"You know what term I miss?" Eddie's purse of a mouth empties out onto the floor as he swoops into the screaming puppies of my living room. "‘Panty shields.'"
It's the kind of random observation that will inevitably set the tenor of the evening. Anna's close behind with a kinder, gentler "panty liner" amendment, but my mind is already buzzing into the anti-feminist linguistics of sanitary napkins and spotting, spritzing itself with an ounce of Charlie and reaching for a handheld back massager — you know, for its back. But despite the gross-out harbinger blinking its warning that maybe this show isn't meant to be on the road, it's only a matter of moments until we're in frigid lockstep down the exaggerated urban alleyway of Orange Avenue.
It's Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and just to be certain that that pun keeps on giving, I've already managed a pre-party Publix weigh-in (117!) and some anorexic bitchiness that comes naturally to those of us who hurt ourselves by lying down. We're going to vomit constantly and make fun of fat people if it's the last thing we do; hopefully it will be.
"And tomorrow's Ash Wednesday. Weird," a gaggle of large girls lumbers by.
"Ashes to ashes," I murmur in unconnected judgment, and we haven't done anything yet.
Downtown isn't the Bourbon Street bustle I had predicted, naturally. Nobody is vomiting beads from wrought-iron balconies while swarms of trombones tangle together into blurry musical cat's cradles atop sewer manholes. No tits are flashing, no vagrants pissing, no saints are marching in. Wall Street appears roped off in the way that it always does — sadly and thematically — but as Anna, Eddie and I slice our way through the night air, the only real distractions are coming from echoes bounced back to my mouth from empty parking places I should have predicted. "This is going to be fun!" is said, but not meant. This is the calm before the storm.
"Five dollars each, and you get a free IPA or a Hurricane," squawks a girl from behind a tub at Crooked Bayou, because nothing says New Orleans like a hurricane.
Eddie and Anna opt for novelty goblets of stormy liquor while I grab a brown glass bottle for which I have no use, and we're shoehorned into a Mardi Gras — or "Pardi Gras" — in miniature. There are reports of crawfish and signs of rhythmic bacchanalia, a brass band fills up the front of the house with some approximation of the Meters, arms fly around splashing beer onto beads onto shoes. Fine, but it's also a claustrophobic mess of bodies going nowhere in no time for no reason, like a narrative that's already coughed its last phrase leaving only loose ends and viruses to linger in the air. Hello, my name is Katrina. Yours?
"Billy, I need to talk to you," is the click that sets off the hair trigger, and it comes in the form of literal hair trigger Tony from Shine salon. Like most British hooligans, Tony is bald and drunk and ready to make a mess out of anything that crosses his steely gaze. "Who's your shadow? Can I have him?" he asks about Eddie (who is black), before stroking Eddie's hair and spewing forth marketing concerns for his upcoming "Hair for Haiti" benefit. Eddie politely demurs, saying that he is not actually from Haiti, rather Atlanta, but that doesn't stop further treading upon racial sensitivities via an impromptu soft-shoe to "Me and My Shadow."
"There's no hate in Haiti," I no longer care what comes out of my mouth purse.
"High-five for that one," Tony's blond date raises a hand. "You know, Tony asked me out while he was doing my hair for my wedding." Class.
Speaking of hair and hate, Tony's hands next travel to Anna's be-hatted head, causing a look of significant alarm.
"Does your mouth take cock?" he warms her up. "You have such a nice face."
At this point, if I were actually capable of swinging my arm without piercing my own skin with a needle-bone, I guess I would be expected to hurt someone. Instead, I try to smooth the shattered glass with some BabelFish French involving "coq," as in I-am-a-big-fat-chicken, while eyeing an escape route.
"You guys want to join us? We're going to my friend's new bar," Tony is oblivious.
"They don't want to be around you," his date isn't.
"I think I'm going to throw up," Anna almost throws up, as Tony condescendingly twirls her adieu.
We dismount from the dizzying culture shock a few blocks down on Church Street in the deep-fried bright-yellow noxiousness of Hamburger Mary's, thinking it will be a safer, gayer place. We are wrong. Between the chili-cheese-fried-macaroni-ball coagulates and the purple-and-gold-one-eyed-face-paint bears and the Thornton Park "househusbands," real nausea swiftly becomes unavoidable. Add to that the stunning social observations of Gay Bingo drag-hosts Miss Sammy and Carol Lee — "I've been with some really moderately hung Asians," "We always say, ‘Hey, Mary,' to find out who the bottom is" — and our little foray into the gross-tastic at the night's outset seems tame. Of course, they mean no harm.
"Here at Hamburger Mary's you gotta dig a little deeper," Carol Lee's wig tilts while her pancake smirks. "We welcome all types: black, white, gay, straight, Asian, fat, skinny, even retarded!"
We all throw up. Well, not really, but the evening's intolerance has had one unexpected consequence. Back in the puppy pit of my sanctuary, I notice an anomaly that could have predicted itself. The spotting of canine heat has entered my domain on cue, sending my mind to the closet of girlstuffs for a sanitary napkin and my laughter to the phone to call up Eddie.
"Hey, girl," I fan myself with a "Your Body Is Changing" pamphlet. "You got any panty shields?"firstname.lastname@example.org
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