“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Maximilien Luce 1896 oil on canvas Moonlight on Charleroi Canal
“Moonlight on Charleroi Canal” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Maximilien Luce

                   

“I don’t know what map I misread,
its roads now slipped into dust,
what cul-de-sacs and one-way streets
could have brought me to this,
my life driven as if through fog into a river.” ~ Judy Jordan, from “Fragments in February”

Tuesday afternoon. Rainy and cool, 50 degrees.

I think that my body is trying mightily hard to succumb to my annual fall cold, but I really don’t have time for that. This time last year I had a houseful of company, and I was heading for yet another case of pneumonia, but this year I made sure that I got a pneumonia vaccine along with my flu shot, so maybe . . . fingers crossed.

So, we’re back from our epic New Orleans trip, and I don’t even know where to begin, so how about if I just ramble a bit and see where it takes us? You good with that?

Emil Nolde Half Moon over the Sea 1945
“Half Moon over the Sea” (1945)
by Emil Nolde

Great.

So we finally made it past the boundaries of Hampton Roads last Monday around 8:30 a.m. (or so) after getting turned around almost immediately, this after a planned departure time of 6 a.m. (yes, I know, although we did pull out of the driveway before 7). We both thought that we knew where we were going, but apparently, not so much. Picked up the rental the evening before, and even that turned out to be a mess: We were supposed to get an Altima, but the guy at the counter said that the Altima was in bad shape, so he talked Corey into a Mustang convertible.

Okay, so at one point in my life the idea of traveling in a Mustang convertible would have been awesome, but the very thought of traveling for 16 hours in such a low-slung car made me uncomfortable, so another trade, and for only $10 more a day . . . ended up with a Mazda CX5 (I believe), which was pretty comfortable and great on gas; however, the upgrade pretty much negated all of the bargain shopping I had done online, along with the discount that I had found on one site. Oh well . . .

“The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind, and light. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “The Celtic Underworld as Resonance”

The drive wasn’t too bad as far as road conditions and weather, nothing like the great blizzard we drove through a few years ago, and we arrived in New Orleans around midnight (I think, it was kind of a blur). The good news is that our hotel was right in the French Quarter (Place d’Armes, definitely worthy of repeat visits), and they had upgraded us to a suite at no extra charge. We had a lovely balcony, and the ambiance was so nice, very old New Orleans. Parking, however, cost us $30 a night, so we made mental notes to try to find street parking for the second night, which we were actually able to do. Woo Hoo.

Konstantin Korovin Moonlit Night period Winter 1913 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night. Winter” (1913, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Korovin

So we got up early on Tuesday after only about six hours sleep and headed out to the first company that Corey wanted to visit. The website had stated that applications would be taken at both locations, but the New Orleans office directed us to their other headquarters, which was in Galliano. Our game plan had been to go to the NOL office first and then to Cut Off and then to Covington. That plan was changed immediately and we had to regroup and head to Galliano. Unfortunately, the first company seemed completely disinterested in him, which was a set back as this was his first choice.

Fortunately the second company on our list was just down the road from Galliano. This company was very interested in Corey, but the downside was that they weren’t hiring until February. The good news is that they are building a bunch of new boats/ships and have plans to hire 300 people in early 2014, so it looks very promising; however, by the time Corey finished speaking with the recruiter it was 3 p.m., and there was no way that we’d make it to Covington in time to speak with anyone before COB.

This meant a bit of a delay as we had planned to leave late morning Wednesday and possibly to stay somewhere on the route home. We had no idea how much of a delay it would turn out to be . . .

“On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The River of Bees”

Tuesday evening, back in New Orleans, we roamed around the French Quarter, spent some money, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too pricey. Best crab cakes I’ve ever had—hands down. We had originally brought going out clothes with us, but neither of us had the energy to change, get gussied up, as it were. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what you wear (we saw one guy in a Spiderman outfit, and another one in some kind of monster get-up with spikes—pictures to come).

Nicholas Roerich Spell period New Moon period 1938 tempera on canvas
“Spell. New Moon.” (1938, tempera on canvas)
by Nicholas Roerich

So we acted like tourists, drank libations as we meandered along the streets, bought souvenirs and a few Christmas presents, then headed back to our very comfortable room and slept the sleep of the very tired. On Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the famous outdoor Cafe du Monde (only two blocks from our hotel), home of the famous delectable beignets. I inhaled my portion and delighted in my very large cafe au lait. Then back to the hotel to check out and get back on the road to Covington and company number 3.

Now while Corey was doing all of these interviews, I was hanging out in the car, pirating wi fi and trying to do something to amuse myself, mostly tumblr and some lazy magazine browsing. Company number 3 turned out to be super interested in Corey and said they’d be in touch. We plotted our route home, found a nearby Sam’s Club, gassed up, and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Corey got a call from #3 asking if he could come in and fill out paper work. Second big Woo Hoo.

Great news, but . . . he needed to do a drug test and physical, as well as an agility test, and none of that could be done until . . . wait for it . . . Thursday . . .

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Sweet Thursday

So there really wasn’t a choice, was there? I called the rental company, added another day, and we regrouped, again. Fortunately #3 paid for our hotel and breakfast for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Small woo hoo only because it was a regular hotel and not the très cool accommodations from which we had just decamped, but hey, free . . .

Eugene Fredrik Jansson Moonlight Night 1896 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Eugene Fredrik

Thursday morning on to clinic for physical. Three hours later (I really don’t know what they do that takes three hours, but Corey said it was a whole lot of waiting). Slight hiccup on his physical (nothing major), and then around the block to the physical agility place.

