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.

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