September 4, 2007

On the Road

We are on the road in New Orleans this week. Annie and I are getting in some sightseeing and relaxation while Kristen takes care of business. The drive down was our first treat, just awe inspiring. It's rare in life when you see something that you have never had opportunity to see before. The 45 minutes on Route 10 that preceded Baton Rouge may just as well have been on Mars. We were lucky that we didn't crash from gawking out the windows at the endless swampland. A delicate ribbon of bridge 30 miles long laid out on the water's brown, glassy surface was all that kept us dry. I doubt anyone who makes that drive the first time doesn't experience a little bit of the old white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. Who knew how deep the water was, or where we would end up if we ever happened to fall in? Kristen put it best when describing the endless wetlands, "They should drop Bear Grylls here and see if he could find his way out."

We were forced into getting over our amazement quickly though, because the rest of our drive gave us more of the same, mile after suspensful mile. After a while were were comfortably numb and enjoying the desolation. It was beginning to feel like the rawness of the landscape was preparing us for what we were to see in New Orleans. We just moved to Louisiana two weeks ago, so admittedly there was some trepidation about the city's ongoing comeback. It's one thing for everyone to tell us that because we were staying at the W downtown we wouldn't see "any of that," but that's no way to look at a city. It isn't difficult to shelter yourself.

I'm genuinely not prepared for where this post could go, or sure what direction this blog will ultimately take, so I will get back to my little girl. I will say that everthing we saw was very beautiful, but a little too quiet. We were surprised that a city this large could ever have so few people about. I think that I will have a more erudite opinion on the subject of Katrina and rebuilding later in the week, but I know that I will never be fully qualified to hold it.

When we first arrived at the hotel last night Annie was really prepared to cut loose and make the most of our time away from home. The plush amenities of the W Hotel really appealed to her refined sense of taste. I don't think she had ever seen a chaise lounge chair before, but as you can see, she new how to make the most of it.

She and I decided to go for a walk shortly thereafter and take in some of the sights in the French Quarter, just a quick walk from the hotel. As we have found out over the last two weeks, it is hot down here. It wasn't possible for us to stay out long, so we had a very well defined purpose to our and beignets at Cafe DuMonde on Decatur. It was only a 15 minute walk and we saw much. The architecture was every bit as sublime as you would expect. New Orleans is one of those cities that brings you back in time a bit. Fortunately on a Monday evening there were not too many drunken idiots to spoil a nice quiet stroll.

I'm still suprised at the looks and comments I get when I'm wearing Annie. Almost everywhere I walk people seem to ponder us for a minute. It is as if I weren't wearing her, but bearing her; a miracle of modern science. Until I get 100 percent used to it I will forever walk around like someone who is hiding something. I can tell that I have a certain look on my face; a look that says I know people are looking at me. I have to work on losing that.

Despite the stares, I took a moment to contemplate the breadth of the Mississippi River this fae south. At the other crossing points that I have witnessed it appeared as any other large river I had seen. Sort of like a muddier Hudson. But down here it bubbles and flows like and ocean. Standing on the bank felt like I was leaning up against something that was humming. A living body that held the attention of everyone watching. I could sense it's purpose and it's meaning to so many millions who have depended on it for so long.

After my moment of clarity on the Mississippi I walked two more blocks to the cafe. It was the only place I had seen so far that was still teeming with people. Most were there for the cafe, but many were there to take in the dreamy voice of a woman singing with her sidewalk band. She sang the usual soulful songs you may have heard in any other city, on any other sidewalk, but go ahead and call me a hopeless romantic, she sang them in that silky manner that stops you in your tracks. You don't have to know anything about music to stand and admire.

Ultimately, the iced Cafe Au Lait hit the spot and the beignets were more dense than I had anticipated, but overall it was well worth our first sweaty jaunt out into the city.


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