The world doesn’t need another wanna-be writer penning a paean to the city of New Orleans. So I’m bringing together a mish-mash of notes, memories, scenes, vignettes, stories, and quotes from my trip to the Crescent City. The second in a series:
Everyone’s asked if I got lonely while traveling on my own. This time around, not in the least.
I talked to enough people to where I never longed for human contact. We talked about the city’s restaurants, sights, and music. We talked about life back home and in New Orleans.
There is a caveat: These moments were fleeting and, for the most part, relatively superficial. Deep connections and relationships aren’t forged in 15-minute conversations. It’s fun to talk about the day’s highlights over a beer, but the most satisfying friendships and relationships are born in deep discussions. Those don’t often come on the road. Had I been on my own for two weeks or more, I might have felt pangs of loneliness. But for those nine days, I only ever really pined for some kind of connection once — and that only happened after I grew restless while waiting for a show to begin.
Would I have liked to have someone to talk to on those walks through the French Quarter or streetcar rides up St. Charles? Sure. But I never pitied myself or got down about my situation.
Solo travel taught me some important lessons. Before the trip, I worried about how much I would really talk to people. Would I have the confidence to start conversations with total strangers? Would they like me? How would I go from “Howdy, stranger” to “Yeah, let’s meet up for the Kermit Ruffins show on Friday?” But I gained a lot of self-confidence in striking up conversations and going from there. I didn’t overthink things. I felt as comfortable in my own skin as I have in months.
There won’t be a moment’s hesitation when it comes to flying solo on the next trip.
I’m shuffling my feet and nodding my head to the pop-infused stylings of the Soul Rebels Brass Band when I hear a familiar few notes. By the time I realize that I’m listening to Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” they’re onto “Rock With You.” Half the crowd sings along, even though there’s no vocalist.
In the next set, the Soul Rebels top themselves with a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” The crowd comes unglued. We scream along. I spot someone throwing up the devil horns. It’s pandemonium.
A New Orleans brass band performing Bay Area speed metal … why not?
I’m walking up Canal Street to the streetcar stop. Stopped at the light is a school bus that’s been painted black and converted to some kind of party bus. It’s blasting a remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” A few windows are pulled down, and it looks like a dance club in there, complete with at least one pole and flashing lights.
The bus pulls away and out of earshot.
Standing on the sidewalk, mere feet from where the bus sat seconds before, is a young trumpeter, playing his heart out for tips. I don’t recognize the tune, but it’s beautiful. Sans a backing band or vocalist, he sounds remarkably naked. His notes soar over the din of car horns, drunk tourists, and the cacophony on Bourbon Street.
I can still hear him blowing his horn three blocks away when I arrive at the streetcar stop.
Dinner’s over, and I have a 20-minute walk back to the hotel. I decide a beer would make the trip more bearable and order an Abita Amber to-go. I’m not one block into my trek when I see a cop drive by. I freeze before reflexively looking for a bush where I can pitch my plastic cup. Then I come to my senses, take a sip, and keep walking.