It’s hard to know where to begin with the story of our trip to New Orleans. I could sum it up as “life changing” or “damn near indescribable,” but I’ll try to give you a bit more than that. It was a trip the six of us had been yearning for for two weeks. We had been missing our UNO pals a great deal after they left Tuscaloosa. I didn’t realize it was possible to miss people I only knew for four days, but all of us had a hankering to see them and explore New Orleans. We loaded up the van early Thursday morning to meet our friends at 6 PM that night, even though it’s only a 5 hour drive. Trips with Joseph are never from point A to point B, and that is more than all right with me. Our conversations in the van were intense and silly without much room for anything else. I’ve always seen SP as a family, and going to New Orleans was like going to visit our cousins. Fortunately, we rarely fought, and “Dad” was pretty patient with us throughout the trip. We stopped in Abita Springs for some food and to visit the Abita Mystery Museum. This is where words will start to fail me, so forgive me. The museum was what every tourist trap should be: weird, fun, and a little frightening. I met Darrell the Dogigator (exactly what it sounds like), and we had our fortunes told amongst other fun things. We felt like we were in a dream. The museum was disorienting. When I left, I felt like I was walking on pillows. It was an entertaining experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
We met our pals that evening at a burrito place. It was truly like visiting family. There was constant chatter and joking. It felt comfortable. I felt like I could do or say anything, and it would be received by open, loving minds. Kyle, Alexandra, and I stayed at Max’s place during the trip. Max lives in a house that is truly Max. There’s a scary bunny piñata and a cool, decoupaged coffee table. It was a welcoming, awesome place. Max is a welcoming, awesome guy. We toured the city the next day. Carolyn Hembree, balling poet and amazing professor at UNO, taught us how to drive in New Orleans, and we walked to Café Du Monde for beignets. Eating them in the square in front of the cathedral was relaxing. It was the perfect place to write and work on our hellcat catalogue. Later, we explored the city, ate African cuisine, and hung out. While at the market, Summer and I went on a mini-shopping spree and treated ourselves to Mardi Gras masks and matching purses. Sure, it was a little touristy, but we needed to be a little touristy in a new place. Plus, that’s my favorite purse ever. That night we went to an amazing Halloween party and met wonderful people. Riley said that Summer and I were going as tourists to the party, but I don’t recall him dressing up.
My favorite part of the trip was when we hung out at Joseph’s friend’s house. The house itself was a beautiful, vine covered duplex. Sitting on the porch was like sitting in a bird’s nest. We sat around reading poetry to each other (Joseph even finally read for us!) and talking about what it means to be a writer, to be an artist, and to be a human. I’ll carry those conversations with me always. There was a sense of peace there that I will never be able to duplicate ever again. We were together, and that was all that we needed. On our last night there, Joseph cooked for us at the house. We went to Rouse’s (the best grocery store ever), and he sent us all around for quests to get different ingredients. Since the kitchen was small, only a few of us could help him at a time, but I think we all helped at one point. Joseph is not only and excellent English teacher, but also an excellent chef. By the way, the food was magnificent. We were like vultures. We didn’t want to use up all of the dishes, so we all ate out of the same bowls. I have never felt such a sense of community than I had that night cooking, talking, reading, and eating.
Visiting New Orleans was the most emotionally exhausting trip I have ever been on. I have never felt so much in my life, and my writing benefitted from that. I benefitted as a person from that. The friends I’ve made from New Orleans are magnificent people. You should meet them, if you get the chance. My friends from Slash Pine, well, they’re like the brothers and sisters I never had. It was the perfect family road trip, and I would jump at the chance to do it all again.
I should note that I left out a lot of stuff like Max’s sweater Will wore, the beautiful poetry reading on the ferry, Carolyn Hembree being the coolest cat this side of the galaxy, Faulkner House Books, Kyle and I accidentally sharing a couch one night, Summer reading the I-Ching, Prime Example, and the night we hung out at Riley’s. Ask me about those sometime.