Saturday, January 30, 2010

Home Sweet Frigid Home

Brenda and I just got back from a few days down South. We went first to Biloxi, Mississippi. Stayed at the Isle of Capri Hotel/Casino. Didn't win any money but we had fun playing and  it was warm enough to walk on the beach in the sun and that felt oh-so-wonderful.

There is a lot about Biloxi that is sad. I'd been in the area before and remembered seeing block after block of gorgeous old historic homes on the Gulf Road. Now, it is just miles of empty lots, broken trees and foundations. They are rebuilding. The casinos are there and some condo complexes and here and there people have re-built their homes but mostly, it is empty memories of what used to be.

We ate at a wonderful French restaurant called Mary Mahoney's. How it escaped the hurricane, I don't know. It is one of the oldest buildings in Biloxi. There is a 2000-year-old live oak, called the Patriarch, in the garden dining room. I had Crab & Shrimp Au Gratin - crab and shrimp and angel hair pasta baked in crusty, golden cheese, perfect French bread, antique furnishings, attentive old black waiters exuding soft-spoken dignity.

Went to a souvenir store where Brenda ended up buying two hermit crabs for her great-grandchildren. They are so cute. Their shells have been painted so that one of Brenda's is like a little yellow bird with a topknot and the other is a jockey cap. You have to buy extra shells because as they grow, they shed their shells and have to move into roomier digs. They drink from a wet sponge.

Years ago, Brenda, LeAnn and I went to the east coast. Brenda, the chocoholic,  bought a three foot tall chocolate bunny at a candy store in Saratoga Springs and for the rest of the trip, the rabbit got favored treatment. For instance, I usually always had to sit in the back seat because Brenda and LeAnn are tall and long-legged while I have short, stubby legs. On this journey home, I had to sit on the hot, sunny side of the car because, of course, the rabbit had to have the shady side!

Now here Brenda and I are once again having to consider our passengers' comfort ahead of our own. We could only eat in a restaurant where we could park under a tree so the sun didn't beat down on them. And we had to let the car run in the morning so it was sufficiently crab-warm. We had to remember to keep their sponge wet (but we didn't have to worry about feeding them because crabs get car sick so we were told to wait until we got home).

From Biloxi, we drove to New Orleans. A friend of Brenda's advised her not to go. He'd tried once, got lost in a nasty section of town, panicked and when he found the interstate again, he got on it and hightailed it for home. Fortunately, we drove right to the French Quarter where we spent the day sightseeing and shopping and eating. We sat outside at the Cafe Du Mond drinking cafe au lait and eating beignets without even having to wear a coat.

New Orleans is one of my favorite places - elaborate iron grillwork draped in ribbons and bows, musicians playing blues on the streets, artists with their paintings leaned against the walls,  music spilling out from the bars, people of all sizes, shades and descriptions, bakeries and candy stores and gift shops.

Usually, this time of year, New Orleans in totally decorated in the green, gold and purple that symbolize Mardi Gras but this time, the Mardi Gras decorations had to share space with Saints stuff. New Orleans is a happy, happy town. One man told us he was coming from the airport in a taxi when the Saints won the play-off. He said you could hear a giant roar and people just started erupting into the street, hugging and kissing and dancing and cheering. When the New Orleanians heard we were from Indiana, they begged us to let them have the Super Bowl. "You won two years ago and after all we've been through, New Orleans needs this win." They almost convinced me although ,my kids would send an assassin after me if I told them I was going to root for the Saints instead of the Colts.

The night before we were going to leave, the weather channel was predicting a bad storm moving across the mid-section of the country.  We were in dread of having to travel through the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky on ice and/or snow-covered highways. But we lucked out. It was bright and sunny the entire way. We watched the temperature gauge on the car drop from 60 to 50 to 40 to 30 to 20....by the time we got to Indiana, it was 17 and by the time, we got to Wabash, it was 14 and snow-covered. Hard to believe we were drinking coffee outside in the sun just a day and a half ago. Someone remind me why I live in Indiana.