Sunday, 30 June 2013

Preparing for tomorrow

Hi everyone,

Typing this on a late Sunday afternoon.  Tomorrow I start the new job in Shepparton.

I'm looking forward to starting the new job, and petrified something will happen to cause it all to fall apart.  Silly, right?  I guess I just worry a lot.  I know it won't but ...

The thing that is most speaking to me is that my life starts moving forward again.  Not working, you feel like your life is somewhat frozen in amber.  You can make endless plans, and dream big dreams, but unless you're working and keeping the wheels turning, the dreams are just dreams.  So, as you can guess, I'm feeling pretty good.

I went into town this afternoon to scope out the parking situation near the workplace.  It's pretty good - a parking tower where you can park for $4.50 a day.  This is awesome: when I parked in Melbourne, parking set me back about $80.00 a week >shudder<.  I went from there to the small shopping mall on the way out of town.
Photo from here

I needed to get a few necessities - shaving cream, that sort of thing.  I also got a hand of bananas.  Partly for nutritional value, and partly because I'd heard you can get shoes up to a high sheen using banana peel.  I've now tried it and I can assure you it works like a charm!

While I was in the mall I did experience an augury that I'm pondering a little: the background music included Counting Crows' Omaha and Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles.  These two songs are ones which stick in my mind from times in my life when I kind of went on a wrong turn.  SOme of you may recall that 'Omaha' was on the Crows' album August and Everything After, which was released in 1993, but the song itself didn't become big out here until 1996-7.  'A Thousand Miles' got big in 2002-3.  As I've talked about previously, these were times when I kind of let my life go into drift, and just kind of started ambling from day to day rather than pursuing something better.

Picture from here

My feeling on the augury is this: that it's a warning to me not to let what could be a somewhat comfortable existence - work, living with parents, and living in an inland town - sidetrack the desire to be a proper father to my girls, to be a real and present part of their lives, to do something 'remarkable' with my life.  I know this shouldn't be a problem, but I also know myself, and I know that I have a tendency to drift that I have to keep an eye out for.  Fortunately I have good friends and great sisters who will kick my butt and keep me moving when I need it!

(Which reminds me: I need to arrange birthday presents for Oldest Sister Economist and Second Oldest Sister.  I have some great ideas worked out for them!)

Not much else to note.  Dad returned from Flinders this afternoon.  No rain here at the moment (or, it seems, for some weeks).

Looking forward to seeing what the next steps in my life will bring!

Friday, 28 June 2013


Hi everyone,

Short post to confirm that I made it back safely.  Typing this in one of the spells of being awake in the usual long sleep after a long flight.

Many, many thanks to everyone for how the trip went.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: the last day

Beginning this entry while waiting for Joni, the girls and Miss Bertha (mother in law) outside the Audubon Aquarium.


Continuing it in the food court line at the aquarium. Grace is being extra loving today and wanting to hold my hand all the time and saying "daddy daddy daddy". Rachel is a little more bashful. It makes me


I'm now sitting in departures at N.O. Airport, wondering if I'll get bumped from the flight to Los Angeles, which in turn gets me to Melbourne a day later. I don't sorta care about the delay. I'm not really in a hurry.

Today has been a happy, if 'clouded' day. I'd thought of squeezing a run in, but decided to give myself some extra sleep instead given the flights I have to do.

I got up and finished packing and tried to call D in Dallas for a catch up, but she wasn't about. I went down to the lobby and formally checked out and cloaked my bags for the day.


Ho-ly doggy-doo! I'm now on board flight UA856. You remember I said I was waiting to see if I'd get booted from this flight? I didn't get booted. But because I was a good sport about it, the fellow on the desk upgraded me to business class!!! That photo of a wineglass and china dishes below? That's my inflight snack. I don't have the hubris to post a selfie; you can assume that right now I look like the cat that swallowed the canary!

