Chapter #335

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons     +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Alindyar     16th level dark elven mage                     (N)  +
+  Lyra         12th level female dark elven mage              (N)  +
+  Peldor       19th level human thief                         (N)  +
+    Bosco      11th level halfling thief                     (CN)  +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief     (N)  +
+  Date:        6/25/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the Green Dragon Inn, in Greyhawk                   +
+  Climate:     warm                                                +
+  "Actually time itself is neutral; it can be used either          +
+   destructively or constructively.  More and more I feel that     +
+   the people of ill will have used time much more effectively     +
+   than have the people of good will."                             +
+                                        - Martin Luther King, Jr.  +

                 CCCXXXV.  Reconciliation

  While Alindyar has left Greyhawk in a fit of anger, Lyra and
Tanya have remained behind, discussing the circumstances that
led to the confrontation in the first place.

Tanya:  You think you'll be okay?
Lyra:  Yes...I suppose.  In the long run, anyway.
Tanya:  What about Alindyar?
Lyra:  (looks up)  What about him?
Tanya:  Er...what I meant was, do you think he understands that
  this whole thing isn't your fault?
Lyra:  He should...but will he?  I don't honestly know.  You saw
  his temper, before.
Tanya:  I saw him lose it.
Lyra:  That's what I meant.
Tanya:  Just keep in mind that he...doesn't quite understand.
Lyra:  How can he?
Tanya:  Good point.  He wants to get revenge...punish somebody.
Lyra:  That's putting it mildly.
Tanya:  But he can't.  Everyone who he - and you - could take
  vengeance on is already dead.
Lyra:  True.  And therein lies the problem.
Tanya:  It's only a problem as long as you _let_ it be a problem.
  Remember, I had to deal with this once, long ago.
Lyra:  (nods)
Tanya:  You both have something I didn't have then:  the maturity
  and intelligence to deal with this rationally.
Lyra: are right.
Tanya:  Now, it's just a matter of doing that very thing.
Lyra:  We need to try...but first Alindyar has to give us that
Tanya:  Well, with any-

  There was a knock at the door just then.

Tanya:  Who is it?
Peldor:  (opens the door a bit)  It's me.
Tanya:  Where's Alindyar?
Peldor:  Uh...he kinda got away.
Lyra:  Away?  Away to where?
Peldor:  (shrugs)  Beats me.  (he looks around)  Anything I can
Tanya:  No.
Peldor:  What about-
Tanya:  Out.  Now.  We'll talk later.
Peldor:  (sighs)  Sure thing.  (he leaves, closing the door)
Lyra:  Weren't you being a little rough on him?
Tanya:  Nah.  Besides, he'll find somewhere else to be.  It's
  not as if he suffers from any lack of attention.
Lyra:  Hmph.

  They talked for a while longer, until they were interrupted by
another visitor, one who did not knock.

Alindyar:  (teleports into the room)
Lyra:  You're back!
Alindyar:  Of course.  (he looks around, faces Lyra, and opens
  his arms)
Tanya:  (headed for the door)  That'd be my cue to leave...(she
  does so, closing the door behind her)

  Shortly, downstairs...

Peldor:  (eyes Tanya as she comes down the stairs)  Everything
  okay up there?
Tanya:  They'll get by.
Peldor:  They?  You mean Alindyar's back?
Tanya:  Yes...he just returned a few moments ago.
Peldor:  I guess you know what happened, then.
Tanya:  And I guess you do, too.  (she walks up behind Peldor)
Peldor:  Think they'll get over it?
Tanya:  (puts her arms around the thief)  With luck...and more
  than a little bit of understanding.  But they're both strong
  people.  I have the feeling everything will turn out okay.
Peldor:  I hope so.  It must be tough.
Tanya:  (whispering)  You have no idea.
Peldor:  Eh?
Tanya:  Nothing.

