Friday, May 29, 2009

Patric, Age 1.5

I finally made it to my first movie of the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival! Last Thursday night we saw Patrick, Age 1.5.

Film Festival Description below

Director Ella Lemhagen’s dramatic comedy, adapted from a three-person stage play, hinges on a bureaucratic blunder. After facing much discrimination in their quest to adopt a child, Swedish gay couple Goran and Sven finally appear to be cleared to take possession of an 18-month-old boy named Patrik. However, due to a misplaced punctuation mark, the “1.5-year-old” turns out to be 15—and a homophobe with a violent criminal record to boot. This sitcom-like plot point is transformed in Lemhagen’s hands into an intelligent rumination on tolerance and gradual understanding in a country that has been surprisingly slow to accept the idea of same-sex couple adoption. Initially, all involved are displeased about the situation, especially Sven, who has also had his share of youthful run-ins with the law and knows the violence Patrik is capable of unleashing. The couple eventually coax positive qualities out of Patrik that go deeper than the teen’s initial disgust about having to live with “homos.” With strong performances by all involved, Patrik Age 1.5 is a sensitive, quietly funny, and surprisingly affecting take on the theme of a same-sex couple raising an adopted child.

I loved this film. The acting was terrific, I was especially impressed with Tomas Ljungman in the role of Patrik. There were great character actors in supporting roles throughout. After watching this film I left the theatre feeling great! It did not leave me however wanting to adopt a 15 year old but rather get another dog!

Check out the trailer below and go see this movie. It plays again June 3rd at the Harvard Exit.

Have a good one -


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Dear Mom,

I know that I haven’t always appreciated what you’ve done for me. There have been so many times that I’ve taken you for granted. Today on your birthday I wanted to list the things that you did for me for which I will be forever grateful:

You always taught me that we are all equal. You didn’t allow me to think that I was better or less than anyone! Little did I know growing up how important this would become as I reached adulthood and fight for equal rights for the GLBT community.
You never gave up on me - I use this today as I talk with parents who are struggling with the behavior of their kids. I tell them never give up on your kids. I know my life would not be what it is today if you had given up on me. God knows there were times when I'm sure it was tempting! Remember the time you got the call from Florida and you flew Richard and I back?

You took the effort to make life fun. You showed me that there was more to life than chores and work and having "things". I recall with fondness things such as you making fresh cotton candy for the trick or treaters , the glitter Christmas ornaments we made together, and lighting the stump on fire in the woods!
The extra effort you put out to make me feel that everything was going to work out and life was going to be okay when I struggled the most has taught me to look for contentment in whatever circumstances I find myself.

Mom, thank-you for all that you’ve given to me. I will always and forever grateful and appreciative that you are my Mom. I hope you have a great birthday and know how much you are loved!
I thought I would share this video that my Mom sent me this week. We both enjoyed it and would have loved to have found ourselves there when this happened! The video was made in the Antwerp, Belgium Central Train Station. With no warning to the passengers passing through the station, a recording of Julie Andrews comes on the public address system singing “Do, Re, Mi.” See what happens and enjoy.

Please join me in wishing my Mom a Happy Birthday -


Jim and Kent!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blog-a-Birthday wish to April

It's my Niece April's birthday today - please join me in wishing April a happy, happy birthday! April I hope you have a great day and know how proud of you I am! You are a an amazing young women and I wish you the best today and always! I hope this video clip make you laugh as much as it did me!

Have a good one -
Uncle Jim

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unfortunate Breaking News - CA Prop. 8 Upheld

I'll write more about this later. The fight continues, we need to work even harder to assure that Referendum 71 does not repeal the rights granted same sex couples here in Washington State.

(05-26) 09:07 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- BULLETIN: The California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 by a 6-1 vote but ruled that existing same sex marriages can stand. Several dozen people gathered in front of the California Supreme Court building today in San Francisco in advance of the court's ruling on whether to uphold Proposition 8, the November ballot measure in which state voters banned gay and lesbian marriages.

Later -


Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day - Headed North on I-5

Welcome to Happy Valley! This is the sign that greets you as you near my parents home. We could all be so lucky to live in a "happy" anyplace! I like to imagine there is a tag line that says "Where everyone lives happily ever after!" Truth be told Happy Valley is not located in a valley. It's more like a plateau. I guess "Happy Plateau" just did not sound right!

It's early Monday morning as I write this post and we have already traveled over half way on our 583 mile drive home. We got up early so could get an early start which will get us home in the early afternoon. We had a great visit - it always goes by too fast. I thought I would share a few pictures that I took yesterday.

We took a drive to the town of McCloud and ended up in Mt. Shasta for lunch. Lynn and Mike (friends of my parents) joined us in McCloud and for lunch.

This picture was taken in McCloud. There is a dinner train that travels the foothills of Mt. Shasta. It's on our list of things to do one of these days when we are down here.

Mom at lower McCloud Falls. It was a beautiful place - Mom preformed a wedding here several years ago.

Aunt Midge is pictured below enjoying the opportunity to get out of the house. It's always great to see my Aunt. She lives with my parents now, she has advanced Alzheimer's. I have such fond memories of Aunt Midge and to be honest, it's hard to see her as she is now. I am glad she has my Mom. We should all be so lucky.

View of Lake Shasta on our drive back to Mom and Dad's. Houseboats are popular on the lake. Another thing on our list of things to do!

Toby had a great time and surprisingly got along great with all my parents dogs. He had a couple of incidents with the goats that I would just assume forget! He's pretty tired as we drive home.

Mom and Dad - Thanks for a great visit, great meals, and use of the pool and our accommodations. We love you and always have relaxing time at your place. Looking forward to seeing you later this year at William and Sarah's wedding.

Have a good one-


Sunday, May 24, 2009

California State Supreme Court to rule Tuesday on Prop. 8

I saw this article yesterday in the San Francisco Cronical. After a long wait, the outcome of Prop. 8 will be announced on Tuesday. Speculation has been that the Justices will not overturn the propasition - I hope that is not the case and that the recent decisions in Iowa and in the New England States is an indication of the direction of this country. The court's decision will be posted on its Web site,, at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, May 23, 2009

(05-22) 13:40 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- With partisans on both sides holding their breath, and police braced for protests, the California Supreme Court is poised to deliver its final verdict Tuesday on same-sex marriage.

The court is scheduled to rule on whether Proposition 8, approved by 52 percent of the voters in November, validly amended the state Constitution to reinstate the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. If the justices uphold Prop. 8, they will also decide whether to dissolve the marriages of 18,000 same-sex couples who wed before the Nov. 4 election.
The ruling will come just over a year after the court's 4-3 decision that declared that state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partner of their choice and discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.
The ruling made California the second state, after Massachusetts, to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then, the supreme courts of Iowa and Connecticut have issued similar rulings, and legislatures in Vermont and Maine have also authorized same-sex weddings. Another such law is pending in New Hampshire.

This time, the California court faces a different question: whether a majority of the voters can amend their Constitution to take rights away from a minority.

Lawsuits challenging Prop. 8 were filed by two groups of same-sex couples and by local governments led by the city of San Francisco, joined by civil rights and feminist organizations.
They argue that the ballot measure made such fundamental changes to the rights guaranteed by the state Constitution that it amounted to a constitutional revision, not merely an amendment. A revision requires approval by two-thirds of the Legislature or by delegates to a new state constitutional convention to reach the ballot.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, who ordinarily defends state laws in the courts, joined the opponents of Prop. 8 and argued that the voters lack the power to eliminate "inalienable rights."
Supporters of the initiative, led by conservative Christian organizations, noted that the court has declared only two previous initiatives to be revisions and has denied similar challenges to such far-reaching measures as legislative term limits, the Proposition 13 tax cut and the reinstatement of the death penalty. They argued that the California Constitution places ultimate authority in the hands of the people, and that the court should defer to their judgment.
At a hearing in March, most of the justices seemed inclined to uphold Prop. 8 while validating the marriages that were conducted between mid-June, when the earlier ruling took effect, and election day. Gay rights advocates already are making tentative plans to return to the ballot in 2010 or 2012 if they lose Tuesday.

"If we must reverse Prop. 8 at the ballot, we will do so," Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a lawyer for couples in the case, said Friday after the court announced plans for the ruling. "We will win - if not on Tuesday, then one day soon."
In the meantime, advocates are planning demonstrations in Civic Center Plaza both before and after the court issues its decision Tuesday. If Prop. 8 is upheld, an interfaith group of clergy is planning to "surround those who are willing to be arrested in civil disobedience as we sing, and move aside as they are arrested." At 6 p.m., the group is planning to march from City Hall to Yerba Buena Gardens.

Police are preparing for huge demonstrations, said Sgt. Wilfred Williams, a police spokesman. He said the city has moved barricades to the Civic Center Plaza area and will have "enough officers to respond and deal with any incidents."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dogs and Goats

I am not sure how my parents manage to take care of all the animals they have. Kent and I have hard enough time taking care of Toby! This is Arnie the Doberman. He's a great dog!

Next we have Zoe - the New Foundland. She's huge, reminds me of a small black bear. You can see how big she is compared to Toby.

My Mom has has Chinese Crested hairless dogs for years now. The picture below is Lucy her newest addition to the family.

Last dog is KJ (for Kent and Jim). Both dogs are rescue dogs from Washington.

Then there are the goats. I never knew how social goats are and how much personality they have.

This is the twins - Tipsy and Topsy.

Speckles - the newest addition.

And finally the leader of the pack - Jem. I hate to admit it but not only is one of dogs named after me Jem is also my namesake!

We were concerned that Toby would not get along with all the dogs but they have all gotten along well!

There are also a number of outdoor cats but I've yet to capture a picture. Life on the farm.

Later -


Friday, May 22, 2009

Border Crossing

I've been to every state and at some point you would think I would grow tired of taking pictures of the state signs - I never do. The conversation is always the same - "The state line is coming up, I want to get a picture." Kent - "This is not a safe place to pull over and you have taken that picture a thousand times." Then we stop and I get another picture.

It used to be that we would get out and get our picture with the sign, now I'm satisfied just getting a picture of the sign. I've got a photo album at home with Kent and I at all the state signs. That was a long introduction to say - we made it to California!

Just south of the border is a scenic view of Mt. Shasta. Much safer place to pull over for a picture! Kent and Toby pose patiently while I capture them with Shasta in the background.

Here I pose looking butch standing in front of our truck!

We took a little detour and got this great shot of Mt. Shasta. It's a beautiful day out, it's not even noon and it's already in the mid 80's! Glad my parents have a pool!

Just a short distance from my parents house from here should arrive just after noon.

Later -

Post on the run from my iPhone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

California Road Trip

We love road trips! Kent and I are headed to Northern California to see my parents who live just south of Redding in Anderson CA. I am not really sure what it is that makes us enjoy road trips so much but we do! We once flew to Florida rented a car and drove cross country - I have very fond memories of that trip. We keep a map in our office at home with all the road trips we have taken identified by pins marking the route.

We later this summer we have a week long driving trip planned over the 4th of July. We are still mapping it out.

This is our first road trip with Toby. As you can see he is having a great time!

We are a little concerned about how he will get along with all the animals that my parents have. I've lost count of the cats but I know of four dogs and three goats. Should make for some great pictures!

We plan to drive as far south to Eugene tonight and then to Anderson the next day. The weather looks perfect and we are looking forward to the visit. I will keep you posted.



-- Post on the run from my iPhone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blog-a-Birthday wish to William!

Today is my nephew William's Birthday - Please join me in wishing William a happy birthday! We are looking forward to seeing you at your upcoming wedding this fall. Have a great birthday! Looks like there is starting to be a lot of candles on that cake!

It's said that men are like wine: some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age, always strive to be the very best William - Have a great Birthday!

Have a good one -


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Perfect Weekend for Everything!

