I got up even earlier than usual on Saturday, got dressed, and wandered downstairs with the intention of going around the corner to hang out at the coffee shop until Heather and Jay were ready to go. However, it was raining, and after a long chat with one of the owners about her profound lack of interest in the resident spirits, I decided to lurk around the Castle Inn and have breakfast. I started poking around the buffet, which consisted of mostly prepackaged food in a less-than-appetizing presentation: sliced cinnamon and raisin bread next to an old toaster, crusty glazed donuts, packets of grits and cold cereal, pop-tarts removed from their wrappers and arranged on a plate, anemic-looking fruit. I was about to fill my coffee mug (which I had already designated as my ‘usual’ after two days: it’s the orange one with the pumpkin face on it, in case you’re ever visiting), when the man I had been trying to avoid came barrelling out of the kitchen to admonish me. Breakfast didn’t start until 8am.
Chastized by a crazy man, I went out to the sunporch and read a book that was titled something like “Ghost-hunting for Dummies”. Then I paged through a book about psychic phenomena that was published in the 50s, and found it highly informative in a this-is-a-giant-load-of-crap sort of way. I went into the office and checked my email, verifying that my company was indeed still in business even though I was out of town. Once it was safely past 8am, I went back for my coffee, and sat down on a couch in the main room, clutching my pumpkin mug and a brown banana.
I was paging through a fascinating book about the history of the Garden District when a guy walked in, got coffee, and took a seat across the room, facing me. He sat there silently for ten or fifteen minutes, during which time I was convinced he was fixing me with his serial-killer gaze, so I was afraid to look up. I clung to the pumpkin for support. Finally, he asked me how late I had been ‘down there’ the night before. I told him we didn’t go near Bourbon Street, on account of the NCAA tournament and the hoardes of reckless fratboys. He described their night, spent pushing through drunk guys on the street, and their return to the hotel at around 3am. He said he was an amateur ghost-hunter, so he had taken out his digital camera and started snapping pictures randomly, hoping to catch some haunting activity. And he had.
Ron went upstairs for his camera, and sat and showed me all his photos. They were interesting, definitely. A lot of it could have been explained away as tricks of light and the flash, but some of it was pretty intriguing. He pointed out outlines of ghosts, even the little girl known as Emily. He was convinced. I was skeptical. I gave him my email address, hoping he’d send the photos.
After half an hour or so, I gracefully extricated myself and went upstairs. Heather and I decided to take the streetcar into the French Quarter (or the ‘Freedom Quarter’, for you dumbass patriots). Jay would drive over and meet us for tofu rancheros at the awesome vegetarian place we had discovered. It was in the mid-80s that morning, but the humidity made it stifling. Heather and I walked from one side of the French Quarter to the other, stopping in the tacky souvenir shops to pick up voodoo dolls and the like. We were a little early for brunch, so we stopped for coffee at a cafe on Decatur (not Cafe Du Monde, which was overrun with hung-over fratboys), and sat there listening to the jazz band and people-watching.
We had brunch, then headed back to the other side of the French Quarter to the Aquarium. I saw what I had come to see: jellyfish. I even witnessed jellyfish sex, even though Heather swore that they didn’t reproduce that way. But I know what I saw: dirty, raunchy jellyfish lovin’. It was hot.
We left the aquarium and once again headed back across the French Quarter. It’s only something like 13 blocks wide, but it seemed like a lot, having walked it a couple times already in the drenching humidity. We stopped at the French Market to buy fresh fruit for the trip back the next day, then walked back to the car. A huge storm was rolling in from the Gulf, and it started to pour a few minutes after we reached the car. At that point, I announced that I was officially tired. It had been a long trip.
We went back to the hotel and rested while it stormed. Later, we drove up to the fair suburb of Metairie, to the International Market, and dinner at an indian restaurant. The Taj Mahal was no less than the happiest restaurant on earth, and it was the perfect way to spend some of our last few hours in the south.