Archive for Louisiana

Today is D Day

Over the weekend I made my annual trip to New Orleans for the D Day useum “festivities”.  I know…I need to stop calling it the D Day Museum and change to The National WWII Museum.

This year there were lots of people in attendance. Not too many vets, which of course makes sense.

They keep expanding the museum.  This year they dedicated the Restoration Pavilion, “where visitors will be able to see first-hand the techniques that conservators use to repair and restore boats, vehicles, weapons, military equipment and other artifacts.”

It’s typical of their festivities to have speaker A speak, then introduce speaker B, who speaks for a long time and then introduce speaker C, who speaks for a long time and then introduce speaker D, who speaks for a long time and then …

And this goes on and on and I’m bored by the time they finally getting around to the actual dedication.

Last year was the 10th anniversary of the museum, so they decided to have a Roll Call of all the vets and people who worked on the home front. I think the speakers before the long Roll Call took an hour!  I got bored. I don’t care that a certain politician or Armed Forces bigwig can’t make it, so they send someone to speak on their behalf (and they speak for more than 2 minutes). Lets get to the Heros!

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New Orleans

I’ve been to New Orleans quite a few times, so there will be NO photos and color commentary, simply because I have enough photos.

I’ve been coming here each year for the last 8 years, and probably at least 10 times before that.  I came here June 2006 after Katrina, when most buildings were still boarded up, the restaurants that were open were open every other day in order to share employees, and there were people at just a few tables at Cafe Du Monde.

It’s been interesting to watch the progression of each year there are less boarded up buildings, and more tourists. 

I had read on April 29th:

Residents throughout the New Orleans area on Thursday reported an oily odor apparently coming from the spill, which was more than 90 miles from the Crescent City.

I have a sensitive nose, and can report that there is NO oily smell here.  Side Note: there does seem to be Oil-Spill-News-All-The-Time on TV here.

Overheard waiting at a light to cross the street:

Is it just me, or does it smell more like puke than the previous times we’ve been here?
Maybe it’s due to the high humidity…nothing is whisking the smell away.
 
[I wanted to bring up wind/breeze and whiskiness, and also the fact that New Orleans ALWAYS has high humidity.]

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D Day Museum – Sunday

Sunday was D Day, however, the “big” day at the Museum was Saturday with the Roll Call. There was a very nice crowd, but maybe only 10% of the vets in attendance, as compared to Saturday.

For $10, I saw the film “Beyond All Boundaries” which is a 4D film. Before the film started there was a very well done pre-film narration by Tom Hanks, recapping what led up to the both wars [Pacific and European], up until December 7th.

I’ve never seen a 3D film let alone a 4D one.  I got a little nauseous as they “spun” the earth going back and forth between the 2 wars.   To me, it would have been better to have 2 films…one for each war.  NOT solely due to the earth spinning, but I think it’s easier for novices to follow along when they are discussing one war at a time.

About the theatre and 4D:

* The screen is 120′ wide

* Uses 9 digital projectors [9 different screens, thus creating the 3D effect]

* 27 speakers [VERY loud, even when just music is playing]

* The seat shakes as a tank goes by, when planes fly overhead, as a carrier gets hit by a kamikaze pilot, when the atomic bomb explodes

* Snow [soap bubbles] fall from the sky during The Battle of the Bulge

* Smell of fire during the burning of cities in Japan and when the atomic bomb explodes

I enjoyed the 4D experience, but I wouldn’t go again.

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D Day Museum – Saturday

The D Day Museum today was packed! Nice to see so many people, especially those under 25. Today might have been the most people I’ve seen at the Museum. I remember the year after Katrina, there literally was myself and maybe 10 other people [besides all the volunteers]. So…this is good!

For me, the highlight today was supposed to be the “roll call”, where they call each state and people stand up and someone from the state says something/gives an anecdote.

Foolish me, This one really passed me by. I didn’t realize that there would be an hour of speakers beforehand. It would have been OK if vets were the ones who got up and said something, but instead it was the [sponsor] Chevron’s PR person and the museum President/Board of Trustees people… And then a vet from Iraq/Afghanistan held us hostage for probably 25 minutes, the highlight of which is him repeating over and over again in a deadpan voice: I love you.

Ahem.

Oh, they did make their “big announcement”, including a banner: that WWII vets now have FREE admission. Round of applause. I still think that it’s embarrassing that they have been charging them. They should have kept the change hush hush and just told the ticket takers, instead of making a big production out of it.