Now that I can focus on this post: after I checked out of the hotel I returned the rental car to the nice people at Avis, then walked to the aquarium. Joni and I had tossed around a few ideas for today, and came to the conclusion that another trip to the aquarium would be ideal for the girls and also for my flights. Pleasingly, Mrs Bertha had decided to come along too.

The girls took an extra interest in the aquarium this time. They were so sweet about spotting Nemo and Dory in the clownfish tank, and loved to watch the sea otters and penguins at play.

Lunch was had in the aquarium food court. Grace had a hot dog and Rachel pizza, and the both had fries too. I went for chicken strips; Joni also had pizza and Mrs Bertha just fries.

Grace was very keen to go and feed the birds again: the aquarium has a fenced in open air section where a big flock of parakeets flies free, and you can buy little sticks with birdseed attached to feed them with. Anyway, she wanted to do that a lot, so we did. It was a little busy in there, and the birds seemed well fed and not so interested in free food. But, Grace and I went up to the entrance to their cote and I lifted her up to where my arms were at full extension and she was standing on my collarbone, and this got her high enough to interest a bird in her stick of feed. She was SO happy! Joni did a similar thing with Rachel, and so she also got to feed them. Awwww!

After feeding the birds we stopped for ice-cream at the Haagen-Dasz at the aquarium, where Rachel had vanilla and Grace chocolate. We took them next to the jellyfish displays (lots of buttons to push which Rachel loved) and then took photos of them on the big statue of the frog prince in that part of the museum.

By this time, it was about the point to get them a toy each. Rachel selected a big pen and some windup toys, and Grace went for a mermaid doll in a handbag. I'd brought along a lot of pennies, so we let them throw them in the wishing pool for a bit and then took them to take a look at the Mississippi River.

It was getting a little late by then, and Joni wanted go beat a gathering storm on the way home, so we went to where she had parked. The girls both gave me lots of kisses and "I love you too"s, and I told them I loved them but I had to be away for a while. Poor Grace's first comment on me saying "I love you" was to say "My tummy hurts!". Afterwards she told me "have a safe trip daddy", so Joni must have outlined the state of play to her at some level. Then they drove away.

I walked back to the hotel, got my bags, and climbed aboard the taxi I was splitting with another passenger. Went to the airport, checked in, had some beignets and coffee and bought the Advocate for the flight. This brings me up to the present: in business class next to a pleasant Canadian lady.

I miss my little girls already. I miss Rachel's snuggliness. I miss Grace's exuberance. I already miss being able to make them happy and be a part of their lives.

I miss looking at the awesome ladies I know they'll grow up to be like and thinking: if only they could know how much I love and miss them.


LATER: now somewhere in the sky over New Caledonia. This flight has been passing swiftly - I've slept pretty well although I've been trapped in my seat the whole time.

I'm still trying to process my thoughts on the trip. One of Joni's observations was that it might be desirable for me to keep working over here indefinitely, on the grounds that the pay is good and there's a norm of 4 weeks leave a year, both of which are better than I would have in, say, Tulsa. I should add, I don't think she was trying to keep me away but, I don't know if she realized what she was suggesting: that I be only a 'holidays dad'.

Her point about the money is well made though, which pushes me in a fairly specific direction: Texas, which has a couple of things to recommend it -

(a) its economy is fairly sound, according to the friends of D who I met there.

(b) the cities in the east of the state - Dallas, Austin, Houston - are within two hours combined flight and drive of Thibodaux. That is, nearer than my office was to the house at Heatherton on a bad traffic day.

(c) I can sit the Bar Exam without having to do an LL.M. first. I don't want to practise law that much: it isn't my passion, but it DOES pay well and that's important right now. In any case -
(d) it's a state near obsessed with its own history: the Texas Historical Commission exists for a reason. So history and archaeology are more likely to be a part of my future there than anywhere else.

(e) according to the LA Times I picked up at LAX, the recent rises in house prices across the US hasn't markedly affected the Lone Star State. Actually, land around El Paso appears to be REALLY cheap, but may come with too high a risk of a nasty run-in with someone bringing drugs north of the border.

