I didn’t always lug a gaggle of girls with emergency snacks, to stand, pressed against metal railings, just so I can protect them from plastic being hurled at their faces. Nope. Used to be that Mardi Gras was a time of working long hours behind a bar only to get off work and make the bad decision to go straight to a bar.
As a bartender in New Orleans it was just assumed you would be working, and working till your blisters had blisters and just the sight of a feather boa in the distance made you whimper with defeat. Everyday, during Mardi Gras season, it was just a continuous line of whoo-hoo’ing, “show me your tits,” bead wearing fools. It was our yearly Thunder Dome and only the strong could survive - or those who had some extra “helpers.”
There was this one, precious, year I wasn’t working. I had recently moved back from my nomadic ways and the timing just worked out. What is a girl to do when she has Mardi Gras day off in New Orleans? Go out of course! See the sights, hear the sounds, try all the jello shots. That last one was the beginning of the end for me. Why can I never learn that I can’t handle hard alcohol? About twice a year for my entire life I convince myself that I am cool enough to do shots or drink a big girl drink. Also, about twice a year I injure myself in my quest to prove myself as a Big Girl Drinker. I hate being a namby pamby. I want to mosey up to a bar and order a shot of whiskey, throw it back and tap for another one, never flinching like a badass. No, I have to go up to a bar ask if they have wine and if they don’t I proceed to order thusly: “Can I have a vodka & tonic but in a tall glass with just a little vodka and lots of tonic?” Yep, that’s my badass drink- a giant glass of tonic with a waft of vodka.
This Mardi Gras was one of my many attempts to prove how cool I really was. That I could hang with the big dogs. It all started with jello shots at the parade. I was good for about an hour then the first signs of my impending demise started to show. Waving down a man and purchasing a giant felt Mardi Gras themed Dr. Suess hat should have been enough of a red flag for me. Nope, even though I had declared how I would never walk around with a dumbass hat on, looking like a giant tourist, here I was. Not only had I become that ass, I had paid for it. Other than my unfortunate choice of head ware, I made it through pretty unscathed. A more intelligent person would have gone home at this point. I am not that person.
Adding to my other brilliant decisions, I decided to sit on the now, Mardi Gras filth covered street, while my friends smoke cigarettes and discuss where to go next. At this point the shots have hit and the world is starting to feel like I am inside a kaleidoscope and it wont stop spinning it. I follow my companions to the new, local brewery. A brewery owned by a friend of a friend. For most people this would have been a good thing for the light weight about to slide off her stool. Well, not so much. As I try to talk myself into how sober I am and how, “I got this,” I head to the private restroom. As I am standing in line I feel this tap on my shoulder. I whip around ready for some sort of confrontation. I don’t know why but when I have been drinking I think that everyone is about to say something confrontational. You know, like my dumbass does, every time I have too many. No, no, she was not about to start a fight - it was much worse. Six little words later, and the comet that is hard alcohol was about to land on the surface of my brain.
“Ma’am your hat is on fire.” I was so confused by what she was saying I remember mumbling something like I know that and the bathroom door open and I fell in and locked the door. Sure enough, I look in the mirror and three rings of my hat have melted away and the fourth was smoldering along. Luckily, I still had enough wits about me to take the hat off and throw it into the sink. I wet it down and as I look in the mirror I realize wear the melted Dr. Suess hat ends up. In a clump at the top of your head. Like some giant Mardi Gras colored rats nest glued solidly to your scalp. Time to go home right? You literally walked around with your hat on fire and didn’t notice the slow drip of melting hat on your head. Nah, I was past the point of that kind of self awareness. Instead I convinced myself that I would just plop this now soaking wet half burnt Dr. Suess hat back on my head and no one would be the wiser.
It was like a bad movie scene. The last thing I remember is looking in the mirror and placing that hat on my head. Next thing I know I am laying on the side of sidewalk under a bush using a half burnt Dr. Suess hat as a pillow. I wake up confused and with that ever so familiar taste of bad decisions in my mouth. I look up and across the street is my apartment. Right across the street! I am still so confused and I feel this weird pressure on the top of my head. There it was, still there and even more solidified - my Mardi Gras themed plastic dread on the top of my head. I did manage to scramble across the street and by the grace of god my roommates had left the door unlocked. Could you imagine if I had to find keys at that point?
I was told the next day when I could hear noises again without falling into the fetal position, that I had refused to go inside. I guess my drunk self decided that the bush was more comfortable. My roommate tried to convince me to go inside but being the irrational drunk I am I yelled, “Stop telling me what to do,” curled in a ball under the bush and refused any and all help. All I needed was me, this hat and this azalea bush… that’s all I needed.
Life lesson number 352: I cannot be allowed to my own devices at Mardi Gras. I must be responsible for other people. Be it children or drunks it does not matter as long as it'‘s not myself. Also Dr. Suess hats are highly flammable and are not worth the money, sleeping under bushes is over rated, and a giant bald spot on the top your head takes at least a month to fill back in. Your Welcome!