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Mardi Gras Time in New Orleans Part One
If a tourist wants intrigue and have the unexpected happen, they have to visit New Orleans, USA. They also must possess an open mind. Like the couple, Cassy and Phillip Edwards, who travelled all the way from Australia. They didnít know much about New Orleans other than the famous Mardi Gras, which is celebrated there in a big way. The history of Mardi Gras goes way back. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday. In years gone by the tradition was to slaughter a fatted calf on the Tuesday before the beginning of the Lenten 40 day fast. Thus, the coining of the phrase "Fat Tuesday." Everywhere else in America, itís just another Tuesday.
But, not so in New Orleans; itís Mardi Gras time!
How Mardi Gras started is not really clear. There are plenty of legends and stories about this early carnival. But itís not certain what are myths and what are facts. It is thought, however, to have something to do with the fact that New Orleans is a port city and those sailors going by loved to party. It is noted that on 24 February 1857 the first true Mardi Gras was formed. It was originally a family celebration. Over later years the strictly family oriented type Carnival was extended and moved into the suburb of Metairie. Costumes and masks are the order of the day during the Carnival.
Cassy and Phillip, married for 35 years, had wanted for some time to visit America. They were rather excited, as this was their first visit. There were other major tourist stops across the country on their itinerary; New Orleans was their third stop after leaving Australia. Their flight to New Orleans was overnight from Las Vegas and they were very tired on arrival. Phillip hadnít been able to get a wink of sleep on the flight. In contrast he declared that Cassy could sleep anywhere. Cassy knew he was right, even waiting for a Doctorís appointment she could close her eyes and discipline herself to have 40 winks.
Flight AA 1512 arrived at 7:49 am at New Orleans International Airport. On arriving at their hotel, The Radisson in Canal Street, on the edge of the French Quarter, all they wanted to do was catch some quality shut eye. This particularly applied to Phillip. Cassy wanted a quick cup of tea, but with Phillip it was a soft bed.
On entering the front door of the Radisson they joined a queue of people who were registering. Mountains of luggage were everywhere. As they moved along the line they became more concerned.
"Cassy, weíll have to explain that weíre so tired and we need a room now. Iím going to drop soon. You know I havenít sleep all night."
"Just leave it to me, Iíll sort it out."
"I hope you will, youíll only have one try."
Cassy winked at Phillip and indicated for him to go over and sit with the luggage. "There is only one more to go," thought Cassy, rehearsing in her mind how to sound convincing enough to get into a room without delay.
"Next Please," declared the receptionist whose smile gave Cassy some hope.
"Hello. My name is Cassy Edwards. We have a reservation. My husband and I have just arrived in from Las Vegas, and we were hoping that you had a room available straight away. We are very tired, especially my husband, he hasnít slept all night, the poor sweetie."
"Iíll have a look for you, Mrs Edwards, though I canít promise anything." The receptionist tapped away at the computer keys and then her smile returned. "Yes, Mrs. Edwards, seeing that you want a smoke free room we do have one already cleaned."
"Oh, thatís wonderful, thank you very much." Cassy was relieved, she turned towards Phillip and gestured with a thumbs up sign. Phillip gave a sigh of relief and started to organise their luggage.
"You did it again Cassy, youíre sensational, I donít know how you do it sometimes."
"You should take a few lessons from me," she replied, giving a tap on Phillipís bottom.
Phillip and Cassy followed the heavily built Afro American female porter who carried their heaviest bags into the lift up to the 5th floor. The porter opened the room and Cassy, who walked in first, was greeted with an objectionable odour from the room.
"Oh, we canít stay in this room, my sinus will act up for sure with that odour. What on earth is it? We did ask for a smoke free room; Iím certain this one isnít."
The porter quickly reached for the telephone and dialled the front desk. After some discussion the receptionist gave her another number on another floor but she would have to return to the front desk for the key. The porter directed them to go to the eighth floor, asking them to wait there for her. Slowly the lift travelled upwards and eventually stopped. They stepped out hoping that this room would be the one. They were so tired they felt that they were in a time warp, travelling from floor to floor. Several minutes went by, seeming like hours, as they dreamed of lying in a nice soft bed. Finally the porter arrived with the new key.
Cassy wondered if the porter thought that she was going to get a big tip from these grumpy Australians. The door was opened and Cassy and Phillip simply dragged themselves in, pulling their hand luggage behind them.
By this time even Cassy was dreaming of a soft pillow. Ideas of a cup of tea had faded from her exhausted mind. They thanked the porter, tipped her and closed the door. The now evident "two double beds" were becoming more inviting by the second.
"Which bed do you want?"
"I donít care, as long as it is soft," replied Phillip.
"Well then Iíll take this one."
"Iíll take the one nearest to the window then."
Cassy sarcastically replied, "Well thatís a silly remark, thereís only one left."
"Ah, be quiet, Cassy. Iím too tired to engage in your verbal semantics."