Saddest non vet story: I was going thru the Pacific Theater and there is a flag with 48 stars on it. A 16 yo young man next to me asked his dad why the flag only has 48 stars…where’s the other 2? Maybe I should be appreciative that he knows that there are now 50 stars.

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New Orleans

Ah…New Orleans. The humidity. The smell of cigarette smoke, urine and puke. Cock roaches.

The D Day Museum here in New Orleans is celebrating their 10 year anniversary this weekend, which coincides with D Day: June 6th. I fly into town each year to give thanks to the men and women who put their lives on hold in order to be involved (in any way) in the war.

The museum is truly a class act, top notch museum, and the volunteers really seem to care. It started off being just the D Day Museum (the European Theater), but then the warehouse across the street became available for sale, so they decided to buy the land and expand the museum to include the Pacific Theater, therefore becoming the first and only World War II Museum in the states.

Since D Day falls on a Sunday this year, there are festivities/activities both Saturday and Sunday.

According to my memory (unsure what reality is), seems to me that two years ago there were less than 20 vets attending. Last year was a big anniversary of D Day (65 years) and the place was hopping with people and lots of youth groups. I believe close to 300 vets were in attendance.

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National World War II Museum Charges for WWII Vets!

Outrageous! I’m shocked and saddened that they have been charging any vet admission, let alone a WWII vet.

On Saturday, June 5th, this top notch museum will make the “big announcement” of their new policy of FREE admission to WWII vets [yes, I’m spoiling this]. HOWEVER, the free admission is only through the end of this year!

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New Orleans, LA and Bay St Louis and Biloxi, Mississippi

June 6, 2008

 

On Friday morning I headed into New Orleans.  It was 8.30 am and 92’.  And of course humid.

 

My main goal of the day was to go to the D Day Museum in New Orleans.  Actually, they have re-named it the National World War II Museum.  I will write this up later, since it will take me a little time, and I want to get this out.

 

After the Museum, I headed east along I-10 then onto hiway 90, to go along the coast of MS and view the hurricane damage. 

 

I must say, that coming into and out of New Orleans, I drove over more bridges than I ever have.  I guess it is all swamp, so the interstate is up over the swamp and officially a bridge.  I guess that is what they would be called.  No matter what, it’s quite some infrastructure they had to build.  East of New Orleans toward Slidell they are building new roads/bridges [apparently to replace existing ones] and it was quite an impressive sight with hundreds of …can’t think of what they are called besides “legs”…in place for as far as I could see.  It just went on and on and on.

 

Just after this, I-10 is called the Stephen Ambrose Memorial Highway.

 

I stopped in Bay St Louis, MS.  I pulled over so I could check the water out.  It was what most people would consider way too warm, but I thought it was just right.  So, I put my bathing suit on and went it.  I then got my low lawn chair and rosemary triscuits [sp?] out and sat under a huge old tree that took a pounding and just watched the world go by while eating my triscuits.

 

Along the water, about half the houses have been fixed back up.  Same for their little downtown area.  I saw one house, which was, let’s say, 10 blocks from the water…so no water view.  It was a big house and zero has been done to it – it needs to be demolished. For sale for $395k.

 

Then I drove along 90 towards Biloxi.  I saw one corner lot across the road from 90 [unobstructive view of the water], for sale for $595k.

 

It looks like 75% the area along the coast has been rebuilt.  And when they rebuild, they are building the big, fancy homes and condos.  So, it is the 2 extremes…fancy vs nothing done yet.  The trees def look weather beaten, but unsure if that is due to the hurricanes vs constant, daily pounding by the wind.  The trees all seem “short”…probably 30’ tall.  I don’t know my trees, so can’t tell you what kind they are.  They are also planting a lot of palm trees along 90.

 

There seems to be a Waffle House every 2 miles.

 

I decided to stay in Biloxi, in a hotel on the water.  At dusk I went out to the beach.  There was only one other woman there.  It’s Friday nite, finding a room was tough, and NO ONE is on the beach.  So, I went over to ask her …what’s the deal?  Am I missing something?

 

She was wondering the same thing.  We got to talking and really hit it off.  Her name is Sylvia, and her hubby Kevin, and daughters Caroline and Laura were in the water.  I look out, and about 200m out, there is a man walking with water up to mid calf.  And there are 2 little heads coming out of the water.  They are walking in, and he looks like a giant walking on water.  I asked her what in the world is he standing on.  She said he’s not, the water is that shallow.  Then how old – and tall – are your daughters?  Come to find out, there were on boogey boards lying down, which is why I could only see their heads.  When they stood, they too looked like they were walking on water.

