Au Revoir New Orleans: a love letter to my NoLa friends

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this last blog entry from New Orleans. The three weeks I’ve spent in the city have been amazing and inspiring.

Blue Dog - NOMA Sculpture Garden

I’m proud to say that I’ve been mistaken for a native New Orleanian by the locals. This is, for me, the highest compliment someone could pay me here. It happened again just this morning by my waitress at the Trolley Stop Cafe on St. Charles, and she is a local. I feel adopted by this city and its people. After I paid my bill today we hugged, and all the other waitresses wished me a happy new year. Such happy sadness walking out that door.

After all the stories I’ve told in the 14 NoLa Diary entries and other posts I’ve written, there are many more experiences that feel like they were uniquely New Orleans adventures.

There’s Brandon, my host with the most, a fun companion, room mate and wonderful guy. I couldn’t have chosen a better person to be a temporary roomie with, and the fact that we’re both addicted to Top Chef helps. I’m incredibly glad to have been a “temporary resident” of the Lower Garden District too, and being part of this neighborhood enhanced my NoLa experience tremendously.

I met Aria while waiting for the bus on Canal to go down Magazine Street towards ‘home’. Within 10 minutes I felt like I bumped into an old friend, within 20 minutes she invited me to a Christmas Eve celebration. She and Jason are lovely, and I had fun meeting Jay, Justin, Shannon, Lindsay, Keith, Aaron, Ann and everyone else at that party. Shannon had me laughing my butt off (you who know me, know I’m an easy target for a jokester.) I felt like I met someone I used to know and got reunited with, strange to say maybe, but true.

There’s Brian and his wife AND Bob (their mascot!) at the Lucky Ladle, dishing out delicious breakfasts on Magazine Street with plenty of friendship and laughs. (The Bob Special and blueberry pancakes don’t hurt either…)

I can’t forget Otis, the proprietor of the FAB bookstore on Frenchman Street who helped me find Rob Walker’s Letters From New Orleans, a book I didn’t know I needed until I found it in Otis’s shop. Later I got the David Sedaris book When You Are Engulfed in Flames, which led me to chat with Aria at the bus stop, and then I later gave to her for Christmas. One happy, tightly-knit NoLa circle.

I should thank the proprietress at Faulkner Bookstore in Pirate Alley who turned me onto Louisiana short story writer Tim Gatreaux. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

I enjoyed meeting Stephen, the National Park Ranger at the NoLa National Jazz Park that told me about the free concerts at the U.S. Mint building, but then spent another half an hour telling me about the amazing history of New Orleans. He was so sweet, he commented to me “talking to you is easy.” (Thanks Stephen.) And I loved listening to the ragtime/jazz performances by Steve Pistorius and Jim Hessions.

Then there is George at the Tout-Suite on Algiers Point who gave me his personal card after we chatted for a half an hour and told me to “call him if I need anything, anytime.” I know he meant it, his kindness toward others was obvious. And the industrious young lady behind the counter, who left San Francisco to come back home to Algiers Point and run the Tout-Suite, who said “Bye Carol!” when I left at the end of my visit.

I met tourists Jeffrey and Jeremy on the streetcar, brothers separated by the continent of North America – one in L.A and the other in Brooklyn. We chatted about skateboarding, living all over the United States (and “meeting in the middle” to get together for the holidays) until they hopped off the St. Charles streetcar and I proceeded on.

There was Joyce who let me into her decorating shop for a chat about her 60 amazing years running a business, and the Creole painter gentleman who met me at the bus stop and who couldn’t have been more charming. He said, as we got off the bus together, “give my best to the family for the holidays” although we had met no more than 20 minutes earlier.

And yes, even (harmless and well-meaning) “hobo Willy” at Down the Hatch. I’ll miss him too. Him and that other drunk guy on the corner of Frenchman who sells his paintings on the street who yelled out “Hey, you’re pretty!” (Thanks fellas.)

Yesterday I met a yoga instructor in Audobon Park, originally from Ohio but now in NoLa full time. We walked around the park together and chatted, keeping each other company for a bit. He quit his cafe job because he wants to dedicate himself to the service of others by teaching Yoga – in a circle of reciprocal energy, he says. Yes, that’s what New Orleans is about on its best days.

In three short weeks, all this happened and more. It’s my last day here and I think about these wonderful people and consider how these stories never would have manifested within a three week span anywhere else. There’s just something about New Orleans, something intangible, indescribable, and inspiring.

These people invited me to feel part of me is home in New Orleans. That, more than anything else about my NoLa travel adventure, means the world to me.