We’ve been in Louisiana again this week. The last time we left Baton Rouge I said, “Good riddance, may I never see you again!” Then I screamed something in made-up French like, “Tu es stupide et je ne te reverrai jamais! Je ne laisserai pas les bons moments rouler! Puis-je ne jamais vous revoir!” And flipped I-12 the bird. Anywho, I’m back.
This time we had my mom with us. Which was good, in a way, because Jerimiah, Jackson, Duke, and I are way over the touristy stuff, (which is what we had to do again on Sunday because my mom had never been to New Orleans!) So there we were, back in NOLA and doing the touristy-type things again, when it hit us why we are not fans: New Orleans is just a really sad place, y’all. Well, most of the Deep South is, but New Orleans is worse because of the tourists that come through and wreck the city, deplete the resources, don’t give two shits about the local people, and do it all while they are drunk and screaming, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” So I guess it isn’t NOLA that I dislike, it’s the people who come and treat it like shit. Then try to make up for it by throwing a few bucks in a street performer bucket, or take a Haunted Tour and pretend they don’t really just want to stop at the baby grave yard for beers. (Listen, I’ve done that nonsense before. I’ve been to Mardi Gras as a dumb, 20-something, and I’m sorry. You live, you learn. #WhiteDumbGirlShit)
But my mom, on the other hand, is a 75-year-old white girl who just wanted to see the sights, take pics of the Catholic Basilica for her Catholic friends, and step foot on a streetcar. No hand grenades need apply. So we did that. She had an experience for sure (pics below). We took her on the streetcar and the city bus, because the streetcar on Canal is down near the portion of Canal Street where the Hard Rock Hotel came crumbling down, killing one and injuring dozens more. (They are still looking for three more people who are lost in the rubble.) So we had to take a bus around that location. Then we walked down to Jackson Square, had lunch at the Market Cafe, walked through the French Market, and made our way up Bourbon Street. My mom was in awe of the massive amounts of people, meanwhile this was the least crowded I’ve ever seen the French Quarter. And it was only 80 degrees out and we were boiling hot, so there’s that. But still, a ton of drunk people by noon, the smell of urine wafting through the air, and horse shit, always horse shit. Oh, French Quarter.
And there I was. Looking at Jerimiah. Eyeing Jackson. We all had that look in our eyes. That look that said, “This doesn’t feel right.” Because well, it just doesn’t. I know, I know, New Orleans is a tourist Mecca for fun, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. There is so much history there, so much wrongdoing went on there. So much still left to fix, and well, the three of us are just too sensitive to that sort of thing. We trudged on. We drove my mom through the Lower Ninth Ward because she didn’t understand what levees we were talking about, and that felt wrong. It felt wrong for her not to understand the devastation that happened there, but it also felt wrong to be tourists in a neighborhood where people are still just trying to get by, to rebuild, to forget about being treated like animals. But geez, there’s no way to forget. And forgive. How could there be?
And maybe that’s it. Maybe I have only known the post-Katrina New Orleans. Maybe it used to be different than it is now. Maybe it was more fun back then. Maybe the locals were more forgiving. Maybe there was more harmony, but if there was, it isn’t there anymore. The locals don’t like the tourists, but understand their necessity. The tourists vomit and pee on the street corners where slave auctions took place in the 1700s. So I mean… While we were eating lunch we watched a white man and a black man get into a fight over bread on the ground at Jackson Square. It was a silly situation, but the emotions were real. And the anger wasn’t really about bread on the ground.
So yeah, it’s some depressing shit. But there’s no real way for people like me, white people with privilege, to talk about shame without making the “other” feel like shit or seeming to use them as fodder, so I gotta stop. Here’s some pictures of my mom enjoying her first (and probably only) time in The Big Easy. I think she had all the fun she could stand.
Listen, I am not gonna lie, this was a trip of a lifetime, for a lot of reasons. But should I, a 29-year-old mommy, have gone balls to the wall at Mardi Gras? No. Yes. Maybe. I’m not sure. Seems like I may have had more fun had I been 21, single, without child, and totally okay with drug-fueled sex in a dark alleyway. And since there has never been a point in my life where I was cool with that, I’d say no. Probably not. Now I do want to take a moment to say that I am fully aware that this is not everyone’s experience at Mardi Gras. I even know that in New Orleans, Mardi Gras can be, and routinely is, a family affair. Especially for the Cajun and Creole people. What my friends and I did was 100%, young, white-people, tourist Mardi Gras, and I am glad that I did it, one time. I will never do it again. Though I am currently planning a family trip to New Orleans for later this year, and I am so unbelievably psyched about it because that city is beautiful and magnificent and full of history. Now, having said all of that, and properly apologizing to my Louisiana kith and kin (I am so sorry, y’all), let me tell you about the dumbest thing I did in New Orleans.
