Hurricane Ida is posed to strike the coast of Louisiana in the next few days. Yet, I can’t speak about “Ida” without thinking of my honorary Drag Queen name —- Ida Slapter….. read as, I’da slap’ter… or…. I would have slapped her.
How I came to be known as Ida, ….. Well, that’s another story.
The girls and I were a little bored…. It was early spring. The bed and breakfast was humming along. We had fallen into a monotonous rhythmn. Although my female clan stretched from ages 25-55ish, I was about 36 at the time. As a New Year’s Resolution, I started going to the gym around the corner to “get in shape” and remove the last 20lbs of baby weight before I reached 40. I went to the gym after breakfast guests were settled, which presented a new kink in the girl schedule. Most of my friends would drop off their kids at school, 7:45-8:00am, and whiz into my driveway to check on what was going on….. drinking the rest of the morning coffee and hoping to find a spare piece of bacon. Because I was going to the gym…….meant……. we were all going to the gym.
Like I said, the gym was around the corner from me, across the street from the police and fire stations, and owned by Connie. It was a neighborhood gym, not a fancy chain. That we worked out with our firemen and policemen….. They were in such good shape…. It inspired us to keep going.
Connie had an intense aerobic class at 5:30am, which we were not ready for….. Gosh, those people were serious and kind of scary. He had another class, easier, at 6:30-7:30, mostly for the office people around town…. but I was making breakfast at that time. Thus, Connie gave us private lessons, a “workout”, between 8:30-9:30am, a time after my guests left for work and convenient for us. Connie had a fabulous personality, extremely outgoing, and played great music while we danced, shook, and wiggled our way to a lower dress size. THEN, we came home to the B&B for coffee and extra bacon.
Our workouts started to pay off. We were dropping pounds and encouraging each other.
A few weeks went by, husband in an out of the house, catching us as we were leaving or coming back from the gym. Of course, the girls were all abuzz about Connie. I guess husband became curious. One day, husband charged into the gym with a full head of steam, like he was ready to kill someone…. or find me sleeping with another man. I guess someone told him Connie was a VERY large black man, a former professional wrestler…. with the belt to prove it…. Husband was so embarassed when he found us all spread out on our yoga mats in the middle of stomach crunches. Connie shook his hand like nothing was wrong. Special moment…. husband left quickly. Later that evening…. “Why didn’t you TELL me Connie was a MAN?”
But one day in late February, we came home from the gym and I had made a King Cake. The girls oohhhed and ahhhed about the strange looking cake. I grew up in New Orleans, my parents were in a Krewe, and I made the cake as a nod to the season of Mardi Gras….. which I was sullen about missing….. living in northern Mississippi. The girls devoured my cake.
Deb commented…… she had never been to a Mardi Gras.
We all looked at her like she had three heads. What do you mean you’ve NEVER been to Mardi Gras? It was unfathomable. Yet, Deb was married at 19, had kids early, became a hair dresser, went back to art school and was a TRULY gifted painter…. She had been to New Orleans on various weekends, only a 5 hour drive for us, but never there during Mardi Gras. We related our past stories of Mardi Gras to her….. and her eyes glowed. Yet, I was the only one who grew up in New Orleans, parents involved, still living in the city.
Well, Deb wouldn’t leave me alone about Mardi Gras.
Nothing else would do.
She HAD to go to Mardi Gras and I had to take her. Hey….. I’m up for a trip to the grocery store, so it was an easy sell for me. We would take the Blue Bomb minivan, which sat seven. Anyone who wanted to go, could. Yet, by the day we pulled out of the driveway, it was only Deb and me, bound for the Big Easy. The others were pouting, mising out on another adventure…. but obligations got in the way. That morning, I made breakfast for guests, turned 5 rooms, did all the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, car to the shop for an oil change, packed a cooler…….. and backed out with a frowning husband standing in the driveway. We left on a Friday before Mardi Gras weekend, late afternoon.
