“We are right down there at the very bottom of the map” – said Shawn’s eyes through the rear mirror as he drove me to the airport – “but if Katrina don’t bring us down, there aint’ nothin’ that will. Whenever life tries to bring us down, we get right back up. It has always been like that and it always will be.”
With those words, I reached for the very bottom of my backpack and took out my travel notebook. It had been a while but I knew that I had it.
Writer’s block was over.
My own personal mental Katrina had cleared and I knew what I would write about and how I would do it.
The bitch was back, babies. Andarín was back.
I always say “I’ll be back” since I have so many unfinished drafts of my adventures sitting on my desk. I must confess that I have sat down and tried really hard to complete them but it has proven to be a frustrating and seemingly impossible task.
But here I was on a cab to Louis Armstrong International and po’ boy was I back!
Don’t let Berlin read this post, I wouldn’t want to break my fiancées heart, but her cold white skin and the long distance has made us grow apart and in my insatiable lust and weakness for travel…
[Enter stage a curvy, steamy, sensual Josephine Bakeresque woman wearing nothing but an eternal pearl necklace that slithers over every hill of her body. Covering just enough of what must be covered. A pair of silver crescent shaped earings and a tattoo of a fleur de lys on her lower back. She speaks in a low, brassy voice.]
Well, I’m on the road. Traveling.
[music is heard in the background]
I’ll take that as a yes.
Hmm. You like jazz?
[she slowly gets closer to him. Humming a slow tune.]
What’s yo’ name?
Hm. And-aw-reen? You definitely aint’ from around here.
[She gets closer]
You like to have fun?
Um, yeah. Of course.
[She gets even closer. To the point where he can feel her cayenne pepper breath almost touching his lips]
I could show you around if you want.
Um. Why, thanks. I… I’d love that.
I’m Nawlins by the way. Call me Nola.
[She leads him off-stage towards the music]
They say that once you go black you never go back. Well, once you go Nola, all you wanna do is go back. To her. Only to her.
“Nawlins is like that, you know. I’m like that” – Shawn kept going- “We come from nothin’ and we know that you gotta live life right here, right now. You don’t know whas’gon’happen tomorrow. You don’t even know whas’gon go down later today! And after Katrina, we see things in a very different way. Some of us lost everythin’… But we got back up.”
I disagree with my friend Shawn. I will never believe that this city comes from nothing. If there is anything to believe about New Orleans, it is quite the opposite. From what I experienced, this city comes from a little bit of everything and is, by itself, a universe.
New Orleans is a catfish blackened in the most decadent and awkward rub of magic spices. The kind of mix of ingredients that would make you think twice about biting into it and yet, when you finally do, there is no force in nature capable of reversing the jazzy, juicy voodoo spell it casts upon you.
Shawn the cabby is like New Orleans. They both say they come from nothing but deep down they know that they are probably the richest, most diverse melting pot in the entire United States and one of the most important in the world, without a doubt.
It is not a coincidence that they have the highest concentration of heritage architecture in the country and that, as you walk through the different streets and neighborhoods, you can almost hear the walls and trees laughing, singing, crying and screaming out loud what they have seen.
On one side of the city, the trees around the white mansions of the Garden District look like black giant slaves giving shade to their antebellum masters. The neighborhood is hauntingly quiet. A silence that almost speaks of an unspeakable shame.
On the other, my good old friend Beelzebub hosts one hell of a party on Bourbon Street and I’m sure even Jesus is invited and having a good time there. This is not a city that supports any debate on what’s good or evil. Such concepts simply do not exist and this leaves room for some real, unapologetic enjoyment of a little thing called life.
Another undebatable truth is that, though you might wear a mask down Bourbon St. or enjoy the music on Frenchman Street just as much as any other human being next to you, you just can’t fake being a Neworlenian.
You were either born (or reborn) there or you simply weren’t. They say that when in Rome, do as the Romans. I now say, when in New Orleans… Watch and learn, baby. Watch and learn!
Forgive me father for I have sinned. Again.
I have fallen in love with another city and feel no sort of remorse. I have enjoyed every second with her and can’t wait to go back for more.
New Orleans is truly one of the most spell-binding places I’ve been to. Its people, its streets, its architecture and its food. Let me say that again: Its food! Eating fresh oysters at the French market was like having oral sex with Nola. She gives herself to you with no measure and still keeps you asking for more.
People go to Nawlins for her famous bacchanal: Mardi Gras. But little does the world know did I know that this city is a party year-round. Forget Bourbon street (if you stay there too long it starts looking like Disney World for drunk adults), walk past the French quarter and into the Marigny. Right on the border between the two neighborhoods is Frenchman street. A haven for all music lovers and ageless bohemians. Nola lead me to that street, holding my hand and once we got there, she went from holding it to putting it against her sweaty warm chest. I could feel her every heartbeat go up and down that street. With every organ pumping and letting her hot musical blood go through it.
Every aspect of New Orleans stimulates your senses and that’s probably why it becomes such an intense city to visit. Even the sixth sense is heightened there. The energy felt in this city is one of its main characters. It is an almost palpable mix of euphoria and nostalgia that I can only compare to what I’ve felt in places like Rome, London and Istanbul. A lot of shit has gone down there. Good and bad.
I cannot even begin to describe all of the things I loved about Nola. Every single second spent with her are deserving of a post on this blog. For now, all I can say is that it truly surprised me. It made me feel alive and reminded me of how travel is the only way to go.