Friday, March 09, 2007

It's that time of year again...

Yup, it's that time of year again: Lent. And in the words of one of my favorite philosophers, Frank Davis of Natcher'ly N'Awlins fame, you know what that means: crawfish season!

Had dinner with a friend last night at a restaurant on world famous St. Charles Avenue, which looks a lot like it did B.K. (Before Katrina): Mardi Gras beads dangling from the live oaks (which don't have quite as many branches as they did B.K.), people strolling the sidewalks in the spring twilight, the grand old mansions and newer hotels and condos graciously lining the avenue. The only thing missing, alas, is the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (and I really miss it!). The old 1920s cars survived the flooding, but the new red-and-yellow, air conditioned, cost a million dollars apiece ones, well, guess where THEIR car barn was? Yup, drowned 'em all, 26 of them as I recall. Until they are replaced, the old 1920s cars are being used on the Canal Street line, the Riverfront line, and on the part of St. Charles that is in the Central Business District. The long line uptown and along Carrollton Avenue, where the crashing branches of the oak trees destroyed the crosspieces of the poles that hold up the electric wiring, is still under repair. And until new streetcars arrive to replace the ones destroyed in the flood, there really aren't enough to go around all those streetcar lines, unless you want to wait an hour for a streetcar. In the meantime, we have buses on the St. Charles route, but bouncing over the potholes on a bus just doesn't have the same ambiance as riding the swaying old streetcars with the windows open. The day that streetcars run on St. Charles Avenue again, I am going to be out there on the street waving an American flag to greet them! (Unless I am fortunate enough to get a seat on board.)

At any rate, my friend and I dined at this Mexican restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. And when I opened the menu, the first thing I saw was the insert with the evening's specials. Lenten specials. Seafood dishes.

When was the last time you saw seafood dishes on the menu in a Mexican restaurant? Maybe on your last trip to Cancun? Think about it. Mexico has long coastlines on the Gulf side and the Pacific side, but most Mexican restaurants only have beef and chicken dishes on their menus. There must be a lot of seafood dishes in Mexican cooking, but you never see them on restaurant menus in the U.S. I wonder why not?

So what did we eat, you ask? My friend had shrimp empanada, and I had...crawfish enchiladas. I have no idea if they serve crawfish in Mexico. They sure serve them in New Orleans. Especially during Lent.

And they were good, too! I look forward to having the other half of my dinner for lunch, thanks to the ever popular take-out box!

Lent equals crawfish. Remember that!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


The title of the blog below should read "Happy trails," not "Hapy." Where's a good editor when you need one?

Hapy trails

I've been on the road. Took a trip to Georgia two weeks ago to visit Cinder the wonder horse, and I found him not doing so well. Seems he had gotten into another horse's supplement, the dosage of which was one ounce, and he had eaten the entire three-pound tub. Without going into the gory details, he was not a happy camper. It was an emergency call for the vet.

It's been a long road, but he was starting to do better, until this evening, when he choked on his feed -- it got stuck in his throat. Another emergency call to the vet. I can hardly wait to see this month's vet bill. But the vet was able to flush water down his throat and clear the food that was blocked. Now he has to have his feed wetted down before he eats it.

If he gets through all this, he will be thirty-one years old on April 26. I have had him since August, 1986 -- twenty years. And it's been a long, wonderful ride. On this last trip I stayed in Alpharetta, in a place that was pastureland and woods for most of the years that I have had Cinder. In fact, I think the expressway exit didn't even exist back in 1986.

Time flies when you're having fun. In many ways, that summer of 1986 when I found him at a farm in Alpharetta seems like just yesterday. He was ten then, and he was a dapple gray horse with a black mane and tail and black stockings (black legs up to the knees and hocks). Today he is white (when he's clean) with a creamy mane and tail. He still has the dark gray patch on his left shoulder that the Arabian people call a "bloody shoulder" -- his grandfather, the Arabian sire Morafic, had the marking too.

While I was visiting Cinder, I had dinner one evening with a friend who owns a horse that Cinder buddied up with, way back then in the 1980s. She still has her horse -- he's 27 now himself, and his beautiful chestnut coat has gotten darker with age and his back has a definite sway in it. My friend and I had a wonderful time reminiscing about the barns where we'd kept our horses and the people we had met along the way. She and I had moved the two horses to the same barns at least four times so we could keep them together. We would move because the barn was closing because someone was developing the property for a subdivision, or a new barn manager came in that we didn't like, or something along those lines. We have seen a lot of changes since 1986.

Part of the problem with having to acknowledge that your horse is getting old is that it means you, too, are getting old. I have started riding again, at a barn in New Orleans. Before my first lesson I cried like a child for two days. It meant I was going on without Cinder, and it broke my heart. I probably will never ride Cinder again -- long story, but I am afraid he might fall down with me. But I want to keep on riding. And in that first time back on a horse in I don't want to say how many years, I lasted about thirty minutes. Talk about pain. Good pain, as pain goes. But I was hobbling around for two days afterward. You see, like Cinder, I'm getting up there myself. And that, too, is a difficult thing to deal with.

In the early 1990s, when we were at a farm in Forsyth County, Georgia that is now a Jack Nicklaus golf course surrounded by very expensive houses, there was a woman there who had a Morgan mare. I first met this woman when I followed her up the long gravel drive to the barn. She was driving a red LeBaron convertible. Her name was Lavinia. And she was about 70 years old. The rest of the horse owners at this barn, all women, were in their 30s and 40s. We just loved Lavinia. She said to us, "Those old ladies at my church just want to sit around and play cards all day. I can't do that." So Lavinia was out there longeing her Morgan mare, Tessa (longeing, pronounced "lungeing," is putting your horse on a long lead line and exercising it by having it walk, trot, or canter in a circle with you in the center holding the lead line). Then she would put a heavy Australian stock saddle on her and ride her. All us thirty to forty year olds decided then and there that we wanted to be Lavinia when we got to be her age.

Yeah, I want to be Lavinia. I don't know if there is going to be another horse in my life after Cinder is gone. I am afraid if I got another horse and it lived as long as Cinder, I would either be going out there to visit him on a walker or he would outlive me. I wonder what Lavinia did.

I guess if I ever have a broken hip (and my mother had one, and I know just how awful that is), I would rather tell the doctor, "My horse threw me" rather than "I fell down in my house." Although if the horse threw me, I'd probably break more bones than just my hip. But I won't go there for now!

Cinder, it's been a great ride these twenty years. Thank you for all the fun times we've had, all the places we've been, all the people and horses we've met. And I hope we have some good days yet.