Saturday, September 06, 2008

Getting Back to Abnormal

Things are indeed getting back to abnormality post-Gustav.

Our Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (where we have a family pass) is offering a "welcome home" special on the IMAX - $5 per person. We decided to take the Aquarium up on its offer - especially since Lion Boy was such a good sport about our hasty retreat and motel exile.

After a visit to the Winn-Dixie to stock up on a few things that we might have to throw away next week when Hurricane Ike comes, we headed on over to Algiers Point (about two miles from home) to catch the ferry to New Orleans.

At the ferry station, we met a guy dressed up like a pirate, complete with tricorn hat, saber, and parrot (actually a conure, a small member of the parrot family) on his shoulder. I realize this may sound unusual to most people, but such sights are quite reassuring as evidence that life is returning to the way we know it in New Orleans.

"Captain Papillon" rode the ferry with us. His house still has no power, and he and Tupelo (his conure) decided to take a walk rather than sit in the dark. Leo (The Friend of All Animals) was delighted to have Tupelo perch on his finger. We wandered over to the Aquarium and purchased our tickets.

We decided to get a bite, and headed on over to the Riverwalk - a mall of sorts on the Mississippi. It was good to hear live music as a band was playing blues outside of Poppy's seafood restaurant. The Riverwalk was nearly deserted - except for a lot of soldiers (who were, no doubt, dispatched to New Orleans to counter any possible looting). It was indeed good to see the troops sent to assure that looting would not be tolerated, but I have to admit that I found it a little bit disconcerting to see a young lady soldier with an M16 thrown over her soldier listening to her iPod with headphones stuck in her ears. It seems to me that if you're entrusted with an automatic "assault rifle" (as anti-gun folk like to call such weapons) while walking around the general public in a mall, you should be a little more alert than your typical teen bopping to Britney.

We headed up to the food court, and more evidence of a restoration of life as usual was evidenced by the fact that the New Orleans Original Daiquiri shop was open for business. Being able to buy alcohol in New Orleans is a sort-of code that says everything is okay. The only time alcohol is banned is when something ominous is happening - like a hurricane evacuation or an election. So, like my friend Col. Richard Esau, a highly decorated USMC brigade commander in Vietnam explained his trick of smoking a cigar when things were grim in combat (so as to reassure jumpy young Marines by his calmness), there is something very reassuring about seeing frozen daiquiris available at the mall.

After a quick bite, we headed back to the Aquarium. Leo visited his many friends, the white alligator, the sand tiger sharks, the nurse sharks, the hammerheads, and then played on the little slide in the playground area. We ran into a parishioner (my former student) Samantha, who now works at the Aquarium - and she let us pet the little snake she was displaying. Leo again petted the stingrays, and watched the penguins.

Afterwards, we watched the IMAX - Whales and Dolphins in 3D (and I can't believe how well-done the 3D is these days! It is simply mindblowing). However, the film didn't hold Lion Boy's attention too well (as much as he loves whales and dolphins), but he hung in there. Afterwards, we all went to the Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets.

With Leo fading, and the ferry approaching the East side of the river, we traipsed back to the ferry station to once again see our new old friends Captain Papillion and Tupelo! On the boat, the Captain drew his saber from its scabbard and allowed Leo to handle it. It wasn't sharp, but indeed, it was a real saber. I'm sure walking around town with a sword and allowing a toddler to handle it is probably illegal in the upper 49, but in Louisiana, well laissez-faire mes amis.

Upon landing on the other side (Old Algiers Point, a neighborhood quite a bit like our own Old Gretna), we were treated to yet more evidence of the normal abnormalcy. At the little bar across the street, a small but robust spontaneous street party was in full swing. An NOPD car was pulled aside as cops were hanging out. There was a military hummer there as well, and several soldiers were joining the party. Ladies (and their dogs) were decked out in fairy wings, and a brass band (complete with banjo and string bass) was playing. Captain Papillion and Tupelo dropped by as well. An older couple sipped brandies under an umbrella. A lady photographer recognized Leo, and took Mrs. Hollywood's e-mail address so she could send some previously taken shots of Lion Boy to us.

So, for the time being, New Orleans is still New Orleans. It was indeed good to see ferries and fairies, army captains and a pirate captain, snakes, stingrays, and sharks; bands, brandy, and beer; dressed up dogs and a tropical parrot, rifles and a saber, and people of every age and ethnic background swapping stories of the latest hurricane evacuation, hanging out like old friends, and enjoying the company and the ambiance.

Soon, our attention will turn to Ike. But for now, I think I'll put my feet up and light a cigar, just as the Colonel taught me to do when people need to be kept calm, clear-headed, and combat ready.


Rosko said...

Ahhhh, to be home again. I really need to find a better job so I can visit the Big Easy. This next time I will, for the first time, be able to partake of New Orleans Original Daiquiris. Hope things go well with Ike, I'm praying for y'all.

solarblogger said...

I love those IMAX films. I recently saw one called "Mystery of the Nile" about a rafting trip through Ethiopia to Cairo. It featured a Christian ceremony in a church in Ethiopia carved out of solid rock. The film put Ethiopia on the list of countries I would like to visit.

Someone has put it up on YouTube. The first Rock Church segment begins at about 3:13:

But I do have to say, seeing this on the IMAX screen and hearing the music through the sound system is worth the admission price.

Thursday's Child said...

As I've watched the different storms this week, I've thought of you and wished I had internet to check in. I'm back online at school now so I was finally able to find out. I'm glad you're back home. :D