By the time we pulled into Dad’s driveway, it was about 9:30pm. He was happy to see us. We got settled into the spare bedroom and I was ready for a shower and bed. Ohhhhhhh, no. Deb was ready to go out and into the city. She was ready to party.
Begrudgingly, I agreed.
Apparently, Deb’s oldest son was also in New Orleans that weekend and was at a party in Uptown. She thought it might be fun to go and drop in. She called him when we arrived and got the address. They were expecting us. Okay, fine. Quick change of clothing and off we went.
We pulled up to the house and the owner of the house was waiting for us at the end of the sidewalk. Unknowingly, the house belonged to one of my best staff members at the B&B, NUMSTER, who worked for me when he was in high school next door. I loved that kid – he was like a son to me. Now, grown, graduated college as a minted Civil Engineer, he was married, with kids, working in New Orleans. Deb’s oldest son and Numster were good friends and Deb’s son and fiance were in town for Mardi Gras. The party was a wild mix, and included SEVERAL of my old staffers. Thus, me being there was like having MOM there. Kind of weird. I thought I was intruding….. but they were ecstatic we were there…… to ….. play.
Well, about 1am, we decided to take off to the French Quarter to REALLY party. Several carloads left from the party, but since I had the minivan, a lot of them came with me.
Now…… you have to understand….. “The Quarter” was my turf. Every weekend while I was in high school/college, my group of friends were in The Quarter. I knew the place like the back of my hand…. secret parking spots, which streets were “one ways”, etc. Even though it had been 20yrs since I was in high school, those kinds of things don’t change. I parked quickly, and we were all sipping our Hurricanes on the patio at Pat O’Briens by the time the others showed up.
And that’s during the day……
And you have to understand, the Friday night before Mardi Gras is sheer bedlam in New Orleans. A city with about a million in metro population, swells to about 7-12 million during the season, and this was the final weekend of Mardi Gras….. the big blowout before Lent begins.
Deb and I crawled home as the sun was coming up. Sure was quiet in the car. At one spot, there was a rise in the interstate and we could see the sun breaking over the city. We called Britt from the car, who lives across the street from me. She was always up early. Britt was mad she was not with us and Deb was gloating. Shameful, but typical.
We didn’t get up until noon the next day when Frank showed up at Dad’s house. Dad had called Frank and told him I was in town. Dad had made a big lunch.
Frank was one of my best friends since high school. My father LOVED Frank and secretly wished I had married Frank, but Frank was gay. In fact, my father was the first one Frank told. Nonetheless, my Marine Corps father still loved Frank and Frank is still one of my best friends….. now 40yrs later.
So, there we were eating lunch….. Frank was excited we were back in town and already had a full blown itinerary of things for us to do. Deb’s jaw was on the floor as frank went over our calendar of events. Frank was at the pinnacle of his career and well established with a “mate”, and they were popular within the gay community in New Orleans……. which is an extremely wealthy and tasteful crowd.
And folks, if you’re willing to have gay friends, New Orleans, during Mardi Gras, is the place to do it.
There were about 30 parties between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day) and of course, we were required to go to EVERY one of them. Because I was from New Orleans, I understood our group of friends, some straight and some gay, had now grown up, had careers, and had money. It would be good to see them all again, and I was used to the flush of house parties, parades, and night life surrounding Mardi Gras.
Deb was awestruck. Lil’ girl from northern Mississippi….. wow. She was ready.
Daddy had plenty of old costumes in the attic and we made due. Deb was gleeful when it came to “Masquerade” and pulled and twisted my hair into things I never thought my hair could do.
On the way to an afternoon pool party, as an old habit, I stopped through a Drive-thru Daquiri shop….kind of like a Drive-thru McDonald’s, which are located ALL OVER New Orleans.
- Me to the attendent: I’ll have a large Blue Razz, (which has Rum in it). Normally what I got….
- Me to Deb: Whaddaya want?
- Deb, straining to look inside the establishment where dozens of frozen margarita machines were whirling….. Deb was startled and fascinated. Like she had just arrived in the Land of Oz.
- Deb to me: You mean you can drive through this place and get a frozen drink?
