Fat Tuesday 2014: The Curtain Falls On My Year of Mardi Gras



Later That Night At Blue Nile….

After a joyous and unforgettable climax to a momentous and often tumultuous journey, My Year of Mardi Gras ended with a whimper. Granted, I still live in New Orleans and this ‘year’ lasted nearly thirteen months as my journey began with my arrival in town on February 7th for Mardi Gras 2013 on the 12th while Fat Tuesday fell a month later this year on March 4th; however, in a narrative sense my self-selected year-ish time clock wound down on a cold, rainy, muted Tuesday.

The Purple, Green & Gold Pirate at the French Market

The Purple, Green & Gold Pirate at the French Market

Carnival Season 2014 had seen some of the most dramatic temperature swings in New Orleans history, and the excellent weather of the preceding weekend had turned chilly on Lundi Gras. Then that night a heavy, frigid rain began to fall. The rain had stopped when I awoke Mardi Gras morning, but the ground was damp and the sky heavy with gray clouds threatening the next deluge.

Lovely Lady Pirate Sidekick

Lovely Lady Pirate Sidekick

I only had one guest left in town by now, and we were planning to walk with the KOE, an online organization that used to parade as [Read more…]

Lundi Gras 2014: Putting The M In Orpheus & Cowboy Mouth Gets A Cavity


2014-03-03 21.11.33

Chilling Out (Literally) At Orpheus

I’m tempted to describe the final weeks of My Year of Mardi Gras as a steep bell curve of excitement, but that wouldn’t be accurate. There were multiple peaks on this wild rollercoaster ride, not a steady ascent. One of my primary missions in moving here was to ‘imbed’ in at least one Mardi Gras krewe and I wound up both walking with an alternative krewe and riding with a traditional krewe, allowing me to compare and contrast. As expected, these were by far the highlights of my year here, although the entire  Mardi Gras 2014 season has been a blast.

The Crew At Krewe du Brew

The Crew At Krewe du Brew

Carnival actually began January 6th, and the prep and planning stretched far beyond that, leading to a slow build of anticipation. Then there were three weekends of parading starting with Krewe du Vieux which I was able to share with my Treme addicted brother. Even though my ride with Morpheus that Friday and walk with Chewbacchus the Saturday before were the culmination of my ambition, I still had guests in town so enjoyed all the aspects of Mardi Gras to it’s fullest. However, by the time we met up with Chip and Eloy for brunch at Krewe du Brew Monday afternoon where I was finishing a blog post before heading to the Cowboy Mouth Lundi Gras show at the Riverwalk, it was clear we were about to descend the final peak.

Not helping matters, the beautiful weather of the weekend had given way to a chilly Lundi Gras (Fat Monday) on the one Monday you actually care about the weather. So after warming up on coffee and pressed croissant sandwiches, we all piled into Eloy’s truck and bundled up in blankets as we looked for parking downtown.


The Man, Danny Cattan! Lundi Gras 2013

The Man, Danny Cattan!
Lundi Gras 2013

Despite the weather, the downtown was packed so we wound up having to wind our way to the top of the Canal Place parking garage on the border of the French Quarter and the CBD. This put us right between [Read more…]

Mardi Gras Madness: A Sunday Retreat


Thoth Rolls Down Magazine

Thoth Rolls Down Magazine

If I had been dragging Saturday after my huge day riding in Morpheus, Sunday morning I was absolutely spent. We’d been going non-stop since my guests had arrived on Thursday. Heck, my Mardi Gras had actually begun two weekends prior when my brother visited for Krewe du Vieux followed the next weekend by my crazy walk with Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. I’d been running on pure adrenalin and college levels of alcohol but it was now catching up with me.

Along with the fatigue of revving in the red too long, my legs were swollen and aching after standing all day on that tiny float (though my crappy diet that weekend hardly helped). Fortunately, we had a relaxed day planned. My friend Maggie McKeown, whose bookstore sadly closed in January, had invited us to watch the Mid-City and Thoth parades. Her neighbors host a block party every year and she wanted to share this view of Mardi Gras deep Uptown off the main thoroughfare of St. Charles. Though I’d seen parades from many vantage points, I’d not been amongst a group of tight-knit neighbors who have gathered for twenty years. Now that’s N’Awlins!


Lazily Watching Thoth

Lazily Watching Thoth

Kyle was still clinging to illusions of [Read more…]

Mardi Gras Serendipity: Fried Chicken Grammys, Musical Vegetables, King Cake Krewe Kings, & Jazzy Hoboes


"He Who Pulls The Sword From the King Cake Shall Be King!"

“He Who Pulls The Sword From the King Cake Shall Be King!”

With the start of parading season, the stretch run to Mardi Gras is underway and the whole town is hopping, making social scheduling nearly impossible as everyone adds last-minute touches to their costumes, picks up throws, and completes contraptions and/or shuffles them around town for repair and delivery.

Wait. That’s me!

Which makes me officially part of the local insanity. And into this maelstrom flew my oldest brother, Jerry who, by the end of his first night in town, was already part of the show!


WMSHJerry landed in New Orleans with a blossoming cold so my plan to rush him to Liuzza’s by the Track for a Barbecue Shrimp Po-Boy before the free NOLA Brewing tour was squashed. Instead, we headed home so he could lie down before heading to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, as comfort food sounded more in order than spicy seafood! Willie Mae’s has been voted [Read more…]

Christmastime In New Orleans (Do You Know What It Means To Re-Fall In Love With New Orleans?)


2013-12-17 17.41.52

Christmas In Jackson Square

For the past couple of months I’ve been diligently plugging away, trying to remain productive while searching for a way to bear fruit from my labor. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get so obsessed with the harvest that you lose the joy of gardening in the process. As my frustration grew and I doubled down my efforts to get something back from my writing, I started to fear I was losing focus of the reason I moved to New Orleans in the first place—I was missing the forest trying to harvest the fruit trees. Between my holiday travels I was only in town for two weeks (and one weekend), but it started to dawn on me that I needed to step away from the keyboard and reconnect with all the reasons I began this adventure, searching to revive a bit of my dormant Christmas spirit in the process. [Read more…]

Halloween Weekend in New Orleans, Part 2: An Epic Krewe de Boo-Boo


2013-10-26 17.26.10Growing up, I often remember my parents saying: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times . . .” before reiterating some life lesson. Well, New Orleans might as well just come out and say, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, you can’t plan things in this city, you just have to let the magic come to you.”

And Friday had been a magical day with Camellia Grill being an experience my 13-year-old guest will long remember, later followed by an unexpected to bloodletting to add a little real life fright to our night. The day had been more sublime than I could have hoped to engineer, but Saturday I wasn’t leaving things to chance. I had our night at the big Krewe of Boo parade planned out perfectly.

I should have known I was screwed. [Read more…]

Halloween Weekend In New Orleans, Part 1: New Eyes & Old Fears


2013-10-26 22.16.12

A Nightmare on Magazine Street

Halloween has long been my favorite holiday, challenged only when I first came to New Orleans just prior to the turn of the millennium to become a Mardi Gras maniac. Christmas is the sentimental standard-bearer in most of American culture, but I’ve always said that Christmas is for kids, whereas Halloween is for adults to act like kids. Since I don’t have children to help keep my Christmas spirit alive, Halloween wins in a landslide. Still, as I wrote in my last post about the Audubon Aquarium, as much as I nurture my inner child and fight becoming curmudgeon, it’s difficult not to lose some to the wonder of the seasonal celebrations that hold so much meaning in my life. Perhaps that’s why I hold on so fiercely, afraid that if I lose my attachment to that seasonal rhythm that I’ll fade into yet another uninspired drone drifting towards death.

This year in particular, though, is my chance to rekindle the wonder since New Orleans is not only Mardi Gras central but a top worldwide Halloween destination with a history steeped in voodoo and haunts. The weekend before Halloween is as big as the holiday itself, and I had the chance to not only see the holiday but the city itself anew through the eyes of a child . . . err, teenage; after all, what can be more frightening than [Read more…]

From Sudden Super Heroes to Ubiquitous Saints & Bearded Legends: Weirdness & Wonder in New Orleans


2013-10-05 17.00.30It’s been a busy three weeks since my birthday though not much of this wonder and weirdness has coalesced into blog posts. Tonight, though, I finally met my Morpheus mates at Rock-n-Bowl and I’m excited for the true kick off to My Year of Mardi Gras (though that’s how I felt about the Chewbacchus kickoff that turned out to be somewhat of a dud). In between turning 20 for the third time and tonight’s Mardi Gras meet-up, I did have a weekend that seemed to encompass all the wonder and weirdness that makes New Orleans such a unique city all in one compact weekend. In fact, if this sensuous city had a an alter ego, it’s be Wonder & Weirdness Woman.


It’s always more natural to shirk productivity and explore your own town when you have a visitor. This was the case the weekend before last when my college friend Mike drove in from Pensacola. We have roots deeper than a bayou Cypress so when he apologized about our miscommunication during my pre-birthday stop in Pensacola I just laughed it off. It was just a catalyst for an unanticipated adventure, and I’ll always associate that all night drive to an obscured beach sunrise with this landmark birthday.

camelliagrill3Mike arrived too late Friday night for two old farts to head out, so we stayed up late chatting.  Saturday, after a late start and amazing breakfast at the famous Camellia Grill, one of the best ‘greasy spoons’ in the nation where the fast talking waiters are as much a draw as the canoe-sized omelets, we set off on a frantic mission. My writer and LSU professor friend Chris had for years shared pictures of the annual Super Hero Bar Crawl that one of his best friends hosts on his birthday, and now that I’m in town had sent me an evite which I managed to not read until Thursday night. A Super Hero Bar Crawl is [Read more…]

French Quarter Living: Rhythm of the City


Oh, The 80s, When Real Men Knew How To Tease Their Hair

Oh, The 80s, When Real Men Knew How To Tease Their Hair Living

I began July in a Frenchmen Street bar sipping a cold Corona (not to be mistaken with a Cocharona!) and thinking back to a cheesy Survivor song beloved in my adolescence, “Too Hot To Sleep.” As the month closed, another song from that same seldom recalled album was stuck in my head: “Rhythm of the City,” for after a rough start I was finally easing into the rhythm of French Quarter living.


DSC02862Things finally calmed down after my 4th of July visitor and subsequent busy week, and I gradually got back to doing everyday things like ‘making groceries’ at Rouses Uptown, stopping by Dick & Jenny’s next door first to give their cuisine a second try. I’ve become comfortable eating alone at the bar and ordering (relatively) light—an entrée only, fish with spinach. It was excellent, though this will never be my go-to spot as it seems to be for many locals.

DSC02857DSC02856The following days were spent writing and wandering the Quarter, eating out less and focusing on lunch when I did. One afternoon I stopped by [Read more…]

New Orleans Living: A Dark Passenger, Jedi Master, & Home For Wayward Boys


Jacques ImosThe problem with the 75 cent pork sliders and meat pies at the American Sector Restaurant is that when the adjoining National World War II Museum keeps you mesmerized through lunch until it closes at 5:00, ‘you’ll ruin your dinner’ as mother warned. And we had big dinner plans.

DSC02849I fell in love with New Orleans via Jazz Fest, but Jacques Imo’s may be the first local restaurant that stole my heart (though it could be Mother’s—memories are fuzzy). I remember the first time my oldest brother and I visited circa 1999. We were blown away by its upscale eclecticism and adventurous cuisine. We returned a couple of times, but my life changed directions and it’s been well over a decade since I’ve been back. I’ve become somewhat of a New Orleans foodie in the interim and, in the process, have discovered that Jacques Imo’s is perhaps the most divisive restaurant in the city. I mentioned a couple of posts ago how it is hip to deride any New Orleans restaurant that doesn’t fit your taste as a tourist trap, but nowhere does this battle rage so fierce as within the funky Jacques Imo’s bedecked with color folk art such as bright blue goes or “Be Nice Or Leave” plaques. It’s ridiculously off the beaten path, though, for a tourist trap, hiding on Oak Street on the complete opposite side of Uptown from the French Quarter so near the river bend that you could almost hit the Mississippi with one of their garlic cornbread muffins.

But you wouldn’t want to [Read more…]