When I came home, nothing went right. New Orleans does that to me. I’ve lived in cities that welcomed me with open arms after some time away. New Orleans is not one of those cities. We develop relationships with the places we live, and my relationship with this city has always been that of a volcanic and potentially doomed love affair. New Orleans is my girl. She is generous beyond words. She has a vicious temper. And when I come home after a few months on the road, she invariably makes me sleep on the couch.
And in this case, the couch had fleas.
It’s every traveler’s nightmare. To come home from a beautiful, difficult sojourn and find that your nest has been fouled. This took many forms for me. My refrigerator was full of rotten food and the house had been infested with tiny had bloodsucking agents of the apocalypse that swarmed my ankles and bit me to hell. The transmission on my truck was leaking so much fluid I couldn’t go a day without replacing it. My skin broke out. The money disappeared. And then I started working with the first major wave of the tourist season bringing me regular six-day work weeks as I tried to right the ship.
But the ship still floats, and my life in New Orleans has returned to something as close to normal as this town ever gets. My house is beautiful and free from pests. My truck runs better than a 25 year-old vehicle has a right to. The madness of the tourist trade is about to give way to a dead spell where I can celebrate Thanksgiving and curl up next to the space heater in my drafty room and try to point my way toward growing this blog.
Back to the office.
In all the traveling I’ve done in my life, I’ve rarely kept a journal. What’s shocking to me, coming back after months on the road and reading through what I’ve written, is how much of the trip I’d already forgotten. Travel is often overwhelming, and some of the smaller moments, while they may lodge permanently in our bones, have a tendency to slip away through the cracks in our memories, crowded out by the moments we’ve built into stories.
What’s been even more valuable to me is the photographs, only a fraction of which I’ve shared on this site. Photographs, for me, serve primarily as writing prompts. But now, going through them, I see them for the first time as tiny memory capsules, each one bringing something I’d forgotten about back to the fore in vivid detail. I’m happy with the amount I wrote about the trip, but it’s surprising to me just how much I left out.
It’s a cascade when I let it go. The strange and wonderful brownies at the Peg House in Northern California. Shooting pool with my old friend Ayinde Russell in Denver. Happening on Buddy Wakefield in Boulder and drinking tea in a tea house that was shipped over, piece by piece, from Tajikistan. The astonishing hospitality of Charlotte and Cindy in Oakland, and my cousin Mike the Judge in Hawaii. And the probably-best-left-unfilmed tour of Honolulu dive bars with Tui Scanlan, which had us staggering into an all night diner for pancakes drenched in coconut syrup and a metric ton of greasy breakfast favorites.
A lot of bad decisions led to this moment.
There was the horse farm in Michigan, where Karrie takes care of a number of equines, who in turn take care of her. There was the motorcycle rally in New Mexico, packed full of tricked out cafe racers, where John the Brewer took his bike for a fifty mile ride through the rich, red country north of Albuquerque. There was the re-connection with Rachel and her daughter Adele, who I’ve known almost since birth, just days after I held my brand new niece in a Chicago hospital.
It all comes back in pieces, or it all come back at once, and I’m staggered by my own luck. To have stepped out into this kind of a journey, to have been taught more than I could absorb (though I tried to grab it all), and to have the privilege of planning the next one. Sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s hard to accept that we deserve the good things that keep falling into our lives. I question it all the time. Whatever I’ve done to work my way into this existence, it’s still an accident of birth that I get to live this life. But it’s the one I have, and few things make me more grateful for it than this kind of journey.
There will be more journeys to come, and more frequent updates. I appreciate all of you who have followed me so far. Keep following.