Tribute to New Orleans
As I dined on the outside deck of my husband's favorite restaurant in New Orleans, I glanced over at the beauty and serenity of Lake Ponchatrain floating lazily underneath me as I gobbled up fried crawfish tails and raw oysters. Sloshing down an Abita Springs beer, I felt like any other New Orleans Native....I felt like I was at home. The feeling was beautiful, mindblowing and calm.....but not endless. A sudden feeling of impending doom came over me as a low-flying plane zoomed in over the lake, shaking the wooden pier a bit with the force of it's propellors. I grabbed my table calmly, attempting to maintain the previous peaceful feeling, but alas, it was gone. I glanced up at my husband, wondering if he felt it, too. He smiled and said, "Oh..just a duster. They dust for mosquitos a lot here."
"You lived here a long time, Richard. Does New Orleans ever get hurricanes? Can you imagine if it did? The way it's situated so close to the shore, wouldn't it be devasting? Being below sea level and all?" "Oh no, honey, that would be extremely rare...it has not happened in many, many years." We savored our meal, sharing stories of perhaps starting a life here, building our first home in Abita Springs, or buying a home on the golf course over in Mandeville or Covington, right across Lake Ponchatrain. We laughed and shared our food, savoring each bite of food and culture as if we had all the time in the world. We were feeling happy, funny, peaceful, nonchalant..not a care in the world.
The next day we visited our favorite wine stores, dined in our favorite sushi restaurant, bought things from our favorite stores in a nearby mall, enjoyed our morning coffee at Cafe Du Monde and strolled on the riverwalk. It was good to be "home". On the day of our departure, we found our dream home over in Abita Springs, right across the lake. We met the owner, agreed to put a downpayment on it, shook hands and drove back to say goodbye to Frances, a dear friend, before departing back to our apartment (which we knew we would move out of very shortly). We cracked jokes at Frances for being so "calm" after having a bad experience with a neigbor's pit bull, saying, "Frances, if a hurricane went right past your home, you would smile while grilling streak from your freezer and drinking wine until it passed". He nodded in agreement and this was the last time we saw Frances.
As I drove past the French Quarter, I smiled as I saw the people riding to and from work on the train. I thought how nice it must be to be able to just hop a train and be at work in five minutes, while enjoying a nice view of the historic buildings all indigenous to the garden district of downtown New Orleans. We stopped at the fresh market and enjoyed some shopping while sipping more delicious coffee. I took pictures of some older buildings that had nice Louisiana-style architectural appeal, and for some reason Frances brought me to a cemetary as if I had never seen one before. I took some pictures of it because it also had constructive and artistic appeal. It's gates were wide open as if beckoning me to come inside. The invasive, shadowy light cast over the trees made me get back in my car and ask Frances to keep driving...this was one of many times throughout the trip I had this feeling come over me. These gut instincts I experienced for those two days and nights made me feel at home in a way I had never felt before, but also made me want to run for my life.
As we drove home, memories of New Orleans flooded my mind and heart, and I knew I wanted to live there forever. Saturday when we returned home, it was time to mail the earnest deposit money to Mike and Gena, the owners of the home in Abita Springs (right across the bridge from New Orleans). For some reason, my bank account just would not process the withdrawal. We tried again and again. I got an awful feeling of doom that came over me like a bad virus as I attempted to retrieve the money for the house. I sat down, wrote an email to Mike and Gena explaining why I would not buy the house, and then waited. I knew what was coming.
When I woke up Monday, my phone was not working. I could not make calls and I could not receive calls..I didn't ask why. My heart sank as I turned on the TV and saw what was left of my future hometown. I didn't know what to say or think..all I wanted to do was cry. I watched a movie, The Skeleton Key, in hopes of a brief distraction. It was, unbeknowst to me, a film based in deep Louisiana and in New Orleans. My heart cried as I recognized all too familiar spots right near Canal Street. Beams of sunshine bounced off the bronzed trumpets of jazz players as people laughed, sang and danced in the streets. I could smell the coffee from a local coffee shop, and the lingering taste of chickory caused my mouth to remember where my heart still is.
We love you New Orleans. Our hearts bleed for the beauty, culture and joy of what you were, while faith lingers in our souls for the hope of what you will be in the future. We long for our home to be restored to the original culture and love it embodied..the sheer happiness and reality of the French Quarter, the awe-inspiring serenity of Lake Ponchatrain, and the brotherhood of love that was once the South portions of West Bank. I miss the traditional culture, the language, the diversity, the love....and I hope the government finds it worthy of restoring back to it's famous originality. God bless you New Orleans.
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