My first glimpse of New Orleans is always driving in on the Bonnet Carre spillway, water surrounding me on either side, and just off to my left, shrouded in swamp mist, the buildings of downtown emerge. I always feel a little guilty as I’m driving in, like I’m cheating on my hometown of Austin. If Austin is the blonde-blue-eyed, well-manicured wife, then New Orleans is the pouty, cherry-lipped brunette mistress in thigh highs and a red bustier. She’s dirtier. Sexier. And you’d never take her to meet the parents. But, secretly, you love her just a little bit more…
I fell in love with New Orleans accidentally. I had no real intention of finding another ‘home’ in my life. Austin was home, and that seemed good enough – until I started a PhD program at Tulane in January of 2010.
My program required me to complete a year of coursework in New Orleans and I thought I would just move there, take my courses and move back to Austin. By December of 2010 I knew I was stuck, like southeast-Louisiana-swamp-mud-stuck, on New Orleans. I stood in Jackson Square on my last day in New Orleans and cried. I had to put on my sunglasses so the tourists wouldn’t see me bawling. I was hooked. She was mine and I was hers. We met, we fell in love, and now we were going to see this relationship through, no matter the distance.
I just arrived in New Orleans again yesterday (on my annual pilgrimage to the States), because every time I’m back here I need to see her; like an alcoholic on Bourbon Street, I can’t stay away.
I love the Quarter first thing in the morning, after a wild night; shops are opening, people are scrubbing away last night’s debauchery. I love the big, mossy oaks in Audubon Park. I love the voodoo, the haunted houses, the eerie fog that sometimes envelops the city. I love the Caribbean feel, the messy streets, the potholes, the mansions, the universities, the people. I love the Bywater and the Marigny. I love Uptown and the Garden District. I love beignets. And shrimp. And grilled oysters. And poboys. I love being called “sugar” and “sweetie”.
So, I’m here, to explore again. To fall in love again.
Today, in Nola,