Despite being a lifelong Texan, a onetime Catholic and the daughter of parents who were proudly BOI (born on the island it's a Galveston thing), I've never attended Mardi Gras Galveston. Blame it on my debilitating social anxiety disorder; I won't even go to the grocery store on weekends. However, the weather's crappy on this second MG Saturday, which might thin the crowds. And I've scored a VIP pass that allows me access to the upper balcony and some distance above ground zero: the Strand. As my boyfriend and I wander the streets, the drunks are still moments away from dancing alone and the puddles of unknown goo contain but a few broken beads (which, I note with horror, people are picking up anyway). We push forward and up to a balcony on the corner of 23rd and Strand, where we find ourselves 20 feet from a Blues Travelers performance and the rump of surprisingly svelte lead singer John Popper. He wails away on a harmonica that he will later toss to the appreciative plebeians below. This isn't so bad. I've just put away two large bowls of gumbo and am nursing a free beer in the chill air.
"See," says my boyfriend, "Mardi Gras is about letting go."
Full of cheer and liquid courage (thanks, Bud Light), I decide to head down. I'll miss this oasis, however surreal it may be. I mean, I'm standing behind only two women for the bathroom, while the men's room line is at least 15 strong. The facilities downstairs, meanwhile, require you to roll up your pant legs for sanitary purposes. Down to the lower echelon we go. As we meet up with some friends in the crowd, my terror alert level quickly returns to yellow. "Look at the funbags on that hosehound," a friend comments.
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"Funbags? Hosehound?" I mutter confusedly (turns out he was checking out someone's rack). I'm eyeing the police stretched across the Strand ahead of the Krewe of Momus parade. Their SWAT gear makes it clear that they're ready to dispatch revelers by any means necessary. So we head back to the VIP haven and its free pizza. I feel briefly guilty, until I realize these fools downstairs paid to come.
Our progress is halted when a drunken man puts his arm around me, looks right in my eyes and says, "I bet you don't think you're pretty, but you suuure are." Help!
"I would have smashed his face in," my boyfriend later explains valiantly, "but I was getting another beer."
Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed.