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It was the day before the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl where the heavily hyped and favored Panthers got whipped by Peyton Manning’s Broncos. Not that I liked either team particularly, but my mind was on the game. I had pressing matters, though. I’d been invited to go on a float at Mardi Gras in St. Louis.

My first free Mardi Gras.

And besides New Orleans, people say the best Mardi Gras is in the Lou.

The Float that I was riding was called the Shaque D’Amour, or in “Ingles”, The Lords of Mardi Gras. I didn’t know if the other people were Lords or what, but I’d always considered myself royalty, a real Prince of Prison. Anyway, my wife was familiar with the dude, Rich, that was running the float. He knew about me, and my back-story, and invited us to join him. I’d never been on a float before, so besides it being my first Mardi Gras out of prison, it was also a brand new experience for me.

It was early and it was cold, but the beers were flowing and as soon as we got on the float, the Jell-O shots started and didn’t stop until the parade was over. I’d say there were around 30 people on that float. It was just a flatbed with the float built on top of it, 2 metal tubs full of ice and beers dominated the floor; there was a porta-potty at the back and heaters hung from the ceiling. It was kind of like being on a boat except, instead of floating, we were riding.

Pre-parade, I was checking out the other floats. I didn’t know if it was a contest or just an excuse to drink alcohol, but I peeped several other floats that looked better than the one I was on, and I was wishing out loud that I could switch floats with someone. Make a trade or something. But that wasn’t happening.

I took solace in the fact that the WSPS float was worse than the one I was riding. It looked like it had lightning bolts on the side and it also said “Chugs and Kisses”. Now I agree with that on Mardi Gras, but the only person I was kissing was my wife. Another float I wasn’t too fond of was the Prisoners of Love float. I’ll admit that I’m a prisoner of love for my wife. What man wouldn’t love a woman that waited for him while he served 21 years in prison, to death?

PrisonersOfLoveFloat

The Prisoners of Love float

But just the whole concept, bars and chains, and people dressed as prisoners and guards turned me off. I kind of felt like that on Halloween too. I know prison life has reached pop-culture, but I’m not sure I like the idea of people dressing as prisoners. Guys are doing decades in there for non-violent offences, so it’s not really something to make light of. The Prisoners of Love float wasn’t getting my vote. No sir.

The Hippie Float was pretty cool, even though I couldn’t read what was written on the side. I’d been drinking since 9am. The pirate’s life, you know? But I wasn’t walking off any plank. Maybe I was a little inebriated, but I wasn’t going that route. The Hippie Float had a hollowed out school bus instead of a flatbed for their float. They were most definitely going for that 60’s vibe.

I appreciated the effort they put into that float, but I must say that my favourite wasThe Princess Bride float. They got my vote for best float in the parade. The Princess Bride is my all time favorite movie. I was a teenager when it came out and watched it 100’s of times. It’s the standard by which all other movies are judged in my book.

PrincessBrideFloat

The Princess Bride float

I should have been on that float.

The scene was chaotic right before the lineup for the parade. My wife, her sister and myself met back in front of the Lords of Mardi Gras float and jumped on. I flagged down the Parade Commander as he made his way to the front to commence the activities, and then we were off into the wild blue yonder of the parade, and Mardi Gras.

Family

The author with his wife Diane and her sister Donna in front of the Lords of Mardi Gras float

I remember drinking and drinking some more. I smelled Marijuana, but I was on probation and had to piss in a cup, so I couldn’t indulge even if I wanted too. I kind of felt like passing out, but there was nowhere to lie. It seemed beds were at a premium. The float was jammed packed. My wife and her sister were helping to bust open a bunch of boxes that were stacked at the back and hang beads on the side of the float.

As we rounded the corner and started seeing the people, that was when the real fun started. It was awesome to have an audience, and as we weaved our way through the parade, we threw out beads to the partygoers who lined the barricades. I could tell that some of them were as wasted as me, if not more, but I didn’t care. I was on vacation. It was Mardi Gras.

I don’t know what it was about those beads, but they drove people crazy. I felt like a rock star as I dispensed these cheap plastic beads to my adoring fans, who acted like they were gold or something. I kept chugging beers and even had a couple of Jell-O shots, well, maybe 10. Crazy yes, but that’s Mardi Gras I was finding out. Getting drunk, collecting beads and being a little over the top.

I threw out a ton of beads.

By the end of the parade our whole float was out. My wife brought me some of the sandwiches they had, and I took a much-needed break and ate two roast beef sandwiches. The parade was over, it was barely afternoon and I was ready to pass out. Just another day outside the Penitentiary.

 

*Seth Ferranti is a former maximum security inmate, author, filmmaker and comic book creator. Follow Seth on twitter @sethferranti and visit his website www.sethferranti.com

 

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