Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Missing NOLA

Four years ago, staring down the barrel at thirty, I did what every not-quite-midlife crisis’er does and created a bucket list. If you know me and my boogie shoes, you won’t be surprised to find out that a large percentage of my list had to do with travel. I’m a wanderer at heart, dead set to experience as much of the world as I can in my time here. I want to gorge my mythology loving self on the Greek Isles, I want to drive Route 66 in a convertible, I want to party in Iceland in the middle of June. But first, I had a little business to take care of Down South:

New Orleans during Mardi Gras season.

If you’ve never been to New Orleans, well, what’s wrong with you? There are few places in the world where so many lifestyles blend seamlessly in a kind of steaming cultural gumbo. Where else can you cross yourself with holy water as you exit a Catholic cathedral, only to turn the corner and find yourself in an honest to goodness voodoo shop? It's where the United States meets the Carribbean, where European and African cultures colide in a whirl of color and sound and amazing smells. If you let it, New Orleans will work its magic on you; you just have to let go and let be.

With that in mind, is it any wonder that lately I’ve been jonesing for a trip to the Big Easy? It doesn’t help that I have friends down there, and every mention of beignets, cafĂ© au lait, and music makes me twitchy. And since Fat Tuesday is officially February 21st, we are under six months til I head on back… so doesn’t it make sense on Travel Tuesday to take a look at a few of my favorite things about New Orleans?

Of course it does.

I've always thought St. Louis Cathedral looks like Cinderella's castle....
... and even moreso at night.
How we got up this high above New Orleans is a secret, but this man's generosity is not. Eric and Alfred talked for a good twenty minutes about Alfred's life before Katrina, where he worked when the storm came, and what he's done since.

Everywhere we go, we hear stories. Maybe we draw them in, maybe there's something about the cameras. Renette was one of those people, one of those stories we won't forget.
My son asked if Smitty lived here....
The first year we happened to plan our trip for the weekend in between the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl, and right in the middle of the Buddy D parade. Merriment commenced.
One of the greatest things about our New Orleans trips is the people we meet. This was Boomah- 87 years old and the life of the party!
Looking out from high above Canal.
February, and the scent of flowers was thick in the air...
A lot of people warned us about the crime. It exists in any city, but everyone seemed certain we'd come back in body bags. This was about as scary as it got.
You have no idea what I'd do for a plate of hot beignets and some frozen cafe au lait from Cafe Du Monde right now. The scent of fried dough and sugar mixing with the first rush of morning caffiene is better than any high around.

Be back soon, dear.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

I’m at that point where, like Uncle Jimmy says, I need to take off for a weekend just to try and recall the whole year. Is it seriously the end of August? Despite my best attempts to bury my head in the sand, the
proof is in the institutional pudding. Summer is fading and fall is fast approaching.

Clue one: my house is silent.

No arguments over the television, no fights about Halo 3 or whatever the hell it is they’re playing now (that’s their father’s arena. I don’t do video games… well, except Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, Jack Sparrow actually MOVES like the movie character. How the hell do they DO that?) There are no chicken nuggets to be baked, no playdates to be arranged. School is back in session and, once more, the hours between 9 and 3 become my own.

I know a lot of parents get misty eyed when their kids go off to school, and I will admit I’ve had my moments. I made the critical mistake of watching the 5th grade graduation photo slideshow the day
my new middle schooler went to enroll. Sweet suffering on a water buffalo, that was a bad idea. Pictures of my son’s smiling friends hamming for the camera flashed by, accompanied by heartwrenching music about friendship and memories. The cloying sentimentalism got to me, and soon I was snuffling and dripping all over my keyboard. Attractive.

When the day actually came, though, I was pretty chill.  Chris got himself up at 5:30 (bless that child, where the hell did he get the early morning gene from?), showered, dressed, and even deigned to take the yearly “before school” photographs. When the bus came at 8, he was standing nonchalantly at the stop sign, chatting with a friend, waiting to go on to the next part of his life while I hid in the bushes, watching him go.
Can we just get this over with?
"Pretend they don't exist; maybe they'll go back inside."
No, really. I hid in the bushes. I mean, damn, don’t you remember middle school? If I were eleven, I would have wanted me hiding in the bushes too. You know what I mean.

Yes, those are leaves at the edge there. Don't judge me.
So it’s quiet here, and for the first time in 83 days my house is my own. Today marks the first Monday back to school, and it’s business as usual, I’m sure. No one has called home in hysterics. Zack has managed to
navigate his way to first grade without the assistance of his big brother that was there last year. Chris has yet to be shoved into a locker. They come home with smiles on their faces and stories to tell. Mostly about lunch, but I’ll take what I can get. In the meantime, I blast some Buffett, drink another cup of coffee, and wait for them to come home.

No worries here
Because, honestly? I kind of miss the noise.

Kind of.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Own Particular Harbor

So I disappeared for a while, which I suppose makes me a bad blogger. But I think about three people read my blog regularly, so that's okay.

In the last month we did something kind of crazy, kind of extraordinary, and it didn't even take extra rum to convince me to do it.

We bought a lake house.

By "we" I mean the spouse and his folks. My kids, too, I suppose, since we're spending their inheritance (HAHAHAHAHA!). We're now vacation home owners. Well, vacation garage owners. See, the place is on two lots; the house sits on one lot, the extra large garage on the other. When we went to assign deeds and all of those other important legal things we ended up with the garage. It's a very nice garage.
That's right. Be jealous of my garage.

Luckily enough, my in-laws kind of like us, so they're letting us in the house, too.
We're potty trained, so it's okay to let us in.

And so here it is: I'm officially a Fresh Water Pirate. It doesn't take away my desire or my need for that salty sea air, the sand between my toes and my buttcheeks. But the truth is, for me water is water, be it salt, fresh, or chlorinated. Being on, around, or in it is soothing. Now I have my own little harbor to call home.

Of course, the boys- the big one included- are like Davy Crockett or Bear Grylls on crack. The first thing they had to do, of course, was buy a gun.

What, you weren't expecting that? Neither was I. Nor were the snapping turtles, judging by the "Oh shit!" looks on their leathery little faces.
Dive, Leonardo! Dive! (insert other TMNT references)
It's been explained to me that shooting the ginormous snapping turtles that inhabit our fishing pond is necessary. They eat the fish and screw up the pond's balance. Somehow I don't think Master Splinter would care for that explaination, or my kid's rather unnerving degree of aim. Remind me to take away his clown suit.

I have to say, the whole thing is pretty cool. You wake up in the morning to the birds singing, grab yourself a cup of coffee, and step out onto the deck to watch the world wake up. The fish are biting, the dragonflies are humming, and the world is fresh and new. It's a pretty spectacular feeling. Of course, when you're a part of this crew, by late afternoon you've started making rum punches and Margaronas and the scene is a little more like Summer Camp for Idiots.

"It's taking on water. Go ahead and jump in and let's see how long we can row before we go under!"

It's how we roll, though. And in the end, it's all about family, spending quality time teaching your kid to set a hook without your finger becoming the bait, watching the world wake up around the water, just enjoying the good, easy life.

And watching out for the turtles. Swear to God.