Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation Adventures Part I

I'll stand Bayou Babe

It’s been three weeks since my last confession.

No, make that almost four. I thought of that lead a few days ago.

The last month has been an amazing time for our family. And I am just now getting back So here is a attempt to recap some of the last few weeks.

Bye-Bye Baby

On July 29th our kids flew to Oklahoma to spend three weeks with my parents. Kip and I took them to the airport, where I put on a brave face and tried to mirror their excitement – until their little bodies disappeared down the concourse walkway into the plane.

And then I started crying.

I don’t have the gift of gracefully crying – releasing dainty little rivulets with feminine mystique.

I dam it back until the levy breaks and then I look like Claire Danes in any movie she has ever been in.

I cried until the airplane disappeared. Strangers gave me sympathetic looks.

I cried all the way home. I called my mom and had another good cry.

“I feel like YOU!”
I told her.

“Just wait until your baby girl moves across the country!” I got back.

Finally I pulled myself together, got my hair “done” and decided that I was way more stereotypical female than I had ever let myself believe.


On Friday Kip and I flew out to Louisiana, spent a couple days with our dear friend Sanjeetha who teaches at a University in Natchitoches. She made amazing Indian food for us and drove us all over Cajun country. We drove by 200-year-old plantations, bushwhacked into a swamp and found a touristy alligator farm. We skipped the opportunity to eat alligator meat but thoroughly enjoyed watching a man feed dozens of the amazing creatures.

I took about 40 pictures. I just couldn’t get over the thick, snap-thud the alligators’ jaws made when they closed in on their chicken legs, their primal eyes, their massive scaly bodies, the way they moved….

Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner!

Sanjeetha and I are ignoring the feeding frenzy behind us.

OMG! Alligators! They are scarier than Theresa when she is hungry!

Sanjeetha made poori and puttu for breakfast. I took notes, but I don't think I'll ever be able to replicate. We will just have to get together again, soon.

A real swamp that we found while driving country roads around Natchitoches.

The Big Easy

We spent the whole next week in New Orleans. Kip had a computer graphics, aka, computer geek, conference, so I was free to literally wander around town all day while he was busy.

It took me a few days to get used to the feeling of not being responsible for children. I called my parents a lot – who were having a wonderful time traveling across the country to Orlando with the kids.

I went on my own book store tour, scoping out independent book stores and navigating my way there. I went to a slightly pretentious book store in the French Quarter apartment where William Faulkner once lived. I enjoyed talking to the curator/bookstore clerk until I got tired of pretending to have actually read any of the classic Southern writers hallowed there.

Nearly forgotten vinyl collection in the attic of Beckham's Bookshop.

The literary cat, resident of Beckham's Bookshop across from the House of the Blues.

I meandered through the French Quarter and found a musty book store that survived Katrina and housed three floors of rare books hidden under yesterday’s forgotten paperbacks. They even had a book store cat who sauntered through the stacks, lazily following the shifting sunbeams.

At a very writer-oriented book store in the Garden District I picked up a couple of books by local authors who had written about New Orleans and their Katrina experience – Chris Rose’s 1 Dead in the Attic and Sara Roahen’s Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table. They were both great reads.

I rode the St. Charles streetcar alone – although not really alone because the open-aired “trolley” was packed with sweaty bodies – locals on their way to work in the tourist section and tourists wandering back to where they belong.

I saw beads hanging from giant oak trees like leftover Christmas tinsel dripping over St. Charles Street, a full mile or two from the action of Bourbon Street.

I heard a couple great street bands.

I walked through a history museum, housed the in the very building the Louisiana Purchase was signed. I was so engrossed in actually reading every display that I overstayed my welcome. A security guard found me quietly meandering through the upstairs gallery and informed me that I was about to be locked up for the night. The museum had closed 20 minutes earlier.

History happened here.

I drank tea in our quiet hotel room and took long, hot baths.

It was pretty much the most alone time I have had since August 1998.

Banana something at Emrils. I loved the desserts in New Orleans -- bread pudding was amazing! I may have gained 5 pounds.

In the evenings Kip and I explored the town, eating at some amazing restaurants. We saw Augustana at the House of Blues, as well as dozens of great cover bands rockin’ their hearts out on Bourbon Street.

Catching Augustana at the HOB.... good gumbo there too.

A couple nights in a row we joined the inevitable nightly parade of tourist wandering in and out of French Quarter clubs. They were odd places in contrast to the serious LA music venues. They were light-hearted, like the perpetual Karaoke bar that paid heavy tribute to Michael Jackson and promised a daily opportunity to embarrass yourself. We dogged that opportunity for public humiliation, but fell right in when offered a chance to ride the mechanical bull at country music club.

Once was enough. No pictures posted.

This random Elvis wanna be jumped on stage and nailed "his" song with the house band, seemingly unrehearsed.

"Thank you, Thank you very much!"

Self indulgent photo shoot on our hotel roof in the Warehouse District. What do I say, no kids for a week?

I tried as many variations of gumbo as possible and even took a Creole cooking class one morning. That turned out to be less “hands-on” than I had hoped, but at least I learned a few new things and enjoyed hearing the culinary history of New Orleans.

Great little New Orleans place off the beaten path .... awesome red beans and rice!

In all, I was surprised how much I loved New Orleans. Maybe it was because we were on vacation, but I even liked the overwhelming southern humidity, the blanket of warm air that envelops you when you step out into the night air. I loved the people there too. Everyone was friendly.

On Friday morning we flew back and immediately started doing the laundry, taking care of chores that we had left undone, getting ready for the “real” vacation. Somehow Kip and I squeezed in a 12-mile beach run Saturday afternoon to keep us current with our Malibu Marathon training.

And then before dawn Monday morning we were hailing a cab outside our apartment and off to another adventure …..

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