Mardi Gras is one of the most underrated days of the calendar year. Not only is it great to see the gay community strike back against the church by hijacking one of their festivals, but Mardi Gras is quite simply for guys, what Halloween is for girls: the ability to dress like a complete slut and be celebrated for it. Except girls are also allowed to get their tits out, which I think is just tops.
It’s a holiday like no other and one worth celebrating right, which is exactly what we had in mind as we drove down to the “Home of Mardi Gras,” New Orleans.
I hadn’t precisely kicked my semester in Mississippi off on the right foot. After missing my connecting flight in LA (which set me back financially), I was wiped out with the worst flu I had ever experienced as my body struggled to acclimatise to the Mississippi Winter. I was then battling the culture shock of seemingly catching a time machine back to the Civil War period, instead of the advertised aircraft for 2016 America: the sausages sold out the front of the Aussie supermarkets were replaced by KKK recruiters (no, seriously), and up until now, I thought nerd was the most disparaging ‘N’ word you could throw someone’s way.
But these were all just friendly reminders as to why God gave us alcohol.
During the semester, I was lucky enough to be rooming with two Aussie girls—Bayley and Ella—who had kindly invited me along to Mardi Gras with them and four of their English mates. The English girls had booked a hotel in the middle of the city and granted me the option of sleeping on the floor if I felt obliged to come along.
Considering I was a loser with no friends, I had no hesitations in jumping on board with the offer, and when I found out Pete—a fellow Aussie, and to date, the closest thing I had to a friend in Mississippi—was going to be joining us, I couldn’t help but get a little excited. This was going to be the turning point for ol’ Bing!
But, as with all good things in my life, something or someone had to come along and ruin it. The English girls felt the day before we left was as good a time as any to let us know that they would prefer it if Pete and I “slept elsewhere” once we arrived in Louisiana. With it being New Orleans the day before Mardi Gras, let’s just say that we were limited with our accommodation options.
But never one to let pieces of s**t get in the way of a good time, I said “f**k it,” and decided to place my faith in the bottle, who would dictate where we would sleep for the next two nights.
We were a couple of hours into our car trip to New Orleans—manned by two of the English girls, Rachel and Sarah—when we started to hit a few snags. Pete and I hardly knew each other, so after two hours of small talk about sport and porn, we found ourselves losing momentum on topics of common ground. I appreciated Rachel and Sarah driving us to Mardi Gras, but telling us we were on the curb the day before we left had shot down any interest I had in getting to know them as people. They were Uber drivers for all I cared. And perhaps most alarming of all, I had just finished my last beer.
With this, I asked the girls to pull over at the next gas station, where we picked up another case of beer and some shot glasses for a game of “Centurion.” For those playing along at home, Centurion is quite simply, 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes, which on face value is an extremely Beta game. But it’s not the volume of beer, rather the doses of 44 ml in which you inject it that ensures you get your money’s worth. There is something about drip-feeding yourself gas every 60 seconds that your stomach seems to take offence to.
As with most nights of heavy drinking, there was an exact moment in time where I could pinpoint things beginning to go downhill. This moment was at shot number one. The second it slid down my throat and sunk to the foot of my stomach, I thought, this isn’t going to end well. I think Pete knew it as well. There was something about the pained expression on his face, and his utterance of, “This isn’t going to end well, Bing,” that aroused my suspicions.
At shot number twenty-four, my suspicions were all but justified as my body entered its third trimester. With half a case of beer already in me before kick-off, my stomach was throwing in the towel. That was until Pete threw a barb my way about my sexuality… followed by a thorough questioning of my manhood… and the final blow of an enquiry about the size of my testicles.
Bing “Pull over!” Rachel “What?” Bing “That gas station. Pull over. We need beer.” Rachel “You just got beer!” Bing “No, we got Budweiser.” Rachel “We’re not pulling over.” Bing “I’m seriously going to vomit. It’s either in this car or at that gas station. Your choice. Seriously, ooooh man, my stomach’s bad.”
As I moaned like a little bitch, the girls heeded my complaints and reluctantly pulled over at the gas station. I quickly jumped out and returned, no sooner than I had left, with a smile and a case of Bud Light.
