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"Return to Mardi Gras" by Richard Sherman
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Book I - New Orleans  -  page1
Book II - The French Quarter  -  page 96
Book III - Mardi Gras  -  page 279

Chapter 29

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    I woke up a couple of hours later. "You were dreaming," Aimee said.
    "I was probably dreaming of Mardi Gras."
    "Do you think Bill will be at the airport to meet us?"
    "If I had left it to him, probably not. That's why I left it on the coffee table at Craig's. He is as dependable as the sun."
    "What day is it anyway? I lose track of time at the commune.
    "Has Mardi Gras started?"
    "Today is the first big day of Mardi Gras. It goes for twelve days, and starts today, Friday. This will be a week when Mardi Gras is starting to roll and next Friday it breaks loose. This week there will be at least one parade every day and parties every night as the festivities get started. Next Friday it goes totally crazy for five days. Next Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday there will be five or six parades a day and the streets will be full of people partying and every bar will be full of people partying. There will be constant parties everywhere all day long. Mardi Gras Day is a week from Tuesday and you won't believe it. That is the day when everyone costumes and there will be constant parades from ten o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock that night all over the city. After nine o'clock in the morning no traffic will be allowed and the streets will be full of people in costumes, and parades. Everyone will be drinking and partying by ten o'clock in the morning and it will go all day and into the night. You've never seen anything like it."
    "They close the streets on Mardi Gras day and turn the whole
city into a giant party?"

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    "I thought it was just downtown like the parades on Wall Street."
    "No, there are more than fifty parades for twelve days all across the city. There are parades in the suburbs and they close the streets there also and hundreds of thousands of people are in costumes partying in the streets of the suburbs, just like down town. It covers the whole city for several days. There are a million people in the streets on Mardi Gras Day. It’s like a giant block party."
    "I didn't realize the magnitude of it. Turning a whole city into a giant party for several days!"
    "And a festive party too. I think there's more fun had at Mardi Gras day than the rest of the year put together"
    "I can't wait. How did Mardi Gras get started?"
    "It is an ancient Christian festival. Many Catholic countries in Europe have celebrated Mardi Gras since before 500 AD. It was taken over from the Romans and turned into a Christian festival. The Romans had a Pagan festival, the celebration of the coming of spring which was a week long celebration of drinking, feasting and an orgy. It was quite popular with the people, and when the Catholic church in 300 and 400 A.D. started converting the Pagans they knew they would lose too many if they stopped the festival, so they changed it into a Christian festival. It is part of the Christmas to Easter Christian celebration of the birth of Christ to the death of Christ and the resurrection."
    "I never knew that."
    "In Europe and most places and even by old New Orleans people it is called ‘Carnival.’ That comes from an old Latin word which means "farewell to flesh." because people had to stop eating meat for Lent. ‘Mardi Gras,’ in French means ‘Fat Tuesday,’ the day Catholics feast before Ash Wednesday begins Lent. You know how Easter is on a different day every year?"
    "In the Catholic religion people are supposed to celebrate Lent for 47 days before Easter, and not eat meat or drink. Therefore, since they have to stop eating meat and drinking on Ash Wednesday, they have a big feast and party until Mardi Gras Day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday."
    "I understand. Since they had to be good for 47 days of Lent they partied and had a blowout until the day before."
    "Right. Actually the Mardi Gras season starts on January 6,

