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Albino Walrus and The Big Easy

Posted Sunday, May 15, 2011, at 6:10 PM



I've just gotten back from a vacation. As a result, my inventory of interesting and humorous anecdotes have been replenished. Over the coming weeks, in and around discussions of the issues of the day, I hope to provide a few laughs.

As a rule, I don't like vacations. Extended weekends are great. But whenever I'm gone for any length of time, it seems that a judge will demand my presence, someone's child will be kidnapped, some self-important oaf will be arrested, or a prisoner will have a "holy conversion" and need to tell the prosecutor and the judge immediately. Add to that, being gone for a week seems to somehow put me about two weeks behind with my work.

When I'm away, I spend my nights dreaming about coming trials, pleadings that need to be filed, testimony from witnesses, and other things that are not getting done. Yes, I tend to be a bit obsessive. Fortunately, the worst that happened (that I know of) was a home detentioner being stupid and accused of violating the program. In the great scheme of things, not a particularly big deal.

My beloved wife made me take this vacation. She insisted that if I wanted to maintain any sense of domestic tranquility, I would spend a week with her at Gulf Shores, Alabama. I guess she still loves me.

Gulf Shores is remarkably beautiful and relatively affordable. I recommend it for those who actually like to take vacations.

My beloved rented a condo on the beach with an excellent view of the Gulf. Life could be a lot worse than this! I resolved to do my best impression of an albino walrus laying on the beach; breaking character only to sip an ice cold beer or margarita and to frolic in the surf.

Did you know that when you are on vacation the local stores have new and exciting stuff that human female eyes have never seen before? Stuff that just has to be purchased and dragged home. "Honey, why can't we be together by being apart?" I offered. I explained, "While you are shopping, I will be with you in my heart." So much for doing the walrus impression.

We couldn't vacation at Gulf Shores without making a run to New Orleans, The Big Easy. We were surprised by how much hurricane damage remained unrepaired outside of the French Quarter. They say 100,000 people have never returned. We were also surprised by how dirty things looked. It is definitely a large urban center that has both good and not so good parts of town.

Have you enjoyed all the rain we have been getting here in the Midwest? Guess where it is all going? The height of the Mississippi River was startling. The water was literally 2-3 feet from topping the levies. It was shocking to be standing on the street and seeing tug boats floating above the levies. The locals told us that the river is now the highest it has been since the Great Flood of 1927, which was the highest in the city's 300-year history. The river is still rising.

The French Quarter featured everything from the height of great art and fine dining to the depths of Gomorrah like depravity. Along Bourbon Street, within three blocks of Canal Street, were three separate multistory "Larry Flint's Hustler" stores. One of the three proclaimed itself to be "Barely Legal." All advised, "Relax, it's only sex." Voodoo images, particularly skulls, abounded throughout the Quarter.

I don't think you could walk a block without seeing at least a couple of bars, a couple of restaurants, and at least one candy shop. I noticed six different local hand rolled cigar manufacturers. I didn't count the various tobacco outlets. Smoking is permitted almost everywhere. So is drinking. There were numerous road signs reminding people that alcohol should not be carried in glass containers. Not less than half of the people walking the streets that Thursday carried large cocktails in plastic or Styrofoam containers into the various stores as they browsed and shopped.

Everyone we encountered in New Orleans was polite and pleasant, even the panhandlers. While there, we were panhandled at least three times. The least effective was on Bourbon Street. A young man I saw stagger by earlier, sipping from a large Styrofoam cup, was loitering on a corner, smiling, shaking the now empty cup, asking for change.

The most effective, and ultimately successful, was outside of the French Market. A young woman approached us and admonished us that we looked way to serious to be in New Orleans. She asked where we were from and told us she was part of a committee dedicated to making visitors happy. She cajoled us into big smiles and handed us each a New Orleans cap. After all four of us had our caps on, she showed a laminated photo ID badge of some sort (probably made at an area print shop) and said that she was raising funds for Meals on Wheels and that the recommended donation for the caps was $10.00. With a smile, I pulled out a $10.00, but she emphasized that the recommended donation for the caps was $10.00. My smile waned as I realized what had just happened and gave her another $30.00. Perhaps that's why they call it The Big Easy.

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