Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Orleans: Celebrating a Princess's Birthday in a Fabled City.

My good wife Barbara just had a big birthday.

Neither one of us wanted a big party at home. We both knew she would just be working her tail off to make sure everybody had a good time.  I wanted HER to have not just a good time -- but a great time.

"What if we went somewhere to celebrate?" I asked her.

She perked up. "Hmmm ... hmmm," she said, obviously interested.

I took that to mean yes. "Well, where would you like to go?"

Her reply was instant. "New Orleans," she said.

"New Orleans it is," I said.  She broke into a huge smile. We hugged on it.

And so for 5 days we went to the birthplace of Jazz where 7-days-a-week live music is the heartbeat of New Orleans; where there is a deep cultural mix of French, Spanish, English, Americans, and waves of  slaves from Africa (plus many free Africans);  where it's exotic history includes Voodoo, pirates, public duels to the death, grand mansions of early tycoons from various parts of the world; and where, by no means least, its mouthwatering Creole cuisine is admired worldwide.

New Orleans is a story in itself. But I write here  not so much about New Orleans but primarily about Barbara's birthday celebration in an ancient, fabled city. And it is less "write" and more letting photos tell the story. And so here we go:

Here we are on Bourbon St. in the French Quarter. Our hotel, the Royal Sonesta, is across the street.

The princess in the Royal Sonesta lobby -- with properly uniformed servants.



                                                                                         
Milady in the lobby of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. 

                                                                             
Barbara on her birthday before dinner and  a live jazz performance.

For Barbara's actual birthday dinner, I had tipped off the restaurant managers that this was her big day -- and they went all out. Bowing and scraping before the princess, they presented her with a special birthday desert.





At the after-dinner jazz performance, the female singer of the jazz group, shown below, suddenly looked at Barbara and said, " happy birthday, Barbara" -- and began singing happy birthday to her. The whole audience joined in.

How did the jazz singer know  it was Barbara's birthday?  I tipped her off, of course.  Barbara was taken totally by surprise. And, judging by her huge, nonstop smile, she was okay with it -- maybe more than that.



I was surprised she was surprised. Earlier at lunch I had pulled the same trick. Saying  that I had to go to the men's room, I clued in the restaurant staff that it was her birthday. In no time at all, the  staff surrounded our table singing happy birthday and presenting Barbara with a birthday cake with lit candles.

Here are photos of Barbara with a New Orleans lunch fit for a princess and fellow diners clapping.



Now  scenes  of Bourbon Street's non-stop partying, street artists, music, and crowds -- and you never know what.

 



 


The police were on duty, but they never took me aside. They give street performers a lot a leeway.  While  the non-stop street entertainment is risque for sure, the police also know that it draws the free-spending crowds that feed the New Orleans economy.

However, I was taken aback by the human sculpture giving me the finger and the near-naked woman enticing and posing with passersby.

Stop! Don't go away. Let me make up for the risque scenes with more respectable ones.


Another big highlight was meeting Nicky Connor in New Orleans and spending the day with her. She is shown above with Barbara taking in a common sight, a colorful horse drawn carriage. Nicky and her sister Kim grew up next door to our house in Worcester, Mass. As little girls, they used to knock on our door and ask if I could come out and play.  After big snowstorms, the three of us would build a big snowman in our front yard.

Great memories.  But now, having graduated from WPI with a BS and MS in biomedical engineering, Nicky is all grown up and living in Baton Rouge and starting a new job at LSU.  At LSU,  Nicky is a clinical associate at the university's health science cancer center.

Nicky came and picked us up and chauffeured us all over the place.  She took us to her favorite restaurant where the three of us had lunch, talked of the old days, laughed, and had a ball.  At interesting places, we got out and walked.  In the course of the day, we probably walked 10 miles!

Following are photos from our great day with Nicky:


One day we spent most of the afternoon on a guided tour of the site.  The driver of the van, born in New Orleans and lived there his whole life, told story after story as he took us to old above-ground cemeteries, along the path of Hurricane Katrina,  through old neighborhoods, past the home of Brad Pitt.  (There was no sign of him, bummer.)

In the photo below, he explains why burials are above ground. The October 5 cover of  the New York Times Magazine summed it up this way: "Every hour, an acre of Louisiana sinks into the sea."