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but is very tame until the twelve days before Mardi Gras Day. It begins on January 6, which is King’s Day, or Twelfth Night, or the Feast of the Epiphany. It is twelve days after the birth of Christ and is the day celebrated as the day the three kings or wise men arrived in Bethlehem to give presents to Christ. The Catholics celebrate January 6 as the Feast of the Epiphany. Remember the King Cakes you have been seeing in the stores the last two months."
    "The gold and purple and green cakes?"
    "Yes. Those are King Cakes that are baked from January 6 up to Mardi Gras Day. On January 6, people have King Cake parties and serve a King Cake. Inside the cake is a little plastic baby, a Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece with the baby has a party the next week with another King Cake, and they do the same thing again. That goes up to Mardi Gras Day."
    "Why are the King Cakes gold and purple and green?"
    "Those are the Mardi Gras colors. You will see banners with those colors hanging everywhere. The traditional King Cakes were a long cinnamon bun the size of a loaf of french bread which had been baked in the form of a circle on a cake tray. Today, they make all types of King Cakes, with elaborate fillings and ship them all over the world during Mardi Gras season. I read that they sell 750,000 King Cakes during the two-month season."
    "Do Jewish people join in the Mardi Gras celebration?"
    "Many do. The Orthodox Jews don’t but many others do. By law in order to have a parade the krewes that give the parades must have members who are Jewish, blacks and all other groups. Many jewish people join in and enjoy the parades, the parties, the balls and all of the festivities."
    "How long has New Orleans celebrated Mardi Gras?"
    "Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans since at least 1720, but at first without parades. In the early 1800's students who had studied in France returned to New Orleans and started copying the French Mardi Gras and turned it into a giant celebration. The first floats in New Orleans were prior to 1850."
    "What is a krewe?"
    "It’s a social club that puts on the parades and balls and parties. It’s pronounced "crew," like the crew on a boat."
    "I can’t wait to see Mardi Gras."
    The plane landed and as soon as we got off of the plane and into the airport you could tell that Mardi Gras had started. There was a festive mood in the airport. It wasn't the time

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conscious business crowd you usually see at an airport. Most of the people had flown into town for Mardi Gras and seemed to have started partying on the plane and were laughing and having a good time. When we got to the top of the ramp Craig, Bill, George and Faye were standing holding palm branches and when they saw us they burst out laughing and starting waving them at us and laid some of them on the ground and you could tell they were tight. Everybody was standing looking at them and laughing and no one looked at them like they were crazy. It was Mardi Gras.
    "What are the palm branches for?"
    Bill was laughing. "You know how Mardi Gras is tied in to Easter?"
    "Sure. Mardi Gras Day is the day before Ash Wednesday."
    "We decided to meet you for your triumphant entrance into the city with palm branches." They started waving the palm branches in front of Aimee.
    Faye was laughing. "And since we didn't have an ass for you to ride on, we brought Bill." Everybody laughed and Bill walked across the palm branches to Aimee and told her to get on him piggy back and she did and they walked toward the baggage area that way with the others waving the palm branches in front of them and pretending to bow and saying, "Hosanna." Everyone laughed when we went by and you could tell it was Mardi Gras.
    We got to the car and drove into town. Aimee was sitting in my lap in the back seat and the palm branches were on the floor under our feet and Faye was in the front seat sitting in George's lap. George put his head back on the seat and closed his eyes. "What is this shit?" said Faye. "It's Mardi Gras. I need some lovin'. I don't need any of this passing out." She crawled over the back seat into Bill's lap and started kissing Bill. George looked around and smiled.
    We rode into town and when we got to St. Charles Avenue we were stopped in traffic and could see a parade going down the street with the colorful floats.
    "You might as well turn off the motor. We'll be here for awhile until the parade passes." Craig turned the motor off. Faye and Bill were kissing and Aimee and I were kissing. Everyone was laughing and even Bill was in a good mood. Mardi Gras had begun.
    The parade finally moved past and we crossed St. Charles Avenue and headed toward the river.

