We arrived around lunch time on July 4th at my parents home in Kiln, MS. Aunt Phyl , Uncle Ed & Eddie are there already. Dad has the grilled fired up, the kids running around, the humidity is high and the temps are higher…yup I am home. J

Mom came out for hugs and kisses. We began unloading and talking about the trip down. John and I gratefully take the alcohol of our choosing and set our stuff in our room. The kids are antsy from sitting in the truck for so long and began running in circles.

The yard looks so different now without the trees. I really miss the big magnolia that was next to the carport. Everyone is helping with getting the food cooked. Dad is smoking everything on his fancy grill. The men are hanging out and beginning their Wilderness Family tradition of drinking, retelling stories, drinking, eating, watching the classics (Slap Shots, Animal House, Blazing Saddles) and retelling the stories once more with extra flavor. Ask them sometime about the “Hocker story” it will surely cause you to lose your lunch, especially when the sound effects kick in.

I decided to take a quit nap to head off the head ache I am getting. I lay down and before I know it an hour has passed and my brother and his family have arrived. My kids haven’t seen his kids in about 6-7 years. The older ones are bonding while the younger ones are playing games and giggling. This is what vacation is about. Laughing and chilling with your loved ones.

I got to me my brothers fiancé Ashley. She is one awesome woman. I really like her right away as we plan for a trip to the Quarter and for tonight’s firework fest at Erik’s house. We bond on talks of shopping and our love of daiquiri’s.

For some reason I am super happy and extremely relaxed, and we just got here. I will be jello by the end of the trip Thursday at this rate.

That night we decided to take all the kids over to Erik’s house for fireworks. Eddie comes along for the booze and the ride. We get the kids settled and head out for firework hunting. We hit this giant stand which was nearly cleaned out as this was the night of the 4th. We all gather arms full of fireworks and head to wait in a line for 30 minutes. We pay and head for the liquor store. Yes, I am sure we are violating laws in many states but who the hell cares, this is vacation!

We get a combined over $300 worth of explosives and set up for the show off between neighbors in my brothers cul-de-sac. We are sure this violates his tenant agreement, but again who cares.

Now mind you I have never in my life shot off fireworks beyond the level of sparklers or those snappy things you throw on the ground, so this is a whole new experience for me. Erik’s neighbors (hi Katie) join us as we begin the blast off. It is freakin awesome. I didn’t know you could get the same fire works that they do at fireworks shows. They were big, loud and beautiful. This with a few shots made for a great evening. It ended with a 5 yard long firecracker that Katie lit. I couldn’t hear for a few minutes after that one.

The kids all were camping out at Erik’s because the next night they were camping out with us at my moms. All except Johnathan, he came back with us.

The next few days seemed to both blend together and last forever, all good on all fronts. I was so relaxed I had no idea what day it was. I know I shopped the outlets with Ash and the girls, shopped again by my self, went to the bay, had a shrimp boil at my brothers, ate a lot, saw Mrs. Dailey, ate some more, hung out with my parents and Aunt & Uncle, John and Eddie worked to get my Dad’s mustang and my uncles Camaro running again. They drank 2 liters of Gentlemen’s Jack, 1 liter of Captain Morgan’s Private stock and at least 12 cases of various beers. We ate the best food in the world thanks to my mom’s fabulous cooking and hard work feeding anywhere from 9-15 people per meal. They went to NASA, we went to the Pass beach. Me, Ash & Cassie had an awesome girls night out at the casinos and Michael’s. Like I said it blended. At some point we changed our leave date from Thursday to Friday and then to Saturday. I wanted to soak every last ounce of amazinginess out of this vacation as I could. I had never felt so relaxed and at peace before. The guys fixed the cars, loaded the Bronco for us to tow back and we unfortunately headed home that Saturday.

Before leaving my brother took me, john, cassie, Ash & Eddie to the quarter. We made a pit stop in Slidell for our drive through daiquiri’s. (Yes it is a real drive through and yes they are yummy)

Slidell looked almost back to “normal” to me, as did much of the area of MS from ¼ mile from the beach and north. This really surprised me. But driving into New Orleans, you could see it was no where near re-built. It was dark as we approached the downtown area and I mentioned to John that the city seemed so small. You see before when you took I-10 from Slidell into downtown you would see houses, businesses, street lights and signs of life all the way from New Orleans East in to and beyond the exits for the Quarter. But now there are only lights in the very downtown area. Oh yeah, before I forget, I hated driving the twin span and squeezed the life out of John’s hand as we went over it.

As for the trip to the Quarter- it was the best time!!! We walked the now small area of bars, shops and strip clubs. We dipped in and out of various places. I vaguely remember Tropical Isle, Beerfest and shopping for things I couldn’t buy anywhere else. I got chickory coffee from Café Du Monet and some spices. I got touristie t-shirts and drank some more. I was really buzzed by the time we got to a bar that had a mechanical bull. I had a few more shots and went on to film Cassie, Eddie & Ash on the bull. I couldn’t stop laughing, I was having a ball.

At some point Cassie decided that she wanted to be de-viriginized in the art of strip clubs so we sought out one of the finer establishments on Bourbon Street. Rick’s Cabaret was our stop. It was air conditioned and very entertaining. Cassie was successfully deflowered and we all had a blast.

By now it was 3:30 am and we needed to head back for our hours drive to MS. We also needed gas. Thank God John was our driver that night because we were blitzed. We found out that most places that are opened outside of downtown close at dark to prevent them from being robbed. So we nearly ran out of gas trying to find an opened gas station in New Orleans East. Gas pumped and we headed home, me again squeezing the life out of Johns hand as we crossed the twin span.

We got home safely and got up the next morning for an amazing cook out at my brothers. He makes a mean Jamaican Jerk steak and a tasty seafood stuffed mushroom. He is one hell of a good cook (not to mention great dad and pretty cool guy too).

All good things must come to an end, but I decided that I was going to adopt the way of living that my brother and Ash had adopted. Live life, drink and laugh often, play a lot, work to pay the bills and not to let work control you and your happiness. Relax, kick back, hang with the ones you love and forget about those you hate. Let go of yesterday and worry about tomorrow another day. Be happy and be free. Yep, I am taking that prescription home with me.

I am sorry I didn’t hook up with my friends like I wanted to. This trip ended up being about family and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.