IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:
US Tour Day 95: Leaving Louisiana
The farewell lifestyle wears upon me. I like everything else about traveling except the leaving that happens when I'm "done" with one place. And the real problem is that in many cases I'm not actually done. Unfinished business remains—people I wanted to spend more time with, places I wanted to touch and smell and appreciate.
I didn't want to leave New Orleans by any stretch of the imagination. There was not a single cell in my body that wanted to leave. But, I had to. A month ago I bought my plane ticket home for the holidays. I had no idea where I might be, so I looked at the map and guessed. And I guessed Tampa, Florida.
I guessed wrong.
I could've stayed in New Orleans, but I would have not only forfeited my ticket but also had to buy a new full–fare ticket as well—and that is only if I could get a flight home in those busy days just before Christmas. I just can't afford that. And I hate it.
I was up late last night with Rob, talking about his life over drinks at a bar in the French Quarter. Then I ended up staying out with Sarah—my new laughing buddy—until about 5 AM. So, I was dizzyingly tired when I woke up at 10:30 AM.
Sad like a man on death march, I packed my things into my car, put my sheets in the laundry, and left my godfather's house.
Nobody was home when I left. I wanted a chance to say goodbye to Uncle John and Aunt April (my godfather and his wife) in person before I left—I wanted to thank them for their hospitality and for showing me that I have so much more family than I really ever knew. Although, I must admit I was a little thankful that I had the house to myself because it always takes so much longer to leave when there are people around. Their gravity makes it hard to pull free from their atmosphere.
I managed to catch up with Uncle John at the Elk's lodge where I thanked him a thousand times for his generosity and hugged him and made him sit still while I tried to take his picture with not enough light. I told him I loved him, which seemed to shock him a little. He kind of mumbled that he loved me back, timid with the words. He always tells me he loves me when he's drunk, so I figured I'd tell him when I was sober. Drinking lowers our inhibitions and we say things we might not otherwise have the courage to say. He said it with courage when he was drunk, and that's good enough for me.
I went to pick up my shoes from Mr. Edwards down on Magazine Street. Inspired by my hair, old Mr. Edwards—a fiery black man of about 70 years—told me a joke:
Now, this old man sees this youngster with a mohawk, ya see.
To make sure I understood, he pointed to the top of his head where a mohawk night have been if he was not a 70 year old black shoe repair man in New Orleans.
So, the old man approaches the kid and says, excuse me but can I ask you about your hair, son? And the kid says how he's tired of old people who just don't understand his style and how he's tired of hearing it.
Mr. Edwards paused here and leaned his elbow into a pile of papers and shoe repair tools that were scattered all over his desk.
The old man says, no, that's not it at all. I just thought that you looked like this chicken I was fuckin' and I wondered if maybe you was mah son.
It's not every day I hear someone older than my grandparents bring up chicken fucking. But, I wish it were every day. What a world that would be!
He then told me how to get my shoes really shiny:
First you polish them as good as you can. Then, get you some denatured alcohol and put a few drops on the shoe. Then, you use your polish cloth with the denatured alcohol and that will make 'em nice and shiny. But, you gotta really go at it with that cloth—work it really hard. You need to be forceful—making like your angry at that shoe. Or like you're fuckin' it.
Now, I've never fucked a shoe before—at least not that I can remember. And, I don't think I know anyone who has intercourse with shoes, unless you count putting your feet into them and then taking your feet back out again. But, I don't think that's what Mr. Edwards meant. From his hand gestures I could tell tell he was talking about rough housing that shoe and showing it very clearly who's it's shoe repair daddy really is.
I was sad to leave his shop, I wanted to hear more of his stories about the past 51 years he had been in business on that corner. But, the theme of my day was having to leave places I didn't want to leave, so I went with that and drove away.
I made a quick stop at the Pharmacy Museum in the French Quarter. Two dollars is all it takes to see 19th century suppository molds, leech containers, and bloodletting tools displayed in the nation's oldest licensed pharmacy.
And now for a sentence I never thought I would say: I went to the voodoo spiritual temple to pick up a few things for my mother. It's like, "Justin, why don't you head to the store and get me a half gallon of milk. Oh, and while you're out, maybe you can swing by the voodoo temple and get me those potions I've been needing?"
Priestess Miriam happened to be giving a talk right when I arrived, so I went into the temple itself and listened to her address the people.
I'd been in the temple before, just a few days ago. The situation was different then. Last time it was only my mom and I in there, and not 20 tourists with tour guides. The space was much more meditative and silent at my last visit, and I used that time to meditate on the many objects that filled the beautiful space.
I sat in front of the many altars and allowed my mind to wander and consider the relevance and beauty of the disparate objects spread all about. Potions, offerings of food and money and alcohol, statues, art, brown paper packages tied up with string, a flower, a guitar in its case, a buddha, a cross. I prayed for my album, leaving an offering of money under a bowl of bright pink and yellow and white jordan almonds. I didn't pick them. They picked me. My intuition kept telling me to make the offering there, and the words the sweet life came into my head over and over. It was strange, as I had intended to place an offering on the guitar case in the corner. A guitar case seemed to be the logical choice, considering this was an issue of music. But, the spirits had other plans for me. So I listened, letting the words the sweet life roll back and forth in my mind.
Priestess Miriam talked for about forty minutes to the people, meandering freely through subjects like a child with their eyes closed walks in a field this way and that, or how a bird might fly in what appears to be an aimless pattern. She lollygagged and laughed at her own words and observations. The people expected a quick, rehearsed speech on voodoo and her practices there. Instead she talked about her life and the roles of men and women in our culture. She told us that we spent too much time trying to make ourselves better when we should know that we are already ordained beings in the holy church of life.
After her talk I thanked her for spending time with my mother a few days back, and she encouraged me to have mom contact her again.
I bought some special satchels in the shop there and once again got in the little, old car. It was finally time to leave Nawlins. Tampa sits about 650 miles from New Orleans, and I wanted to get the drive out of the way.
I listened to music on my iBook as I drove. I like to listen to the music on random because it mixes up the experience. I got a more mixed up experience than usual, though.
I didn't even know I had a version of Rufus Wainright singing "Hallelujah" on there. When it came on I was flooded with sadness—his voice was a sort of emotional bloodletting for me. And I wept until I choked and coughed. So many things. I didn't want to leave. I wondered what I was doing with my life. I felt lonely. I missed my father. And I missed things I'd never experienced and therefore could not name but yet knew would soon be a part of my life's everyday vocabulary.
I missed Andie. I missed my life in the house on the beach and my warm bed and my red room and laying on my side under the blood velvet comforter and only seeing Andie with one eye because my other eye was sunk in the pillow, yet even with half my eyesight she was still wholly beautiful and I was wholly in love. I cried because I missed—missing being the state of being without. I spend most of my life celebrating that which I have. In this moment of fairness, my soul celebrated through acts of tears the things which I do not have. Yin and yang, balance.
I kept driving and crying until the song was over and then I went back to just plain driving.
And, now I sit on a bed in a motel room 260 miles from Tampa, a room with no refrigerator overlooking the interstate, typing, wondering, anticipating sleep, and wishing I hadn't left New Orleans.
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