In the end, I decided to go forward. I decided to leave something behind. It’s been nine years in New Orleans, longer than I’ve lived in any city since I left home at 17. And in those two decades, there is no address I’ve claimed longer than the little cabin on Deslonde Street that served as my home for two years, one month, and twenty-seven days.
I’m off the map again. Nothing new, really. I recently tried adding up all the moves I’ve made in my life and came to around 45. From the split houses that came with my parents’ divorce right through to the new life I formed after my own marriage collapsed; from my first shot outward when I went off to school, to the three schools that followed that first one; through ten states, a foreign country, and all the moves and all the dissembling and reassembling that came with them, the dominant theme of my life has been movement.
And last week, once again, I moved. I loaded everything I own into a truck, drove to Florida, loaded it all into a storage locker, sold the truck, and took off to Mexico, where I now sit, calculating possible trajectories.
My corner of the world.
There’s no way to write about what this move means for me without falling into overt sentimentality. Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. But I find I need to remind myself that this latest move isn’t about this house. It isn’t about New Orleans. It’s not a means of escape or a crisis of being. It’s simply an attempt, a hopeful and potentially misguided one, to embark on the life I want now. In nine years in the city, I learned to build a life from ground up, and to make it stick. I’ve never done that before, and the life I had at the cabin is the best evidence that it worked out the way I wanted.
I wanted to live in this house years before it became my home. There was a time when if anyone asked me where I would choose if I could live in any house in the world, this would have been the place. That I felt that way and found a chance to make that feeling become a reality is still surprising to me. Some places we live in seem magical, and maybe there’s some truth to that. But I think the bulk of it is just finding a spot that syncs up perfectly with who and where we are in our lives, as though what was happening to us internally had manifested itself into the shape of a home. I’ve rarely lived anywhere that had so much of what I needed surrounding me all at the same moment. My favorite neighborhood. The Mississippi River just steps away. A good friend to share the space with. And music, all the time, pouring out of every wall.
One of the many backyard concerts held at the house.
When I tell people about my time here, years from now, it will come back to the music. I would lie down at night, and the music from the jazz band on the steamboat Natchez would drift across the water and sit in my room. My friends recorded single tracks and entire albums in the living room. The house was a living, breathing space where one person after another came to create their work, whether it be a new song breathed into a microphone and made permanent, or a campfire in the backyard where the songs welled up and held together in a shared space before floating away to make room for the next ones.
One of the best parts about getting older is watching your friends become who they are going to be, and to find success with that. I’ve watched people who poured coffee and sang on the street when I first arrived become international touring musicians. I’ve watched friends publish their first books, their first stories. One after another, I’ve seen the people I know find their callings and begin to live them.
A freighter passes outside my door on my last night in town.
In a way, that’s what I’m trying to do now. Over the coming months I’ll be reworking the website and making moves for a massive trip that will consume the bulk of 2017. And I’ll continue to write, and to see how much further I can cast this net. I’ve been writing in the blog for a little over a year now, and it’s gone from a hobby to a cornerstone in what I hope will be the primary work I’m doing for years to come.
I’m not done in New Orleans by any stretch. I’ll be back in town in a couple months, and I will be staying a couple months when I return. But I will be doing it without a fixed address or a room of my own. There are larger steps to come. But this was the first one. It feels big and it feels terrifying. I have nothing to complain about with the life I’m moving from. This house was a gift, and this house was ballast. It’ll be interesting to see how well I can keep my balance without it.