A friend visited from out-of-town this weekend, and we got to tag along with my musician husband aboard the Steamboat Natchez. Preceded as we were by a man and his bass, we even got to skip the line, settling ourselves at a north-facing table and watching everyone else suffer the mild indignity of the “welcome aboard” photo posed with a ship’s wheel against a nautical backdrop.
I always forget what a working port New Orleans is. Nothing like getting out on the river to remind you of the incredible volume of commerce taking place here daily. We saw ships from all over the world, barges being towed and tugboats doing their thing.
From the cheerful captain’s narration as we steamed downriver, I learned about the Ford factory that once stuffed Model T seats with Spanish moss, and the Rice Mill Lofts which sports the unmistakable “You Are Beautiful” graffiti easily viewed from the water. Friendly cyclists stopped to wave from atop the levee, soliciting friendly blasts on the boat’s horn. I realized with pride that I recognized many of the landmarks without the captain’s cues, because after four years of life in the Big Easy, I’ve made a few memories in the neighborhoods along the river.
Happily, past experience prevented us from eating the Natchez’s buffet food, one of two truly awful meals I have eaten in this city of great food. (The other was in the cafeteria line at the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park inside City Park).
As we waited to leave the boat, the heavens opened with one of the afternoon deluges so typical here. Largely unappreciated by the crowd, the calliope player launched into an impromptu medley of rain-related tunes until the skies cleared.
It’s never a bad idea to back up and get an overview, and this afternoon was no exception. As we navigated the turn to head back upriver, I caught sight of the city skyline framed by the murky Mississippi below and billowing clouds above. My adopted city looked pretty good from the river.