Bring out your green, yellow, and purple, your tutus and your shiny leggings, your crazy vests and your colorful wigs — Mardi Gras is almost here. As you dig through your closet to retrieve boas with feathers stiff from what appears to be caked-on neutral ground and the remnants of a cocktail from many Mardis past, there it is — your trusty companion: the fanny pack — which, unlike your friends, cell phone, and good sense, will never leave your side during any of the parades. When you find it, that long lost posterior-hugging companion brings back everything you love about Mardi Gras (and maybe also the 90s), reminding you it’s time to start packing for your next Mardi-thon.
Though a convenient, hands-free way to carry your Carnival “baggage”, fannies are somewhat spatially restrictive; so before you allocate 50% of your pack for a canister of hairspray, a jar of moisturizer, and six shades of lipstick — you like variety — make sure you throw in the 8 essentials first:
*Note: Although I’m a cheerleader for fanny packs, backpacks are acceptable parade luggage too and should also contain all of the essentials.
1) Some variety of germ control: Hand sanitizer, kleenex, baby wipes. Going through a whole day of Mardi Gras without using a form of anti-bac is like drinking the tap water in Tijuana. Don’t do it. (You also probably shouldn’t be in Tijuana, but that’s another story.)
2) Meds: Ibuprofen and Tums. The screaming, the trekking, the flying beads, the delicious but greasy street food, the booze booze and more booze — just assume at one point or another you’ll have a head or stomach ache.
3) Snacks: Walking on an empty stomach is bad. Drinking on an empty stomach is worse. Vendor lines along the parade route can be Black-Friday-Walmart-long and -crazy, so having something to nibble on is a good idea if you don’t feel like risking your life for a po boy.
Think protein: nuts, trail mix, protein bars, cheese sticks, jerky. You’ll stay full without using up too much fanny real estate. Avoid highly perishable foods (deli meats, eggs, mayo), since no party ever started with “This one time when I got food poisoning…”
4) Singles: Stuffing large bills in a one-pocket fanny pack is asking for trouble. The smaller the bills in your fanny pack, the less money you will lose when you pull other things out and your cash goes flying. Keep the bigger bills in a clothing pocket.
5) An emergency contact number: Write it on the back of a business card and keep it in a zippered compartment, in case you lose your phone and find yourself alone. If you’re someone who frequently loses things — the remote, your keys, your self — consider backing up your card with a Sharpe and your arm.
6) A beer Koozie: No one likes cold hands. If you run out of room catching one on the parade route is always an option. You can never have too many koozies.
7) Crystal Lite Packets: There’s a good chance, at some point during the Gras — along the parade route or at a Friend’s party, furnished with a picked-over bar — that you’ll find yourself in a situation involving Taaka or an equally unpalatable liquor. Although Crystal Lite won’t prevent the hangover from Hell that is likely to transpire from the nefarious sisters of rubbing alcohol, it will at least mask the atrocious taste. I recommend the pink lemonade flavor.
For the entrepreneurs out there, you can use these packets as a form of currency with college kids on parade routes (i.e. “I will trade you four Crystal Lites for your spot at the front of the porta potty line.”).
Which brings me to the last essential…
8) TOILET PAPER: Because, you know.
A basic goal of packing the fanny pack is to always be more prepared than the person standing next to you. It’s a great way to meet new friends and hoard IOUs from existing friends. Plus, asking strangers for Charmin ultra soft is never fun.
Have a safe and happy Mardi Gras; see y’all on the neutral ground!