Nein!! Number nine on my fave travel spots this year goes to my fave city in the USA, the Big Easy aka New Orleans. A former number on destination back a few years ago, this year I had the privilege of visiting the Crescent City not once, but twice in 2022. Those two visits represented the 6th and 7th occasions of my visit. So clearly I love the shit out of this city. And quite a lot of shit it has to love.
My visit in February affords me a glimpse of the start of Mardi Gras and a deep dive into “The Importance of Living” by Lin Yutang. Published nearly a century ago, this best seller is timeless and perhaps more relevant now than when it came out. Gems like “No one can really stop growing old; he can only cheat himself by not admitting he is growing old”. Pronouns didn’t mean so much in 1937, content, impact and knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everybody. Shoutout to KRS-One. I pour through pages in the sacred place that is NOLA City Park, yet the Krewe of Chewbaccus parade and a fully authentic crawfish boil with my homie Rock (that’s his real name) are truly the memorable happenings.
When I return in October, I find myself more at home than ever. I walk across Rampart. It’s clear I have concern amongst the pedestrian life hazards. Homie is in the same Frogger life existence, looks at me dead in the eye and says “Scary stuff”. I reply, “Yeah… cars don’t care”, thinking of my potential oncoming blunt force trauma injuries. And cars definitely don’t care. Moments later and a ring camera around the corner from Bourbon announces out loud that I’m being camera recorded. I lean against poles, eavesdrop on ghost tours and patio vooudoo banter. Various strangers continue to offer real treasure maps of wisdom, completely unprovoked. Sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, drunk moms and grandmas take a liking to me. We chat and laugh hysterically over whatever — until these KC natives find out I’m from Buffalo, “The Bills? Ugh”. Thats because my team just kicked their team’s ass. Later, I’m sitting in an Irish pub on Magazine Street when an ER doctor chats me up. We bond over emergencies and then the question presented: “Is it really spooky if it isn’t here?”. I don’t know what it means, but I like it. It’s halloween time… spooky season as the Beckys call it. So my friend and local celebrity MC Chrissy takes me out to eat and then to a hidden ghost/vampire themed speakeasy, it’s cooler than anything I’ve seen in a while — even if the drinks are mega overpriced. She’s a doll and one of the most genuine people I know. If that’s spooky, then I don’t wanna be fearless.
The next day, it’s 72 degrees and sunny. I’m back in my City Park happy space and riding around on a rental bike; I take a break, use the bathroom and seek shelter under a picnic shelter. Pensively relaxing, an elder approaches me. Initially, I’m apprehensive. I don’t wanna really talk right now. I’m not trying to be asked for anything. Instead, this man makes some of the most profound and impactful statements I’ve ever heard, Maybe he knows what I need to hear. “There’s no greater blessing than to travel to other places”. It’s like he know’s I’ve been to 48 US states and 43 foreign nations — and that I just spent last month in Europe. He’s been all over the world. He chooses to speak about his experiences in Saudi. He’s not Muslim, so I assume he was there as a contract worker. Doesn’t make much difference. He’s dropping science: “I would have taken better care of my body”. It’s like he knows how much I’ve been thinking about my own health and making intentions to improve my nutrition and exercise habits. I never get his name, but I’ll never forgot our twenty minutes together and I can never thank him enough for his insight and kindness in the moment. In the end, one question has always come up every single time I’ve come to New Orleans, “why don’t I live here”. Who knows? Maybe one day I will, or at least I’ll have the answer.