When you move to a city that you used to be your go-to Happy Vacation Place, occasionally playing tourist is an important thing to do. Think about it – once upon a time, you had this one place you were completely in love with, and would escape the day-to-day drudgery of your real life by taking a week or 10 days to step away, get away from it all, and frolic through your magical other world. As a matter of fact, then, you realize that every time you visit, it gets ever more and more and more difficult to leave (insert crying on a departing plane here) and you eventually toss your life into a whirlwind and move there.
Now, you live in your magical place. But along with that move, you managed to inherit that day-to-day drudgery in the form of work and bills and those other various and sundry problems that pop up every day. The magic and the drudge combine, and life simply becomes…you know, life.
That is the basic description of this situation. I’m a little different because I had to fight SO hard to get here that my magical place never has, and never will, quite lose that certain Thing for me. That’s why I take so many photos on my daily routine-esque ramblings. That’s why even my commute to and from work can, daily, throw something amazing at me, even if it’s just a new phrase found written on a wall in sharpie or god, the other day, it was a red brick someone had put into an empty spot in the sidewalk to fill up the gap…amidst a bevy of grey bricks that didn’t match. And never mind the bright green goat on the porch of someone’s house on Coliseum! You can’t take your world for granted, ever, and when you move to your Happy Place, this sentiment becomes ever more vital.
I mean, no matter what, I never get tired of this view:
It’s one of those quintessential views of New Orleans that I coveted when I was just a visitor. Sometimes, when we’re cutting through Jackson Square on our way somewhere, it’s easy to assimilate it into a part of Daily Life, but then, we get up by the river and I turn around and BAM, there it is, and I think, again, “Holy crap. I LIVE here.” Awe, always.
I discovered, yesterday, though, that the best way to pull yourself out of any accrued daily-routine view of your Happy Place…is to have a visitor of your own. Particularly if it’s someone who has never ever been there before.
J’s mom is here on her first visit to New Orleans (and subsequently, her first visit to us in our new home in New Orleans). I managed to steal away some time off over the course of the next couple of weeks, yesterday being my first day of “vacation” for a nice 4-day weekend. So, yesterday, we all trundled down to give her a first-time experience of the French Quarter. Now, the Quarter is one of our regular stomping-grounds. There are places we frequent, people we know and hang with, that sort of thing. But it was a delight yesterday to run around there and SEE things again as one will through the eyes of someone SEEING it for the very first time.
One thing that will snap you out of the day-to-day very quickly is to kick it off by undergoing a Vacation Tradition. Long ago, once J and I were off the plane, shuttled to our hotel, cleaned up and rid of the grime of travel, we would always and ever head straight to Pat O’s for a Mint Julep. We don’t do this often anymore, Pat O’s being viewed as a tourist-spot and all. To our credit, on Easter, we went there together for the sake of experiencing our tradition. Aside from that, though, it is a rare experience for us nowadays. Of course, we had to take Ma there once we had parked the car, shuttled to the pay station, already cleaned up and rid of the day-to-day mindset. It was delightful.
I take a lot of photos, no matter where I’m wandering. What I have not done recently is take photos of the Usual Photographable Things. I capture unusual things, sure, or cool graffiti or creative angles that other folks don’t notice, what have you. But, when you’re a transplant somewhere, you really do find yourself wanting to Fit In and being viewed as someone who Doesn’t Live Here is really unappealing. That happened to me on Decatur St. yesterday, as I stopped to catch a really neat phrase that had been written on a wall (to be used later!). This nice gal, out walking her dog, saw me, stopped, and smilingly said, “You’ll find this city has the BEST graffiti!” I snapped my shot, turned to her, and smilingly said, “Oh, I KNOW, right? I collect it all the time!” She was surprised, we laughed, life was good.
Digression aside, it is passing seldom that I snap shots of the regular iconic things anymore. Yesterday, though, why the hell not? On vacation, tourists for a day! I had to take my own spin, though, of course.
We went in to the Cathedral, at J’s behest – I’d forgotten that he’d never been inside. I had the pleasure of doing so one day, but he wasn’t with us. It is beautiful in there. Even a non-Catholic like myself can feel awe in a place like that. For me, it’s not the religion, it’s the history. You think of how many people, over the course of centuries, have gone to Mass there, or entered just to sit and pontificate…it’s a powerful place. I was hesitant to take photos in there due to a general sense of respect and reverence but hey, I was Tourist for a Day and they were doing it, so why not. Stained Glass.
We went to lunch at Pere Antoine, which was right there, affordable, and a place that J and I ate when we were Visitors. It’s not great or overwhelmingly amazing, but it’s not bad either and it was fun to go there again. J and I were loving the triptych on the wall in the dining room, and I wish I could find a smaller version to hang in our house. The progression among the three is fantastic, and subtle. Peer and it real close and laugh!! Of course, the 1920s style of the thing was right up my alley.
Speaking of the 1920s, I wandered into a gallery yesterday that had a TON of Erte art and statues. The minglers and the curators alike all smiled in my direction as I pored over each one, since I was dressed in my usual fashion. They also had original works by Picasso, Dali, Warhol (and MORE), so I enjoyed a brief stint of true Art-Geeking. It really made my week!
We meandered our way over to the French Market, then. I really do love that place. Especially the area where you find the produce and seafood vendors. Like it used to be, almost. In my view, a decent place to have lunch, too. The prices are, honestly, very competitive to the restaurants in the area, and the people-watching can’t be beat. My shutterbug self had to catch J focusing on something. I always forget how much I enjoy the Market until I’m in it. I even found a New Hat, at a reasonable price. Joy!
By the time we finished our day-long trek, we were exhausted and sweaty and happy. By that time, even though I SEE things on a regular basis, even the simplest things brought me an epic sense of Yay. As we stepped into our parking lot on Conti, I saw, across the way, something I’d never seen before, there on N. Rampart. They both laughed as I stopped, looked, said, “What is THAT? OmiGOD I love my city!” and ran across the entire lot to capture My New Ride.
So, there it is. If you live in a city in which you used to vacation, have someone visit. It does wonders. And for me, someone who doesn’t take things for granted ever, but who does sometimes fall into the daily (or nightly) routine in what has become a regular habitat…it just makes me fall in love all over again. And again. And. Again.