Dad About Town: 5 Things I’m Loving Right Now

Very cool read about dads and daughters as recently seen in NOLAFamily.com magazine, January 2022. (page 33)

Here’s the article if you can’t see from the image.

Dad About Town – Gary Alipio

5 Things I’m Loving Right Now

Some know creator Gary Alipio as a digital marketer at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. Others know him as children’s book author of The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou and volunteer kidlit advisor for SCBWI. But most know him as DAD of Melina, aged 12, a self-taught illustrator. “She’s fearless with the pencil,” says her dad. Together, they bounce all sorts of artistic ideas off one another, creating things that just need to be shared.

ROAD TRIP

I spent several young birthdays with relatives down at Jean Lafitte Public Boat Launch and Rosethorne Playground. So, when it comes to road trips, crabbing is a fun time and tasty dinner, too. 865 Jean Lafitte Blvd, Jean Lafitte

NAMASTE

Our pandemic hobbies were pretty safe: walking the Lake Pontchartrain levee is our recharge the batteries time. On a good day, you’ll find clovers galore or be graced with the presence of a bald eagle. 

FOODIE

It’s never a question of if but when. Shogun sushi is our go-to for any occasion, especially takeout for staycation movie marathons.  2325 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie

CREATIVITY

I’ll type letters … what my daughter calls writing … while she works magic with pencil on paper or digital pencil on an iPad. “If her creations were real, oh, what a bizarre world we’d live in!!!”

LOCAL

From swan boating to picnicking to fishing, City Park’s Big Lake is a popular getaway for us. Come spring, there’s a fishing pier and shaded trees along Bayou Metairie … plus lots of BASS. 

Whatever you do with your tyke, kid, tween or teen, open their eyes to new experiences … just be prepared to call it quits if they don’t like it. “OH, AND HAVE FUN!!!”

Top 5 Fishing Spots for Kids Around New Orleans

(Source: Macaroni Kid New Orleans, June 5, 2021)
By Gary Alipio, author of The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou

(photo courtesy: Melina Alipio)

Put a few fish on your summer adventures this year!

Now that National Fishing and Boating Week has kicked off (June 5-13, 2021), as the summer heats up, so do the fish bites.

Many think you need to have a boat to take a kid fishing. Not true. There are plenty of prime fishing spots right here in New Orleans to get children outdoors for a morning or afternoon of fishing fun. WHY TAKE A KID FISHING? Fishing teaches patience, a love of nature, and frankly, it gets kids away from the screen and outdoors for a little Vitamin D.

First, you don’t have to have expensive gear. You can visit any local sporting goods store and pick up an inexpensive kids’ fishing pole already set up with a hook for less than $15. Academy Sports + Outdoors, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Puglia’s Sporting Goods will help you with any questions.

Next for beginners, I suggest you pair your rod, reel, cork and hook with these different forms of natural bait like your common earthworms, crickets or night crawlers from your own garden for beginners. You can also find earthworms at Walmart or Puglia’s Sporting Goods on Veterans Highway. For the more skilled anglers, try an artificial spinner bait in the open waters or a plastic worm or crawdad in the weeds or grassy beds.

You Gotta Fish Where The Fish Are!

Here is an avid local fisherman’s Top 5 Local spots for Bluegill, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass and even Catfish caught this spring from the banks.

5. City Park Marconi Fishing Pier 

6500 Marconi Drive, New Orleans | Hook a large worm and use a cork or even fish it on the bottom corkless. This is a great spot for Catfish or Bluegill. If it’s a windy day, try fishing off the bank on either side in the shade.

4. Lafreniere Park Carousel

3000 Downs Blvd, Metairie | Fish the waters behind the Carousel. Bluegill and even small bass have been caught recently using a cork and an earthworm. Also, other areas of the park, look for any moving water from a drain. That’s where the fish will be, and there are several flowing drains in the park.

3. City Park Couturie Forest Fishing Pier 

1009 Harrison Ave., New Orleans | A short walk in one of New Orleans’ hidden secret hiking areas, by taking the path to the left, you’ll find a little park bench and a fishing pier. Pack a lunch and drinks and make it a relaxing hour or two away from it all. If conditions are right, Largemouth Bass are caught mostly in the mornings.

2. City Park Casino Building/Popp Bandstand 

56 Dreyfous Dr., New Orleans | This popular spot for music, playground fun and fresh beignets is a hidden gem for kid fishing. Fish the backside of the building near the two bridges. If you’re lucky, the water is clear and you’ll see the schools of fish with your own eyes. Toss a few pieces of bread to stir up the fish feeding frenzy and then cast your worm in the midst.

1. Big Lake in City Park 

1 Collins Diboll Circle, New Orleans | From boating to birding to fishing, City Park’s Big Lake is one of the most popular weekend attractions. A very short walk from New Orleans Museum of Art, there’s a fishing pier, lots of shaded trees or fish the surrounding waters of Bayou Metairie. Bluegill, Bass and even the occasional Spotted Gar have been caught recently. Be warned: you may just forget you came out to Big Lake for the fishing.

Relax, have fun and don’t let the fishing bug bite too hard!

