I wrote this piece with English IV as an effort to acquaint them with the dreary five-paragraph college theme essay. I’m not a fan of the genre, but since the form is still current among many who teach freshman comp, I want them to know and master it.
Growing up in Louisiana has afforded me a rich variety of memories from Mardi Gras “daze.” Over the years, from Canal Street to the Cajun prairie, I have alternately run and run from the celebration. If I had to choose three of the most memorable highlights of Mardi Gras past that contribute to my current disregard for observing the holiday in any traditional sense, I would name these: (1) as a child, going to Canal Street with my family for the Rex Parade; (2) as a high school senior, an incident where one of my buddies spent the morning in the ER at Charity Hospital; and (3) a masked rider in Patassas scaring the daylights out of my five-year old daughter.
My earliest memories of Mardi Gras are from the early 1960’s when Daddy would load up the family in the Ford station wagon and take us to Canal Street. In those days, the parades were more family-oriented (except for the ones on Bourbon Street—Daddy never took us to those venues!). We had family fun, yelling “Throw me something, Mister!” to the float riders who threw beads and trinkets to the parade-goers along the route. I wish my Mardi Gras memories would have ended there, because those were the last days of innocence. My next two memories are not nearly so pleasant.
The second memorable Mardi Gras experience came from my senior year of high school. I went to hang out on Canal Street for the parades with a gang of work buddies. Everything was going well until one guy from our group got into a scuffle with another parade-goer over a string of beads they went to pick up off the street at the same moment. My buddy gave the beads over right away, not wanting to fight, but as he turned his back, the other fellow knocked him in the back of the head hard enough that my friend fell face-down on the street. He ended up spending Mardi Gras in the emergency room, which dampened the experience for all.
My third most memorable Mardi Gras experience came many years later along the Cajun prairie parade route in Patassas. I was guiding a newspaper reporter friend from Mobile, Alabama, so he could take pictures and get interviews for a feature article on Cajun Mardi Gras for his newspaper. My little daughter was a long, too. As we stood alongside the route, one of the masked Mardi Gras riders, meaning to be funny, hopped in front of my daughter and exclaimed “Boo!” as he snatched the Raggedy Ann doll she clutched. The rider meant no harm, but in his drunken foolishness, he didn’t realize how much he terrorized that poor little girl.
So there: three memorable Mardi Gras experiences. One pleasant, the other two not so much. What’s the end result, then? I don’t run Mardi Gras! I appreciate the two-day school/work holiday as a couple of days to chill, to sleep late and sip coffee for as long as I want, and then to run to Laffy to goof off and shop. In a manner, I love Mardi Gras, but probably for non-traditional reasons. ☺
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