Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Orleans

Driving in to work today, I heard the Green Day/U2 number(s) they played at last night's Saints/Falcons game. It made me think of the one and only time I've been to New Orleans. It was spring 1995, and I was about five months into my year as a VISTA volunteer in the northwest panhandle of Florida (more or less lower Alabama, in terms of the cultural, social, and educational climates). David was a second-year volunteer, so here we were, two twenty-somethings in this economically-depressed region learning how to teach adults to read, trying to make a difference.

Even though niether of us could afford it (we made $6,000 each that year), I wanted to go to New Orleans while I was down there, and I thought it would be fun to take an Amtrak. So, I researched the train schedules and looked into cheap hotels in the New Orleans area. I found one in Metairie for about $50, and I booked our train tickets so we would roll into New Orleans early Saturday morning, spend all day Saturday in the city, take a cab back to the hotel, then a bus into the city on Sunday, then catch the train home Sunday night. It all basically worked as planned, except for the fact that the buses only ran so far on Sunday from Metairie to New Orleans, and we had to walk what felt like miles. David looks back as that exact time as to when he began to really fall for me. He was impressed that I'd walk that far without complaining.

But backing up to the train ride, it was my first and only Amtrak trip. The year I met David he was growing a beard. He hadn't shaved in the five months that I'd known him, but for some reason, at 4:00 AM on the morning we had to rush to catch the train, HE DECIDES TO SHAVE! We were practically racing the train to get to our stop, but we made it, and when the driver motioned to help us load our luggage, I looked at my beloved miniature yak pak backpack, and said, "This is all we have." The driver looked stunned. I loved traveling so light. We each packed a change of underwear, a new shirt, toothpaste, toothbrush, lip gloss, mascara (and of course, the make-up items that I needed), and it all fit neatly into my bag. No diapers, no wipes, no bottles, no juice boxes, no small toys, no board books, no babies-it was such a freeing way to travel.

The short visit was just great. We did everything you'd expect us to do in New Orleans in two days. I loved it all. I told David that I bet we either run into someone from Boone or Chapel Hill, and basically we did both. We saw some people walking around with ASU sweatshirts on, and I said, "See?" Then down by the water, there were several live bands playing all day that Saturday. One of them got up and the lead singer, a blonde woman dressed like a baton twirler, got up to the mike and said, "Thank you! It's great to be here. We're Gravity's Pull from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a place that has towns with names like 'Climax' and 'High Point' "See?"

David drank beer from paper bags right on the street, and when he ran out of cash, he asked me, "How much money do we have left?" "How much money do we have left? I have $60 left." But at that point, it became clear that whatever was David's was mine and whatever was mine, he thought I'd share with him, (which I did...and have done ever since). We ate po' boys and jambalaya, drank beer, and played the slot machines on the riverboat ferry. We sat in the grass and listened to music and strolled the marketplace looking for deals. We cruised Bourbon Street and the French Quarter in a horse-drawn carriage. We walked a lot. We talked a lot. Just two twenty-somethings, two single VISTA volunteers, getting to know each other, with our whole lives ahead of us, hanging out for a couple of days in the soul of the 'Big Easy.'

No comments: