The year before, 32 musicians had stood on stage at the height of the festivities, not including the six totally nude body-painted female vocalists. When last I saw her, she was sprinting in dizzy fashion into the giant tin structure of the factory, headed toward the upstairs room genteelly designated with a hand-painted florally embossed sign: Like most ballers, I would use the event as an instrument to start thinking about the all-important Mardi Gras outfit. There are never many top shelf liquors at the ball because nobody can tell the taste any difference after 10 or so toddies, so people bring their own favorites. There was some sort of logic roiling about in my head that involved me escaping harm by hurtling down streets in a cape and mask, balanced on two wheels.
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This was a decades-long tradition, an annual casting-off of the responsibilities of daily mundane life, ignoring the real universe, to just plain be silly. While still audible, and now into their third set, the Wolfman and friends had disappeared in a towering cloud of dust as the dancing became more ecstatic. I needed a container to transport good bourbon. My late neighbor, who was one of the greatest of the legendary New Orleans drag queens — his Loretta Young was exquisite — had gifted me at an earlier carnival with an amazing mask. We never thought that what we had witnessed that night would be the last ball.