daily preciousness

Friday, April 21, 2000

at Nottaway with Patrick

Just got back from a great picnic. I went with Patrick, a new friend.

While I've only known him for a couple of weeks, I feel like I've known him for 14 days! (Wow. How's that thought for ya?)

Patrick and I went to Nottoway, an antebellum home built in the mid-1800s by a sugarcane farmer. It was just downriver of Baton Rouge. While the pamphlet proudly boasts that it's the country's "largest plantation home in the South," we were miffed that only a small fraction of the place was open to the tour. It's also a bed and breakfast, so plenty of the rooms were occupied by guests. Also, the 92-year old widow of the former owner is squirreled away somewhere in her own little apartment.

The place, all three stories and 22 lilly-white columns of it, was really well kept. White freizework adorned every room and the furniture was American empire in design. The azure-blue china was all original and hand-made. A music room with a hand-woven rug offered a picture window view of the muddy Mississippi. There was a little boy in our tour group who provided us with other entertainment. He was about 8, wearing his Pokemon power T-shirt. He trampled the 200 year old rug, ran his grimy fingers over the white whicker tearoom furniture and made funny faces at the guide. Towards the end of the tour, there was even the obligatory "how the wife hid her family jewels from the Union troops during the War between the States" story. (She spirited them away in the post at the foot of her bed, in a hollowed-out section.)

Sadly, even cute little stories like this one couldn't make the tour very enjoyable. Our tourguide packed about as much punch as faulty airbag. Normally, the little old ladies that guide people through the homes seem to have an affinity for the family, the home and all the history. But our guide seemed like she couldn't care less about all the lovely historical tidbits and lovely surroundings. If you're going to be a broken record of home-history, you might as well enjoy it! Well, she didn't, so that kind of spoiled it for us.

After the tour, we took a stroll around the grounds and sat for a spell by the lilly pond. The cypress knees looked parched in the low water. I sat and hugged Patrick under a 200-year old oak tree with our backs to the mighty Mississippi. He has soft hair that fairly begs to be stroked. I obliged.

Before long, we had hunger pains from being such tireless culture vultures. It was time for our repast. We found a shaded picnic table, next to the lady wearing the hairnet. She brought a gallon milk jug full of iced tea. (I almost went over to borrow some. It looked ice-cold and refreshing.)

All we had was German white wine. But, it was made in Bingham, which is also where the day's soundtrack originated. (We listened to Hildegarde Von Bingham on the way there.)

Two honey-and-peanut butter sandwiches, chedder goldfish, one banana and one serving of tuna salad later, I was sated. It felt great to eat in the grand outdoors and enjoy the scenic view of the parking lot. And the sound of the car alarm going off every 5 minutes and the peacock's shrill, echoing replies to it completed the relentlessly un-pastoral atmosphere.

But the company was good. We laughed at the geometrical perfection of our neighbor's hairnet. (You could calcualate pi on that thing!) The two glasses of wine were refreshing. Best of all, I got a peanut butter and honey kiss from Patrick.

Nottoway Plantation, despite the bad tourguide, rocks like a pornstar.

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