Originally written September 2, 2008
We returned home late last night after a truly amazing trip. The word ‘vacation’ cannot do justice to the rejuvenation and renewal this trip offered. The last 12-18 months have been long, with some incredibly tough spots and some loss, and this last week helped serve has a break between all of that, and what will hopefully be brighter days to come.
New Orleans is the city on the lips of every newscaster and weatherman these past few days, and after only spending less than a handful of days there, I can honestly sit here and say I love that place. It’s a different world, a different place, and while you are there you’re not simply in another zip code but another state of mind. The music, culture, food and history resonates so heavily when you’re standing in the middle of it that you have to pause to really appreciate what it is.
You walk down any street in the French Quarter and music of all types pours out onto the streets. Shop after tiny shop offer a break from the sweltering heat and a staff to greet with you a hello. Where you’re treated like old friends and not pesky tourists. Where you can’t walk more than a few feet without someone saying hello. Where you make friends in a matter of hours and feel like you’ve known them forever. Where the will, strength and pride of the people are what make the city what it is. Where hurricanes and massive flooding are viewed as a temporary problem by these people who refuse to give up on their town. People who are not from New Orleans, they are New Orleans.
Go… grab one of your oldest and closest friends and go. Go and take it in, go and experience as much of it as you can, go and live it. For a few days or a few years, go. Go, because pictures can’t and never will replace being there. Last week my grandma told me that New Orleans was my grandfather’s favorite place in the world and after my short visit there, I can see why. Kelli has told me for four or five years now how much she loves it, now I fully understand. While I have much more to see, more music to hear, more to absorb about this wonderful place, I get it now.
I can’t wait to go back. We will go back. Soon. Because there will be a New Orleans – no Katrinas, Ritas, or Gustavs can stop that. While they will certainly change and re-shape this town, they will not eliminate it. There’s a resilience there in the people, a survivor’s strength, and not too much can take that away.
I picked up a couple books before our trip and one passage struck a chord and put it better than I ever could After talking about the devastation of Katrina:
“All of this likely prompts a question of your own, probably: Should you go?
Go, because everything in life is fragile and precarious, and we can take nothing for granted, and someday it really will be all be gone. Go, because it’s not gone, not at all. Go, because the things you wanted – the beautiful architecture, the majestic oaks, the river wind, the quality of light that makes even the most mundane just a little bit magic – all remain. Go, because there are people there,, and as long as they are, there will be music and food, and it will be some of the best of your life. Go, because perhaps you’ve wanted to help in any way you can, and now the best way you can is to help a historic city regain it’s economic feet. Go, because every brick in the French Quarter has a story to tell, and so does the damaged ground of the 9th Ward, and you should bear witness. Go, because there is much to celebrate and this is still the best place there is to do so.”
More than anything – after listening people talk about how much they lost during Katrina and sitting at a standstill in traffic while everyone tried to evacuate the city before Hurricane Gustav hit, knowing that this wasn’t the first, second or even third time that these people had to pack as much of their life as they could in a car and leave the city they call home with no idea if there would be anything to come back to, knowing that at any moment that storm could blow away everything they’ve worked their entire lives for – it makes you appreciate the opportunities you’ve had in life, the experiences you’ve enjoyed, the family you love and the friends that you’ve made along the way. Take those people, hop in the car, take that road trip you’ve been planning since you were kids. Take too many pictures, laugh too much, live those moments you are given because not a single one of us is a guaranteed a tomorrow.
While it may sound like I’m waxing a bit poetic about a city after one trip, and maybe I am, it’s more than that. It’s about appreciating where you’re at, where you’re going, and stopping in the middle of street to hear different kinds of music drifting out of window after window and door after door and taking the time to just breathe. To not worry, for the smallest moment of time. To not care what’s going on back at the office or who said what or what bills you have to pay this week. Go. Get out. Do it. Live. No one has ever looked back and regretted the moments they’ve shared with friends, when they said they were going to do something and did it, when you took a little time out for yourself and just breathed.
So go. Whether it be New Orleans, New York or New Mexico… just go. You can spend your whole life planning or your whole life doing – I choose doing. Don’t waste your days planning for a tomorrow that you don’t know will be here. You have today, you have friends and family and the opportunity to make incredible memories. That’s all you need.
Sloane puts it better than I’ll ever be able to: