I checked the weather, and it didn’t look promising. Afternoon showers were expected by around 1 pm, and we were rolling into town just around this time. This was not our first visit to New Orleans, but the last time we came through it was just to eat before getting back on the highway. I wanted for us to walk around downtown, visit the French Quarter, and look at the river. The girls were all eager to eat oysters and alligator, and even though it started dumping rain on us as we got closer to downtown, we marched ahead with our plan.
As soon as we exited the highway, we crossed some invisible veil and everything was clear. The rain stopped and I could see blue sky through the clouds. Behind us, over the interstate, the sky was dark and the rain was still falling. How fortunate!
At first I parked along the street in the financial district, leaving the family in the car so I could take my downtown walk. Gaia wanted to come with me, so the two of us set off, hoping the weather would hold. I kept a fast pace for someone Gaia’s size, but she upped her effort and kept up with me, without complaint.
“Why is it?” I asked her, “that when we all walk as a family you usually complain about it being too far and that you're too tired, but that when it’s just you and me, you have tons of energy?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s just more fun. You talk to just me.”
Indeed, when our interactions are one on one, the girls and I get along well. Most of the conflict in our family arises from their disagreements with each other, and I always end up being the bad guy to somebody in such cases. But when it's just me and one other, it's usually quite peaceful.
When we walk together, we share energy, and children are naturally equipped to absorb energy, as well as ideas and worldview concepts. My enthusiasm and my thoughts draw me along, and Gaia is good at picking up on it. Children are counting on us to take them around and show them the world, to help them get oriented here. If we give them lots of good, quality time, they will follow where we lead them with shared enthusiasm. They are full of energy, but the energy only flows when their attitudes are tuned just right, and having my full attention always puts the kids in higher gear.
We did a good loop through downtown and then went back to the car, which we took into the French Quarter. Laura found a restaurant online and directed me to where it was. I thought we might do better to walk around first and then eat, in case it started raining, but the girls were all hungry, so we ate first. Laura’s pick was a place called Oceana, on the corner of Bourbon St.
As a vegetarian, my options were few, but they had a tasty Cajun pasta dish with vegetables, which turned out to be excellent. The girls loved their alligator tail and oysters, as well as some other dishes like gumbo and fried squid. We sat right by the kitchen, and smells were wonderful, especially when the chef threw some sort of sauce on the grill and the flames went up to the hood vents.
After our repast, we hit the streets, heading down Bourbon Street towards the cathedral and plaza. Right as we started out it began to rain. The girls had their rain coats and I had an umbrella, so it was no big deal at first. But then the sky really opened up, and we found ourselves taking shelter under an awning. We waited for a few minutes, wondering if the rain would let up. Eventually it was decided that I would go get the car and we would just leave, so I set off. By the time I got to the car, the rain had lessened, though it was still coming down. I drove over to where I left the girls, and when I came to the location where they were supposed to be waiting, they were gone. The rain stopped almost completely, so I parked and went to find them.
When we met up again, we decided we might as well continue walking around. We went to the St. Louis Cathedral, admiring the beautiful landscaping and walking through Jackson Square. The girls wanted to try to some signature New Orleans doughnuts, which are so far out of our usual dietary parameters that I was quite surprised to hear Laura agree. I had to go find an ATM to get cash for this. Lila was on my back, and by the time she finished her treat, my neck and back were covered in powdered sugar.
The Mississippi River was way up. A whole section of sidewalk was underwater. It was quite strange standing on the levee and looking from the river to the town, which was well below the water level. No wonder Katrina did so much damage to New Orleans.
Louisiana is an interesting place. The French never got much of a hold on the New World, back in the age of exploration, when all it took to secure millions of acres of virgin land was to show up in a boat and plant a flag in the ground. But rather than set up colonies, they sent trappers and hunters up in the far north, tapping into the natural wealth of the land without the high costs of permanent settlements. This helped them develop fairly good relations with the natives, who were also hunters and trappers, and who didn’t mind sharing the vast land with a few outsiders. It was the setting up of permanent towns and the transplanting of European culture that was the bigger threat. For this reason, the natives fought with the French against the English during the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian Wars in the US), only to lose. But the French influence would remain. Even though all of Canada eventually would become part of the British Empire, Quebec remains French speaking, and overall it is far more French than it is English.
In the south, the French crown did make more of an effort to set up a permanent colony, with the founding of New Orleans in 1718. For a long time, however, it was not much of a colony. Hovels, malaria, and reprobates characterized the new settlement for much of the early and mid-eighteenth century. To make things worse, a major hurricane blew down most of the buildings in 1722. Just when the French started to get things going, the entire territory was ceded to the Spanish, at the conclusion of the Seven Years War. The French lost the war to the British, but because the British took Florida from the Spanish, they were kind enough to make it up to them by giving the Spanish the French territory they had just won. Ah, politics.
The Spanish occupation of New Orleans was not smooth sailing. First they dealt with rebellions, and then major fires destroyed the city in 1788 and 1794. It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th Century that the French regained control of New Orleans, but then, only 3 years later, Napoleon sold all of Louisiana (some 828,000 square miles) to the United States to help finance his war campaign. Welcome to the United States, Louisiana. Time to start speaking English!
History is always fascinating. In spite of being pinballed back and forth between the world’s empires, New Orleans remains decidedly French. After the above-mentioned fires, many of the now famous buildings in the French Quarter were built, with distinctly French architecture and style. New Orleans thrives on the old world atmosphere and party life quality that comes with Mardigras. Street performers, live music, people of all kinds roaming the streets having a good time.
We saw all of these on our walk, and we hoped to watch a band that was setting up, but it began to rain again, so we made our way back to the car, deciding to get on the road rather than stay the night in New Orleans. We instead booked a place outside of LaFayette, hoping to get closer to Texas. Our next stop would be Houston, where we planned to attend the kickoff event for the Conscious Resistance Tour with Derrick Broze. If you don’t know Derrick Broze, I highly recommend you check out his work. He’s touring the US right now as I write, visiting communities and spreading the ideas of agorism and consciousness. So many people are awakening to the truth that we must change our world for the better, and we’re fortunate to be able to find each other and connect, figuring out together how best to proceed. Let the good work continue!