Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day, and a Huge TBR #Giveaway

Mardi GrasHappy Mardi Gras!

Those of us enjoying NOLA today aren’t home reading this blog, and sadly, I’m missing it this year too, so I thought I’d give you a taste of the real Mardi Gras experienced by most in my adopted hometown, and top it off with a Priority Mail box stuffed with books from my TBR pile.

First, well, as the song says, there really ain’t no place to pee on Mardi Gras Day unless you, like me, lived close enough to the parade route to run home, miss a marching band, and be back and ready to beg for beads before the next float came along.

This is a song by a local group, Benny Grunch and the Bunch, who do a lot of funny NOLA-centric songs.

Now, if you watch TV, you’d think Mardi Gras was nothing but drunken debauchery and half-naked people engaging in public orgies. Guess what? Those are the TOURISTS. No, unless they’re masochists or being forced by visiting guests, self-respecting New Orleanians won’t go anywhere near the French Quarter between Friday night before and midnight of Fat Tuesday–which is today. It’s really a family event–kind of a two-week-long tailgate party. Between parades, kids throw footballs in the streets and people grill out and have picnics.

Now, I lived a block off the St. Charles Avenue parade route, the primary route for New Orleanians. My buddy Lora lived in a condo overlooking St.Charles, so if the weather really sucked, theoretically, we could sit in her guest bedroom and watch the parades out her window. But that’s no fun. So for two weeks before the final four-day countdown to Fat Tuesday, we’d go out early with our lawn chairs and beverages and stake out a seat on the neutral ground as close to the street as we could get. (In the rest of the United States, neutral grounds are known as medians. Long story.)

Come Friday night, though, we’ll have chairs, sometimes coolers, and will stake out our spot along the street while hundreds of people piled up behind us. And there those chairs–and usually one of us, or a designated watcher–would stay there through the following Tuesday. My favorite krewe, or Mardi Gras parading group, is Bacchus, which has huge floats like the Bacchasaurus. We hang out while the marching bands go by, then stand up and jump up and down and scream with our hands in the air when the floats go by. I have gotten in tugging matches with total strangers over a 10-cent set of cheap beads. I can’t explain it. It’s like some kind of madness sets in. Here’s what Bacchus, which is a night parade, looks like, crowds, noise, and all:

And on we go. By today, Fat Tuesday, the final official parade rolls, the King of Mardi Gras and the Krewe of Rex. Most folks dress up in costumes this day. My favorite float is Rex’s Boeuf Gras (float #4). Rex is a morning parade–this is a really good video, by the way. Great production values and a look at the way the krewe members mask.

Next comes hour after hour of the “truck floats”–civic clubs and private groups who aren’t part of official krewes, but have hundreds of trucks full of people throwing out beads and cups and stuffed animals.

By then, frankly, Lora and I would be Mardi Gras’d out and would go inside to relax. Before Hurricane Katrina blew it away, we’d walk back to Mama’s Tasty Foods, a ramshackle hole in the wall with great fried chicken halfway between my house and her condo, and take it back to my place or hers. Down in the Quarter, things blow wild the rest of the day, with Mardi Gras officially ending at midnight, when this would happen: the final parade, of every kind of New Orleans law enforcement officer imaginable parading down Bourbon Street, signaling the end of another Mardi Gras season. (the first 1:30 is junk–skip it without guilt).

And how do you tell a successful Mardi Gras? By the weight of the trash, of course. Every year, it’s collected and weighed, good weather or foul:

And there ya have it! Laissez les bon temps rouler, y’all!

Leave a comment for a chance at the box of TBR books. All are sci/fi or fantasy–I’ll try to put in a good mix. Now…..would you want to “go to da Mardi Gras?”

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

64 thoughts on “Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day, and a Huge TBR #Giveaway

  1. We have a watered down version in some parts of the Netherlands: Carnaval. I will confess carnaval isn’t for me, so Mardi Gras probably wouldn’t be either.

    • Probably not, although I’ve been to Carnival in Venice, Italy, twice and loved it. It’s a completely different vibe than in New Orleans. I think I took about 200 photographs of all the elaborate costumes.

