Friday, August 05, 2011

Today, we are tourists!

One doesn't have to go halfway round the world to be a турист.

My friend Br. Latif Gaba introduced me to the word flâneur - which comes from the French verb flâner ("to stroll, saunter, lounge about") - a delightfully countercultural idea rooted in the fact that life should not consist merely of running from one exhausting errand to another, that one should slow down, enjoy oneself, and take in the sights - even in one's own home town.

Friday is my TDO (Theoretical Day Off) - and so Mrs. H. and I made good on a pledge to take Lionboy to one of his favorite hangouts (upon my return from Russia): The Audubon Insectarium.  We made it an outing, and didn't even use the car.  To embrace one's inner tourist (as well as deal with the heat and humidity of the Crescent City), a Hawaiian shirt is just the thing.  One should also sport headgear, be photographically equipped, and carry a backpack.

A backpack?

Indeed.  When you are a tourist, you need your stuff.  What kind of stuff?  Today, I carried a couple portable umbrellas, sunscreen, a hooded sweatshirt (for the brutally cold air conditioning), my Nook (for those times when one is simply compelled to read), and French and Russian dictionaries and phrasebooks (you just never know...).  Cargo pants are also a must - to carry one's still and video cameras, cell phone, keys, reading glasses, sunglasses, wallet, and PDA.  In visiting the Insectarium - which is a federally-owned building - one must leave behind one's Swiss Army Knife so as not to make people think you are planning on overthrowing the United States government with a toothpick or nail-file (who knew it was so easy?).  Besides, we wouldn't want to profile our guests and deny museum admission to Swiss soldiers with their suspiciously clean fingernails and unAmerican cheese with holes.  Those Swiss knives also include corkscrews.  And connect the dots with me, dear reader: wine bottles need corkscrews to open them, wine is drunk by French people, and French fries are now freedom flies - just so that we all know who to be afraid of, mais oui?

We strolled the four blocks to the ferry station and enjoyed the 15-minute ride across the Mississippi River to Canal Street in New Orleans.  From there, we ambled a few blocks up Canal to the Insectarium - which is actually inside the old U.S. Treasury building - which housed POWs during the War Between the States.  Beast Butler had an office there, and so it is fitting that the building now has displays of roaches, larvae, and bottom-feeders of all kinds.  But I digress...

Anyway, we had a lovely time at the Insectarium - which includes a small theater, an indoor Japanese butterfly garden, and very interesting and exotic displays of living and dead insects and arachnids.  There is a "cave" that children especially enjoy that simulates what it would be like to be an insect living underground - complete with a trapdoor spider that lunges out at you.  There is a huge ant colony, centipedes, millipedes, praying mantises, and a hatchery for newly-minted butterflies.  There are displays of local creatures - such as our doughty cockroaches and ubiquitous lovebugs.

We watched a huge yellow and black garden spider (argiope) devour a fly, and Miss Grace even got help identifying a species of larva that until today has proven a mystery.  A staff member held a tarantula for everyone to enjoy.  The room with mounted butterflies and beetles is a dazzling tour of the whole spectrum of color - and several displays even concede that there is "divine design" to the way insects are put together.  I suppose they only mean it figuratively, but whether intended or not, the truth is hard to deny when confronted with the intricacies of insects' (and other critters') existence and design.

We chose not to eat in the Insectarium's diner (which includes dishes made with insects), and headed off to the Arby's on Canal and Decatur.  Of course, it's not exactly New Orleans fare, but it is fast and close, and we had a rendezvous with the ferry.  We went upstairs where the view of Canal Street is magnificent.

Just as we left the museum as we were headed to Arby's, by pure chance, we met our very dear friend, Dr. Z.  Had we been five seconds earlier or later, we would have missed him striding by.  We always feel better after speaking with him.  He is one of the most delightful people we have ever met, and is literally a Godsend to us.  As soon as we left this providential meeting, we were strolling behind a couple with some scripture on their tee-shirts.  Deo gratias.

Taking us for (non-local) tourists, some visitors at the ferry station asked us what they could find on the other end of the ferry ride to Gretna.  We had the opportunity to direct them to some nice local restaurants. We returned home the same way we came, seeing the rain clouds moving in.  The ferry ride was windy and exhilarating.

So, our tour is over - but we have lots of pictures to serve as souvenirs of our excursion.  And you can scroll down to the end of this post for full embedded video goodness.

1 comment:

rogue evolent said...

"....Beast Butler had an office there, and so it is fitting that the building now has displays of roaches, larvae, and bottom feaders of all kinds..." LOL! Fr. Hollywood, this is the laugh of the day!
Deo Vindice.