I almost didn't go. I was still sitting here in the house at 1am Saturday morning, frozen almost solid with fear. What was I afraid of? Driving? No, I've been driving for a long long time and am a really good driver. Being alone? No, I've been alone many times before. Besides, I'd have my cell phone and the CB radio with me "just in case". The cell phone was fully-charged and I'd checked out the radideo just a day or so before to make sure it was working. The car holding up? No. I'd had everything checked out - and I mean everything, including the tires and even that 'doughnut' in the trunk! - and was assured that it would make the trip there and back just fine.
So what was I afraid of? I was afraid of falling asleep at the wheel, that's what! It's a fear you wouldn't fully understand unless it had already happened to you, OK? I'm not going to go into any details here, but - suffice it to say - I fully understand this fear.
So anyway, there I was, semi-frozen. I made the executive decision to get my rear end off of the chair, take a shower, make some fresh coffee, wash my hair, put my pillow in the car and fill the little cooler (which had grapes and cheese in it) with ice. I'm pretty sure, if it had not been such an obscene hour, I would have called Marilyn (see this post to find out who Marilyn is and the background for my trip) and cancelled the trip.
But it was, and I didn't. I was in the car and driving by 1:30am, on my way - some 350+ miles - to New Orleans.
CB-land is so much different now from when I was doing a lot of out-of-town driving many years ago. In April of last year I published a four-part series on "CB memories" ... just do a search on my blog for them if you're interested. Some really good stories there.
Nowadays, tho, there's not a whole lot of "chatter" on the radideo. At least, I didn't run into much. In fact, at one point on my trip over I took an off ramp into a well-lighted area just to make sure everything was all plugged in and working. I was all prepared to buy another CB radio when - all of a sudden - someone "came back" to my call for a radio check. My radio was working just fine, as it turns out!
I pulled into the Louisiana Bridge Association building's parking lot around 7:30am. (I had followed John Onstott's directions exactly!) Now what? It was only 7:30. I wasn't due to meet Marilyn for another five hours. I decided to park in the shade of a couple of trees and take a nap.
When I awoke a couple of hours later, I discovered that I was hungry and decided to try and find a McDonald's - their breakfasts are edible - and would figure out what I wanted to do from there. It was only while I was eating breakfast that I realized how many years it had been since I had last seen New Orleans. I thought, "Why not take advantage of the fact that you're here and see what you can see?" And so, I began driving.
I drove past (what seemed like) mile after mile of above-ground cemeteries. Are you familiar with those? Galveston has some, but I had forgotten how much acreage they take up in New Orleans. I wonder if our ancestors would have given much thought to how much space their concreted-in tombs occupy? None whatsoever, I would imagine. But it's a thought, isn't it? With our ever-increasing population and subsequent demands for even more of earth's finite space, how can we continue to 'honor our decedents' in the same way?
What's the answer? Well, I am most definitely not in favor of simply bulldozing in/over hundreds of bodies. What an abhorrent idea! The thought of cremation is appealing. I guess what I would propose is some sort of "living testimony" ... a combination of photos/memories/thoughts of those that have come before compiled (and most sacredly-kept) into a 'book' of some sort that would be passed on from generation to generation.
Do you think I'm living in a dream world here? Geez, I sincerely hope not!
Moving on. ... ... I drove through many of New Orleans' older neighborhoods, and managed to go past a building where my daughter had gone to school when we lived there over 30 years ago.
I arrived downtown. Decided to bypass the French Quarter, and opted to take the ferry over to Algiers on the west bank (altho it's east, I know it's confusing!). When we lived there, I had never taken the ferry across the Mississippi River, so this was a new venture for me.
My eyes were all over the place during our short trip across the river. I noted the spot where I had accidentally run into Ellis Marsalis. I spoke to the ferry attendants (briefly) about how long it had been since I had lived there and how this was my first time ever taking a ferry.
I wanted to see the house in Algiers where I had lived. More than one or two phone calls later to my daughter - thank the good Lord for cell phones! - I found it. And ye gods! Can you believe it? The subsequent tenants/owners had painted the bricks! !! !!! Blue. Not a terrible blue, but blue, nonetheless! Not only that, but they had gotten rid of something-or-another (I think my daughter described it as a hurricane wall), the 'white' under the eaves of the roof was dirty and sagging and the whole thing appeared as tho it was a junk heap in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't believe it! I mean, I kid you not here!!
Lawdy lawdy! As I was now running out of time, I opted to pay for a toll over the bridge instead of waiting for the ferry back and was subsequently met with construction on I-10 West heading back out to Metairie (where the bridge studio is). When it was five minutes or so before I was due to meet up with Marilyn, I called to tell them that I was "just around the corner".
Got there. It seemed like only yesterday since I had last seen Marilyn. But, it wasn't, of course. Thirty-two years! But you know what? I'd have recognized her anywhere!
"We" (I/moi) had an absolutely fantabulous time. The hands were memorable. Some pretty good-sized teaching hands there, as well! I am SO glad I went, I can't even begin to tell you!
The party was for John, and he (along with his wife, Eleanor) was more than eloquent in his acknowledgements of everyone present -- and there were a ton of people there! -- and in his congratulatory phrases of thanks for any and all contributors along the way to his quest in achieving such a magnificent stature as a "Grand Life Master".
I am SOOO glad I went! Had to leave New Orleans a little after 6pm, as I could feel the sandman calling, but managed to make it back into my beloved Texas before I had to pull over and take a nap. Anyhoo, guys, I'm back. I'm OK. Hope that all of you are the same, and I'll talk atcha later, OK?