Saturday, December 04, 2010

Alligator Santa and alligator reindeer

Bayou Santa
While the town I grew up is inland, for the past two decades I have never lived someplace in which I didn't pass an ocean view at least once a day.  New Orleans is surrounded by water, the Mississippi on one side and Lake Pontchartrain on the other, but you have to go out of your way to see them.

On the riverside, you can go to the French Quarter's Moonwalk (named after the current mayor's father, a mayor himself) or to Audubon Park, Uptown.  Neither is particularly convenient.  While I enjoy watching the barges and ships ply the Big Muddy, there isn't any surf and you can see the opposite bank.  It puts me in mind of the vastness of the continent through which the river has flowed through rather than the vastness of the globe beyond the horizon.  Aside from these two walkways, the views of the Mississippi are blocked by the backs of warehouses and the backs of levees.

On the lakeside, I can drive my little Ninja along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.  There isn't much going on there, just some lawns and gazebos and a few trees.  Not much activity, though I'm told it used to be busy in the old days (pre-2005).  The road along the lakefront is elevated.  You can't dip your toes into the surf.  In fact, there isn't any surf.  The opposite shore is invisible but there aren't any breakers, just dimpled water as far as the eye can see and, off to the west, the Causeway carrying its cars and truck traffic.  Gazing at Lake Pontchartrain doesn't make you wonder what's on the other side.  The causeway gives it away: the suburbs of Covington and Mandeville, which are probably little different from the suburb of Metarie which I can reach in ten minutes without crossing any water beyond a concrete-bound drainage ditch that is called a canal.

I mentioned to a woman the other day that I miss the ocean.  She said there is a beach I can reach after a three hour drive.  Three hours!  I didn't like to drive two hours across Connecticut to visit my mother, especially because it would be another two hours back.  A trip to this beach would be six hours round trip and there wouldn't be any rocks on it, just featureless sand and the lap of little, blue Gulf waves.  As we talked further, I realized that I miss two things: the hoary, gray Atlantic and rocks.  I haven't seen a rock of any size jut out of the ground since I've moved here.  There aren't any, not so much as a pebble.

I'd say I miss hills too but I don't.  While I find the flatness monotonous, my bicyclist legs don't miss hills.  Commanding vistas perhaps, but not the geologic understructure that makes them possible.

I miss puddingstone and granite.  Otherwise no complaints, certainly not about the culture....


Anonymous said...

I miss the ocean too. And walks along the shoreline with a hot cup of coffee on a windy morning watching out for pretty shells and avoiding the little splashes from these tiny crabs.

Whalehead King said...

I never thought I would miss it. It was just always there, like air. Now that it isn't around, it's not like having no air but there is a void bigger than that wide horizon.
Thanks for sharing.


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