As I mentioned in Part Deux, the group did a history tour while we were there and Melody, Kasey, and I were smitten with what we learned. Some of what we learned about was the voodoo that surrounds the city and its people. Because of this, we made a point of visiting Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 before leaving town on the last day. We picked this cemetery for a specific reason. It was the best known cemetery in a place of known cemeteries and it was supposedly the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodoo priestess. Fun fact, Marie Laveau and I share the same birthday, September 10th. I used to think that was cool.
Anyway, the cemetery itself, on the north side of Basin Street, was a lovely testament to those buried there. Considering we knew by then how some of the New Orleans dead were treated, this seemed to be quite nice. There were some remarkable above-ground vaults and very detailed workmanship on many of the crypts. We took a few snapshots of the different tombs and then quickly made our way to Marie Laveau’s final resting spot.
Legend predicates that you must not touch Marie Laveau’s tomb, rightly so, UNLESS you leave a sacrifice, or she will make your life a living hell. Well, I did not know this at the time. I saw the many trinkets left around the tomb, but paid little mind to them. I had been so caught up with her life, from recently reading about her, that I was eager to just see where she was supposedly resting. I say supposedly because whether or not her remains are in there is constantly disputed. Either way, when I saw it I sort of lost my shit and went right up to it and touched it. And that is when shit hit the fan.
It sort of gives me the chills thinking about it now. I feel like I am being watched as I type this, and you guys, I am not “into” this sort of thing. But what I did that day, and the events that transpired over the next year, while most likely, probably, coincidental, serve as a reminder that you should never mess with the dark arts and to this day my plan is to go back to their tombs and place sacrifices on both of them in an attempt to make right my wrongdoings. To show respect. To say I am so very sorry to these two amazing women.
This all happened at the end of February 2011. 2011 turned out to be the worst year of my whole life for a number of reasons, ones I won’t explain here, because well, some of it is just too unbelievable. And I know, I know, most of you are all, Christ, Missy! None of that had anything to do with touching a VooDoo Queen’s tomb and not leaving a sacrifice, but I mean, do we know that for sure? No. No we don’t.
Look it, if you have made it to the end of this series of unfortunate events, bless you child. This has been one bumpy ride and I wrote this strictly for myself and my best friends. A ride down memory lane never hurt anyone, not physically anyway. I do, eight years later, look back at this trip so fondly. I look at my friends, at my MIL, at the rag-tag team of weirdos and I smile. I am glad I did it with them. Glad I lived through a once-in-a-lifetime experience with ladies who know how to take a joke. Know how to laugh at themselves. Know how to have fun, and be sad, and learn, and trust the collective. I am grateful for a husband and son who don’t mind if I run off from time to time with my girls. Who trust I always come home alive and disease-free. I learned a lot on this trip. A lot about people and a lot about myself, which may seem like a lot to put on a silly girls trip to Mardi Gras, but nah, it isn’t.
I also learned about the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is a fickle lady. She’s electric, but she’s gloomy. She is fast, she is slow. She will show you a good time, sometimes at a price. She will fill your mind with things you didn’t know possible, then she will burden you with doubt. She will give you a collection of ugly memories. She will offer up her own kind of repentance. She will make you tingly all over. She will lift you way, way up. And if you let her, she will pull you way, way down. New Orleans is the woman you didn’t know you needed, at a time you didn’t know you needed her. And I love her. And I am afraid of her. And I miss her terribly. And I want her. And on a good day, I plan to see her again. And on a bad day, I wish I never had.
Mardi Gras literally translates to Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is a day to indulge in all the things you intend to give up for Lent. It is called Fat Tuesday because on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday you are expected to indulge. Cakes, and breads, rich meats and sauces. Items that many will give up in preparation for Easter, which comes exactly six weeks later. Fat Tuesday is positioned right after Carnival and right before Lent. The purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. The purpose of Carnival, is to drink as many Hand Grenades as you can, while you drunk-hobble down Bourbon Street, your boobs hanging freely, and people pelt you with strings of 25 cent beads while you scream, “Shit yeah, Mardi Gras is awesome cock-suckers!” I think.
Listen, this is Part Deux, in what is shaping up to be a four part series, of my one and only trip to Mardi Gras back in February 2011 with my Mother-in-Law, two of my best friends, and a rag tag team of weirdos who had never left southeast Kansas. To get up to speed Imma need you to check this out first: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/03/01/corner-of-bourbon-and-canal/ I think it would be best so you are aware of all the, uhh, specifics before you jump right into this one. But, if you are so inclined to start here, well, then I like you. Go for it! Bonne chance!
Now where was I? Oh, yes. Do y’all remember when we were getting out of the car in a hurry at valet because we were being rushed and also because we needed to help MIL unload Peggy’s sweet-ass van, as all the occupants of that van were staring wide-eyed into the streets unable to move? Well then, do you remember that we were quite pleased with ourselves about the speed and accuracy with which we exited our car, with the exception of one thing: Purple nail polish? Yeah, okay.
