I'll be back

January 31, 2011 • Posted in Beth Finke, blindness, book tour, radio, travel, Uncategorized, visiting libraries by
Seth and Bess, our hosts

That's Seth and Bess, our gracious hosts and dear friends. Oh, the crawfish pasta was the best thing we've eaten on this trip to New Orleans so far, high praise indeed.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time! We landed in New Orleans late Saturday night, and we were scheduled to fly home after my presentation at the New Orleans Public Library (Milton H Latter Branch) tomorrow. But poor me, we may have to stay a few more days. From a National Weather Service Report:

The first phase of the upcoming winter storm will begin Monday afternoon and continue into Tuesday morning for portions of Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana. The focus then turns towards the larger event beginning Tuesday afternoon and continuing through Wednesday.

Over 18 inches of snow is predicted for Chicago, and officials are warning those traveling through O’Hare to change their flight plans if possible. Yesterday morning we had no idea this storm was brewing, so like always, we packed everything we could into the short period of time we’d be here. In one day, I

  • inhaled some shrimp and grits (with a biscuit on the side, of course!) for breakfast at Lüke
  • felt chills listening to a God-fearing man belt out his own heartfelt rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” outside of Café du Monde
  • smelled the beautiful aroma coming from flowers and trees while passing by not just one, not two but three lush city parks on our walk to Stein’s Market and Deli on Magazine Street
  • raced through the rain (not snow–rain!) to get to our friends Bess and Seth’s long, narrow, and sweet shotgun of a house in the Carrollton neighborhood
  • took in the smell of green peppers and onions cooking in butter as Bess cooked up a crawfish fettuccini (she got the crawfish at her local grocery store)
  • danced to the blues at DBA after dinner.

As I wrote in a blog post long ago, New Orleans truly is a blind woman’s paradise.

Before leaving Chicago on this trip I happened to flip on the radio and caught the first part of a series by BBC reporter Peter White. He’s traveling around the world on his own and documenting his experiences. But here’s the rub: Peter White is blind. Peter’s first stop was San Francisco, and he said that he appreciated people taking special steps to make sightseeing more interesting for him. But sometimes, the saying about good intentions is true. From Peter White:

Specially recorded tapes for blind people, rails to follow so that you can go round unaided, a huge revolution in what you’re allowed to touch. In the desperate attempts of people to make me interested in ‘sightseeing’, I’ve clambered over Henry Moore sculptures, climbed the rigging in ships which felt as if they’d split asunder if I took another step, and listened to endless recordings of groaning doors and booming cannons in the attempt to make history come to life for me. 

The plain fact is, though, that however good the intentions, touch is not sight – and once you’ve run your hands over one piece of ancient stone, one stuccoed wall, one marble floor, well, you’ve touched them all.

The problem with touch really is that the hand is too small. You can only touch one little bit at a time. There’s too much missing; a sense of size, colour, perspective, visual contrast. With the best will in the world, you are playing at being able to see, and for me, that kind of self-deception has never cut any ice.
This, nevertheless, does not mean that travelling, visiting and poking about in other people’s cultures cannot be enormous fun for a blind person. It’s just that I think you have to be honest about what is fun, and what isn’t.

I agree! I love Peter White’s attitude, and I enjoyed his travelogue, I just wish he’d picked the right city to visit when coming through the United States. While Peter White may have Left his Heart in San Francisco, I Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.

Don’t worry, Chicago. I’ll be back. Just not absolutely sure when.

Lauren On January 31, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Dear Miss New Orleans,
Stuart is right–this would make a great “Planet of the Blind” piece. You should also read Jason Roberts’ delightful biography of James Holman, intrepid blind explorer of the early 19th Century–totally improbable and infectiously readable. (Shameless plug: You can find a terrific review of Roberts book on my website;)

bethfinke On February 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

I am the Queen of shameless self-promoters and appreciate your shameless plug. After I finish responding to these comments I am going straight to your web site, thanks for letting me know the review is there.

Maria On January 31, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Yeah, it’s very tough getting stuck in New Orleans because of the weather. LOL If you have to get stuck somewhere and miss 18 inches of snow, what better place? Umm….I can taste the beignets now and see the white powdered sugar falling all over me. Enjoy the extra time there. Even though you packed everything in to a few days, one thing about that city is there is so much to do I’m sure you’ll keep busy. How is Harper liking it?

Beth On February 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Harper not too crazy about this town, sidewalks too crooked and hazardous and too many loose dogs running around. He’s coping well, though.

Maria On February 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I can imagine that for a dog, most especially a “working” dog, it must be a challenge. Glad to hear he’s coping, because his mom certainly seems to have no problem dealing…!

susie On February 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

You just keep enjoying yourself Beth.
As always I enjoyed your post and I so appreciate your effots!
Keep having a great time and don’t rush to get back here.

lynda thomas On February 1, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hi guys! Sounds like you’re having a great time 🙂 Travel safe and we’ll see you soon! Say hi to Bess & Seth for me. Xoxo

Cam On February 1, 2011 at 10:33 am

So jealous! Grumble, grumble, grumble.

About Peter White’s comment about touching one stone, you’ve touched them all…I remember going to a meeting about travel overseas when I was in college. The slideshow of Scotland had a couple pictures of castles and then the director said, “if you’ve been there, you’ll know the difference between all of these, but if you haven’t, they’ll all be the same, so we’ll stop here.” Sort of a “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Obviously it’s a different experience, but I’ve certainly felt that way when looking at some vacation albums.

Rick On February 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Nice story about NOLA. Glad you will miss the BIG CHILL. I am disappointed that you did not invite your favorite Brother-in-Law to help you around the city. I too love the smell of NOLA. Keep well.

bethfinke On February 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

Ha! I am so old-fashioned/nostalgic that I actually *do* have a tape recorder with me, I use it to mail tapes back and forth to our friends Pick and Hank. Just wish I’d brought my CD player along, too…

Benita On February 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

Two minutes ago, I emailed Mike, saying that I hoped he was at home being cozy! I take it all back! New Orleans is a much better place to be! Henry and I just returned from Lisbon–in time for this icy mess—in truth, though, nothing like Chicago’s epic mess. I applaud you for your good timing, for crayfish pasta, and for delaying your return as long as possible!

Siobhan Senier On February 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I love listening to Peter White, and love listening to/reading Beth Finke!

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