Saturday, June 24, 2017

New Orleans Mardi Gras 1957

Until 1957 I had never attended a New Orleans Mardi Gras.  So my best friend at the time, Jerry M, said "Hey Jer why don't you and Ruth (my girl friend at that time) join me and Bernadette (Jerry's fiancĂ©) to the New Orleans Mardi Gras. We can stay at my uncle's home on St.Charles Ave and enjoy the parade activities from his front porch." Sounded like a winning idea.  Ruth was willing. 

So on Mardi Gras day we departed for New Orleans and pulled into the uncle's gorgeous 2-story home's generous driveway and before we could knock on the door,   his wife, Aunt Anna Maria, opened the door and gave us a warm Italian welcome. (NOTE: The home pictured here is not the same, but does resemble their home).

Neither Aunt Anna Maria nor Jerry's uncle Lorenzo had much command of  English.  Aunt Anna Maria spoke some English with a healthy overlay of Italian accent while Lorenzo spoke no English at all. Lorenzo was a big man  and looked as though he could take care of himself, which I'd find out later he often had to do since he was well positioned in Carlos Marcello's shady gambling syndicate.

Anna Maria had prepared a scrumptious italian feast for us which  included spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, italian salad, hot rolls and enough food to have fed 20 though we 6 were the only diners that day.

Forgetting the communication barrier I decided to engage Uncle Lorenzo in some small talk.  I asked "Uncle Lorenzo what's your line of work?" He then leaned into Aunt Anna Maria who translated to him in Italian, then to me she said somewhat sheepishly "Lorenzo doesn't care to talk about his business affairs." I construed that reply to mean exactly what he meant and I wisely chose to shift my small talk to less personal topics.

My buddy, Jerry, spoke fairly fluent Italian and had a few exchanges with Aunt Anna Maria.  Uncle Lorenzo  also chimed in to that exchange -- all in Italian. Because of my earlier  gaffe with Uncle Lorenzo my paranoia kicked in and I wondered if I was the subject of their Italian exchange.  I had  meant to ask Jerry while returning to Baton Rouge, but forgot.

Because of the generous table setting I and everyone else consumed hearty servings. Anna Maria was not bashful about discussing her recipes and encouraged all of us to eat plenty since plenty was there to be had. And indeed we did.

The language barrier notwithstanding we did manage to enjoy warming to Anna Maria's limited English efforts.  And soon she asked if we would like some coffee and lemon cake.  We all said yes and soon she returned with a beautiful silver tray loaded with cups of coffee and slices of lemon cake which we thoroughly enjoyed.  But then she went back into her kitchen and returned with a large casserole of Strawberry shortcake.  Though I was full from the hearty meal and the lemon cake,   I prepared myself for a serving of Strawberry shortcake.


But then came the shocker.  With a hint of embarrassment Aunt Anna Maria  placed the casserole of shortcake in front of Lorenzo saying "Lorenzo loves his Strawberry shortcake which he does not share with anyone. Sorry." So we all continued with our coffees and what was left of our lemon cakes while Uncle Lorenzo, who was not in the least embarrassed, managed to consume the entire casserole.

On our drive back to Baton Rouge Jerry explained why Uncle Lorenzo would not discuss his affairs.  He was high up in the "Godfather's" (Carlos Marcello's) corruption network and adhered to the Mafia's strict code which prohibits discussions of syndicate affairs with outsiders.

We all thoroughly enjoyed Aunt Anna Maria's and Uncle Lorenzo's hospitality.  Within 4 months Jerry and Bernadette would be wed. Ruth and I remained friends and within 18 months I would meet Gloria who
would become the love of my life and my wife now of nearly 60 years.

Oh yes, in fairness to the title of this post, we did indeed enjoy watching some of the Mardi Gras parades .... comfortably relaxing on Uncle Lorenzo's and Aunt Anna Maria's cozy and luxuriously furnished porch.  My next New Orleans Mardi Gras was in the company of Gloria, my wife, back in the early 90s.


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