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Archive for June, 2010

We left early Sunday morning for Patterson to spend a few quiet days with Oma Wies and Opa, and other assorted Smoorenburgs.  We got there just in time to see Joey, Laura, and Bailey who were stopping by on their way to Baton Rouge for a big Father’s Day family lunch.  Since Holland loves seeing Bailey, it was a treat!

It was a lazy afternoon.  Lots of napping by almost everyone there, lots of snacking on the goodies laying around.  Uncle Frankie came to visit for a bit in the evening, and we learned a lot firsthand about what’s going on in the Gulf, and of course it’s as bad as we think, if not worse.  But enough of that.

Laura dropped off some crawfish etouffee for dinner, and it was quite possibly the best thing I’ve eaten since being back.  Nothing like homemade!  Hunks of cake all around for dessert (Holland most certainly approved!) and once the old folks went to bed, Holland and I went for a long, long walk and then made a pan of banana-berry bread for breakfast. 

Monday was another quiet day.  Chris and Issie were supposed to visit, but were still too tuckered out from the day before.  Oma and Opa each had doctor’s appointments during the day, so Holland and I were there to make sure no one got lonely!  My friend Joie came over to visit in the evening with her little girl, Bella, who reminded me how teeny six-month-old babies are!  She’s adorable, and she and Holland spent a while grinning at each other in their silly-kid way. 

Holland and I left a little after lunch and a visit with Oz today.  Bad weather was threatening, and we wanted to get on the road before it hit.  It cleared up in Morgan City, though, and we tried to visit Brownell Park to see the cypress trees and the bell tower, but it’s closed on Tuesdays.  Some chicken nuggets made us feel better. 

Tonight is Oma’s turn to play with Holland while mom gets to go have dinner with some friends she hasn’t seen in years!

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Today’s mission was to make it to the cemetery and find Marie’s vault.  We got there right before noon and it was blazing hot.  I think I may have been the only person that actually liked it.  When we got there, a tourguide had a large group of large tourists with cameras stuck in their faces (ironic that I’m being catty about them…) so I couldn’t get what I came for.

I found out yesterday that another famous NOLA citizen is buried there – Homer Plessy, of Plessy vs. Ferguson fame.  We decided to find him first, and hopefully get back to Marie when it wasn’t so crowded.  We almost walked right past his tomb, and I had even commented on the engravings in French on it when we realized what we were reading.  I’m kind of bummed that there wasn’t anyone else around his grave, considering what he tried to do.  I guess the whole segregation thing isn’t as romantic as voodoo.

St. Louis is the oldest cemetery in the city, and out of the ones I’ve seen, far and away the most decadently decayed and beautiful.  So many of the markers are so old, they’ve been worn smooth by centuries of hands and hurricanes, so you can only imagine some of what’s engraved.  One really interesting thing is the occasional more “modern” burial sites and markers interspersed among the old ones, the most notable being Dutch Morial, who is actually next to Miss Laveau.

There was another tourguide giving his spiel when we got back there.  He was telling them how she was never involved with voodoo, but was never stopped from seeming like she was because she used the money she made giving palm readings and fortunes to purchase and free slave families.  He then finished the story by telling them she was moved from her crypt a week after her burial to New Orleans East because her followers wanted to exhume her and eat her heart.  I will be digging further into all of this, because I have the feeling these street hucksters are as sincere as…well…Huey Long and Edwin Edwards in a church full of little old ladies.

Mission accomplished, we moseyed back toward the river in search of a non-overly-heavy lunch.  Yep.  Based on many shining reviews, we decided on Stanley, named after the “Streetcar” character.  It’s called a diner, but if it is one, it’s the most upscale one I’ve ever seen.  It’s on the corner of Decatur and St. Ann, overlooking the cathedral and its usual menagerie of weekend street performers.  Our waiter, David, was completely accommodating.  When I asked for a banana for Holland, I was expecting him to run to the kitchen and grab one, and was pleasantly surprised by the presentation of a perfectly sliced banana spread in a fan on a little plate.  (It better have been…there’s no other reason to pay $2 for a banana.)  Mom’s salad was beautiful and tasty, and my Stanley club was fit for a blue-collar man of the 1950s.  Huge, meaty, cheesy, piled on thick French bread.