Granted, my little Cajuns may resent their father having thrown in his lot with what their great-grandfather called "les maudits Texans" (I'm mostly joking!). What they'll remember more than anything, though, isn't what money I made or what work I did, but whether I was there in their lives. Being in their lives, once a week on a computer screen and a few weeks a year... I don't think it's enough. The girls may not remember what cases their daddy did. But they'll remember if he didn't love them enough to be there.

In the city of Jazz: Down da bayou

Hi everyone,

I'm typing this a day late. Yesterday I went out to the town on the bayou where Joni's parents live. The day got off to a bit of a rocky start when I came out and found the hire car had been wheel clamped. I'd paid the parking fee but failed to put my ticket on the dashboard. Arrgh!

A hundred dollars later I was on my way. Speed limits are helpfully high here, and I was able to make up some time as I went.

As well as Joni's parents, her sisters Debbie and Bev were there along with brothers in law Dwayne and Jerry. Good to see them all again, although I had to remember that now, they're more friends rather than family.

The girls were thrilled to see me again, and even more so when they knew I'd brought presents! They'd already eaten, so the adults had lunch and they were given their first two presents - inflatable animals for riding from Younger Sister and Michael, and plaster models of a dinosaur and a dragon to paint, that I brought over. They loved both of them, and while Joni went and inflated the animals, Bev let them paint their animals (Grace the dinosaur and Rachel the dragon). They enjoyed the painting a lot, even if the animals became a steady dark grey as the colours got mixed!

I should add that lunch was as awesome as my mother in law's cooking always is. And there's something special about good food eaten with friends.

The day was warm, and at about 3pm Joni got the girls into their swimsuits and my father in law hooked up the sprinkler for them to play in on the lawn. They had a few difficult moments reconciling hot sun and cold water but loved it once they adapted. At one point Grace wanted to go down their slide, and she squealed in fun when I caught her at the foot of it, or whooshed her back up to the top of it! Another time she grabbed a little foam bat and a baseball she wanted me to pitch to her. According to father in law, her form is good even if her ability to connect with the ball is a work in progress. Rachel, meanwhile, was walking through (and backing through) the sprinkler, intrigued by how the patterns of water changed when she moved. Both of them soon learned daddy would come running if they said they'd stepped on something!

Joni gave them a bath after their time outside, and I gave them their remaining presents: Angelina Ballerina books and jigsaws from grandma Judith and grandpa John, little white dresses and shell bracelets from the Islands from Aunty Kate and Uncle Nik, and also a dinosaur jigsaw. They were double-happy with all of it and squealed with delight every time. Cheeky little Grace kept saying "more presents!"

By this stage in the afternoon it was about time for them to go home. I gave them kisses and had them in return, and they each said "love you too". Awwww...

I stayed long enough to select some of Aunty Bev's pictures of the girls' year and of her new grandbaby, Avery (from the photos, a regular cutie!). I drove straight back to New Orleans. Dinner of tuna and tomato sandwiches in my room, with a couple of beers and two bananas. I set to work packing, with a break to walk to Rouses to buy some Community Coffee, some cans of Ro-Tel and 4 bottles of the Extra Hot hotsauce. I was feeling a bit blue as I packed; happily the TV was able to serve up some '30 Rock' and 'American Dad' to lighten the mood.

Today has been the last day with the girls; I'll cover that in the next post.

Monday, 24 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: The house of catfish

Hi everyone,

It was a great evening for a dinner with the girls. I got a little lost on the way there (the gps took a little getting used to) and was 30 minutes late. One of Joni's good friends, P, had come g with her husband, and it was nice to catch up with them.

As soon as I came in Grace began chanting "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Faddy ...". She loves me! Rachel was a little quieter and cuddly with Joni. Joni had ordered their dinners already (catfish and fries for Rachel, who focussed on the fries) and shrimp and fries for Grace, who just about cleaned her plate. Each of the adults went with the Catfish as well.

