So Tuesday was actual Mardi Gras, the fattest of days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the season of abstinence My pre-Lenten fun was over the weekend.
Best Fest Buddy Tom’s brother, Mark, is moving back up to the Fox Valley from down that way, so I tagged along to help get the last of his stuff from the house he is selling.
Saturday started with breakfast with some friends. Next we picked up Mark’s two grown sons, then headed to the Soulard neighborhood to watch some of the city’s fabled Mardi Gras festivities.
Despite the weather being yet another bite from the winter that will never end, the blocks nearest the parade were pretty packed. The bright purple, green and yellow on display for the occasion brightened a blunt as cold metal day.
We walked a mile-and-a-half to our destination, the street in front of Social House, which bills itself as “the go-to, Sexy Sportsbar hotspot in the area.”
As is the Sexy Sportsbar’s tradition, there was a flatbed/stage in front of the place, packed with young women, an emcee and sundry others.
In this mixed up world in which we live, the women were showing off their assets, not necessarily to get beads, but while they were tossing beads into the crowd. You had to keep your wits about you, lest risk losing an eye!
By assets, you can probably guess what I mean. Mark made a comment I’ll adapt here. What some of the women were doing could have been made into an interesting, albeit scatological, promotion for Fireball. Either way, I wasn’t having any booze.
Music blared from the stage, competing with the noise from the parade passing us by on the other side of the blocked-off street. One float had reasonable facsimiles of the YouTube-famous baby sharks dancing on it, well, because social media.
The chorus of one tune coming from the Social House warned over and over about herpes, herpes, herpes. Possibly. Maybe it was a public service announcement.
The unofficial theme song heard around the Bud-infused blocks could make for a St. Patrick’s weekend ditty – Back That Lass Up! I think that’s what they were saying, though the accompanying dance moves weren’t exactly of the Michael Flatley variety.
We only stayed at the parade for about an hour, having a full plate for the day, not of gumbo, but of tasks to do.
Speaking of full, kudos to the St. Louis Mardis Gras planners for the plethora of port-o-sans to be found throughout the area. Most were free to use, though some keen business owners were charging a few bucks to use the ones they had rented – knowing full well that lines get long, and when you gotta go, you gotta go.
The walk back to the car seemed longer than the trek to Social House. Hills and age will do that.
Not too far from where we parked, some kids had set up a stand selling hot chocolate and sugar cookies. They said they were doing this as a fundraiser for refugees – which meant I had that old Tom Petty song stuck in my head for the next half hour.
For lunch, we hit Smoki O’s for barbecue, a choice made because we missed Tom, and Tom looks a tad like Andrew Zimmern, and Zimmern visited Smoki O’s for a Bizarre Foods episode, because Smoki O’s has pig snoots on the menu, which taste like an earthy version of pork rinds, and this sentence is almost as long as the wait for the food, but it is barbecue, so low and slow ain’t a bad thing. Try the brisket.
Then we went to look for a car for one of Mark’s sons. Then we picked up a U-Haul to load up with the rest of Mark’s stuff.
That included a riding lawnmower, and this raised the question: Why do they make the loading ramps on rental trucks so damn narrow?
The green machine was on its way to Rockford, an early wedding gift for Mark and Tom’s nephew. We had to leave Saturday evening to avoid a snowstorm.
A sorry excuse for a Blackhawks game on the radio was my companion as I drove Mark’s car north. The Hawks used to be really good. That wasn’t too long ago.
Time flies. At the bacchanal that is Mardi Gras, you feast it up before the fast.
That’s not to mean you should live like there’s no tomorrow. If you did that, wouldn’t you be sad most of the day, knowing you wouldn’t see anything or anybody you love anymore? Wouldn’t you be crying and hugging a lot of folks? Or worse, wouldn’t that lead to a lot of irresponsible behavior, given not having consequences to face the next day?
What you can do is stop at a place like Parker’s Table near the Cheshire Hotel where we stayed on a St. Louis Mardi Gras trip three years ago. Pick up some wine, cheese and pancetta, sit by a gas fire pit with your friends and kick back like tubby kings.
This particular adventure, though, ends with dropping off the mower at a home where we learn quinoa frequently is on the menu. Actually, it ends with a chicken sandwich and a salad for me and breakfast food for Mark at our local McDonald’s. Ok. French fries were involved. Free ones. The best kind.