I spent the majority of the day with Daniel. We got some brunch, ate some ice cream, checked out some of the more ritzy parts of town, and did some grocery shopping. The more I hang out with Daniel, the more I realize just how interesting and compelling he is. His house is filled with eccentric artwork from every corner of the Earth. He sports a rockabilly look that puts James Dean to shame, and eats better than anyone I’ve met on this trip. Something tells me I’m going to learn a ton from Daniel.
I did all I could with the insurance company. It was the weekend and they were closed. My bike is still incapacitated and I am hesitant to repair it because I am unsure if an agent needs to investigate the damage beforehand. It’s Friday night in New Orleans. I’m not going to have trouble occupying my time. I was sitting across from Daniel in his kitchen contemplating matters larger than myself. “What if my bike broke here for a reason? What if I’m supposed to stay in New Orleans? What if I’m looking too far into this whole ordeal? Maybe it was just a random occurrence and the fact that I’m searching for some sort of meaning in it, means I’m constantly searching for meaning and this is just a convenient, relatable incident with which to justify my vocal resurgence to search for any attainable, temporary answer.” I quickly began thumbing through a weekly city paper in an effort to divert my attention from the thoughts I had just conjured up. Upon my arrival to the music section, I fixated on two words of enlightenment: Delicate Steve. Surprise, excitement, and nostalgia created a trifecta of emotion within me. I haven’t seen Christian in over two years. I was seeing them. And how convenient, they’re playing in two hours. I informed Daniel that seeing my friend Christian and his band would be the first familiar faces I’ve seen since Tucson. He gave me the green light. You know, if you don’t stop and appreciate the random and subtle nature of happenstance, you’ll miss out on some of the most worthwhile things in life. I took the ferry across the river to see a band that matters and to hug a friend.
I arrived at the venue just as they were setting up to play. I squeezed my way through a posse of posh posers (they weren’t actually posers, I just like the way those words sound together. I’m sure they were quite nice in actuality) to get a better view. Then I saw Christian. He did a double take, threw his head back for a second, and we embraced. We caught up on each other’s lives. Each of us found difficulty in trying to strum up a way to describe two years of experiences in a two minute conversation. We decided we would talk more in depth after the show.
A couple songs in it happened. The same thing that happens everywhere I go. I lock eyes with an attractive girl. That girl strikes up a conversation. I respond with something foolishly stroppy in an attempt to make her laugh. Oh no. She laughed. Game over. Her name is Katie. She’s an artist. I’m an idiot. We met up with Christian after the show, which was spellbinding. The absorbing and electrifying power of a live musical performance should be felt by the masses on a daily basis. I am easily corrupted by women, because I allow myself to be corrupted by them. Katie was no exception. Instead of talking to Christian about days of old, days of new, and days of now, I ran across the street with her to a city square. She spun a web I couldn’t free myself from, but part of me didn’t want to be free. It is easier for a man to distract himself with the siren song than face the challenge of his own thoughts. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Katie is an interesting and stimulating conversationalist. A mutual agreement to continue conversation at her house was finalized
We woke up with pounding heads and pounding hearts. I looked around at a house littered with scrap metal, tree bark, and various kinds of industrial debris. Katie’s canvas isn’t limited to simply a canvas. She creates depth and exquisiteness on the disregarded and mundane. I found it enthralling. She suggested we visit the gallery she helps manage. I thought that was a fantastic idea. As we drove to the gallery, I observed the towering concrete buildings and tried to figure out why I derived so much comfort from them. They serve as somewhat of a protective barrier from the outside world, yet I have no attachment to the buildings themselves of the ongoing inside and their concrete nature provides no warmth. Oh wait, I know why I felt so good. It was because I was riding around with a pretty girl who wanted to kill some of her time with me. I take comfort in that. We looked over at each other, smiled, and knew we weren’t going to leave each other’s side for a while.
The gallery was stupendous. Michelle and Brian greeted us with fried rice, eggs, and a couple of High Lifes. Michelle lives in the gallery and helped transform it into what it has become today. Brian, her cousin, is visiting from Fort Worth. I walked around marveling at all the exhibits. Katie pointed out an artist who uses bicycle inner tubes to construct gaudy dresses, wallets, belts, and other accessories. Anytime I think about bicycles, I am overcome with the image of my depleted chariot recovering in Daniel’s living room, wondering if I’ll ever return. Don’t worry little bicycle, you’ll be good as new soon enough. And we will seek relentless revenge against the mean nasty men who hurt you. Sweet, sweet revenge. Anyway, Michelle mentioned that she wanted to plant some seeds and clean up a few soil beds outside. I walked up and started pulling weeds without hesitation. I miss working with my hands. I miss the feeling of skin on soil. Living in the city extracted me from that love. So I leaned over a pile of weeds, listened to some Fleet foxes, gripped a handful of unwanted greenery, and occasionally glanced up at Katie watching me methodically scape the land. If the energy I spent on thinking about this girl was transferred to something of literary merit, I’d have a closet of Pulitzers. She brings me a heartening pleasure that is unforced yet very apparent. I find that when I write about her, I am struggle in formulating words. I find a great difficulty in writing about the things I like. I like Katie. Now the question is: do I like the person Katie, or the idea of Katie. That occupied my mind as I pulled weeds and planted seeds. Pullin’ weeds and plantin’ seeds. That should be a track title of a mediocre folk band’s debut EP. Ugh, New Orleans is exhausting. My ability to generate non sequiturs is depleting at a rapid state.
