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View From Your Table

New Orleans, Louisiana [1]

New Orleans, Louisiana

This is at the Napoleon House [2]. The drink on the right is a Pimm’s Cup, the traditional drink at the venerable bar. The drink on the left is a root beer, and the drinker of the root beer is my son Lucas. When he turned nine in January, his father promised to take him on a father-son trip to New Orleans for the night. But there were bowl games in New Orleans, and then Mardi Gras, and one thing led to another, and Dad didn’t get around to it until … today. I promised him it would be only us, and that Dad wouldn’t schedule any meetings or do any business on this overnight trip. Just the two of us.

We went to the Aquarium Of The Americas, and then walked around the French Quarter. We talked about World War II, and other man stuff. On the way back to our Canal Street hotel, we passed by Napoleon House, and I told Lucas the story about how the place came to get its name. We talked about Napoleon, and all the things we saw about him last year in Les Invalides in Paris. I also told him that Mom and Dad had their wedding reception on the third floor of the Napoleon House, in the room that had been reserved for the Emperor. We were melting — do NOT visit New Orleans in August, unless you have to! — so we went in for something cool to drink. I thought about my younger self, in 1997, three floors up in this great old bar, unable to imagine that one day I’d be back with one of my own sons, having a tall cold drink.

By the time you read this, we’ll be on our way back from Lucas’s Birthday Man Dinner at John Besh’s restaurant, Lüke [3] (I have a feeling there will be a second VFYT from this trip). That was one of those great things that made him happy (“A restaurant with my name! Cool!”) and me happy (“A John Besh restaurant! Cool!”). I made the reservation in the name of Lucas Dreher, which he tells me makes him feel like a grown-up. We’re going to watch “Iron Man 3” on the hotel pay-per-view tonight.

I should do things like this more often.

UPDATE: I had the charcuterie plate to start, the choucroute garni — Mangalitsa pork belly, braised ham shank, homemade weisswurst — and amber beer. It was all crazy good. That’s Lucas on the far side of the photo, with his hamburger.

get-attachment-4 [4]

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "View From Your Table"

#1 Comment By Fred On August 1, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

Love this post. You’re about a mile – and one universe – from my house. Enjoy.

#2 Comment By Helen On August 1, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

What a great post. My husband and I are going to do that with our kids.

#3 Comment By gk1234 On August 1, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

Love it! I had this, this and that…and there is his burger. He’s probably just as happy though!

[NFR: “Just as happy”? That’s what he wanted. I told him he could have anything he wanted. Nine year old boys typically don’t have such adventurous tastes. — RD]

#4 Comment By Jack Ross On August 1, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

That meat plate may be the first time a VFYT made me wish I had what I was looking at right now! But an all around awesome post, Lucas is a very lucky kid.

#5 Comment By ms mm On August 1, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

That meat scary.

#6 Comment By James C. On August 2, 2013 @ 12:03 am

Good going! I was a neglected middle child, but when I turned 8, my mom took me out to eat at Red Lobster, just me and her. I got to stay up while my siblings went to bed, and we watched a movie together. Over 20 years later, I still recall this experience down to the last detail. The memory of it warms my heart, and it is etched in my mind as one of the happiest days of my life. It will remain a vivid and living memory when I’m 95.

Anything you do for/with/to your children will echo through the rest of their lives. I wish more parents were aware of this!

[NFR: It really touched me tonight to listen to him talk at dinner. We make a point to talk frequently with all our kids, but I didn’t realize until tonight how neglected he feels, squeezed between an older brother and a younger sister. He kept thanking me for the dinner, and when the bill came, he got a look at it and, having no idea what things cost, was shocked at the tab (it wasn’t all that expensive, but he has no way of telling that). “Dad, let me help you with that,” he said. “I have $20 in my pocket.” I had a tear in my eye at that. — RD]

#7 Comment By RB On August 2, 2013 @ 12:39 am

Lucky kid, lucky dad.

My 11-year-old daughter just took me on a date to the movies tonight–her treat, with money she earned watching her youngest siblings. I can’t believe I put off going out with her till now. Kids are so great.

#8 Comment By Rod Dreher On August 2, 2013 @ 12:48 am

[5] I loved it, but I think this restaurant is better in winter, not in August.

#9 Comment By Jon Cogburn On August 2, 2013 @ 12:51 am

Wow, what an excellent post! It’s so great to read about the cool things you do with your kids, because it gives me a concrete picture of all the other cool things I can do with my kids when they get just a bit older.

I’m totally hyped about trying Luke’s. From this point forward, in honor of you and Luke, I will think of it without the umlaut (jokes about hair metal bands somewhere in the vicinity; where’s Patton Oswalt when you need him?). And I looked up the hamburger on the menu. I bet it was awesome.

Emily and I have been to August and Domenica so far. August was good, but the goat entree at Domenica was outstanding. I was actually there with a Canadian philosopher of Indian ethnicity and he said it was the best goat he’d ever eaten in his life.

