Four Day Pass
As Mike Watt sings, “Six weeks sea and what does it mean? We Need Liberty! Liberty calls! Liberty calls!”
I left Camp Shelby in the evening with the girl to Hattiesburg and the dumpiest hotel I’ve been at in a long while. I dropped some stuff in the room and we went foraging for food. The town had all of the same food-chains that we have in Minnesota. The one chain that was not native to Minnesota and was right next to our hotel was Waffle House. Woot. The night was short as we had to leave early in the morning.
Our second trip to Waffle House was disgusting. The morning waitress had a head cold that she had received from “taking some pain pills for my teeth”. I found the story far-fetched and watched in awe as she coughed in and on everything in her path. (This path of bio warfare included our food. Mmm mmm good.)
We made our way to New Orleans down through the Lake Ponchetrain area. The big bridge caused The Girl to clutch the steering wheel. I asked her what bothered her about the large mass of water beneath us and she replied something to the effect of, “people can drown in their cars”. My personal theory behind her phobia and the phobia of almost all evening traffic in the southern suburbs of Minnesota is that people are afraid of trolls who live beneath the bridges. Much like the story of the Billy-Goats Gruff, people have a fear of trolls and must approach all bridges with caution, lest they be snatched up and eaten by the evil trolls who dwell beneath the bridges before them…. Hey, it sounds feasible to me. Why else would all traffic slam to a halt on Cedar Avenue South (around 5pm) and suddenly speed to 20 miles above the posted limit across the Minnesota River?
We went off to find the Jefferson Parish Records office to file our application with a Mapquest map and our city map in hand. The Mapquest map told us to go far south of Downtown and to follow Hwy 10 towards Gretna. When we reached the location from the map, I made a startling discovery. The address at the top of the Mapquest map was literally “Gretna, LA. USA”. We had just followed the map to the center of Gretna. Upon closer inspection of our destination address, I noticed we were not only in the wrong spot, we were probably 25 miles south of where we actually wanted to be.
We made our way back up Hwy 10 and to the Metairie/Jefferson area (go figure: the Jefferson Parish office is in Jefferson Parish) and we hit dense traffic. I felt like a true man as I navigated us north towards 11th street looking for 111 N. Causeway. Around 11th street we turned around. Not only was I horribly wrong about which way I was navigating us, I was also horribly stupid to assume that New Orleans would number their buildings in correspondence to the number of the street. We drove south along the Causeway until, we once again, found ourselves lost in a loop of confusing one-ways.
We stopped for directions at a law office because, “Who would know better where legal stuff is better than an attorney’s office?” The Girl questioned. They had so many people that get lost and stop in for directions that they already had directions written for the lost travelers of the Causeway. We found our destination and filed our paperwork. Now it was on to the hotel.
The trip to our hotel was interesting since we ended up about 10 miles northwest of our hotel. And every street seemed to be a one-way in the wrong direction. The signs in some areas had been knocked down and spun around in such a manner that navigating by our map was useless. We struggled down Canal Street until we finally found our way to downtown New Orleans. The hotel was nice and we found the rest of the group (my parents, The Girl’s mother, and my friends Rich & Claire) within a few hours of our check in.
The manager at the hotel had assured the girl that her dress would be able to be steamed by the hotel in-house-service to straighten out all of the wrinkles from travel. When we questioned the hotel lobby, we found that they did not have any in-house-service and that their service that they use would not be able to return the dress until late the next day. A look of fear seemed to flash across The Girl’s face for about the next four hours as we struggled to find a service that could take care of the dress before 4pm the next day.
The disaster was averted by a very nice lady at a wedding shop on the corner of N. Causeway and Metairie Rd. who agreed to not only do the work 4 hours before anyone else could do it, she also drove out and got the dress and saved us the trip through a confusing and unfamiliar city. I was tired at this point, but at least The Girl had calmed down a bit.
The next morning we ate some odd pastry-type-things that were basking in about 4 inches of powdered sugar. Then we split so that I could pick up the dress and my friend Tim. The dress came back in perfect condition. When I got back to the hotel The girl was sniffly from a head cold that she had, no doubt, picked up from the Waffle House waitress of doom. Her hair was rock hard from all of the hairspray, but it looked very fancy. We sat around for about an hour and then we started to get ready. I had been slightly nervous of the whole thing, but never as much as I was right at that moment.
I was not nervous to get married, just that I would screw up during the ceremony. But it went smoothly. And it really calming to see some of my comrades from Charlie Med come to the festivities. They put me at an odd sense of ease as they all seemed happy and comfortable with their wives.
The dinner was another exercise in land navigation and in parallel parking. Our restaurant was in the French Quarter and was so fancy that The Wife and I were at a loss as to how to appropriately conduct ourselves. The tension quickly melted as everyone got their food and drinks. The food was awesome. As a matter of fact, even the dumpiest place we ate at had decent food in New Orleans.
The following day we said goodbye to our parents and we snooped around town and into the French Quarter. We ate dinner ate Mulates which was very tasty Cajun food near the New Orleans Riverwalk. In the evening we went out to a cool dark bar called Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and Bar which resembled “the Pirates of the Caribbean Gift Shop with the lights out”, per Tim. We left Tim down in the French Quarter and made our way back to the hotel where we quickly fell asleep.
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and had some alligator po-boys in the dive bar across from our hotel. We took Tim to the airport and struggled our way towards Magazine Street. The Wife and I looked around at some antique shops in the area and ate at The Buddha Belly Bar. As the sky turned dark grey we got into the car and headed back to Hattiesburg. Rain pelted the car as we got close to Mississippi, almost as a warning to turn around and stay away. But we pushed on to our dumpy Motel 6.
We got up the next morning and drove onto post so that I could be back in formation in time for our “parade rehearsal” (which I was fortunate to only attend half of). We were released around 4pm and The Wife and I went into town to eat dinner with the Carlsons. After a filling (and garlic-filled) dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings we went back to the dumpy motel and tried to watch a movie. I had to be in formation at 7am and The Wife had to be on a plane at 6am, so we kind of struggled with whether or not to take a nap.
Around 2:30am we made our way onto Camp Shelby and we started the long process of saying goodbye for a year. Tears, sadness, and snot flowed through the air of our rental car. As I walked away I could see The Wife starring at me with wet eyes. I felt horrible as I walked away from her. I felt like I was abandoning her. And with that low note, this story ends. No fun anecdote. Sorry.