I slept in a little bit this morning – all the way to 6:00 which is 7:00 AM back home and made my way downstairs to breakfast and coffee. As an aside, you know you traveled too much over the past year when the people who put out the breakfast don’t just say “Good morning!” but “Welcome back!” Last year I spent over 100 days down here and probably 90 of those were in this hotel. I can’t complain, though. This is a pretty decent place to stay and better than most others I’ve tried down here. And all those days added up to a whole bunch of free days that I used in India and for travels with Daegan around Christmas.
Sage and I spent a bit of time together watching TV, indulging our morning “House Hunters International” habit over coffee together before moving on to games. I’m teaching her to play Seep (Sweep) – a game my Hindi teacher taught me and that he and I play every week when I stop by. I’m the young guy in the group – my teacher is 96, the other student that plays is 80. I’m not yet 47 – but it’s coming soon – while I’m on this trip, in fact. Let’s see if I can find something fun to do for my birthday here.
Sage had to meet someone to record someone’s story for her Storytelling Podcast and then out to her musical improv class. (Improvisational comedy in which not only are you making up funny scenes, they often transition to song like a musical). I had a plan. I found a library that looked interesting in New Orleans on the west side of the river – a side I’d never been to. I got in the car and drove down.
Once I got out of the car, though, something was really strange. There was calliope music coming from a distance. Interspersed with it at times was the sound of sirens. Was there a carnival? Some event? It was made more surreal by the fact that because it was so cold by local standards that the streets were almost completely empty. I walked on another five minutes, trying to find the sound and eventually I think I found it here:
Across the river in just about the centre of the photo is a riverboat. As best I can tell, the sounds are coming from all the way over there. They’re that loud.
I made my way back to the library passing several really pretty houses. I love the colours they use here. So beautifully bold.
Eventually I got back to the library and I was surprisingly grateful for its being open. It was as cold here today as it was in Toronto. We didn’t have their rain, though, so that’s something.
One of the first signs I saw as I arrived was this one:
I was surprised to see a fair number of bike lanes there and folks were out riding. In Toronto the most common type of bikes are road bikes and sometimes mountain bikes with slick tires for the paved streets. Here, though, people were riding cruisers and nobody was in a rush. And apparently people don’t always carry locks. I can’t imagine this. Some people carry two locks with them in Toronto to prevent theft. If many folks left their bike outside to go in and get a lock from the library it could well be gone before they returned. This says a lot of things about New Orleans.
Of course this message from the library website also says a bit about the city as well. (Yes, it can be dangerous here. #9 in the US for murder rate…)
Alvar Library Update
The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library are accepting donations on behalf of the Alvar Library security guard who was injured during a shooting that occurred at that location last week. To make an online donation, visit the Friends website and enter Alvar Guard in the online note. Donations can also be made out to the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library and mailed to 219 Loyola Avenue, 70112, please enter Alvar Guard on the check memo.
Fortunately things were very quiet there and I didn’t hear any sort of drama that might have turned out that way.
The library’s facade fits in nicely with the neighbourhood.
And the inside is warm and inviting.
The library was one of the older ones – in fact, one of the older libraries in the region. Built in 1907, this was another Carnegie library and it had a lot of really lovely period details. This branch closed in 1966 due to deteriorating conditions but a volunteer named Cita Dennis Hubbell worked with others in a community action campaign to get the library restored and reopened. It was eventually opened again in 1975. The library is named after her today. Though it wasn’t particularly damaged when Katrina hit, it did end up closing for two months then due to some structural concerns. They closed it again in 2008 for major renovations. Volunteers in the region undertook another campaign to make sure the city opened it back up. During that time, Ms. Hubbell’s daughter opened a temporary branch in a nearby building.
This is a relatively small library – about the size of the one in the little Ozarks town we lived in in the late 90’s. It was quiet except for the sound of a children’s movie playing on a large screen TV watched by one child. Elsewhere adults used computers and one sat enjoying a book. I was the only person browsing the stacks. I did find some interesting books – particularly for an area that I consider socially and politically conservative.