  Meanwhile, elsewhere in the inn, Bosco was up to his usual
antics.  His three ferrets had been joined by a fourth, one
that Leonardo had thought dead, but ended up nursing back to
health.  This fourth ferret was a bit smaller than his three
siblings, but seemed healthy nonetheless.  Bosco had dubbed
the quartet "Groucho", "Chico", "Harpo", and "Zeppo" (Zeppo
was the runt of the litter) after some story he had once read.
Even now, he was trying to teach the animals how to jump
through metal rings, with little success.

Bosco:  Go, Groucho!  Go, Harpo!
Chico:  (leaps atop Harpo, trying to bite his neck)
Bosco:  (puts his head in his hands)
Zeppo:  (takes a pouch from the halfling's belt and runs away)
Bosco:  Hey!  (he goes running after the ferret)
Groucho:  (chases Bosco)
Harpo:  (chases Groucho)
Chico:  (knocks the ring-apparatus over, then chases Harpo)
Vinnie:  (watching this entire scene from afar)  Heh.  Serves
  'im right.

next:   more dealings of the drow
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  Here (finally - I had forgotten about it) is the summary
  of Mardi Gras 1996.  I actually wrote this and saved it to a
  file, both to accurately reconstruct the adventures and because
  I wanted to get some practice at real writing and this seemed
  like a good chance.  Be forewarned:  this is long, detailed,
  and uncensored.


  This Mardi Gras 1996 summary was written in the sort of style one
might see used in an autobiography.  This happened because while I
was having my adventures, I got a half-drunken notion to relay them
in this sort of format...and here we are.  As you may know, the plan
originally involved leaving at 10 am, but was later modified so that
one car would leave at 10 am and the other at noon.  The cast of
characters, and their Mardi Gras track records:

Thomas (that's me)           1989, 1991,             1994, 1995
Mitch (good friend)                            1993, 1994, 1995
Ashley (good friend)         1989, 1991, 1992,             1995
Marc (good friend)           1989, 1991, 1992
Mark (good friend)                 1991,                   1995
Eric (my youngest brother)                                 1995
Kevin A. (friend)                  1991,             1994
Kevin C. (friend)                                          1995
Jason (friend)               (Mardi Gras virgin)

