Saturday, December 7, 2013

Giving Thanks for Kids and Dogs and Family

Dear George,
This Thanksgiving we drove from Cincinnati down to New Orleans for a five-day stay with our family -- J and K and grandkids V and L.  It was the longest road trip that Katja and I have done in decades (806 miles each way), but I like long drives and the trip was interesting.  The sheepdogs got to come too, which we enjoyed.  We got off the Interstate and travelled on a two-lane highway for a hundred miles or so in Alabama and Mississippi on the way down and on the way back.  We were a little nervous -- me wary about getting stopped by the sheriff in a small town speedtrap, Katja imagining what it was like for the Freedom Riders in the 1960s.  Katja thought the scenery looked like rural Kentucky and I was reminded of the U.P., though the scenery differed in various ways. There were lots of places with Dixie in their names, restaurants serving Po-Boys and pork BBQ, and a few more gun shops and discount liquor stores than I’m used to seeing.  We traveled via Nashville, Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Meridian but didn’t make any sightseeing stops.  Katja was angry that I didn’t stop in Nashville to get some of her favorite bread, but I was intent on covering ground.   

We had worried beforehand about our elderly doggies doing o.k. such a long car trip, but they were excellent travellers, sleeping or looking out the window most of the time.   It took a lot of Google searching to find a "pet friendly" motel that would accept two large sheepdogs, but we wound up with a pleasing motel stopover in Birmingham in both directions.

We arrived at J and K's house (left) about 6:30 p.m. on the Monday of Thanksgiving week.  Their Mid-City house is a duplex, and their tenant, Claire, had gone away for the holiday, providing us with comfortable accommodations.  

The children, V and L, were excited about our arrival.  L gave us a picture he'd drawn of Darth Vader, and V had done a picture of “Nana” (Katja).  A little later J put on a TV cartoon show, and the children recruited Katja to watch with them. 

V, L, and I worked on drawing turkeys to celebrate the holiday.  Here's V’s product.  

There's a double bed in Claire's apartment, and it took a little doing for two dogs and two humans to find a good sleeping arrangement.  We did work it out though (humans on each edge and dogs lined up in the middle), and we all slept soundly. 

J and K's Mid-City neighborhood is doing excellently, enjoying a brand new mall area on Carrollton Ave. and showing virtually no signs of Katrina’s aftermath.  On our first morning Katja and I enjoyed a late breakfast at the Ruby Slipper, right down the block.  

Thanksgiving Day is the season opening of the Fairgrounds race track in New Orleans, and it's a popular event for locals.  Here V is watching the thundering herd come charging down the track.

The New Orleans crowd comes to the races decked out in all sorts of costumes.  Here’s a mysterious New Orleans couple (along with K’s dad Ted, also visiting for the holiday).  

At Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, the children and I (as narrator) did the second annual performance of our “First Thanksgiving” play, with L playing the roles of Growling Bear and Miles Standish, and V as Flying Squirrel and Priscilla Mullins.  Betsy, a visiting three-year-old family friend, joined right in with the five-year-olds, giving herself the name of the “Princess of the Ball”.  

The dogs, of course, got more walk time in the neighborhood than they normally do at home.  The weather was cool during our stay -- highs in the mid-40's to mid-50's -- and perfectly suited for sheepdogs.  

We enjoyed lunch with J and K at chef John Best's restaurant, the Peche Seafood Grill in the warehouse district.  As is her tradition, Katja enjoyed oysters on the half shell for her appetizer.  I had a delicious entrĂ©e of drum fish, fresh from the Gulf.

J asked Katja what she would like to do most, and, without a second’s hesitation, she said she’d like to go to Saks Fifth Avenue.  She did some shopping there while J and I browsed in a couple of other stores in the Shops at Canal Place.

On Saturday I went along with J and V to a 24-hour "draw-a-thon" at the Opera House in the Marigny district.  Hundreds of kids were busily engaged in one art project or another, and V completed numerous artworks in the space of ninety minutes.

While V was drawing, I took a short walk around the neighborhood.  It's filled with colorfully decorated house and buildings, including this one.  

One afternoon Katja and I went to the Sculpture Garden in City Park.  The Sculpture Garden, adjacent to the Art Museum, is set among ponds, bridges, and live oaks and displays works by Henry Moore, Fernando Botero, Jacques Lipchitz, George Segal, and many others.  It’s the most visually appealing place that we’ve discovered in NOLA.  

While Katja and I were doing aesthetic things, J took the kids to the City Park playground.  Afterward we all got together for beignets at the Morning Call Restaurant in the park. 

The dogs, meanwhile, were having the time of their lives.  J and K's family dog Iko, a little stray who they rescued from the neighborhood streets, was excited about having two large playmates.  He's peppier and more social than Mike and Duffy, and he kept the sheepdogs physically and mentally busy throughout their stay.  

One evening we all went to the Celebration of the Oaks at the Botanical Gardens in City Park.  It's similar to our Cincinnati Zoo Festival of Lights, but bigger and with more things for kids to do.  

I’d say the children were most excited about the bumper cars.  Here are K and L in the middle of the pack.

This is a pretty blurry night-time photo, but that's Katja and V going up in the ferris wheel.  It must have taken twenty minutes for the operator to unload and load new passengers for each of the gondolas.  V suddenly noticed from the top of the ferris wheel that her brother on the ground had gotten cotton candy.  She yelled down to the operator that she was hungry and wanted to get off.  He politely accommodated.  

We were scheduled to depart on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, and J cooked up tasty omelets for everybody.

Here's our group as we're getting ready to leave.  I wish we'd had a few days more, and I'm still recovering from a case of post-vacation blues.  Being together with our family is always my favorite time of the year.  I’d say it’s the time that I feel most complete.  But such is life, and now we'll look forward to our next get-together.

G-Mail Comments
-Gayle C-L (12-9):  David,  I have to say, this trip and these photos are your absolute best!!  So wonderful
I don't know if it's the technology or the simply all the love coming thru but all of that is there than some;))))
I really felt like I was there ;)))
And wish I were!
The one picture of J making the Omelettes
From my I phone,  he looks so much like a young Peter.. OMG :))
Too Much !! 
Thx for keeping this tradition, one of your great many claims to fame:)
Until the next trip 
Lots of love.    G. ;)

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