Road Trippin' Ya Ya Style

It's not secret that I have crazy friends. It's half expected because I am a little quirky. Yes, I said a little.

Combine spring fever, a little hormonal fluctuation, more than a little wine, and several women in the same room and there is bound to be a story in the making. To prove that theory, one spring a few years ago, my friend Tina and I decided we would go see Jimmy Buffett at Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Being from the Gulf Coast, we feel almost related to JB and it's only natural that we should seek him out when he is visiting "down home".

The first stage of plans for our little road trip started almost a year in advance of the event. When we started the plan, we still had to get through holidays, tax time and my daughter's college graduation. And who have thought it? Commencement services fell on the same day Jimmy Buffett was to play in concert. Since the date for graduation had not been set when the reservations were made, I had no idea it would all come about on the same day. WHO plans a graduation in MAY? The same month as JazzFest?? Obviously people who don't put the lime in the coconut, nor identify one another with shark fin symbols. Who were these academics and what DO they do for entertainment?

Ok, maybe I could pat my only daughter on the back and assure her that I would watch the video of the graduation
upon my return from Louisiana. After all...with LED or LCD or HD or whatever they are putting on the tv's these days ,watching it a week later would be almost like being there, right? Obviously such events are expected to be attended by said parents..and it had been a few years and a lot of hard work in the making, and my little girl has always been a source of great pride for me..so..the delicate planning of the day's events began. The time of graduation vs. the time of entrance from the Senior Parrothead himself was going to take a master plan of scheduling finesse. I wasn't going to miss a thing, I could pull it ALL off.

Synchronizing our watches, Tina decided to go forth to the Big Easy the day before me. I would attend graduation, at 10:00 AM on Saturday, have lunch with the family, takes pics, yada, yada and then haul butt to I-10 for a dash west. The goal was to be in New Orleans by 3:30, Tina was already at the festival, so I would meet her in time for the big performance at 5:30. Sounds simple enough, right?

We must note, all joking aside, I would never, ever miss such a life changing event and I cried my eyes out at the graduation, beamed with pride, stood in awe as my sweet daughter graduated from college with honors and a dual major. She is amazing and not sure where she got her brains or her dedication to accomplishing tasks. Meanwhile, her Mama had a hat shaped like a parrot, a purse full of mini Captain Morgans and a plan to go stand ankle deep in mud while watching an aging hippy sing about boats. Yeah, my sweet girl is amazing. Thank you God for good brains. My offspring got them somehow.

Well, At that time I had drove an aging Mercedes (named Agnes) that I had tried to kill by spilling a cup of sugary coffee accidentally in the electrical panel on the dash. Since that fateful day, Agnes had been holding a grudge by flashing lights at me from the dash while sitting in traffic, etc. I was so hoping that the incident was behind us and "she" would get me across 3 states in lightning fast time. Leaving home at 1:00 it seemed to be clear. It was a nice day, Agnes humming down I-10, drying tears from graduation, calling Tina to let her know that should Agnes stay in good spirits, I should be there by 3:30. Whew..it's going to happen after all..

Upon my approach to lake Ponchatrain, traffic was very, very slow, but steady and I managed to make it into New Orleans and park Agnes in a parking garage at 4:35. Cooler in hand, bag chair and large backpack (of survival gear for concerts) on my back, (and a smirky smile of great accomplishment), I proceeded to find transportation to the New Orleans Fairground, which was the venue of JazzFest. The only mode of transportation to the concert would be the bus shuttles from Canal Street (I was on Canal Street-yay! This was a piece of cake. Looking around I found only one. I must have looked bedraggled because the bus driver announced in heavy cajun accent to me that the shuttles have stopped running..what?..stopped for the day? Verge of tears (again), so the driver feels a bit of pity and offers to drive me anyway. Wow, what luck. So..I sit down in the air conditioned front seat of the bus (man, was it humid in New Orleans in May) and the driver realizes...she cannot get out into the street, there is a car parked beside the bus in the street with flashers on and NO driver to be seen. I was panic stricken! an abandoned car was going to trip me up? By this time it was 5:00 and it was T minus 30 minutes to Buffett. "no, no, no" I start to mutter as the bus driver explains that a taxi might be my only way of completing my journey. Ok, ok..calming breath..I exit the bus and start up Canal Street (still laden with chairs, cooler, backpack, heavy heart, sweaty parrot head hat) and not a cab in site. It was about that time I see the bus that I was just got off start to pull away from the curb! (I was about 2 blocks away), so I begin to run, well, ok, not so much a run as a fast struggled waddle. "my bus! wait! HEY!" I can hear chair clinking on my shoulder, cooler clomping heavily, backpack hitting my back, labored breathing, (is that sweat? ) am I defeated..no!...I can't get left! But with a puff of diesel smoke the bus heads north. North, to Jazzfest. Without me.

