Saturday, July 11, 2009

family reunion

My son, Sam, and I left for the airport at 6:20 a.m. on July 3rd. Both of us were a little crabby, but we managed to get to our gate with a little time to spare. Sam does not like to fly. He once flew while he was taking some muscle mass stuff which causes mild anxiety. Since he didn't know about the side affect, he wrongly associated his anxiety with flying. Even though he now knows that the muscle stuff caused the anxiety, flying now induces the anxiety too. We sat across the aisle from each other. He had a drink before we got on the plane and another while on the plane. He made it.

We arrived in Charlotte, NC at close to noon. My sister and her husband were flying in from Newark, NJ, and were scheduled to land at almost the same time. My father and stepmother were flying in from Philadelphia, PA and were also scheduled to land at almost the same time. None of that was planned. It just worked out that way! I called Daddy when we landed and got voicemail. Then I called Lenore and John. They were at the rental counter. I was renting from Avis, so I told them I would call them from the road. Once we got out on the road, I called them. We decided to meet for lunch. A call to Daddy yielded that they were right behind us, so we told them where we were meeting. All of us arrived at more or less the same time - hugs and kisses all around.

My brother-in-law, John, is battling prostate cancer. His is a particularly virulent strain. At the time that we arrived in NC, he was a few days out from his 2nd chemotherapy treatment. He looked a little rough. My sister has surprised us all with her strength as she handled the strain of her husband's illness and potential death. She has been dependent on him for many years and the role reversal has been hard on both of them.

During our lunch, I brought out a bunch of little rubber (or plastic?) duckies that I had purchased from Oriental Trading Company. There were ninja ducks, hockey ducks, doctor ducks, nurse ducks, hippy ducks and the biggest hit for these four cat-lovers, cat ducks. I brought the ducks for John because I had sung the entire 'Rubber Ducky' song for him over the phone one night while Lenore was helping him bathe. Getting all of the little duckies out made us remember that and smile. (I knew it would.) I also brought an extra set of cat ducks for Dad and Emily Jean because I knew they would want them. I was right!

After lunch, we jumped into our three rental cars and took off for the mountains. My father's extended family has been summering in Montreat, NC since 1906. Several of the "cottages" owned by the family are over 100 years old. Large numbers of family always gather for the July 4th weekend. I rented a five bedroom lodge for the weekend, but it wasn't available until Saturday night. So, On Friday night, we stayed at the Super 8.

After we all got checked in, Daddy wanted to go over to his brother's house. Uncle Harry is 88 years old. Their father lived to be 91 and their mother lived to be 99, so the family expected a similar pattern for my father and his two brothers and two sisters. But we were all suprised to lose both sisters within the last two years. Then one brother died last year.Now Daddy, at 84 and his brother Harry are the last of their generation. Daddy is very active. But Uncle Harry is pretty frail. My Aunt Lella (Harry's wife) is still fairly spry, though.

Dad, Emily Jean, Sam and I all drove over to visit with Uncle Harry and Aunt Lella. John and Lenore stayed at the motel to rest from the trip. Uncle Harry's house is one of the newer houses and is located on North Carolina Terrace across the street from two of the older houses, now owned by my cousins, daughters of Aunt Kitty who was the older sister of my father. When we arrived, Harry and Lella's youngest daughter, Nancy, answered the door along with Aunt Lella. Nancy is a few years younger than me. She looked fabulous. We all went out on the back porch where Uncle Harry was already sitting.

Aunt Lella raised her children to be gracious, well-mannered Southern ladies and gentlemen and they are. Refreshments were served and gracious conversation was shared. Each time my son did or said something that was very mannerly, this was noted and he and I were both praised. This struck me as a little funny. I worked hard to make sure that Sam had great manners, but I also know him as someone who can be a rotten scoundrel at times! But he did not show any of that while we were with the family! We were soon joined by Nancy's oldest sister, Randy, who was named for my father. My brother, born soon after her, was also named Randy. We actually referred to them as Randy-girl and Randy-boy when we were growing up. LOL

As we were getting ready to leave, we were joined by Katie and Larry. Katie is the oldest of my cousins. She is the oldest daughter of my Aunt Kitty. Katie is the oldest of eight children. So along came her youngest sister Becky and her husband Bob. Then along came her sister Nancy, then her sister Eleanor and Eleanor's husband Mike. I just love my cousins. They are all just wonderful people. I consider myself blessed to be connected to all of these people.

We headed back over to the Super 8. John and Lenore were up and getting ready to go out with their friend Barry who was in Montreat for a music conference. After a rest, Dad, Emily Jean, Sam and I went over to the Black Mountain Cafe for dinner. It was pretty good! I love spending time with my father and stepmother. They are two of my favorite people in the whole world!

Saturday morning we all went to Denny's for breakfast. Yummy! Then we headed over to Cabin Creek Lodge, where I had rented the five bedroom lodge. (The photo shows the handmade stair railing, the work of artist John Hentschel, inside The Lodge.) We checked in and then headed out for the family picnic. There were about 80 or so family members at the picnic. Sam got a chance to hang out with some of the cousins that are closer to his age. Aunt Sissi, widow of Uncle Roddey (Daddy's other brother) was at the picnic with her new beau.

