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Last year, Tiffany Reisz tweeted about an extraordinary set of circumstances that led to her having a once-in-a-lifetime experience in New Orleans.  Apparently, she was on the right plane sitting next to the right man at the right time.  Go look her up on Twitter (@tiffanyreisz) to see what she wrote.  It was truly luck of the seat assignment.

As I was responding to her that those once-in-a-lifetime experiences were so amazing and how she will always treasure them, I remembered about my own once-in-a-lifetime experience in that same city a lifetime ago.  It was 2001…

Not actually me.

I’d just gotten out of the Navy after ten years of service and even though I’d decided to call Maryland my new home, I was going back to Houston, Texas to visit with my mother after being overseas for the bulk of the previous six years.  My mother had been a God-send.  She took care of my cat for almost three years even though she abhorred cat hair, and cats, for that matter.  And, while I was overseas and she was playing mama to my baby, she took in my ailing 80-year-old grandmother and started her own business.  She was just the tiniest bit busy.  So, since I was freshly released from my duties in the Navy, I thought it best if I went home to visit for a while, hang with my G-ma, get my cat out of my mom’s hair, and help out for a couple of months.

I was also going to buy her old car since I’d sold mine before I left the Middle East.  Apparently, I’d ruined it by putting leaded gas in the tank without doing something to/with the catalytic converter or some such car nonsense.  That being said, I only needed a one-way trip to H-town.  I was looking forward to fulfilling my daughterly and grand-daughterly duties.  I was fresh out of the service and feeling more free than I’d ever felt in my life.  I was excited to do new things on my own terms.

I decided to take a train trip from the closest train station to my new home in bumble-fuck Maryland to Houston.  I’d never been on a train before.  (Well, not counting the one at the Houston zoo, which is kind of a real train, but not really since it drops you off right where you got on, much like the train in that Twilight Zone episode where the people find out they’ve been kidnapped to be pets for a giant spoiled brat in some other world.  You know the one, right?  With the papier mache grass?)

My fiance dropped me off at the Amtrak station in Washington DC and I went on my merry little way.  I opted for a cheap seat, so I spent most of my time in the smoking car of the train, since I smoked at the time.  Sitting up there, I read my book, watched the scenery go by, and struck up conversations with a few strangers.  We all shared little bits of our histories and got to know each others’ personalities in the 16 hours we were on the train from DC to Florida.  In Florida, we switched trains and started heading West to the best state in the union, Mississippi!  Lolz.  No, I mean Texas, der.

While we were up in the super-cool smoking car, (with a plexiglass domed roof for seeing the scenery!) I talked them into going on a tour of New Orleans since we had a four hour stop.  As we started seeing the billboards go by, I jotted down the name of a cab company off one and called them.  I asked for their best tour-guide driver and got the payment deets.  It was only going to cost the 5 of us $20 apiece to get a tailored, timed, tour.  Alliteration FTW!

As soon as the train stopped, we saw the cabbie sitting at the curb.  We hopped in his car.  His dispatcher had already given him the low-down of what we were looking for so he sped right off and headed to our first destination: …

Continued on the next post…