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    "Which street are you going down?"
    "I'm going to try Prytania and see how it's moving. If it's moving fast we can stay on that street and if not we can go to Magazine Street or Tchoupitoulas."
    "I'm sorry we missed the first parade of the Mardi Gras, said Aimee.
    "We haven't yet," I said. "It will go down St. Charles to Canal and a mile down one side of Canal and come back the other side of Canal, and finally go down Rampart Street on the edge of the French Quarter past Louis Armstrong Park and into the municipal auditorium for the ball. If we can get through the traffic we will have a couple of hours before it will go down Rampart Street. It's a long parade route.
    Craig had turned and we were going down Prytania Street and the traffic was going smoothly but he had to drive slowly because people were walking back to their cars from the parade. Cars were parked in every conceivable place, on corners, pulled over the curb onto sidewalks and in vacant lots. Finally we caught up to the parade and were going parallel to it a few blocks away so the crowd was still at the parade and the few people in the street were latecomers hurrying to see the last part of the parade and cars were parked everywhere. Finally we passed the parade since it was moving slow with the marching bands and we drove on down Prytania.
    "Who sponsors the parades?" asked Aimee. "There are lavish floats in it. Does the city sponsor it?"
    "No, the private social clubs called krewes sponsor them. They are social clubs whose only purpose is to once a year have a Mardi Gras parade and a ball. The oldest ones are status symbols to be in and there are wealthy businessmen and lawyers and doctors and they cost over a thousand dollars a year to be in. The others are clubs of regular people having a good time. There are many krewes of middle class people having fun. On Mardi Gras Day they have family parades. On Mardi Gras Day, first they have a parade put on by the Krewe of Rex and after that are two long family parades that last for five hours. In the family parades any neighborhood or any group can get together a few families and rent a flatbed truck, one of those huge ones like they haul freight on the highways. They put railings and decorate it with crepe paper or colored foil and they have a theme. They wear costumes with that theme and they ride on the float in the parade with their children. One float might be a circus theme and the people

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will be dressed in circus costumes; another will be a Disney theme and everyone will be dressed like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the other Disney characters; and all types of themes. Those are mostly families with children and they have a blast."
    "People ride on the floats?"
    "Yes, all of them in all of the parades. The riders in costumes toss 'throws' to the crowds."
    "What are 'throws'?"
    "The people on the floats throw things to the crowds -- Mardi Gras beads, little toys for the children, and what are called 'doubloons,' which are aluminum medallions which are inscribed with the name of the parade, the year, and engraved pictures of the theme of the parade."
    "They throw those to the crowd?"
    "Yes. You'll be amazed how much enthusiasm it generates. Everyone is jumping up and down with their hands in the air yelling 'throw me something, mister' and waving their hands and trying to get their attention. When they throw something near you everyone will be jumping into the air to try to grab it, and when beads or doubloons fall on the ground everyone will scramble for them. They're silly little beads and doubloons you'll never do anything with after Mardi Gras but it's the spirit of Mardi Gras to be jumping and yelling and trying to catch them." Aimee was smiling and was becoming enthusiastic.
    "I can't wait."
    "We should be able to catch this one on Rampart Street unless we get in a traffic jam.
    "Mardi Gras is not at all what I had thought. I thought it was just one wild party."
    "No. It is only the French Quarter that is like that. In the rest of the city and in the suburbs it's a family Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras floats are designed for little children and it's like taking them to Disney World. It's a time for family get-togethers and for parties with friends. Everybody gets a little crazy but in a fun way. In the French Quarter there will be college students and tourists and people who come in from the suburbs and other towns for a week long party in the streets of the French Quarter and in every bar and lounge in the French Quarter. They're regular people going to a party."
    "I can't wait."

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    We turned on Magazine Street and drove down Magazine and into the French Quarter on Decatur Street. A crowd of people were on the streets and as soon as we were in the French Quarter you could feel the festive spirit in the air.
    "I can't believe how you can feel the difference in the air," said Aimee.
    Craig dropped us at Aimee's apartment. "Put your suitcase in and meet us at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. That's only a couple of blocks from Rampart and we can wait for the parade there."
    I took the suitcase and Aimee and I walked up the stairs to the apartment. At the apartment door I unlocked the door and Aimee started to walk in and I stopped her and set the suitcase inside the door and picked her up in my arms with one arm under her back and the other under her knees. She laughed and put her arms around my neck. "What am I? Your bride you're carrying across the threshold?"
    I kissed her. "Sure. This is Mardi Gras. You must remember that you have to act a little crazy." I walked through the door and pushed the door shut with my foot and walked into the living room with her and she was smiling and looking at me not knowing what to expect. In the living room I started spinning around and around with her and we both were laughing and getting dizzy and finally I stopped and sat on the couch with her in my arms so we could get undizzy and collect our wits and we were both still dizzy and laughing. We kissed a long soul kiss. "Happy Mardi Gras," I said.
    We sat holding each other and then Aimee pulled me up. "Come on. It's Mardi Gras. We can't miss the first parade of the season. "What do you wear to a Mardi Gras parade?"
    "Anything. Preferably something crazy. You must always be a little crazy at Mardi Gras."
    She laughed. "I'll have to force myself."
    "You'll catch on. During the next week and a half you'll have plenty of practice." She was smiling. "Fun craziness is a knack you can pick up. Mardi Gras has its own brand of craziness. Watch Craig. He's a master of it. The only time I remember he's Irish is during Mardi Gras. The rest of the year he's a fairly serious doctor although a fun-loving one, but at Mardi Gras he's a different person. You won't believe him. The whole town is that way. All across New Orleans solid family people, good Catholics, get a little crazy and have a good time. It's the same with the Cajuns of South Louisiana. They are good Catholics and family people but every town has

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its festival where they party and dance in the streets for a few days and have a good time. It's a way of life." Aimee was beaming and was getting visibly excited.
    "You keep telling me about it. I want to go see. Let's go!"
    "Let's go," I said. I kissed her and we went to the door and she ran down the steps pulling my hand.
    "Let's hurry. I don't want to miss any of it."    
    We hurried through the streets toward Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It is on Bourbon Street at the corner of St. Philips Street, a block below Lafittes on Exile. Aimee was excited because she was going to experience something she had never seen and had always heard about. I knew we had a week and a half of Mardi Gras ahead of us but I was excited because it was the first parade of the season and because Mardi Gras had started again. Mardi Gras has an infectious spirit to it.
    We ran through the street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. When we got there the bar was packed and everyone was festive and there was a loud roar in the room as opposed to the usual quiet talking.
    "My gosh! I can't believe this is the same place," said Aimee. She was looking around at everyone talking and laughing and felt the spirit of festivity which filled the bar.
    "It's Mardi Gras," I said.
    We walked to the bar and Aimee kept looking around with a look on her face that was a combination between fun and disbelief at the difference in the bar. She was trying to tune into this mood and get into the spirit. It was beyond her experience.
    "You need something to drink," I said. I went to the bar and ordered two bourbons and water. The bartender was smiling and brought them in soft plastic cups. "Happy Mardi Gras," he said.
    "Happy Mardi Gras." I took the drinks and gave one to Aimee.
    "Why in plastic cups instead of glasses?"
    "You'll understand. You won't see another glass for a week and a half."
    We turned around and were standing at the bar looking at the crowd in the bar and Mardi Gras songs were playing on the jukebox. Without realizing it Aimee started moving to the music and she was looking at the people and was still amazed at the change in the bar and trying to understand it. Everyone was laughing and talking and there was a loud buzz in the air and a cute girl in front of us was gesturing with her hands when she talked. There was much animation and spirit in the air and Aimee had never seen anything like it and was trying to