I found very materials other than dictionaries in languages other than English. I did find these interesting books though:
I did hear someone speaking Cajun French last summer. I could follow it a bit but the accent was really different from both Parisian and Quebcois friench.
After that I decided to head back north to the hotel. I did want to make one stop.
I read about this high school and community in this article that came up in my Google Now application a few days after searching for flights. Why? The reason is sad. The whole region along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge is nicknamed Cancer Alley due to all of the chemical plants and refineries along the way. This school is 1 mile from a chemical plant in a city that the EPA says the nation’s highest risk for developing cancer from airborne toxins. Two elementary schools are also nearby.
It’s one of the difficult things people down here face. Chemical plants are some of the biggest employers – they pay well and have jobs across the spectrum from unskilled labour, trades, all the way up to engineers and management. On the other hand, they bring with them risks like this.
Further complicating this is the fact that the reason these plants exist is often to make things we need. Many of the things we take for granted from foam for our car seats, to vinyl, to plastics or spandex for my cycling shorts – all things that are pretty much innocuous, come from plants like this. Plants that have to use some terribly nasty chemicals to make those simple things we take for granted. How dangerous can they be? Dangerous enough that in many towns the tornado sirens are also used to inform residents of dangerous chemical emissions.
So what do we do? The simple answer seems to be to move them somewhere else? But where? They bring danger with them wherever they go. And without them we essentially go back to early 1900’s technology. I’m definitely unsure as to what the right direction is in this case.
After that I headed back to the hotel and had a delightful hour-long nap. When I woke up I saw I was running out of daylight. I had to get it in gear to get out and go for a run. It was only about 15C out and it was going to get colder and dark. If I waited much longer I’d be on the treadmill again.
I went to my usual running spot – the track at a nearby high school. Nobody was there – I’d have the track to myself! Or not…
I had a backup plan, though, and 15 minutes later I was near another school. This one, though, was under construction. It didn’t look like I would be able to get to the track there either. I turned around, giving up and planning on another treadmill run and despairing that I’d find anywhere nice to run. And then I caught myself mentally throwing up my hands and giving up so easily. I pulled in to a parking lot and turned around and found a parking spot. This was a nice residential area, there was a decent park nearby and I could run there and on the sidewalk. I got out of the car and started to run when I saw the sign: “Employee parking only, others towed at owner’s expense.” Geez! They’re not making this easy. I nearly gave up again before realizing I could just park in the library next door. Off I went, running for a solid 30 minutes in some nice scenery.
And then I found it. The entrance.
One thing about running for me is that I see a lot of analogies to be made with life in general. Persist when it gets hard, don’t give up, just focus on the now – the one foot in front of the other. When I’m at my best is when I’m running at such a level that to keep it up I have to focus only on running. There’s no room for thinking about worries about work or life. There is only remembering to breathe and move one foot forward. Good lessons. I think there are some lessons in today’s trying to start running also. I was awfully ready to give up early and planning on feeling upset and angry that it wasn’t going to be possible to do what I wanted to do. How much of this is happening in the rest of my life with some of my other goals (like traveling more or improving my Hindi). With running the answer was to persist and look around more. The question today’s lesson has me pondering is what are the actions I need to persist with on those goals.
After that it was back to the hotel for a quick dinner and then to watch two episodes of Stranger Things with Sage and Daegan. We enjoyed it – maybe not as much as the first series but I’m already hooked. I can’t wait to watch more.
As for tomorrow? It’s likely to be an errand day. Riding up to Baton Rouge to get more healthy meals, maybe a lunch or dinner out. Laundry should also be done if only to get the workout clothes clean. And a rest day from exercise. When I get home I’ll be alternating cycling with running with one rest day a week though.
Oh man, and I can’t forget – I still have a citizenship test to study for. Sage and Daegan take theirs in 3 days!!