After dinner we tool the girls out so I could get a photo with them in front of Spahrs' big catfish. There was a little 3' alligator lurking in the water at the back of the restaurant, and the girls were fascinated by it. Grace was convinced it was friendly! So lovesome.

I brought with them the gifts of the American Girl dolls I bought in LA, and they were a HUGE hit. The girls were thrilled! I gave Joni a pack of caramel timtams, and the girls also a small toy duck and a dinosaur model.

I got kisses and "love you too" from them and came back here. Watched some of the college baseball. Reading and blogging now. Definitely time to sleep.

In the city of Jazz: headaches and numberplates

Hi everyone,

Typing this while I have a much needed iced coffee (mild roast with wedding cake flavoring).

Today hasn't been over exciting. I gave myself breakfast out this morning, at the illustriously named Daisy Dukes on Chartres Street.

I love southern biscuits and gravy, but hadn't had them so far, so I had them and coffee and made a to-do list.  Daisy Dukes does 24 hour breakfasts and is worth going to: the service is clean and quick and the coffee is good. The biscuits were a little spongy, rather than buttery and flaky, although that's no real criticism: biscuits, to be their best, need a fair bit of time and work, which doesn't really sit with a high output kitchen. Anyway, whatever the biscuits lacked was more than made up for by the gravy: peppery, full of flavor and very hearty.

I went back to the hotel to try and rent a car from Hertz using the deals available through United Airlines. There then followed three damn hours of slow web movement, unhelpful websites, annoyance eating and climbing blood pressure. After the first two-and-three-quarter hours I went to the website of United's other partner, Avis. Within 15 minutes their system had taken the booking and within 30 minutes after that I was driving away from their Canal Street yard in a VW Beetle.  They couldn't have been more helpful!

Those of you who know me know that I'm somewhat disturbingly obsessed with number plates.  You'll understand why it's a real bonus for me to be driving around in a car with Tennessee plates!

Back to the Hotel and attended to some further paperwork and an email with Joni re arrangements for the next few days.

I guess I should get ready to go out to Spahrs at Des Allemands for dinner with Joni and the girls.  I need to select the presents to take to them.  Now that's a job to enjoy!

More later.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: A Day at the Museum

Hi everyone,


It has been a big 24 hours!

I think I said I was fairly tired after yesterday's outing to the Audubon Zoo?  I didn't realise how tired until quite a bit later.  After typing last night's post I went to Rouses Supermarket on Royal Street to get groceries for dinner (bread, tuna, fun stuff like that).  Don't judge, but this did take me past the Bayou Club and a bloody mary.  Anyhow, I continued on to Rouses and got the things I needed.  I also saw and grabbed a bottle of something I need to stock up on before I go.  That is, this -

Give me a syringe and some rubber bands and I will mainline this stuff.  Anyway, I had dinner and was watching one of those ghost-hunting shows on Travel Channel at about 10:00.  I woke up at about 2:00am with the TV still on, having simply dropped off to sleep on the bed. Annoyingly, I didn't really get properly back to sleep after this and it was a less than refreshed version of me that hauled himself out of bed this morning.

Today's plan was brunch/early lunch with Joni, the girls, Philip and Sabrina at Mulates and then visiting the Children's Museum.  I attended to a few emails and got the directions from Google Maps and headed off.

Image from here.

Mulates was about a 10 minute walk away (check out their website, by the way - it has a great audio!).  It's an upmarket Cajun restaurant with the usual dishes of po'boys, gumbo, jambalaya and the like.  Grace was in a very interactive mood and was sitting by me.  She wanted me to help colour in the little pictures on her kids menu (I souveniered this with her little scribblings on it - love it!) and wanted to talk and even to dance (yep, they had Cajun music on the background).  Rachel was a little more clingy and kept cuddling up to Joni.