Here it is the end of the weekend, I should be rested and ready for the work week but not me - I'm totally exhausted! This weekends weather was as perfect as it gets in Seattle. Right now Sunday evening after 7pm it's still in the mid 70's! So often in the NW once the sun starts to go down the evening cools off quickly - not this weekend, last night we slept with the windows open all night for the first time. Sometimes when it's raining or cloudy for long periods I wonder why we live here - then we have a weekend like this and it's easy to see why.
This weekend we did the thing you do when you live in Seattle and the weather gets nice - cram everything you ever wanted to do into the weekend window of opportunity. Because the weather does not
consistently get nice until after the 4th of July - when we have a nice weekend we cram everything in until we are ready to drop from exhaustion by Sunday evening. Who knows what the weather will be like next weekend (not that we care since we will be in California next weekend visiting my parents where the current temperature is just over 100 degrees!) so you have to take advantage of it!

We crammed more into this weekend than we usually do, it was just to nice not to do it all! We started off Friday evening going out to dinner and then to see the new X-men movie. Perhaps it's because we just saw Star Trek which I completely enjoyed - but I was really disappointed in X-Men. I really thought I would like it a lot. I liked the other X-men movies but this one was just okay - I had high expectations and was disappointed. The special effects were great and Hugh Jackman and Taylor Kitsch (from on of my favorite TV shows - Friday Night Lights)was good but the movie was full of corny cliches - there were 4-5 times that I said the next lines out loud before the character in the movie - that's a bad script! Oh well - if you have not seen it and you are a fan, go see it, if not and you are still interested, save it for a rental.
Saturday we got up early and were at Fred Meyer at 7am to pick up flats of annuals that were on sale. I got a bit carried away and bought 9 flats of annuals - that's a lot of planting! From there we went downtown and went to the Pike Place Market to the annual Cheese Festival. The Cheese Festival is an opportunity to taste hundreds of local fresh cheeses, cooking demonstrations and seminars on cheese pairings - there is fresh bread and wine - it's a great event. If you have never been to the Pike Place Market its a must when in Seattle. There were several Cruise ships in town headed for Alaska so the place was hopping! I am lucky enough to work just south of the Market and can make it down there during the week when it is much less crowed!

From there we went home and I started planting all the annuals that I bought. I took the pictures and made this collage of the flowers currently in bloom in the yard - I hope you enjoy!

It's been awhile since I posted pictures from my garden or even talked about gardening. I spent several hours out in the yard over the weekend. One of the things I love most about gardening is the ever changing landscape - blossoms from the apple and pear tree are gone, the evergreen clematis blooms have long faded as have the daffodils and grape hyacinths. Yesterday, I noticed the tulips are past their peak and will be done in a week. But ready to take their place is the roses, lilies, all the summer annuals, fuchsias, clematis - well for any of you that have seen my yard, you know I could go on and on.

Saturday evening we took a drive along Puget Sound south to Tacoma. We tried a new restaurant called Matador in Tacoma - I would definitely go back and recommend it! The margaritas were terrific and the food was pretty good. Check it out!

This morning Kent and I both got up and did the Beat the Bridge Run in Seattle - it's a 5 mile run to benefit juvenile diabetes. We've done this particular run several time and always enjoy ourselves. It starts and ends at Husky stadium.

It happened to be the weekend for the University District Street Fair which is always fun so we went to the Street Fair following the run. From there we headed to Olympia to have lunch at the Oyster House, one of our favorite lunch places in the south sound.

We stopped in at the Olympia Farmers Market - a must do if you find yourself in Olympia when the market is open. Unfortunately, I bought more plants so we promptly headed home and I worked in the yard for several hours in an attempt to get some of my new plants in the ground. I made pretty good progress. Work in the yard is never done - it was nice to be around the neighborhood all the neighbors were out working in the yard - it was very social.

Have a great week - thanks again for all the calls and emails regarding my last post, I really appreciate it! Governor Gregoire is going to sign the domestic partnership expansion bill into law tomorrow! The next several months Kent and I are going to be very politically active! Remember - Decline to Sign Referendum 71!

Later -


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Decline to Sign - Take Action Now!