Bing “Good news, I didn’t have to vomit!” Rachel “You’re an a**hole.” Bing “You can never be too sure, Rachel. I have too much respect for you and your car to take these risks.” Rachel “Let me get this straight. You couldn’t drink Budweiser, so you bought Budweiser?!” Bing “I know. I agree! It’s crazy!”
We started throwing the Bud Light down like the water it is, with my stomach much happier for the flavour change. Before you knew it—well, exactly as we knew it; 76 minutes later—we had thrown down the 76th shot needed to make the original 100. We then finished another 24, to make the Bud Light 100, before demolishing any remnants we could find of the previous case of Budweiser. By the time we had reached New Orleans, we were in a serious state. I’m just not sure which one. Louisiana?
The girls needed to check into their hotel, so left Pete and me to fend for ourselves, dropping us off on Bourbon Street—the party street of New Orleans.
Woooah, Toto. I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.
Bourbon Street is what ecstasy would look like in street form: it’s erratic, it’s blurry, and it should be illegal. But it is a drug for all taste buds. From the unnecessary concoctions of alcohol to the assortment of musical genres at your disposal; the beads, the ice cream and of course—the indispensable ingredient for any good time—the Hardcore Christians, you’re sure to find a flavour to suit your libido.
Pete and I took a moment to soak everything in, which was proving to be more difficult than we first thought. Drinking while grounded in a car doesn’t allow your brain to comprehend how drunk it truly is. Much like a gorilla raised in the zoo, we weren’t in any state to be released into the wild. I needed an adult.
And a kebab!
We stumbled into the nearest kebab shop, where I made the novice error of catching a glimpse of myself in the shop’s reflective glass. My eyes were making a run for different postcodes, while the rest of my corpse swayed mercilessly on the spot. That was when I looked over to Pete, whose drunk gaze made me feel a whole lot better about myself. He couldn’t have been far off being declared legally dead.
We paid for our kebabs, acquired some fish bowls (as the name implies, it’s a fish bowl, filled with rum, vodka and a headache), then took a front-row seat in the gutter to watch the circus before our very eyes. There were tits on men and beards on women and midgets on leashes and beads on beads… so many beads. I wanted them. I wanted them all.
Bing “Pete, I want beads.” Pete “What?” Bing “Beads, all of the beads. I want them.” Pete “You need tits to get beads. You don’t have tits.” Bing “Leave my tits out of this, Peter!” Pete “Let’s go and get you some beads then.”
The entire stretch of Bourbon Street is lined with balconies, occupied by smug Mother Marys who pay for a view of the festivities. As part of the package of buying balcony time, patrons are given beaded necklaces to throw down to those they believe are worthy of wearing a worthless piece of plastic. These are usually reserved for the drunkest sluts on the street. But for some reason, this reservation wasn’t being extended to the drunkest slut on the street.
I was throwing my tits and old codger about like a second-rate hooker, seeking any sort of bead appraisal from the bead-lords above. When this strategy failed, I turned to drunken abuse. When this strategy failed, I was out of ideas. I had failed at the only thing I ever truly wanted in this life.
We were eventually joined by the girls, where we found ourselves in line for another fish bowl—as was the case, things were spiralling. Pete couldn’t speak, and I; well, I couldn’t get any damn beads!
The issue was only exacerbated when after twenty minutes, each of the girls had their body weight in plastic around their necks.
I waved down a Virgin Bead Lord on the balcony—who had just thrown my roommate, Ella, a pair of beads—for one more shot at glory.
Bing “HEY! YOU! YOUR VIRGIN BEADS, I WANT THEM!” Virgin Bead Lord (with contempt) “NOT INTERESTED.” Bing “F**K YOU, B**CH.” I’ve always been known for my unprecedented wit. Virgin Bead Lord “NO, F**K YOU.”
He’s got me there.
Bing “YEAH, THAT’S FAIR. LISTEN, IF I IMPRESS YOU WITH SOME BREAKDANCING, YOU GIVE ME SOME BEADS. DEAL?” Virgin Bead Lord “CAN YOU BREAKDANCE?” Bing “LET ME WORRY ABOUT THAT.” Virgin Bead Lord “IT WOULD HAVE TO BE PRETTY IMPRESSIVE.” Bing “Please…,” I scorned. “JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE SHOW.”
These unsubstantiated claims—and they were unsubstantiated—piqued the curiosity of my roommate.
Bayley “Can you actually breakdance?” Bing “Let’s find out, baby!”