  Friday morning, Marc (who was in charge of getting the rental cars)
woke up late, and Mark (who went with him to get the cars) wanted to
take a shower before they left.  This was Atlanta's Friday morning
rush hour, meaning the process would likely take more than an hour.
Since it didn't look like they'd make it on time, I told them to only
get one car, and I'd drive my truck with the other people.  In any
case, they didn't get back with the car until 10:30 am.  So finally
we were on our way, late but still with time to spare.  That's the
way I design these plans - it helps when things get to the SNAFU
state.  For the first half of the trip, plus around Mobile, Alabama
the traffic was pretty heavy, and we had to stop often, for various
reasons.  We got into New Orleans around 6 pm their time (you gain an
hour going there) and checked into our hotel room, and then went to
McDonalds across the street (for food) and the daquiri shop next door
(for liquid refreshment.)  When we got back to the hotel, the other
car (they left at noon) had just arrived.  So, we all got ready and
piled into the rental, a Mitsubishi Galant.  We did it like this:
1 driver, 2 in the front seat, 3 in the back seat, 1 across those 3,
2 in the trunk.  It was actually better than it sounds - the guys in
the trunk had the best ride.  Fortunately, we passed no Officer
Friendlies on the way.
  Arriving downtown, we proceeded to find the evening's last parade
and catch some beads.  After that, it was time to head to Bourbon St.
to see the unique sights of Mardi Gras.  About this time, everyone
got split up into smaller groups; I ended up wandering around with my
old roommate Kevin (Kevin A. - one of two Kevins in the group.)  We
muscled our way through the crowds for three hours or so, and did a
bit of bead bartering as well.  I should note here that the crowds
were bad this year.  Examples:  people were even pushier than usual,
shouldering their way through the crowd with no regard whatsoever
for anyone nearby.  I saw people go down under the feet of complete
strangers, or even their own friends, just because there was no way
to avoid it.  One time, I lost my temper and just started yelling
and elbowing a space around me.  Somehow, it worked, and a large
fellow next to me told his friends that I should hang out with them.
So Kevin and I talked with them (mixed group, maybe 4 guys and 4
girls) for a while.  Also, there was a lot of groping going on.  The
random ass-grabbing (mostly guys grabbing women) was to be expected,
but in previous years, women could climb up onto their boyfriends'
shoulders to flash people on balconies above without risk.  This year,
almost all the women who did this (or tried) either got groped upon
raising their shirts, or got groped before raising their shirts, or
got pulled down by the surrounding crowd.  These were definitely some
bad goings-on - I'd never seen this kind of shit before.  Fun is fun,
but when it comes to nudity, people ought to be content watching
without needing to touch.  I guess I consider ass-grabbing and naked
breast-grabbing/groping to be two entirely different things.  I never
claimed to be perfect.  Note for the future:  if I should ever happen
to take a woman or women to Mardi Gras, beware the mob.
  Still, despite the heavy crowds, we had a good time.  Having kept
myself from driving that night, I was free to imbibe as much alcohol
as I wanted to, so naturally, I did.  In fact, I don't really recall
everything that happened that night.  It was a blurry haze of crowd-
walking, grabbing, and being grabbed.  It's a two-way street, and
half the time you grab someone, the favor gets returned.  Of course,
sometimes you get slapped.  A few times I even got slapped because
of something Kevin did.  I suppose it all balances out in the end.
Whatever the good or evil of it, I had a running count of 71; if you
think being able to keep that count meant I was too sober, you'd be
right.  I had to pick up more drinks along the way, where I could.
Eventually, we did meet up with a few of the others, and this group
went back to the hotel room at 3 am or so.  Good thing Kevin had the
rental car keys; the other four in our group ended up taking a taxi
back.  Mardi Gras is not one of those times you want to let yourself
get separated from the main group, if at all you can help it - you
snooze, you lose.
  Saturday morning, I was (as usual, despite whatever I had to drink)
the first one awake.  I took a shower and then spent a while in the
hotel's hot tub (!) because I didn't want to sit around the room while
the other eight people took showers and got dressed.  It's a rough
life.  We ate a late breakfast at the Denny's across the street,
which was an adventure in itself.  The first five who were ready went
over, and right after our food came, the other four people showed up.
Our waitress was confused for a short time.  A side note here:  I
woke up that morning feeling great - no hangover, no nausea, nothing
at all wrong.  However, after I drank half a glass of sweet tea at
Denny's, my stomach was churning something fierce.  I managed to
