Friday, May 17, 2013

New Orleans Trip, May 2013

Every so often, generally about once or twice a year, Mr. Michael has to go out of town on business.  (Just writing this last sentence makes me feel oh-so-VERY-grown-up.  "Where is your boyfriend?"  . . . "Oh, he's out of town.  On business.  Pass the mimosas.") 

As a rule, I am welcome to go with him.  The hotel room is paid for, his food is paid for, and the only real out-of-pocket expense would be whatever I need to eat to survive.  But we have a baby (a toddler, now), and since toddlers as a group do not tend to be synonymous with ease of travel, the Took and I have always opted to stay home until now.

But a few months ago Mr. approached me with the idea of going to New Orleans with him, and I jumped at the chance.  We went back and forth for several weeks about whether or not we should take the baby with us.  Michael had . . .  reservations.  But he ultimately left the decision up to me and, since the baby has really only been out of town once in his life, I was all "The kid stays in the picture!!!"

(***This is a lie.  What I actually said was something along the lines of:  'Let's take him.  He'll enjoy it.  He won't be any trouble.'  And then I drifted off into a fantasy of strolling around New Orleans with my little one, his eyes shining with delight as we taste-test pralines and beignets, dancing in the streets to the jazz of sidewalk musicians, and laughing at street performers.  . . .I will readily admit that at no point in this colorful fantasy did I give any real thought to the difficulties involved with attempting to change a diaper on a busy sidewalk packed with tourists. . .

Sometimes my fantasies get the best of me.  Also, I can on occasion, be a little naive.)

But Mr. swallowed his objections like a good sport should, and on Monday morning we put out the kitties' automatic feeders, loaded several bags (one containing nothing but brightly colored plastic blocks) and the baby into the truck, and set off on our mini-vacation.

(Took, wearing his Ready-For-An-Adventure face)
As is customary, our first stop was for a sausage biscuit, eaten on the road.  (Eating in the car is one of my favorite parts of travelling.  Always has been.)
The trip was broken up by pit-stops for diaper changes, as seen here:

. . . and, for me personally, by marathon reading sessions interspersed with power-naps. 

(No photo available.)

Also, about 5 miles after we left home, I was pulling my hair back and became aware of a dent in the back of my head that I had previously been unaware of.  (Like, for real, just at the base of my skull. . . a dent.)  Once I FOUND IT, of course, I became RATHER concerned with it, AND with the fact that I had never noticed it before.  This prompted me to assume that the dent was new, and probably recent.  (I was worried about it for several miles. . . Have I had a head injury??  Would I remember it if I had??  . . . My imagination ran amok with theories about what would cause this portion of my skull to cave in, and whether or not it was likely that it would kill me within the next few days.  Because we were on vacation, after all, and I would hate for the experience to be tainted due to a simple thing like cranial collapse. 

My sweet husband, of course, was INCREDIBLY concerned with the dent, as with the possibility of impending  disaster that it represented.  

I believe his exact words were:  "You are insane." 

. . . Which was less supportive than I had hoped for, to be sure, and hurt me quite deeply. . . but then I got distracted, and forgot about it.  --VACATION!!!!--   Sometimes short attention spans can be a blessing.)

So the drive was largely uneventful, until the point where we got about 12 miles away from our destination and suddenly I became aware of the sensation that someone was trying to shove a large brick under my eyelid.

I pulled down the passenger seat visor and scrubbed at it furiously.  (Probably the wisest, and most prudent course of action.)

Michael:  "What's wrong?"

Me:  *scrub, scrub, scrub*  "I have something in my eye."

Michael:  "Like what?"

Me:  *scrub scrub*  "Like. . . I dunno. . . a Miata?"

So by the time we got to the hotel to unload everything, I looked like I had just been beaten pretty severely. 

It did not go away.  My eyes became gross and goopy.

. . . I had the pink eye.


(Which now means that everyone in the house has had it except for Michael.  But on the positive side. . . this also meant that I had drops for it.)