5/15 - Update to 5/14 Post. Thanks for the overwhelming response to my request yesterday! I appreciate all the emails and those that connected and let me know that they had taken action! I had over 300 hits to the blog yesterday and several emails confirming that they had pledged to decline to sign and that the email that I sent out was forwarded. Thanks and have a great Friday and weekend!


Once again the rights granted to gay and lesbian citizens is under assault by the religious right! Please do as the title suggests and - read, take action and forward! This past session the Washington State Legislature expanded Washington's domestic partnership law and gave registered partners all of the same rights as married couples under State law. But, just as we were ready to celebrate this victory, as monumental as the Civil Rights struggle of 40 years ago, along comes another far right effort to send equality crashing back down into the abyss of bigotry and hate.

California Proposition 8 passed by voters back in November is currently before the California State Supreme Court. The District of Columbia last week voted to recognize same-sex marriages from states that approve them (our Mormon members of congress oppose this of course), and right here in Washington Lawmakers took a huge step forward in protecting Washington families when they voted overwhelmingly to expand Washington's domestic partnership law and gave registered partners all of the same rights as married couples under State law.

This is not the first time I've written about the right to marry. Check out this earlier post (clink link to view) back in November. At that time only two states had laws granting gay marriage rights. We have made a lot of progress. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since November 18, 2003 (check out this link); in Connecticut since October 10, 2008; and in Iowa since April 27, 2009. It will become legal in Vermont starting September 1, 2009 and in Maine starting September 14, 2009. Gotta love the New England States - and way to go Iowa, who would have thought!

Currently, a coalition of "values voters" have filed Referendum 71, which will place SB 5688 before the voters in November. Simply by filing, the right has succeeded in delaying enactment of this expansion of domestic partnership rights to all areas of state law until at least July 26, the deadline for gathering enough signatures.

For those concerned with marriage equality, there is only one strategy: Decline to sign Referendum 71. Don't let the forces of hate and bigotry win another round. When the paid signature gatherer puts Referendum 71 before you, be polite, but firmly decline:

"No, I don't agree with your petition. All Americans deserve equal protection under the law".

Join me in opposing discrimination against same-sex partners.

Pledge to Decline to Sign Referendum 71 today. It's up to the rest of us to ensure opponents of Domestic Partnerships do not take Washington State two steps back on this critical civil rights issue.

As I've stated - Lawmakers took a huge step forward in protecting Washington families when they voted overwhelmingly to expand Washington's domestic partnership law and gave registered partners all of the same rights as married couples under State law. Referendum 71 was filed to repeal the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law of 2009. If referendum backers are able to collect 120,000 signatures needed to put the referendum on the ballot, registered domestic partners could lose 250 legal protections in the November election.

Ask your friends, family, and co-workers to take the pledge also, in order to keep Washington's Domestic Partnership Law.

Thank You!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blog-a-Birthday Wish to Sylvia!

Today is Kent's Mother's birthday - Happy Birthday Sylvia! This picture was taken several years ago on a visit to New York. We are so lucky to have the support of family and have enjoyed our travels with you. Already looking forward to Lake Chelan this summer!

It was great to see you this past weekend. We hope you have a great birthday filled with all the things you enjoy the most. Make a wish!

Have a great day - please join me in wishing Sylvia a happy, happy, birthday!


Kent and Jim

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek

Kent and I saw the new Star Trek movie last week and I have to say it’s been a long time since I enjoyed a movie this much. Growing up I was not a huge Star Trek fan but I did enjoy it for what it was – cheesy. As for the spin off television shows – I watched the Next Generation here and there but it was Voyager that got me hooked on Star Trek again. I encourage you to go to Netflix and rent the first season of Voyager. The series really gets good in season 4 when Jeri Ryan was cast to play Seven of Nine a Borg drone freed from the collective. I am still ticked that it went off the air. Of the movies the clear winner is Wrath of Kahn – until now.

The new Star Trek movie keeps true to the original series just enough and uses it well to jump into the 21st Century. The cast was terrific – and what’s not to like about the Chris Pine – the actor who played Captain Kirk.

