Sunday, October 08, 2006

This is the day...

that the Lord hath made...

What a great and glorious day, thanks be to God!

I woke up and had a wonderful breakfast of eggs and cheese, and a mug of Gevalia coffee (cinnamon). Sublime beyond description!

Today, being Sunday, off to our beloved parish, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, we went. I had the unmerited pleasure of singing not one, but two Masses, of hearing, not once, but twice, an excellent proclamation of the Gospel by my colleague the Reverend Father Keith Brda. In between the two Divine Services, I taught a class on the Augsburg Confession (Article 22 on receiving Holy Communion in both kinds). [Yes, this is an actual parish, I'm not making this up, and I'm not dreaming - I know, because I pinched myself].

Following the second service, we adjourned to the parish hall for a jambalaya dinner put on by our youth group to raise funds for next year's Higher Things Youth Gathering to be held in Asheville, North Carolina. If you have never had homemade jambalaya in New Orleans, put it on the list of things to do before you die. But if you should die before checking this one off, don't worry. It will be waiting for you in heaven.

After the repast, I was graced with the privilege to teach our youth confirmation class on the 5th commandment out of the Small Catechism.

It was a beautiful day today, in the eighties with a bright blue sky overhead. After leaving church, we headed across the Mississippi River to Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream & Italian Desserts (see the following article), the century old ice cream parlor on Carrollton Avenue that reopened last week for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Carrollton Avenue is a main drag in New Orleans, lined by ancient palm trees that look like giant inverted pineapples. The dark green streetcars still whoosh by the front of Brocato's, which stands out joyfully with its bright green and white awning, painted letters on the glass front, and a line of patrons out the door.

After a brief wait, we stepped through the threshold, and departed the year 2006. A century-old photo of the founder, Anthony Brocato, stares benevolently down over his domain. The shop was recently restored to its grandeur, and you would never know it was flooded with five feet of toxic sludge and destroyed beyond recognition in August 2005.

But we have been transported back well beyond the apocalyptic 2005. It might be the 1930s. It might be the 1950s. The ceiling fans spin with joy and the glorious old-world espresso machine roars with delight, bellowing out steam, and celebrating life. The pastries are arrayed proudly like soldiers on parade, and the gelato, the old-fashioned rich Italian ice cream, glistens decadently as it beckons the customers hypnotically, imploring them to partake of its cold, creamy confectionary.

We relaxed to coffee and cappuccino, and feasted on the gelato, - which is simply impossible to describe. It is very close to sacrimental. Had gelato been around in Germany at the time of the Reformation, it may have even made the cut. It's creamier than American ice cream, and of course, is freshly made, lacking the industrial aftertaste or freezer flavor that sometimes drags down the ice cream experience. Grace ordered baci (Italian kiss) - which is chocolate and hazelnut. I opted for praline flavor, a New Orleans staple (which in N'awlins, is pronounced "PRAW-leen," dawlin'). The gelato is so creamy, rich, and filling that even ordering small sizes, there was no room at all for the to-die-for cannolis. Here are some pictures:

You cannot imagine so many happy people in one place. Customers of all ages chatted and scooped, sipped and laughed. No-one seemed to find it odd that a man in a cassock was walking around with a little boy (who looks just like him) calling him "Daddy" flanked by the pretty woman with the crucifix that the the little boy calls "Mommy" (New Orleans is a very Roman Catholic city). Folks just greeted me with a "How ya doin', Fawtha" and rolled with it (unlike some other places where a few people do the old "double take"). I think it has something to do with the gelato and cannolis. Maybe they're laced with prozac. Whatever it is, this is a happy place!

We left the shop and were transported back to the twenty-first century (well, sort-of, being among the anachronistic streetcars). We decided to take the long way home, and drove down Beauregard, named, of course, for Louisiana's native son, one of the first generals in the Confederate army. A majestic equestrian statue of the hometown hero continues to make sure the Yankees mind their manners. We turned from P.G.T. Beauregard onto Robert E. Lee, named, of course, for one of the last generals in the Confederate Army.

By the way, General Lee's monument is not on Robert E. Lee Boulevard, but rather in Lee Circle, in what is today known as the Central Business District. He faces North, likewise doing his best to fend off an invasion from that direction. Of course, under the circumstances, we might want to face the good general toward the Gulf of Mexico to try and keep other invaders away from our city. General Lee did serve the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers long before they began cutting corners on their work and putting citizens at risk. I think we could put a man of Lee's integrity to work in New Orleans!

Anyway, we meandered our way home, enjoying the sunshine and the scenery - with the exception of our drive through City Park and the Lakeview neighborhood. City Park has sadly returned to a near fallow state. As we crossed into Lakeview, we saw an even sadder state of affairs. Time has stopped in that place as well - but not in a nice way. The sign in front of the abandoned BP station still reads $2.19 - the price of gas on August 29 of last year. Aside from no longer being under 8 feet of water, parts of it still looks like it did back then. As we drove on, signs of life returned. Though some areas continue to look like a ghost town, there are quite a few houses that have been completely rebuilt, as intrepid residents beautify their property. Lakeview still has a long way to go.

But life came roaring back in spades as we crossed into Jefferson Parish, and made our way back home in Kenner. An exhausted Mrs. Hollywood collapsed into bed, as Lionboy brought me one book after another to read. He is a really bright little lad. I look forward to him helping me with my Latin very soon.

Well, Mrs. Hollywood has awoken, and perhaps now I will partake of the sacred Sunday afternoon nap - which is also very close to being a sacrament, especially for the clergy.

What a great day!

...let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24


Chris Jones said...

Fr Hollywood,

This is a wonderful, and terrible, post.

Wonderful because it evokes the wonderfulness of New Orleans; terrible because it reminds me of how long it has been since we were there, and how long it will probably be before we can return.

My wife and I love New Orleans and the Cajun country (where I spent part of my childhood (Lake Charles)). And you're right about the jambalaya. A highlight of my childhood was my Mom's jambalayas and gumbos, made from crawfish and crabs we had caught ourselves.

Lootershootersnakeeater said...

Okay, I'm jealous.