Armchair Peregrinations


May 21, 2005

I have been thinking about my home city of New Orleans lately. You know how it's easy to get nostalgic for your roots, even if you have as many bad memories as good ones? Something about the place where you grew up and it's hold on your imagination and memory. And, it's been more than ten years since I've been back, so I am really ready. I have written about this before, and I know it's something cyclical with me, coming back to this theme. But there are also events which trigger this nostalgia and which make me wonder at times about that word, "coincidence."

The other day I was helping someone at work. It was an interesting assignment and I was really getting into it. The person had a genuinely interesting question she needed help with. In the course of assisting her, we got to talking and she said her son grew up in Baton Rouge.

"Oh, how interesting," I said. "I grew up in New Orleans."

"Oh," she replied. "I lived there, too."

"Where in New Orleans?" I asked.

Turns out she lived in the same section of the city and graduated from the same high school I did.

I nearly fell outof my chair. "That's where I graduated," I said with disbelief that I was even having the conversation.

Well, you can imagine where it went from there. We really got to reminiscing about places we knew, and even though she graduated almost ten years earlier, we are of the age where those kinds of things don't matter anymore. The shock of recognition was very apparent. We knew about the same grocery stores, parks, libraries, and sandwich shops where the seniors used to go for lunch.

It was all too much. I cannot even remember the last time I talked to someone who went to the same high school. Neither of us went to our school reunions. So it was the same with her.

We may talk again to reminisce or share stories. I may never see her again. Who knows? But I mention all this just to emphasize the fact that life experiences often circle back in unexpected ways to earlier times when we were young and growing.

What a grand and mystifying world. The smallest things from the past have a way of taking on added significance as we get older. For example, I have fond memories of the shopping center not far from where we lived with it's grocery, dime store and barber shop, all of which I regularly patronized during my teenage years. This was the early 1960s. The barber shop I have written about before, but the hamburger place -- pre-MacDonald's -- I will always remember as well. It was located on the main highway in front of the shopping center which was set back a ways. The burgers were those absolutely delicious little thin patties cooked right in front of you on the grill with onions and placed on a small, soft bun with a pickle or two. Then you could get a frosted mug of root beer. That place was called Royal Castle Hamburgers, and it was very similar to the White Castles in other parts of the country and the Kyrstal Hamburgers of today. Can you even imagine how mouth watering those little burgers were to a 12-year old who biked up there on a hot summer day? And an ice cold root beer as well?

I went on the Web and found a classic picture of a Royal Castle Hamburger restaurant which is exactly as I remember it. What a cascade of memories that pic brought back. I even found this on an ebay auction site: "Vintage Royal Castle Hamburger Restaurant Mug -- $52. Wow! Someone really has fond memories of those frosty root beers.


May 7, 2005

Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.
Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.
They say that the Dead die not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
In wise majestic melancholy train,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.


Rupert Brooke


I love the clear, cold icy-blue skies of winter. There is something pristine about them. The sky has more clarity, more visibility. We are closer, in a sense, to perceiving and grasping space and infinity. There are no distractions when we look up to the blue firmament.

A summer day, by contrast, presents quite a contrast. Clouds sail across the sky. Or, they sit stationary and majestic. They make the sky and the firmament seem part of Earth -- her cloak, her barrier -- on the other side of which are the infinite reaches of space and time, in one or many universes. That sobering fact makes clouds that much more special and revered, in my estimation.

Clouds unlock many secrets about life because they are so miraculous. They tell me something about the world I live in. How exquisitely beautiful it is. A sunset, for instance. A sky at dawn over the ocean. Clouds high in the mountains. Mind boggling when you think about it.

There are many people who feel the same way that I do. Take a few minutes to gaze at these wondrous photos of clouds. I think you can see that there is something almost mystical and deeply transcendent about these scenes. I never cease to be amazed.

There is also The Cloud Appreciation Society where I am sure there are many kindred online souls. I need to become more familiar with this group.

I like to photograph clouds, reflections of clouds, shadows and light, and, of course, clouds and sunsets at Folly Beach.

It's starting to be that time of year when clouds will be filling the sky again. I am ready.

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