The new Star Trek is a great science fiction film directed by J. J. Abrams. It is the eleventh film based on the Star Trek franchise and features the main characters of the original Star Trek series, who are portrayed by a new cast. The film introduces a parallel universe/alternate timeline separate from the continuity of the original series and the previous movies. It explores the previously unexplored back stories of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), before they unite aboard the USSEnterprise to combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from the future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. For a full synopsis of the movie visit this Wikipedia link.

Fan of Star Trek or not - go see the movie - you will enjoy it!

Later - Jim

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day Mom! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with all the things you love the most. Kent and I are looking forward to our upcoming visit when we can celebrate Mother's Day and your birthday with you in person. It's hard to believe that last year we celebrated Mothers day with you in Hawaii. This year we are in Wenatchee celebrating the day with Kent's Mom. Happy Mothers day to both you and Sylvia! I wanted to share a few words of how I feel on this Mother's Day.

I think of you often........

There was a time in my life that I used to think that people didn't need their Moms so much after they grew up and that the work of a mother was complete when one turned 18 as we ventured out in the world. Of course I quickly realized that it is not true. So often, when I'm making a decision, I wish you were here so I could ask your advice. And so many times,when something happens or I see something that I know you would enjoy, I wish you were here to share it with me. This is especially true when traveling - there is so much of the world that I want you to see and experience. It's also true when I working in the yard and I find something beautiful - I always know who would appreciate it as much as I. The older I get the more I realize how special our relationship is and although I don't' always share it - I am so lucky and grateful that you are my Mom! You have an incredible life story to tell and I am glad to be a small part of it. And while I'm thankful for the relationship we share, somehow today it makes me miss you more......Mom, I love you very much. Have a great Mother's Day!

Wishing you all the best - Love

Jim and Kent

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday to my sister Vicki who turns 50 today! Where did the time go. It seems like a short time ago that were were sharing secrets and confiding in one another. I know we don't get to see each other as much as we would both like but I miss you and think of you often! Happy Happy Birthday! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

And last, a quick birthday wish to Olivia who turns five today! Olivia is the daughter of my friends Jay and Jennifer. Seems like just yesterday that Jennifer called me with the news! Have a great birthday Olivia!

Have a great day!


New Orleans

Kent and I have been back from New Orleans for several days and back in the thick of things at work. I was in New Orleans for a Reclaiming Futures meeting. What is Reclaiming Futures you ask? If you want to find out a bit more about some of the work I'm involved in check out this link. I can't tell you how often people ask me - "what is it again you do again?" It was so much easier to explain what I did in the days of being a counselor!

Kent joined me after I had been there a few days and my meetings were ending and we hung out for four more days. I've not eaten so much great food and stayed out so late listening to great music in a long time. We ate at some terrific restaurants some of my favorites included - Bacco (I ate there three times) great dinners and the bread pudding was out of this world, Baru - Carribian/Latin food with Creole influences - it's BYOB so if you want drinks with dinner pick up a bottle of wine beforehand. There are several variations on the "bring your own bottle" theme in New Orleans, which mostly involve showing up with a bottle of wine in-hand. Some restaurants don't serve alcohol, although they have wine glasses and openers, and the restaurant allows you to bring your own bottle, some charge a small cork fee. The last is St. James Cheese Company - it's a great lunch place just a couple blocks off the St. Charles St. Streetcar. Great sandwiches, salads and of course cheese! There were other great meals but these really stuck out. Check them out the next time you are in New Orleans.

We heard a lot of great music and saw a lot of great jazz bands. We danced and listened to Rebirth Brass Band a local jazz band at The Maple Leaf Bar - a must visit while in New Orleans. We were in town for the Jazz Fest another thing I highly recommend doing. It's worth a special trip to New Orleans at least once just to experience. Great music, food and local crafts. We spent one entire day at the festival - one could easily make an entire trip out of it. There is a nice mixture of all kinds of music - we enjoyed traditional jazz, gospel and even a little country! There were too many acts to list them all but these acts really stood out, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Pinettes Brass Band, Sugarland, Tony Bennett, The Iguanas, Bonnie Raitt and Kermit Fuffins. $50 gets you in - well worth it!

