart/soul place for her, and is quickly becoming one for me (my boyfriend grew up there, and his family still lives there). Sadly, we didn't get to go to P.3 this year. Instead, I’ve decided to brave New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
I thought I’d poll the experts for some sage pieces of advice culled from Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide (click the link to get a digital edition) and seasoned pros (like my boyfriend). I cannot sing the praises of Arthur Hardy’s manual enough, articles on key Mardi Gras figures (both actual and historical), maps of parade routes, pictures of the kings and queens, and c’mon, his editor’s letter opens with a “Take my wife, please!” groaner:
“My wife’s comical answer to the oft-asked question ‘When does he plan to retire?’ always gets a big laugh: ‘Three weeks after the autopsy.’”
I mean… it only gets better from there.
Be that as it may, I’ve distilled this information into a small chapbook of five handy hints (at least four of which can apply to Mardi Gras malarkey in other cities as well) beginning with…
1. Know Your Pee-Place This one comes straight from the boyfriend, and it’s the first thing that came flying out of his mouth. According to he: Restaurants and convenience stores often red tape the hell outta their whiz palaces. There’s even a song dedicated to this perennial issue (“Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras”).
Therefore: be forewarned. Pee-breaks slow any party down, and dudes, while peeing in the street is a common activity, you risk getting arrested. Which brings us to…
2. Don't Get Arrested If you’re arrested during Mardi Gras, you ain’t getting out 'til Ash Wednesday. This bit of advice comes from Tulane University’s Mardi Gras Safety page. Guess what? Lots of people get arrested during Mardi Gras. And also guess what? There’s not a great effort put forth by law enforcement to ensure comfortable and speedy processing. Surprise. Beware the booking bus! Or as my boyfriend puts it, “If you get arrested, you will just be disappeared.”
3. Go Phoneless It’s unlikely your phone will get reception anyway. So break out that map, and brush up on those orienteering skills, Webelo.
4. Leave Nothing but Footprints Speaking of cub scouts, Campsite Rule applies, y’all. Some will tell you that Mardi Gras’ success is measured by the amount of trash collected, but Hardy puts that notion quickly to bed with a simple, “No.” And after all, can’t we Austinites sympathize; don’t we get pissed off when SXSW douchers toss glass bottles into our streets? So. It might sound too goody-goody for the debauched revelry of Mardi Gras, but consider it accumulating good karma to pick up at least one piece of trash thrown down by someone else during your stay.
5. No Throw-backs! Why would you want to throw anything back at the paraders? #rude. But it does bring up an interesting point. There's decorum on both sides of the Mardi Gras bead toss: Don't take anything personally. And PS: That whole "Show us your tits" thing is a Bourbon Street phenomenon. Lifting your shirt for beads is not recommended along parade routes.
There are more: Be ready for anything; get creative with your signage (No: “It’s my birthday!!!” or “Real men can’t throw this far”); devise a meeting place and schedule; don’t get naked; know your ladder safety (yes, this is a thing); and of course, the perennial “get there early," like four hours early to ensure good parade viewage.
Regardless, and as cliché as it sounds, one rule reigns supreme: LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER!
UPDATE: A short while after we posted this, we noticed that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu shared a few of his own Mardi Gras survival hints. We're happy to know he is a fan.
Stay tuned as our Mardi Gras 2015 series continues! Check out more in the series, and dig through posts from previous years at austinchronicle.com/daily.