The Ragamuffin Street Beggar
‘Fate is the name God uses when He plays tricks on you’. I’ve forgotten where I read this quip, but I like it. That’s the only explanation for the turn of events Gayle and I experienced on our recent trip to New Orleans.
Usually, we try to make it over there every year, but last summer, we were busy babysitting Keegan and couldn’t seem to find either the time or the energy, especially the latter.
We always enjoy the ambiance and laid-back mood of the city, a mood that always seems as if the City-That-Care-Forgot were balanced delicately on the razor’s edge of the mysterious unknown where intrigue might be waiting around every corner.
Not this year.
The grand old Dame of Intrigue is more like a Ragamuffin Street Beggar.
When Gayle said she thought her throat was sore, we should have cancelled our trip. We didn’t; and it was; mine soon followed; and it was all downhill from there.
The first change we noticed was that the traffic coming in on I-10 was much more friendly. Not a bad thing at all. That didn’t keep me from once again taking the wrong exit and wandering around the business district for about fifteen minutes before I managed to orient myself (a task that seems to be growing day by day).
After checking in, we headed for the Riverwalk Mall. This year the escalator was functioning, so we didn’t have to climb almost two stories to reach the mall level.
Inside, most of the businesses were open. The problem was, you could have shot off the proverbial cannon down the mall and hit nothing but air.
Now we’re talking about a three-story mall, about a quarter of a mile long. I’ll swear there were more vendors than customers. Everywhere you looked, vendors were leaning on the counters with a big yawn.
But, we got our gifts for the home folks, then popped across the street to Mulates for a seafood dinner. That food as usual was delicious, but we were only two of perhaps ten people dining.
That was the story everywhere we went.
Next morning, we had puffy heads, raw throats, and stuffy nostrils, but we pushed on. After breakfast, as usual, we stopped in a Harrah’s. Now I know it was only nine a.m., but in that huge casino, I couldn’t count more than a dozen players. In past years, there were ten times the number at that time in the morning.
After an hour or so, we headed for the French Quarter.
In the past, traffic was horrific. This year, I could have punched out a couple text messages as I sped along the streets.
Our first stop was for tickets on the riverboat, Natchez. To our disappointment, the cruise had been canceled. Not enough customers.
Now you figure, this is the middle of June, vacation time. Prior to Katrina, the sidewalks would have been jammed. No such thing.
Over a dozen carriages sat empty in front of Jackson Square, waiting for paying passengers, and believe it or not, there were vacant tables at Café Du Monde.
The French Market was another surprise. Half of it was empty of vendors.
A morning of shopping and sightseeing that usually took us four hours lasted less than half that time.
So, we decided to head out to Chalmette Plantation, where Jackson held off the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
Chalmette has been closed since the hurricane. We were hoping to gain entrance this year. Again we were struck by the lack of traffic, but we were destined to run into one of those ‘good and bad’ situations.
The good thing was that Chalmette was open; the bad thing was that a train was blocking the entrance. We waited thirty minutes, but that sucker didn’t move.
Disgusted that everything seemed to be going against us, we headed back to the hotel for a short rest, hoping that would perk us up. It didn’t.
The one thing that hadn’t changed was the hotel’s Happy Hour. We enjoyed that.