We ordered gumbo and rice for the girls and onion rings as an appetiser for ourselves.  The girls weren't into the gumbo but both loved the rice and the french fries we got them as a fallback option.  I ordered the jambalaya as I hadn't had it yet on this trip.  I know it must seem like I never meet food in this city I don't love, but this, again, is a place you have to treat yourself if you're in New Orleans.  The prices are reasonable given the quality of the place, and the portion sizes are very generous (after a big plate of jambalaya, I can tell you I did not want to move!).

We walked from Mulates to the Children's Museum.  The Museum is, well, targeted at children.  It's best described as a series of indoor playgrounds designed to kindle young minds.  So, for example, there was a "Little Port of New Orleans" where kids could climb into a simple replica of a ship's wheelhouse, or balance blocks on a model of a ship without tipping it over.  Grace especially loved the "Cajun life" and "City life" sections, because they had models of houses that she called her "castles", and that she chiefly wanted me to play with her in, by tucking her into the model of a bed, or by having a little tea party.  And she'd say things like asking me to make her some coffee or potato salad while she was in bed, and then she'd jump up and say it was time to get up.  And her favourite things of all were anything she could slide down (it blew her little mind when I whizzed her back up the slides a few times!).  Another time she picked up one of the dolls and was rocking it as if to get it to sleep, and then decided it didn't want to sleep and so she pretended to drive it in a little wooden car.  It meant the world to me when she was saying "I love you too" when I told her I loved her, and when she said she saw me on the computer.

Rachel tended to be with Joni more of the day.  She showed one thing I'd never thought of - she is fearless going into enclosed spaces, dashing into a cardboard "secret tunnel" that ran along two walls of the museum.  She especially loved the little wooden railway, and liked having her own little hard hat and hi-vis vest to wear.  She was especially fascinated by the skeleton riding a bicycle that pedals when you pedal a bicycle beside it, and made a point of saying bye-bye to it when we left.

Bike at Louisiana Children's Museum

Image from here

We both felt it'd be good if the girls had a normal day and went to school tomorrow, so the plan is for us to meet somewhere for dinner tomorrow evening somewhere between their place and New Orleans.  I got kisses and "I love you toos" from both of the girls when we wrapped up.  That alone made the day a royal win!

I came back to the Hotel to regroup and upload photos and decided to go to Mass at St Patrick's Church on Camp Street.

St Patrick's is very much a church in the old style: the only altar is the high altar, so the priest consecrates the Host with his back to the congregation, as I think is done in the Latin Mass.  Also, there's a communion rail, and everyone knelt at it to receive communion.
Image from here

Initially these things struck me as a little odd, although they meant I was paying extra attention during the service.  I guess it might not be the sort of service I would want every week, but I think it's healthy to have your expectations set skew-whif every once in a while too.

I came back here and was intending to go for a run but somehow got sucked into the vortex of Nik Wallenda tight roping over the Grand Canyon.  I'm not sure what to make of it.  Maybe I'm too cynical, but
there seemed something "fake" about it all.  In the lead-up, it was as if Discovery Channel was pretending to be ramping up the tension, and the audience (well, the twittersphere) was pretending to be nervous.  It just seemed a little unreal - as if there was no way there would be any version that didn't have a happy ending.  As if they were talking about the possibility of death, and the viewers were sitting there, not really believing a word of it.

I had dinner while watching the tightrope walk and afterwards was feeling a bit cooped up, so I went out for a walk from the hotel to the Riverwalk and then past Jackson Square to the French Market and back.

And now?  Typing this, having an Abita satsuma wheat beer and listening to the jazz on WWOZ.  Tomorrow I need to do a little laundry and also arrange to hire a car for tomorrow and Tuesday.  Really happy about how this visit is going, and how many memories I'm getting to make with the little princesses.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: An' 'dey all aksed for you!

Hi everyone,

It's been a fantastic day here in NOLA.  What did we do?

I wen' on down to the Audubon Zoo
An' 'dey all aksed for you!
'Dey all aksed for you,
'Dey even enquired about you

I wen' on down to the Audubon Zoo
An' 'dey all aksed for you!
'De monkeys aksed, 'de lions aksed
An' 'de elephants aksed for you too!

