Display of the Armada at the National World War Two Museum

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In all the hubbub of Mardi Gras, I almost forgot that I was on spring break. Huzzah! That means there is still more fun to be had, so after getting a little of this and a little of that done this morning, I hopped on the bike and headed toward the WWII museum to drop $23 on the exhibits and the Tom Hanks-narrated 4D (?) film, Beyond All Boundaries. I have ridden by this place literally hundreds of times, but B. is in town and wanted to go (he’s the kind of guy who always wants to go to whatever–I deeply appreciate that), so there we found ourselves, ready to learn how they wanted us to learn about the war. The displays themselves were an endless retelling of battle after battle with the persistent overtone of American Heroism, as is to be expected at a place like this. The film, dubbing itself an account of “the most important event of the 20th century,” tried, I think, to get us some of the embodied experience of the war: flashes of light signifying gunshots, a guard tower shining its spotlight on us, attempting to recall the guard tower of a concentration camp, a powerful flare that left a haze in the shape of a mushroom cloud in your eyes, and even fake snow–the Russians had it tough. I snapped this picture of a display of the armada, which I think was meant to overwhelm with its suggested size. The whole place is meant to overwhelm with America and pride and heroes, but there was a serious disconnect between that theme and the words of soldiers written out on displays, sounding in oral history booths, and narrating that truly odd film. Those words–about the brutality of war, the inhumanity of it, the way it required soldiers to break with their own souls in order to survive, the stories of the smell of death emanating up through the stratosphere and into the noses of pilots, the words of the man who refused to be called a hero for being one of the less than ten percent of his battalion to survive–that’s just chance, he said, those words undid the attempts of the museum to tell a story of American triumphalism. As one voiceover in the movie said, the quickest way to make a man a pacifist is to send him to war. The museum tries to recreate the war in some way for visitors, but it fails because it just isn’t an experience you can drop in and out of. And why would you want to? War is not a video game, and that’s how the museum seemed to represent it far too much. After that I needed a quiet ride in the cool evening air, and that’s what I got. I am immeasurably lucky to be here now as I am, and I know it.

Plantation Keys For Sale at James H. Cohen & Sons on Royal Street

I got on my bike after 9:30pm on a school night–whoa–and headed down to the venue to meet S. for a show. It was a little bit cool when I left, but a block and a half on the bike and I was plenty warm as I flew down St. Charles. Turns out when you aren’t packing any gear, the bike feels lighter. It felt so good to be on the bike, and I got where I was going much too quickly. Continue reading

Confederate Memorial Hall at Camp Street and Andrew Higgens

So I started watching Ken Burns‘s National Parks documentary, and then I lazily watched an episode of his Civil War documentary and got hooked on that as well. He is dangerously soothing with these things, all the fiddles and pianos and familiar voices softly reading to me. The documentaries are so epic I can be tempted to imagine I know the whole story after sitting through nine or twelve hours of his stuff. That’s certainly not the case–he’s got a perspective and is making an argument just like the rest of us. Continue reading

Fazendeville at the Chalmette National Battlefield

Finally, a free afternoon on a sunny day! I took the Surly out, no particular destination-my most favorite sort of ride. I decided to hit up the delightfully smooth (minus the train tracks at Press St.) St. Claude bike lane. After dodging a number of cars using the lane for its fine double parking opportunities, I finally reached the St. Bernard Parish line. Continue reading

Molly Marine at Canal and Elk

Ok, so for me, riding a bicycle is usually a solitary act. I don’t love riding with other people–I’m not good at pacing. I prefer heavily-trafficked routes to the side streets with their potholes, unlike most of my friends, for whom fear of the motor vehicle outweighs all else. And I’m a stickler about being a law-abiding cyclist, which means no, I do not want to ride the wrong way down that one way street (S., I’m looking at you). Continue reading

Lights at the World War II Museum in the Warehouse District

WWII Museum Lights on MagazineRhoda’s rear cog was a little loose and I don’t have the proper flat wrench for repair, so I took her to the bike shoppe for a little TLC this afternoon. Ten bucks later and the girl was riding like a dream, so I was happy to pedal her down to the Marigny tonight for a drink with a former student and then over to S.’s place for roasted beets, prosecco, and some TV with S. and R. Continue reading

Ship, Train, and Car at Poland and Chartres

Ship and Train Car at Poland and ChartresIt was a beautiful day in New Orleans today, perfect for riding around, which is exactly what I did after meeting D. for lunch in the Marigny. I rode out on St. Claude. That bike lane is still my favorite place to ride in the city. I turned on Poland and rode up and down, trying to figure out what that building was  (Poland Scrap Metal) and marveling at the strangely out of place post office. Continue reading