I’ve returned to my beloved hometown. Sharing what I wrote in the wee small hours of the morning, when the whole wide world was fast asleep and I didn’t have wifi:
Gearing up to leave New Orleans for the time being; I will be back in September. I love this place, and though I’m admittedly a tourist, or “an amateur”, as I’ve been called, the more I visit the less tourist/amateur I feel. I had a tiny stable of friends here to begin with, and each time I visit my circle builds which, if you know me, you know I love.
As I write this I am sitting on the porch of a beautiful home in the Bywater, on the market and owned by a friend I made in May who graciously offered it to me for my visit.
I’ve met some likeminded souls down here.
This, my twelfth visit to this place, has offered me many firsts. I had dinner at someone’s home, red beans and rice on a Monday, as is the tradition, apparently. I was taken on a road trip to points south of here, to Cajun territory on Bayous where people fish and shrimp and crab – and, naïve little city gal that I am, this was exotic and beautiful.
As I’m thinking it through, I’m realizing I’ve actually been in six people’s homes this time around.
Other firsts … let’s see … I ate borscht. I grew up eating the stuff, but I’ve never had it in New Orleans. I went to the Country Club (it’s not a country club). I stayed by myself in a reputedly haunted house. I walked a dog. I held my own at the breakfast roundtable I’ve been observing for years. I spoke French. In Whole Foods.
Friends at home ask me what I love about this place and the answers were once, probably in order, “the food, the music, the culture and history”. Now they are all of those things as well as the people, the architecture, the crepe myrtles and live oaks and Spanish moss and satsuma trees. (there is a satsuma tree behind me as we speak; I need to google “satsuma” but I’m assuming it’s not the only one in town.)
I could go on and on about why I love this town. I could talk about the most perfect iced coffee I’ve ever had, and the friendliness of the Lantern, and the fact that I’ve started to recognize familiar faces. That I’ve had some of the easiest conversations of my life here, as well as some of the more challenging. I could talk about the people I’ve just met and look forward to knowing, the animals I’ve encountered, the dog-friendliness, the sudden, perfect rainstorms (and yes, I’m well aware that rain and this town have a checkered and tragic past), I could talk about the much more logical cost of existing down here, and about the fact that the humidity makes my adamantly straight hair kind of wavy and full and what-I’ve-always-wanted-my-hair-to-look-like. And, I could talk about the fact that my writing schedule down here has been unorthodox and yet, I think I might have done some of the best writing/editing on Book that I’ve done thus far.
I could talk about all of this. And I could talk about the fact that so many horrible fucking things have happened in the world since I’ve been here, from Alton Sterling to Dallas to Nice to Turkey to Mike Pence.
Apparently the world goes even more haywire when I follow my bliss and leave New York. Hashtag magical thinking.
On a personal level, a friend died. Someone I did not know well but with whom I shared a lot, and without whom I would not have met some of the most important people in my life. I am in no way trying to take ownership of this loss and its accompanying grief; many of our mutual friends know her much better than I did. But again, if you know me, you know that I don’t really have casual friendships. I get into it, I spill my soul and I look for yours. And this friend and I talked about some fairly heavy stuff in the short time we knew each other.
This is one of the ones that will continue to sink in as time goes by.
Rest, girl. You’ve earned it, and you’re missed.
I can not move down here yet, but I will always be connected to this place.
And though I am a starry-eyed tourist and an “amateur”, I’m not THAT bad. I mean, I spend zero time on Bourbon Street and I don’t stand in line at Café du Monde, so there’s that.
I like lists. They’re orderly and tangible. This is why I can tell you how many times I’ve been to New Orleans, and to France. This is also why I can tell you the animals I’ve encountered on this trip. In no particular order, I’ve seen or met:
At least three buzzards.
A potbellied pig named Snuffleupagus.
A brazen squirrel.
List #2—advice/wisdom I’ve gained in the past ten days:
Don’t get caught with shrimp dust.
Don’t feed oleander to a llama.
Red fish bite best on purple plastic.
There is a breed of goats that is narcoleptic.
Purple can’t hurt purple.
I have so much more to say about the past ten days. But right now I must eat Italian food.
I love you, New Orleans. Thanks for letting me in.