Saying Goodbye to the Big Easy

Hello-o-o-o-o-? HELLO-O-O-O-O-? Anyone here-ere-ere-ere? (cough, cough, cough, hack, sneeze) Jeeze doesn’t anyone ever dust around here? (runs into massive cobweb, flails arms madly) Ppppfffff shhhh gaaaaaw… Aaarrrrgh!

Oh, hey hi! Thought I’d poke my head back in here, see if anyone is still around waiting to read my words.

I know. I’ve let the place go. Nevertheless, consider this an invite to come on back and hang out again from time to time.

Yeah. So. It’s been a year. A hell’uva year. Full of so much newness, so much sensory input, so much humidity. So many big-ass cockroaches.

I know I promised I would share with ya’ll about our adventures in the Big Easy. And I meant to, I did. And do. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that I wait to do so until we came back to California.

Hold… But I thought you moved to New Orleans! Big plans! Big dreams in the Big Easy and all that…

Yeah, yeah. We did, and now we’re back. And don’t for a moment think that was any easy decision neither, let me tell you. Leaving behind my kids and new precious grandbaby girl with whom I’m hopelessly in love, was akin to ripping open my chest, pinching off little pieces of my heart, and dropping them along the highway across the States like a trail of breadcrumbs. Gonna take awhile for that sting to subside.

Meanwhile, back to the writing. So many thoughts, so many stories. Some I’ve actually already written, just couldn’t get my head around posting. Now culling through finding the nuggets to share.

Please to enjoy as we begin at the end:

Saying Goodbye to The Big Easy

When we were considering a move to New Orleans my daughter said to me, “If you embrace New Orleans, New Orleans will embrace you.” We’ve always been up for a challenge, so we packed up our world and struck out on our adventure.

Ten months later, I let her know we wouldn’t be staying.

We stand in the sun on the deck of the Algiers Point Ferry heading back to the West Bank and Old Algiers. The mighty Mississippi churns below us, brown like coffee made too weak and shy of a full splash of cream. It’s only the start of May, so the day is mild with just the faintest hint of the hell to come. The cool river breeze blows back her hair; she looks like a movie star. Her skin is flawless, a softly gleaming example of why rose petals have become a beloved cliché. We’ve spent a lovely afternoon together, just the two of us: lunch in the French Quarter, a walk through the aquarium, chatting, holding hands. Gumbo. Sweet tea. Tears: lots of those.

We look over the rail at cloudy water rolling by. I say, “I’ve always liked to think of myself as an adventurer.”

“Adventurers are always trying to get home, mom,” she says. Her smile is sweet, her eyes kind. “Or at least, they’ve got a Shire to go back to.”

I don’t say, “But you’re my Shire.” That would be too weird and melodramatic. Possibly even bad writing. But I want to. I want to say this.

This move has been one of the hardest and sweetest exploits on record for us.

Our year in a bullet list:

  • Mike decides it’s time to retire from teaching.
  • So, what to do now?
  • Hey, we should move to New Orleans (Hollywood South)! Pluses: our kids are there, film and TV industry is there. Why not? Once an actor, always an actor, right?
  • The anticipation of the adventure: Sweet.
  • News flash: first grandbaby on the way! WHAAAAT? Bonus! Makes this move even sweeter.
  • Pack up thirty-plus years of possessions and drag them across the kingdom: Hard, but, adventure (!)
  • We slam into the lung-deflating heat of the Louisiana summer: A phenomenon that defies words.
  • Unload our life into four 5×10’ storage units in 98 degrees and 89% humidity: So Hot. So wet.
  • Sweating more than I’ve ever sweated in my (then) fifty-one years of life. Combined. Just: Wow.
  • The welcoming party at our tiny temporary rental apartment: four cockroaches the size of VW’s. Ummmmm…
  • Kathy curls into fetal position, rocks and hums on the greasy sofa of our ‘artsy’ uptown sublet.
  • Don’t know if I can do this…
  • But, grandbaby!
  • I’ll try.
  • Five days after we arrive, the Governor of Louisiana signs into law, tax legislation that threatens to drive the entire film and TV industry out of the state: Really? How incredibly insightful of him.
  • I survive two months in the roach motel.
  • We find a house in an expensive, strangely white, republican, catholic neighborhood: Hey, it’s quiet and safe, that’s a plus. Hey let’s sign a one-year lease. And, it’s strangely quiet. And did I say quiet? Hey, does anyone live here? Hello? Oh, they’re all over 80 and distrust Californians: Oh okay, I get it.
  • Baby bump on my baby: What?
  • Baby shower.
  • GRANDBABY BORN!
  • BAM! T-boned in an intersection. Kathy’s neck explodes in pain. Mike slams his head into the window. Ambulance. Hospital. Car totaled. Long recovery road stretches before us: What’s happening here?
  • News update: 99% of the film & TV industry in Louisiana does in fact pack up and move to Atlanta, drying up nearly all possibility of pursuing acting careers here: Well, shit. Thanks a lot Gov’na; gotta love those bargain basement leadership skills.
  • Daily neck and back pain. Weekly therapy. Insurance wrestling: This is sucking.
  • Responses to regular day job queries for Mike: Zilch.
  • But there’s rent due and stuff. Retirement and freelancing income only goes so far: This is getting a little scary.
  • The sense of adventure is waning. Mike says, don’t know if I’m up for staying here.
  • But, grandbaby!
  • But, no money! And traffic. And crime. And hot…and…
  • Long, hard wrestling match: Should we stay or should we go, nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah-nah.
  • The verdict: Go.
  • Back.
  • Home.
  • It’s like ripping out a piece of my spleen to think of leaving my kids and grandbaby behind, but the pristine mountains of California are calling.

 

Riverboat Natchez

My girl and I watch the muddy Mississippi slip by us as we make our way across, leaving the Quarter in our wake. No more words, just the faint music of the calliope skipping across the rippling water. The riverboat Natchez paddles by us on the opposite side. Tourists are aboard eating a lazy lunch of etouffee and cheesy grits, letting les bons temps rouler. My heart is heavy with the coming goodbyes.

Earlier this year, my sweet girl posted on Facebook a meme from John Goodman that said, “There’s an incomplete part of our chromosomes that gets repaired or found when we hit New Orleans. Some of us just belong here.” I was overcome with sadness and I cried. I wanted to belong. I wanted to belong here.

I’ve tried to embrace New Orleans, but alas, I have no strength left in my arms. So often it has felt like we’ve moved to another planet. Like we crash landed on Mos Eisley and are trying so hard to fit in, but we don’t have multiple sets of eyes or any tentacles hanging from our faces. Like we’re walking around inside someone else’s movie.

But I wouldn’t trade this year for anything. It’s been intense and surreal. Full of new tastes, sounds, sensations, experiences. A year with my kids and a brand new life added to my life. A year in one of the most unique and unapologetic cities there is. New Orleans. She goes by many names: The Big Easy, the Crescent City, Naw’lins, Nola. Whatever you call her, I will always carry a piece of her in my heart. Maybe not in my chromosomes, but definitely in my heart.

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