I was in college when I lived in New Orleans. I have found that it’s hard to talk to people about my college days, because whatever other people’s college experiences were like, mine were like x1000.
To give an idea of what it was like, most experienced students took a lighter schedule in the Spring semester. Here’s why:
Jan 1 - New Orleans is a “ball drop” city; many students return to the city early to go to the big party
Classes back in session - general on campus parties for the return of school
Mardi Gras - most people do not realize this goes on for 40 days, so depending on when the holiday falls, parades can start rolling in the city as early as mid-January. There are parades that go right by the school, parades that roll near the French Quarter, but also, for the savvy bead whore, parades in all the suburbs and outlying areas with a completely different quality. It is common, for example, in Metairie to see teenagers with large daiquiris in their hands roaming the parade routes in pairs and trios before the big event and their parents sitting in lawn chairs alongside the route.
Mardi Gras weekend - The school shuts down. The city swells to twice its population. Drugs wash over the campus and the city like a tidal surge. There’s so many people and so many parades that you really can’t drive, just walk and take the street cars and buses. Generally for students you end up with a different group of friends during this time - no one knows why. My first Mardi Gras I spent with a group of kids from Beverly Hills. My Sophomore Year I fell in with a group of guys from a stoner fraternity. My Junior Year, I was dating a guy from the “House of Good Looking Men” and hanging out there a lot.
Lundi Gras night (the day before Mardi Gras) - Traditionally, you stay up all night long so you can welcome in Mardi Gras day good and drunk. The big thing to do when I was in college was go to see the Radiators at the famous bar Tipitinas. There was an underground fraternity I was in with that had a party called Stella where they would come to this bar with kegs on the back of a truck and set up outside the bar. That was stage one of the party. From the brothers you could find the secret party location for the next stage. At that spot, there was a booze mixture spiked with mushrooms and lots of acid. For the final leg, they would trip a drug one of the brothers had discovered while on travels called “Stellamite” or “Stella” and go to Louis Armstrong park yelling “Stella!”
Mardi Gras Day (we are still just in February people) - It’s parades all day, and if you haven’t been in New Orleans on the actual day of Mardi Gras, there is simply no description for what it’s like. It is pure bacchanalia, like walking in the middle of a dream. My Freshman year I remember taking a bus with a friend down to the French Quarter for the first parade (the traditional first parade is Zulu, which is mostly black people in over the top black face and native costumes that surely must be considered the most insulting thing to whatever population they are mimicking, but this is New Orleans so what else can you do but drink and beg a guy on the parade to throw you a prized golden coconut?) As go further down the route, more and more people are on the bus in costume and already it’s surreal. Then we arrive and everywhere we look it’s people in the most beautiful, most vulgar, and most trippy costumes, all drunk and stoned and high, waiting for the masked men to roll down the street on their parade floats and throw them trinkets.
Ash Wednesday - it all disappears and all the Catholic people are wearing ashes on their foreheads as a new school day starts.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!!! - like Mardi Gras, only just for the locals, and they throw cabbages off the floats
Easter - like Mardi Gras for the locals, only with strippers on the floats.
Fraternity Formals. This includes the famous Beta Jungle Party, which is in place of an off campus formal. They hire a great musician - in my day it was often the guy who looked and played like Jimi Hendrix. The whole house was converted with sand and plants into a jungle. There was a maze in the basement of the fraternity that was opened up only for this party. There were several levels you had to crawl through, secret rooms where you could get stoned with the brothers if you could find them, and then at the end you landed into a small pool that you had to walk through to exit. Many people tripped acid and smoked as they went through this maze. I could NEVER figure out how the fire department didn’t know about this.
Me with my friends going to a formal at D’Estrahan Plantation. We rode in Matt’s hearse to the formal. The girl at far right was just a girl that Matt randomly asked to come to the formal while we were hanging out on the quad, and she was a great sport and decided to take a chance on some random strange guy who had a hearse as his main vehicle. Because New Orleans is like that.
French Quarter Fest - Damn good food and music
Last Weekend of April/First Weekend of May
Finals - eventually you learn these are not nearly as important as
But this is not to mention that on Thursday nights it was Rockin’ Dopsie at Howlin’ Wolf for $5 cover, Friday night Blues at Muddy Waters for $10 cover, Saturday nights a major act at Jimmy’s or Tipitina’s, and Sunday usually a good chill day to hit a local bar for a band playing mid day or just a great juke box.
They also had an event for the school radio station, WTUL, called marathon that one one weekend in April and they’d get major local acts on campus, including Charmaine Neville. We also had every Friday a band that would play on campus for free starting around 6 pm. These were also often major local musicians.
My best friend and I at WTUL marathon
Also, did I mention that one of my good friends was friends with Charmaine Neville’s tour manager and she had Charmaine Neville PLAY AT HER WEDDING!!!
Yes every song in New Orleans is about New Orleans.
and somewhere in there I studied.