Fishing Disclaimer: If you’re age 16 or older, you must have a Basic Fishing License to fish recreationally in Louisiana. You can purchase it online and print a copy for your wallet from the Department of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. Louisiana also offers a Free Fishing Weekend on the weekend of June 12-13. More info here >

Other References:

City Park New Orleans Fishing Map >

City Park New Orleans Fishing Guidelines & Fish ID >

New Middle Grade funny … the year we never won

The Alipios circa 1980

The Craziest Ragin’ Cajun Football Play (working title)

PITCH: Twelve year-old Hatcher has big football dreams. He’s going to be a play-making star. A legend. So, he joins a local team with hopes of winning a championship––something his high school brother does often. But when he gets cut to the B-team––the not as athletic football kids––his hopes turn from winning to surviving a season of Ragin’ Cajun craziness.

1: The pre-season

Listen up, friends. Now that you got yourself into a cozy reading spot, here’s the rules of the game. My name is Hatch. I’m twelve years old. I live near a bayou in Louisiana in a family of three and a half … um, yeh, we’ll get back to that half later. Right now, what you’re here for is the tale of how I pulled off the craziest football play ever.

Make sure you got a tasty snack and drink nearby.

Okay, ready?

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!” shouted our bulky quarterback squatting under center. Lined up in the backfield directly in front of me, he tapped his right hand on the back of his leg. Twice. That meant it was a new signal. Our quarterback was totally changing the play.

SWEET!

Because with this change in the pay, it meant that I was gonna get the football.

But I’m a blocker. I never get the ball.

Down by five points, fifty yards away, and with only six seconds left on the clock for the game, my heart pounded like a jackhammer.

Cliched?

Trust me, you can’t make up stuff like this.

Lined up behind our quarterback, a guy named “The Hawg” with a neck thicker than the trunk of an oak tree, I visualized the play in my head.

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!”

The nerves turned in my gut. Do I block right? Do I shuck and release left? O-M-G … I’m so blowing it. I nearly flinched and cost us a penalty flag.

But nerve was not in the vocabulary of our leader, the Hawg. Ice ran through his steely veins.

“Set!”

I bit down on my mouthpiece.

“HUT-HUT!”

The Hawg grabbed the football under center. He dropped back deep in the pocket. He stalled to let our receivers get down the field. And I, his lone blocker, I needed to help him find time.

I stepped in front of our quarterback. I readied to block.

“Pass!” An opposing rusher yelled.

As the last play of the game … well, what choice was there?

The defense plowed through the blockers like a bowling ball.

Moaning, football bodies flailed as defenders charged the Hawg. Someone lost a shoe. It flipped with laces in the air.

Quarterback glanced left.

Quarterback pivoted right.

No one was open.

A tank cut through the line. He had thick, black paint under his eyes.

I stepped forward and gave him a raised forearm.

He flicked me away like a toothpick.

That was special … NOT.

The Hawg scrambled to the right. He raced in the opposite direction.

One, two, three opponents were hot on his trail.

I could hardly look. I rose to my feet and watched as players moved away from me. All I could do is watch as the Hawg ran to the far sidelines.

Ten black jerseys on the other team were set to destroy the man with the ball.

I took several steps forward, hoping to get a glimpse. I was all alone.

And just then …

The Hawg turned his body, planted his feet and launched the football––a tight spiral of perfection––across the field at me. He hadn’t crossed the line of scrimmage yet. It was a legal pass play.

The opponents were stunned.

The visiting coach pulled his hair and mouthed, “NOOOO!”

The crowd, everyone was caught off guard.

It was impossible.

A kid who could stop short of his body’s movement and launch a football across his body’s direction was against Newton’s first and second laws of motion.

Totally.

But the Hawg made the impossible possible.

Alone on the left side of the gridiron (that’s football field for you non-sports people), I caught the ball and began racing to the end zone.

Forty. Thirty-five. Thirty. Twenty-five …

I heard an ESPN commentator’s voice cheer in my head, “HE … COULD … GO … ALL … THE … WAY!”

Only one black-jersey player stood in my path.

With eyes squinted, I tucked the ball tight and raised my hand for a stiff arm. As our two bodies neared, I leaped and hurdled the tackle.

Stumbling across a chalked white line, a referee raced over with his arms high.

TOUCHDOWN!

It all happened so fast.

Me, the savior of the game.

Me, standing in the end zone with the game ball in my hand.

Now, what touchdown celebration should I entertain?

The salsa? A back flop in a pool? Maybe I should do something original like paddling a “row, row, row your pirogue?”

My team circled around me.

Even the Hawg, he held up two hands for a high-ten.

“Cómo es eso posible?”

I don’t know why seventh grade Spanish teacher’s words ran through my mind. “How is this possible?” is what the phrase meant.

How is any of this possible especially for me, the scrawniest kid of kids?

Until––

Oh, yeh. I remembered this wasn’t me at all. I was on the sidelines in the bleachers with a handful of other high school parents and families. Someone cheered loud and spilled their drink on my head.

Down on the field, this was Hunter, my older brother’s life.

This was his football win.

Hunter Hampton Bio: A sixteen-year old track star who will surely land a million-dollar shoe contract and buy our Ma a house one day. If I could walk in someone else’s shoes, I’d take his size elevens any day.

His choice of touchdown dance?

Nah.

He simply gave the ball to the referee and ran to shake the other teams’ hands. It was a classy move. That’s why he’ll always be Mr. Ice Age in my world.

Not that I have a bunch of worlds going on. My life is pretty standard. I’m your average kid living in your average three-and-a-half persons household.

I’m the number three in case you were wondering.

Hatch, remember?

Now, let’s get back to reality.

(Leave a comment if you’d like to read more)