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tune in and relate to it. The cute girl saw us looking at her and smiled at us.
    "Let's go see what they're talking about," I said.
    We walked to the group and when we got there the girl looked around and smiled again. She looked thirty and was wearing jeans and was talking with a New Orleans accent and was enthusiastic. "I love Carnival. I've lived here all my life and I can never wait until it comes the next year."
    "Why does she call it 'Carnival'?" Aimee asked.
    "Many of the New Orleans people refer to Mardi Gras as 'Carnival.'"
    She talked in that accent of the old New Orleans families but had long hair and jeans. She was talking about the different parades and the personality of each and how some had mythological themes and some had cultural messages in the floats and some had childhood fantasy themes and some parades were just for fun and some parades were written like books that were classics, with the surface level of enjoyment, and on another level a message that was a higher plane of intellectual message, and on another level still which was the highest level of symbols, or the deepest level if you look at it in another way which she said was the primordial level or what Jung called the racial or collective consciousness of man which was a message passed from one era of civilization to the next. It was interesting listening to her talk. I had always watched parades and looked at the themes and the giant figures on the floats from fantasy and mythology and yelled and jumped for the beads and doubloons and had never thought about the other levels.
    "I love the parades," she said. All of the major ones I see twice. I saw this one on St. Charles Street and we came down to see it again on Rampart. If you look closely you can see hidden messages. It's like literature. You have to know how to interpret them."
    After awhile she finished with her discussion of Mardi Gras parades and I started talking with her. She was a pretty girl and loved Mardi Gras. She said she had dropped out during college and became a hippie and went to live with someone on a commune farm in Arkansas. Sometime during the conversation, in one of those amazing coincidences, I discovered that the person she lived with in Arkansas was a former friend of mine, Charles Herman, whom I had roomed with one summer.
    "Isn't that amazing?" I said.

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    "Yes. I was bored living on a farm and moved back to the city. I decided there's a reason people have been moving to the cities for the last hundred years.
    "What is he doing now?"
    "He is bored too. He is planning on moving to California."
    I looked toward the door and saw Craig and George and Bill and Faye came in.
    "Where have you guys been?"
    "We stopped by Tujaques and had a couple." I looked at Aimee and I could tell she had tuned in and was into the spirit of the thing. I noticed that George was carrying a plastic milk container partly filled with liquid.
    "What's that?" Aimee asked pointing to the container.
    "We mixed some bourbon and water and ice to take to the parade. You can get thirsty there."
    "Do the police let you do that?"
    "Sure. It's fine to walk around the streets drinking as long as you're not carrying glass. If you carry plastic or beer cans it's okay."
    "What's this big thing with glass?"
    "When Mardi Gras starts people will be dropping drinks and throwing drinks and falling down. It's fun as long as there's no glass."
    Craig recognized the girl I was talking to and walked up and goosed her and she jumped and Aimee laughed. Aimee looked like she expected the girl to turn and slap him or at least have nasty words for him but instead she laughed and turned and when she saw it was Craig she hugged him. "How have you been? I haven't seen you in a long time."
    "The same. Where have you been, Mary? You must never come to the French Quarter any more."
    "I don't very much. I'm living uptown by Audubon Park. I'll be here every day now that it's Mardi Gras. We'll have to get together."
    "Let's do."
    She pointed to a guy standing by the bar with light brown hair and a moustache. "He's the guy I'm with tonight."
    "Seems like a nice fellow."
    "He is. Let's definitely get together."
    "Sounds good."
    Aimee turned to me. "I can't believe Craig walked up and

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goosed her. That's so unlike Craig. And I can't believe she laughed when it happened."
    "It's Mardi Gras."
    "You keep saying that."
    "A lot of craziness can be explained with those two words."
    Craig and George and Faye and Bill were with us and were laughing. Faye was standing next to Bill and had her arm around him. It felt good to see Bill in a good mood for a change and like his old self. He was laughing and we were going to a Mardi Gras parade and it was like we were in college again. George was in a good mood too but he had apparently had more to drink that day than the others and his eyes looked tired. Faye was in a Mardi Gras mood so she had latched on to Bill.
    Craig was still talking to Mary when we heard the far away sound of sirens. Mary walked to the door and into the street and came back in. "The parade is starting. I can hear the sirens. We need to go."
    "Want to join us?" said Craig. "We have plenty of bourbon and water."
    "Sure. Let me collect my date." Aimee turned to me.
    "How does she know the parade is here?"
    "At the beginning of the parade they have police cars with their lights flashing and their sirens blaring. It's a signal to everyone a few blocks away that the parade is about to start. Also, if you're already at the parade the noise of the sirens blaring is a shock on your senses and starts your adrenalin flowing and puts you into the mood." I turned to Craig. "Who is she?"
    "Her name is Mary. I've dated her a few times and have seen her at several parties. We seem to run in the same circles."
    "You've been with her more than twice? She must be something special." He grinned.
    "She's a good chick. She used to be a hippie."
    "She told me."
    Mary walked back with her date who looked youngish. "This is Burton." We all introduced ourselves.
    "Well," Mary said, "let's go to the parade. It's a good one." She turned to Faye. "I saw it uptown."
    We started walking to the door. "Take your cups," said George. "We have plenty of bourbon and water."
    We walked out on St. Philip Street and walked the two and a half blocks to Rampart Street. When we got there the crowd

