By Daniel Dunaieff
We’ve only visited The Fly, a grassy area behind Audubon Park in New Orleans that sits on the Mississippi River, four times, and yet we can’t get to Crescent City without stopping there.
A large open space that attracts students from nearby Tulane and Loyola universities, residents of all ages, screaming seagulls and oversized cormorants that look like genetically modified cousins of Long Island’s water fault, The Fly hosted some of our most enjoyable visits to see our college freshman son.
When we first went to The Fly our son was in this miserable, confusing state of bees buzzing around his overly long hair, when he didn’t know where he wanted to go to college and when everything, especially enthusiastic parents, was irritating.
We had to wait what felt like an eternity in scorching heat for a freight train with endless carriages to cross in front of us up a small hill and reach The Fly. The endless train took so long to creep by that my son and I sat on the dry grass, while my wife took some pictures. We tried to keep the moment light, even though our son felt the weight of college uncertainty on his broad shoulders.
When the gates finally lifted and we walked through the tracks, the first thing I noticed was the relief from the refreshing gusts of wind blowing in from the river.
As we approached the water, we passed young families sitting on blankets and having a picnic, students playing “never have I ever” games, and birds taking off and circling the shore of the river, using their bodies like kites in the swirling winds.
The open green space between the back of Audubon Park Zoo and the river energized my son and I, calling us to play.
As we got closer to the trail near the river, we looked at the active water, which seemed as lively as a bustling city. The main current in the middle traveled one way, while swirling whirlpools swirled near the shore.
Sitting on a sturdy wooden bench, we soaked in the scene and could see our son’s shoulders drop and his breathing slow. The water show helped ease any anxiety he had about schoolwork, making friends, seeing a new place or living away from home.
An ocean freighter passed within 100 feet of us. These huge ships, sometimes pulled by muscular tugs, seemed incredibly close, acting like an open-air theater with an oversized screen.
On several other visits to La Mouche, we have feasted on the unexpected. Once we brought a soccer ball and ran grounds in the pouring but warm rain while my wife comfortably watched from the car. Playing on an empty, soggy field with my son made me feel like I was jogging through the fountain of youth.
As the Fly has become one of my favorite places to visit, I’ve increasingly come to see the sets as much more than backdrops for life and action: they’ve become like characters, encouraging, inspiring, stimulating and reviving us. Like the salty smell of West Meadow Beach, they can also give us the chance to travel back in time in our minds, reminding us of previous visits and people who have traveled with us through life to those places.
Our son has visited The Fly several times over the past few months. He took short videos of moving water, frolicking birds, and that first wooden bench where we shared a respite from the college process. The videos he sends are a short visit with him and our friend The Fly.