tough it out without throwing up, though, and ate a good meal and
felt a lot better.  Another note for the future, perhaps:  don't get
sweet tea at busy restaurants.  This is kind of like Shoney's all-
you-can-eat breakfast bar, where I once found mold on the blueberry
muffins.  But I digress.
  We got on the road around 11 am (again, nine people crammed into
the rental car, see above for particulars) and made it into downtown
at noon.  We intended to catch the noon parade (Iris?  Tuck?  They
all sort of blend together after a while) and got prime seating along
the parade route we found.  However, the damn parade never came, and
after an hour we realized that we were actually on the route for the
1 pm parade, not the noon parade.  To cope with this news, we found
a nearby daquiri shop and procured some cool treats in coconut shells.
Before long, the police began closing the streets to get them primed
for the coming parade.  We hung onto our barricade, since we had
already figured out which way it would be moved and where it would
end up:  right next to the parade.  A female officer, who looked
to be about 35 going on 50, gave us a little bit of trouble when we
started moving the barricade into position; apparently, the police
get upset if they don't get to move the things themselves.  We were
just trying to help out, but she started yelling at us.  She then
proceeded to move the barricade herself, to exactly the position we
had moved it to.  I hope she got a hernia.
  The good side of all this was that, despite waiting almost two
hours and dealing with all the idiots who tried to get to the front
rail with us, we had some primo kick-ass seats.  Make that spots.
Picture this:  nine happy guys, most of them at or over six feet,
side-by-side-by-side at a barricade.  We were a power block, no doubt
about it.  No one got between us, or in front of us, for that parade
or any other.  If I sound smug, it's because I am; if you don't watch
your position (and your back) at Mardi Gras, someone more aggressive
_will_ come along and get it.  Ah, experience.  The parade was pretty
cool, and we caught a lot of beads.  Kevin, 6'4" and obnoxiously
aggressive, had the most luck.  Not only could (and did) he reel in
almost anything that flew by him, but he could also lean over the
rail and get stuff that fell on the street in front of the barricade.
He also had good luck with a pair of young ladies in one float, who
ran over and kissed him and _then_ gave him beads.  By the end of
the 1 pm parade, we were all pretty well decked out with beads and
other assorted loot.  I had also made some new friends, since the
family next to me - parents, two happy little 4-5 year old girls,
and a baby girl in a backpack-harness - was polite and happy and
generally pleasant to be around.  At random moments between the
parade floats, I took beads from my neck and gave them to one or
the other of the little girls.  Even the baby got some beads from
me; this was a true Mardi Gras baby, the kind that knows to put
its head down to be decked with beads that are floating above it.
The girls were well-behaved, and the parents were nice; we talked
with them throughout the parade, and split any beads we both caught
or could have caught.  Now that's the way to be.  Despite obnoxious
crowds and rude people, there are times when you get lucky and end
up next to people like this.  I was in such a good mood that I had
another drink.  I hated to see that parade end, but all good things
must, and before we knew it, the street re-opened.  Ashley had to
take the rental car and go get his brother from the train station at
3 pm, so he went to do that and took a few of us with him.  I, of
course, was not one of those few.  I had better things to do anyway,
and I suspected that they wanted to go back to the hotel and get
changed, or get a nap.  Whatever, kids, and more power to you.  I
was in it for the duration, and planned to drink and eat and be
merry until I couldn't walk.  Ah, if only I'd known.
  We wandered around for awhile, sampling drinks from different
shops.  You've got to watch out for the places that serve what
amounts to little more than fruit juice; fortunately, we didn't
get fooled more than once.  Another group split happened, and I
ended up roaming the city with Kevin again.  We got hungry and
didn't want to wait for the others, to eat dinner (someone had
mentioned this idea) so we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall
called "Evelyn's Place" for a bowl of gumbo and some loaves of
bread.  I also took the opportunity to recharge my dwindling
alcohol supply by ordering one of the better hurricanes I had
that weekend.  I also did some bead-trading with our waitress,
and gained some varieties I hadn't seen previously.  After this
brief but excellent repast/break we found the route for the 6 pm
parade and began wandering, looking for a good spot.  Kevin got
accosted by a trio of women who wanted some of his beads; as it
turned out, two of them graduated from Tech in 1994.  We stayed
around there talking to Jenny, Jennifer, and Kristi for about
half an hour.  Kevin, a sap at heart, gave them a good number of
