Last Friday as I was driving to Baton Rouge for a few days, I turned on my iPod and just for grins clicked on “The Best of Canned Heat.” The first song, appropriately: “On the Road Again.” Maybe it was something about the ride to Baton Rouge, but Canned Heat just brought back lots of memories. When I was an undergrad at McNeese, Canned Heat played in what now is the area of the Rec Complex but was then known as “The Cow Palace,” the arena where all sorts of events happened. I saw them then, and by the middle of song 1 I was just singing along, bopping as I drove (safely, of course).
The drive also brought back memories of my days at LSU, from January 1973-December 1974, when I was studying for my MA in English. I drove that road many times — or at least part of that road. Those were the days before the entire I-10 corridor from Lafayette to Baton Rouge was completed, so we’d drive part of the way, turn off at Grosse Tete (I think) and go to Krotz Springs (where Diesi’s Little Capitol originally was), then hit 190 to Baton Rouge. Even in the 1980s to the late 90s, I drove that road every month for a meeting. My little Mini might be a newbie on the drive, but I knew just where I was going.
Driving usually energizes me, and so by the time I hit Baton Rouge, I was pumped up. A few days away — my own little spring break of sorts. A friend was there for a conference, and on Sunday and Monday we traveled the River Road to see some plantation homes. I’ve lived here most of my life, yet had never been on the River Road before. It was long overdue.
Two plantations a day — four total — and that was a good pace. We could enjoy ourselves without rushing. On Sunday we saw San Francisco, a clear example of Steamboat Gothic style. The tour there was okay — not great, but okay. Then it was on to Houmas House, much different in style — Greek Revival. Much larger than San Francisco, Houmas House had the best tour — our guide, dressed in the highest male fashion of the day, led us through room after room with humor and ease, not with a canned spiel. Houmas House also was the site of the indoor scenes for the movie “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” and the beautiful circular staircase where the head rolls down is there for all to see (though without a head, needless to say). Bette Davis slept in one of the bedrooms. The external scenes were shot at another plantation.
We’d hoped to see Bocage Plantation, but that didn’t pan out. The tour at Houmas House kept us there until nearly 4, and there wasn’t time for Bocage. Another day.
Yesterday we set out for the other side of River Road, heading down I-10 to Gramercy and then taking the highway west across the river, turning right on Highway 18. Our first stop was Laura Plantation, billed as “A Creole Plantation.” Very different from any other home we saw, Laura had both business and living quarters in the home. Once more our tour was entertaining and thorough. This was a house I could imagine living in — not so huge that I’d feel out of place.
The final plantation we visited was Oak Alley. Once we parked, we decided to eat at the restaurant first. Yummy shrimp po-boy! Then it was on to the tour, The grounds at Oak Alley are impressive — especially the long alley of live oaks that lead from the River Road to the entrance of the house. We entered from the front door, but walked from the back entrance around to it. Oak Alley is where the external scenes of “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” were filmed — the owner refused to have the film crew indoors, which is why the inside scenes were done at Houmas House.
By the time we completed that tour and took a walk down the alley toward the road for the classic view of the home, it was beginning to sprinkle. The rain meant we skipped a third house, Nottoway. We did stop to see it from the road, though — and saw a bride having her photographs made there.
The opportunity for a few days away, visiting with a friend from Greece and California, gave me a breather I needed. I won’t say I didn’t think about Dad and getting him home — that would simply be a lie. I did manage, though, to relax. I slept a lot. I visited and talked a lot. I drove a lot.
And those homes gave me views into lives long past, into ways of live long gone. Photographs of the homes before the 1927 flood showed what land and trees were lost when the Corps of Engineers built the current levee. Only in imagination could I see the Mississippi as previous owners did — with a small levee and private boat docks for each plantation. And lots of lawns leading to the river.
Now the protective levee blocks actual views of the Mississippi, and the River Road itself divides what once were expanses of plantation lawns going right to the river.
Inside the homes, furnishings original to the houses as well as simply to the period allowed us to step into other worlds, other lives.
Today I rode I-10 back to Crowley, to Egan, and then to Lake Charles and back again to Crowley and Egan. I traveled from the world of plantations that none of my ancestors ever knew first-hand back to my own world(s).
As simple as a road leading toward something and away from it — that is what takes me from one of my worlds to another. My Lake Charles world seems to dim more every week — not out of my lack of interest, but out of lack of time. Today I was there for a total of 3 hours — long enough to grab lunch, see my doctor for allergy problems, pick up my new medicines, pick up two pairs of shoes, and hit the road.
Two visits today with Dad — once on my way in from Baton Rouge. We visited, and I left after he’d eaten lunch. I drove to LC, did my errands, and went back to Southwind, with a stop at Walmart first.
Dad is scheduled to come home the day after Easter. As of this morning, no phone calls had been made to the home health care agency we use, nor had one been made to Dad’s doctor. I’ll have to talk again to Southwind tomorrow — this is cutting the whole thing a bit too close for me. Dad’s doctor isn’t in on Thursdays. Friday is Good Friday and lots of businesses will be closed. I have no idea when his hospital bed and other equipment will be delivered, nor do I know what to do about his medicines. Perhaps the early phone call will clarify things — and I will ask to be called back with definite orders and arrangements. I found out he was being released when Dad said something last week — one of his PTs told him. Only after I called and talked to a nurse — who also didn’t know — did she get someone to call me. And that person reassured me that phone calls would be made on Monday (yesterday). Clearly, they weren’t. Tomorrow I’ll find out if she bothered to call yesterday, and if not, I’m prepared to get tough. Somehow I am not really impressed at this particular facet of care there.
So I’m doing what I can — working my way through frustration once more. I’ve concentrated tonight on the office area. I’ll work on Dad’s clothes before I go to bed — clear out his dresser drawers and chest of drawers once more and arrange clothes in one and supplies in the other. There’s a metal bookcase as well for books and probably supplies.
I bought three sets of twin sheets for his bed, along with a new pillow. I’ve got a blanket and an electric blanket already.
The time nears — and it truly feels as though I’m on the road again, the road to a new level of caregiving.