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was only four or five deep so we were able to get a good spot. "This is a good place to see the parades," I said to Aimee. "Not many people think to come here. On Canal Street the crowds will be twenty or thirty people deep. On Canal you can't see anything except the floats from a distance and can't see the bands and miss half of the parade.
    The sirens were blaring from down the street and you could see the blue lights on the police cars flashing. When the police cars were close to us the scream of the sirens was so loud we had to put our hands over our ears and Aimee looked at me. When the sirens had passed we were keyed up and ready for the parade.
    The first to come were the Dukes, the masquers on horseback. They were wearing costumes and masks and as they came close a wave of excitement went through the crowd and everyone would put their hands up and wave at them and yell, "Throw me something, mister. Throw me something, mister!"
    Aimee had her hands in the air yelling and was bouncing up and down on her feet and waving her hands. A masquer threw a handful of doubloons in our direction and everyone around converged where they were going to try to grab them out of the air, and when you heard the metallic clink as they hit the pavement people looked down and scrambled for the ones on the ground.
    "Don't put your hand down to pick up any doubloons on the ground," I said to Aimee. "Your hand will be stepped on. If you see one on the ground put your foot on it and stand there until everyone is out of the way."
    "I wish I had caught a doubloon."
    "Don't worry. You'll get plenty. The parade just started."
    The next to come were the blacks carrying torches on sticks. They were dancing and spinning around and spinning the torches around in the air. Periodically people would throw money into the street and they would reach for the money and they would go wild dancing waiting for more money to be thrown.
    "What are those?"
    "They're called Flambeaus. Years ago, to light the night parades they had the Flambeaus walk along with the torches. Now, with electricity they have spotlights on the floats but the Flambeaus were so much a part of Mardi Gras they kept them on as part of the parade. There will be several groups of them in the parade."
    "Aren't they dangerous?"
    "No. The torches they use now are natural gas, the air type of gas, so there's no danger."

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    We looked at the Flambeaus dancing the soul dances in the streets and heard the clinks when the coins hit the street.
    "Years ago when I was in college there was a movement by some of the national civil rights groups to end the Flambeaus, but the ones who complained against the movement were the local blacks. This was their way of injecting part of their culture in the Mardi Gras parades and everyone gets excited when the Flambeaus go by. They wanted it to continue."
    Finally the Flambeaus went by us and down the street you could hear a band playing marching music, and when the band was near the marching music and the thud of the big drums started your adrenalin going. The band passed and then a small tractor passed carrying a placard on top.
    "See that? That's the title of the parade." It said 'Adventures of Odysseus.' "The theme of this parade is The Odyssey."
    "Isn't that a Greek myth? It seems like I remember hearing about it in school but I never read it."
    "Yes. It's a great epic poem by the Greek poet Homer. There should be good floats in it. There are good floats in all of the parades."
    We could see the first float coming down the street and could hear the roar of the crowd. As it came closer you could hear the roar get louder and see the wave of hands go up in the air as people waved and yelled. The float was giant replica of an old sailing ship and at the front was a fifteen foot majestic but weary looking man with a beard dressed in garb from olden times. On the ship were four masquers on each side dressed in armor as ancient warriors and they were throwing beads and doubloons to the yelling crowds.
    "Look at that," said Aimee. One of the masquers had lifted his mask and was chugging a beer.
    "Sure, they're all drinking and having a good time. Everybody's having a big party."
    Aimee was jumping up and down waving her arms and yelling 'throw me something.' She caught one of the masquer's eye and he threw beads toward Aimee. Immediately a half dozen people were jumping above Aimee trying to snatch them and I was one of them and Aimee hadn't expected that and put her hands over her head to protect it. Aimee turned to me.
    "That isn't fair. He was throwing them to me!" I laughed.
    "You'll get used to it. Blow him a kiss and wait for the next float. When they throw them to someone else you try to snatch them. It's part of the game."

