Friday, November 22, 2013

A Surprisingly Lovely Afternoon

Serendipity is the knack for unexpected discoveries. It is the talent for discovering things you didn't know you were looking for.

Last Saturday we set out for Costco, me, Tori and Max. They'd just opened the first one in New Orleans area – the closest before now was 300 some odd miles away in Alabama. I was very excited. Probably too excited, I admit it. I love me the Costco.

So we're heading east on Airline Boulevard. Tori asks, "Did you map it?" Of course I did. "When?" A couple of days ago. (Clearly, I had been looking forward to the trip to Costco.) I had it in my head, the route was very clear to me. But when we got to the street where I was supposed to turn left, there was a no-left-turn sign, as there are on so many streets here. So I had to go past, then work back to the main drag, where I turned right and started looking for the store.

And looking. And looking. You know how this goes. It persisted in not being where I though it should. Tori and Max were supportive – by which of course I mean they rode me unmercifully. All in good fun, ha ha! Silly dad!

After about five miles I knew it wasn't where I'd thought it was. The options were to retrace my steps, go home and remap it, or ...

We were approaching City Park. Tori had been there a year ago when the Lopez family came to visit. I had not. So we pulled in. It's a big park, and it includes the New Orleans Museum of Art and a sculpture garden. The museum is huge, and as we drove up, both of my wife and son – who both love me dearly – kept asking helpfully if maybe this was Costco. Of course it wasn't, it said art museum right on the front. 

We drove around, then parked between the sculpture garden and the coffee shop, where we ordered coffee (Max, hot chocolate) and the biggest beignets I've ever had. From my limited experience beignets are roughly the size of golf balls, and totally delicious. These were roughly the size and shape of throw pillows, and equally delicious. And we were served by a young waitress who looked more like an anime character than any human I've ever seen. So that was fun.

Then we walked through the sculpture garden. Wow!

'Heroic Man' by Gaston Lachaise. He's even more
impressive from the front.
I don't know art, but I know I liked this. Big bronze pieces, massive warriors and abstracts. Kinetic sculptures and pieces that interacted with the surroundings. More than 60 pieces in all, each displayed to best advantage among the wandering footpaths. OK, sure, there were a couple of pieces where I raised an eyebrow and said, "Really?" A couple of modern pieces, one that looked an industrial air conditioning unit, another like a pile of stuff that had fallen off a truck and the workers, mistaking it for art, left it in place, or in situ, as the artistic types might say.

But mostly, it was just a lovely day and a lovely way to spend that day, just enjoying the scene with my family. They even stopped chiding me (as much) about Costco.
I hadn't planned to visit the garden, of course, so I didn't bring my camera. All I had was the crapcam on my cell phone – which is not only not a smart phone, it's the world's dumbest phone. The photos aren't very good, don't do the place justice, so I'm only including a couple that didn't turn out completely shitty.

Instead I'll refer anyone interested to the website of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

Crappy photo of a cool Calder
We spent about half an hour over the coffee and beignets, and another hour in the garden. It was great.

Then we got back in the car. Tori correctly said that from where we were, there was a shorter way home than retracing our steps. But I backtracked, all the way up to the intersection with Airline. No Costco. She raised an eyebrow when I drove through the intersection without turning.

And sure enough, just a couple of blocks later, there it was. The brand new, bigger than life Costco that had opened just six weeks earlier. We spent the next hour or so there, and it was great. If I had turned right instead of left, we'd have been there in a matter of minutes.

But we also would have missed a beautiful afternoon in the park, and a much better time than I'd planned. Sometimes the wrong turn is the best one.

Apropos of nothing: Thursday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons was a pretty lackluster affair, But when it was over, and the Saints had hung on to win (or the Falcons had squandered their last chance, take your pick) people in my neighborhood were setting off fireworks. Seriously. People in New Orleans hate Atlanta. I mean hate. They hate everything about the city, especially the Falcons. Hate, hate HATE. It surprises me. Atlanta is fine in its own way, I guess, but New Orleans is so demonstrably superior, so much cooler in every way, that hating the other big southern city just seems like wasted emotion.

Friday, November 8, 2013

EJ Was Hot, the Doughnuts Were Hotter

Tori and I had waited long enough. Last night we went to the Easy Jefferson High School football game.

Max is in the band, so he's been going week after week. This week was the last game of the regular season and we didn't want to miss out, especially since ER is supposed to be pretty goo.