Tears (again) could not longer be held back. It was 5:15 I was tired, I was emotional, I was angry..and I was..determined. My cell phone buzzed and Tina is frantically telling me that JB is starting his concert early? Really? has there ever been a concert that started early?? This one. I must get a taxi NOW.

There isn't one on Canal? Not one taxi-there are always herds of taxis on Canal. A hotel, I must find a hotel. There are cabs at all hotels. This is not how this trip will play out! I don't give up, not easily anyway.

South on Canal is a large hotel and as I round the corner I see a taxi. OK-stay calm, this is going to happen. Hailing the cab, the driver gets out, opens the door and I plop down in the back seat. He closes my door and goes around to the drivers side. It was then I look around and see that I am in an old police car-and it smelled. The police colors have been spray painted off, a magnetic taxi sign on the dirty door, and inside there are piles of papers, trash, a marijuana leaf deodorizer hanging from the rear view mirror. Oh, Lord have mercy on me..reciting the Lord's Prayer, thanking Him for at least letting me see Brooke graduate college) Also in the rear view mirror are two eyes, of the driver, who, with small round shades, dreadlocks and knitted cap, smiles a gold grin and says in a heavy Haitian accent "where ya goin' today bro?" Nope, never once been called a Bro.

As our eyes locked through the rear view mirror, I am most certain he sees the terror in my eyes and the fact that I was immobilized by shock and..fear..for there were no door handles on the inside of the car in the back seat. I knew this because my hand was reaching for it as I stared him down in the mirror..no handles there and then I realized..ohhh...old police car. Ok, I am captured like a bird in a dirty cab in the bowels of New Orleans at a time when crime rate had skyrocketed there and the whole city was at JazzFest listening to Jimmy Buffett except for Polo. The drivers name was actually Polo, it was on a photo ID on the backside of the seat. Well, at least he had a name and a (legitimate?) Taxi permit. "To the fairground to Jazzfest" I finally found my voice. "yah", he said and threw the gear shift into drive and we sputtered off, my chair and cooler clonking together in my lap. At this point, I was pretty certain that I was going to die, that the NOLA police were too busy with Katrina crime to care about some wandering housewife that willingly got into a cab with an illegal Haitian and thinking to myself that my children might have to identify my body with parrot head beads on and a backpack full of mixers and Tums. Not exactly the way I wanted to go.

I finally found the wits about me to text my husband from the back seat of the taxi mid-route and tell him that I was in White Cab #12 traveling north on Canal street, and that if he never hears from me again to at least finish the laundry before letting mourners in the house. And to tell the kids that I was really doing a research paper on middle aged women who act college spring breakers.

But alas, in about 15 minutes of traffic, I see a crowd that seemed to be at the entrance to the Fairgrounds, we made it! to the concert, to the hoard of real police cars outside the gates. At least here there would be witnesses. Ok, I am sure Polo was a hardworking, perfectly legal immigrant who came to this country to make his way. Today he is probably running the taxi business in a large city and makes more money than God. But on that day, I was almost certain he was psychotic rapist/killer who had a kill suit, duct tape and 1988 video camera in his trunk. Luckily, the door opened from the outside about that time and practically fell out, handed him the cash-not even sure how much..how much do you compensate one for letting you live?

Oh, the concert...

The concert was amazing, it was loud, it was a field of black mud, bare feet, Miller Lite cans and people of all ages who came together to hear all kinds of music, and we sang along and made "fins" out of our hands and fools of ourselves, and as we walked along the deserted French Quarter streets at 5:00 AM the next morning ( I never said we were smart) Tina and I burst into giggles and called our grown kids to tell them were too drunk to find our hotel. It was a lie, but ahhh...revenge is sweet when you have survived parenthood, you are a menopausal mother of grown children (and a road trippin' Parrot Head) and you lived to be 45 without killing a husband or a Haitian taxi driver.

Comments

  1. Girl! This is HILARIOUS! You have such a way with story telling! Love it and completely get all of it.

    Love you Meems!

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  2. Thank you Mary! Sounds like something you and I would have attempted 3o years ago...sometimes that brave and not so bright teenager pops out (I blame hormones) and I have to wrestle her back to maturity. We so need to catch up, girlfriend! Love you!

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