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    A band came next and the crowd danced when it was going by, and then came more Flambeaus and they were dancing to the band. Then another float was coming down the street. The title card said 'Mount Olympus’ and the float had giant paper-mache figures of columns of a Greek temple and gods and goddesses in tunics. The masquers were dressed in Greek tunics and were throwing beads and doubloons. Aimee was jumping and waving and yelling 'throw me something mister,' and someone threw a pair of beads toward her and I jumped and grabbed at them with one hand and caught them before the other hands in the air.
    "I got them for you. Blow him a kiss." She blew him a kiss and waved at him and he had been looking at her and waved back.
    "Your first Mardi Gras beads," I said. We looked at the red, clear beads and I unfastened them and put them around her neck. "Your first Mardi Gras beads means a kiss." She put her arms around me and we kissed a deep kiss. Then we pulled our heads apart.
    "I like Mardi Gras," she said.
    "Me too."
    George came over with the container of bourbon and water and gestured with his hand. "Want some?"
    "Sure." I reached out my cup and he took the top off and filled it. I looked at Aimee. "Where's your's?"
    "I think it bit the dust when the first float went by. I think I was so busy jumping I dropped it."
    I took a drink from the cup of bourbon and water and then handed it to Aimee.
    "How have you folks been doing?" I looked where Craig and Faye and Bill and Mary and Mary's friend were standing.
    "We've caught a couple of beads and a doubloon."
    "Plenty more parade to go."
    Next came more Dukes on horses and Aimee caught a doubloon and next came a high school baton twirling team and then more Flambeaus. Then came another float with giant, yellow flowers on it with masquers dressed in flower costumes and a title card that said 'Land of the Lotus Eaters.' Several beads were thrown our way and I caught two and Aimee caught a pair of green ones. She looked at me with a big grin. "I caught some. I really did."
    "Congratulations! Let me put them on you." I did and she

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put my two pair on me. She was beaming and was proud of herself.
    "It's amazing how you get into catching these dumb beads," she said.
    "I told you that you would." She was having a great time.
    Next was another band playing a marching song and then came a float with a giant Cyclops and we caught two doubloons. "I had no idea the floats were so big. The figures are giant."
    We were into the parade now and it started to flow by as one long happy dream. There was another band and then a float of the Four Winds, and then masquers on horseback and Flambeaus and a float of Circe, and then another band and a float of Odysseus at Hades with the masquers dressed as devils, and then a float of the Sirens. Then the images all started to flow together in a long, pleasant dream and we were happy and laughing and jumping for beads and having fun. The parade passed by for more than an hour and there were thirty floats and fifteen bands and baton twirlers and dozens of horses and finally the police cars came with sirens signaling the end of the parade and broke the spell.
    I looked at Aimee and her face was glowing and she kissed me. "It's wonderful!"
    We had caught a dozen beads and I was wearing four pair and she was wearing the rest and we had several doubloons in our pockets. We walked over to Craig and the group and they were all wearing beads and looked happy.
    "It looks like everybody did well." Craig grinned.
    "We did."
    We started walking on St. Philip Street and Aimee had her arm around my waist and I had my arm around her. She was in a great mood.
    "Is it what you expected?"
    "Not at all. It's much better than I expected."
    Mary had detached from her youngish-looking date and was walking with Craig. She looked at me.
    "Did you see what I meant about the floats?"
    "Yes. That was good."
    Aimee looked like she was missing out on something. "What is the Odyssey about?"
    "It's an epic Greek poem about the time after the Trojan War with the wooden horse. The gods had helped the Greeks win the war but the Greeks didn't give credit to the Gods for the victory and took credit themselves. This angered the gods so

