Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Big Easy Ain't So Easy

Consider this a Summer Dispatch from the Field.  Except I'm not in the field, I'm in New Orleans.  Also known as "The Big Easy".  Only it's not so easy with the Redhead, Thing 1, Thing 2, Aquaman and Yellow Dog.  Quite the cast of characters.

Aquaman is off on a shrimp boat for a few days.  There's a fishery down here in Louisiana, newly observed, that he is a part of.  Since the kidlets and I are free agents for the summer, we followed Aquaman down here to his post.  Unfortunately, I cannot report smooth sailing.

The first night on the road, we camped at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in Jasper.  The mosquitoes almost carried us off.  There was literally a swarm of them at the lights by the fishing pier.  I do not use the term swarm lightly - I am a native Texan, after all.  So heed my warning.  They bit me on the butt through my clothes.  Now I find myself scratching my ass on the street in New Orleans.  Not the signal I'd like to be sending to the various characters in the French Quarter...

Breaking up the drive to New Orleans was smart, but really only prolonged the inevitable realization that travel with three boys and a large puppy is difficult.  This is especially true since the night before our departure, I got an ungodly sore throat accompanied by a swollen neck.  But I pressed on, knowing that one of our progeny was also sick with the same thing, for which I took him to the pediatrician for a diagnosis of double ear infections, an eye infection and bronchitis brought on by this summer bug.  So he has eye drops that must be administered three times a day, ear drops twice a day, and a large horse pill of an antibiotic that he heroically swallows morning and night.  He is on the mend after four days.  I am getting worse, eyeing his antibiotics as my throat swells nightly and I hack my way to dawn eating Fisherman's Friend to sustain me (Dear God those things are strong).  It's so bad that I am actually hacking up green goo and spitting it into the sink, a habit I abhor in others.  I have sunk to new levels here in the swamps.

The hotel we're staying in is old and charming and one of the few areas that did not flood during Hurricane Katrina (It was built long enough ago on high enough land).  It has restored hardwood floors and transom windows.  And I love me some transom windows.  Except at night.  When they let in all the light of the street lamps.  And it's really cool to be right off the street with our own private courtyard out back.  But there is a lot of street noise late at night in New Orleans.  People walking and talking right outside our door.  And Yellow Dog became a super vigilant guard dog, barking at each and every sound.  I finally moved her to the back room where she couldn't hear everything over the constantly running window A/C unit.  About the time I started to fall asleep, Thing 2 started coughing.  I gave him medicine and by the time it kicked in, I started coughing.  My Fisherman's Friend was in the car, which I walked to, in my nightgown, at 1:15 a.m.  I finally fell back asleep when Aquaman started snoring.  Kill me now.

There are some really neat things about staying so close to the French Quarter:  the walkability, especially with a puppy who has energy to burn, is wonderful.  I took the boys up to the banks of the Mississippi so they could stack rocks yesterday.  It's the second day in a row that they've passed the time creating rock towers.

Aquaman took them here the first day, while I laid in bed with a terrible headache, sore throat and - did I mention - my period?  The hits just keep coming...

Anyway, the breeze off of the Mississippi is delightful in the heat of the day.  Yellow Dog and I sat and panted in the shade.

We gazed at Jackson Brewery.

But I mostly wanted to shoot myself in the head while the calliope played on the Steamboat Natchez behind us.

The Redhead's pained expression.  From the Maniacal Calliope.

At the time, we didn't know it was a calliope.  We just knew it was bad.  I called it a "steam pipe organ thingy" and later, someone in the office of our hotel informed me of the proper name.  So my hatred could be informed, you know.  I looked up calliope on Wikipedia, and would you believe the description included this:  

A calliope is typically very loud. Even some small calliopes are audible for miles around. There is no provision for varying the tone or loudness. The only expression possible is the timing and duration of the notes.

A very apt description.  The Redhead, after being subjected to the cacophony for 10 minutes, observed, "It's like one whole octave too high.  If it was a little lower it might be less irritating."  Yes, indeed, son.  

Thing 1 and Thing 2 came trotting over, taking a break from stacking rocks.  "Was this thing playing yesterday?" I asked.  "How could you possibly stand it?"  

"No.  It wasn't here yesterday.  It was quiet."  

Of course.  Over the next several minutes, I fantasized about being a sniper capable of taking out the elderly woman hunched over the metal box adjacent to the steam pipes.  She was responsible for this assault.  At the conclusion of her "concert" she actually received applause and waved to the adoring crowd.  Finally, after several toots of the steamboat horn that were bone-rattlingly loud, scared the crap out of Yellow Dog, and were - by my estimation - completely unnecessary to maritime safety, the Steamboat Natchez departed on a tour.  Thank God.  

We spent the rest of the hot afternoon meandering back towards our hotel, stopping at toy stores and candy shops - the only shopping priorities of any self-respecting adolescent boy.  Yellow Dog and I mostly waited outside where she would drop onto the cool brick in the shade.  

"Just leave me here, Mom.  Really.  This is good."  

I figured if I had a cardboard sign to put around her neck - something like, "Raising three boys.  Please help" - we could've made some serious cash.  She got enough attention as it was.  When she found a puddle of water, she laid down and wallowed in it.

The best treat of the day was the chocolate-dipped marshmallows on a stick.  Made boys happy.  

I tried the creamy pecan pralines that took first place at the Atlanta Gourmet Show from Southern Candymakers.  Pralines were my dad's specialty, so I'm pretty picky and these held up to scrutiny.

We ended our sweaty afternoon tour with a stop by a dog park on the corners of Dauphine and Barracks.  This place is a safe zone for our Yellow Dog.  She can run and play with other dogs, swim in a wading pool, and pee and poop in grass that is scarce throughout the rest of downtown.  Grass is so hard to come by that she has taken to just pooping as she walks down the street, without warning, like a horse.  I'm waiting for her paws to start making clip-clop noises on the brick.  Maybe we'll get her a saddle.

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