Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back in New Orleans. Again.

Last Thursday Ana and I flew from Baltimore down to New Orleans so she could participate in the change of command and retirement ceremony for RADM Whitehead, the admiral that she's been working for for the past three years. It turns out that the admiral who was replacing him is RADM Landry who she's been working for in DC.

For her part, she was singing the national anthem. When you consider the fact that her audience included the outgoing and incoming admirals, another newly frocked rear admiral she used to work with, the admiral in command of the Atlantic Area of the Coast Guard, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, along with a whole host of her friends and co-workers, Ana had plenty to be nervous about. For my part I was just along for the ride and taking lots of pictures. Unfortunately the seating was prearranged and I was on the opposite side of the stage from where she was singing and the Color Guard was between us. So this was the only picture I got of her right before she started singing:
LT Thorsson

Once the change of command was over, I snapped this quick pic of the Commandant, LANTAREA commander, as well as RADM Whitehead and RADM Landry:
Admirals

The plan for after the ceremony was to go to the Admiral's quarters for a retirement party, then go out for a few drinks with a handful of folks. Unfortunately, by the time we actually sat down we were so exhausted that none of us was up for going out afterwards.

The following day, Ana and I went out for breakfast and did a bit of wandering around in town. This time I actually remembered to take a few pictures:
Downtown NOLA

Pleasant and Magazine

Around noon, we decided to visit the National WWII Museum. We've talked about doing it every time I've been in New Orleans, but never actually gotten to it for some reason or another. As we pulled up we noticed that there was a huge crowd and a few of the streets around the museum were blocked off. That's when we realized that we'd inadvertently gone to the World War 2 Museum on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy. Outside they had a wide arrangement of restored WWII-vintage military vehicles:
WWII Museum

There were also dozens of reenactors in costume, including this guy on his cellphone jacking up the verisimilitude:
Cellphone Medic

The museum itself had some amazing displays. Suspended from the ceiling they had a C-47 cargo transport plane that actually flew paratroopers into France and Belgium during the war. They also had an actual Spitfire and Messerschmitt fighter plane as well as a Douglass SBD divebomber all hanging from the ceiling. The main lobby also featured a fully restored Higgins boat and some other vehicles, but this particular little gem really caught my eye:
Goliath
This windowless little tank looks odd at first, but it makes a tiny bit more sense when you look at it from another angle:
Goliath2

It's actually a Goliath tracked mine. This was a miniature, remoted-controlled tank loaded with up to 220 pounds of high explosives that could be driven up to or into enemy fortifications and detonated with the operator taking cover from a safe distance. I would've taken a lot more pictures, but Ana was giving me a look that suggested I was out of time:
AnaGlare
I did manage to convince her to wander outside and look over all of the vehicles including this restored Navy Jeep:
Navy Jeep
As well as this beautifully preserved M4 Sherman tank:
Sherman

Somewhere along the way Ana had to drag me away before I found some way to take one of them home. I guess I'll have to settle for finishing up the construction of my own tank. *sigh*
Toy Shopping
After the museum we went back to her place on the base to get changed and go out for dinner. I looked goofy as usual, but she got all sorts of prettied up:
Shawn Ana Thorsson
We ended up with Elaina (who introduced Ana and I) and Sue (Ana's relief) as well as a couple of Sue's friends from out of town:
Dinner at Brennan's

Dinner was phenomenal. I had frog legs for the first time and an amazing steak served in a horseradish sauce with a sauteed banana that turned out to be pretty tasty. When dinner was over it turns out Elaina had ordered up a custom cake from Sucre, a particularly good local bakery:
Cake

Apparently when she ordered this glittery little birthday cake she told the bakery it didn't need anything written on it because, "he knows it's his birthday." She also told them, "I want it to turn his tongue blue and make him poop sparkles for a month." The first part came true (we'll have to wait to find out about the rest):
Shawn Ana Thorsson2

While we were there, I also snapped a quick shot of their courtyard. It's pretty:
courtyard

After dinner we headed over to the Bombay Club, a nice, quiet martini bar in a hotel near Bourbon Street:
Bombay Club

Which was good because none of us were really interested in being part of the mob on Bourbon Street itself:
Bourbon Street

While we were there we caught up with Kristen, another officer who Ana used to work with. With all of the craziness surrounding the change of command, we were lucky she was able to come out that weekend:
Shawn Ana Kristen
We were out until nearly 0200 and we had a flight back to Baltimore at 0600 that same morning. To get there on time we had to wake up at 0400 and drag ourselves to the airport. I managed to stay awake for the drive and the flight and to drive from the airport to the hotel. When we finally arrived at the hotel room, Ana was unconscious within a few minutes:
Exhausted Ana

We've got about two more weeks in DC and then it'll be time to set out on a cross-country road trip designed to cross the country in at least two directions, taking us to the North, South, East, and West.

Stay tuned...

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