I spent the end of last week in New Orleans, a short trip that was needed for a long time. I hadn’t been back in three years, previous visit attempts thwarted by cancer, the inability to make a travel plan because of cancer’s ptsd, and, of course, hurricane warnings this July. I made it, finally. I spent time with friends and their lovers, friends, children, and pets, and it was such a treat to peek in on so many lives and say hello! I’ve missed you! I’m still here too!
I also got to spend 45 glorious minutes riding a bicycle from Seventh Ward to the Lower Garden District, a route I’ve ridden hundreds of times before (minus the Seventh Ward part–nobody I knew when I lived here can afford to live where they used to, and all of it is very complicated). I made this ride on a bike share bike, rented from the corner of St. Bernard Ave & Broad St. That there is a bike share system, and a station right there, well, that’s very complicated too. And yet.
This particular ride took me on bike lanes to the Quarter and through the CBD, a detour around the literal and figurative tomb that is the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel on Canal Street. On Baronne I was cruising a route I know incredibly well. I stopped at the intersection with MLK to see if the fork was still embedded in the asphalt–it wasn’t–and bumped across Jackson, did that left-right turn-a-majig past that mural and up to Louisiana, and left the bike at the last bike share station there was–at Louisiana and St. Charles, across the street from the now-closed drugstore a friend says will likely become more luxury condos. I walked toward the river, past my old place on Camp Street (a pool house in the backyard of a fancy Lower Garden District house), and up Magazine, past so many shops I remember, and so many I don’t. I stopped to take a picture of this restaurant at General Pershing. I had my last date for years there. It was a fine date, lovely person, but I remember nodding my head in agreement when my date declared she didn’t like dancing to hip hop music because “it’s misogynist.” Well, all musical genres have their misogyny, so if that’s your take, I guess you don’t get to dance at all. And to not dance to hip hop? Damn, you’ve got the ability to hold yourself still in ways I can only imagine.
That’s what I thought, but I sat there agreeing, to be agreeable. And I knew right then I couldn’t date anymore. I decided not to date until I’d spent enough time alone to know what I really like, what I really want to do, and to have the confidence to remain fully myself in the face of girls, to be able to say sure, some lyrics in all kinds of music are misogynist, and I love dancing anyway.
And that is what I did. I was single for years, the rest of my time in the city, riding my bicycle around New Orleans, following my curiosity where it took me, writing about what I saw, and having a deep and wonderful relationship with myself. Passing this restaurant was a good reminder that that particular relationship needs just as much tending as any other. It was a gift to get to spend a brief part of my trip nurturing it.
And now I’m back in Baltimore. It’s cold and wet, and I haven’t been on my bike since I returned. But I’ll be back, and writing again, and remembering that though the time I lived in New Orleans feels a million lifetimes ago, it was me then, and that me is how I get to be this me, here, now, bicycling through a different city with the same compulsion to look and learn and wonder, and for those things I am forever grateful to New Orleans.