The Mardi Gras spirit goes on for several weeks before the actual day, and people - friends, neighbors and strangers - regularly wish everyone they pass, "Happy Mardi Gras." The spirit is real in south Louisiana, and most houses are decorated; people here feel Mardi Gras; it is real, and at least as vivid as the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The major parades - 33 of them in the New Orleans area - go on for more than two weeks. Our neighbor, however, adds to this pageantry by hosting two (minor, unofficial) walking groups that parade annually during this time. He states a simple formula for attracting these wildly-outfitted groups that march to music that they provide - beer, tables full of glasses of beer.
So, these wild-and-fun 50-80 people draped in gaudy and beautiful robes, hats and other outfits - shout and smile and converse with all who mingle with them (including Holly and me), drink beer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then proceed on their route that goes for two miles or more through Uptown New Orleans. One of these groups arrives at a reasonable hour, but the other usually arrives next door to us at 7:00 a.m., noisy and excited but always fun, and always cheerful and friendly.
Mardi Gras is much, much more than rabidly shouting tourists in the French Quarter; it is an annual groundswell of good-will and merry-making for people of all kinds and all ages - and all mixed together - almost universally friendly and safe and joyous ... and communal. Mardi Gras is part of who we are, from Mobile, Alabama (home of the first Mardi Gras parades), through all of southern Louisiana to the Texas border. Laissez les bon temps roulez!