It was also the best I’ve ever eaten, but my experience is much more limited, almost entirely in so-so restaurants.

Sorry, tangent. Here’s a weird memory of the very first time I ate goat. I was 17 and for two weeks I had been helping build a church and medical clinic in the rural Domenican Republic. On the way out of there we ate a meal at the big hotel in Santo Domingo (I’m sure there is more than one big hotel now). There was goat in the buffet and it was the first time I’d ever eaten it.

Now here’s the slightly Lovecraftian thing. I was just coming down with a weird tropical disease that weeks later in Alabama finally succumbed to massive amounts of anti-biotics and bed rest (after losing a few tens of pounds and a small piece of my armpit and (luckily) smaller piece of my face, which just rotted off for no reason; tropical diseases are bizarre and at least in 1986 not well understood). Even in the early stages of the disease everything was a little bit odd looking. I remember looking at the pointy bones in the goat meat and then looking over at the next table, and there was this very well dressed man who just looked absolutely evil, not merely capable of anything, but like he’d actually done some of those things. And he had a bunch of sweaty yes men around him trying to outdo themselves laughing at every thing he said. It was kind of overpowering. If that Cake song about sheep’s going to heaven had been written then it could have been the soundtrack. The goat meat was a powerful metonymy for the repulsive, lizard thing in the man suit, with everyone around him hanging on his every eructation.

I thought it was probably the fever. From two weeks in the tropics with not very sanitary anything, I was really getting ill; things looked so weird that when I read the hotel scenes in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” a few years later I had an “aha” moment.

But it wasn’t just the fever, or maybe the fever made me see some things actually clearer, more like they really are. Or maybe it was or more likely two weeks without much electricity or running water while doing something difficult and worthwhile, because it turned out that I was seeing the person correctly. After the he and the obsequious entourage marched to the elevators, the waitperson cleaning up after them was really visibly relieved, and couldn’t contain himself, telling the Spanish speakers with us that the person whose mess he was cleaning was actually Baby Doc Duvalier, who had just fled Haiti with millions of dollars, family, and an unsubstantiated number of crapulent flunkies.

I know I was at the buffet line with some of the flunkies, but I hadn’t noticed if they got food for him or not. It would have been weird to have passed him the goat skewer. Anyhow, after that night, Duvalier went on to France and me back to Alabama.

Duvalier weirdly went back to Haiti two years ago and is now in prison. I got the much better end of the deal, (teaching philosophy at LSU in our very own “gret stet”). The people who lived under him (sadly, usually with the enthusiastic support of our government) not so much. . .

Sorry for threadjacking. Thinking now about the goat entree at Domenica’s just set off a huge train of memories. We have to take what we can in this regard; for me gluten allergies rule out madeleines, even the petite ones. So I must have more memories related to goats, dictators, and whatnot.

#10 Comment By Peterk On August 2, 2013 @ 12:51 am

“We talked about World War II,” did you all go to the National World War II Museum

[NFR: We went last year with Lucas, his grandfather, and his uncle. — RD]

#11 Comment By Jason On August 2, 2013 @ 12:57 am

From reading a little about Napoleonhouse, I see that Louisiana’s interesting tastes as far as exotic political leaders are concerned began early (I kid).

#12 Comment By gk1234 On August 2, 2013 @ 1:23 am

For what it’s worth (little) re the NFR above, that is what I was trying to say. A fancy burger w dad is just as great to a growing boy as chacuterie et al when you’re older.

I know I remember post-little-league McDonalds #2 value meal more than the games…whatever I think of McDonalds now. Great post.

Sorry if caused offense.

#13 Comment By American in Istanbul On August 2, 2013 @ 1:57 am

It’s probably B.S. but aren’t the upper floors of Napoleon House supposed to be …. haunted?

#14 Comment By Carltuesday On August 2, 2013 @ 5:44 am

Not to be nitpick, but didn’t the dormition fast just start?

I do struggle balancing things like this vs the demands of the liturgical year myself, especially with family and the kids involved.

[NFR: Did it? We’re on the Old Calendar; I think ours starts later. — RD]

#15 Comment By Charles On August 2, 2013 @ 10:32 am

Luke is fantastic. Best happy hour ever. $0.50 oysters, half price on their house beers and cocktails. Their house brews are pretty good. The oyster price can’t be beat. And my wife loves the cocktail with blueberries and basil.

#16 Comment By Gromaticus On August 2, 2013 @ 10:46 am

“Few such things are more worth the trouble than adding a little cucumber juice and lemon juice to each portion of Pimm’s.”

Kingsley Amis

#17 Comment By Peter Stahley On August 2, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

[NFR: Did it? We’re on the Old Calendar; I think ours starts later. — RD]

My apologies for presuming on the Calendar, it does start later. Either way, it was intended as a reminder more than anything else.

Really made me think about particular instances of fitting those aesthetic issues in with the common cultural experiences we want to have (for example, my son’s birthday last year was on Good Friday). Awkward time of year to be scheduling a party…