New Orleans or Bust
I’m writing this from an airplane. About 4 or 5 months ago, things in my life were so frustrating and intermittently painful that I felt like I had to get away. I had to get out of town. Not just for a weekend or a week, but with enough time to really absorb my new surroundings. With enough time to develop a new facet of myself, the new me that seemed to want desperately to get born, but that couldn’t, surrounded by the same conflicts, friendships, job, house, weather; the same entertainments, the same rituals, the same chores.
|the Ninth Ward, courtesy of Brad Pitt|
And I finally had a book idea that spoke to me, that sung of my soul. I wanted to have space to work on that project. Finally, something to write that seemed like it could plumb that deep river that flows through me. Something I could sink my teeth into. For over ten years I’d midwived other peoples’ books. Now it was time to birth my own.
For years, my mom and I have talked about renting an apartment for a month or more in New Orleans, one of our favorite places on earth. The first time I visited New Orleans, with my mom, I fell in love with it immediately, as she had. There’s something about the balmy air, the tragic history, the celebratory atmosphere coupled with an absolute, no-bullshit understanding of the fragility of life, that speaks to me. The air breathes music. Spirits inhabit the dark corners. The toxic Mississippi meanders past, telling stories to anyone who will listen, as do many of the people. There are artists here, freaks who could find no other place to call home. The buildings are gorgeous – yet most of them are falling down. Even the most well-kept places have ferns growing out of the walls. It’s like in New Orleans, nature reminds us every day that we’re just specks on Mother Earth’s back. New Orleans reminds us not to get too cocky.
|Ninth ward foundation, 2010|
So there it was: my escape plan. I would spend a month in New Orleans. I rented an apartment in the middle of the French Quarter, outside of the tourist path, if that’s even possible in the Quarter. I’ve been talking about and planning the trip for five months. Yesterday, I cleaned my place, watered the plants and the cats. Spoke to my house/catsitters, put everything in its place, tied up loose ends at the office, and when I left my house, taking one last look around to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, I experienced what I always do before a trip: at the last minute, I thought “Wait, why am I leaving, again? This is such a nice place and a nice life.” Maybe that’s one reason why we travel. To appreciate the places we leave.