      • Dutch carnaval isn’t anything like Venice. It’s much more hokey and the costumes are horrible.

  2. I always wanted to go but living in, Ca never was able to make it. Now I’m a little old for all the debauchery. Lol.

    • Day parades are really all families. People bring ladders with seats fastened to the top for the toddlers to sit on, and the krewes usually hand the little stuffed animals straight to the kids. The night parades get rowdier uptown, but NOTHING like in the French Quarter. You couldn’t pay me to go to the Quarter anytime during Carnival!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Still want to go someday and you can be my tour guide πŸ™‚ lol

    • I don’t like crowds either, ironically. But by being out early and getting our chairs on the edge of the street, we couldn’t see how many people were piled up behind us and could pretend they weren’t there–LOL.

  4. I have been to one but it was in Pensacola Florida. We loved it!!! We were post to go on Fat Tuesday last year but with the weather we didn’t (ice on the roads). My fingers are crossed for next year.. thanks for showing us!

    • You’d love it, Tara. Weather’s always iffy. The earlier in February Carnival falls (it always depends on the date of Easter), the colder it is. I talked to Lora this morning before she headed down to wait for Rex, and it’s windy and cold today. If it’s late Feb. or early March, the weather’s a lot nicer.

      • Lol so note to self go when it is later.. lol it was cold when we went to the one in FL. And dumb me goes I rode all this way no way am I not sticking my feet in the water.. lol it was freezing

  5. you know, for the life of me I can’t remember where we went to pee when I was a kid. We’d come in from Jefferson Parish and spend the day–or at least through the truck parades–and I don’t remember eating or drinking or relieving ourselves, jut the excitement of the parades and the costumes. Mardi Gras is probably the only thing I miss about New Orleans.

    • There are a few porta-potties scattered around but most people go in the Rite-Aid (where the K&B used to be, at St. Charles & Louisiana) and buy a soda or beer…and use the facilities. My first year in NOLA, I was living in Lakeview and watched the Metairie parades instead of going into the city. I don’t remember where we went, either πŸ™‚

  6. I wouldn’t like to go at all. Here in Brazil we have Carnaval which sounds like pretty much the same thing and I’m definitely not a fan.

  7. Will miss the Mardi Gras but going to visit New Orleans for the first time in March.

    • You’re going at a great time, Roger–can’t wait to see your photos and hear about your first trip to NOLA. Maybe you could guest blog for us! (You know I’m going to hound you now that i’ve thought of it!). The azaleas all along St. Charles Avenue should be in bloom. The weather should be bearable. It’s a beautiful time of year.

      • Here it’s The Carnaval of Binche at this time and it’s one of the most lively busy carnaval in teh area ( very traditional for the rules as who can be in traditional costume)
        Since i’m answering i’m obviously not there though but with the rain we had today i prefer a warm cup of tea and i do fear it would be too crowded for me ( i would get enough oranges to lasta time though) throwing stuffed animals?! if only for that i could make a effort if i were near your parade;)

    • Oh yes, it’s definitely noisy. You kind of get used to it. The only painful parts if, like me, you’re crammed up right next to the street and the marching bands go by and you get a tuba blasted in your ear!

    • Yay for him! I always admired those kids in the marching bands. Not sure how long his parade route was, but the main parade route in NOLA is more than three miles of stopping and starting and always on your feet. I’d sure never make it!d

  8. I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans for the music. Not sure about Mardi Gras though. I’m not much on crowds. I guess I would try it once. The parades sound great.

  9. I’d always wanted to go but even though my brother lived down there for about 10 years just never got the chance. I too am not much for the crowds but I’d go just so I could say I’d been.

    • I hated it the first few years I lived there–I’d go out and glare at people, just daring them to block my driveway. Once I finally got coaxed into going I fell in love with it.

    • Celeste, you’ll love NOLA. Mardi Gras is an acquired taste. Start with the uptown route, not downtown or the Quarter. And talk to me before you move! I still might move back in a couple of years.

  10. I’m kinda sensitive to load noises and also crowds aren’t my favorite thing, so parades were never my preferred outing of choice. If I did go it would definitely be the morning part and would steer clear of the French Quarter. But really if I got the chance to visit New Orleans I would love it to be when it’s a little warmer with the flowers in bloom

  11. Your post really gives me a feel for being there as a resident. From your other comments, I would like the day parades much better with the smaller crowds and less rowdiness.

