a week in new orleans – when one is supposed to be spending long days in an expensive, work-sponsored academy training – just isn’t enough. i need to go back, when i have more time and more energy to explore all of the little shining things and time-worn bits of a polished old world that peek through the dirt and the cheap beads and dive bars.
the hotel was on poydras street and i found it off-putting. it’s a big brand hotel and my room was cramped and dirty. the first day, i was too tired and out of sorts to do much more than sit through my classes and observe the view from my room.
on the second day, the sun was out and the sky was blue, and i escaped at lunchtime to wander through the concrete labyrinth of the warehouse district. i don’t know how people don’t just stop and stare constantly at the brick and beams and old things.
the sun was a nice visitor, too. after the hardest winter in michigan, i felt like i could dose on vitamin d for days and not get enough, my cheeks were pink and slightly sunburned and it felt wonderful. that night, we had a sponsored dinner at a nearby restaurant which, as one of my fellow attendees amusedly pointed out, felt like a VFW hall. buffet lines, drink tickets, and a zydeco band, a bare dance-hall feel, fried alligator and bread pudding. maybe we would have danced and drank more if we hadn’t all been strangers, pulled together from different parts of the country, a brief stop and three days of camaraderie is not enough to build real friendships on, funny how the world intersects our paths, for what meaning?
on the morning of day three, i was finally brave enough to get up early and explore before class, seeing the side streets of new orleans still unconscious and recovering from the evening parties that never end, a ceaseless engine of careless mechanical gaiety that brings new tourists every day, every week, every year. i feel sorry for the city, it must be exhausting to start that huge cheap engine without ever stopping to rest, like a terrifying carousel of lights and leering clowns and shrieking music, no respite. yet the city is long past caring, the streets aren’t friendly, they have seen a million like me and will see a million more, they are oblivious to their own tired beauty.
the coffee was wonderful, the cafe full of chattering staff in paper hats pulling chairs off tables, clattering, streets damp outside. a busker setting up with a trombone under a flowering tree, a wrought-iron fence, a brick sidestreet. the beignets made me feel sick, the heavy greasy sweetness, so i left the bag on the bench and knew someone would find them.
so much strange beauty and every day the sun comes up in humid, steamy splendor over the river, and there are so many sudden moments of quick passing loveliness. you could easily miss it.
i will be back. i don’t want your beads or your bourbon street, though, i will stay off your carousel. i just want moments like this.