Saturday afternoon consisted of Katie teaching me how to cook shrimp Cajun style, how to cook turnips Cajun style, and how to drink red wine Cajun style. A Cajun style of drinking wine doesn’t actually exist, but I thought it helped the previous sentence flow better, so I added it in. Red wine, the nectar of the gods. Wouldn’t nectar be the nectar of the Gods? Those are the kinds of things I say out loud and most people disregard them, including myself. For some reason Katie listens to my incoherent ramblings, and laughs. I think that’s also why I like her. Validate me! Validate me! Validate me!
We napped under a huge oak tree sporting wind chimes like earrings, watched some lady perform and accelerated version of freeform yoga, and marveled at the sunset. This carefree life of gallivanting around from city to city, from person to person, from bar to bar is dramatically reconfiguring my outlook on this trip. I don’t know what the mission is anymore. I just know I’m enjoying my life in the grass, under a big oak tree, with a girl sleeping in my arms.
Second line. If you don’t know, now you’ll know. Second line is a huge brass band parade where people dance down the streets of New Orleans, cheering, drinking, and smiling. Katie suggested we go to one. It seemed like a truly authentic glimpse at was New Orleans life was like, so I naturally accepted. Ho-ly-Shit. Second line is everything I ever dreamed of and more. Despite the fact that my knee was in excruciating pain, I am physically incapable of passing up an opportunity to dance in a large crowd.
To participate in something larger than one’s self, is a necessary thing. To participate in something larger than one’s self with zero knowledge of its on goings and being taught/embraced by those around you is beautiful. Ego did not exist. Socio economic status did not exist. Race did not exist. Gender did not exist. Age did not exist. Love for music, dance, and one another were the only things that existed at Second Line. I was taught this dance where you basically extend your pelvis forward, lock up your legs, lean back, and sort of drag your feet across the road. I kind of felt like a zombie doing it, so I just danced however I felt comfortable, and was well received. To see everyone drop their discouragement and affliction and to unite under one single beat was an experience I will cherish forever. The frenzy of Second Line was like a drug, and I never wanted to come down. Even as I write about it now, I feel my legs beginning to groove.
Michelle, Brian, Katie, and I walked around the city and the aftereffects of Katrina were explained to me. I noticed one of those iconic Xs on the front of someone’s home. It tells the time the house was investigated, the number of bodies, the notation of hazards, and the initials of the search squad. Seeing those markings on a news station doesn’t even compare to the surrealism of seeing them in the flesh. The high of Second Line tapered off rather quickly after walking through a neighborhood like that. I now understand why the citizens of New Orleans dance so passionately in the streets. Seeing the azaleas in full bloom told me that this city has experienced its rebirth. Observing the aftermath of a natural disaster nearly a decade later in such a centralized location was sobering. However it happened to a city that loves itself and its people. This city has a strength and fire I haven’t seen any other metropolitan area possess. I thought about being a little kid in New Orleans during the aftermath. Most schools were displaced and students had to move around to whatever building could harbor them. School was always a safe haven for me. A place to seek refuge from the troubles of life. I couldn’t even begin to imagine having that security torn from me at such a young age. The psychological trauma that must have ensued as a result is immeasurable. I’ve spent most of my time in this city running around and experiencing all its optomistic aspects. It would be unproductive to not spend some time acknowledging the crippling effects Katrina had on the city. All the positivity that has been thrown at me upon entering this town has made it difficult to absorb all the despair that exudes from some neighborhoods. I don’t know. I don’t feel like writing about it anymore. I’m just thankful I was able to understand it. I’m thankful I met Katie. She’s helped to remind me about the things that are important in life. My first weekend in New Orleans was atypical. Everything about this trip has been. The most enlightening things in life are derived from the most unusual. There’s still so much more to write about this weekend. But I grow tired of it. I’m just going to sink into this bed, think about my folks for a bit, and stare into this girl’s eyes until mine become too heavy. There’s so much more that needs to be written about this weekend. There’s always so much more.