 

So, we all hit is off and I spent the evening talking and hanging out with them.  They were very delightful. 

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Jackson, Mississippi and Laplace, Louisiana

June 5, 2008

 

Thursday was a travel day for me…I needed to make the long drive [for me] from oxford to outside of New Orleans.  Per mapquest it’s 5+ hours, which means all day to me.  The only highlight of the day was that I stopped in Jackson for a late lunch, and I couldn’t get anyone to serve me.  I think I was the wrong color.

 

MS rest stops have a sign on the hiway so you know if there is security at the rest stop or not.

 

I stayed in a dumpy place in Laplace, just outside of New Orleans.  The next morning I could hear the desk person turn away person after person who was calling/coming in to find a room – they were sold out.  I asked her if they were always that busy, or was something going on.  She said that Brad Pitt is shooting a film down the way.

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Lake Charles and Alexandria, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi

May 31, 2008

 

As of a few days ago, I had planned on visiting Louisiana and Mississippi during this next week.  Even though I have been to Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, I can always come back to those places and check them out again.    I decided to drive to Alexandria, LA, which is located directly in the middle of the state, to see what that city is like.  And then I wing it from there…stay in LA or go over to Natchez, and start exploring MS.  If I have my fill of MS, then I will go and check out Lafayette and Baton Rouge again.

 

I left Lake Charles, LA this morning.  I did go and check out their downtown, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!  If Lucinda Williams can write songs about it…how bad can it be? Ha.  They have a boardwalk along the lake, and this really cool “fountain” that kids can run and play in.

 

I got to Alexandria, and I should have skipped it. Nothing is going on here.  I did want to check out the Bentley Hotel, which is supposed to be where Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley… pow-wowed back in ?? 41-42 while army troops trained at the nearby army base.  But alas, it is now closed.  However, I looked in the windows, and all the furniture and everything is still there.  It would have been a splendid fancy hotel, with a majestic lobby with chandeliers, nice tile flooring, murals on the ceiling, fountains…

 

There is a Dollar General store [with a bunch of cars in front] in every little town that I go thru. 

 

I then made my way to Natchez.  When you cross the MS River and arrive in Natchez, the visitor center is right there.  I got there exactly at 5 pm and they were locking the doors.  I grabbed some info but found the curse of my travels…Saturday nites and finding a place to stay. 

 

I’m ended up staying at this historic hotel downtown – Eola [which claims that the flag in the lobby is the first flag draped over Grant’s casket].  I paid up for a balcony room and enjoyed sitting outside on the balcony listening to the fountain in the courtyard.

 

Natchez IS really pretty, however, they lack nite time activities.  They were actually putting on Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which started at 8pm.  I really like that opera, and would have loved to see it, but I chose to ride around and explore the town on my bike.

 

I had forgotten how much I love to ride my bike around town.  It is so much fun and I cover a lot of ground.

 

There were 2 music options for the evening.  One was a guy with his guitar, but he was smoking a pipe.  Sheesh. The venue was named “biscuits and blues”.  Now, I can dig that name.  However, they only had one type of biscuit…mushroom biscuits.  Yuck…even though I didn’t try any.

 

The other place for music is the saloon, “Under the Hill”, which is in an historic area.  Natchez is on the river, but it’s up on a bluff, very high from the water.  The Louisiana side is even with the river.  When Natchez was a booming town and lots of river activity, down by the water front is where all the illicit activities took place.  And the building where Under the Hill is, apparently has been around for a long time.  Unsure as to how long, since most or maybe all of the places have eroded away.

 

Inside, the place was packed and it seemed that everyone smoked.  A local couple tells me to go in and look in the back room.  This is a cool room with lots of “memorabilia”, and had plants growing out of the walls.

 

There were 2 guys and a woman [probably in their early 20’s] playing darts.  The woman asked if I wanted to join them.  I said sure.  So, we’re playing darts, and I start getting this “weird” vibe from the woman, but didn’t think too much about it.  Then she starts playing songs on the jukebox…and starts singing and dancing.  Do you remember the Jodie Foster character in the film “Accused”, and how she looks and how she’s dancing at the bar?  Well, that is her.  She’s dancing with the 2 guys, and dancing for me.  Ding, ding, ding in my head.