Incidentally, the song itself is here.  It was always one of the girls' favourite songs, so it was great to take them to the zoo.

I got the bus out there this morning.  On my way from the street to the zoo I saw an incredible New Orleans image, a street lamp against an oak tree with Spanish moss.

Joni and the girls arrived with Phillip and Sabrina just after I got there and we went in.  It was a really great day.  We saw the canonical animals, including of course the elephants.  We wound up at the sealion pool just at feeding time and got the girls from their stroller.  Rachel didn't want to sit still and began to arc up a little, so Joni took her for a walk.  I held Grace on my lap during the show, which she enjoyed although she was always looking out for Mommy and her sister.  Almost as soon as the show was over she wanted to go find them: "Rachel's with Mommy ... I bet they're over there!" whereupon she'd begin striding in whatever direction she was facing.  Sabrina gave Joni and call and found she and Rachel were at the Dinosaur Enclosure (no, really, the Audubon Zoo has a Dinosaur Enclosure!).  We walked over there and found them - as soon as Grace saw them she broke into a run in her crocs to find her sister and Mommy.  Rachel, meanwhile, had been having a wonderful time chatting to each of the animatronic dinosaurs and watching as they moved and roared.  Outside, they loved digging in the sandpit to uncover the concrete and plaster "dinosaur bones" that were buried for little palaeontologists-in-diapers.

Picture from here.

We walked around for a bit more, and wound up in the "Louisiana Swamp" part of the zoo, which also has a suitably Cajun cafeteria in it.  The girls weren't that interested in lunch, but they loved the music.  I actually recognised the collections of New Orleans jazz and zydeco - they were the ones put out by Putumayo.

Louisiana Gumbo CD
Image from here

putumayo presents zydeco1.jpg
Image from here

The reason I mention it is that there was a little stage in the cafeteria which the children present immediately converted into a dance floor.  I don't mean to brag, but Grace and Rachel started dancing and didn't stop till it was time to go.  And they both loved dancing with Daddy - I was so stoked and so happy!!!

The next port of call was the Cool Zoo - essentially, a small water park in a fenced off part of the zoo.  Joni had recommended I bring clothes in case I got splashed.  Best. Advice. Ever.  The girls wanted to go up to go down the water slides.  Because there were a lot of bigger kids, my two three-year-old angels were struggling to make headway, so I went up and was swiftly soaked through.  Both of the girls went down the water slides about 10 times, with me taking them up and Joni catching them at the bottom.  They adored it!  At one point Grace felt Rachel was taking to long to slide and gave her a push in the back - little ratbag!  They're fearless little troopers too - despite the bigger kids and some fairly strong jets of water, they couldn't wait to climb back up the steps to the slides.

The next step was the carousel

Carousel at the Audubon Zoo
Image from here

Grace wanted a white horse with a green bridle, and I stood with her.  She immediately nicknamed him "Rowr".  Rachel went for a black puma and Joni stood with her.  She said it was the first time Rachel had been able to ride a carousel without getting upset.  They both loved being able to go round and round, and I'm double pleased with them.

By then it was a little after three, and the girls were getting tired.  Joni and the girls as well as Philip and Sabrina then headed off, and on their recommendation I walked across Audubon Park and got the streetcar down St Charles Avenue.  While crossing the Park, I passed the Louisiana First World War Memorial and Roll of Honour.  I noted that, interestingly, it gives the dates of the conflict as 1917-1919.  It also lists roughly the same number of names as the War Memorial at Colac, despite that latter being a medium sized town in a country at war from 1914-1918.  I'm not sure what to make of that.

I got to the streetcar, which only boards from the front-left rather than the side.

It provided a slow but very scenic ride down St Charles Avenue, which has the classiest and most beautiful architecture in New Orleans.

Image from here

I got back to just before the corner of St Charles and Canal Street and walked back to the Hotel.  I uploaded today's photos to Facebook, had a shower to wash the chlorine off and sat down to type this post.

