Friday, November 5, 2010

By and by....

Growing up next to the Atlantic Ocean, I'm not easily impressed by bodies of water. I was never one to go to the beach in the summer. I felt the beach was a hostile environment. Hot sand, medical waste, no shade, and chilly water filled with various creatures looking for a reason to do humans harm. On top of it all, New Jersey is one of the only states to charge admission to gain access to the ocean. It was bad enough that mobsters controlled the grossly over priced concession stands and ridiculously expensive parking. Once there, having to share your experience of nature with thousands of obnoxious sun screened idiots while stepping on tampon applicators. 

Upon my arrival in New Orleans I became mesmerized by the river that cradles the Crescent City. Fast moving turbulent muddy water that always seems to be in a hurry to reach the Gulf of Mexico.  I've seen huge cargo ships on the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. I never realized how huge the mass of steel was until I was in the shadow of one silently cruising up the river. It's like a skyscraper floating on it's side. Such mass takes miles to come to a stop once it's moving. 

I've been trying to read a couple of chapters of Mark Twain's 'Life on the Mississippi' every night. I never would've appreciated the work nearly as much if I hadn't gotten to spend time atop the levy on the walk home. Every bit as magnificent as walking the boardwalk in Belmar, NJ.  I look at St. Louis Cathedral across the river and think how Samuel Clemens gazed upon the same spires with appreciation for the beauty.

Once when taking the ferry from the West Bank to the Canal Street Terminal, a very large freighter was traveling up river. The river runs narrow through New Orleans, and deep. The northern sections are wider but shallower.  Ship traffic some days remind me of the NJ turnpike on Friday afternoon. About the time this huge vessel was coming past, our ferry was departing the terminal. The ferry rumbled loud as we started to pull away. I was standing out side on the bow having a smoke on the trip.

Having driven commuter bus in Manhattan I knew pulling out into traffic one should always double check the mirror. I watched in awe as the ferry appeared to aiming for the side of a moving mountain.  I glanced up to the pilot house to make sure someone wasn't slumped over a wheel.  If so, I'll be on the green side of the boat.  By the time I glanced back to the direction of the looming doom, we were passing smoothly behind the stern of the freighter.  I had to crane my neck to take in all of the massive craft.

The "Thomas Jefferson" moored on the other side without so much as a bump from the east bank.  I looked up to the pilot house with appreciation. From a former bus and taxi driver from New Jersey, good job.

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