The New Orleans trip is beginning to take shape. My English friend Lynn will fly over to St. Paul from Aberdeen, Scotland, where she lives. We’ll hit the road and wend our way south, taking about three days to reach New Orleans. I booked a suite in a B&B. Our friend Christine, an Australian who lives in Oxford but spends much of her time working in Africa or Asia, will fly over to join us, as will my cousin Molly, who turns 50 that week.
So it’ll be four of us all together for French Quarter Festival, then Lynn and I will drive a different route back. My friend Ferruh also lives there with his wife. They’re Turkish. He’s a drummer who used to play in a belly-dancing troupe, then moved to Denmark and then the US, all the while working on his PhD. Now he teaches at Tulane. He’s a great guy and I hope we can all have dinner together.
I alternate between worrying: “What if the car breaks down in rural Tennessee?” and feeling excited about the music, the heat, riding in a swamp boat and feeding marshmallows to alligators, touring a creole plantation and one of New Orleans’ fantastic cemeteries, maybe getting in on a second line, which I was lucky enough to do last time I was there.
My mom’s husband, Jim, is from St. Louis, so I sat down with him and pored over an atlas. He is 86 now and done with road trips, but they took some great ones and they love to talk about them. It must be hard to know that you’ll never drive to St. Louie again, or fly to Phoenix to escape the winter cold.
Jim had drawn up a list of things to do and see in St. Louis and Memphis:
I find these scraps of the folks’ handwriting endearing.
Jim told me about the great Italian neighborhood I had to visit in St. Louis. “We called it Dago Hill when I was a kid,” he said a little sheepishly. “But now it’s just called The Hill.”
I also want to write a bit of an update on Vince and how well he is doing despite the challenges he still faces.
When he was put on indefinite lockdown he was phlegmatic about it. “They’re trying to get me to react,” was his take on it. “And I’m not going to. This too shall pass.”
I know it’s called Alcoholics Anonymous, but it’s no secret that Vince is in the program and I think it’s okay to say that he’s really working it—he found a sponsor, who is like a mentor, and they are working on the 12 steps together.
He’s taking care of his health. He hasn’t taken up smoking since being on the outside. Besides just being bad for you in every way except for being an instant stress reliever, smoking is hugely linked to drinking and drugs and can trigger a relapse.
My sister gave him a used Bowflex machine. It’s in our basement, which could win an award for grossest, creepiest basement ever. But he goes down there and uses it. I told him he should feel free to clean the basement up and make it his man cave.
He’s eating decent food. It would be easy for him to buy lunch at the Arby’s that a few blocks from his work, but instead he packs a lunch every day. He even bought lettuce and whole grain bread! We’re talking about bacon sandwiches, just to assure you he hasn’t completely gone around the bend and become a gluten-free, chewy crunchy vegan.
Vince was beginning to meet people and make friends when he was granted more time out of the house. That’s off the table now due to the indefinite lockdown. Thanks to social media, he can still be in touch with the outside world.
Most gratifying of all is Vince’s gratitude—for those who send words of encouragement, read his blog, and in particular to the anonymous person who gave him a new laptop so he no longer has to type his posts with two fingers on his phone.