Monday, May 27, 2013

High Times in NOLA

St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square

Dear George
We first became admirers of New Orleans when my parents took us on a vacation there in 1969.  Our son J was just three months old at the time.  Then when J and K moved there in the 1990’s we became enthusiastic annual visitors.  Now, with V and L there, our four-year-old grandchildren, we regard the city as roughly equivalent to paradise.  I went down for a six-day grandfatherly visit about two weeks ago.  Here are some of the highlights. 

K, L, and V at a bridge in City Park

J, K, and the kids live within walking distance of City Park in Mid-City.  With its lush avenues of live oaks, walking trails, picnic areas, and scenic ponds, it’s like a gigantic playground for the children.  We did a couple of park expeditions during my stay.  Here are V and L building a birds’ nest on one of the bridges.

At the Sculpture Garden   

City Park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and its adjacent Besthoff Sculpture Garden (Rodin, Moore, Segal, etc.).  The Art Museum was featuring “Mother of Invention,” a collection of absolutely exquisite, cutting edge craft and design items (glass, china, jewelry, furniture – Tiffany, Lalique, etc.) from Worlds’ Fairs as far back as the 1830’s.  I also enjoyed the House of Blues folk art exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and numerous art and photo galleries in the Warehouse District and the French Quarter.    

On the train at Global Wildlife

One day we drove across Lake Pontchartrain on the world’s longest bridge and visited Global Wildlife, a “safari” like outdoor adventure place where hundreds of African and Indian animals wandered free in a 900-acre reservation and visitors could feed them from a train.  New herds of animals rushed up wherever we went, and some gobbled up food right out of the children’s hands.  Here’s L getting ready to feed the deer.  

The catch of the day

After Global Wildlife, we went to J and K’s country place on the lake’s North Shore.  J went fishing with the kids at the pond behind the house and caught a two-incher.  I proposed it would be fun to put the fish back in the water, but V was determined to cook and eat it.  J cooked; V ate. 

At Morris Jeff
The children will soon be finishing their preschool year at the Morris Jeff  charter school, and they’ll enter kindergarten at a Spanish immersion public school in the fall.  They enjoy school a lot and are doing very well.  Both got “purples” (just about the highest accolade possible) on the day that I visited.  

At the Zoo

On Sunday we went to the Zoo in Audubon Park.  With all the southern flora, it’s beautiful.  I particularly like the Louisiana swamp exhibit with its albino alligators.  L not only petted the boa constrictor, but fed the turtles and touched the elephant’s thick hairy hide.  

V and L meet a goat at the Bayou Bougaloo Festival

The children get exposed to tons of music in New Orleans.  We made two visits to the Mid-City Bayou Bougaloo Festival which offered three music stages, numerous art vendors, and other festivities.  J took V on a kayak ride in the canal.   Then she wandered off in the crowd for a while, prompting J to write his cell phone number on her arm with a magic marker. 

My best NOLA bargain

On days that J and K were working I took the trolley down Canal St. to the French Quarter, sometimes transferring to the St. Charles trolley to the Garden District.  If you reach a certain esteemed age in New Orleans, the trolley only costs forty cents.  On one trip I only had two quarters available, and the conductor gave me a paper ticket worth a dime which I could redeem later.  It’s exciting to ride the trolley.   

The National World War II Museum

I go to the World War II museum just about every time I visit.  It’s is such an incredibly powerful place, and, with my dad, uncles, and family friends having been WW II veterans, it always brings tears to my eyes.  I visited the current exhibition on POW camps in Germany, the Pacific Theater wing, and the new Boeing Center featuring a collection of military planes.  It was a good precursor for Memorial Day.   

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

J and K staged performances of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs for our amusement at City Park.  In this scene Red Riding Hood is confronted by the Wolf.  

Dragon Master Showcase

The French Quarter was filled with street musicians and other performers.  Dragon Master Showcase were sidewalk gymnasts who carried on an amusing patter with passers-by as they did their high quality routine at Jackson Square.  One guy skidded 20 feet on the top of his head, no handsies, and another guy did a running somersault in the air over seven kneeling adult volunteers.   

On the backyard swing

Not to be outdone, V and L did their own acrobat routines in the back yard at home.  J had hooked up a swing from a tall tree, and the children did daredevil swinging, high in the air, spinning in circles.  I could barely watch. 


I missed our sheepdogs a lot for the first couple of days, so I took family dog Iko on more walks than he was accustomed to.  He became quite attached to me as a consequence and decided to sleep in my room at night.   

The Spotted Cat Music Club

I’m not much of a nightlife person in Cincinnati, but J regularly takes us out to hear local jazz on NOLA visits, and it’s always thrilling.  This time we went to a couple of clubs in the Marigny neighborhood and heard some foot-stomping music.  This is Miss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat.

The children are four and two-thirds now.  I hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving, so the intervening time amounts to about twenty percent of their lifetimes.  As usual, they’ve grown a lot, particularly by becoming much more verbal.  V and I took Iko on several walks in the neighborhood, and it’s almost like conversing with a young, excitable adult.  L’s a little shyer, but he has his own sense of humor and gentleness.  I’d once again forgotten how demanding a job parenting is, and two active, high energy children who are much more of a challenge than one.  K and J deserve medals for their patience, calm, and ever present dedication.  The children, of course, provide lots of love and fun.  I’m eager to see them again soon.

G-mail Comments
-Phyllis S-S (5-28): Dave,  What a great trip - those statues look wierd though - not Rodin I would assume.  The kids are changing so much - and J*** looks more like you, I think.  Did you do your play/theater with the grandchildren?  Canada was terrific.  We saw the best Salome opera I've ever seen, saw Christopher Plummer and his wife (2 rows in front of us at Measure for Measure) and Brian Dennehey.  Phyllis

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