Tomorrow will be brunch at Mulattes and then the Children's Museum.  I'm looking forward to it already!

Friday, 21 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: Red beans and rice

Hi everyone,

I'm starting this post while I sip an Abita "Purple Haze" and wait for my red beans and rice at the Oceana Grill. It's been a pleasant evening so far: I've had equal amounts of Dixieland and Cajun music, and some of the best Bloody Marys I've ever had.  It's a stunning night to be in New Orleans; that full moon says to me that there may be some sore heads in the morning.

fter dinner I expect I'll head back to the hotel, although part of me is inclined to go back to the Bayou Club for another hit of Cajun music. I know I should turn away from it, after all that's happened, but why should I give up something I love, and that I think my little princesses will love too?  Nose/sever/face/spite?  In that regard, can I give a plug to Brandon Miller & the Louisiana Inferno who can really put some life into a venue and some energy into the music!

The musical highlights of this evening have included a Dixieland version of Irving Berlin's "What'll I do?" and a street duet consisting of an electric guitar and a violin playing a stunningly imaginative version of Gershwin's "Summertime".

The first of these especially encourages me somehow. I love Dixieland as a musical style, and "What'll I do?" is something I used to croon to Joni when we were going to part. I don't at all think this presages me and Joni getting back together, but somehow the musical confluence seems to me to be a good augury.

Oceana Grill is very good. It's just off of Bourbon Street. For anyone aged over 25, this is a plus. Bourbon Street is fun, but there comes a stage where the smell of drying vomit loses its appeal. The Grill is busy - there's a constant stream of people in and out - but still feels spacious and unhurried.

The red beans and rice arrived after about half a beer and was 95% of perfection. The red beans were velvety and full of flavor. I added a fair bit of hot sauce, although that's because I tend to like it a fair bit more spicy than usual. My only criticism was that the sausage in it came as a single link, rather than in pieces. On the other hand, it was wonderfully smoky, so I'd call that an overall win.

I went for dessert as well - bourbon pecan pie - which achieved the neat trick of not being over-sweet and let the pecans be the star of the dish (does anyone think I've watched too much Iron Chef?).

In a nutshell, I'm a big fan of this place and can assuredly recommend it!

Dinner completed, I think it's time I went back to the hotel and got some sleep in ahead of the zoo tomorrow.

See you then!

In the city of Jazz: The Reunion

Hi Everyone,

I'm happy to report that the visit went like an absolute charm!

As noted in the previous post, I'd arranged to see Joni and the girls at the Audubon Aquarium this afternoon at 2:30pm.  I was pretty nervous as I waited.  On the stroke of 2:30 Joni and the girls arrived, along with Philip and Sabrina.  I couldn't wait to kiss my little girls.  They're even more beautiful, and they've gotten so big!  They did remember me, too.  Although Grace, with her mind for getting to the heart of things, was far more interested to get in and see the fishies!  I'd taken the most portable present I had, which were two beautiful little bracelets from Auntie Jennie, and the girls loved them.  Joni had prepared for me some photo books for me and for the family of the girls since they've been back.

It was a great visit.  They were sweet and just the happy little ladies I remembered.  They were able to say when they wanted to go in another direction or to look at something else.  They loved the big fish tank, and Grace said they looked like monsters.  Rachel was sad that the penguins couldn't get out and come to her - she loved them.  They both said "bye bye" to the mannequin wearing a diving suit!
(image from here)

By far the biggest hit, though, was when they went into the bird house. and could feed the little budgies and parakeets with birdseed on a stick.  Oh how they giggled and panicked when the birds came close or swept close overhead!  And then they'd call out to the birds, to try to persuade them to come closer.  There was one little yellow bird that perched on my back and shoulder a few times, and Rachel started calling it the "daddybird".

We rounded out the visit with Haagen-Daaz - Grace had chocolate and vanilla and Rachel double vanilla. 

They're so beautiful, and so sweet.  Looking forward, a lot, to seeing them at the Zoo tomorrow with Joni and Philip and Sabrina.

