I was 11 when I went to my first Mardi Gras.
It's less scandalous then it sounds. We had moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the fall of 1977. The following spring my parents took us to the Pass Christian Mardi Gras parade on a Sunday afternoon. They told us that "Mardi Gras" literally meant "Fat Tuesday" and we thought that was the weirdest thing we'd ever heard. Then they told us we got two days out of school for it and we were all, "Woo-hoo! Mississippi is AWESOME!"
I missed Mardi Gras most of the years I was living in Memphis, but in 2010, I came back to Mardi Gras. The Saints had just won the Super Bowl. Drew Brees was Bacchus, God of Wine. That bitch Katrina had done her worst but the city had risen like a phoenix. And they were celebrating it all at Mardi Gras. I marked the occasion with a fleur-de-lis tattoo. It was a defining moment in my life.
Going to Mardi Gras with my brother and his kids has since become tradition. That probably sounds weird to people who have only ever seen the debauchery of Bourbon Street or the insanity of Canal. My experience with the "real" Mardi Gras is that it's the biggest fun and totally safe. Drinking, sure, but also music, and dancing in the streets, outrageous costumes, jambalaya food trucks and competition for signature throws. It's like everything you love about all the other holidays rolled into one and way too big to be contained by a single day and some lame Mardi Gras Eve.
It is simply the best time of the year.
It's not just "les bon temps." It is LES MEILLEUR TEMPS! And it rolls this weekend.