I Did It
I have been trying since the beginning of this blog to add photos. Today is a banner day.
I've been to quite a few places in the United States. A few years ago, we took a trip to New Orleans with two other couples. It was different back then than it is now. The smells of the French Quarter stand out blatantly in my memory--mostly unpleasant smells. But then, the food and the amazing architecture of buildings/houses stand out as pleasing.
One couple we were with lived in New Orleans during the husband's residency in one of the hospitals there. They still had friends living there and so we were able to see parts of New Orleans most tourists are not usually privvy to. One of our trips took us into the very bayou where Forest Gump was filmed. I am a big fan of that movie for many reasons. On our way to our tour, we stopped at this little grocery where Amid and Nazanin said the best muffalottas in New Orleans were made. (They were right. One of the top 20 best things I ever ate!) We ate them in the car. They're a little messy.
We got to take the swamp tour with a man who had lived there all of his life. He was "Cajun" and at night he would go out on his shrimp boat, living the life that was depicted by Forest Gump and Bubba. During the day, he would take tourists on tours of the swamp/bayou he loved. He was not too fond of government people trying to interfere with his business, nor of lawyers. Probably his polite way of warning anyone who wanted to make any political comments on the tour for which we had paid him big cash. We were his captive audience now, and he was gonna have his say. People didn't comment on anything too controversial, or anything, for that matter. Most exclamations were even quiet and whispered.
He really knew the alligators and creatures that lived in the waters there. His survival and businesses depended upon this knowledge. This was in the fall of the year and the alligators were getting ready to hibernate. He'd toss some bread or treat to the alligator swimming alongside the boat to show us that the alligator had already "closed up his throat" and was done feeding. When one smaller alligator persisted in trying to eat the morsel thrown to him, our tour guide laughed and said, "Seeuh dere? He don't know he can't eat. He's a young one."
He also had his own "pet" alligator and her name was Julie. He got her out and walked around with her, asking us if anyone wanted to hold her. Not too many would take him up on it. I can't really remember, but I think I was one of the few who did. She wasn't that big, and of course, since my companions liked to always tease me, they tried to get me to hold her. I had never been that close to an alligator, but I'd caught many a crawdad in the creek, scooped up fish and turtles, and plucked leeches off my legs as a kid. The river and the crick were always places I loved. He could see I was battling in my mind between the possible danger and wanting to do it. He, too, urged me on.
"Julie's good," he said. "I let her live with me in my house."
So, while I did have a couple reservations, I agreed, and he handed her over to me.
Her skin was smooth, soft and leathery, not exactly what I expected. She didn't move at all. He showed me how to hold her safely. I wondered if she just ran around free in his house all the time, or if he kept her most of the time in the box he had her in for the boat trip. By the looks of this man, I figured he let her run free. Being fall, she was pretty docile and wasn't too hungry, so I figured I was pretty safe unless I suddenly had an urge to confess I was an attorney who worked for the government. I had this sneaky suspicion that he knew what to do about these types and maybe had. Who would know what happened to me?
I could see the authorities coming in and everyone saying, "It was an accident. She was a pretty foolish blonde who thought she could hold alligators."
My companions took the photo and I'm thankful they didn't snap it when I shut my eyes. It certainly wasn't one of my bravest moments, but it was one I wanted to experience.
Our tour guide showed us where his deceased family's coffins had floated in the bayou after Hurricane Camille on August 17, 1969. His eyes grew a bit misty as he talked about fishing the coffins out to put them back in their proper place. He remembered Camille, but didn't really elaborate more than that.
Now I think about the people we visited when we went on that trip to New Orleans and just outside of the city. I don't know what happened to them. I wonder if Julie is still there, and if she slipped back into the swamp from which she came after Katrina.
But this moment is burned into my memory. One snapped moment of Crystal History.