There were times during my New Orleans stay when I needed to get away from the stress of the day and re-ground myself. I would drive to Audubon Park and sit on an uncomfortable bench next to the river and make the world go away. I called this “river time.” My “river time” was cathartic and spiritually fulfilling. I enjoyed the constant flow of the river as it carried the commerce of the country up the Mississippi river through Cancer Alley towards Baton Rouge (Yes, there is a Cancer Alley and it’s the stretch of river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. More refineries and chemical plants are in this region than any other area in the country. They used to spew their hazardous waste into the river until recent times. The City of New Orleans still gets its public drinking water from the Mississippi river downstream from this area. Doesn’t that make you want to drink from the tap?)
Enough of that. The river was quite deep in this area so the large ocean-going vessels were only a few feet from my bench. I would often wait until a large ship came by before reaching my “river time” quota. I especially enjoyed reading their international names and home ports on their stern as they passed by. I often imagined riding one of these ships around the world in a calming – bordering on boring – trip to some other foreign land to deliver the nasty chemicals they would pick near Baton Rouge. I think it was this fantasy of escape that gave value to my frequent “river time” moments – as well as my desire to be near nasty chemicals. Oh the 60s, where did you go?
So, on this recent trip to New Orleans, I made a pilgrimage to the park for a little “river time.” Oh by the way, I also had just come from Alaska where there had been only four hours of sunlight each day, and I was jones’n for some rays. I sat on my bench with my face aimed at the sky and quickly reversed the onslaught of the seasonal affective disorder that affects everyone living near the Arctic Circle. A little “river time” and I was a whole person again.
Here are a couple of photos of my bench and of two ships that passed within a minute of each other. It was a busy day on the old Mississippi.