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they decided to punish the Greeks and therefore when they were sailing home the Greek kings lost most of their ships, some were blown off course, and some were drowned. Odysseus was blown off course and had to wander for ten years."
    "He first landed in the Land of the Lotus Eaters and his men ate the lotus flower, a drug, and many of them lost their longing for home, and stayed instead and ate the lotus flower. He left with the rest of his men and they landed at the Land of the Cyclops. They were descendants of a race of giants, a primitive people who still inhabited the earth and had no law or justice and everyone did what they wanted. The Cyclops had one eye in the middle of their forehead and Odysseus and his men were trapped in the Cyclops' cave and he devoured six of Odysseus' men. Finally they blinded the Cyclops while he was drunk and sleeping and they escaped."
    "Then they came to the island ruled by the King of the Winds, and he put the winds in a leather sack for Odysseus to put on his ship so that they could have good wind and weather on the way home and smooth sailing. However, Odysseus' men thought there was gold in the sack and opened it and there was a great tempest and they were lost again."
    "Next they came to the island of Circe who was a beautiful and dangerous witch and she turned all of his men into swine. However, the gods gave Odysseus a potion so that he didn't turn into a swine, and when Circe saw she couldn't change him she fell in love with him. He stayed a year before he left."
    "He went to the entrance to Hades and Odysseus filled a pit with sheep's blood and called forth the ghosts from Hades so he could talk to the Holy Man, the prophet Teiresias, to find out how to get home. Teiresias told him to beware of desecrating the sacred things of the gods. Then other ghosts of the dead came forth from Hades and talked to Odysseus."
    Aimee looked at me puzzled. "Hades and ghosts in Greek mythology?"
    "Yes. I think all major religions have believed in an afterlife. They next went by the island of the Sirens who were beautiful women who called to the men and tried to lure them to shore where they would kill them. Odysseus put wax in the ears of all of his men but he had himself tied to the mast so that he could hear them. They promised sensual things and also knowledge, wisdom, and a quickening of the spirit."
    "What does 'quickening of the spirit' mean?"

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    "It means the gift of ESP, mind over matter, prophecy, control over the spirit world, things like that."
    "I know what you mean. That's big in San Francisco. They call it the occult."
    "Right. Then they sailed by a whirlpool and finally came to a holy island of the gods. While Odysseus was away by himself praying his men killed sacred oxen and ate them. When Odysseus returned he was frightened and tried to sail away with his men but the gods sent a thunderbolt which struck the ship and all except Odysseus were drowned. He clung to the keel and finally landed at the island of a beautiful nymph named Calypso where he stayed for many years, and she would not let him leave. He wanted to go home but she would not let him. This was the punishment of the gods for not giving them their tribute for the victory in the Trojan War and for desecrating the sacred things -- that he would have every physical and material thing he would desire and every pleasure, but could not go home. Finally the gods felt that he had been punished enough and that he would honor them and they let him return home."
    "That's a beautiful story."
    We walked on the sidewalk through the excited crowds toward Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
    "I guess what the Odyssey would say about today is that we built a great culture - the Judeo Christian culture, and a great civilization, western civilization, using prayer, asking for divine help, and if we forget how we got here there are forces waiting to fill the spiritual void and take us back to the dark ages."
    "You are so philosophical. Let's go have a drink."
    "When we got to Lafitte’s the others were already inside and George was standing outside with what was left in the container of bourbon and water pouring drinks for everyone who came by. He filled my cup and I walked inside. The jukebox was playing loud music and everyone was festive and had joined arms in a big circle and were dancing. Aimee and I joined the circle and we danced and the circle went round and round and we were all laughing and having a good time. George was looking tired and left before long and Faye was with Bill who was still in a good mood, and Mary had shed her date and was with Craig. The bar was packed and we all partied and danced until three in the morning and we walked home.