Rosie and Me: Day 21. Madder Than a Hatter Eating a Beignet in Jackson Square

So today was New Orleans day! How cool is that?

My high school friend Mark told me right away that I had to buy a hat, and that my first stop was to be Meyer the Hatter, one of the biggest hatters in the south.

“Just go in, tell them that you’re visiting and that you don’t know what you want, and they’ll fix you right up.”

I walked from Tulane down Canal, then took a right on St. Charles Avenue, went in and said exactly that. After finding out what kind of hat I liked, which season I wanted it for, and if my taste ran to finer hats in the group (it did), he picked out two hats for me right away. The first was too small. The second fit perfectly. I walked out in ten minutes flat with a wonderful black wool felt hat with a brown and black leather band.

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I then went all the way down Canal and hopped the Algiers ferry ( two bucks each way) and got some glorious shots of the city.

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After the ferry came my usual big walk around the city, heading down towards Jackson Square. This is once again a beautiful part of New Orleans, with sun splashed water, vibrant color, the laughter of children, and the raucous sound of a jazz band on the green.

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What trip to New Orleans as a tourist is complete without a trip the the Cafe Du Monde for beignets and chickory cafe au lait? Such a beehive of activity! Dozens of waitstaff and powdered sugar-coated people scarfing down trios of the just warmed pastries, washed down with smooth coffee. Divine. Yes, sadly, I ate all three.

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To work off the calories from the Cafe, one must stroll the French Quarter, with its signature horse-drawn tours, pedal cabs, and balconies now decorated in style for Halloween. This city seems to love this holiday, as I’ve seen ghouls and ghosts and strings of orange lights and zombies and witches everywhere I go.

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Lunch was with my friend Mark at Pesche, a restaurant open for one year in an old reclaimed warehouse. Stunning architecture, excellent seafood gumbo (yes, Knot, I took your advice and it helped, thank you), roasted pumpkin, and a fine LA-31 Pale Ale. Magnificent!

The rest of my afternoon was spent at the WWII Museum, and ever-expanding tribute to the many who sacrificed to literally save the freedoms of millions in the 1940s. The D-Day portion of the Museum is fully open, the huge new Boeing Pavilion is up and running and it houses a B17 bomber suspended from the ceiling along with five other period planes. Talk about a huge room!

Other exhibits about the European and Pacific theaters will open in the next year. Well worth a few hours of your time if you’re in New Orleans.

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Then, it was home for a wonderful dinner with Mark and Becky, complete with Mark’s signature cocktails. My favorite was the Corpse Reviver #2. Suffice it to say that if you drink more than one of these I think it would have the opposite of the intended effect.

I even got a house tour last night, with stories of Katrina recovery on a very personal level and an introduction to the house ghost in the attic.

This was a wonderful day.

Tomorrow, it’s hit the gym first, as Mark wants me to see the fine facility affiliated with Tulane, then Rosie and I will cross the Mississippi River and head to Birmingham.

It’s almost time to feel South Carolina sunshine on my face again.

Oh, one traveler’s tip for you today. How do you take an excellent photo?

Look around for the area of grass or dirt or other surface near your subject that is the most worn down. This is where thousands of people before you have taken the shot.

Don’t stand there.

Change the light, the angle, the perspective, the shadow.

You will take a beautiful photo that brings back memories and that you can share with others.

Good night, friends, from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Rosie and Me: Day 20. Visiting Relatives

Some observations as I made my way from Little Rock to New Orleans today.

The hotel in Maumelle, Arkansas, was one of the nicest of the properties I’ve been in on this trip. It looked brand new, smelled of new construction, had nice carpeting and furnishings, and the staff was warm and welcoming. My room was large, well-appointed, was directly across from the fitness center, had modern NFC access built into the door and just seemed to be brand new. When I asked the clerk how long the hotel has been open, she said since 2011.

I have had a chance to meet several online friends on this trip, people I have come to know very well but had never met in person. I have known them for 1-5 years, and I dare say I’m closer to a couple of these friends than to most of my “real life” ones.

When I attended the dinner given by Elizabeth for my high school friends in Seattle, it was almost like we picked up right where we left off. After almost four decades, we could tell stories, joke and kid each other, and act like goofy teens again for awhile. We were in many ways the same people, but with lifetimes of experiences since our last meeting.

I drove into New Orleans today, marveling at how busy and active everything looks. When I drove down the same interstate in 2005, with a Red Cross on my rental car, we were the only people on the road except for the National Guard troops who let us into the city. I counted the number of windows blown out of the Sheraton Hotel building and heard gunfire down by the levee. Today, I heard the roar of traffic and the sound of streetcars. That visit saw New Orleans bruised and battered. This trip will see it happy and beckoning.

I have been very busy and active on this vacation, so much so that some of you have repeatedly told me to slow down! I have been following an itinerary that I set for myself. I’m doing things that I choose to do in places I want to go. Contrast this with work, when I am driven by schedules and job needs, and when I feel tired and worn down many days, not energized.

Tonight I had a wonderful New Orleans meal and great conversation with my old high school friend Mark Vanlandingham and his wife Becky at Boucherie on Jeanette Street. Tomorrow will be full of coffee, good food, walking, parks, art, military history, and just being out in the good warm southern air.

Things I’ve learned from all this?

Everything is relative.

Everything has context.

Everything is transient.

Everything has importance.

Everything will end.

As one of my regular readers often says to me, “Carpe diem!”.

I will do my best to make tomorrow one of the best days I’ve ever had.

Will you?

Good night, my friends, from New Orleans, Louisiana.