his beads.  I actually traded rather than gave, but then I'm not
such a nice guy.  Actually, neither is Kevin, though he has his
moments.  Eventually, he got sick of listening to them talk, and
he suggested that we move on.  They told us where they'd be when
the parade started and we promised that we might come back.
  It was getting dark by now, so we secured a spot along the
route, behind a short couple in their mid-40s.  People like this
are good to be behind, since they tend not to be good jumpers or
overly aggressive.  Besides, as noted before, I won't hesitate
at all to be nice to people who are nice to me, and these two
looked nice.  While Kevin held the spot, I went to find somewhere
to go to the bathroom.  This is one of those touchy things in New
Orleans during Mardi Gras; the police don't care where you go
(except perhaps in or on one of their vehicles) as long as they
don't see you.  If they do, you're headed to jail.  This is one
of the few guaranteed facts of Mardi Gras.  Before now, I had only
used the buddy system, in which my friends would watch for cops
while I relieved myself in some corner or alcove, then I'd watch
their backs while they went.  Now, though, I was on my own, and
that meant I had to be careful.  It didn't help that I was in what
we call the "red zone" - if I didn't find a dark, quiet place in
the near future, I was a goner.  There are rows of strategically-
placed Port-O-Lets all over downtown New Orleans, but I couldn't
find them.  Tough luck, eh?  I hunted for a very brief time, and
ended up taking my chances behind a wide column that held up the
facade of some old building that resembled a bank.  About halfway
through the process, I realized that there was a sleeping wino
in the shadows to my left.  Oh well...such is life at Mardi Gras.
He's lucky he was uphill from me.
  On the way back from the bathroom-without-a-bathroom break, I
ran into Mark and Kevin Creekmore (the second Kevin) who were
looking for the car and a bathroom.  I was able to help guide
them to one of the two, and they repaid me by tipping me off as
to the location of others in our band.  Right under the sign at
that corner...yep, got it, thanks, guys.  This information was
filed for future reference.  You just never know what'll happen
or where you might end up, or with whom.  Presently, I managed
to re-appear at the parade route, and Kevin and I waited for the
coming parade.  Floats, bands, police, cars...this one was the
Endymion parade, one of the big ones.  The special guest of honor
(they call them "parade captains") was none other than "Melrose
Place's" Daphne Zuniga.  She showed up atop the fourth float of
the parade, and I surprised myself by actually catching a string
of beads that she threw.  Those went straight into my pocket;
I'm no "Melrose Place" fan, but perhaps others would appreciate
the feat.  Anyway, on went the parade, and on came the beads.
I amused myself in-between floats by tossing my smaller, less
colorful, and cheaper beads up into a nearby tree.  I did it
because there was a little kid sitting halfway up the tree, and
every time I snagged a string of beads in the branches, he saw
and coveted and climbed.  Mischief is my middle name.  Besides,
I had a huge baja-pocketful of "ammo" - the crappy stuff that I
don't even bother to bring back home when all's said and done.
I got slightly pissed early on, because a couple of small kids
repeatedly and insistently tried to worm their way in front of
me.  I know for a fact that their mother, back in the crowd as
she was, sent them out to scavenge beads and get in the front
of the barricade.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Lazy (and the little
Lazies) I wasn't of a mind to let anyone crawl around near my
legs, and after ten minutes of trying, the pack went elsewhere.
Things didn't get much better, though, because the couple right
in front of me turned out to be nowhere near as nice as I'd
thought they would be; when the man and I both caught the same
beads, he wouldn't let go.  Normally, I let go of every other
such string, but when I did, he didn't even say "thanks."  When
I said in his ear "You're welcome!" he still didn't say "thanks."
Now that really pissed me off.  Fortunately, I was able to return
the favor three floats later by snatching an even better string
of big, golden beads right before his wife could catch them.  Do
unto others as they did unto you, that's my Mardi Gras motto.  It
pleased me that neither of them even bothered to turn around and
confront me; ignorance must be bliss.  Besides, I'd promised a lot
of people that I'd bring them Mardi Gras souveniers (sp?) and
every one of these people meant more to me than this pair of
assholes in front of me.
  Halfway through this parade, Kevin decided that he wanted to
go back to the hotel.  Talk about crack timing - I was finally,
really starting to enjoy myself.  I told him to get going, and he
did.  Swell - now I was on my own.  Well, there were ways to fix
that.  Since I knew roughly where some of my friends were, across
two streets, one median, and two parade paths, I figured I could
