birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Always for Pleasure

MARDI GRAS! Except for the two consecutive years I was pregnant or nursing a brand newborn, we go every year. Before kids we started drinking and eating ‘shrooms at 8 o’clock in the morning. Now we only drink…It’s a crazy thing slamming a beer at 9am! No crazier than all the crazy surrounding us. The last thing I do on Lundi Gras, the night before, is par-make what I’ve come to call “Mardi Gras Oatmeal,” one of our family favorites. It’s really a coconut cream oatmeal casserole made with eggs (it sounds disgusting when I describe it but I promise you it’s delicious!) so we have at least a little protein to offset all the random crap we eat all day—King Cake, Voodoo Flavor Zapps (potato chips), cookies, jerky, lollipops, whatever. I always pack healthy snacks but we usually ignore them and let the day carry us away, which it will do anyway, like it or not. While everyone else sleeps another hour, I am the first one up to preheat the oven and bake the oatmeal, turn on WWOZ, and get a jump on my makeup/costume. During Carnival, more is more.
You have never seen such an explosion of color, joy, and creative energy. It’s more Burning Man than Burning Man. There’s the guy wearing a urinal strapped to his front with a handmade sparkly sign, “Voyeurinal.” Troll couples on stilts with coordinating wigs holding hands and playing Sister Nancy. Last year was my favorite: a bubble bath HOT TUB on a flatbed truck filled with laughing, heckling mermaids. The Mardi Gras that people think of on Bourbon Street does exist (it’s hideous) but this is not our Mardi Gras Day. Our Mardi Gras is weird, defiant, transgressive, a reclamation. Every year is a little different and every year the spirit is identical. We trick out the kids’ wagon with beads, feathers, streamers, pinwheels, faux fur and fake flowers, Chinese yoyos, anything eye-catching and fun to touch. From the shelter of this Radio Flyer double seater they take in the moving spectacle, of course never thinking that they are part of it. We roll with what feels like the entire Bywater neighborhood from Bud Rip’s down Royal Street to the Marigny on foot, literally dancing and singing and laughing all together for an entire mile. All those dressed up families and kids and friends and strangers celebrating could make even a misanthrope go, “Ok, ok. I guess people aren’t that bad.” Everywhere else it’s just a regular Tuesday but in New Orleans it is the greatest day of the year, every year.

The Most Wonderful 20 Minutes of the Year

Summer Solstice