Since I had been treating the baby's eyes for the last several days, I was very much aware that pink eye is supposed to be highly contagious. . .  So for the rest of the week, everywhere we went, I imagined myself as Patient Zero in some kind of sci-fi film:  walking around, unknowingly perpetrating a pandemic. . .  I pictured a map, with little red dots pinpointing the "outbreak zones" as I travelled around the city. . .  in my mind, I was the Typhoid Mary --- Pink Eyed Dani!!! --- of New Orleans. 


. . . But when I shared this notion with Michael, he just said that even if it goes untreated, that pink eye tends to resolve itself in about 2 weeks.  (I don't think I have to tell you how disappointed this made me feel.  But he loves me enough to be honest.)  So he said that, essentially, I would be the bringer of a plague that made people mildly uncomfortable and goopy for about 14 days.

(We have learned to take disappointment in stride.)

So I decided to refer to it as my Wonky Eye, we got all our stuff up to the hotel room, changed clothes and hit the street.

Ahhh. . . New Orleans.  =)

I love this place.

(Watching the musics.)
Michael pushed the stroller, and I ambled along behind, looking in all the windows, and at all the people, and just so happy to be there.  Past signs for everything from The World's Best Pralines, to art galleries, to advertisements for "Love Acts". . . which should be comforting, I suppose. . . the world always needs more love.  =)

We made our way around, no particular destination in mind, enjoying the sights and sounds and smells.

"It stinks," Michael says.

And he is quite right.  Occasionally, it does.

But this is what I love about New Orleans, honestly.

This is my first time here since Katrina.  And enough time has passed, and enough restoration occurred, that I am happy to find it largely the same as I remember it. . . 

It is music in the air.  A lively beat that covers everything you see, as fully as the blanket of almost-tangible humidity that coats you instantly, frizzes your hair and makes you sweat, and ultimately binds us all together.  It is a place where a deck of tarot cards can be an investment in your future.  It is 500 souvenir shops that all sell the same 15 t-shirts.  =)  It is creativity, raucous laughter, and the smell of seafood and beignets.  It is daiquiris and sweat, jazz and panhandlers, and a city full of people that actually say "Good morning!" to you. 

It is flawed, and beautiful, and unapologetic.

It is Human Stew, and I adore it.  =)

We make our way through the French Quarter, and eventually wander up to a restaurant that we take a chance on for dinner.  I can't remember what it was called, but it was good.  My fried shrimp po-boy took up the entire plate, and even though I was starving I only finished maybe half of it.  Our waiter was nice enough to bring Took some fruit punch from the bar, and he enjoyed some saltines while his Daddy and I tucked in to our seafood.  No toddler-meltdowns, so all in all it was a nice dinner.

The next day, Mr. had to do business-y things until about 5 p.m., so the little one and I were on our own for the day.  At 8 a.m. I found myself standing in the bathroom, goopy-eyed and irritable, trying to figure out how to operate the teensy little coffee machine that the Holiday Inn had been kind enough to provide for us.  Hmmmm. . . there was no filter, and just a meager amount of coffee in a little tea-bag.

As it turns out, I was right to be distrustful. 

It was dreadful.

I needed some real coffee.

So Took and I got dressed, and in 15 minutes we were out the door and on our way to Cafe du Monde.

We found a table under the awning, the better to watch the people on the street, and in a matter of moments we had a sippy-cup full of orange juice, a plate of beignets, and a REALLY fantastic frozen cafe au lait for me.

(Crazy kid REFUSED to try a beignet.  What a brat.  =)

This is enough caffeine to see me through a morning of sight-seeing, and at lunchtime we head back to the hotel for a nap.  (As seen here:)

(This was an excellent move on my part, and secretly one of the greatest things about travelling with children:  built-in nap times.)
Awesomeness.  =)
That evening, when Mr. was finished being professional, we walked around some more, had another great dinner, and found a new t-shirt for my man.  (see below.)

