Happy Mardi Gras everyone! If you live in south Louisiana, the next couple of days will elicit memories of carnival seasons past. Stacks of King Cakes are accessorizing every check-out counter in town, schools and businesses are shutting down for the duration, and streets are being sealed off as though a hurricane was coming. In a sense, one is. My earliest memory of Mardi Gras is one of my father, rest his soul, who finally gave into the non-stop begging and drove me and my best little friend Jo across “the longest bridge in the world!” to New Orleans for at least a couple of hours of parades, beads and crazy people in costumes. My parents must have struck a deal with each other at the last minute because, sadly, there was not enough time for me and Jo to plan proper costumes. My mother, however, cut us loose with her collection of lipsticks so that we could suit up with war paint all over our faces. We did so with giddy delight and before we knew it we were over water. Once we finally parked the station wagon and headed to the parade route, reality and a nipping fear began to set in. The noise was deafening to my young ears and the people were, well, they were a little off balance and just a touch ill mannered. Still, atmosphere did not deter us to the point of crying or wanting to leave. It was just a little unsettling. Jo and I were expecting to see giant headdresses of feathers and gargantuan jesters strolling through the streets to the gentle undertones of the Mardi Gras song we learned at school. “If ever I cease to Love, If ever I cease to love…….” Where was the moon of green cream cheese? We wanted to see it, so we held hands as we walked and kept hoping. Memory does not offer me a realistic account of how long we stayed or even which parade we attended. I know we didn’t stay very long, but it was long enough for my father to claim follow through and we did catch a few doubloons and strands of beads. Still, it was all just a tad unsettling. Not like today. Today Mardi Gras is a clear picture of women flaunting their bare breasts to hordes of tourists, and gentlemen pillars of New Orleans society sporting masks, ballet tights, wigs and crowns. Nothing unsettling about that. Not at all. If dressing up CEOs like King Vitaman and having them toss cups and beads to a passing crowd hungry for plastic just once a year is what it takes to make a party, so be it. Nothing odd about that. So have a drink, or several drinks. Then it will all seem perfectly normal no matter what planet you are from. Dance in the streets and hope you can find a bathroom. Strip naked and wear a wheelbarrow on your head. Nobody will bat an eye. Put on your war paint and paint the town red or, better yet, paint it purple, green and gold. Just have a great time, for it is Carnival Time!