For the most part Kent and I stayed around New Orleans. We took a couple of short drives one to Baton Rouge to see the State Capitol and another across the 25 mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to the towns on the north shore. The picture below is the State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge. Take the elevator up to the top for a great view of the Mississippi river and the surrounding town.

The little town of Abita Springs was my favorite and they have a great local brew pub! We also toured Oak Alley (picture is the one prior to the Capitol above) one of the many plantations located outside of town. We took a couple a local walking tours - they are all over town and well worth it. The best one is free and happens every day at 9:30 a.m.. Rangers from the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park lead riverfront history walks to the Mississippi River, just over the levee from the visitor center, to share the story of how the city began. 25 free tickets per tour are given out beginning at 9:00 a.m. Walks last about an hour. First-come, first-served; each person wanting a ticket must be present. We had a really cute tour guide - Ranger Matt. Definitely do this - it gives you a lot of information on the fascinating history of New Orleans and the influences of the Native Americans, French, Spanish and British. We spent a lot of time in the French Quarter, Garden District, on the St. Charles St. Streetcar and in the shops and restaurants along Magazine St. You will not run out of things to do and places to visit. The streetcars are a real deal and a lot of fun. You can buy a day pass for unlimited rides for $5 or $1.25 for single one way tickets. It's a fun way to see the city and get oriented to your surroundings. The St. Charles line is the best as it goes from downtown through the Garden District past Tulane University, Audubon Park and Zoo and past beautiful old historical Mansions. One last recommendation - if you are looking for a place to run, from the French Quarter head to the Mississippi River and run along the river. It's not a long run but there is a free passenger ferry that runs every 15 minutes and once you have explored all there is to see on the downtown side take the ferry across to Algiers Point for a great view of the city and miles of trails along the dike on the other side. The ferry drops you off in the historic Algiers Point neighborhood where you can visit local pubs(later in the evening afer the run!), stroll the Jazz Walk of Fame along the levee and visit Mardi Gras World. I wanted to visit Mardi Gras World and went over there but to be honest it did not look like much from the outside and there was no one around. I would love to hear from anyone who has actually visited it so I know if I need to make a point of visiting next time I am in town. I also went for a nice run in Audubon Park and around Tulane University. There are great hotels all over the city - we stayed at the Omni Royal Orleans pictured below located right in the heart of the French Quarter and later at a Marriott near the airport.

Lastly - you really can not visit New Orleans and not address Katrina. A couple of things, I was in New Orleans one year post Katrina for a disaster preparedness conference. To see the progress made to rebuild the city since my last visit was amazing. Sadly they still have a long way to go. There are still many vacant houses especially noticable if you rent a car and get out and about in the ninth ward and lake front areas. Some you can still see the water line and some still have the markings that the rescue works spray painted on each residence after completing their search. The picture below is from the ninth ward which was hit particularly hard. The markings show the date the residence was searched, who conducted the search, if there was any immediate danger and if any bodies were found. The resident of this home was found dead in the attic.
Hard to believe that 80% of the city was flooded and that in this day and age that some 1,900 people died; much of the city remained under water for two weeks; at least a quarter of a million houses were abandoned and the damage was over $82 billion. So devastating was the storm that the city of 455,000 - about the same as Staten Island - has since lost about 44 percent of its population however - New Orleans however is coming back strong!

Although I end this on kind of a downer - I hope this inspires you to visit New Orleans and the surrounding area. I think you would enjoy it! I heard several times - "tell people we are still here and to come and visit!"

Have a good one -


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baton Rouge State Capitol

-- Post on the run from my iPhone.

Houmas House

The Houmas House was well worth the stop. Featured in this past season of Top Chief.

-- Post on the run from my iPhone.

300 Year Old Oaks

The oak trees that line the walk to the Mississippi River were planted 300 years ago.

-- Post on the run from my iPhone.