So the first night, before we got sloshed on Bourbon with a mixture of Hand Grenades and Huge-Ass Beers, we tidied up a bit. Well, Melody and Kasey tidied up a bit. I slapped some more deodorant on and called it good. The girls in the other room took showers, did their hair, the whole nine yards, so we had some time to kill waiting for them. During that time Melody was debating whether or not to ask for the car just so she could get her purple nail polish. Kasey and I were trying to convince her that it was dumb, and just to forget about painting her nails. Then MIL pops in from the bathroom is all I have purple nail polish! Yay! Crisis averted. Melody used the nail polish, then we all left to get totally obliterated.
The next morning went like you would expect. It sucked. We were all hungover, there was no way we wanted to pay for room service to bring us all the best hangover foods, and we didn’t really have a plan for the day, save buying more beads (it became apparent that we were gonna NEED a lot of beads) and getting a tattoo. Yeah, that was a goal for the weekend. Le sigh. We were all a little tired when the weirdos next to us were knocking on the door at what felt like 6:00 am, but was probably closer to 8:00 am. I rolled over to see this:
What happened next was a situation that to this day is called, The Purple Nail Polish Incident and it has varied truths. But this is how I remember it.
Cranky MIL: Melody, where is my purple nail polish?
Cranky Melody: I don’t know, dude.
Cranky MIL: Well you had it last night.
Cranky Melody (elevated tone): I gave it back to you.
Cranky MIL: No you didn’t. That’s the problem. You should have given…
Cranky Melody: OMIGOD, yes I did!
Cranky MIL: Nope. I don’t have it.
Kasey (in a whisper): Dude, get her the purple nail polish.
Me (getting up to start to look for purple nail polish): Where did you have it last?
Cranky Melody: I don’t know when I HANDED IT TO HER!
Cranky MIL: You never HANDED anything to me.
Me (getting side-tracked because I am hungry): Whose bagel is this?
Kasey (standing up to help look): It’s left over from last night.
Cranky MIL: I wish I could paint my nails this morning…
Cranky Melody (throws blankets off her): ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Cranky MIL: You are supposed to return things you borrow…
Cranky Melody: I DID RETURN IT.
Me (biting on a day old bagel): Dude, just get up and look for it.
Cranky Melody: Why don’t we just go to Walmart again today and spend three hours there looking for purple nail polish and other shit we don’t need?!
Cranky MIL: We might have to since I don’t have purple nail polish anymore.
Me (feeling something in my mouth that is not bagel): Melody, get up.
Cranky MIL: It’s fine. I just wish I had my purple nail polish.
Cranky Melody (jumping out of the bed): OH MY GOD! Don’t say PURPLE NAIL POLISH ONE MORE DAMN TIME.
Then Melody walks over to dresser and grabs the purple nail polish as MIL walks out of the bathroom and she hands it to MIL.
Cranky MIL: Thank you.
Cranky Melody: YOU’RE WELCOME.
Me: You guys, this bagel broke my tooth.
Weirdos next door knock again.
Kasey (opens curtains): It’s going to be a good day!
Deep breathes. Yeah, so. I am sure that MIL and Melody have different versions, but you know, this is my blog. And, did we just skate by the fact that I broke my tooth on a bagel? In hindsight, it was more likely the 15 or so Blow Pops I crunched on the drive down, but that hard bagel took it over the edge. So there we all were. Four women. One with a broken tooth. One with purple toes nails, one without. And Kasey. The forever optimist. What happened next can only be explained by the desire to be a united front.
MIL explained to us that the other four weirdos had never been to the beach. Or maybe one had, I can’t exactly remember. The point is, while we all have been to several beaches, in different countries, and different regions, the ladies next door needed a win, so she asked what we thought about driving the hour and a half to Gulfport, Mississippi, all eight of us in Peggy’s sweet-ass van, to show the weirdos the ocean. We all looked at each other when she used the word ocean. Well, okay, she corrected. The Gulf Coast. Melody, Kasey, and I looked at each other. Their make-up still smudged from the night before, circles under our eyes, me holding my tooth, and we nodded in agreement. Let’s give them a thrill.
You know what they say, “Girl, your brown eyes sparkle like the Gulf Coast waters!” Just a reminder that this was less than a year after the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. So there was literal oil to be unearthed on the beach. We know cause we found it. Only we didn’t scream OIL! and call the Clampetts. We sort of, uhh, ignored it. Then jumped in for a swim. Eek. The photo below was captured by a stranger on the random beach we stopped at in Gulfport.
