New Orleans is not the kind of city you can visit without falling in love with it. It’s the type of city where beauty and ruination can exist side by side and somehow perfectly color the entire portrait of what the city is. Whenever I go, I am always struck by the architecture, the warmness of the people that makes even strangers feel familiar, the unique sounds of the language and music special to this city so unlike any other in the country. Whenever I go, usually driving, the more road I put underneath the wheels between Texas and there, the more I feel like I am leaving the place I live and moving towards a place that is home. I love it there so much.
Which is why it is so shocking that I haven’t been there in years.
I haven’t been actively avoiding it. I just haven’t longed for it, or craved it in the way that often have in the past. Because I have been busy living life. Because I have been travelling to other places. Because New Orleans has become, like many cities before and after it, one of those cities that hold memories for me that, for the most part, I prefer not to deal with.
The last time I was in New Orleans was when my Paw died. And, of course, for the jazz festival that served as the introduction of The Great Houdini to my family. You know, right before he disappeared.
I am returning to Crescent City this weekend, ironically for the same event, with the same people mentioned above. I wish I were the type of person that didn’t notice these things. Or that could notice these things and let them roll right off their back.
But let this be a lesson to you. This is what happens when you avoid. Sooner or later, the universe conspires to place you back in front of those issues you fled from. And you may or may not be ready for it.
I almost wish I were the type of person who didn’t remember every. Single. Thing. I wish I were the type of person who could go to a city and not dread seeing the spot etched in my memory where some insignificant but fond thing occurred. That I were the type of person who did not get anxious at the thought of walking the street we once straddled the middle of, standing stark still in a stream of people, kissing in the humid air as if we were the only two there. I would like to be the kind of person who did not have to admit to getting sick to the stomach at the thought of having to stay at the hotel where we stayed because everything else is booked. I wish I were not the type of emotional that would consider, even if briefly, just sleeping in the damn car in this dangerous city.
I am not that person, though.
For me, it becomes a bit of dread mixed in with the excitement of seeing my family and this city I adore. The memories of the last time I was there, that I worked so hard to repress, pop up at inconvenient moments. I get in my car and remember us going at it in the back seat so vividly I think I can still feel my skirt up around my waist and my hair sticking to my damp back. My godfather IMs me, talking about plans and accommodations and I remember how different his questions were back then; La, who is this boy you are bringing? You’ve never brought anyone to meet me before. This is serious? Don’t worry. I will have a talk with him.
If I am quiet and still enough I can hear the song the brass band was playing as he swept my hair up, kissed the back of my neck and murmured in my ear, “This is perfect.”
As eloquent as all of this is, I wish I had an eloquent way of dealing with it. I do not. I plan to try to lose myself in the time with my family as much as possible. I will focus on remembering my way to the house in 7th ward and I will go lay flowers on my Paw’s grave. And I will likely be very, very drunk.
At this point, against my better judgment, I would encourage you to follow me on the twitter. It will likely be
drunken foolery on my timeline the next few days. You’ll enjoy it. And by the time I get back here, we will have figured out how to not have me be a mess together.