Finally at 3 p.m., we were done. Decided to go ahead and eat dinner then hit the road so that we could try to make up some time (hooray for 70 mph speed limits and radar dectectors). Found a little locals restaurant and finally had our genuine Po Boys, shrimp and oyster, respectively. Full stomachs, weary bodies and minds, we hit the road around 4:30.

Everything had happened so fast, and we had had so very little time between everything that I think we were both kind of shell-shocked by this point.

“I’m forging my note to the future, recording
all I know of this moment before
the moment completes itself” ~ Chris Forhan, from “The Taste of Wild Cherry”

Corey drove for a while. I took over in the middle of the night. We stopped in a rest stop somewhere and napped for an hour like about 20 other weary travelers and many, many truck drivers (did you know that Virginia doesn’t let you do this? Of course not.). Anyway, we pulled into our driveway a little after 10 a.m.

Milton Avery Harbor at Night 1932
“Harbor at Night” (1932, oil on canvas)
by Milton Avery

We’re both still processing everything. Corey has to go back in December for training, and we’re not sure how many weeks that will be, and there is a possibility that he’ll go straight from training onto a ship. So much to digest.

Brett and the dogs were very glad to have us home; the dogs had apparently pined away for us and had made Brett’s life miserable.  Corey immediately fell into bed, but I was too wired by then, so I unpacked and cleaned, hoping to exhaust myself, but that never really happened. The weekend was a total blur, and I feel that I am so far behind that I may never catch up.

“You must make decisions knowing those decisions make you.” ~ Rakishi, from “The son without his father”

Anyway, here is where we are: Corey has a job, but is still in denial, kind of that other shoe dropping thing, you know? He can’t help it as he’s been bitten in the butt more than once by supposed job offers. I keep telling him that this company is different—well established, big, good reputation, not like some of the companies he’s had to endure in the past. He won’t be on tugs, but off-shore supply vessels (OSV’s). He’s anxious at the idea of starting over, but the good news is that this recruiting guy really seemed to like him and was already mentioning Corey upgrading his qualifications.

Nicolas Tarkhoff Paris, Montparnasse at Night c1905
“Paris, Montparnasse at Night” (c1905, oil on canvas)
by Nicolas Tarkhoff

So it’s Thanksgiving week. My body aches all over, and I haven’t quite recovered from the five days of whirlwind activity. The house is trashed. I am totally unprepared for Thursday, and truthfully, it’s beginning to hit me that Corey may not be here for Christmas. So much is still up in the air, and the trip ended up costing us a small fortune, but it was so worth it. We had a really nice time together, got to experience another new place with each other, had some great food (as my stomach can attest), and it looks like we’re about to embark on a new path.

Hard not to be anxious, but trying to be calm. Anyway, that’s the quick and dirty version. Lots of little details in between that I may tackle later before they slip through the sieve that is my brain. Until then . . .

Peace.

Music by London Grammar, “Nightcall”

                   

No crying, calling out, complaining…

No crying, calling out, complaining,
This all will pass, like the green of gold,
Like the white smoke of apple blooms,
And I won’t be as young as I used to.

Already, your blood isn’t as quick as it was,
I tell my heart—and it’s getting colder.
White birch roots stitch the ruddy fields
And you’ve lost the urge to wander.

Lips and eyes, emotions:
Where are your fire and anger,
Where your floods?
All were fresh, now are errant, scattered.

My wants are sparer now, leaner,
Or maybe they were just a dream
—Like the moment morning flashes green—
And I charged past on my sorrel steed.

We’re all, all of us in this world soon to spoil.
Copper leaves are tumbling coyly from the maples . . .
World-weary drifter, be forever grateful
To have faded fast, in early petalfall.

~ Sergei Esenin, trans. James Stotts

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“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds—the cemeteries—and they’re a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here . . . Greek, Roman, sepulchres—palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay—ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who’ve died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here.” ~ Bob Dylan

New Orleand by Beadmobile FCC
New Orleans by beadmobile (FCC)

                   

“It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of south Louisiana in words, and to try is to roll down a road of clichés, bouncing over beignets and beads and brass bands” ~ Chris Rose, from 1 Dead in Attic

Road trip to New Orleans, LA. I’ll be doing lots of singing to tunes on my special playlist all the way, much to Corey’s consternation. Going for job purposes, so we won’t be here nearly long enough to do the real tourist thing, but I’m hoping to run across some interesting finds (again, much to Corey’s consternation). I sorely need an infusion of color in my life, but to be honest, I’m mostly looking forward to the food. I’ll let you know how things turn out.

In the meantime, I found this lovely little bit about what Mardi Gras and New Orleans are really about:

To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

New Orleans 45 by paparutzi fcc
Image by paparutzi (FCC)

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD’s in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year–people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now that part, more than ever.

It’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88’s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don’t and promising yourself you will next year.

It’s wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who–like clockwork, year after year–denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.

~ Chris Rose, from 1 Dead in Attic

Music by Buckwheat Zydeco, “Buck’s Nouvelle Jole Blon” (this version of Jolie Blonde appeared in the credits of The Big Easy)

                   

Harmony

You know the Beatles could have
afforded another microphone,

but George would always stand
in the middle and step up to

Paul’s when it was time to
join in. Because that’s the way

harmony is, you need to share the
electricity, the voice, the words.

Just the way we do when we drive
in our cars with the radio on,

the windows rolled down with fall in the
air, dead leaves swirling in the wake,

or in the spring, the earth damp and soft,
the air hazy with pollen. We hear

the song that moves us, crank the
radio and sing along, at the top of

our lungs, as if we just joined
the group. In tune out of tune,

country western, rock and roll, we want
to harmonize. A whole country of

would-be stars losing love, finding love
with the radio in different

cars, on different paths, the dark
road rumbling beneath.

~ Stuart Kestenbaum