In the city of Jazz: morning coffee

Hi everyone,

Typing this while I have a coffee. It's been a quiet morning so far. I went to the Louisiana Supreme Court this morning in the hopes of observing a case, but the guards explained nothing was being heard, so I went for a long walk down Canal Street to get some air and some sun.

As you know, this afternoon I'll see my little girls for the first time in 18 months. I'm really happy, but also pretty nervous. I hope they remember me, just a little. I hope they van take in that I love them more than I've ever loved anyone or anything. And I hope they know that for all my failings, I always wanted the best for them.

More soon,

Thursday, 20 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: An awareness of memories

Hi everyone,

Here I am in New Orleans. I'm staying at the Pelham Hotel, just outside of the French Quarter. it sounds very grand; actually I got an amazingly good deal on the room - less than half the going rate everywhere else!

The Pelham could fairly be called a pocket version of the Monteleone, both in architectural style and in its 'feel' of overall classiness.

It's close to the river, to Lee Circle and to the Quarter, so you could do a lot worse than to stay there.  My own room is an internal one; that is, no windows, so it's pitch black if the lights are off.  This can be a bit disconcerting if you wake up at 7:30am and can't believe it's not the middle of the night

After I'd checked in and unpacked, I decided to follow D's advice and start building my own new memories.  Added to which I was interested to see how I'd go walking these streets.  I started at the Riverwalk

and Jackson Square

I followed up, somewhat predictably, by walking past the Monteleone and going to Bourbon Street.  I stopped at the Tropical Isle for the usual hand grenade.  They're actually not that great, unless you like your alcohol served very sweet, but I've always had one when I come to New Orleans, and there was no reason not to have one now.  There was a decent band playing country rock crowd pleasers, and I felt pretty good.  I had a few more drinks hither and yon and also dinner in the Quarter, and made a few more memories of my own.

I can truly say that I wasn't getting bent out of shape as I wandered around.  I love this city, and this place.  Joni is, honestly, really neither here nor there.  It's up to me to make myself happy, and to be OK inside my own skin.  Tying my sense of satisfaction to someone else seems, I guess, self destructive.

Today I really had no plan.  I had no yen to go back to Bourbon Street during the day, so I just began walking in what seemed to be the direction to the Superdome.  This took me past the World War Two museum.  I was interested to note that three things in close proximity in their grounds were parts of Nazi infrastructure from WW2, and a piece of the World Trade Centre from September 11, and I wondered if this was intentionally paralleling the Third Reich and Al-Qaeda.

Some more walking and I found myself back at the Louisiana Civil War Museum.  This is certainly worth a few hours to visit.  It's a Museum in the old style: the displays, aside from one video, are all static, and there's limited interpretation, although this is more than made up for by the sheer volume of material which is brought together.  I got the impression that the displays in the main hall, of restored flags, uniforms, weapons and the like, are more or less permanent.  In an annex to the side was what appeared to be the more variable space, which explored subjects like military surgery of the time, how the coloured population of Louisiana reacted to the war, and how Louisiana was involved in the battle at Shiloh.  Overall the museum tended to focus very much on the military side of the conflict, without exploring causes at all and tending to sidestep discussions of slavery.  I couldn't blame them for this: it seemed to be run largely by volunteers, who one might expect would have little desire to get into fraught interpretive debates on issues that remain contentious today.

I came back to the Hotel after the museum and decided to go for a run, which I've logged here.  This run was a real punisher, in the hot damp heat of the afternoon.  I managed 4 miles along Ol' Man River but by the end I was pouring sweat and utterly exhausted.

Back here I've had a shower and typed this.  I got some groceries yesterday and so breakfast and lunch today have been apples and almonds - good clean food.  Still, I feel the need for something a little more substantial now, and I'm thinking it's time to break my po'boy drought.

Big day tomorrow - seeing the girls and Joni in the afternoon.  Big smiles at this end, and the faint feeling that everything is going to be alright after all.