Thursday, January 16, 2014

The last one?

Isn't it funny how minutes turn to days turn to months turn to years? Today was bright, cool and sparkling and as I rode the ferry across to meet a friend for coffee, I was reminded of how much I love the crossing that I make too seldom now.

For one thing, the tolls on the bridge went away, and with them the funding for the ferry. Now the ferry limps along, one tiny pedestrian boat from 715am-645pm only, leaving those living on the West Bank without a car a prisoner by the time the evening news is over. No more quick jaunts across for red beans and rice on Mondays. At some point they are going to start charging $2 each way, and maybe increase the hours back to 6am-midnight, but who knows when that will happen. For another, I crashed my bike and broke my elbow and couldn't ride my bike to work for several months.

So, as with all things, alas, the shine wore off the penny a bit, though I kept collecting moments and never wrote them down. Perhaps this will be my final ferry blog-- I have a new job that doesn't allow for a riverboat morning commute and less and less people ride these days, which cramps my viewing pleasure.

But, New Orleans is New Orleans, and like everything else, the ferry finds a way to keep on, as do the people. A few favorite memories since last we spoke:

I rode for about 8 weeks with a labor crew from down south who were replacing rotten pilings on the river. On Fridays they were loud and boisterous, planning the weekend according to how much wiggle room they had with their bills that week. Come Monday morning they would be quiet, heads tilted back, mouths open, trying to catch a few more winks after what I can only assume were raucous weekends. The leader of the group was a loud skinny man who talked loud and clearly thought he was hilarious (and he was), entertaining all of the passengers with his stories. The one that sticks in my head:

(they were talking about living in the city vs. living in the country)

"The only woman I know who lives in the city and doesn't lock her door is my grandma. And she's got the Alzheimer's. You have to be careful with her, though, because if you sneak out to smoke, she'll hear a noise and get scared and come lock the door. Then I'm locked out. So I knock on the door and she comes to the door and yells 'Who you is?' and I say, 'it's me grandma, your grandson'. And then she says, 'My grandson's in jail' so I say 'No, your good grandson'."

Then there is the old man with a giant sousaphone.

And this fellow, who I only saw one day. I don't know if you can see it, but he is in a wheelchair, wearing a hat that says, "I'm walking with Jesus." I know it's a sin to laugh, but still.

Today I saw my pelican friends. And a man dancing and rocking out to "Rocking Around the Clock".

And I felt so happy to be right where I was. Maybe this will be my last ferry blog, but that's ok. It was so fun to sit back and watch the world slide by on that muddy water for a few minutes each day. And you friends responded to my silly stories with a poem, a pelican sculpture and a song, which all moved me. It's a big beautiful world out there, let's keep our eyes up so we can savor it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Phone Conversation Overheard on a Hot Friday Afternoon

Warning: Explicit Lyrics! Read on at your own risk.

- Yeah. Hey. Hey man. What you been doing? Where you at?
- …
- What do you mean you’re at home? If you was at home already why didn’t you come pick my ass up instead of making me take the damn ferry across? It’s hot as a mothafucka out here. Shit, man.
- …
- Man you are a lazy piece of shit. It’s like 100 degrees out here and you’re laying your ass on the couch. You better be there when I get there cause I’m gonna slap the shit out of you. It’s hot as a mothafucka out here.
(Random man not on the phone, but with a bottle of hooch) -  Yeah you right.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Lately, it seems like everything that is worth saving is in dire need of salvation. Luckily, I've always been a sucker for a good cause, but I have to wonder why  humans seem predisposed to destroy that which we hold most dear?

I heard a statistic recently that a new generation is born every 5 years. Not because we've redefined what constitutes a generation, but because over the last 15 years or so life and technology began to change so rapidly that people born even 5 years apart see the world in completely different ways. And the pace of change continues to accelerate. Change in and of itself isn't a bad thing. If we don't change, we die. What worries me is that we seem to be careening into an ever-narrowing tunnel with no sense or understanding of what came before or what lies ahead. I worry that change for change's sake is a cancerous madness (I think that's Mr. Ed Abbey I'm quoting).

The landscape in which we build our lives is constantly changing, too. Yesterday a wetland, today a Burger King. The land has changed so much between my grandfather's lifetime and my own that my very sense of what "normal" or "functioning" is skewed. A channelized river with concrete banks seemed perfectly normal and natural to me growing up, because that was all I knew. For god's sake, I am a professional environmentalist and I didn't realize the river I grew up swimming in was an artificial millrace connected to the much smaller, natural river channel (which I had never swum in) until I was nearly 30 years old. My very concept of what constitutes a natural environment is permanently altered by being born when I was. What does this mean for people born 50 years from now? What are we losing that we haven't yet fathomed?

What are we changing into? And once changed, can we ever return?

Fortunately, there is a remedy for the growing sense of loss I feel when I think about how quickly we use and discard what we deem valueless. There are people who look to and learn from the past to inform their lives, their sense of personhood and connectedness in the world. They are the people who hang photos of ancestors along those of their children. They are ones who turn up at a public meeting to save a stand of old growth forest. And they are the ones who take the time to craft pelicans out of old bricks from a building one's great great grandfather used to live in.

By honoring the past and by understanding that mindless change for the sake of growth or profit or simply because one feels empty is not enough to feed our souls, these people give rise to a vision of  a future that rightly holds tight to what matters most.

Happy, you are part of the cure for what ails this weary world. Thank you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


How, pray tell, does one ride one's bicycle with one's breeches around one's knees?

Monday, May 21, 2012

What I see

I captured this gentleman a couple of weeks ago on a beautiful spring day. The only glimpse I caught of him was his reflection in the mirror. Here is his (completely imagined, wholly fabricated) story told on the 5 minute ferry ride.

"My name is Frank. Toots down there at the bar on Frenchman's may have told you it's Frances, but if you like your teeth, it's Frank. Only one ever got to call me Frances is my dear mother, and she's ten years in the ground now. Well, and Coraline. But that's another story for another beer.

Yeah, this bike is a real beauty, isn't she? Got her 3 years ago when I retired from offshore work for good. Good money in being a roughneck but after a certain age, it's hard on a man. 28 days of straight hard labor with no rest is hard on a man's body, hard on his woman, too. By the time I figured out it was a young man's game I'd grown out of, I'd lost a finger, my daughter's graduating high school and the right key to open my own damn front door. Cora coulda waited til I got home for a stretch, but I guess the waiting got to her, too.  At least now I can grow my beard as long as I damn well please.

Oh, I travel just about anywhere I can get to. Heading down to Venice for some fishing this weekend. Working part time doing trim work, saving up for my trips and taking off when I have enough dough to get me someplace grand makes for easy street. I've seen a hell of a lot of the Gulf of Mexico in my life, but it's all been underwater, you know? Now I'm taking my time and seeing it all one road at a time."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ferry Style

This awesome guy was totally stylin' in his craft paper tophat, acid washed jean jacket and cool skull pin (which I coveted, and which you can buy when the Blue Nile nightclub has an art show).