Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

New Orleans was a refuge from desperation the first time I went.

Winters in Alaska are long and dark. This time of year, right before the fall equinox, we lose about five minutes of daylight every single day. That doesn't sound like much; it shouldn't even really be noticeable. Well, except that it's better than half an hour of light lost every week. Labor Day weekend, you're happily throwing brats on the grill at 7:30 knowing they'll be done before twilight; by the first week of October, you're putting on your pajamas during the evening news. It's not as severe here in Southeast as it is further north, but it's still enough to make a sensitive lady feel as though she's losing her mind. One begins to use sonnets and Leonard Cohen as crutches to make it through the shrinking days and the lengthening nights; sometimes these are supplemented with lashings of blackberry brandy in tea and far too many meals based around dairy products. The second winter that La Fab was here in Alaska, we figured out that she would leave but FAST if we didn't take steps to ensure her survival. We planned a trip to a place that was warm and far away. We planned a trip to Maui.

Well, we started to anyway. Until we realized that we couldn't afford to go to Hawaii. Undaunted, and well-motivated, we watched the travel section of the Anchorage newspaper, hoping we could score a deal with a cut-rate travel agent, but to no avail. Finally, one January weekend, as the slush was coming down in buckets, there was a tiny, almost insignificant ad: roundtrip, Seattle to New Orleans, for $199. We lunged. We made reservations to leave on Easter evening. It was the first time I had a vacation without my (then) husband since we had started dating. That in itself caused a few rows; I put my foot down.

It was... liberating. I supposed a good deal of the affection I feel for the city is due to that very fact; I associate the time I spend there with a certain sense of emancipation. With self-determination. With freedom. I love the city all the more for it being mine alone, without compromise. I can't speak for La Fab, or for L., but it looms larger in my memory than a weekend getaway ought.

In celebration of my return to the city that helped set me free, I have been listening to the following:
Louis Armstrong, Basin Street Blues
Bix Beiderbecke, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
Kid Ory, St. James Infirmary
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
Original Dixieland Stompers, Eh! La Bas
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Down By the Riverside (I have been listening to the George Lewis version, but damn! This woman rocks.)

And of course, although it is not about the city itself:

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