Mardi Gras Regatta '05
More on that later, but first… Transiting the Rigolets at night was almost as much fun as trying to drag Doc away from Bally’s Lakefront Casino in order to sail the remaining three or so miles to New Orleans’ West End. Not that the riverboat casino was sad to see us go. They were getting pretty much peeved at Doc for continually trying to convert Cuban pesos into chips at the table.
“Fine. Fine! How about a single black chip for all of my chavito*.” He said, acting wounded and rolling a crushed up, nasty wad of foreign bills onto the blackjack table, which were again rejected by the dealer. “Cap’n, you believe I’m letting this potsie take advantage of me like this? Me. The great, great grandson of Narciso López.”
No one at the table, including myself, had any idea of who he was talking about and it didn’t really help that he was screaming "sauce piquant" every time he hit blackjack. At one point he had the whole table screaming it after he hit two in a row.
Doc eventually resorted to tipping the currency away to the drink girls who were noticeably nonplussed, while grumbling to me and the table about how there was a memorial to his family’s accomplishments somewhere in this town and how New Orleans should throw a parade or something for him.
Other than Doc’s babbling from sleep deprivation and gambling, the transit to the marina was pretty uneventful.
“We gotta’ find some debutantes. They have debutantes in this town right?” He had become even more unsavory than usual. “What the hell, is that another crab trap? Is that what they use for marks down here? We need to get some beads.”
We docked up over at Municipal Harbor, and immediately crashed in preparation for the Mardi Gras Regatta. The regatta actually falls after carnival this year, so we’d arrived early in order to once again partake in the pre-Lenten festivities.
Our first night in New Orleans we attempted to make our way down to the French Quarter, but didn’t make it past The Dock Bar out at West End. We got some Captain Morgan beads and Doc reverted to communicating in Spanish. The only thing I could really make out again was ‘Narciso López’ and that he had to visit him.
Later that evening, we meandered across the street to New Orleans Yacht Club's bar where I definitely want to give a shout out to the bartenders. I can’t remember what the names were, either Glen or Ben, but they set us up with a fair amount of that special lagniappe rum. Thanks guys.
The next night, Friday, Doc vanished. But before he left, he told me that he had a meeting on Napoleon Ave. while the Krewe d'Etat parade was rolling. He covertly whispered “Have a Cuba Libre’ on me, socio***.” He then handed me a few of his pesos and took off on a Vespa he rented from The Dock Bar. I dropped them on the street and went back up the pier to Cash Bar to do some minor preparatory work for the race, still a couple of weeks away. While online, I discovered that CSA was going to have a race out on the lake on Feb. 13th, and realized that this would be a good warm-up for us before the MG Regatta.
Around noon on Saturday, Doc showed back up at the marina and told me to get motivated; parades were rolling. We left Cash Bar and walked out to the street. There was a black Town Car parked underneath some oak trees in front of NOYC waiting for us. The driver, wearing a dark suit and sunglasses threw down his cigarette and opened the doors. I made no question as to the location of the Vespa as we headed off Uptown.
We caught the Iris and Tucks parades and then headed downtown in the Town Car. I’m sure it’s part of my upbringing, but anytime I go to a parade, all I want to do is eat moonpies.
The driver bypassed the parade route on Canal St., getting through the barricades by flashing some sort of pass to the cops. I thought we were going downtown to catch Endymion, but cryptically, Doc, made mention of some people he wanted me to meet. “They are expecting you.”
I asked, “Who?”
“Never mind that just yet.” He looked out the window at some guy dressed as a giant duck wearing a kilt. “Oh, and you only speak Spanish. You have very little English.”
“So try not to speak?” I asked.
“Right.” He replied.
Twenty minutes later Doc and I were drinking Absinthe in a dark little bar on Pirate’s Alley in the Quarter. At or around our second drink, three very prominent gentlemen (trust me, you know them) wearing sunglasses and black polo shirts bearing stitched GYA logos came over to us. All three had on pretty crappy short beads.
Doc nodded at them. One of them looked at me and asked, “Are you with the El Doctor?”
I replied, “Si.”
Our meeting went on for a bit. The GYA guys, nervous and normally scotch drinkers, were a little put out when Doc ordered up a round of Absinthes for them. While watching the sugar burn and then dissolve down into the liquid below, the gist of their conspiracy began to come out.
All I can tell you now is that the following was said by one of the men after sipping on his Absinthe. “Given the current political climate (cough), there is no way (cough), we will officially sanction this. Although (retch) excuse me. We will lend whatever resources to you that we can.” He then turned to the bartender, “Can I have a napkin please.”
The gentlemen did not finish their drinks and left hurriedly, but not before setting a meeting in the near future with the two of us. They evaporated into the throng of Mardi Gras as Doc and I worked on our drinks.
“This could be kind of dangerous.” I said.
“Who? The Federales? They are nothing.” He answered. “I will make Narciso proud.”
Doc then rambled on about how his great, great grandfather, Narciso López, had in the 1850’s launched several failed invasions of Cuba from New Orleans, with the third one ending with his execution in Havana.
“I will be returning in his place. My family’s fate has always been intertwined with that of Cuba.” Doc stated.
I actually thought he might weep.
Everything is incredibly hazy after that… over the course of the whole weekend.
I have a recollection of drinking the ‘red’ drinks at Southern Yacht Club. I also, unfortunately, have a recollection of someone telling me what goes into the ‘red’ drinks at SYC.
I remember Doc screaming out “Fahrvignugen”… a lot. And I’m pretty sure we partied with Randy Newman at Cosimo’s bar and then on a powerboat out on the lake.
I remember telling Doc that I was on board with the plan, and then something about me looking around on the street for the Cuban money that I’d dropped outside of NOYC.
We stayed in New Orleans until the CSA race, which was cancelled due to 19-knot winds. That evening we learned we were DSQ’d from the Mardi Gras Regatta because of politics or possibly some back channel maneuvering. I know it had nothing to do with Doc urinating in Southern Yacht Club's pool on Fat Tuesday.
* ‘Chavito’ is Cuban slang for monopoly money and the Cuban ‘convertible’ currency.
*** Buddy or pal in Cuban slang.