Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two Danish tourists on Tulane Avenue

Last night, I bumped into a Danish couple making their way across the Southern states. I was hurrying back to my car after a marvelous dinner at MILA with out-of-town friends when I was approached by a pair looking for the Tulane bus. I wasn't actually sure that bus still ran at 10 p.m. and was worried about the two of them idly standing on a dark street corner in the CBD waiting for it.

I offered to drive them a mile to their hotel. "Where are you staying?" I asked incredulously. Tulane Avenue is pretty industrial and not terrible touristic. They'd just driven into town and landed somewhere. We passed Sweet's Inn Motel where they'd stopped first. Oooh, that looked like it could be a brothel. Hmm. "Do you have a map or guidebook?" I asked. He pulled out a wrinkled map he'd gotten at the hotel front desk, showing only a few streets.

I asked what they'd seen so far. Just Bourbon Street, he said. I suggested they check out Frenchman Street for music the next night. And had they taken the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue? They looked at me blankly. Obviously, they'd done no advance research at all. "It's one of the most beautiful streets in America," I said. And worth an afternoon, too. I pointed out St. Charles on the map.

They had seen the church. Was that St. Louis Cathedral? They didn't realize they'd been to Jackson Square and missed Cafe du Monde. I told them, go back and order the hot beignets with powdered sugar.

They planned to spend only another day in New Orleans and then to drive to Texas to meet some conservative people and engage them in conversation - not to criticize, he said, just to listen. I told him Austin isn't really very conservative. It's a long drive to Texas, especially if you plan to turn around, go back through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. I suggested Mississippi was prettier and had more visible history. They were undaunted by distances, however, perhaps because Denmark is pretty small. I hope they find a better map.

He launched into a discussion of our electoral system, saying we really need to fix it. Denmark has a much better system, where Al Gore would have been elected. And that might have prevented 9/11. I am a conspiracy theorist, but he was sure no one would have allowed the attacks had they known. He also said we need different voting machines. Yup.

He asked why these things happen. I said, corporations control everything. TV has a big influence and people don't read. Americans believe political commercials. Our education system has been in decline for over 30 years, nobody takes civics, and people are convinced the two parties are the same. She said Danes vote for attractive candidates with nice haircuts, too. They elect bad politicians too. He agreed, but it wasn't because of advertising.

He said Europe is in bad economic shape too, but they do have universal health care and child care. They're not cutting off heat to the elderly like our northern states this winter. They were also on their extended vacation. All Danes get one month vacation per year by law. I've met them in our remote national parks - because they're some of the few who have the time to get there. I haven't had any vacation this year - I freelance because there are no jobs.

This whole time, his wife patiently listened, occasionally trying to break in - presumably because she'd heard it before. I wished them well and also hoped they would find another hotel in a better neighborhood tomorrow as well as a Rand McNally road map before they set out for Texas. And maybe some Tea Party conservatives he could chat with.

Before we parted, he took a picture of me standing next to the car to show the friends back home. I'm a significant memory on his trip across the South.

1 comment:

  1. An answer to the Danes from Greg Palast: