Friday, December 28, 2012

Born on the Bayou

Swizzlebent's obsession begins almost 31 years ago.

1982 ushered in the birth of a shy, creative only child who could be found hiding in the faux fur racks of every department store she entered. No trip to K-Mart was complete unless her fingers were stained with exotic eyeshadow shades. The heel of every stiletto in her mom's closet was disfigured from scuffling in tiny feet across linoleum floors. And somewhere there's a VHS recording of her at the age of four doing a riveting interpretation of the hula to The Pointer Sisters on vinyl, wearing a little blue plaid ruffly apron, a long stand of imitation pearls, and saggy Care Bear panties.

I'm just burnin' doin' the Neutron Dance.

I am Swizzlebent. And I was born to play dress-up.

My grandpa had cows. And I had a Get In Shape Girl leotard.

I have known for as long as I can remember that I was meant to live in New Orleans, but Mardi Gras 2011 was my first run at Carnival as a NOLA resident. It's an experience for which no number of neighborly anecdotes and no amount of personal parade route research can prepare you. I mean, I'm from South Louisiana. I've done Mardi Gras since the year I was born and have even spent a few Mardi Gras weekends in the city. But Mardi Gras as a resident of New Orleans is something that cannot be described. If you're not in costume, you may as well not even leave your house, and my lack-luster "costume" that year consisted of a flowery blue sock-hop skirt and hair extensions.

French Quarter balcony on Mardi Gras Day 2011. I'm on the left.

I just wasn't ready. Luckily, I had quickly fallen in with the most amazing group of coworkers one could ever assemble, and in that company, I learned all the secrets. I wasn't even home at the end of the night before already giddily fantasizing, now that I had some first-hand experience under my belt, over how I was going to drastically up my game for Mardi Gras 2012.

But things didn't quite work out that way. Long story short, I managed to bulge a disc or two in my back and spent most of 2011 hunched over and hobbling around Quasimodo-style with pinched nerves, feet that would go numb at the most inconvenient moments, and the aid of a purple metal cane who I'd affectionately named Herman.

Herman Cane

I was pretty glum for a while.

It's hard to feel sexy or get happy about much of anything when you can't even stand up straight enough to reach the whiskey in your liquor cabinet. I made it through Mardi Gras 2012 with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. Hell, it was an accomplishment just to make it around downtown all day dressed in my recycled-from-Halloweens-past belly dancer ensemble without having to be carted off in a wheel chair. It wasn't easy, but I definitely don't regret it.

Fellow revelers on Royal Street 

Headed to Frenchmen Street after sundown and caught up with Uncle Lionel.

Anyway, with lots of luck and a little yoga, I'm closing out 2012 in a remarkably vertical and relatively pain-free position.

It's December. The stress and all-consuming commercialism of Christmas is finally behind us, and the first day of 2013 is just four days away. And that means that Mardi Gras is here again at long last.

And this year -- THIS YEAR -- I am going to BRING IT.

I think if I post another costume status on facebook, my friends are going to start blocking me. I'm not quite as obnoxious as that friend whose every update is concerning the color and texture of their newborn's latest dirty diaper, but almost. Almost.

So this is where I'll share the process of finally bringing to life this costume that has been stewing in my brain for at least three years. In some form, I think it's been in my head since the 1980s and fur coats and eyeshadow.

And once the season's past, I'll probably just keep on writing about the lovely insanity one endures as a normal part of living here.

'Till then... Happy Mardi Gras!

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