Hanging with the family crew this week for a much-needed unplug, I couldn't be happier, or drunker, if you want to be exact. I got very lucky with landing the tribe that I did – they are a funny, life-loving gang. My brother, Robert, and his wife, MaryAnn (collectively RMAC) are once again, hosting and being generous with food, booze, love and laughter. Despite airline delays and lost baggage, I didn't hold back on my first Fat Tuesday.
Also here for the revelry is my stepsister, Julie, a vivacious brunette (pictured above) who approaches life with the same lust and gratitude that's become the family trademark. She's an expert fisherwoman and the best non-professional bartender I know. This is Julie's first visit since The Wedding of RMAC in May 2002 and she had never met Robbie until now. The child is blessed with a number of aunties but Julie and I strive to be The Bad Influence Auntie Twins. So far, so good.
In the afternoon, we attended the Biloxi Mardi Gras parade and the town had a bit more celebrate this year. Though they had suffered a terrible, unimaginable blow from Katrina, nothing – and I mean, NOTHING – gets in the way of Mardi Gras. Empty cement foundations still support FEMA trailers where awe-inspiring mansions once stood but no one was thinking about that. Marching bands, silly hats, beads, booze and celebration – this is all that matters right now.
Later in the evening, we hopped over to catch the Gulfport parade. Shorter but equally fun with better quality stuff. I even managed to score a beautiful stuffed Mardi Gras jester doll. Beads, schmeads! I was done after that. Though there were cops and crowd control, we all marveled at how such a thing could never, ever happen in California. If it did, alcohol would not be allowed, there would be no parking and has-been celebrities would proliferate the scene. Ick.
Heading home in some amazingly dense traffic, we were forced to stop so my brother could take the longest roadside piss of his life. His eyes had turned yellow when our journey first began and he may have pushed his luck too far. Once the release came, the joy of relief nearly caused him to break into song. "Nothing personal, honey," he said to his wife, "but that may have been the best orgasm ever."
This morning, Julie and I awoke and took stock of the destruction. I'd eaten many bright colored things that I don't recall (just King Cake, hopefully) and the cocktails never stopped flowing. Worst of all, we'd stupidly smoked about eight million cigarettes.
"I sound like an old bar hag, Julie," I growled. "At least you sound sexy, like Jennifer Tilly or Demi Moore."
"No, no," she said. "I sound like the Friday Night Women Who Call For Vicodin." Julie's husband is a dentist (his name is Dr. Brain!) who occasionally receives random calls from desperate ladies who are loathe to face the weekend unmedicated. They beg and plead and play up one urgency or another but Dr. Brain is inpenetrable.
Still recovering, we behaved most of today and have just returned from a lovely bayou boat trip to The Shed for the most delicious BBQ dinner I've ever had. On the trip there, dusk was fading in to night and the water, smooth as glass, mirrored the trees exactly. We sped along, sipping our gin and tonics and looked forward to the pulled pork and potato salad. The trip home was a bit chilly but equally beautiful. A delicate sliver of moon lit up the sky and the Mullets – "The Happiest Fish in the World" – lept all around us. MAC, perched on the bow like a Viking queen, lit a safe path home with her industrial strength flashlight. I looked at my brother and he grinned, "This is my life!" A lucky man, indeed.
Tomorrow: New Orleans!
Also, three-year-olds are very quotable - who knew?:
"Now I don't stink anymore!" –Robbie, celebrating post diaper-change
"I have a gun!" – Robbie, pointing the American flag at me
Julie (singing on the boat): "I wanna be a cowboy, baby!"
Robbie (joining in, guessing at the chorus): "All night wong!"