Refreshed and recovered from the sun, we departed the city to head home for a lazy day of napping and reading our new book, “Jacques and de Beanstalk.”

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Today’s morning was nice and lazy (aside from the mile jog in the early morning heat).  We had an afternoon date with a few friends at Rue de la Course, an awesome little coffee shop upton on Magazine Street. 

We went early for lunch at Whole Foods, and made our way to the shop and got rock star parking, which is a neat trick in that neighborhood.  We were literally right across from the front door of the shop!  We got our iced mocha, chocolate milk, caramel frappucino, and the biggest brownie I’ve ever seen (requested and ignored by Petite Rouge, of course). 

Mom and Holland left around 4:00 because the little one was getting extremely testy due to lack of sleep and way too much excitement, including scaling the ladderback chairs at our table.  Hannah, Jeff, and I sat for a few more hours visiting and scaring another customer with our extremely off-color conversation.  You’d think someone at a bohemian joint like this one would have been more open-minded.

Our first goal was to pay a visit to Miss Marie Laveau at St. Louis Cemetery.  A nice long hike, but the sun was getting low so it was perfect.  We got to the gate only to be deterred by a huge lock and chain.  It closes at 3:00 daily.  “Tomorrow,” we decided.

Jeff and I knew that a “real meal” was the next stop on our list, mainly to offset the residual sugar high from the drinks and pastries.  After a whole lot of  “Where do you want to go?”  “I don’t care, where do you want to go?” business, we decided on Coop’s Place on Decatur.  I’d been there years before and had the most incredible omelet of my life, so we figured it would be a good bet.  Our first waiter was surly at best, dropping the menus with a “thwack” on the table without a word, but we just considered it ambiance.  Another, much nicer, waiter showed up to take our orders.  Red beans and rice with fried chicken for him, a crawfish po-boy for me, and Abita Satsuma ales for both. 

Everything was divine.

Absolutely.  Divine.

Huge sandwich, icy beer, big bottles of Tabasco, and spicy red beans. 

We walked off the meal around the Quarter, food-drunk and moving ridiculously slowly for a good while.  However, a slow pace means that I was able to look around and get some cool shots of the neighborhood, so it all worked out!  We roamed till our feet were threatening mutiny, exhausted and ready for the next day. 

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So on today’s adventure list, we met up with Laura and Bailey to enjoy some poboys at Mother’s in the CBD (the one NOLA place I’m embarrassed to never have sampled!) and then head down the street to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, now that Holland is old enough to actually play around and enjoy the exhibits.

We found great parking spots (!!!) and went to Mother’s, where there was only a short line outside.  I personally thought the heat and humidity were lovely, but the people leaning against the baked bricks fanning themselves with anything handy might not have agreed.  After being teased by the amazing smells each time the door opened for 15 minutes or so, we got in and found a table.  I’d been looking forward to a Ferdi Special (ham, roast beef, debris) for weeks.  More waiting, more anticipation, and it showed up at the table.  It was a complete disappointment.  I didn’t even need to use my napkin.  Not once.  However, the bowls of crawfish etouffee floating around looked divine, so a return trip may be necessary.  That, and Bailey’s catfish poboy was quite tasty – also worth a trip back!

On to the museum after a brief stop at the Italian plaza and fountain on Tchopitoulas.  It was a brief detour because my sweet little Petite Rouge had missed her nap by this time and wanted no part of splashing around with Bailey.  This caused a great deal of nervousness about the museum excursion, but we soldiered on.

