Aunt Patsy's 90th Birthday
Mike and Judy Henderson
August 23-26, 2018
My (Mike's) mother was one of sixteen children, eight boys and eight girls. She was one of the older children (third child - Pierre, Cecile, Edvige), and Aunt Patsy was the second youngest (Paul, Patsy, and Catherine, the youngest). As I was growing up, Aunt Patsy was like a mother to me. She and her husband, Henry, were always welcoming to me when I came to their house. I have a lot of very good, happy memories of times with them.
Aunt Patsy is turning 90 this year and her son, Phil, is organizing a surprise birthday party for her - and that's why Judy and I are going to New Orleans in the middle of summer. I'd only do that for Aunt Patsy:-)
8/23/2018 (Thursday) We woke up early this morning. Skipper and Bernie go in for boarding and the limo comes to pick us up at 9am. Everything went without a hitch, and traffic was not too bad going to the airport. Here are Judy and our limo driver at the airport. We learned that he is originally from Cairo, and we're going to Cairo in late September.
Our flight left on time and was uneventful. After getting our luggage and a car, we met Madam, Donald, Donna and John at Smitty's Seafood in Kenner for dinner. Almost everyone ordered oysters. I had an oyster po-boy.
Then we headed to New Orleans and checked into the Cambria Hotel. The hotel gives its address as being on Tchoupitoulas but the entrance is really on Commerce Street. It's a nice hotel, new and modern, with a modern black and white decor, similar to the Casa Camper Hotel in Barcelona.
8/24/2018 (Friday) We slept a bit late this morning and, on the recommendation of the desk clerk, went to Bittersweet Confections for breakfast. It was a good recommendation. Good food and good coffee, and definitely a local favorite.
Some years ago we went to the National WWII Museum near closing time and we didn't really see it. Since it was just down the street from the restaurant, we went there. This is a picture of what they call the "Canteen". They allow you to take pictures, but how do you illustrate what you see in a museum? They call it "The National WWII Museum" and it really is that. It pretty much ignores the contributions of the British, French, Australian and Soviet Union in the war. If someone knew nothing about WWII and went to this museum, they'd come out convinced that the United States had won the war on their own.
In truth, it was the Soviet army that defeated and destroyed the German army - at terrible cost. Less than a half million American soldiers and civilians were killed during WWII (including both the European and Pacific theaters of war), but approximately 25 million Russian soldiers and civilians were killed - over 13% of their population. Perhaps because of the Cold War the Russian contribution to victory in WWII is not generally acknowledged in the United States.
China suffered a very large number of military and civilian deaths, about 20 million, in resisting the Japanese who invaded China beginning in 1931. But the Chinese army was not a major factor in the defeat of Japan. The United States bore the brunt of the war in the Pacific and was the major factor in the defeat of Japan.
After this, we walked into the French Quarter to the Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets. It was hot in New Orleans - after all, this is August - and we were both sweating by the time we got to the Café du Monde. Seating at the Café du Monde is covered but not air conditioned. There are fans in the ceiling but they just push hot air around. Here's Judy at the Café.
In case you're wondering exactly what café au lait and beignets look like, here's a picture. Café au lait is what you probably know as a latte, except the coffee is brewed strong and is not espresso. Beignets are square pieces of doughnut dough, fried and then covered with powdered sugar. The come as an order of three but one had already been eaten by the time I took this picture. They're actually very tasty.
And just a memory comment - when I was a teenager (a long time ago) a group of us boys would go to Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets. The big thing was to try to make your friend laugh just as he was biting into a beignet. Powdered sugar all over the place!
The Riverwalk (now called the "Moonwalk" after Mayor "Moon" Landrieu) is right by the Café du Monde, so we walked to the river and sat for a while. You can get a good view of Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral from the top of the levee.
Then it was back to the hotel. By this time we were both soaking wet with sweat and a shower really felt good.
After resting and recovering from the heat, we headed out for dinner - it had cooled off a bit by then. We had seen an interesting place on Magazine Street while returning from the WWII Museum - the Auction House Market. It's an interesting concept - there's a bar area in the center and different food stalls around the outer wall of the facility. You order what you want and they bring it to your table. Reminds me a bit of the Augustiner Braustubl beer hall in Salzburg, which has food stalls in the hallway outside the main beer hall rooms.
We decided to try the empanadas since we had experienced them in South America - but they weren't very good.
Here's a picture of the interior of the Auction House Market. It's easy to see the bar area but the food stalls don't show up very well. If you want to know what kind of food options they have, check out their web site.
I'm impressed by what I see of New Orleans, at least in this area of the city. This old warehouse district is being renovated with new buildings - hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants and I don't know what else. I see a lot of young people in this area and they seem to be doing well - at least they're eating in expensive restaurants. I don't see a lot of street people in the area - maybe they're all in the French Quarter :-) And when I interact with the local people, they're friendly, warm and welcoming.
8/25/2018 (Saturday) Today is Patsy's 90th birthday! We started the day with breakfast at a restaurant next to the hotel, Legacy Kitchen's Craft Tavern. Good restaurant, friendly service.
