Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Orleans, Five Years Ago, And Today.

The Ghost of Christmas Future should have accompanied him five years ago this month. Did he know what he had? He thought he did. He didn't know, however, how easily it could leave him.

He drove south, to New Orleans, with his newlywed bride in the car passenger seat, sleeping. She always slept on car trips. Something about the motion of the car, the sensation, lulled her off to dreamland every time. This left him free to play whatever he wanted on the radio. The lush green trees on each side of Interstate 59 giving way to more and more swampland as they entered the area of Slidell, Louisiana. She awoke for this sight, for it wasn't something either of them had seen everyday.

Then crossing the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, a bridge seemingly without end. This being five years ago, it was pre-Katrina, and unsullied. Then: New Orleans, the huge stadium, the city, the aura; all compelling. He drove them to their hotel, The Hotel Monteleone, where they had reservations. A stunning hotel, awash in Christmas decorations and many posh displays of the holiday season all over town.

This was their honeymoon. And the Ghost should have told him to hold her hand more. Look at her more. Talk to her more. BE there with her. Treat her special, something.

They toured the city, the music live, vibrant, and ever present. Over the next two days they saw the Mississippi River up close, toured an outdoor market where she bartered for this or that item. They had beignet's, she had coffee, he, Coke. They ate lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and thought it pretty decent, especially the waiter quizzing them on all the minutiae of the film, Forrest Gump. They dressed nicely for a romantic dinner in a candlelit restaurant where they sampled gumbo and etouffee.

They walked around a lot. Watching street performers, so many of these. Carriages pulled by horses. The Ghost would tell him, now, to grab one for her, but he did not. So many opportunities for romance, but the Ghost wasn't there to prod him into acting. The man took his bride for granted.

They attended a marvelous church choir celebration in a stunning church where a young couple who sat next to them told them their life stories, eager to be best friends, quickly. He and his bride chuckled over this. They visited an old used bookstore, each of them wandering off to different sections. They went to Central Grocery for a muffaletta sandwich, that he didn't care for as much as she did. And it was so large that they took it back to their room. They took a trolley around town.

They walked the city, night and day, avoiding Bourbon Street for it smelled pretty bad. They drank, but not overly so. And they loved. Overly so.

They took pictures, but now, five years later, he does not have these photos. So many rolls of film were rolling around in a junk drawer, the New Orleans roll added to it, they never got around to developing them. His bride may have them now, if so he would like to see the one of them, arm in arm, in front of the hotel Christmas Tree. But maybe it's best he doesn't see it. Yes, the Ghost of Christmas Future would tell him it's best he only has to deal with this image, the memories, only in his head, and not on photo paper. It's easier to forget them this way, and since he isn't listening to the Ghost about BEING there, soaking her in, learning to be with her, he doesn't deserve any memorobilia. Except for the coat with the hotel's logo on it she bought for him right before they checked out and headed for home.He will always have that.

The Ghost of Christmas Future could have told this man, five years ago, things that would have led him on a very different path. Or perhaps not. When we have the opportunity to do something over again, will we truly act any differently? Are second chances really all they're cracked up to be? Maybe the future unfolded the way it did for a reason, and any altering of it would alter other things, better things, that await us in the future. This is perhaps why we don't get any "do-overs". Why a future self can't whisper in your ear and advise you. Because you are going to do what you are going to do, no matter what, and you learn from these mistakes.

The man and his bride had a glorious time for their honeymoon in New Orleans five years ago. From then it got worse, until the inevitable heartbreak happened. But the memory brings smiles. And given opportunity, the path probably wouldn't have been altered, so enjoy what was. And learn. And go forward with that knowledge, using it in the future, so that a trip with someone else is a memory both can look back on and smile. Together. As they hold a photo album. Of photos that have been developed. With captions. And flair. Because it's nice to have memories somewhere other than in your head.

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