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It was Mardi Gras night, and I was standing on Bourbon Street, my plastic cup of vodka raised high in the air. Beads rained out the sky, crackling on the pavement as they were tossed from the balconies and bars lining the narrow street. Whispers were exchanged amidst the revelry, promises and innuendos on everyone’s lips. Music blared from speakers and live bands, a mix of pop, rock, and Cajun Zydeco. The February night was hot, humid, the press of too many bodies fueled by alcohol and sex generated a wholly hedonistic warmth. Someone had just shown something very, very good, and the crowd cheered with excitement and adoration.

For two solid weeks, the city had been entrenched in one, colossal party. Parades rolled down St. Charles every night, massive floats triple stacked with masked men and women, tossi...

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