A bit after 10am we headed to Phil and Cindy's house, stopping to get some flowers for Patsy. We arrived about 10:45 and were some of the first people to arrive. A few minutes later other family members started arriving. Here's Paul arriving. He's 91.
I missed Aunt Catherine's arrival, but here she is talking with Donna. Catherine is 88 and came in from Homestead, Florida for the party, with her son, Michael, and his wife, Natalie.
Other relatives were also arriving. Here's Phil, Paula, and Alison with her baby, Simon.
A group shot with Uncle Paul.
This is Charmaine in the center, Charlotte's daughter.
Soon it was almost noon, when Patsy was scheduled to arrive, and people were looking toward the door, waiting for her entrance.
And here's the moment when she saw everyone and realized it was a surprise party for her (everyone yelled "Surprise!"). She was definitely surprised. We're lucky Patsy didn't have a heart attack:-)
A few seconds later.
And a short moment after that.
The three siblings, Catherine, Paul and Patsy (plus Phil) embraced.
Patsy moved into the house, greeting people. Here's Charmaine.
Gary Radecker and Diane Borchers.
Michael, Keith and Natalie.
PA and Patsy.
Paula, Natalie and Cindy.
Kevin, Phil, Mary Catherine and Antonia. Kevin is scheduled to be inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame as a member of the band "Cold", I think in September. Cold was big in the South in the 80's.
Diane, Gary and Mark.
As usual in any Laiche relatives gathering, there was waaay too much food. And there was more in the kitchen!
Cookie, the wonder dog. Cookie is 14. She's a sweetie.
Cookie is imprinted on Cindy. See how she looks at Cindy.
A group shot of the Radeckers - Mark, Keith, Kevin, Phil, Diane, Gary, Patsy and Cindy.
Phil and Cindy had gotten a very nice cake from Whole Foods. (Picture by Don)
They put nine candles on it.
Patsy didn't get them all blown out on the first try but she still got her wish. The cake was delicious.
Greg Laiche and Catherine.
The Three Amigo's. Or should I say Trois Amies?
And just to show that I really was there, here's a picture that includes me - taken by Don. Thanks for sharing, Mary K and Don.
But all good things must eventually end and people started drifting home. Here are Michael and Catherine departing, with Cindy saying good-bye. They return to Florida on Monday.
As we were heading back to the hotel, we encountered something we haven't seen for a long time in California - RAIN!
The hotel offers a free drink (BOGO) to guests, and this was the perfect evening to enjoy that and a light dinner. I spent most of the remainder of the evening working on this blog.
5/26/2018 (Sunday) Judy and I went back to Bittersweet Confections for breakfast and then checked out of the hotel about 10am. I wanted to take a picture of the house my parents were living in when I was born, at 1523 Brockenbraugh Street in Metairie, on the corner of Aurora Ave and Brockenbraugh. It may be that 1523 was the address of the unit on the left. I'll have to check my birth certificate to see what the address was of the unit on the right.
Patsy tells the story of how she had to take the bus from South Gayoso Street to Brockenbraugh to help take care of the twins (me and Boyle, Jr.). I never talk back to Patsy because she'd say to me, "Don't you get smart with me. I used to change your dirty diapers!"
Anyway, we got off the freeway at Bonnabel and went down Brockenbraugh almost to the end. Here's the house, looking a lot like I remember it - maybe in better condition now than it was back in 1944.
Back then, it was a duplex and we lived on the right side (facing the front of the house). The Bensons lived on the other side. I understand that they were related to some Bensons that were big in New Orleans (later, not back then).
It's apparent that the house has been converted to a single family home. Looking up public records, I think each side was about 850 sq. feet, 2 bedrooms, one bath. Those are exactly the same steps that were there back in the late 1940's. We moved from there to St. Rose in about 1948, and then to LaPlace in about 1952.
After visiting the house, we continued along Metairie Road to Airline Highway until we got to Elise Avenue and 24 Donald Court.
Patsy had made her famous gumbo and everyone had that for lunch, along with some left over birthday cake for dessert.
I wasn't very conscientious about taking taking pictures at Patsy's house so I probably missed some of the people in pictures. But here are a few that I took.
Judy, Natalie, Cindy and Catherine.
Phil in Henry's old chair.
Patsy and Catherine.
Cindy and Phil.
Phil and Judy as we were getting ready to depart.
We got to the airport in plenty of time to turn in the rental car, get our luggage checked in, and get through security. I'm sitting here updating this blog.
The trip home was uneventful, the plane was full but took off on time and we arrived on schedule. For some reason, LAX was jammed - maybe people coming home - but we found the limo driver and an hour later we were home.
8/27/2018 (Monday) No trip is finished until we pick up Skipper and Bernie. Here's Skipper when we picked him up at the kennel. If you want to contact me for any reason, my email is mike @ michael-henderson dot us. You'll have to remove the spaces and convert "dot" to "." I do that to avoid Internet bots that harvest email addresses.
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