Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend in Nawlins

I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home. I have a LOT of time here, owing to the fact that I couldn't check out much later than 1pm, my flight isn't until 3:40pm, and there was no traffic on the way to the airport. So I'll take this time to recount my adventures.

December 15, 2007

I sleep in as late as I can. Why would you spend so much time sleeping when you're in NEW ORLEANS??? Because you need the sleep. Desperately.

Up and out and around the French Quarter before 1pm. Wonder where I can get a cheap lunch that isn't an absolute tourist hole. Wander up Royal Street. Wonder if I can find Croissant D'Or, a patisserie that Jonathan had recommended as we passed by on the Vampire Tour, and which I have a vague feeling is between Royal and the convent on Ursalines. Wander in that direction, resisting the temptation to look at my map. Find it right where instinct said it would be. I'm just that good. :-P

Eat a quiche Lorraine and a chocolate eclaire for lunch. I love this city. Read my book sitting at a counter in the window. Finish eating and meander down toward Jackson Square. Three weddings in the cathedral, so interior inspection has to wait until I attend mass on the morrow.

Wander down and across the windy streets to the riverfront. Sit in the sunshine as the barges slide by and read. Lock eyes with a young man walking slowly down the sidewalk, stopping now and then to gaze at the river. Watch him covertly over the pages of my book, turning my head to watch him watch the river, and every so often look my way. He knows I'm watching him and knows I know he's watching me as I sit still and he drifts past and we both gaze across to the other shore. It's a moment of human connection that dispenses with introductions and awkward courtesies, the connection of parallel sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings akin that would recognize each other at the first meeting. Then we turn away completely and I read.

And read.

And read.

Stop to watch the sunlight on the blue and brown ripples, and to watch a freighter pass under the highway bridge. Feel the rising wind and the dimming sun, and glance back west to see the gray clouds creeping over the city.

Get up and drift back into the Vieux Car
ré. Find my way to Pat O'Brien's and snag a Kier Royal and a Diet Coke just as the rain began. Wind my way upstairs to a quiet table and chairs outside of the ladies' powder room, and sip my drink and read my book, reading faster and faster as the rain falls and passes and the sky clears to darkening twilight, and the tale spins out in the last pages, cut off at the end like the Fates' thread.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:-- Do I wake or sleep?
~Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"
This is how I always feel when I lift myself out of the pages of a good book at its finish. Floating, disoriented. Still drifting between the world around me and the world in the pages. My goal for the weekend is accomplished.

I decide to take a Haunted History ghost tour, now that the rain has stopped. My drinks finished with my book, I pop across the way to Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop, and for once see through the door someone I do actually know, not just a revenant wreathing a stranger in familiarity. I rush in to say hi to a friend as surprised to see me as I am to see him, who has met some friends of his from Florida at this best of half-way meeting places. We part ways after a few words. We'll meet again Wednesday at my birthday party.

The tour is fun and this time I have the cash to buy the book. Perfect timing, too, since now I need another book to read. I head to Fiorella's, because it wouldn't be a visit to New Orleans without fried chicken from Fiorella's. This has become more integral to me than Cafe du Monde. I suppose I do like fried chicken more than I like beignets.

I sit in the dim restaurant eating my chicken, absorbed in ghost tales, until I decide that this is VAMPIRE weekend, and I'll read the ghost stories later. I flip to the vampire section and begin working my way through that, until my meal is done. With chills running down my spine that have nothing to do with the cold north wind, I leave the restaurant resolved to get to my warm and well-lit hotel room as quickly as possible.

And I find myself in a deserted, if brightly-lit side street with no open shops heading towards the Ursaline convent, where they say vampires are boarded up in the attic. Lovely. I walk faster until, panting with my speed, and not a little self-induced terror, and relief at the people once again all around me, I turn into Royal Street and head to my hotel. But those two blocks have changed the color of the evening, and when I get back to my room, I can't shake the urge to look over my shoulder, or NOT look out my window, for fear of seeing a ghastly pale face hovering on the other side of the glass. Great.

Fortunately for my night's repose, there are friends on line to chat with, and LOLKatz at I haven't creeped myself out that thoroughly since I watched X-Files by myself for the first time. Geez. Finally, sleep.

December 16, 2007

Up before my alarm goes off and out on the streets before many of the shops open. Down to my new favorite place, the Croissant D'Or for breakfast. Eat my way through a delicious croissant filled with ham and cream cheese and an almost-as-delicious croissant filled with chocolate. Wander around a bit more, and find myself at 11am mass in St. Louis Cathedral.

Notes from the organ float amid the columns, drifting from one hymn to the next fluid and clear until voices begin singing "Wake, O wake and sleep no longer." Then "O come, O come Emmanuel" as the archbishop and his priests ascend the aisle. He welcomes us all, even, perhaps, some people from Arizona, come to support the Cardinals. He reminds them with sweet pastoral slyness that while we in the Roman Catholic church certainly have much respect for Cardinals, God considers it much better to be a Saint. It's a lovely mass in a beautiful church, not so grand or ornate as those in Europe, but full of light and richness and color. He ends his homily with words he treasures from a freeborn black woman who began to teach the coloreds and founded a religious house for them in the early part of the century.

"God, I believe in you. I hope in you. I love you. I want to live and die in you."
He calls these words his guide as he continues his ministry of 50 years, when his human weakness and failing strength would have him retire, but his church and his God call him to carry on where he's needed.

Only time to do some quick Christmas shopping in a shop I spotted earlier, then back to the hotel to check out. I hop a cab to the airport, and the Saint's game is on the radio. As we pass the Superdome, I'm struck by the thought that all that I'm listening to is going on just behind those curved walls. The commentators begin to gossip, as we exit I-10, about a large bird that just flew in front of them. "Was it a pigeon?" one asks. "No, those hang around your house," the other responds. "An albatross?" "No, those hang around your neck!"

I laugh out loud to hear a sports commentator referencing Coleridge.

Then it's the airport and paying the cabby and settling at a bistro table to fire up my laptop, and here we are!

I'll be home soon.

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