I was bored, stranded at Love Field for the scheduled hour and a half layover that rolled into an unscheduled delay and a late departure because the air conditioning would go out in the back of the designated aircraft and we would have to change planes and gates—but, of course, I didn’t know this yet.
My week in New Orleans was over and I was in limbo until my head was back on my own pillow, but until then all I could do was wander the airport corridors and drink overpriced liquor (which I wasn’t going to do at noon) or browse the twelve-dollar yogurt pretzels and glamour rags in the shoppettes.
Yesterday morning, as I had pushed my feet forward to pick up steam on my daily walk around the scenic Belle Chasse neighborhood, I marveled at the stamina of the crews of minority men who stood atop houses (I stopped counting after I hit twenty-five). They worked long hours in the oppressive humidity to replace roof tiles, damage from recent hail that had severely hit the parish. As sweat beaded down my nose, I noted the aftermath of another widespread storm: the local Fourth of July celebrations.
The fireworks’ display had been beautiful, a more diverse set of explosives than I had ever witnessed, a fact that was more impressive when you figured it was independent amateurs who had blown off their personal stocks. But, in the daylight, there was so much trash strewn about that the lush lawns were covered with red tissue paper, bottle rocket sticks, and the indestructible bases of Roman candles, and hundreds of launch sites were burned into the pavement. –On the other hand, I was amazed that I still had not seen one squirrel or bird in any tree or bush in six days, but I had spotted ten cranes in nearby ditches and water formations.
Yes, New Orleans had its share of lunatics who set up camp in the French Quarter with their rainbow-umbrella hats and megaphones, blasting crazed rhetoric at passersby, and various versions of G-string clad strippers who romanced Bourbon Street, the red light district, and the gay bars. Mardi Gras attendance was measured each year in the tons of chicken bones, crawfish skeletons and other garbage that city employees scraped off the downtown streets. It had gamblers, criminals, and addicts, extreme elements found in some degree in every international city, but most of the behavior that made the news was the product of Average Joes from Poughkeepsie coming to New Orleans to go berserk.
What I loved were lazy nights like last night, sitting on the bricked front porch with a cool glass of wine and warm conversation, watching the heavy summer rain fall in waves and smelling the blossoms that bloomed large, reminders that Louisiana was closer to a tropical rain forest than any other climate.
“Thanks for your patience,” the man manning our new gate assignment announced, ending my reverie, “but we will now start boarding. Anyone with a blue boarding pass, please come to the front of the line.”
I shouldered my computer bag and got in line, knowing that soon I would be squeezed between two strangers because, with all the pre-boarders, family and VIP prioritized-seatings, only middle chairs would be open. But as awkward as it was to wait in this public netherworld pinioned between points A and B--what you loved and were leaving behind and that which you loved and returned to--I was already scheming. If I tried hard and worked fast, I could still snap a picture of my foot on board and forward it to my friends (Alice now, too) as a virtual postcard of my travels before powering down the cell phone. I had enjoyed wonderful girl time, as well as a break from the routine and scenery of San Antonio, but it was time for me to return to my own plants, pets, pastimes and people.