You know towards the end of the story, when Francesca is sitting at a stoplight in her husband’s truck, watching the rain and re-living the past few weeks as she contemplates whether to jump out and run to Robert, abandoning her current life in favor of excitement, passionate love, and the unknown?
That’s what my trip to New Orleans was like.
It was like that one time I wandered into a goth bar, looked around, gulped, and decided to stay. Then, several hours and several drinks later, realizing I wasn’t just surviving the situation, I was enchanted with my surroundings. The music, the people, feeling my horizons stretching as I breathed in new smells and entertained new ideas. Infatuated. Curious. Entranced. Hypnotized. Beguiled.
And I don’t want to let it go.
Some people say that a place like New Orleans, or the French Quarter in particular, allows the visitor to be someone else for a while. True, there are lots of bars, lots of boobs, lots of interesting characters and avenues for transformation. In my case, though, the opposite was true. The New Orleans experience, for me, didn’t feel like an opportunity to be someone else. It felt like the opportunity to be who I am, authentically.
What does that mean? Who am I, at my core?
If you must know, I’m an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in bacon.
It’s hard for me to articulate what I mean. To look at me, you’d see someone who is responsible, clean, not tattooed or pierced, a runner, someone who likes to sleep and read books and pet cats and dogs that aren’t mine, someone who dreams of Paris and plays at photography and likes a nice cardigan sweater. If I’m totally honest, I don’t look like New Orleans. I look like White Bread, USA. This is where, as an outside observer, you’d get me wrong if you were to judge based on appearance.
I may not like scary movies. I don’t enjoy music where people scream at me in what may or may not be an intelligible language. But at my center, I tend towards the melancholy. Always have. Even as a kid. I like Poe, I like dark art. I’m fascinated with magick and gem stones, the moon and its power, psychic abilities, and the things that go bump in the night. Just last week I was researching wolves and skin walkers because I totally believe it’s possible (and I kinda hope it is). [True Story: The Wolf is actually my animal totem.]
I think tattoos are sexy as hell. I don’t have one because I’m indecisive. Piercings, even more so. I’ve always wanted a few of them, but besides the navel I’ve been a chicken about it. I want purple hair sometimes, I want to wear a corset, I watch Vampire Hunter D and paint my nails black and weirdos are my favorite kind of people.
Maybe I’m Lydia Deetz – not so hardcore that I wear pentagrams and know which bars the vampires frequent, but genuine in that there’s a part of me that is authentically goth, macabre, gloomy, and intrigued by the people who are deep into that scene and living it out loud.
I could have been that, had I jumped out of the truck. No, I AM that. Deep inside, past the big smile, GAP tank top and gooey marshmallow center. I am. Wandering the streets of the French Quarter was like reading the part of the “choose your adventure” book that you didn’t choose, just to find out what would have happened. It was also like coming home to somewhere I didn’t realize I had left. Like meeting a gorgeous, eccentric relative I never knew existed.
It was rad. I won’t ever forget it, and I’m forever grateful for it. I can’t wait to get back to her – I think the city is definitely a woman – and I doubt a day will go by that I don’t think of her until I do.
p.s. Friends, if you get to New Orleans before I do, there’s a little shop called JEWELS that I wish you’d go and visit. You’ll be glad you did.