- Me: Yea, whaddaya want?
- Deb to me: And there is liquor in it?
- Me: Yep.
- Deb: And then, you can leave and drink and drive?
- Me: Yea.
- Deb decided on something called a “Witches Brew”, which was double shots of 151 Rum.
- I frowned. She had to learn to take it easy. It was going to be a long day…..
10 minutes later, we arrived at the pool party, stripped down to our bathing suits and were in the pool. It was still chilly in New Orleans but the pool was heated and the mist rose above the pool. Hazy…… perfect for New Orleans. I had my frozen daquiri, barely a quarter of it gone and was sipping in the pool. I wondered where Deb’s drink was…. She said, “I drank it already…. and it was GOOD.”
Deb had a good time at the party and fit in beautifully. On the way back, we stopped at another friend’s house for a big BBQ. On the way home to Dad’s, right before we got there, Deb asked to stop again at the Daquiri place, which is around the corner from Dad’s house.
And every time we left Dad’s house, she wanted to stop at the frozen Daquiri place for another one.
By evening, one buddy had a huge party. He now owned a LARGE bed and breakfast Inn right in The Quarter. Yes, he was gay. The party was like a WILD version of a high school reunion for me. People painted in gold and silver, incredible costumes…..feathers, head-dresses, WILD.
I was wearing a black cashmere sweater and black velvet pants = normal and boring. Many old friends were there, both straight and gay, and the B&B was magnificent. Everywhere I looked could have been a photo-shoot for Town and Country magazine. They did an extraordinary job with the renovation. The buffet was a lavish spread and the liquor….. flowed. Deb was like a kid in a candy store….. She was beaming.
As was our custom, the party gravitated outside to the wrought-ironed courtyard, surrounded by balconies and fountain, and then outside to the street as we took to the bars between 11pm-Midnight. We walked towards the Parade Disco, a place we referred to as “The Pub”, on the corner of St Peter and Bourbon. It was one of our favorite haunts. BUT, this was a GAY bar. I wondered how Deb would react…..
So, there we were, at least 12 incredibly attractive and VERY tall, albeit gay, men, plus Deb and me. I knew about half the guys and they adopted Deb quickly. She has a perfect southern accent, and they just wanted to hear her talk.
Downstairs at “The Pub” is an enormous bar, it must be 100′ long, with stools on each side. The actual bar a wonder of craftsmenship, thick wooden bar-rail, old white marble top, brass foot-rail, etc. Here’s a pic
Large space in the middle with dozens of bar-tenders mixing drinks, doing their best to fulfill a thirsty crowd. Tin ceilings and 12 foot tall doors which were pitched open to the outside. A swirl of smoke in the air, the place was buzzing. Between the bar and the walls is about 25′ wide of open space, with small pub tables at the walls. It was packed and the party from inside flowed to the street. Inside, were scantily clad people parading across the bar top. It was Carnival…. but…..pretty normal for a Saturday night.
We were headed upstairs to the disco to dance, but Deb stopped cold. Practically naked men, tripping across a bar-top, it was all too much for her. She had never seen anything like that. Deb’s laugh is contagious and the guys were entralled with her genuine innocence. They steadily peeled off dollar bills from their pockets as Deb laughed and tucked dollar bills into mostly-naked men’s g-strings for at least a half hour.
- Me to Deb: Deb, you know they’re gay, right?
- Deb to me: I don’t carrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeee. Why have you never taken me to New Orleans before???
I was losing her.
We went upstairs and danced……hard………. sweat dripping…… until at least 4-5am. Back to the Inn for a little bit. The bars in The Quarter close from 5am-6am to sweep out from the previous night…. and then re-open. We made it to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee for breakfast….. Home by about 6:30am. Daddy was aghast. He had barely seen me since I arrived. He was getting up and ready to mow the lawn.
I went to bed.
Deb woke me at 10am, shaking me. We had a Sunday morning brunch invitation at a lovely hotel we were supposed to attend. I couldn’t do it. I had to sleep. Did she go? I have no idea. Too tired.