get there in a snap.  No problem.  I went around, following the
parade the way it came until I could get around its U-turn.  At
Mardi Gras, after a parade starts, it's not a good idea to run, or
even try to run, across the street between floats and bands and
cars and horses.  If the police catch you (and they usually do)
you get sent back from whence you came; if the same cop catches
you a second time, you might end up in the paddywagon.  I made my
way around the parade route and toward the sign beneath which my
companions were supposed to me.  Worming my way through the crowd
(there's no better way to put it) I reached the front row, at the
barricade.  Didn't I say that I didn't appreciate it much when
other people tried this near me?  Yep, I'm a bit of a hypocrite.
I found Marc, Eric, and their new friend, a towering young lady
named...hell, I don't remember.  I'm bad that way.  This was one
tall girl, though, an Amazon - she towered almost a full head
taller than me, and I'm six feet.  She was tipsy, nice, friendly,
and better yet, she knew how to catch beads.  She took turns with
us climbing the streetlight when each float came by, and roughly
half of what she caught she gave to us.  Of course, every action
demands an equal and opposite reaction, so I offloaded some of my
better beads onto her neck.  By now, Marc, fool that he was, had
somehow appropriated a huge, ugly, red-white-and-blue vinyl sack
which he was in the process of filling with loot.  No small bag,
this - the damn thing was almost as tall as he was.  We used our
ammo (cheap beads) to pelt those who needed pelting.  The bands
that march in Mardi Gras parades consider it a great honor and
privilege, and I guess it is.  However, they never seem to learn
to cover their tubas during parades, so we have what we call "tuba
target time."  The gist of this little game should be obvious.  I
should also point out that "loot" isn't just beads, but also the
small metal doubloons, hats, fake cigars, rubber toys, candy, toy
spears, trinkets, and about a thousand other sorts of things.  We
had fun, hung around and talked and caught beads and met Ms. Tall
Lady's three friends and had another round of hurricanes.  Mark
and Kevin C. also came back by after a while.  I told them all
about how Kevin A. had gotten pissed off and left and we all had
a good laugh or three.  About the time that the parade wound down,
Ashley and his brother and the others finally showed up.  We lost
Ms. Tall Lady and her equally charming friends but that was okay,
because now we had our entire group (except of course for Kevin A.
who was probably asleep in the hotel room by now) and we were all
hungry.  The fact that I'd recently eaten didn't faze me - when I
drink, I stay hungry.  We headed to a neat little local restaurant
called "The Gumbo Shoppe" to which we provide business every year.
  After a brief wait (for a party of nine - good deal!) we were
seated.  Along the way (mostly in the line) I managed to wheel and
deal some more beads to random women.  I don't, incidentally, trade
beads with people of the male gender.  It's a principle thing.  Of
course, by the time we sat down, half the group had to go to the
bathroom.  At the Gumbo Shoppe, there are two unisex restrooms with
one toilet each; you wait in line by winding up and around a wooden
staircase.   A true human line, this was.  We discussed the finer
points of Mardi Gras with the complete strangers in the line with
us, and after Marc and Kevin came out of the bathroom, the three
of us complied with one girl's request and went to her table and
talked to her sister, who was dressed up like Pocahontas - it was
an inside joke of that group's, apparently.  After drinking a bit,
my friends and I have trouble remaining complete strangers for long.
Back at the table, it was clearly time to order a hurricane, and so
I did.  What a place - they didn't even card the underage among our
merry band.  We ordered a variety of local food, from gumbo to well-
grilled chicken to seafood.  I ate everything I got, even the green
stuff, and took some of the others' spicy rice and shrimp.  I would
have eaten an entire Jalapeno pepper except that someone beat me to
it.  I did, however, get myself another hurricane to replace the one
I gulped down.  Good meal, good place, and that's why we always go
back.  We left, and since all the day's parades were over and it was
dark, there was only one item on the agenda:  Bourbon Street.  I'd
guess that we first hit it around 9 pm; by 9:30 pm we'd lost half the
group, and by 10 pm I was alone.  I don't recall exactly how and why
ones and twos broke away from the group, but such is life.  Before
we got totally split up, though, a couple of interesting things
happened.  At the last parade, I had caught what we call "godlike
beads" by getting very lucky.  Godlike beads have big golden orbs
(golf-ball size, to give you an idea) and are a surefire way to see
godlike breasts, if one wishes.  And now I had some.  So, with that
mindset, off I went with my friends, making offers left and right.
Before too long, I found a pair of young, college-age blondes who