Towards the end of the picnic, a small group of us went down to the edge of the creek and spread Uncle Roddey's ashes. I added rose petals because he was a Master Gardener and would have loved that touch, I know. Then we gathered into a group hug and cried. Daddy said a beautiful prayer. This was a precious moment and I am so glad that I was a part of it.

After the picnic, we went back to the Lodge for a rest. Aunt Sissi and her beau (Bob) came over for dinner. Sam and I volunteered to go out and get Chinese. But the Chinese place was closed so we got BBQ instead. The eight of us feasted on BBQ, baked beans, potato salad, Brunswick stew, Texas toast and tea. Yummy! Then we had ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Then Sam went off with some cousins to a square dance. The rest of us hung out at the Lodge. Several cousins came by to visit.

Sunday morning, Sam slept in. John and Lenore drove over to Asheville to attend church with Barry. Dad and Emily Jean drove over to visit old friends. I had the Lodge to myself - ahhhhh - until Sam woke up. Then he and I went out to get some lunch. I got Wendy's and he had pizza. Dad and Emily Jean were back before too long, as were Lenore and John. Sunday night Sam was out again with cousins. The rest of us hung out at the Lodge, with visits from more cousins.

Monday morning we were all up and packing. Saying goodbye was hard!!! Sam & I got to the airport in time to catch an early flight home. This was a wonderful trip!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

bourbon orleans

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, I was scheduled to do a three hour tour of New Orleans with a few co-workers. We were to meet in the lobby of the hotel. Since we had to check out that day, I packed all of my belongings and went to the lobby, intending to leave my bag with the valet while I went on my tour. I arrived in the lobby about six minutes late to find that the group had left without me. I found out later that they had called me several times, but my cell phone did not ring. Once I figured out that they were gone, I rolled my bag back up to the room. I called another co-worker who I knew was also moving to the new hotel that day. She told me that her son was picking her up and that I could ride along too.

At the appointed time, the son picked us up and drove us to the new hotel, the Bourbon Orleans, which is right on Bourbon Street. It was too early to check in, so we left our bags with the valet and went off to breakfast. I had already eaten breakfast in my room, but I had coffee with them. When we returned, a number of other co-workers were sitting in the lobby. So off we went to lunch!

I do have to say that the food was incredible in New Orleans. I regret that I didn't write down every restaurant that I visited and every meal that I consumed. They were all memorable. I do not recall a bad meal. I ate jambalaya, gumbo, fried oysters, crab salad, several varieties of fish, shrimp, crayfish ...

Needless to say, I enjoyed New Orleans!!!

Monday night, it was "dinner on your own" and a group of us went to Irene's, which was (I think) the best restaurant of the trip. The atmosphere is just so very special and the food was to die for. I was seated next to some of my favorite co-workers, so the conversation was wonderful. This was a very happy evening for me.

Tuesday night, we went on a rather cheezy riverboat cruise. I suppose it was exactly what anyone would expect. But the boat itself was in a state of disrepair. The carpet smelled of mildew. The furniture was very old and cheap. The members of the band appeared to be in their 90's. But the food was pretty good!

Then on the last night of the meeting, our CEO took us to Antoine's. What an incredible place. We ate in a private dining room and every bite was delicious. I even ate fried oysters, which I generally don't like. After dinner, we went back to the hotel.

I flew home on Thursday, July 2, 2009. I drove home from the airport, already planning my next five moves. I needed to do laundry, pay bills, visit with my son and my cat, call the office and then pack again for the trip to North Carolina on the 3rd. It was family reunion time!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

the maison dupuy

My flight to New Orleans on Saturday, June 27, 2009, was uneventful. I arrived sometime after 10 a.m. and caught a cab to The Maison Dupuy at 1001 Rue Toulouse, a hotel that the company had booked me for one night since the main hotel was not yet available. The somewhat cold woman at the front desk informed me that my room would not be available until 4 p.m. I indicated that this would be no problem, then set up camp in the lobby, opening my suitcase to get out papers, plugging my laptop and cell phone in to charge and making a phone call to my friend Holly. Not suprisingly, I had a room within about 40 minutes.

The room was quite nice. I relaxed a bit. A phone call from a co-worker asking if I would like to go find some lunch stirred me at about 1 p.m. Off we went to walk towards Canal Street. We found a fun, but humid, eatery and I enjoyed some jambalaya. I also sampled the corner of a friend's catfish - also delicious. Back to the hotel we went, where we found more co-workers. We all retired to our rooms for a rest, then regrouped at dinner time. We set off more or less in the same direction and ate appetizers prior to assembling at a prearranged spot for 'ghost tour' of the French Quarter, which turned out to be a snooze festival. So we ditched the tour group, hired a horse carriage and took a different sort of tour. When that concluded, we bravely set forth towards Bourbon Street.

Announcement --- I am too old for Bourbon Street. I hung in there for a while - even enjoyed a great rock band for about 90 minutes. (Twenty-five years ago I would have thrown myself at the guitar player.) But at the first sign that one of our group was ready to go, I cut out of there like a razor blade. (But it was fun.) And we took a cab back to the hotel. LOL