(He is very proud of it.  If you see him in it, you should probably tell him how nice he looks.  =)
Then we went back to the room and let the baby play with his first non-cellular phone.  (also see below.)
Unfortunately for all of us, I guess the baby was wired up or something (or possibly on a real fruit juice high). . . because he didn't go to sleep until about 10.  And then proceeded to toss and turn, cry out several times, and basically keep us up all night.  At some point during these festivities, I moved over to the bed he was sleeping on to cuddle with him, but really only succeeded in making it easier for him to kick me in the stomach, repeatedly.  And so it happened that, when the three of us woke the next morning, and the first words out of Michael's mouth were:  "Nolan, you sleep like an asshole", I did not utter a single word of argument.
But that's what coffee is for, after all, and so shortly after Mr. left for his meetings we made our way to PJ's of New Orleans, for coffee.
Then we sat in Jackson Square for a while.
We just sat.  And watched people for a while.
I let Took run around like a wild person, and I took photos of this and that, and sipped my coffee and just felt FINE.  Then I dug around in my purse until I found some saltines, and the baby and I took turns throwing pieces of them to the pigeons.  . . .this was a move that required CONSTANT vigilance on my part, as Took became fond of throwing a cracker to the birds, racing them to wherever it landed, and then trying to shove it into his mouth before I could stop him.  Then one of the park employees got a little too close to us with his weed eater, and my young son COMPLETELY lost his marbles and climbed me like a tree.  That's when we decided it was time to go, but it was still 2 blocks before I could pry him off my neck. 
Fun times.  =)
After that, we took our time strolling around.
We wandered aimlessly, looking in windows, watching street performers, with me passing strips of fruit by the foot to the baby when he got fussy.  (Awesome parenting in action.  Take notes, people. =)
At one point we ducked in a particularly promising-looking art gallery, and were fortunate enough to spend 20 or 30 minutes speaking with one of the artists.
This is significant, and strange, to me for several reasons.
The first is that I do not talk to strangers.  As in, EVER.  This is not because I have a policy regarding strangers, so much as it is due to my anxiety about speaking to people in general.  I am AWFUL about talking to people.  I clam up, get freaky-deaky-nervous, and just CANNOT think of a SINGLE thing to say.
Like. . . ALWAYS.
And yet we happened into this random little shop full of paintings and stood there talking to this guy for ages (relatively speaking).  He wasn't hitting on me, and I didn't feel uncomfortable (which is strange, because I ALWAYS feel uncomfortable.  I am, in fact, a little uncomfortable talking about this right now. . .)
Anyway, we stood there and talked about kids and dogs and magic, and finding your voice as an artist.  I divulged that I was trying to learn how to paint, myself, and he told me that Cezanne (one of my favorites) said to "paint what you know".  Then he started describing some of his work, and suddenly we were talking about being fully present for our own lives, and where inspiration comes from, and the difficulties involved in actively cultivating silence.
It was illuminating. 
And it was a rather strange conversation to be having with a perfect stranger at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, but I enjoyed it greatly, and will continue to think on it as a moment of serendipity.  =)
Then we went to the room and took another nap, and suddenly Michael was back, the conference was over, and it was our last night in town.
We wandered again, as a family, and I made Michael tell me how PROUD he was of me, for wandering the city for TWO DAYS, BY MYSELF. . . without getting lost.
Not.  EVEN.  ONCE.
It was a very big deal.
(My secret was that the street names were clearly marked, and I made a POINT of remembering which street our hotel was on.  Trade secret. . . shhhhhhh. =)
Before too long we found ourselves at Pierre Maspero's, almost by accident, and ate the best dinner we had the entire trip.

(Note that the baby is dining on the traditional New Orleans delicacy of mini-marshmallows and saltines.  The only word for this is "snazzy.")
We made our way to the water, and back again, took several photos that Mr. has urged me to try and recreate in watercolor, and looked for a souvenir.
I do not care about t-shirts, and most of the art was too pricey for my budget. . . so, though I had been wracking my brain all day, trying to think of something nice I might want to take home. . . I had come up with nothing.
And then, completely unintentionally, we came across something we just had to have. . .
And we found the PERFECT place for it. . .
And thus concludes the Turbervilles very first mini-vacation as a family. 
Mischief managed.




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