The Big Not-So-Easy

When  the Cabana Boy and I decided we’d take a few days south for a respite run, we agreed we’d take some of our carefully-hoarded vacation funds and spend a day in New Orleans. I’d been there a dozen years ago during Mardi Gras season, thanks to my fellow writer Hank, but E had never been there.

My usual modus operandi when it comes to travel is to plan, plan, plan. I research all kinds of possibilities and then figure out how to fit them into the available time, taking into account each attendee’s personal taste, etc. I take a substantial amount of flak for this, as we often end up more exhausted when we come back from vacation than when we left. (But by gum we saw it ALL!! I insist)

So I’d done some advance looking, guessed (correctly) that he might enjoy the VooDoo Museum, being into things weird and wonderful. Hank and I brainstormed all sorts of culinary delights, because one can’t experience NOLA without the food, clearly. And of course, on our first foray without children in months–Bourbon Street.

E on the other hand, poked about on the Internet for half an hour the night before we left and came up with a place that would make you into someone new and different, wigs, costumes and all, for the night. Frankly, I’m the one who earned a night off; I intended to experience it as myself. If he wanted someone else, there were plenty of them hanging round, you know?

Upshot: no plan.

We arrived in the Crescent City early in the afternoon, and drove through the Garden District checking out the big, beautiful mansions along St. Charles, where the trees were hung with leftover finery from previous Mardi Gras parades. When it was time, we checked into our hotel in the French Quarter. Now what? No plan.

So we left the hotel as dark curled up around the city, heading for Bourbon Street.

Each new glare of neon promised some wonder yet unexperienced, some of which made me blush. Music filled the street, not the jazz I’d expected, but a lot of rock and roll. It was early, though. Maybe the jazz came later. Meantime there were musicians on the street and freedom to relax.

We ducked down a shadowed brick hallway into a small courtyard off Royal Street, where we picked up some coffee just to de-stress. (Yes, I know that sounds funny to you caffeine-ophobes.) I thought after that, I’d release my usual control-freak directing and let E decide where to go, since it was his first time, after all. So we walked. And walked.

The Quarter is pretty at night. Many of the houses and balconies were decorated for Christmas, which added an extra layer of festivity.

So we wandered for an hour or so, then I made some gentle hints, wanting to have some point to our direction. We headed toward the river, and came past Jackson Square in the cleanest alley I’d ever seen (next to the police station) to find the crowd gathered at Cafe du Monde.

 The French Market, too was lit up and still open. (Of course everything was still open, a novelty in itself for those of us who live in a small town where the sidewalks close up about five p.m.)  

But my companion wasn’t ready for beignets, or shopping, or even the Brewery, so we turned back toward Bourbon Street and kept walking. We went past several places which purported to be VooDoo cultural places, but were instead places to buy voodoo-related merchandise, and plenty of places to get beads and T-shirts with phrases on them you really wouldn’t wear in public.  We settled at last for a bar that didn’t have any music playing yet, to begin our Adult Evening.

  Realizing we probably ought to eat, I sent E to ask where the nearest somewhat authentic Cajun/Creole food could be had. The bartender pointed us up the street, but we couldn’t find anything that sounded like what she’d said. Then we met Ashley, the Queen of Bourbon Street, our very own Angel Dumott Schunard, who not only sent us to a delightful restaurant on Conti Street called Oceana, but when we told them she’d sent us, we even got a discount on dinner! Turtle soup and crab cakes and alligator sausage, oh my!

A couple of Irish coffees later (cuz it was a bit chilly) we found a blues bar and spent the rest of the evening listening to a wonderful group called Barracuda.  When they got their CCR rolling, it was definitely a real night in N’awlins!

Stay tuned for more photos and wild tales tomorrow!

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Sunset on the Gulf Coast

 The white sands of the Gulf Coast are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen…which makes the goings-on of last summer so much more meaningful. The signs are still posted, warning of possible health dangers from leftover oil spill damage. We were, frankly, more worried about frostbite. 🙂

All the same, people stroll on the beach, look for shells, enjoy the sea air. To all appearances, everything here is much the same as it has been for many seasons.

The colors of the sunset are unusual, sharp and brilliant. To be there is a wonder in itself.

Dear Santa, please bring us a toilet…

Now I’m not sure of the exact protocol here, but plumbing should definitely be on the list of items accessible through the Jolly Old Elf. Especially when you are a family of five, most of them teenagers and you’re down to one bathroom.

The destruction of the Throne was a multi-layered event; blame cannot be laid at the door of one person. B was the proximate cause, apparently, during her recent visit, when the rusted parts finally gave way. The Cabana Boy, too, opened it up and took apart the insides and then had some issues with the bolts. But really the issue, I think, is that date on the inside of the tank: February 11, 1985. This toilet is older than most of my children. I don’t know the life expectancy of a toilet, but I’d think a quarter-century ought to be pretty commendation-worthy, right?

To his credit, the Cabana Boy pledged himself to the all-day chore of tearing apart the guts of the thing, much braver than I would have been, but the rusted bolts were his undoing. A circumspect genuflect served to put the thing to rest, and we are now waiting for the arrival of the reindeer with our shiny new works…or maybe the plumber, if he gets here first.

Meantime, I GET DIBS ON THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM!!!

Let it…what?

 So this week it turned into December. Old Mother Nature, that little minx, popped herself in the forehead and went, “Oh WAIT! It’s supposed to snow now!”

And hence we have this week not half an inch, not an inch, but a full foot of snow, most of it arriving just last night and today.

Winter wonderland? Oh, hell, yes.

We’re not a big outdooors family, frankly, and despite all their other issues, these three younguns have the good sense to want to stay inside during a blizzard.

Except when mom makes them go outside and play so she can get material for her blog.

Yay mom!

But boys being boys, they can’t stand next to each other and a snowbank without one of them ending up in it.

Lucky Dr. Doo-Be-Do.

I’m staying inside with a latte.

Maybe we’ll go out next week.