Friday, October 30, 2009

Spring Break

April, 2009

Teachers tell me the school year goes as follows:

    September: healthy
    November: sick
    winter break: recover
    February: healthy
    March: sick
    spring break: recover
    May: healthy
    June: see barn door
    July: coma

It's all about the cycle and by April I was ready for spring break.

"So long, my little friends...see ya in a couple!"

I was off to New Orleans for some seafood, music, lots of walking and an eye-popping, heartbreaking mess....Three-and-a-half years after Katrina and many places still seemed underwater. Forget having a Shakespeare Club, I saw public schools shut up like ghost towns, with weeds poking up through cement play areas, wind whistling through and not a child in sight.

And yet, a Nawlins spirit sang out upon the sip of a sticky Sazerac:

"We're still here, we're comin' back, and taste this!"

Walking through the French Quarter, it occurred to me that Mardi Gras beads would make a great addition to our production of "Twelfth Night." If I could track down some cheapies it would snazz up the citizens of Illyria and pay tribute to the unique city of New Orleans.

My plan, however, proved to be a tricky business. Even though Mardi Gras had passed and everywhere I looked the "throws," as they're known, were hanging off balconies or swinging on the branches of magnolias and live oaks, the shops charged three to four dollars a string. I needed twenty strings and that was too pricey.

Walking into Greg's Antiques in the Quarter I thought, "Sweet idea...oh well."

I wandered by aged window frames, peeling fireplace mantles and black cast-iron fences and fantasized about what a swell writer I would surely be if I only lived in New Orleans. Caught up in my daydreams, I nearly tripped over a barrel of colorful necklaces. Tons of the things. I scooped my hands through them like a 17th-century pirate with stolen booty.

I asked a young woman at the register how much the beads cost.

She tipped her head, gave it a thought and answered, "A buck each."

I wrangled her down to fifty cents each and figured I could make that work on our budget. I chose twenty strings.

Pulling out my wallet, I noticed a man sitting near the cashier's desk. The saleslady explained the price she'd quoted and he laughed.

I piped up that they were for some little kids back in Los Angeles doing a play.

He waved me off and said, "Take 'em. No charge."


Then he said, "No, wait."

Together, the store owner and saleslady gathered strings and strings of beads. They opened drawers and pulled out more. They filled plastic bags with turquoise, green, purple and pink shiny baubles and sent me out the door weighted down in New Orleans' generosity.

I think we've got to hold up our end of the bargain and return the spirit.

Dear Dad,

I got caught in a terrible storm. I fear Sebastian is dead sense when we got separated I'm on this island called "Illeria". I fell in love with this guy called "Orsino" and a women "Olivia" fell in ♥ with me because she thinks I'm a man!

Hope thy is well!
Alice, 5th grade

school photo by Painting with Fire

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