Got on the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans

As the storm approaches I’m doing what I can to hold to a promise made to my son regarding Mardi Gras.  Seeing as this is his senior year of school in New Orleans, and seeing as my daughter plans to be there too (Linda, alas would prefer to steer clear), the time is nigh, even if the biggest snowstorm of the season is slated to arrive a few hours before my flight is set to leave.

Alternatives are scare because everyone else is doing what I’m doing as I write this, sitting with the phone on speaker, waiting for the next available agent, with at least a 30 minute wait time.  Wish they’d dispense with the loops of cheesy music…

Mardi Gras as any French student will tell you, literally means Fat Tuesday, in reference to the tradition of eating rich foods prior to the ritual fasting of Lent, which runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve.

To further lighten the rigors of confessions to come, in centuries past it became the practice in many Christian nations to augment the spirit of the day by embracing a full-blown carnival season, beginning on a lighter note with Epiphany before reaching a merrily tumultuous crescendo on Mardi Gras…by which point social conventions had been overturned with masks, costumes, parades and dancing in the streets.

17th Century France under King Louis XIV (aka the Sun King) was certainly at the front of the pack with such celebrations and so the notion arrived on these shores in 1699, after settlers had been sent to defend France’s claim on La Louisiane.  By sheer coincidence the expedition arrived at a point near the mouth of the Mississippi, downriver from where New Orleans is now…on Fat Tuesday.

It didn’t take long for French customs to accompany the French colonists who settled the area and as New Orleans grew to become the major settlement it gained a reputation for throwing one helluva party, embraced by all who came to live there, whether French or Catholic or not.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler” became a way of life, particularly at this time of year, with those costumes, parades and dancing in the streets, fully intact and fully celebrated by all ages. Imagine, only in the last few decades has the  tawdry tradition of baring breasts in exchange for trinkets come to pass, and then only within the boorish confines of Bourbon Street…which is part of it…yet there is so much more, as I aim to discover.

And with that I’m happy to announce that JetBlue has waved any fees and with the storm at my heels I’ll soon be off to “the city care forgot” (this we shall see)… To steal a line from Randy Newman in this autobiographical song, I feel like I’m about to board that Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans….

 LISTEN TO THIS SONG – Mardi Gras

Dixie Flyer

I was born right here, November ’43

Dad was a captain in the army

Fighting the Germans in Sicily.

 My poor little momma

Didn’t know a soul in L.A.

So we went down to the Union Station and made our getaway.

Got on the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans

Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams.

On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans

Back to her friends and her family in the land of dreams.

Her own mother came to meet us at the station,

Her dress as black as a crow in a coal mine

She cried when her little girl got off the train.

Her brothers and her sisters drove down from Jackson, Mississippi

In a great green Hudson driven by a Gentile they knew.

Drinkin’ rye whiskey from a flask in the back seat

Tryin’ to do like the Gentiles do

Christ, they wanted to be Gentiles, too.

Who wouldn’t down there, wouldn’t you?

An American Christian, God damn!

On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans

Back to her friends and her family in the land of dreams

On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans

Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams

Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams.

 

 

 

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