As she turned her bed down, Cassy showed the tip of her tongue between her lips and made a face. She quickly got undressed, leaving her panties and bra on, slid between the bed clothes and snuggled herself into the pillow. Phillip chose to undress completely, disappointed that he didnít get at least some rise out of Cassy. As he climbed into bed he reached out and pulled the curtains together in an attempt to shut the daylight out.
They both agreed that two hours sleep would be enough to keep them going till night, and set the alarm for 1pm. They finally closed their eyes to grab some quality sleep.
Let the Fun Begin
The next twenty minutes was something else. Cassy was trying so hard to ignore the noise that was coming from the next room, through an adjoining door which they had unfortunately failed to notice up until now.
"Are you still awake, Cassy?"
"Course I am."
"You know what theyíre doing, donít you?"
"Phillip, do you think Iím that stupid?"
"Well, what are we going to do? I canít sleep with that orgy going on."
"Phillip, youíre just tired and envious. Close your eyes and put it out of your mind."
"Hell, Iím not envious, yes I am tired and I want to go to sleep. Iím going to do something about it."
"You donít meanÖÖÖOh Phillip, no pleaseÖÖÖ we canít move again."
He reached for the phone at the side of the bed and phoned the front desk. Phillipís one sided conversation on the phone had Cassy really grinning.
"Hello. Is that the front Desk? This is Phillip Edwards. My wife and I booked in three hours ago. Yeah, thatís right, room 825. Weíre not very happy. Yes Iím fully aware that this is our second room. You know we have travelled the night and only arrived here in New Orleans at 7:40 this morning. Youíve placed us in a room with an adjoining door. Well, there is only one thing wrong with that. Yes I know youíre busy. We cannot sleep with this kind of noise coming from the adjoining room. Iím glad you asked me why. We are tired and all we can hear through the door is a couple of people going at it. Yes, thatís correct having sex. (Cassy found it very amusing that whilst Phillip was explaining to the receptionist that this couple was having sex in the next room and at the same time he stood in his birthday suit holding a phone in his hand.) Every word, groan and noise, itís like itís right here in our room. We just canít sleep with this entire racket. Phillip just held the phone towards the adjoining room and waited. ÖÖÖÖ. You can, thatís great, weíll be ready in 15 minutes. Thank you very much. Iíll be down to get the key."
"What are you grinning at?"
Cassy replied, "No doubt about you. You know how to get your kicks."
"I donít know what you mean. Iíve got to go down and get another flaming key. Get everything together and be ready to move when I get back?"
"Anything for a little peace and quiet."
The time was getting on. It was noon and they still hadnít found sleep. Phillip threw some clothes on, raced out the door leaving the mess for Cassy. They had only been in the Hotel for a little over three hours and were now moving to their third room. Tiredness prevented them from seeing the amusing side of their situation.
When Phillip returned and handed Cassy the key she gasped.
"Not room 813, Phillip, I canít believe it. You know I hate rooms with the number 13 in them."
"So what room do you want Cassy? Room 813, or the last room with itís oversexed neighbours. Just tell me?"
"Donít be so cranky, Iím tired too you know. Donít say I didnít warn you."
Phillip turned the key and opened the door. Exhaustedly they carried their luggage in, hoping it was going to stay put for the next few days. Cassy had her own reasons why she was so superstitious about the number 13. When she was at boarding school and her thirteen birthday fell on Friday 13th, her birthday parcel from home which included her cake and present didnít arrive until the following Monday. In those years boarding schools were much stricter than today. Boarders did not have any contact with their families through the school term apart from one visiting Sunday. Since that day, if she can help it, she avoids anything involving the number 13.
"That reminds me, Phillip. Wasnít it gate 13 at the airport when we left Las Vegas last night?"
"Come to think of it, youíre right. It was the magical 13."
"Donít make fun of me, Iím serious. Remember the difficulty we had in getting accommodation because of the Mardi Gras being on. I donít think we were ever meant to come here at all."
"Heavens, Cassy, donít be paranoid. It will sort itself out."
"Yeah, when itís time to leave."
By now they had come full circle and were back climbing into bed and setting the alarm for a two-hour sleep. When the alarm sounded, they woke feeling confused thinking that they had only just closed their eyes. So much had happened in the last 24 hours; it was taking a toll on them.
Having made a decision to explore in what was left of the day they set out to get a bite to eat. As they left the hotel lobby a strong aroma of Cajun spices assaulted their nostrils and they realised that the culinary and the historical adventures of New Orleans lay before them. They caught a tram to the French Market area on the Mississippi River wharf where they enjoyed a Hot Crawfish, Cream and Tortellini dish in the Food Court. As they savoured their meal they viewed the paddle steamer, Creole Queen, arriving back at the wharf from its afternoon cruise up the Mississippi.
As the first parade of the Mardi Gras was set for this evening they passed the time by visiting a number of the fascinating boutique type shops in the French Market, Bourbon and St. Ann Streets, which had a mystique of their own. They also purchased feather masks and beads in readiness for the night's parade. People come from all over the world to strut down Bourbon Street at this time, in extravagant costumes of their own design, hoping to win a prestigious Bourbon Street Award for their sequined madness.
