Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors and Retirees

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Episode 117 Road Trip Part 10: New Orleans

We stopped for two hours and visited a plantation house just a few hours out of New Orleans. It had been spared during the civil war. Our guide said it was because the owner was a friend of Mr. Lincoln. An interesting stop, but costly. We lost the daylight. When we got to the city we found ourselves in the dark and prowling unfamiliar territory – not a good place to be. We couldn’t read street signs. We made wrong turns. We got lost. We asked directions. We got lost again. We asked directions. Frustration – not real bad frustration but frustration none the less. We made a decision to never again enter a big city after dark.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

We found our home exchange. It was an old classic shotgun house. It had once served as a B&B and was very ornate and consumptuously furnished. There were wall hangings, figurines, statues, pillows, and furniture; things that sit on shelves and on the floor. There was something everywhere; not any room for our own stuff. We piled it on the floor.

This home exchange differed from others that we have had in that the owner was present. Her scheduled was very flexible and it just so happened she was there at the same time as our visit. She was friendly and charming. I can fault her for nothing, yet – yet her very presence changed the visit for us. It wasn’t the same as going into a place where you are the only ones staying there. While not bad, it was not nearly as good as a place where you have total privacy. Next time this type of arrangement is proposed we will approach it with more than a little skepticism.

Two blocks from our place, was the most wonderful coffee shop Tout Du Saint or Two Sweet. It is strictly a neighborhood stop. Jill is the owner. We quickly found out that she lived just a few blocks from us in Bellingham, Washington up until just six years ago when she moved to New Orleans. We knew the same people, had walked the same streets, had shopped the same stores. She is an effervescent woman and we laughed hard and long at tales from the past. The coffee was great and we visited her shop at least once a day for our entire stay. It became our place for gathering information on what to do and see and how to go about it. I also interview a guy for this podcast while sitting at a table outside in the warn sun.

New Orleans was a sad city. That was my take on it. The city is built in a precarious location on the banks of the Mississippi River and on the Gulf - water all around. The city is sinking. The river runs higher than many city streets. When winds blow and waves build, lives are in peril. Hurricanes are an annual threat. The aftermath of Katrina is everywhere. Of course in certain sections of the city the damage is obvious with splintered wood, crushed walls, and abandoned furniture lining the streets. Streets and sidewalks are heaved up creating a serrated surface. The tax structure has been gutted by people who have left the city never to return and thus the land produces no taxes.

The impact of Katrina less obvious to the view is what one doesn’t see – people. The French Quarter was practically empty. Preservation Hall was closed. It is open only on weekends. I’m not sure if that is new since Katrina or if it has always been that way. We did listen to some music in a few night spots. We ate in some good restaurants – never a line at the door. We entered a curio shop to get a few postcards. We talked to the clerk for probably twenty minutes. No one else entered the store. I never even saw one person walk past the door. The clerk was there during the hurricane. She said the scariest time was when it went absolutely silent. No people anywhere. No sounds. Then there would be gunfire. Now she bemoaned the lack of people. The businesses are dying.

In Algeries Point, where we were staying, we heard that they took twenty body bags out of the neighborhood after the storm. That was after the National Guard came and started shooting looters. I interviewed a resident outside our favorite coffee shop in Algeries Point. I will edit and publish it at a later date. He is retired and a community organizer.

New Orleans is an interesting city. It has so much history and so much feeling. The people we talked to would live no where else. They all loved New Orleans. I probably will never return but I will never forget it. I’ll always think of it as a city torn by the river and hurricanes; a place of poverty, old grandeur, desertion, and fun loving people who love their city.

This is Retirement Talk.