During the Slash Pine Writer’s Festival, our new friends from the University of New Orleans visited us and stayed for a few days. We all spent every night together at my apartment before they retired to their various corners in Slash Piners’ apartments for the night; so when they left and my apartment remained quiet for a night, it felt great, but lacking a certain firecracker-held-like-a-cigarette soul. Nothing was loaded, and I slept well. During that weekend, handshakes were loaded with trick buzzers. Static accumulated as I didn’t comb my hair. We headed down to see them a long couple of weeks later.
By the time we met the morning to head down, everyone was giddy. Even I was giddy, and I don’t get giddy, but by the time we giddied up on out of T-Town headed to the Big Easy, I was practically bouncing in my seat. We left a few minutes late, in Slash Pine fashion, and wandered on our way down, because our fearless leader Joseph Wood knows the best way to travel. Travel is best when you do it with people you talk to non-stop for hours, and when you’re with those people, why would you be in a hurry to get anywhere?
We stopped at the Abita Mystery House, full to the brim with homemade mechanical tornados, snapping turtles, out of commission Bar-be-cue joint signs, and an old fortune teller machine that vibrated and spit out your fate and lucky color (“banana-spot brown” was one) for only a quarter, which is a pretty sweet metaphysical bargain. I saved my fortune in the back of my notebook, but I won’t tell you what it was, because it wouldn’t come true. I told the other interns though, because that place was all broken glass and two-headed chickens—the rules don’t apply.
Once we got there, we spent some time in Faulkner House Books (my favorite bookstore). Two rooms, tiny, and once lived in by one particularly luminous Southerner (hence the name); Faulkner House Books is the antidote to what ails the person who buys books to relish every turn of phrase. No displays here of the latest memoir of washed-up Hollywood. Everything is intentional, everything has merit. This is what travel is like. Time in the new place is limited, time in this place with these people is limited, so every conversation carries a certain intensity.
On our last day, a fellow intern, Summer, did I Ching readings for us at the house where Joseph was staying. We took the advice. We discussed our belief in all things: tarot cards, newspaper astrologists, fortune cookies. These purveyors of vague fortunes are not meaningful because of what they tell you, they’re meaningful because of what you tell you they tell you. Fortune telling is like poetry, a mirror. Like travel, a telescope looked in from the bulbous end. I lost my paper fortune from the fortune teller machine in Abita Springs.
That night, Joseph cooked for us. We all took turns helping, slicing tuna into thin strips or mixing crabmeat and Ricotta cheese with our hands. We ate from one large bowl. We handed each other food. We read our work to each other. This is my love letter to all my interns and all our friends from New Orleans, because travel is like falling in love. It dilates your pupils.