My first clue we were on the brink of something amazing was when I saw the Westboro Baptist Church protesting in the street.
Nick and I had traveled to New Orleans for a long weekend away from the kids and it just so happened to be Decadence weekend, AKA “gay Mardi Gras”. We knew this because once our plane landed, everyone and their brother was eager to inform us. “Well you picked quite the weekend to visit New Orleans!” we heard over and over.
Depending on which side of the fence they sat this was either said with a quiver in their voice as they avoided eye contact, or as they handed us a drink served in a giant pink dildo. We knew we were in for some fun, but seeing the protesters I knew this wasn’t going to be like any gay festival I’d ever been a part of.
I was excited because I love gay people, and I love celebrating. For the record, I also love celebrating straight people, Mariachi bands and cats. Basically give me a drink and a weekend away from my kids and I’ll celebrate any damn thing you tell me to.
The first two days were a little low key, and frankly we were disappointed. I think the Westboro church was too. There was very little action, at least by gay Mardi Gras standards.
“Where my PEOPLE AT!” I threw my head back and shouted at the ceiling from my bar stool. There was a fancy man standing next to me in an Armani suit gabbing on about the high end art studio he just opened around the corner and behind me two homeless men were in a fist fight out in the middle of the street. I decided to walk out and put my money on the one who looked like Ronald Regan.
By day three our liver function was operating at about 30%, despite the decadence action being little to none. We were both extremely swollen from lethal amounts of food and also hung over, so we decided to take it easy for the last day of our trip. The street car took us down to the FQ and we went to The Gumbo Shop for lunch and agreed not drink until dinner that night.
By the time our gumbo arrived we were on our third beer, and frankly I was proud of us for sticking to our resolution for nearly a minute and a half.
Walking out of the restaurant we decided to do a little souvenir shopping for the kids and that’s when I saw it – a leather harness on a real live person. I whipped out my camera and snapped a photo because it was the first “out there” thing we had seen and I wanted to impress my friends.
It was then that the mood started to shift. At first slowly – some assless chaps here, a spiked dog collar there.
“Wow – that takes some balls,” I said to Nick as we rounded the corner and saw one guy in a cat suit, his friend full on Porky Pigging it and a third carrying god knows what in a back pack. “I’m sending this one to your parents.”
I’ve been told that if you’ve ever broken a bone, you can tell it’s about to storm because said broken part will start aching out of nowhere. It can be a perfectly sunny day and my sister will start rubbing at her neck and say, ‘I think it’s going to rain’, and inevitably, it will. That’s how I felt right then. Maybe it was my liver throwing toxins into my brain, but I felt like something big was about to happen and that we were going to need to get drunker. Nick agreed.
We wandered through a courtyard and into a bar, where we were seated by a hostess in a g-string cat suit. Our bartender was a man in his tighty whities and had a unicorn horn secured to his head via a chin strap.
In the hour or so we sat in that bar, drinking our rum drinks served by the man in his underwear, there was a seismic shift happening on the streets outside of which we were completely unaware – the parade started. We went to the bar to order another drink and the man told me, “We’re actually closing for three hours for the parade.”
He could have said, ‘We’re closing for three hours because Jesus is performing miracles over at the bourbon bar’ and I would have been equally excited. We ordered our drinks to go.
Nick and I walked out the doors and into a flood of leather strapped accessories and fishnet. We stood there on the sidewalk for a moment, our touristy drinks in one hand, me clutching my souvenier shop bag with gifts for our kids in the other. A float full of men whirlibirding their penises to the beat of Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb rolled past.
My eyes glazed over and I froze for a second. I mean – I have a lot of friends who are gay, but not THIS gay. This was gay level orange.
It was at this moment, that we were frozen on the sidewalk hand in hand looking like a couple of class A dorks, that God decided we all needed to get to know each other a little better. Out of nowhere there was a huge thunderclap and it started pouring rain. We are talking a full on Louisiana soaking where the drops are so big and fat and falling with such force that they hit the ground and bounce back up a few inches, bringing some of the gutter urine from Bourbon Street with it before it lands on your calf. The thousands of half naked people watching the parade made a desperate break for anything with an awning, which were few and far between.
This is the part where Nick and I suddenly found ourselves to be the meat in a very large, hairy, wet, sweaty, leather bound, gay man sandwich.
Me with my fancy sandals and Ann Taylor shorts clutching my souvenir bag wishing I would have better prepared, both mentally and outfit wise. The Sesame Street song One of These Things is Not Like the Other rang in my head as I felt something poking me in the back. “Sorry, my tail,” the man behind me explained as he twirled the cat tail attached to the back of his G-string around like a lasso. “It likes you.”
“Did you tell your husband this was happening or did you just drag him down here and surprise him?” Another man wearing a penis head band and ballet slippers asked me. I glanced over at Nick, who was clearly enjoying this newfound attention. Stick him in a bar with a bunch of women, he’ll get a few glances. Packed in under an awning with a bunch of gay men and suddenly he’s the belle of the ball. “Where do you buy stuff like that, anyway,” I heard him ask. “Amazon?”
Suddenly I was feeling very self-conscious. I felt like everyone was staring at me and immediately knew I shop with Kohl’s cash and watch Dr. Phil religiously. Did I have what it took to hang here? “You’re god damned right you do,” I heard someone say. Then I realized it was the rum and I was talking to myself. “You’re a suburban mom with a mini van and incontinence issues. Be proud of who you are. Own your shit and let your freak flag fly.”
The rum was right. I might have been dressed for a PTA picnic, but I was still amazing in my own way. Just then an older gentleman in nothing but baggy tighty whities crammed up his crack to give the appearance of a g-string walked in front of me. I SHIT YOU NOT when I tell you he dropped something on the ground and bent over less than two feet from where I was standing to pick it up. Face down… ass up, giving zero cares who saw all up in that broccoli.
A man standing next to me with what appeared to be car battery booster clamps attached to his nipples turned to me and we exchanged horrified looks and simultaneously burst out laughing.
“Some things you just can’t unsee,” he said as we grabbed our stomachs and laughed to the point of tears. I assumed we were laughing at the same thing but by then all the drinks had kicked in and I wasn’t exactly sure of anything any more.
The next day we boarded our plane back to boring land. Back to too much politics and too much white vs. black and not enough hey let’s celebrate you being you and me being me and oh by the way let’s do it wearing nipple clamps.
“I wish every day was like gay Mardi Gras,” I sighed to Nick, as he downed his fourth bottle of water.
“I couldn’t handle it,” he said. “Yesterday no less than five pairs of bare balls touched my shorts while we were in that dance club.”
“No, not that necessarily the drunk naked part, though that would be nice,” I said. “I just mean the you’re awesome, I’m awesome, let’s celebrate just being alive part. Like, ‘Hey mailman! Work that mail!’ or ‘Go doctor, get the papsmear, go doctor, get the papsmear!'”
“Well, you go ahead and do that. Some of us are ready to get back to reality,” he said, like someone who didn’t have a peacock feather suit squirreled away in his carry on.