Vacation’s End

Hidden%20Crane.jpg12:45 PM

I’m sitting inside the Amtrak/Greyhound station and trying to figure out the mural painted above the gate. The colors are vibrant and engaging, but many of the human figures depicted there are grotesque or emotionally unpleasant. Though I don’t recognize all or even most of the episodes portrayed, my guess is it’s a depiction of the pivotal bits of Louisiana history. History does have its gruesome and violent moments. Plenty of them, in fact. It never was my best subject in school.

I do like the panel with the three children at school desks watched over by a procession of nuns in crucifixion pose.

The baggage check counter keeps paging a Sean Bonner. Since he hasn’t answered, I haven’t found out whether it’s Metroblogging’s own fearless leader or just someone else coincidentally bearing the same name.

1:20 PM

They’re boarding us on the train by destination, and I’m the second person on the coach car bound for Chicago. Look at all those empty seats! Such choices! Such a plethora of options! I grab seats 19 and 20 ’cause they’ve got an electrical outlet, and, wonder of wonders, the seats swing out a bit so that I can actually get my computer running on AC power. Life is good.

My neighbors are a friendly and talkative bunch. The woman across the aisle is on her way to Huey, Pennsylvania after an eight-hour delay in Chicago. This is her first train ride. About three seats back from her is a man who says he chose to visit NOLA on this Mardi Gras because “the city needs it. And maybe I can help out.” He wants to know whether I thought there were as many people attending this year as before. I have a hard time answering. I grew up going to the Metairie parades–watched them at Melody and Vet’s–so I have very little basis of comparison for the downtown crowds at Zulu, Bacchus, Muses, and Endymion. I mean, those parades have always looked insanely crowded to me. The news said there were 80,000 people downtown. They also said there were only 150 arrests as compared to last year’s 1,600.

The conductor has announced a sold-out train. He’s asked us to get our stuff off the seats next to us so that we can accommodate neighbors. Even the car to Chicago is stuffed. That’s the morning after Mardi Gras for you. Everyone’s getting the hell out of town.

Vacation is over.

2:06 PM

We’re over swamp again. I’ve already seen more heron/egret/ibis/white-wading-birds than you can shake a stick at. But I’m sitting on the left, and I-10 and Lake Pontchartrain will be on the right. I head over to the sightseer lounge for a better view.

The conductor starts telling us all about what we’re seeing. We’re passing over the Bonnet Carrie Spillway, which is the channel that lets water out of the Mississippi River and into Lake Pontchartrain when conditions warrant it. We’re told that the side of Lake Pontchartrain we’ll be going around is fresh water; the side that the Mississippi spills into is salt.

Though the conductor tells us that this insanely huge lake is over X amount of square miles (64?), and that the 24-mile curve of waterside tracks we’re on is something like the longest such in the country, but he doesn’t mention the also-24-mile-long Causeway Bridge (definitely the longest in the world). I suppose that’s understandable. We can’t actually see the Causeway Bridge from here, after all.

At intervals, logs with turtles basking on top come into view. Traffic on I-10 East is crawling along bumper-to-bumper. West-bound traffic is racing by faster than we are. For this portion of the trip, the train goes much slower than its usual 80 miles per hour. I think the tracks must be in bad condition or something.

2:26 PM

The train has stopped. I tried to get some pictures of one of those white crane/heron birds (the skinny kind with a yellow beak and no crest), but it got spooked as I moved around the sightseer lounge to get a better fix on it. It walked up the shore and blended right in with the trees. I’m amazed that something that white can hide in a brown and green swamp so thoroughly.

In the distance on the right side of the train, I can just make out what looks like someone’s home. I can’t imagine how they must have suffered through last fall’s storms.

I should put this away and start working on my novel or something productive like that. But I just can’t seem to tear my eyes away from the view. Before long the train will start up again and the swamp will fall behind us. We’ll hit Hammond, and after that we’ll be officially on our way out of southern Louisiana. I want to be here while I’m still here, you know?

2:57 PM

We’re in Hammond now. Behind me, there’s a conversation going on that I don’t entirely catch, but I hear the words, “Like the song says,” and “Riding on the rails.” I do believe I have finally heard reference to the song “City of New Orleans” while onboard the City of New Orleans. Wonderful. My expectations at last fulfilled, I can now return to Denver.

1 Comment so far

  1. Anthony (unregistered) on March 3rd, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

    I’ve often wondered about that line-up of nuns in the mural. Crucification pose? Trying to fly? I’m very glad that they are still there.



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