 
We also took the the St. Charles streetcar, the oldest in the world, it's entire distance and back. For $1.25 each in exact change, we could ride the streetcar all day, getting off and on at interesting stops.  We got off and walked around some of New Orlean's oldest, most beautiful, storied neighborhoods.

Following are photos from our streetcar hopping:



The last photo was a panorama of the swimming pool at the Royal Sonesta. Quite a change from Bourbon Street just steps away outside. I had some great swims while Barbara watched, read, looked around, and was at peace.  I even caught her napping.

Mission accomplished?  I hope so.


NOTE:  I have a new short novel, Something Tells Her. Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring, and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive?  The E-book is  available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 

E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.






















Tuesday, September 09, 2014

What a Month! In Edmonds, Washington and Cannon Beach, Oregon, a Great Family Adventure


Good news. Instead of reading a long story, you just LOOK -- and see pictures of my visit to Edmonds, Washington and Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Well, to be honest, there are captions. If that is too much, sorry. I'm trying to please! 

A panorama of Cannon Beach, taken by my wife Barbara, with the famous Haystack Rock in the distance.




We spent nearly a month in Edmonds, Washington visiting our daughter Misha, her husband Ed, and four grandkids, Mia, Bella, Max, and Talula. While there, we all piled into two cars for the 4-hour drive to Cannon Beach.

Now photos from Cannon Beach:

The gang --from left, Misha and Ed, holding Talula, myself and Barbara, and Bella, Max, and Mia (far right).


At night on Cannon Beach, the fun goes on. Here we roast marshmallows.

For more on Cannon Beach with all the links you need, click here.

While in Cannon Beach, Mia, Bella, and Max competed in an Irish dance competition, or Feis, at nearby Seaside. It was fascinating. Irish dancing is Gaelic in origin, high-stepping, and intricate. The Feis drew dancers from many states and Canada to Seaside's big convention center downtown.

The competition was fierce. But Mia, Max, and Bella all did well! Max was awarded a First Place for one of his dances, at his first Feis! Mia and Bella were awarded medals and trophies for most of their dances, both placing First in at least one dance each! Here they are below displaying their awards with their proud mom Misha.

Winners all! Misha altered and sewed Mia's dance outfit and made Max's vest. Next she'll make a dress for Bella!

In Bremerton, we went to the storied century-old Kitsap Forest Theater where we saw Mia and Bella perform as orphans in the musical "Annie," both with speaking roles. Deep in the forest and accessible by a quarter-mile dirt footpath, the show was, amazingly, of professional-quality.

Annie, Daddy Warbucks and his household staff belt out a song.
Mia, standing left, and Bella, sitting second from the right, play their roles as orphans.




After the show, we got to chitchat with the performers, including Daddy Warbucks himself.
We even got a chance to pose with "Annie," the star of the show, played by Sophie.

After the performance I went on a hike with Sophie's dad, Mark, to check out Kitsap's famous Big Tree. Mark had performed in the production, a first for him. He had no problem playing a small part while Sophie starred. He was proud of his little girl. (In the photo of the ensemble above, Mark is the servant second from left in the formal black suit.)

Now that is one big tree! It's also over 500 years old!


Kitsap Forest Theater is a magical place. For its remarkable history and operation, click here.


I also had a great time playing with the grandkids.

"Bald is beautiful," I told the kids. They said I needed hair and gave me some. A scary monster behind me! I had no idea. 
Through it all, Talula was, well,  all grown up. To her. 

The girls enjoy a nearby playground where I took them.
Max went flying from the neighborhood swing.
Max displays blackberries that he and I picked. We ate as we picked. Yummy!



 Ed is a great cook. His salmon dinner was delicious. His eyes are closed just to annoy me. It worked.

I also annoyed Ed. Here he is getting ready to toss his grumpy father-in-law in the ocean.

As is my habit, I also took off wandering here and there. On one such outing, I ended up at the beautiful Edmonds shore. I came across a few scenes I just had to capture.


When the divers seen in the first photo emerged, they kindly let me take their picture.

 Now was that too much to read?

What? I hear moans and groans! People, people, you can't be serious!

Now what the hell am I gonna do?

So long and keep moving.


NOTE:  I have a new short novel, Something Tells Her. Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring, and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, rears back and kicks him you-know-where. Leaving him grabbing his crotch and yelping like a hurt dog, Jane runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive?  The E-book, is now available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 

E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.




















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