What Mardi Gras Means to Me
My older brother - a Houston city boy who immediately fell in love with Louisiana during his first year at LSU - was always infatuated with Mardi Gras; well, with Cajun culture in general. He died in February of this year. Yet, his spirit, as well as those of all the others who have passed who loved Mardi Gras, still feels palpable this time of year; their energy is in the air.
My brother loved Mardi Gras so much that he was actually on a special edition of the show Cops, covering New Orleans Mardi Gras arrests. Don’t worry, he wasn’t arrested (well, not that night). He just went viral among our friend groups for dancing behind a man who was getting arrested for punching a police horse while wearing a jester hat. I’ll never forget how proud he was to show me the clip from TiVo (yes, this was the TiVo days).
He loved to make me laugh; I laughed so hard every time he shared his Mardi Gras escapades. Those conversations made me feel like a true friend of his, not just a brother who is 9 years his junior. Though he was always cooler than me, in every way, he always made me feel cool. He taught me, as a white male, how important it is to educate yourself on different politics, cultures, and religions. He also taught me that Mardi Gras is a perfect balance of culture and debaucherous fun. A subculture he loved, as most white teens did in the 1990s, was Houston rap - the very music you hear blaring on the Galveston streets from neon-lined slingshot 3-wheelers during Mardi Gras.
My favorite rapper, as well as my late brother’s, was Z-ro from Houston - a master lyricist who focuses on topics of loss and independent strength. I often listen to his song “I really miss my dawg”, a song originally dedicated to the late, great, chopped, and screwed legend DJ Screw. One line in that song stands out to me: “I ain't never had a friend like him, I’m feeling vacated by destiny, wish I was in the wind like him.”
Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, it is undeniable that those who loved Mardi Gras are still within the wind, carrying the celebration. Mardi Gras is a great excuse to get too drunk; it's also a great excuse to feel the energy of those around you: people who continue to choose Galveston as an escape from their daily adversity and celebrate the spirits of past loved ones. So, this year, I will raise a glass to all the lost loved ones in the air, and I hope you, readers, do the same for Jim.
Beads and beer are wonderful; memories and the feeling of the present moment are priceless. Who knew this quirky island could represent so much sentimental value through a lively party? A season of partying that I will never miss. Thank you, Galveston, thank you locals, and thank you, Jim, for reminding me to flow with the wind and enjoy this year’s party as you would have, big brother.