EJ was going into the game with a 9-0 record, ranked No. 10 in the state. They were playing a team that was 5-4, so it's not like the opponents couldn't play football. They'd beaten five other schools.

The EJ Warriors were just a machine. I was a sports writer/editor in my early days in the news business and I've seen a lot of high school football, some very good teams. EJ was a whole different level of good. They ran a no-huddle offense the whole game. Ten years ago you rarely saw a college team go no huddle, and these kids did it all game. Their place kicker, a skinny little kid, was booting the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs, and he only missed one extra point, when he was kicking into a wind.

E.J. kicked off to open the game, and forced a fumble on the other team's first play from scrimmage. Scored two plays later. The rout was on.

By halftime it was 48-0.

I mentioned a wind the kid was kicking into. It was a cold wind, blowing straight down the field and bleachers. When we moved here a year ago after four years in the tropics, I didn't have any warm clothing. I still don't own a jacket, just never got around to it. I wore a hooded sweatshirt and two shirts, and I was cold and getting colder. Tori was equally cold. When we weren't jumping up and cheering for another EJ touchdown, we huddled together.

There was an older couple sitting next to us, and after another score he and Tori chatted briefly about the team. She said something about how good the team was and what fun the kids were having down on the field. (Well, the other team wasn't having much fun, but that was their problem.) The guy allowed as how, yeah, being on that field under the lights was still one of his favorite memories.

"You played here?" Tori asked.

"Oh yeah, back in 1964." Then he kind of grinned and said, "Of course, I was only 8 years old at the time."

Halftime came. We watched the bands because, hey, we're band parents. But we were looking down the barrel of a very long second half. From where we sat in the top row of the bleachers, we could see, two blocks away – Krispy Kreme!

The band marched off the field. We marched out of the stadium and drove immediately to Krispy Kreme for coffee and crullers that definitely made things better.

By the time we got back, the game had just ended. The EJ coach had put in the second and third teamers for the last two quarters, so the final score was 48-0.

There's still the playoffs, so we might make ano0ther game or two. But only if I get a jacket. There's decent chance EJ will go pretty far. For the 10 games of the season, the Warriors have scored 456 points. They've allowed 32. Only three teams even scored on them, and only one game was even close. I can't imagine how good No.s 1 through 9 must be.

Kate is not a fan, so she didn't go to the game. But she was happy. We brought doughnuts home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crafting a Happy Halloween

Halloween was last week, and it was fun.

The family project was on full display. Tori made the mask and chain mail shirt that Kate wore, pictured here, and I think you'll agree it turned out amazing! We had been saving the pop top tabs from soda cans for months, and I spent a lot of time flattening them, bending them and then clipping. We all did a little of that. Spent so much time working with the pliers that I thought we'd all end up with bulging Popeye forearms. Then Tori figured out how to link them all together. The result was amazing.

It rained a little that evening – and for a little while it rained a lot – but the kids didn't let that slow them down. Much candy was amassed.We were Halloween central for Max and his friends, and they all came back soaked but delighted with themselves.

We had slightly – slightly – more trick-or-treaters than last year, six knocks on the door instead of last year's four. We're down at the end of the block, with two vacant houses to our left, so there's not a lot of incentive for kids to come down here.

I dressed in my pirate gear – well, what else? – and the first time I opened the door, growling, with cutlass in hand, I found five little kids and a dad. One little kid, three or four years old, took one look at me and ran! He eventually got coaxed back onto the porch and got his treat, and his dad thought it was funny. Made my night!

ODDS AND ENDS – The "most interesting man in the world?" I don't think so. The guy in the beer commercials is a cautionary tale for all of us getting to be of an age. He used to do all kinds of interesting things. Now he sits at a table and buys drinks for pretty girls and talks about how interesting he is. These days the most interesting men in the world, or at least in beer commercials, are the guys in the Heineken ads, plunging through the back alleys of exotic cities, dropping in on colorful bars and amazing parties with great bands and mysterious, beautiful women.

Still, either of those beers, Dos Equis or Heineken, beats the hell out of the mass produced American sludge passed off as beer. Anyone else notice this? Most of the ads for Coors Lite, Miller Lite and Bud Lite spend more time talking about the new shape of their bottles or their amazing cans than about the actual taste of their beer? That's because their beer tastes like horse piss. And I'm not talking about a healthy horse, here.