Two hours later Kasey, Melody, and I sat in Peggy’s sweet-ass van with Pasty-girl (whose name I was recently reminded was April, but I can’t change it now) while the other ladies spent way too long in yet ANOTHER Walmart. At this point Melody and I were not speaking to each other because she had been texting some dude who lives in Arizona who she didn’t really know and I he was planning to come for a visit, and I was like BAD IDEA Hombre. And she was all, I know what I am doing. I mean she was 25, she obviously didn’t need me telling her how to live her life. So we had spent the ride to this random Walmart somewhere between Mississippi and Louisiana, in the way, way back of the van. Kasey was forced to sit between us, and the three of us sat silently as we listened to Titty Tina offer the body guard services of her ex-boyfriend who lived in NOLA, because he was not, quote, afraid to bitch slap anyone who deserved it. End quote. And that’s how we first learned of Bitch-Slap. And the stifled laughter between the three of us in the way, way back over what we collectively knew would be his name from now until eternity, is what mended the strained friendship.
While the “old girls” went into Walmart, Kasey, Melody, and I stayed in Peggy’s sweet-ass van with Pasty-girl. MIL had taken the keys, so we didn’t have air. Probably because, #PurpleNailPolish, and so we sat with the doors open, sweating in our slightly damp clothes, and listened to Pasty-girl recount all the men she’d slept with. One of her conquests ended up being a family member of mine, uhh, by marriage. And we all nodded our head in agreement, cause yeah, that made sense. It wasn’t MIL.
Back in NOLA things took an exciting turn. After the feud ended in the van, someone, ahem, Kasey, came up with a great idea. It was Tammie’s birthday, and she was ready to par-tay! So Kasey, presumably caught up in the excitement of being in the way, way back of Peggy’s sweet-ass van, decided that every time Tammie said, It’s my birthday! of which she said every 20 minutes or so, we were all to scream, Happy Birthday! So as you can imagine, hilarity ensued. Until the crying started at dinnertime.
We had decided to go out to dinner that night at a seafood place called Deanie’s Seafood. It was supposed to be the best seafood in the French Quarter and this was back when, well, we believed claims like that. So we all washed the oil off of us and decided to convene for the walk over to Deanie’s around 5:00 pm. At about 4:45, Tammie knocked on our door to inform us that Janie was crying.
We all walked over to find a distraught Janie. She was upset because everyone else was so fancy, and she wasn’t. She had only packed, I want to say, two pink shirts and some jeans. Sigh. MIL quickly offered up some of her clothes, an offer Janie sort of smirked at, while Melody, Kasey, and I tried to get her to just try one of MIL shirts, they were nice. Then I offered one of mine. Then so on. The girls showed her that they were all wearing jeans, but she said their shirts were fancy too. I explained that my fancy shirt was the same one that I jumped into the Gulf with. Didn’t matter. Then we offered to go look for a fancy shirt for her, but she declined. The crying eventually stopped so we all just shrugged and walked to Deanie’s. I dunno.
Listen. Dinner was a mess, y’all. I ordered shrimp, but it had all the tentacles and what not on it, so MIL had to peel them for me because I can’t with that shit. Then Janie asked her to accompany her to the bathroom at some point. If I was the Mommy of Kasey, Mel, and me, then MIL was the Mommy of the weirdos (and sometimes us) and it was starting to weigh on her. But at least every time Tammie said, It’s my birthday! We all screamed in unison, Happy Birthday! At least.
After dinner we had reservations for a walking Haunted History Tour, which was ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY the BEST part of the trip! If y’all have the opportunity to do a walking history tour in NOLA, do it! At one point Melody, Kasey, and I had to separate from the weirdos and go to the back of the tour because we were so engrossed in the history and the stories that we wanted to listen, not drink and scream Happy Birthday! We were shunned. Let’s just say that. But yeah, worth it.
Birthday girl was a little drunk after the tour, so we tried to sober her up with a trip to Cafe Du Monde.
At this point the stories diverge. We decided that we wanted to go a chill bar and listen to some of that New Orleans Jazz we heard so much about, and well, the crew was having none of that, so we went our separate ways. I can’t tell you what they did, but I think it had to do with dancing on bars (sans MIL and Janie) and karaoke, and probably shots. But Kasey, Melody, and I went for a walk along the river, then settled into a cool little jazz spot that had outdoor seating. We had the pleasure of enjoying a muffuletta while we listened to a cool, little jazz quartet for an hour or so, before we headed back to the hotel. I have no pics from that time because, well, that is how chill and relaxing and nice it was. The calm, if you will, before the storm.
If you are still reading this, bless your heart. (That is what people say to patronize others here in the south.) You are a trooper. Really, you are. But this seems like a good break spot. We have covered quite a bit of ground today, and I left quite a bit out. For your pleasure. Thanks for traveling down memory lane with me. Two parts left. And I promise they won’t be worth it. As a parting gift I have included some more pics of Day Two.