Fantasy Is Fun. But Reality Is Where We Live.


I took my Alabama visitor to dinner in downtown New Orleans the other evening. On the way, I said, “Anyone can take you to Commander’s Palace or the Windsor Grill,” two of the most renowned eating spots in this city. “But I’m taking you somewhere no one else would think of.”

We ate at the Praline Connection.

Now, this city boasts two establishments of that name, one situated near the convention center and housed in a barn of a building with a stage where gospel choirs entertain for Sunday brunch. But I took my friend to the original Praline Connection, the one on Frenchmen Street, two blocks from the French Market. You park on the street in a crowded residential neighborhood, taking care that it’s an actual parking space, and hoping the car will still be there when you return.

In the intersection in front of the restaurant door, a crowd had gathered around a wrecked car. People were talking to the young woman at the wheel. I said to a bystander, “What’s going on?” He said, “Anne Heche. They’re making a movie.” Oh. That’s always fun to watch. You see it a lot in New Orleans. The driver was Miss Heche’s stunt double as it turned out.

When nothing happened, we went inside the restaurant for dinner. “This is a Creole soul-food place,” I told my friend, and pointed at the choices of meat on the menu: fried chicken, breaded pork chops, chicken livers, and meat loaf. And the veggies: limas, crowder peas, collard greens, that sort of thing. My friend chose the meat loaf and collards; I picked the pork chop and limas. For dessert, I ordered sweet potato pie with praline sauce for us both. My friend licked the plate.

As he was leaving town the next morning, I bought him a dozen pralines to take home from the adjoining candy shop which gives the restaurant its name. “They’ll never make it to Birmingham,” he said.

Outside the restaurant, the crowd was abuzz. Something was happening. The film people were standing in the middle of the intersection, moving everyone out of the shot, and calling us all to stand still. I had no clue on what was about to take place. Suddenly, a little gray car zoomed down the side street, entered the intersection with screeching tires as the driver tried to cut left, then slammed into a street lamp on the far corner. Wham! Broken glass everywhere, and the front of the car ruined. A lady on the sidewalk near me screamed. The woman in the middle of the street carrying a boom mike gave her a nasty look and shook her fist at her. She had ruined the shot. It was hilarious.

Turns out the street lamp was a fake, put there for the scene. They swept up the broken glass, reinstalled another lamp, pushed the car back, and got ready to do it all over. We left and I drove my friend back to his hotel.

Years ago, I was showing my sister Carolyn and her husband around the French Quarter when we saw movie makers set up in front of the Royal Orleans Hotel. We stood there and watched to see what was going to happen. After a bit, the hotel doors opened and Edward G. Robinson stepped out and into an old yellow cab which rolled ten feet down the street. The car stopped, he got out and went back into the hotel, and they pushed the car back into place. A few minutes later, the hotel door opened, Robinson emerged, got into the cab, it rolled down the street, stopped, he got out and went back into the hotel, and they did it all over. After the fourth take, we left. We had seen it.

Sometimes at church, I talk to the children about learning the difference in real life and make-believe. Little ones often have difficulty separating the two. Frosty the Snowman, the Easter Bunny, Rudolph, and the Grinch are all imaginary. (Santa Claus is in a special class, having been a real person, but with layers of accumulated make-believe clouding the reality.)

The Lord Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men from the East, the shepherd, and the twelve disciples–these are all real. When we open the Bible, we’re dealing with reality.

“Honey, don’t bother mommy now. My program is on.”

“I can’t take you to Sunday School today, pal. Daddy needs his rest.”

“Pastor, I’m sorry we won’t make it to worship Sunday. Our ball team has its big game that morning.”

“We can’t afford to tithe our income to the church until the cars and the boat are paid for.”

Yes, the immature have a hard time separating reality from make-believe.