RICHMOND, Ind. (ZP) -- Okay, so it's carnival season and I've done absolutely nothing to mark the season - not a single King Cake, no beads on my front door, and no Professor Longhair blaring from speakers.
After the devastation that was that bitch Katrina, I just haven't been in the mood. I'm glad that the Krewes kept a-rolling this year down in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast. New Orleans isn't dead, but there's still so much grief, so much utter tragedy.
It's good to see that part of the country - a part of America I called home for more than two years - getting back to its feet again, refusing to go silently into that good night.
So when a girl I met a few months ago during an trip to nearby Richmond, Indiana, called to invite me to a Mardi Gras party, I must say I wasn't in too festive a mood.
I hadn't heard a peep from this woman since we met back in November. Honestly, it took me a while Friday night to figure out who was leaving me the most obscure, drunken voicemails.
We finally connected Saturday morning. Ish told me she'd been watching CNN footage of this year's Mardi Gras at a friend's house, they started talking about Katrina, and decided it would probably be fun to have a Carnival of their own, to show some solidarity with the Gulf Coast.
Since I was the only person she and her friend had ever met who'd actually experienced an actual New Orleans Carnival, they thought it might be a make the party more authentic.
The only thing I was asked to bring was some traditional music (I burned a few party mixes that included the Legendary KO's George Bush Don't Care About Black People to make it really feel like a 2006 NOLA Mardi Gras), wear a few beads, and just show up in a costume.
Not that difficult, right? Sure...
First, I got lost looking for the address of Ish's friend. Second, I forgot to bring enough beads. If I'd known I was going to be in a house with a few dozen drunk women insistent on flashing their breasts at anything with a penis attached, honestly, I probably would've brought more beads.
Damn. I do kinda, sorta miss that element of New Orleans. Of course, if this were Bourbon Street instead of Indiana, odds are half the women flashing breasts would have penises attached themselves.
After all, it's not really Mardi Gras season unless there's some nudity involved - male, female, or transgendered. Some of the nicest folks in the Quarter, pre-Katrina, were the pre- and post-op "shemales" and "hegirls" who would hang out in front of places like Cafe Lafitte (the oldest gay bar in America and a favorite hangout of Tennessee Williams back in the day.)
If there's one reason why I'm certain New Orleans will survive, it's because of the Mardi Gras. If the religious fundamentalists couldn't pray it away, if the prohibitionists couldn't dry it out, then there's no way in hell any damned hurricane will ever kill that amazingly decadent city.
Breast-flashing aside, it was nice to have a piece of King Cake, even if it was made in some foreign grocery store in the Midwest. I even kept the party's host, Ish's friend "Mary" (not her real name), from choking on the Baby Jesus.
Halfway through the party, I realized that I was one of only seven or so guys at the party. After I put about five bottles of Miller High Life down, I asked Mary why there weren't more - usually, the thought of a free Carnival peep-show is enough to bring guys in swarms.
Mary thought the question was hilarious. Obviously, Ish hadn't communicated the fact that this was a party hosted by members of the Hoosier State's lesbian community. Ish and I were the only hetero folks in the house. Part of the reason I was invited was to serve as Ish's escort.
You know, this is part of the reason I don't go to parties often. I hate hidden agendas.
I ran out of cigarettes, so I decided to walk to a nearby gas station to pick up a pack of Marlboros. Mary decided to come with me, being she was the only other smoker at the party who'd managed to bum themselves into nicotine withdrawal.
She asked what I thought about the party and apologized again for not telling me that this Mardi Gras celebration had left me the lone straight-guy representative. She seemed concerned that I was not having a good time, that somehow being in a house full of lesbians was making me uncomfortable.
After I explained, in detail, that there was nothing to worry about and that (sigh) the Stetson was not some sign that I was somebody who was easily uncomfortable around members of the GLBT community, the topic switched to New Orleans.
Mary asked about some of my favorite memories from Mardi Gras. When I mentioned the Mardi Gras Indians, she quickly jumped to correct me - it was Mardi Gras Native Americans. I tried to continue, figuring I'd just explain the history of the Indians - a virtual secret society of black men who, in tribute to the local tribes that harbored runaway slaves, dress in ornate, tribal-inspired masks and costumes.
But no, every time I used the word Indian, it was met with a Native American. As anybody who's been in one of these types of politically-correct sparring matches will tell you, nobody wins anything. I once had a woman but into a conversation about baseball's Negro Leagues, offended by a word, and totally oblivious to the fact that this black ballplayer and I were discussing Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige.
When it became clear that further discussion of the Mardi Gras Indians would mean more utterly pointless Indian/Native American exchanges, I changed the subject. I think Mary was under the impression that there's actually some indigenous tribe in the Gulf Region called the Mardi Gras. Having to explain otherwise would probably either offend or embarrass.
By the time we got back to the party, most of the guests were, in true Mardi Gras tradition, well past the point of being blitzed. Ish needed to get home anyway, so she asked me to give her a ride home.
Did I mention that I don't like hidden agendas?
Upon arriving at Ish's place, I found it rather intriguing that, out of four roommates, all happened to be out of town for the weekend. And who accidentally leaves Tom Waits' Heart of a Saturday Night on repeat in the CD player?
Okay, I didn't walk into this blind. A girl calls you up after almost four months of no communication and invites you to a party. It turns out you're the only hetero guy and she's the only hetero girl at said party. And people at said party mentioned several times that Ish had recently broken up with some guy she'd been seeing, that they hoped she'd just meet somebody special, and that she...
You get the picture. I'm not so dense that I can't figure out when I've been set up.
I hung around a bit anyway. She had Repo Man on DVD. I love Repo Man - I must've watched that flick a thousand times back when I was in high school, playing in a punk band, and wanting to be the next Joey Ramone.
First, we started out watching the flick on opposite ends of the couch. Then, she stretched out a bit and shoved her feet in the cushions beneath my ass. Thirty minutes into the film, she flips around and puts her head in my lap, drawing circles with her finger on my thigh.
Oh shit. I had no desire to be the rebound fling or the post-relationship fuck buddy. I've been that guy. I don't want to be that guy anymore. And that was where this was headed. I'm lousy with reading signs in terms of relationships, but when there's nothing beyond a quick physical act there's not too many signals to read.
After my last mistake, I'm in no mood to deal with having to wake up next to somebody with whom I have very little in common - other than a love of films starring Harry Dean Stanton.
Nothing happened beyond her asking me if I found her attractive. Of course I found her attractive! That's not the problem. I'm not sure, exactly, what the problem was. Sometimes, things just don't feel right.
Maybe it's the fact that I'm tired of being the guy who's treated like the go-to guy when it comes to somebody else's sexual healing.
Driving back to Oxford, I couldn't help but think of how nice the weather must be down in Baton Rouge and New Orleans - how free people must feel to be caught up in the sheer madness that is the season.
By midnight Wednesday, the Carnival season will be over, and the fasting of Lent will replace the fatness of Mardi Gras.
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