Marching In The Parades Brings Beads, Boobs And Kisses
The Mardi Gras parades are underway in New Orleans – check out the parade schedule here, as well as a few “survival tips”– and that always brings back good memories of when I was actually in a some of the parades.
It was back in high school, and when our band director announced we would be going to take part in the parades, a look of disbelieve and unbelievable happiness spread through the room.
Mardi Gras? And New Orleans!? You’re going to turn a bunch of high school kids loose in New Orleans during Mardi Gras? Are you a fool!? Thanks – you’re not so bad after all Mr. Z!
I was but a mere sophomore and tingled at the prospect of getting away from home from East Tennessee for the first time on a real trip.
New Orleans is really too much for a 15-year-old to handle. Very little in our existence to this point prepared me for Bourbon Street and drunk girls coming up and planting kisses on me during the parades.
The parades were long. Really long. Never-ending long. We had to march and play for hours. But I was fortunate enough to be on the end of a row, and that meant I was exposed to the crowd. Every so often, a girl would run out from the crowd, lay her lips on mine and put beads over my head.
Sometimes, a girl would hang onto me as we marched. She would put her arm around me, walk along for a while kissing me the entire time, then disappear into the crowd. Occasionally, a girl would put a straw in my mouth and give part of her drink. After a very short time, my hat was crooked and I had dozens of beads around the gooseneck of my alto saxaphone. And those beads attracted more girls who would come charging at me, pull up their top exposing her breasts and take some beads.
I didn’t understand exactly what the heck was was happening but I didn’t really care, either. I was getting both a sex and alcohol eduction at the same time.
A fellow sax player by the name of – and I kid you not – Ken Isabell (and he was a bell, a really funny guy whom I later learned because a motorcycle racer) saw all this from the middle of the row and begged to change places. He offered me a modest financial bribe but there was no way I was giving up my coveted position.
This went on for several nights. It was all a blur. I couldn’t tell you which parades we were in, except one of them was outside of New Orleans. It seemed not to matter.
Bourbon Street offered another kind of experience.
It was early afternoon when a few of us first walked onto it, and it was pretty much deserted. Except we were being pelted by garters.
At the time – and I remember this vividly – there were girls on the balcony flipping garters down at passers-by. We had been warned not to pick them up because they were prostitutes and picking up the garter meant you accepted their invitation. And none of us had any money for such a thing, so we left them alone.
Except for one guy, the biggest nerd in the school whom we allowed to tag along, as long as he stayed several feet behind us and didn’t do anything to embarrass us. Which he did, of course. He picked up a garter and we thought “uh oh.” But the girl who tossed it to him hollered down, “That’s not for you. This is Bourbon Street. Sesame Street is that way!”
We all cracked up laughing and waved to her. I often think of that line to this day when I walk onto Bourbon Street for the first time of a visit.
There are not prostitutes on the balconies of Bourbon Street today, just drinking bar patrons. Girls do pull up their tops and show their breasts from time to time for beads, or guys yell down to encourage girls on the street, but there are no garters.
I also realized the New Orleans cops don’t care about anything as long as you are not pulling a gun on someone, so it was futile to ask them anything, like how much longer we had to go in the parade. To this day, you can’t even say hi to them; they just look the other way and tell you to keep moving.
When my wallet was lifted one time on Bourbon Street – my own fault, I was staggering and a gal came from nowhere, put her arm around me and then quickly disappeared; the wallet showed up my mailbox a week later, by the way– they flicked me away as if I were a beignet crumb on their shirt.
The entire experience provided me with an instant love for New Orleans, something that continues to pour through my party veins. And I feel it each and every time I go to New Orleans.