Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Joseph O. Patton: How I survived Mardi Gras in Mobile

  I will freely admit that I had strong misgivings about letting loose on the grand city of Mobile, Ala., during the madness of Mardi Gras -- especially with my girl-crazy coworkers, Matt ("lookin' for love in all the wrong places").

  The sky was clouded over Montgomery before we hit the road, and it was under those foreboding skies that some idiot at the Super Lube overfilled my oil tank, causing my baby, the Buick, to overheat and take an unexpected rest stop in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant. If it weren't for a kindly gentleman with a spray bottle full of water and whatever voodoo he worked under the hood, the four-doored wonder would still be taking a nap.

  About three or four hours later, we rolled into Mobile. Matt had a headache from an overdose of the Dixie Chicks, and I had a half-numb ass from all the driving.

  We offered the obligatory salutations to Matt's family and scooted over to his neighbor's yard, where a handful of overly cheerful folks were gathered around a mysterious 20-gallon pot. For some reason, I had visions of those silly witches from "Macbeth."

  It turned out that there were crawfish swimming in their cauldron, and that those good folks with the collective beer buzz were about to eat 'em. At first, I watched in horror as they dipped into the stainless steel container, jerked out a handful of miniature-looking lobsters and proceeded to tear those sumbitches to pieces. How inhumane, I thought -- until I tried one.

  Stifling a steady stream of laughter, Matt launched into his giggly lecture on how to devour a crawfish. I watched in wonder as the boy ripped the poor thing's head off and sucked the thing blind like a Hoover gone mad. I sheepishly began picking at one poor creature, my hands uncontrollably shaky.

  My lesson on the finer points of crustacean consumption was evidently insufficient because Matt's neighbor, a full-blooded Cajun, swooped down off the stairs like a bird of prey to snatch that crusty red thing out of my hand and show me how to "do it da riiight waaaay" - the Louisiana way - and subsequently, the drunk way.

  The Cajun, reeling from a bubbly barrage of beer, hacked that crawfish apart faster than one of those chefs at a Japanese steakhouse. He then balanced the crawfish guts on his finger (God knows how!) and stuck it all in my face. Trying to remain composed, I leaned forward to retrieve the tasty morsel with my hand, but the kind Cajun recoiled from me, demanding that I eat the red menace right off his finger.

  Trying not to bite him, because the last thing I wanted was to be whooped up on by a true life Bayou Boy, I nibbled the critter from his shaky index finger. Damn good stuff, I might add.

  As the night wore on, Matt and I found ourselves nursing a healthy collection of Coronas in a secluded garden behind his house. With each bottle, we weighed in on such hefty topics as how many sets of exposed breasts we would see at the next day's parade, how bad it would hurt to catch a Moon Pie in the jaw, and how long it would take Matt to find a nice girl to "share the joys of Mardi Gras" with.

  We wasted no time getting downtown the next morning.

  How to describe a Mardi Gras parade? Well, in essence, it consists of throngs of drunken folks weighted down with plastic Chinese beads - not exactly the type of scene Norman Rockwell would paint. Throw in a string of trucks padded down with colorful paper mache, herds of screechy children, and grown folks content to make themselves "bead magnets" by any means necessary, and there you have it.

   We jumped and grabbed at countless strings of beads and trinkets, though I'm more inclined to believe that Matt's grabs were directed at the blonde to our left.

  As the last float passed, we felt as if it was an ideal time to locate a bar. We stumbled upon one fine establishment that sold us shots from a window - we called it “drive-by drinking.” Twelve shots later, we realized just how comfortable the concrete below us was.

  Broke and staggering, we eventually went on a scavenger hunt for a restroom. Like wounded animals lumbering across the African plains, we dragged recklessly past raging sirens, hordes of screeching car brakes, and crowds of revelers. When all was said and done, I must admit, I had never bonded so closely with a brick wall.

  We spent the rest of the evening back in our secluded garden behind Matt's house.

  When we awoke, we discovered that the landscaping of the garden was even prettier in the daylight as we picked ourselves up from the lush greenery and brushed ourselves off. After a shot of gasoline for the Buick and a hit of aspirin for our heads, it was back to Montgomery.

  And that, my friends, is how we survived Mardi Gras in Mobile... at least the parts I can write about and not risk incarceration.

  About the author: Joseph O. Patton is the editor-in-chief and publisher of the Capital City Free Press. He is a former news editor for the Coosa County News, lead reporter for the Montgomery Independent, and editor-in-chief of the AUMnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn-Montgomery. Patton is also the creator of and writer for the satirical news radio segment "Goat Hill Gossip," which previously aired on WAUD in Auburn, Alabama, and he has appeared on several Central Alabama radio programs as a political analyst.

  Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the March 17, 2000 edition of the AUMnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn University Montgomery. It was also released through two national college news wires.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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