Once we got there and Holland got a glimpse of all the cool stuff, she forgot all about being tired and was nonstop for the next two and a half hours.  The bottom floor has a bubble room, some fitness experiments, a “safety rules” area, and a pulley corner where Bailey and I discovered that we can lift 500 pounds!  Upstairs was infinitely cooler.  There was a mini NOLA village with a shotgun house, a Creole cottage, an eco-friendly model of a post-Katrina house, and a build-your-own-gallery house, all kid-sized.  Also in miniature, the Port of New Orleans, complete with cargo barges and cruise ship, and a Cajun exhibit with a cottage and pirogue!

We left the museum with a very tired little girl and jogged through a typical NOLA summer storm (super bad over about four square blocks with sun everywhere else) back to the car.  We were barely out of downtown when Holland passed out in the car seat, and she snoozed all the way back to Oma’s.  A little more napping, some pasta, and The Incredibles and our day was done!

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I had the privilege of shooting a beautiful wedding this morning on a little tributary of Lake Maurepas.  My friend Christina’s brother was marrying his girlfriend of three years, Tracy.  There were about a dozen people there, and after the ceremony and cake-cutting, Mr. Babin fried some fish for lunch and then we went for a ride through the bayou.

The sun was blazing, of course, and felt absolutely divine.  I don’t know how much longer I can go without serious humidity in my daily life.  We puttered down the bayou in search of alligators.  Everyone aboard was on the lookout for beady eyes poking up from the algae or from around a downed tree or cluster of cypress knees.  In about 40 minutes, we saw some turtles, a few white egrets, and a blue heron, but no reptiles.  Sun-toasted and disheartened, we turned around to head back.

Our luck changed when we quit looking so hard.  Not long after we turned around, Stuart spotted a gator on the bank and we were able to get pretty close until he (she?) decided to head underwater for a while.

It was a gorgeous day with wonderful people, and I can’t thank Christina enough for allowing me to be there!

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A mad rush of a day…a teacher meeting, last-minute errands, a farewell drink with a coworker who’s leaving, and then flying out of Baltimore to NOLA.

We head out at 5:00 for a 7:45 flight, and get to the airport in plenty of time to board our (of course) delayed flight.  After weaving through security, we get to our gate where we see that our flight number has “Nashville” listed instead of “New Orleans.”  This is a problem!  I ask the desk clerk what’s going on, and he tells me that the plane stops in Nashville before going to NOLA.  “But I bought a nonstop ticket!” I tell him.  “Nope.  You didn’t!” he replies with entirely too much humor.  I seriously wanted to pinch him, but I resisted.

In any case, we end up next to some really nice people at the gate, including a brand-new Chalmatian who adores calling “Da Parish” his home.  I was mean to another passenger who was watching the ten millionth oil update on CNN, but he asked why on earth anyone would want to go to New Orleans.  “Because it’s beautiful and worth calling home,” I told him.  I also muttered an unkind word, which was overheard by the friendly Chalmatian, who agreed.  Thank goodness Holland was occupied with her ViewMaster!

The flight to Nashville was uneventful aside from Holland bouncing in her seat, opening and closing the window shade every five seconds, and generally turned all the way to ten the entire time.  However, there was no screaming or crying, so I’m calling it a success.  Once we hit Nashville, we were able to move to the front of the plane and chat with the super-nice attendants.  We even got to go into the cockpit and hang out with the pilot for a little while (sorry no pictures…she was glued to me!).  Our layover was supposed to be 20 minutes, but ended up being 60.  By the time the last plane we were waiting on landed, Holland was in that state of delirium unique to overtired toddlers where everything is hilarious and scream-worthy.  The second we started taxiing out she got furious with me for not letting her run down the aisle, but after being ignored for 2 minutes she passed out on my lap.

We ended up landing about 40 minutes later than originally scheduled, and we were both drained.  Thank goodness Oma’s house is pretty close to the airport, so we were able to get straight to bed to recoup for the next day!

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