The hype-man inside of me immediately started selling a show the masses couldn’t afford to miss! Thirty, maybe forty people would have gathered inside a minute, as a dance-circle formed around one lone idiot, who was leading the people in the most enthusiastic clap the Virgin Bead Lords had ever seen.
The liquor coursing through my veins swiftly fused with a momentous wave of adrenaline, which provoked an unjustified feeling of self-belief. Maybe I could breakdance. No, that’s not it. I CAN breakdance! I finally knew what it felt like to be black! I am talented. I am rhythmic. And man, could I go for some fried chicken! No!! The chicken must wait. The people! They must be entertained!!
I started cutting some of the finest white-man shapes ever performed on the streets of New Orleans. There were squares, circles, even a f**king triangle, all warming the people up for the main course currently brewing in the midst of my mind: I would throw my right foot behind my left knee, drop my body to the left, bounce off the pavement with a spin off my right foot, and safely return to a thunderous ovation, as beads and ladies tops alike would litter the streets.
I composed myself as the clap reached a fever pitch, when I could hear something in the distance… is that… is that the oven I hear? Your main course is ready, New Orleans!
LET’S DANCE, BABY!!
I threw my right foot behind my left knee and dropped my weight towards the ground, already envisioning my spin and triumphant return to the circle. As I fell towards the ground, however, I realised I hadn’t taken into account my lack of sobriety, nor my lack of talent.
I should be heading towards the ground led by my right foot, not the current trajectory as led by my head.
It was about the time my head bounced off the pavement that I felt comfortable answering Bayley’s question: I don’t know how to breakdance.
I landed hard. F**king hard.
With my face impaled in the Bourbon Street asphalt, I tried to fathom what had just happened as my body went into shock. There was pavement, there was blood, and there was a distinct lack of clapping.
I had lost the crowd!
And most of my teeth.
Bayley and Ella came rushing to my side as I scraped myself off the ground. Dragging me out of the circle, they seemed to be excessively concerned with the litres of blood gushing from my mouth, ignoring the more pressing issue at hand—the Virgin Bead Lord owed me beads!
Bayley “Are you okay?! Oh My God. YOUR TEETH!!” Bing “Relax, I’m fine. My beads,” I splattered back. Bayley “What?” Bing “Beads.” I pointed up at the Virgin Bead Lord. “That f**ker promised me beads.” Bayley “We’re taking you home.” Bing “My teeth are fine.” Bayley “Na, they’re f**ked. You need to get home.” Bing “Fine, just let me grab something really quick.” I ran over to the side of the road. “OI DICKHEAD, WHERE ARE MY BEADS?” Virgin Bead Lord “ARE YOU ALRIGHT, DUDE?” Bing “WHAT ARE YOU? MY MOTHER!? WHERE ARE MY BEADS?” Virgin Bead Lord “THAT WASN’T BREAKDANCING.” Bing “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? NO ONE HERE COULD’VE DONE WHAT I JUST DID!”
The Virgin Bead Lord just shrugged and threw down a set of beads. Good ones too!
This was the best day ever!
Ella “You could’ve just taken some of mine!” Bing “It wouldn’t have been the same.” Ella “They’re the same beads!” Bing “Piss off. Mine are worth at least three teeth, thank you very much.” Bayley “You need to get to bed.”
We grabbed Pete—who was paralytically oblivious to everything that had just transpired—and stumbled in the direction of the girls’ hotel. Bayley and Ella forced the English girls’ hand and let us sleep on the couch. And by us, I mean I slept on the couch while Pete slept on the bathroom tiles. I was content to have lost my teeth and still not be the drunkest man in the room.
I then pulled out my phone to find it, much like my teeth, completely shattered. I don’t know when during the night exactly it had decided to shatter without my consent, but I couldn’t help but feel betrayed.
There was, however, something comforting about holding a physical representation of the night in my hand, as I looked through the cracks of the broken screen to my equally broken reflection:
My eyes were f**ked, my clothes were drenched in blood, and right there staring back blankly through the phone’s reflection, was a sight that would live long in the memory bank; perhaps the most telling part of a night that brought many highs and lows, and the reality check I needed as a reminder of what drinking alcohol excessively can bring. Looking back at me—a little broken and a little off colour—were my beads.
I got them.