20 March, 2012

Sweet Smell Of Excess

Well maybe it's not so sweet, but it's been a month since Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Carneval. Carne vale meaning goodbye meat! Shrove Tuesday. I let it pass without comment this year (so unlike me), but now we are 28 days into Lent. With fewer than two weeks until Easter, I need to share again this story.

I have gone to New Orleans only once for Mardi Gras. Actually it was the weekend before, and I was there by accident. I was attending a conference on major gift fund raising for senior college executives but hadn't realized the significance of the date until after my plans were made. Once I found out, I decided to bring my wife and younger daughter along with me, and Friday night a couple of cousins joined us.

Oh, my. We were staying at a hotel on St Louis Street between Royal and Chartres in the heart of the French Quarter, and the conference had built lots of free time into the schedule. We were determined to enjoy as much as we could. And we did.

We had some wonderful meals, of course, and had a delicious lunch under the watchful eyes of Paul Prudhomme himself. We walked the streets moving in and out of stores, listened to great music, and had a drink or two. Or three. We people watched and viewed one of the parades although I don't remember which one or which krewes. We bought masks and tons of beads to wear and to bring home. I needed extra just in case I wanted to throw a few to the ladies. Tsk.

I actually think the most memorable night was Saturday night as we walked down Bourbon Street. It was its usual crowded pedestrian mall. I was leading with the husband of my wife's cousin. The cousin, my wife, and my daughter were walking about 10 feet behind us. Zoom. All of the sudden my daughter popped in between Mike and I.

The walk along Bourbon Street had been her idea as a curious almost-16-year-old. She had unsurprisingly attracted the attention of any number of men, most of whom asked her if she needed a drink or wanted to party. Some just whistled. When that fellow pinched her on her rear end though, she decided maybe walking with dad might be safer. Let's call that a growing up experience, a thankfully mild teachable moment.

There was much not to remember fondly too. For example, we saw more than a few people passed out in the street. Occasionally the rescue squad would scoop them up. It disturbed me most when they were young women. It's hard to imagine that they got through the night without other things happening to them as well.

It's a great party and even better if you can enjoy it sober. Just imagine actually being able to remember what a great time you had when you wake up the next morning. Even Epicurus thought we should strive for a happy, tranquil life, a life free of fear and pain. He taught that by living a life of moderation surrounded by friends we could attain that and would not have approved of these excesses since they are sure to bring pain.

Moderation. It's a good thing.

Happy Mardi Gras.