The days, parades, and various parties drift together in my memory…. BUT, I think it was Monday. We were at a party where one of the host’s beverages was frozen slush Witches Brew. Deb looked at me with a drop-dead glare like she had just found a pot of gold. “They have Witch’s Brew”, she said, “Which means I can have as much as I want.” The rest is like a Twilight Zone for me. We went to places I’ve never been before. Probably one of the 4-5 times in my life I was actually legally drunk. Not sure how we made it home that night.
During the parades, the guys threw us on their shoulders and we came home with treasure chests full of beads, plastic footballs, stuffed animals, doubloons and all kinds of trinkets. Yes, Deb showed her tits. Me – not a chance. At night, it was party after party. The food and drink were top shelf. People in New Orleans plan their Mardi Gras parties for months in advance. In the gay community, “over the top” was a mere starting point.
Deb and I never did anything illegal during that trip. Some things are unmentionable in this forum, but we walked right up to the line of impropriety and spit across the proverbial fence.
Yeah, we had a GREAT time during Mardi Gras.
What a trip it was.
As Deb and I pulled out of town, she begged to stop at the Daquiri place one more time….. so we could order TWO each for the trip home. I KNEW I could never drink two and drive for 5 hours but Deb got two. Off we went, bound for Mississippi. The Blue Bomb minivan would carry us home.
And we started talking about the trip, reminiscing, what we had seen and done in the past few days. Things we forgot about. Times I could not find her at a party and wondered what happened. We started laughing. Deb was quite attractive and I was a babe at the time. The gay guys loved to dress us up for Mardi Gras in various costumes and we laughed/and were amazed by the lengths some would go to in order to dress like a woman….. which beget a conversation of Drag Queen names.
For 2 hours, from Ponchatula all the way to Jackson, MS, we laughed uncontrollably as we picked Drag Queen names for ourselves and other girlfriends we both knew. We howled with laughter. 20yrs later, I still can’t remember a time I laughed as hard as we did in the car that day.
- I became Ida Slapter….. As in, I would have slapped her. Known for my firey temper.
- Deb became Helen Bedd….. As in, hell in bed. She liked that name and was proud of it.
- Iwanna……….. as in, I want to…… and then various things.
- Sofonda…… as in, so fond of ……………. various things, usually obscene or funny, but befitting that particular woman.
- Gimmee Monet….. as in, give me money – for one particularly greedy girlfriend, or Gimmee…..followed by something else. If you say it fast, people think you’re saying Jeanie. Hilarious.
When we got home, the next morning, all the girls were at the B&B anxious to hear about our trip. Some things we never told. But they were agogg as we regaled our story. I had the pile of trinkets from the parades and divided them up among the girls. The little kids were thrilled…. and thought we raided a pirate ship. They were small, and didn’t know if our jewels were real or fake, but they were happy.
Over coffee, we told the girls about their new Drag Queen names, which Deb and I bestowed upon them, which brought more discussion and laughter.
The names stuck.
For YEARS, when I get out of line and need to calm down, one of my girlfriends will say, “Okay Ida…..” or “There goes Ida again….”, and we can’t say the name without laughing.
And to this day, if I yell at Britt across a crowd in a football stadium…… “Sofonda…..”, Britt will look up, as if it is her own name. No, she can’t get away from that name.
And the one known as Gimme Monet…… she’s been divorced four times.
But the name Ida, I am stuck with that name, for sure.
Thus, with Hurricane Ida approaching the shores of Louisiana, I’ve had a FLOOD of phone calls from girlfriends, all laughing hysterically, that I have a Hurricane named for me.
I will never live this down.
Let’s hope Ida blows away.
God Bess all those in Louisiana who may be in the path of this hurricane.
And our special blessing for the Cajun Navy.
How I do love New Orleans. It’s a fabulous city, …..gritty, nothing hidden, filled with people who are earthy, eat well (Dear God, the food in incredible), work hard, and play even harder.
If you ever get a chance to go……. do it.