A Novice in Nola

A celebration of cuisine, music, history, ghosts, swamps, and excessive indulgence.   NOLA; a celebration of life.

I arrived in the dark and taxied to an area called Lee Circle.   First, I’d drop bags and scoped the area, my block and the surrounding few style=”line-height:1.5;”>.  The receptionist at the hotel was cute.  Not too sexy, not too beautiful, but definitely looked like good fun.   A bubbling personality, world traveling, finding work, then vacationing, then moving onto a new city.  Something about her tone suggested there was more to the story.

It was raining.  I passed the WWII museum. “I’ll definitely visit the WWII museum, it’s so damn conveniently close to my hotel.”   Whispering myself another lie.

A lonesome-jubilee at “Cochan’s”.  Butter-fried meat pies and a pint of LA31.  A couple of French girls introduced themselves, after I introduced myself.    They looked like story-book ballerinas. Ballerinas are so damn beautiful.  I woke up with a ballerina many All Saints Days ago.   Back in the Frat fantasies really did come true.

I soldiered through the drizzle, down a barren block, thankful for the warm air.  I was looking for a dive: The Rusty Nail.  The way the ditzy-fun hostess reccomended it, I’d enjoy myself.   I envisioned an old pub where hell’s outcasts jammed their mental guitars, too tone-deff drunk to care if you liked the music they belched.  There’d be a big beer selection and loose local girls too classless to miss a happy hour.   Girls that enjoy wasting Wednesday evenings in the dark grungy dig’s of Louisiana’s back roads.   I envisioned I’d be happy.

I struck conversation with the big blonde babes about oil’s recent versatility in the market and how it’s influencing capital investments.   We also talked radio give-aways and how best to snort salt through a straw.   The rest of the night mapped together like a half-completed Vuze file.  I woke un-robbed and unimpressed with my unabashed self.

The sun wasn’t up just yet, but I had a fat file of work to flip through before breakfast.   I splashed water on my face, kicked myself some Nola knowledge and hustled down stairs to order a pile of shrimp & grits.  I devoured it with 6 cups of coffee and a business meeting on creative marketing.  We exchanged Central America travel stories and reviewed the nearby bar options. She was on point.

A few hours later I ate at NOLA PO BOYS.   A sloppy pile of delicious greasy goodness. I was in the heart of the French Quarter’s gaud.  Near Leffite’s, the Pirate-ghost bar.  Because they had one of my favorite drinks of all time, beer, I stayed a while.

I was advised to visit with Priestess Mariam, the Mambo of the Voodoo Spirit Temple, across from Congo Square in New Orleans.    Highest of the clergy, as mambo asogwe, she is responsible for preserving rituals and maintaining relationships with with spirit world.

The Spirit Temple was closed and that was the last effort I made to reach the priestess. The bar next-door was “Tonique”. As if this place was privy to making a pristine cocktail more eloquent.

I’d buzz through the afternoon, blasting off work emails and drinking more beers than my wallet thought I would.   I was lost in the history, haunt and charm of New Orleans.

Gripping half-a-six, I joined a haunted tour, accidentally rambling off insolence upon my entrance.   Our tour guide shot her grey-green marble eyes at me with a look I could quite read.   i was entranced.   She had endless stories to tell, some with laughter some with shivers.   The rest of the tour group thought we were dating.   The concierge knew we weren’t.  Her demo tape is still on my home-office desk.  I’mma help her get famous.

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Never Stop Exploring

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Of the millions of visitors to the Grand Canyon every year, 1% make the hike down to the bottom, where the Colorado River carves through the limestone rock. If I am going to be the 1% of anything, I’m glad it is this.

Our first selfie of the hike.
Our first selfie of the hike.

Because it means I spent hours hiking, jumping, tip-toeing down the trails of an ancient landmark, it means I saw this breathtaking, natural phenomenon from a hundred-thousand different angles, and most importantly, it means I spent many miles walking, talking, laughing, and making memories with my dad.

IMG_6562IMG_6559Bright Angel Trail is only slightly under 10 miles long, but between snack breaks, which are inevitable for the Meccas, holding on to the last few minutes of service (Dad, you need to stop working so hard) and a three-mile detour out to Plateau Point, it took us most of the daylight hours to reach the Colorado River. The extension out to the plateau comes about half-way down the trail, at Indian Gardens, and although our feet were starting to hurt and our packs were over-packed, it was a necessary diversion – I mean, where else was I going to get pictures running #inappropriatelyfast on dangerously unstable rocks and questionable terrain (see: cactus)?

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You know that feeling when you know you have absolutely no choice but to keep going? I get that feeling when I’m in the middle of my five-hour drive home and I’m fighting to stay awake, and I suddenly realize, wow, I have no choice but to keep driving. I could pull over and get coffee, take a nap, even do jumping jacks, jump in the snow – whatever – but halfway through my trip, I inevitably have no choice but to keep going, I have two and a half hours of driving left anyway I cut it. Anyway, my Dad and I started to get that feeling about ten miles into our journey down the canyon. DSC_0037For me, it wasn’t so much that the hike was hard, it was more about feeling aches in muscles I didn’t know existed, and breaking in my new hiking boots (again, in typical Mecca fashion), and also the way that the trail twists and turns, giving you the illusion that you are almost there time after time; you think you made it, you hear the rushing water, but there are always more steps to take.

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They knew I was coming.

Surprise, surprise: we made it. Nearing the end of the journey, we crossed the metal bridge that spans the Colorado River. The bridge was very steady, albeit swaying, but I couldn’t help wondering, with each step I took, if I fell, would I live? How about now? How about now? Even toward the end of the bridge there was no relief, only a big patch of cactus. Regardless, we made it across the bridge, another mile on foot, past the mule corral and Bright Angel Campground, to Phantom Ranch.

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Dad, are you nervous?

Phantom Ranch is the only lodging below the canyon rim, and consists of a handful of cabins, four dormitories, bathroom facilities, a canteen, and an eclectic group of hikers. Meals are hearty – beef stew, steak dinner, or vegetarian chili – and served family style, so when you go back to your bunk at the end of a long day, you are well-fed and you have a few fellow hikers to call your new friends. The people you pass the potatoes to, play a late night game of rummy with, and lay your head down next to at night come from all walks of life – a lone female traveler from New Mexico who hiked the whole way down the canyon in the dark, a group of college kids on January break, a “hiking” couple who left their less-outdoorsy spouses at home, a rowdy group of young guys from Michigan, and a father-son dynamic duo all stick in my mind. We may not have anything in common in our everyday lives, but in the moment, we have everything in common; we each took time – whether one night or one week – out of our routine to disconnect, to cleanse our minds of stress, worry, relentless responsibilities, and use our bodies to move down trails, up hills, across bridges, but always forward, to accomplish a physical goal, and to spend quality, quality time with the people around us.

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Work life is full of email notifications and project deadlines, one number off on a report, and countless hours in front of a screen, but life life is full of so much more – more interesting, loving, eclectic people I have yet to meet, more perspectives, more stories, more hearts, more memories.

We made it.
We made it.

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Hiking the Grand Canyon with my Dad may have only taken a few days out of our busy lives, but it reminded me to never stop exploring and more importantly, gave me the necessary dose of more I constantly crave, holding me over until my next adventure. Did someone say Canadian tobogganing?

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