Thursday, October 7

Before we left New Orleans, Art-Man took us to a little park that was near his apartment, and one that he grew up near. It was a beautiful little park. I like places where you can be in the middle of a big city and yet feel like you’re completely in the woods, away from civilization. It gives you a chance to decompress a bit before you have to go back and deal with the real world.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the south, and you forget some of the nice things about places you previously were. In this case, it was the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. It gave the trees an since of age, like it was a shawl being worn by grandfather cypress.

I had a moment that I never thought I would have. I was standing by the waterfront, looking across the water and I saw an Egret or Heron standing across the way. Something about the way the moment looked caught my attention. I told Art-Man and he said it was a beautiful moment and he pulled out his camera to take some pictures to later paint from. This sparked a conversation about how both he and Tod have an eye for photography, whereas I do not. As we talked about it, I realized that I do have an eye for it, I was the one who saw this moment, and realized what it could be, and told Art-Man. Without consciously knowing it, I had captured the moment. And having no training in photography, I wouldn’t know about lights and shadows, etc., so I might just dismiss the moment as simply a moment for the memory banks. It was a really cool revelation.

We said our goodbyes to Art-Man and bid adieu to NoLA, and made east for Gulf Shores, AL. Art-Man had told us about a ferry that we could take from Dauphin Island to Gulf Shores, but we decided to stick to the road, I mean we already did a boat, right?

We arrived into what appeared to be the sleepy little hamlet of Gulf Shores, Alabama. As we were heading down highway 59 to meet up with our hosts for the evening, the Michaelis’s, we noticed that the traffic began to get a little more heavy on this fairly small highway, and soon we found out why. Gulf Shores is known for it’s annual Shrimp Festival. It’s been featured on TV, so you know it’s a big deal. And after what happened in the Gulf this summer, this year’s festival is probably more important than ever.

After a bit of renavigating, many of the roads were closed for the festival, we found our accommodations for the night: a beach house right on the Gulf. Its name was Bikini Bottom. I love how all the houses on this beach area have names. It harkens back to the old days in the south, when you had to go home, you said that you had to get back to Tara, or Fernwood Estates, something like that.

My friend Dan O’Neill sent out our info to all his friends when he found out about what we were planning with his trip, threw it out to the universe, and the universe replied loudly. Lori Rosenblum Michaelis, contacted me and told us that we had to come to Gulf Shores and she would take care of everything for us. Her family, along with Dykens, who own Bikini Bottom, opened their arms as wide as they would go to welcome us and make us feel like family.

We arrived at Bikini Bottom, and Lori and her family were there to greet us. I’ve not had a chance to stay in a beach house like this before: on stilts, in case the waters rise up, white sand driveway and beach, private dock out back with boat and Sea-Doo, wrap around porch. Absolutely beautiful, in all honesty, we wanted to just move in there!

Lori introduced us to her family; husband Andy, son Ethan, and daughter Grace. Being a giant kid myself, Grace and I got along famously. Her favorite foods are fried shrimp and macaroni and cheese. I told her that she should try putting them together sometine. If they taste good separately, they will taste great together, just like chocolate and peanut butter. To which Lori admitted her weakness to PB&C, so much so they can’t keep the two in the house together,. Lori, I understand your addiction completely (This blog update being written on a computer right next to a big spoon and jars of Nutella and Jif.)

Lori took us out to the dock and brought out our amuse-bouche; steamed peeled shrimp, Old Bay peel and snd eat shrimp, tuna salad, and Lower Alabama caviar (a concoction of black eyed peas, onions, etc., and very tasty) All of the foods were locally caught and made. We sat on the dock and ate shrimp and talked with our adoptive family, tossing the shrimp shells right back into the lagoon. This reminded me of when Tod and I were kids and our parents took us to Norway and we would eat the shrimp right off the boat and do the same with the shells.

After a beautiful sunset, probably one of the more beautiful ones I have seen n this trip, Lori and Grace said they were going to be our guides to the Shrimp Festival. So we piled into her Windstar, or Windstar type vehicle, (what do you want form me?! It was dark and I’m blind! ☺ ), and headed over to see what al the hullabaloo was about.

As soon as we walked into the Festival, I was reminded of when my dad and mom used to work the Volksfest when we lived in Germany; kiosks and vendors hawking their wares, music blaring over PA’s, games of chance with tacky prizes, musicians jamming out for the massive groups of people there. And this was just local’s night, it gets really busy tomorrow. Lori lead us to get some Pistols; cheesy, shrimpy goodness fried inside a bread jacket, nom nom nom. Spicy, cheesy delicious! There were so many things there I wanted to eat, but I settled for the pistol and some alligator on a stick, just to make sure my tender tummy didn’t act up. Alligator is not to bad either. It does have the texture of chicken, a little bit more dense than chicken though.

Grace had denied herself a pistol and opted for a corndog. Oh, she and I are kindred spirits. She ate the outside of the corndog, which of the two parts of a corndog, really is the best part. I offered her some of my alligator, but she would have little to do with it. Kids, huh? Won’t eat their vegetables or their alligator.

We walked the length and breadth of the Shrimp Festival to see what else they had for us. Lots of food, including Sharkabobs, but I decided to save that for another time, one aquatic species a day for me, that’s my motto. Lori then tok us back to Bikini Bottom. On the way, she asked us if we would be interested in playing with a baby tiger. Uh, YEAH! She said she would contact her friends at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in the morning and see what could be arranged.

With thoughts of being where the wild things are, we drifted off to slumbertown, population us.