were occupied with the guys on the balcony above them.  The latter
wanted to see the formers' breasts, but they didn't want to toss
their beads down first.  A stalemate was in progress, and right as
I walked by the blondes turned to each other and decided the guys
up there weren't serious.  Right then, I realized that the beads
those guys were offering were inferior to most of the ones I had,
so I stopped and whipped loose a long set of pearl beads and held
them out to the blondes.  About two seconds later, the one on the
right showed me and my friends her ample, tanned chest, and I
draped the beads over her head.  The moral of this story is simple:
it really _does_ happen.
  The other thing of interest, before we all got split up, took
place as we were moving through the crowd.  Somewhere, somebody's
breasts were shown, and the crowd ebbed and surged, and at its
edge were our boys Jason and Eric, both of whom went down under
a mass of off-balance, writhing, drunken bodies.  I managed to
grab Jason as he fell, and pulled him out, but Eric got crushed.
Once the crowd finally moved on or stood or both, Eric was not at
all happy.  He started yelling at the closest person, a drunken,
crew-cut ox of a kid who was probably a Marine.  You have to
understand that, whatever else he might have done, Crewcut probably
wasn't one of the ones who made the crowd fall all over itself.  We
pulled Eric away before he got himself killed and I told Crewcut
not to worry about it, and he didn't.
  This sort of thing happened again and again after I got split up
from everyone else.  One time, I saw a guy coming, a big, black guy
who reminded me of Fat Albert.  He was grimacing and grunting and
pushing people out of his way, without a care in the world.  I got
good and worked up just watching him coming - and then he collided
with me.  All of my anger at the crowd-entity came to a head within
a half-second, and I spun and hit Fat Albert in the kidney, as hard
as I could.  You can usually get away with this due to the speed of
the crowd's currents, though I wouldn't recommend it on a regular
basis.  Anyway, I did, and that was that.  Before too long, I was
roaming the wondrous French Quarter for something close to four
hours, watching and laughing and occasionally dealing out my beads.
The crowds were bad, though, even for me - I'd never seen such
aggressive, obnoxious pushers and shovers.  By 2 am or so, I had
wandered away from the more crowded areas, and was only drunk
rather than totally shitfaced.  After an accidental but very
brief foray into the gay section of town, I decided that I'd had
enough.  I couldn't find my friends, I couldn't find the rental
car, and my feet and legs hurt.  Driving seven hours Friday and
then staying out all night and then sleeping on the floor hadn't
helped, never mind the walking and standing in place Saturday.
I took stock of my monetary situation:  not good.  I had exactly
eight dollars and my driver's license, since I don't like to
carry nonessentials at Mardi Gras.  I recalled that a cab to or
from our hotel was $8, but I had failed to plan for the reality
that this rate was for a group of five.  Yes, that's right:  the
cabbies wanted $40 to make a run to anywhere near the airport,
no matter if it was just me or a group of five.  Disgruntled, I
kept wandering, looking for cabs or friends, wondering what it
would be like to spend the night walking around downtown.
  As luck would have it, though, I found a group of three women
who were going that way.  Saving some money on their cab fare
sounded like a good idea to them, but since I only had eight
dollars left (I needed ten) I was a bit short.  Fortunately,
one of them just gave me two dollars.  They were from Alabama
and had gotten screwed in much the same manner as I had, being
split from their group and (possibly) left behind.  We talked
about the chaos of Mardi Gras while the cabbie babbled about
something else.  I got dropped off and walked back and let
myself into the room (I had made sure to keep one of the keys)
and crashed on the floor.  Four others were back, but the rest
of the gang filtered in over the next few hours.  As it turned
out, two other sub-groups had to take cabs, and Jason ended up
doing the same thing I did, getting into a cab with a bunch
of random women.
  There's not much to tell about Sunday; the winding down of
something like this seldom has a hope of being anywhere near
as interesting as the event itself.  Suffice it to say that I
drove fast, got back, sent my brother on his way, and slept
the sleep of the utterly exhausted.  I probably could have
slept for 16 hours if I hadn't had to go back to work.  All
in all, it was a fairly good adventure, though I've made some
mental notes for next time.  The main thing will be to get
a hotel room right in the middle of the action, like we did
back in 1991.
  Thus ends the tale.  Most people have no idea of what goes
on at Mardi Gras, and everything they think comes from
hearsay or watching the TV.  I hope this account helps to
clear things up for any who read it.

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