Hi guys, I’m back! I was away for a long weekend in my happy place, New Orleans. I’m still trying to get over the cocktail/fried oyster/beignet hangover. (As Kinky Friedman once said you have to “find what you love and let it kill you.” If New Orleans is trying to kill me, I’m going to let it.)
As long-time readers of the blog know, I met my husband in New Orleans — at jazz fest, in front of Solomon Burke, the world’s sexiest 400 lb man. Since then, it’s our go-to place for lifting out of any funk, and we needed a break after this summer’s disaster (The Vacation That Wasn’t… aka, my son’s fractured arm fiasco).
New Orleans never fails to disappoint. We gorged for a few days in the French Quarter and came home with lighter wallets and fatter tummies.
I’ve tried to understand the power of the place, beyond my own personal sentiment. So forgive the Monday morning blog fodder, barrel scraping, but this is what I’ve come up with — the life lessons New Orleans teaches me every time I visit.
1. Dignity is over-rated. I like gravitas as much as the next person. I’m a WASP after all, being uptight comes easily to us. But there is joy in letting your hair down, adorning it with feathers and publicly walking around looking like a debauched circus performer. Of course, I haven’t done this — but I admire people who do — and they are everywhere on display in New Orleans. AARP age women in 6-inch pink plastic heels, men in feather boas, dogs in tutus, and white people attempting to dance a second line — you are all ridiculous. And I salute you! You look very, very happy!
Lesson? Let go of your inner critic, chumps. Get up. Wear a bright color, shake your ass to the groove. Life is for the living.
2. Sometimes life is better without reservations. The best-scripted plans go awry — and it’s often wonderful if you’re open to it. To me, New Orleans is about serendipity. Biggest example of that was meeting my husband there. Falling in love with a Texan and moving to Texas was NEVER on my life plan. And thank goodness I was open to it anyway.
This trip, the serendipitous moment was stumbling into Galatoire’s without a reservation. Odds of this happening on a Friday night in the French quarter when LSU is playing? Probably infinitesimal, but miracles do happen people. The maitre did not sniff at us, he just asked my husband to wear the borrowed jacket, sent us to the bar to liquor us up for 20 minutes, and then sat us down to one of the best meals of our life.
This was a much better outcome than ANYTHING we could’ve planned. It took being rejected at several other lesser venues first. It took a certain stumbling around aimlessly. It took hunger and the risk taking that results from delirium — “Hey, that’s Galatoires! What the hell? Let’s try it!”
Risk. Go off the grid. Let go of your plan. There may be something much better out there waiting for you. Wear a jacket.
3. Make a joyful noise. In New Orleans, horn sections held together with duct tape are a common sight. That right there is a metaphor — no matter how shabby your instrument, you can do something amazing with it.
New Orleans does music better than any city on the planet. This is undisputed, of course, but if you want proof, listen to my little homemade videos I posted here. The first one is John Boutte at the DBA club, and the second is Doreen, a street performer regular and classically trained clarinetist. Most people stand and worship for awhile, throw some money in the bucket. But more astounding to me are the people who don’t. Who walks past this?! Idiots, that who.
It’s not just that they make great music in New Orleans, it’s that they appear to do it with so little. With community and church and second-hand instruments. With $5 cover charges, or no cover charges. They give joy away in New Orleans. You can stand and rightfully worship and be transcended by such talent, or you can get lost in self-absorption.
Lesson? Get out of your head, chumps. There’s beauty everywhere. Be a worshipper.
4. Eat the gluten. Bread pudding is the secret to happiness. Zoloft has nothing on whiskey sauce.
5. Disaster can be overcome. This is the obvious metaphor for New Orleans, isn’t it? From the worst of calamities there is rebirth. Nothing is lost forever. Yes, you might have to hold your tuba together with duct tape — but you can still blow.