Day 3 – Monday
From the moment we were awakened prematurely by a call from the front desk, almost everything went wrong Monday. Mostly the usual hotel problems, but I had a total drama trying to get my 90 pounds of beads to the Mardi Gras party we were planning to attend at Mike Andersons. They insisted we bring them Mardi Gras day, when cabs don’t run in the Quarter, or that night, when we had Neville Brothers tickets. They wouldn’t let me bring them right then. They fought me and fought me on it and Janis, my “connection” there was off that day. So I called the bell desk and a guy came up to discuss the situation. I wanted them to take the beads over for me in a taxi later that night since we had Neville Brothers tickets and couldn’t. What followed was a conversation straight out of the Sopranos. The bellman wanted to know how much I would give him to “take care of the…ummm…”situation”. He shook me down for 40 bucks and assured me he was going straight to Mike Andersons and they were “gonna take dem beads”. Kristina asked me why I gave money to such a pushy jerk. I figured fight fire with fire.
We had breakfast/lunch at Mulates. It is made to look like a big warehouse, in a Disneyesque way. There was a zydeco band playing and old people dancing the two-step. It was clearly the kind of place where a local would not be caught dead. My stuffed crabs were mediocre but Kristina went nuts over her crab-stuffed catfish.
We walked over to the Orpheus parade, which was just gorgeous. Their parades were covered with gigantic flowers and the bands were rocking. Very “Drum Line”. As I was taking a picture of a lovely float, a bag of beads hit the camera lens, smashing the camera into my face and possibly scratching the lens.
By now I had learned how to catch beads. You have to block the face with the hands, like you would catch a baseball. But then a huge bunch of beads came flying towards me that were not in a bag so I could catch them. They were tied together with a band at one end, and were like a spinning whip. They flew between my hands and got me right in the face. Hard. REALLY HARD. It felt like what I imagine it would be like to get shot with 100 BB guns at once. Tears immediately streamed down my face as I staggered away. A parade worker tried to lead me to an ambulance. I refused, saying, “I’m OK, I just need to cry for exactly 5 minutes.” As he continued trying to coax me into the ambulance, a bright shiny float passed by, and I ran off to take a picture. Oooooh, pretty….
I thought I would have purple dots on my face the next day, but it seems my face can take alot more than I had ever given it credit for. No bruises at all. But Kristina and I were wondering if the Krewe meetings went like this:” OK, I’ll give you 10 bucks for every hat you can knock off an old man, and 20 bucks for every redhead you can smash in the kisser…”
We headed over to House of Blues at 11:30 and the Neville Brothers were right on schedule. It was packed like a sardine can, if sardines were really big and sweaty revelers. I figured if we couldn’t see, we could at least hear well, so we went to stand by the soundboard. We were lucky and got a clear view from the platform by the board. When they played “Iko Iko” and “Hey Pocky Way” it was magic. Mostly they played religious music and covers. They did “Ball of Confusion” and two Bob Marley songs. Aaron did an a capella version of “Amazing Grace” that was so touching it probably would have made me weep if not for the distraction of the pain in my feet from all the walking, and the pain in my face from all the bead not-catching. I was disappointed that Art didn’t do his old stuff, but he didn’t really look well. They had to help him from the keyboard when they left the stage.
After the House of Blues, we headed over to Jumani, my favorite late-night bar that also serves food. I was very disappointed to discover that during Mardi Gras they don’t make their infamous “ass-pork sandwiches”.