Cassy looked at Phillip, finding it hard to understand why all of a sudden she was feeling increasingly tired.
"Do you know what time it is?"
Phillip looked at his watch and gasped. "Holy Moses itís 8.30, itís no wonder we feel tired."
"We better start heading back to Canal Street to get a good position for the parade," Cassy replied. "On the way we can grab some hot buttered corn on the cob from one of the street stalls we passed earlier."
They walked in the direction of their hotel and stood on one of the corners where the parade was to pass. The atmosphere quickly became festive as families and young people laughed and sang with excitement. Most of the crowd were wearing feather masks and strings of coloured beads were draped around their necks.
Many of the young people had obviously been drinking from earlier in the day and by this time their mood had escalated to one of jubilant participation. The different themed floats passed with loud music blaring from their captive bands. In each case willing New Orleans volunteers travelling on the floats threw strands of beads of many colours to the cheering crowd. This mayhem continued for an hour or so and by this time Cassy and Phillip knew it was time to call it a night.
On reaching their room they knew that they just had to get the sleep that their bodies needed so badly. They turned off the light and fell into bed. They wanted to just sleep as long as they could and didnít bother to set the alarm.
With a start, Cassy opened her eyes. "What was that noise?"
Phillip replied in a caustic tone, "Someone that doesnít know how to close a door quietly."
Bang! Crash! Boom! Then raised voices.
"That has to be the TV, surely."
"Iím not sure what it is, but theyíll wish they were quiet in a moment."
"Why, what are you going to do, Phillip? Itís nearly 1:00 am."
"Doesnít anyone want to sleep around here? They obviously are still partying after the parade. These walls must be paper-thin, you shouldnít be able to hear that much noise through the walls. If weíre going to get some sleep thereís no alternative. Iíll have to ring the front desk."
"Iím glad youíre doing it and not me. I donít think Iíd be game."
Phillip phoned the front desk. "This is Phillip Edwards. Iím in room 813. Yes, you can help me by asking the guests in 811 to be quiet. Thatís right, 811. Sounds like they have 20 or more people in there having a party. This is the third room you have placed us in and we still canít get any decent sleep. Of course Iím annoyed. Why wouldnít I be. Do you know how many hours of sleep weíve had in the last 40 hours? It certainly matters to me. Weíve come all the way from Australia, we mistakenly prepaid our accommodation and now we canít get any sleep. Well, I hope it will be soon."
Phillip threw the phone down and turned to Cassy. "Thereíre sending someone up to speak with next door."
"I hope itís not long then."
Phillip and Cassy were lying in bed gazing up at the ceiling when they heard a knock. At first, it seemed as if someone was at their own door, it sounded so close.
Raised voices could be heard and then the sound of a deliberately slammed door. A couple of seconds later there was an enormous crash, on the wall above their bed head. Even in the darkness a startled look passed between them and the whites of their eyes glistened with apprehension. Phillip flicked the light on, as dust from the paint and plaster settled from the air onto the bed.
Phillip, in an aggressive tone, said, "What sort of animals are they in there?"
"Just try and settle down dear."
Cassy tried to calm her husband but the group next door had really set him off. Phillip picked up one of his shoes near the bed and banged hard onto the wall, but with some wariness as to its flimsiness. Fifteen minutes went by without a sound, Cassy and Phillip couldnít believe their luck. They shook the bed covers, turned out the light and made one more effort to get some sleep.
Peace at Last?
You would think by this time that Cassy and Phillip would have been used to being disturbed, but at 4:00 am again they were woken up with a start. This time it was the stupid alarm clock. The previous guests must have had an early flight and needed to be wakened early. Phillip in desperation reached for the clock, he pushed and prodded at every button possible. Nothing seemed to turn the incessant noise off.
"Iíll pull the bloody plug out," he exploded.
"Be careful Phillip, remember your blood pressure."
He thrust his hand under the bedside console, grabbed the offending cord, and yanked. The clock still buzzed in their ears. Phillip was a man on a mission, this clock had to go, now, not tomorrow, but right bloody now. He threw on the main light, bathroom light and the reading lamp over the lounge chair. He grabbed his glasses, got on his knees on the floor, located every cord under the console and gave an almighty heave. All of a sudden there was blessed quietness, but to Cassyís dismay, also complete darkness.
"Phillip, all the lights have gone out."
"Really pet, I wouldnít have known that, if you hadnít told me. Now go to sleep."
"But Phillip, youíve done something to the lights."
"Go to sleep Cassy. Iíll check it out in the morning."
"ButÖÖ.. but Phil, Sweetie, I need to go to the bathroom."
"You can drop the sweetie business. Iím not in the mood. Just place your arms in front of you and feel your way. Donít break your neck though in getting there. I donít want to know of any more dramas. Iím going to sleep."
By the time Cassy found the bed again, Phillip was snoring. She knew there was no way she would be able to get any sense from him until the sun was once again high in the sky.
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