The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture
Well hello there! Happy Mardi Gras to all!
We decided to start celebrating bright and early this morning. It was barely 7 a.m., and we had the whole crew out front of Bayou Bakery ringing in Fat Tuesday the right way. Indeed, the time is ripe to chow down on some king cake and celebrate the revelry and traditions of Mardi Gras. Innocent bystanders and Northerners may think we’re crazy, but we can’t help it. It’s part of our DNA.
Growing up in New Orleans, Mardi Gras festivities were just a way of life. It wasn’t until I ventured out of the Crescent City that I realized the whole world doesn’t take off from work, dress in funny outfits or treasure coconuts and strings of beads, (loss of innocence). No, I learned quickly that New Orleanians were a special breed.
When I reached the ripe age to cocktail, my day would always begin with a Bloody Mary in hand. My best friend Juliet Hainkel and I would be up at 5 a.m. with the Buzzards (a local Mardi Gras marching club). We’d run into the Half Fast Walking Club, another marching group, with Founder Pete Fountain playing the clarinet. We’d march from Norby’s down to where the Zulu parade was to begin. There’d be singing on St Claude and Dumaine, (down in New Orleans where the Blues were born) with everyone belting out Mardi Gras Mambo!
Former President of the Senate John Hainkel (Mr. Louisiana himself, who I called Big John and my pseudo father) would rent us all a spot on the avenue. We’d hang out all day, eating his jambalaya and peppa weenies (boiled in crab boil) until the last of the parades rolled through—Comus around dusk. It would be sacrilege to leave before you saw one of the oldest Krewes finish their parade. Another influential man in my life was Papa Hartson, father of another dear friend, Joanie Hartson. He would ride every year in Rex as a captain on horseback with his bright yellow riding outfit. The captains rode in threes in the traditional colors: purple, green and gold. There is no one more New Orleans than these two characters. I could go on for days…
Great memories flood back to me every year. Yet even as a transplant Washingtonian, I’m still a New Orleanian at heart. I have no choice but to celebrate Mardi Gras with all the same spunk and fervency! I made it back down to New Orleans about a week ago to do a little pre-celebrating with good friends before the Super Bowl. We jumped right back in with the costumes and parades—it was like we never left!
The greatest thing to me is that we can bring the tradition back to Arlington, and I’m gearing up for tonight’s Bayou Gras Block Party. In case you haven’t heard, the streets of Clarendon are being shut down this evening for a Mardi Gras celebration and family affair!
The parade will start at 7 p.m. and dance down Wilson Boulevard (from North Barton Street to Washington Boulevard). There will be bands marching, float-riders tossing beads, and crazy people like me bobbing up and down to the best of New Orleans jazz. David Guas will be cooking up all the Mardi Gras favorites: muff-a-lottas, gumbo and don’t forget the famous king cakes! There’s still time your get food and drink tickets.
I’ve got on my king-cake-baby earrings and my purple, green & gold leg warmers (the hottest street wear on the parade route this year). As you can see, I’m ready for tonight, and you know I mean business! You can take the girl out of New Orleans, but you sure as hell can’t take the New Orleans out of this girl.
Come on now! We’ve got David, our neighbors the Porter’s (old friends from New Orleans), the Thomas’s, the Clancy’s and the McGinley’s on board—all ready to ride on the Bayou Gras Boogey Float, so be prepared to catch some beads! Bring your friends, bring your family and bring your Mardi Gras spirit. Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!