 

Back outside…I asked a woman working there what kind of music the band plays.  She replied “good music”.  Getting more specifics was difficult.  I spoke with a local couple outside for a bit when a guy walked up carrying a guitar.  I asked him what type of music his band plays, and he replied “good music”.  Ahem.

 

When they did start up, it was a not so good cover band that was incredibly loud.  So loud that I couldn’t talk to the couple anymore… we were outside and the front door was closed.

 

They rent out 3 guest rooms, located above the saloon.  On the brochure it is written: “weekend entertainment in the saloon is not overpowering, but one demanding complete silence before 2 am should probably stay elsewhere”.  I would say this is NOT accurate.

 

I then meandered to the casino/steamboat which was docked nearby.  I don’t gamble, but thought I would check it out.  The place was packed.  I ended up deciding I would give the casino a buck.  So, I found the penny slots…there were lots of them.  And bet on five lines at a time…so I was betting 5 cents a shot.  Yes…big spender.  After a bit I won something and then had 101 “credits”.  So, since I was ahead by a penny, I decided to take my winnings and cash out.

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Port Arthur, Texas

May 30, 2008

 

I am leaving Houston and will be making my way to Baltimore.  I plan on exploring Louisiana and Mississippi on the way.  My only constraint is that I need to be in Baltimore by June 11th, so I can fly out of BWI on June 12th to go to my niece’s wedding celebration.

 

I started off later than expected yesterday, and planned on spending the nite in Port Arthur, home of Janis Joplin.  With apologies to anyone with family and friends in Port Arthur, but ahhh, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  You know how there is a section of town that you don’t want to stop in?  Well, the whole town seemed like that.  

 

Pretty much, the downtown area is abandoned, except for gov’t buildings, which seemed new or newly refurbished.  It was 5.30 and not a car in sight. I could have stopped in the middle of the street and left my car to look around.

 

They have received money somehow since there seems to be a new performing arts center, a new multi purpose building, and as I mentioned above, the gov’t/city buildings look new.

 

I needed directions and decided on a certain gas station to ask.  Inside there was an older woman, younger woman and an older man scratching off Lotto tickets.  I asked how to get to 82 and there was a conference amongst them and the younger woman started rattling off directions a mile a minute…talking so fast and with an accent, I couldn’t understand a word she said except Valero this and Valero that.  And then there was more discussion between them cuz they decided that I would get lost that way.  I did manage to understand and they actually got me where I needed to go.  I am going along hiway 82 which hugs the coast/Gulf of Mexico.

 

Port Arthur goes on my worst cities list, right next to Manchester, NH.

 

So….being in the oil and gas business, especially production offshore [Gulf of Mexico], I have heard for years of various places where the gas/oil hit the beach.  So, I drove along this 2 lane road near the coast and went by places like Johnson’s Bayou, Sabine Pass, Holly Beach… and saw all these plants, compressor stations…that I have heard of for years.  I had a nerdy blast!

 

It seemed the only people on this road was myself and guys in big white trucks [going to/from work].  There are just 2 lanes coming up out of the bayou/water.  There is NOTHING along this highway.  Nothing, besides oil/gas infrastructure.  No gas stations, no bait and tackle, no 7/11’s, no grocery stores…nothing.  Now and again there would be housing, which means it was either trailers/trailer park or these really expensive, huge houses built up on 15’+ stilts.  Johnson’s Bayou had a school, and a health clinic.  That’s it.  Nothing was at Holly Beach.  I was so glad that I stopped to get gas before Port Arthur, cuz without a doubt, I would have run out of gas.  I drove for 2 hours in this area, which they call Cameron.  I would have kept thinking there has got to be a gas station sooner or later.  Yes…in Lake Charles!  I didn’t see anyone on any of the beaches, no one anywhere [except the white trucks].  Pretty much deserted.

 

The area smelled like how a new shower curtain smells.

 

In the middle of all these plants/refineries….is a pelican sanctuary.

 

At times I thought it was raining, but it was really just bugs splatting on my windshield.  

 

I saw a sign that mentioned “ferry”, I turned the bend…and the road stops.  So, the ferry took me over to Cameron.  The ferry lady told me…duh…that hurricane Rita took out everything.  That is why there are no stores/businesses.  She said it was pretty dumpy before Rita, so it was nice that Rita came and wiped everything out, but now they are rebuilding with expensive homes…which is quite the opposite of what was there before…so the whole feel of the place is slowly changing.

 

I then headed to Lake Charles to spend the nite. It was much later than I had planned…I checked into a hotel and it was 9.30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

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