Saturday, December 19, 2009

Progress Report: Frugality in New Orleans

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This morning bright light came through a gap in the opaque curtains at the no-tell motel in New Orleans. The light was blue on the top and white underneath. Like the colors of the fleur-de-lis flag of the ancien regime. The blue was the sky, of course, and the white was a high fence that formed a barrier between the motel parking lot and the expressway entrance ramp just beyond. Atop the fence, every ten feet or so, were bright holiday decorations—inflatable Santas, snowmen, reindeer, Mary, Joseph.

After clearing out of the room I drove around a bit looking for long-term parking. I almost parked in the airport lot, but thought better of it and went across the street to the Hilton where, as it turns out, I will save about fifty percent for my two weeks of parking. This quest for the bargain drives me at some subconscious level, instilled by my parents or bred into me from both sides, depending on whether you like nurture or nature as the prime mover of human behavior. Of course it doesn’t always work out, as the peeling wallpaper, wobbling toilet, and washcloth-sized bath towels of last night’s bargain hunt reminded me once again this morning.

Now I’m in the gentle wi-fi environs of the airport itself, killing time until check-in, drinking that dark roast coffee everybody but me seems to prefer, and enjoying the comparative luxury of a strong internet connection signal. The Sprint card is great, but it’s slow. I really shouldn’t complain; the card is being paid for by one of Laurine’s former employers, and they haven’t gotten around to taking it away, or canceling it, or whatever happens. Talk about a bargain! It would cost sixty or seventy bucks a month, and I’d pay it for sure to have the internet on the road. No equivalent of a cheap motel there unless I want to drag my ass into restaurants and libraries all the time.

My fear of flying kept me out of airports long enough that I’m not tired of them yet. People love to complain, and frequent flyers like Laurine are probably entitled to do so (though she doesn’t, by nature), but I still get a kick out of the whole experience, especially when the Xanax starts to work. They're clean and spacious, for the most part, and the people are upbeat and on the move. And after all these weeks of inching along a stride at a time, I’m in awe of the speed at which the same distance can be covered through the air.

Though I visited Louisiana a few times years ago, I feel that most of its mysteries await me. The drive down last evening hinted at them--a welcome sign in English and French (just a gimmick, I’m sure, but cool anyway); parishes instead of counties; long stretches of swampy nothing under causeways; and a perceptible uptick in attitude on the part of the locals, conveying their confidence that they’re somewhere with more going for it than perverse pride in having lost a war. I can’t help contrasting that in my mind to the toxically nostalgic mentality of much of the rest of the south. It remains to be seen whether these impressions will stand up to the light of day.

Until then, good holidays to you.


Anonymous said...

You made a very impressive effort to walk as far as you did before Christmas even though you didn't get all the way to New Orleans. Do you have similar milestones for walking west? How long do you expect that to take?

Several years ago we made a trip thru MS going to New Orleans, only it was by car and we stayed on I-55 (except for a side trip to Oxford, MS, where my son did an internship at a recording studio). Too bad you didn't get to Vicksburg or Natchez while you were in MS--interesting history.

Looking forward to reading again in January. Am currently in MI but will be in Florida around the time you start walking/writing again. Brother & mom are already there. Incidentally, the couple who owns the FL condo we rent live in Cromwell, CT--is that anywhere near where you lived?

Hope you enjoy your break and get lots of rest. /mlg

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Sorry, I've decided not to make any more predictions about when I'll get anywhere. Recently I've been doing about a hundred miles a week.

One of my regrets is that there's so much to see that I won't get to. The road is long, but it's narrow.

We lived in Farmington, which is maybe 15 miles from Cromwell. Nothing's too far from anything else in Connecticut.