New Orleans: Part 1

Today marks almost one week to the day since I returned from New Orleans. This city dazzles in necklaces of gaudy indescribable beauty as a lady who sips Pimm’s Cups and watches the sudden rains wash Bourbon Street clean of guilt and grime. NOLA is a woman who has seen the world–the best and the worst of human nature–and her veins run thick with Southern history. She was the one American city I was dying to go and having met her, I wouldn’t say she was American at all, but a country and a force onto herself. 

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St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square

And so, it seems only natural that our small band of college friends would reunite, for the first time in exactly a year, to celebrate the joys of living in a city that cerebrates life itself. I don’t know if I will ever again experience a trip with friends that was so complete in all aspects of the journey, a trip so full I suffered from almost no moments of regret. Each day since I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what caused so much joy and the only thing I can see is New Orleans herself, the beautiful combination of people, music, food and culture all falling into place. 

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Street performers attracted crowds for daring juggling acts and magic shows. Restaurants with white table clothes and strict dress codes shared the same street as strip clubs with flashing neon lights and smiling girls. Live music shook and tickled the air: marching bands paraded on the street, lonely guitarists asked for tips, full jazz bands played late into the evening. Beer was cheap and people of all ages, shapes and sizes carried their filled plastic cups throughout the city looking for the next adventure. The locals talked to the bachelorette parties and the tourists found the local cafes. Anything seemed possible.P1060397

 I couldn’t stop marveling at the attention to detail. The musicians took such time in their riffs and their harmonies. Each house with a balcony had ironwork that deserved a photograph and a sigh. And the Mardi Gras floats. On our first morning we took a tour of Mardi Gras World and saw the floats that are designed, created, and decorated each year for the special celebration. We learned the history behind the crews, who gets to ride on the floats and how they get to stay up there so long (hidden bathrooms on board). The artists worked full time, all year round to get their creations ready for the debut. In a world of tradition, being the best seemed like destiny. P1060416

The weather was beautiful. Most days were hot and sticky but the temperature and humidity didn’t seem to bother anyone. Every day was a party no matter if the sun was shining or your face was slick with sweat. Just a couple minutes south, the Mississippi River wended slow, a muddy body of water that threatened the city like a sleeping snake. Our hotel on Royal St. was just a block east of Canal St. where the streetcar ran and one block south of Bourbon St. where the nightly debauchery would take place. It felt like we were at the center of a churning, boiling fabulous world. P1060440

I’ve only just sent the scene. And I haven’t even mentioned the food or the drink or the night I played a small tuba in a crowded bar. All to come. Just know that if you have not yet had the chance to visit New Orleans in the last week, it’s about time you go. 

Short, sweet and NOW

Imagine my life as a house. And imagine Ray Bradbury walked into that house unannounced and proclaimed,

“2014 is going to be different. You might not be happy all the time or find all the answers but this year is going to make you think about what is really valuable in life. You will identify and go after those things.”

Maybe Ray said those things and maybe he didn’t. But I’m saying it to you right now.

Fahrenheit 451I’m currently reading Fahrenheit 451 and, let me say, it is the kind of book that makes one shift uncomfortably in bed before falling asleep. Similar to George Orwell’s 1984, this small book packs a realistic punch from a distant unimaginable future. I carry this futuristic dystopian society around with me–to the grocery store, at work, in the gym. How is our current reality similar to a world that hates philosophy and new ideas, a world that burns books? What would I do in such a society? Who would I be?

Which brings me to my very real and very vague 2014 New Year’s Resolution:

Ray Bradbury quote

Life is short. Life is sweet. Life is NOW. 

We are not always given the things we believe we need or deserve. The boss will not award us the promotion or extra week of vacation just because we sit passively waiting for our just desserts. I’ve yet to find my one “true love” while sitting on a park bench watching strangers pass me by. Living is not a passive verb and we are not a passive species. In 2014, I will find things that make my life worth (actively) living. And I will go after those things…whether I’m ready for them or not.

Sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.

Planned walk down memory lane

In anticipation of the new year, I’ve purchased tiny pink cans of champagne, a blank Moleskin planner and a new purple ballpoint pen. With only two days left to overindulge in Christmas cookies and make plans for an overly anticipated NYE, I’ve set my mind ahead to 2014. Will my gung ho “fresh out the gate” enthusiasm for the next twelve months dissolve under the pressure of routine, procrastination and reliance on destiny? Only time will tell. sofia

Glancing back at my 2013 planner, I witnessed small snapshots of my past year. I remembered meeting friends for the first time, auditioning for plays and dance groups, accepting a job, noting birthdays I remembered (or forgot), and a brief 3-month obsession with hot yoga. The experiences, mistakes, scheduled appointments– all filed away in the pages of months gone by.

photo (14)How much do we change year to year, moment to moment? Years can pass us by without any noticeable change while a single event may alter the way we view our role in the world forever. My journal entry dated December 26th, 2013 read remarkably like my entry dated exactly one year earlier in 2012. I had the same feelings of nostalgia surrounding Christmas festivities as an adult, insecurity about my future, questions about the definition of home and the absence of romance in my life. Have I changed? How can I tell? Is change tangible, pencil marks on the wall for each inch and every year taller, or a continuous wave ebbing and flowing with the cyclical tide?

If I was to pick a New Year’s Resolution, it would have something to do with mindfulness. Mindnessful, “a state of active, open attention on the present (Psychology Today)” is linked to Buddhism and the practice of meditation. In his book A Gradual Awakening, Stephen Levine compares our thoughts to the cars of a train and encourages the reader to step away from the continuous flow of images and experiences, letting them pass by and disappear around the bend. I’m sick of being overbooked and underwhelmed. I will strength my resolve to live fully within these precious moments with a greater awareness of time and space. We have, after all, only ourselves to suffer with, to love with and to cherish.

Every year is given to us as a gift and it is up to each of us how we use the mystery beneath the wrapping paper.