Saturday, July 31, 2010

Going With the Flow (the Family Flow, that is…)

I am not writing this from a ship on the Alaskan Inside Passage, nor from the fishing village of Ketchikan, nor perched on a glacier’s blue ice, nor anywhere near a family vacation three years in the planning. Of course, in this week’s unexpected theme of ‘looking on the bright side,’ I’m not writing from an airport or a hospital room either.

Rather, we’re in Carmel, California following a whirlwind one-day trip to Vancouver, where we met George’s son Jacques at the airport after luring him back from the ship, where he was already comfortable, enjoying the view from his stateroom, and awaiting our arrival.

Very late that night, as the three of us drove the two-hour stretch from San Francisco to the Monterey Peninsula, the reverse route of our drive early that same morning, George commented,

“You know, you have to write about this in the blog. Everyone’s expecting a family story from Alaska.”
“I know; I was just thinking about it. I have to figure out how to…”
“…not throw André under a bus?” offered Jacques.

Here’s a merciful explanation:

Due to unplanned life’s circumstances, André missed his flight in Lafayette, Louisiana, along with the next flight (the safeguard, in case something like this happened).

Due to further unplanned life’s circumstances, George and I did not find out until we were on the tarmac in San Francisco, plane door closed, headed to Canada. And Jacques did not find out the finality of the situation (the Jones Act, denying André boarding access at a later port) until after he’d flown from New Orleans to Vancouver and boarded the ship.

George called Jacques from the airport:

“You have three choices: fly to Carmel with us, return to New Orleans, or cruise to Alaska on your own.”

He then called André:

“We’re re-booking for next year (thanks to a forgiving and over-sold cruise line) and flying to Carmel. We scheduled a flight for you on Friday, so we can spend the week together.”
“Okay, cool,” replied André, who sat comfortably at home in Lafayette, seemingly oblivious to our afternoon in cramped airplane seats, our repeated journeys through security and customs, and the frantic efforts of our soon-to-be-sainted travel agent Susie.

Sound bad? In truth, it wasn’t. In the end, and even throughout, we laughed. Nearly everything that happened could have been averted had we known about each step even ten minutes earlier. We all knew that there was no point in going without André. This was a family vacation. Both André and Jacques are grown men with girlfriends and lives of their own. It had been years since we’d been able to coordinate something like this, and we knew that it probably wouldn’t happen again.

“We never get to see André,” I sighed, as we awaited our return flight to San Francisco.
“I was looking forward to the plane,” said Jacques, who was supposed to meet up with his brother in Dallas for the flight to Vancouver.

(above, the airport in Vancouver, along with the Elvis-cards photo, our only vacation pictures)

But no one, without question, was more disappointed than George Rodrigue. We took this same Alaskan trip seven years ago, and he’s been talking about sharing it with his sons ever since. More than anything, we wanted them to see the salmon, a fish born in fresh water, before heading to the ocean, swimming around for a few years and then errrrrtttttt, bee-lining it back to that same fresh water stream, where it fights rushing, raging water, hungry bears, its own decaying body, and millions of fellow fish to reach the very place where it was born. Then, if it’s in the lucky one percent, it lays its eggs or, in the case of the male, fights with another exhausted fish for the privilege of fertilization, and then dies. George and I spent a whole day watching these fish and contemplating life. Outside of a Grimm’s Fairytale, I’ve never seen anyone or anything fight so hard for its destiny.

Speaking of which...

We fell into bed sometime around two a.m. on Thursday night.

“I’m so sorry, George. I hope we did the right thing.”

He was quiet for a minute and then sighed,

“I would have been miserable on the boat.”

So now we’re all in Carmel. The weather is gorgeous. George spent all day in his studio yesterday, excited about his newest work, without mention of a missed cruise.

The boys’ long-time friend Matt, a safeguard and an added bonus, flew out with André. They arrived yesterday afternoon, and together we enjoyed a salmon dinner* in honor of Alaska, complete with herbs from our garden (another bright side, as my newly-planted garden would have suffered this week), locally grown heirloom tomatoes, a fabulous bottle of Monterey County wine, the newest James Taylor and Carole King recordings, and an enthusiastic toast:

“To André, without whom we would not be here.”

"I'll drink to that!" cheered Matt.

And to family—

Wendy

*I swore to myself when I started this blog almost a year ago that I would never include recipes. But this salmon dish with assorted herbs and warm greens is incredible. The secret, of course, is fresh fish and home-grown herbs.

You'll find it in Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking, one of only two cookbooks out of which I've made every recipe (the other is Marcelle Bienvenu's Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?, which saved my life during our first year of marriage.)

For more on André and Jacques, see the post "The Rodrigue Brothers."

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2 comments:

  1. Oh My, My, My ----just think, you never would have had such a delicious homemade salmon meal in Alaska and with such company that would help with the dishes (yeah right!) And besides it's warmer and a lot closer to home where you are. Welcome back from probably your shortest vacation yet.

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  2. hey Wendy - George is probably right. better to be home in Carmel than to miss having the whole family together. he has more fun on his four wheeler it looks like than to be stuck on a boat and unhappy. maybe next year will work out better. your meal looked great. just having home grown 'maters is a treat! eating them off the vine like an apple while they are still warm - -mmmmmmmm.
    ann jones

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