The Magic of Mardi Gras: A Letter from the Editor
By Craig Marx, Editor
There have been a lot of polarizing discussions in the Antigo area as of late when it comes to matters such as education, politics, and the necessary fusion of both. I’m not here to mention anything about that in this weekly editorial, for we already have two letters to the editor in our upcoming edition that make some of the points/counterpoints of those arguments. I’d rather be a little more lighthearted in these divisive times, and mention why this is one of my favorite times of the year.
It’s on the cusp of spring right now, though as I write this there is the dread of an impending snowfall arriving that has shaken some of the confidence the community has for deservedly-hospitable weather. With that, a celebration is currently going on, and in no greater tradition than in one of my favorite cities in the world.
It’s a feeling that is difficult to express because it isn’t homesickness – Antigo is where I was born and is now my home once again. However, next week is the celebration of Mardi Gras, where this city called New Orleans has made a little bit of a big deal out of filling one’s self on song and drink before the season of Lent begins in the Catholic tradition, tied to the roots of the French culture in Louisiana. For any readers that have been there before, it is spectacle like no other.
I bartended for five years at the infamously “world famous” Pat O’Brien’s Bar, positioned dead smack in the center of the Big Easy’s French Quarter. Pat O’s is a legendary barroom, though “room” is putting it lightly. The complex of bars, rather, takes up nearly half a city block and features five separate watering holes under the same roof and ownership. Established in 1933, Pat O’s reputation was built on inventing the “hurricane” cocktail, a mixture of passion fruit and enough rum to sink a dreadnaught.
Bartending at Pat O’s was a remarkable experience, from the comrades I bartended with to some of the people I met and served. Talking baseball with Kurt Russell, checking out Franco Harris’s Super Bowl rings – all of it was sheer craziness. The busy season of the New Orleans tourism and service industry lasts from Christmas time through Jazz Fest in later spring, with iconic events such as the Sugar Bowl and Carnival season punctuating it along the way.
In 2013, the city hosted its usual Sugar Bowl, then Super Bowl XLVII, and later segued right into the week-long event that is the Mardi Gras celebration. I kept a journal of things that I had witnessed and observed in the 33 days I bartended almost straight through, and by the end of that time I had a story that most people would not believe. I will never forgive myself, however, for on 34th day I lost the now-threadbare memo pad after a series of libations.
It was like Dr. Jones’ grail diary but for insane bartending memoirs instead.
New Orleans is a place that if you love it, she’ll love you right back. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, don’t pass it up. I only wish Antigo had more celebrations – more parades – and its service industry could thrive once again. I love bartending so much that I still do occasionally, working a couple nights a month slinging cocktails.
Perhaps that is a good segue to next week’s editorial: discussing options that could be done to help revitalize both the downtown nightlife of Antigo and the supper club traditions of Langlade County. Any thoughts or suggestions on such, please contact us at [email protected].