If I may digress for a moment, I will tell you the story of the ass-pork sandwich. Delicate ears need read no further. The first time I ate at Jumani, it was on the recommendation of a cab driver. It was very late at night, or very early in the morning, depending on your perspective. On that first visit, my boyfriend and I ordered pulled pork sandwiches. While we waited, I asked a patron if I could sit on the empty barstool next to him. He looked at me as if I had just suddenly appeared out of thin air, and he could do nothing but blink uncomfortably at me. I looked around and I noticed that I was the only woman in the bar. I looked up at the TV and I saw a screenful of BARE NAKED ASSES. It was some kind of home video shot outdoors in a large crowd, comprised of nothing but naked ass after naked ass. In retrospect, it was probably a “Girls Gone Wild Mardi Gras Ass Fest,” but I was still innocent of such things at the time. I’m not a prude, but those asses weren’t just playfully wiggling. Those asses were up to no good. I asked for our sandwiches “to go”. The aggravated bartender groused, “Why didn’t you tell me they were ‘to go’ before I started making them?!” I replied, “ Because I just now decided that I prefer my pork without so much ass on the side.” Well, as it turned out, those were the best damn pulled pork sandwiches we have ever had outside of Tennessee. We have returned to Jumani time and time again, willing to brave homemade porn just to get to those sandwiches. Ever since that night, though, there has never been anything on the television except for ESPN sports. But the damage had been done, and for us Jumani will forever be known as the home of the “ass-pork” sandwich.
Back at Mardi Gras, the complete and utter lack of “ass-pork” was strike one for Jumani that night. We ordered and paid for beer and fried Nackitoches meat pies intead. Second strike, they were CRANKING heavy metal. Slayer. And I mean LOUD. I had just come from a live concert. I have been front row at The Who, Alice Cooper, AND Ozzy Osbourne. Those concerts were loud. But this jukebox was LOUD. I screamed into the bartender’s ear, “What’s up with cranking the music?” He said, “It’s Mardi Gras!”
That is pretty much the standard answer to every single question from
“Why isn’t the toilet working?”
“It’s Mardi Gras!!!”
to something as conversational as “What song are they doing next?”
“It’s Mardi Gras, Baby!!!”
I guess I would interpret it as basically, “Chill out. All hell is breaking loose and you should just ride with it.” It also means “No.”
Soon, every time Kristina and I experienced bizarre, inexplicable, or rude behavior, after staring at eachother momentarily puzzled, we just yelled simultaneously, “It’s Mardi Gras!!!”
Finally we couldn’t deal with Jumani’s Slayer torture any longer, and got “to go” cups for our beer. The guy asked, “What about your food?” I said “You eat it! It’s Mardi Gras!””
We got in a taxi and asked him to take us to Camellia Grill, which I know is open late, is “Roadfood” approved, and was somewhere on St. Charles. He insisted he knew where it was and proceeded to take a very strange route. I thought, “Where the fuck is he going? He picked us up a block away from St Charles.” but I figured he was taking some shortcut. We were soon in a spooky, deserted warehouse district. This was no shortcut. Then we were driving through a dense fog near the shipping docks. I thought, “Oh Fuck. We are going to be sold into white slavery. That’s all we need.” But aware that I am prone to hysterical paranoia, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt that possibly he was not running a white slavery ring into East Asia. I asked, “Is St Charles closed to clean up after the parades?” He parroted back to me as non-native English speakers tend to do, “Yes. The parade. The parade.” We arrived at a dark restaurant. Kristina, with great foresight, had us wait while she ran over to check it out. Not only was it closed, it was the wrong restaurant. I called on my cell phone for the cross street while he insisted he knew where he was. As we drove down St Charles. Which was clearly not closed.
There is a point during every vacation where I decide I hate this city/country/world. This was my moment.
Finally the comforting glow of the Camellia Grill came into view. A juicy burger, a chocolate-cherry shake and a waiter dripping with charm made me hate everything just a little less. Kristina told him of our long expedition, and he told us in great detail how the taxi driver ripped us off by going out of the way.
People in New Orleans love to tell you what you did wrong after it’s too late. They are full of head-shaking hindsights and dire warnings. Sometimes it seems like half the city is trying to take advantage of you, and the other half is desperately trying to prevent them from doing so.
As I headed to the restroom at the Camellia grill, I chanced upon a man in the hallway, just standing there, randomly pondering a cabbage held aloft in one upraised hand.
After a much faster cab ride back to the hotel, we got to bed at 4 am, and decided to not set the alarm and let fate decide if we would make the Zulu Parade at 10 am the next morning…
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