Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chris Rose is a Brilliant Writer...The Voice of New Orleans

Chris Rose: Take a true dream vacation this summer, courtesy of C. Ray Nagin

by Chris Rose, Columnist, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday July 21, 2009, 5:00 AM

Trying to save cash this summer? Why not take Raycation? Spend a week visiting all the attractions that Ray Nagin promised us over the past eight years but which never really happened.

Times are tough; everybody knows that. That's why "stay-cations" have become all the rage across America: The practice of staying home and being a tourist in your own town.

You can save a lot of money that way.

But I've got a cheaper and much more exciting travel idea: This summer, me and my family are taking a "Ray-cation." It's a Dream Vacation - literally. We're going to spend a week visiting all the attractions that Ray Nagin promised us over the past eight years but which never really happened. 

It's been the hallmark of his two terms in office, really - the notion that you don't actually need to do anything as long as you think of an idea and then announce it with much fanfare. It follows on his recent advice to tell the Census Bureau that New Orleans is your home if here's where you'd live, if you could, rather than where you actually do.

You follow?

Anyway, that's how me and my family decided to Raycation this summer; taking the grand tour of Hizzoner's dream world. Without spending a dime!

Hell, you don't even have to get out of your seat.

The first advantage to a Raycation is that you don't have to deal with the insufferable indignities of Louis Armstrong International Airport - not since our Mayor sold that sucker. (And lucky thing he did that in his first term since selling airports has recently become strictly a buyer's market!)

The one thing we will miss by not going to the airport is a ride on the high speed rail that connects the airport to the Union Passenger Terminal downtown. That would have been a kick for the kids, I'm sure. But, hey, it's hard to pack everything into a Raycation.

So we'll start out by checking into the gleaming, towering Trump luxury hotel on Poydras Street. Man, it's like a hundred stories tall! Hollywood stars live in the adjacent condos!

I had first considered staying at one of the big national casino resorts that line Canal Street, but I didn't think that would be appropriate for my kids. All those crowds, all that traffic. Talk about Sin City!

There's probably even hookers.

And, I don't mean to sound cheap here - I want to spread as many Benjamins around the local economy as possible - but I think I'm going to ask for the "Houston rate" over at Trump, following on our mayor's generous offer to discount all hotel rooms for Texas hurricane evacuees.

Once we settle in - and eat that sweet, sweet chocolate they put on our pillows - I suppose we'll start out by walking around downtown. Even though the sky is filled with cranes - a bit of an eyesore, really - we can still take in the breathtaking splendor of our new City Hall, an architectural crown jewel of the South - and a structure that does this city proud.

"That ham is baked," the Mayor once told us of the new municipal complex. "It's ready to come out. You're going to like that one."

Like it? We LOVE it!

Now, maybe you're thinking: You're going to walk around downtown? Isn't that dangerous?

To which I offer a hearty Hell No! Not since we got all those crime cameras installed. Ray's crime prevention program has the knuckleheads on the run in this town.

"As promised last year, all 242 crime cameras were repaired," the Mayor announced in May. (And I don't mean to be picky but maybe he meant 241, because the camera that was pointed directly at that murder scene on Leonidas Street the other night was, well, broken.)

But enough of the downer news. Murder, schmerder! There is a big, bright, bold city to behold! The Jazz theme park, performance venue and museum on Loyola Avenue, for instance, right next to the newly developed Hyatt Regency complex. "The state's biggest capital project ever," Ray called it in 2007.

And let me tell you something: Chicago's Millennium Park has nothing on this place. The exhibits, the interactivity, the concerts. Parks. Green spaces.

Incredible. Only a visionary could have come up with this. I wouldn't doubt if Wynton Marsalis moves back to New Orleans now.

After all, there are performance spaces everywhere in this town, from the refurbished Municipal Auditorium to the new riverfront amphitheater which features Celine Dion a hundred nights a year.

Ray, he loves that Celine Dion.

So much to do and see! Especially since we're taking our Raycation this year during the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. That means we'll be right in the thick of the festivities: The parade! The masquerade ball! Comedy night at Harrah's! Fireworks!

What a great idea, to take a day that otherwise might bum us all out and transform it into a lively celebration of New Orleans culture.

What will he think of next?

Whatever it is, you can count me and my family in! I'm telling you, there's no shortage of wonder on a Raycation. It is a dreamer's paradise. It's so beautiful that sometimes it's hard to believe it's real.

It's Ray's World, and we're just living in it.

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