    • Yes, I love the big floats of Bacchus and Endymion (the two biggest night parades), but the day parades are more laid-back and not as loud and crowded, so overall I prefer those as well.

  12. Here it’s The Carnaval of Binche at this time and it’s one of the most lively busy carnaval in teh area ( very traditional for the rules as who can be in traditional costume)
    Since i’m answering i’m obviously not there though but with the rain we had today i prefer a warm cup of tea and i do fear it would be too crowded for me ( i would get enough oranges to lasta time though) throwing stuffed animals?! if only for that i could make a effort if i were near your parade;)

    (sorry this first came out as a reply instead of a comment)

    our ” Gilles” only throw oranges but in some other carnavals in my country , where it’s not ” Gilles” but other traditional characters sometimes the prize is something else but right now i can’t recall any example

    • Yes, you’d love the little animals, although it’s hard for an adult to get one–they really target the children with them. It’s cold and windy here today too, so I’d probably be miserable if I were outside all day. Some of the Mardi Gras krewes will throw Moon Pies ( a lot more so in Mobile than New Orleans), but that’s about it for food. There’s a big parade on St. Patrick’s Day, and they used to throw cabbages until they hit someone in the head, who went to the hospital with a mild concussion. Yes, it was my friend Lora. LOL. The same parade, I caught a green frisbee and walked home to try and teach Tanker how to catch a frisbee. I’d throw it, he’d chase it, then he’d sit next to it and look at me until I came to pick it up. The third time, he jumped up as I bent down to pick up the frisbee, we bumped heads and I ended up with a black eye. SURE your dog did it, my coworkers said. Really!

  13. I’ve always wanted to go to Mardi Gras, and after watching all those videos, now more than ever.

  14. Even when I was younger and a bigger fan of debauchery, I never really wanted to go (I’m in the same boat as the other people here who hate crowds. Plus, no place to pee is no place for me!) I guess I’d rather stay home and get sauced in bed surrounded by cats.

    • LOL–there’s a lot to be said for that, especially on a cold day like today. It’s funny because I don’t like crowds either, but I finally figured out if I was at the front or the back–never in the middle–they don’t bother me as badly.

  15. I dunno. I always pictured Times Square New Year’s Eve crowds only warmer and R rated. Not my thing. I think I have to come eat po boys, crawdads and beignets if they come anywhere near their reputations.

  16. Wouldn’t the trash weigh more on foul weaher Mardi Gras years? The water would soak in and give it extra weight

    • LOL, yes it’s HIGHLY unscientific. Plus you could have years where there were fewer people who drank more and simply threw out more trash. It’s just the only way they have of “weighing” how successful a year it was–the more trash, they assume, the more fun was had by all.

  17. Though I am not generally fond of crowds, I have heard and read so much about Mardi Gras that I would love to experience it for myself.

    • I think it’s worth doing once, and definitely with a local or experienced Mardi Gras goer who has similar tastes to yours. The hard-partiers would find my fun Mardi Gras boring, probably, whereas I cringe at the idea of going to the French Quarter during that time!

  18. Thanks for all the video. I didn’t realize this celebration went on for days. I definitely would not like the crowds. Sorry you were not able to enjoy it this year.

    • You might like the first week (there are two full weeks of parades) and first weekend–the crowds are light and mostly families, you catch more stuff, and it’s all kind of laid back. The last weekend and then Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras day itself are the craziest times.

  19. it’s on my bucket list!!! I would love to visit New Orleans and especially during Mardi Gras πŸ™‚ thanks for sharing!

  20. I think it’s kind of like going to the New Year’s Eve celebration in NYC – something you do once and then NEVER AGAIN! I would like to go, but maybe not in the mayhem of tourism.

  21. Since I am not a big fan of crowds, I don’t think I would enjoy going to da Mardi Gras. However, I did enjoy the videos. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Thanks for sharing this! I would not watch it on the ground, in the middle of the crowd, but upstairs behind a window, yes absolutely!