Party time in the USA: Wisconsin, you’re falling behind

Listen to this article

Check your calendar, March 5 is coming up pretty fast and if you don’t have hotel reservations yet, you could be parking way out of the French Quarter.

“What’s March 5,” you ask? It’s Fat Tuesday, the last day of the carnival season — Mardi Gras. And it’s going on right now, as a matter of fact. The parades started a few weeks ago and they will continue until Mardi Gras, which is the eve of Ash Wednesday, when all the good Catholics go to church and get a cross of ashes on their foreheads. From then on, until Easter, it is Lent, when all good boys and girls, women and men, observe some semblance of devotion and reverence for the Holy Scriptures, leading up to the death of Christ and his Resurrection — which is actually two days after his execution by the Romans, not three.

Photo by Claudia Gestro

White Supremacists like to blame Jews for the death of Christ, but let’s be fair: if the Scriptures are to be believed — and fanatical fundamentalists insist they be — it wasn’t the Jews at all! They were just pawns, set up by the Big Guy in Heaven who pre-ordained the whole event, just so he could make a point. And poor Judas? He didn’t have a choice. It’s in three of the four Gospels, Luke, Mark and Matthew. Jesus spoke of it before the Passion began. So,  blame it all on Yahweh.

Luke 18:31-34: “Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”

It also says that on the third day, which is two days after the first day, he will rise again.

As you see, for Christians this is the most important and holy time of the year. Yeah, we make a big deal out of Christmas, but to be honest, Christ wasn’t even born in December. It was more likely late May or June. But, that’s a rant for a different day. I’m pissing off Christians enough as it is.

The entire raison d’ê·tre for Christianity rests with this bit of the Biblical history. Jesus isn’t the Messiah until he rises from the dead, and then ten days later ascends into Heaven to sit at the right hand of his father, Yahweh, Jehovah — God.

There’s only one God, but there’s three of them: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Catholics we do the Sign of the Cross, recognizing all three. Why does the Holy Ghost get both shoulders? In the old days we would say, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” But after Vatican II, “Ghost” was changed to “Spirit” because, who believes in ghosts?

Anyway it’s one God, but there’s three of them. Go ask a priest or nun to explain it, none of it makes sense to me.

That was a long tangent. Getting back to Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — the carnival season celebrates the coming of spring and rebirth … oh wait, that was pre-Christian times. My bad. In pre-Christian times the Romans celebrated Saturnalia at about the same time of the year as the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.

When the Romans were forcibly converted to Christianity the good leaders of the One Apostolic Church decided to merge some of the Roman rituals and holidays into the church calendar and voila! Mardi Gras … or whatever they call it in Hebrew. In Latin it would be “Adipen Martis.”

All this debauchery goes on, people drink until they’re silly (and beyond), they cavort around in outlandish clothing, or as little clothing as possible, especially while drunk, and proceed to enter into carnal relations with whomever turns their eye, or bumps into them the right way.

Beads are thrown everywhere, women who want to be scandalous swap their shirts and bras for beads — just Google Mardi Gras photos, or better yet, Rio de Janeiro Carnival. There the parades are put on by the Samba schools and are spectacular. The city made an industry of the carnival season and on Mardi Gras they get over two million visitors.

New Orleans pales in comparison, but what the hell, it’s a good time anyway. The city sees a financial impact of more than $1 billion and over 25 million pounds of beads are tossed out to revelers. There are no stats for the number of hookups and the stats for arrests, well, let’s just leave that out of it.

Photo by Claudia Gestro

But here’s what got me started on this. sent out this press release about the 10 most sinful states in the Union and yep, as predicted Nevada topped the list and my state, California, was number three. But my home state, where I grew up, with it’s large university cities of Madison, Milwaukee and to a lesser extent, Eau Claire and LaCrosse, didn’t even crack the top ten — it is #40! C’mon man! Really? Wisconsin is known for more than just cheese — and this season the Milwaukee Bucks —, we’re the top beer drinking state in the nation! Oh wait, U.S. News and World Report says Wisconsin is number seven on the list … now I’m really sad.

Wisconsin doesn’t crack the top ten in most sinful states and is ony #7 in drunkest states. Accorsing to U.S News, New Hampshire is the drunkest state. Oh wait, USA Today says North Dakota is the drunkest state in the Union and Wisconsin is #2. the Granite State just drinks more alcohol per capita.

Sad and disappointed.

Back in the day Playboy Magazine would put out their college issue every year and about every five years they would rate schools on their party culture. The University of Wisconsin in Madison would always — always — rate in the top five party schools. On this 2011 list, UW-Madtown ranks #2 behind West Virginia … I guess if I was in West Virginia I’d party like crazy too. Many of us Wisconsinites would relish that glory, others were ashamed. Madison was, and is, a party town.

North Ave in Milwaukee, looking West from Farwell St. (Tim Forkes)

As is Milwaukee. In neighborhoods like Riverwest and Brady Street, not to mention the National Avenue corridor and Pigs Valley, you can stumble from one bar to the next, which is usually less than a block away. You may call a lot of those establishments “dive bars,” but back in my youth I called some of them “home.”

We won’t dig into that …

Wisconsin isn’t even one of the top ten fattest states.

But, here I sit on a rainy Thursday in the third most sinful state in the Union. Nowadays I do most of my sinning by myself … err … never mind. California is a place where someone can do a lot of sinning. We even celebrate sin, the non-violent kind that doesn’t cause harm to others. Just spend a weekend in Hollywood. I guarantee the night life is wild.

There was a time when my younger sister thought crossing the border into Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico was a sin … or at least she wouldn’t let me take her 16-year-old son there. How did she put it? “You’re not taking my son to Mexico without adult supervision!” I was 44 at the time …

I swear, I was only taking him to T.J. so he could brush up on his Spanish …

Hollywood Blvd. looking west from Vine St.

Well, lying is a sin I guess.

The crust of the biscuit here is this: if you want to engage in some memorable sinning come to California and then take a weekend excursion to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Those of you in the east, head to Florida, the number two sinful state in the Union.

When you look at the most sinful cities in America, Vegas is #1, L.A. #2 and NYC #3. Miami is #7.

But next week, head to the Crescent City for Carnival and Mardi Gras. That will be the biggest party in America. Don’t worry about beads, you’ll find plenty there.

Party on, Garth!

Top photo from the Las Vegas Strip by Claudia Gestro