Friday, April 23, 2010

Love Letter

It's been a few weeks since I've posted here. I've written parts of several posts, and ended up rejecting them all - none of them were turning out right. Part of my problem is that it's been a strange, stressful month or so, personally and professionally speaking - more about that later, perhaps.

So I'm going to write something short and simple: a love letter.

A couple of weeks ago I visited New Orleans for the 27th time. (Yes, I have kept track.) I've never lived there, but it feels almost like home to me. I've considered moving to the City That Care Forgot at several points in my life, but there was always something that prevented me from taking that step: family, friends, a job, a band. Perhaps that's a good thing. I sometimes think that if I had moved to New Orleans 15 years ago, there's a good chance I would be dead by now - my early demise brought on by excessive intake of food and alcohol, coupled with lack of sleep brought on by fear of missing some music.

I won't give a detailed report on my latest visit, except to say the Tim Laughlin has the most beautiful clarinet sound I've ever heard, Matt Perrine is still the most amazing tuba player on the planet, and Ben Schenck and the Panorama Jazz Band just get better and better. This visit, like most of them, was a mixture of the familiar and the unexpected. I always learn something new in New Orleans - something about the city, something about music, something about myself. And damn - the music! People ask me if I visit during Jazz Fest. Due to my work schedule, I've never made it to the Jazz and Heritage Festival, but incredible music can be heard in New Orleans every night of the year. A night spent exploring the clubs on Frenchmen Street will provide enough musical inspiration to sustain body and soul for months.

But one can't eat, drink, and listen to music 24 hours a day (although some New Orleanians seem to be trying). What else do I do in the city? Well, I wander, I walk, I explore. The architecture, the history, and just the feel of the city are extraordinary - like nowhere else. You never now when you'll come across something amazing - and in New Orleans the ordinary is amazing enough. I love wandering through the Lower Quarter (the quiet, mostly residential side of the French Quarter, near Esplanade). Such a walk is usually the first thing I do when I hit the city and the last thing I do before I have to leave.

And leaving New Orleans is always hard. Even if I miss my wife; even if my body is rebelling from the quantity and richness of the food; even if I have worn myself out and crave the routine and peace of home, it's hard to leave. I feel a pang in my heart as soon as I hit the entrance ramp for I-10 East. I know it will be months before I see my favorite city again, and it always hurts.

New Orleans is definitely a city that doesn't live in the past; it lives for today. But the past is never forgotten; as William Faulkner might say, it's not even past. Tradition, memory, possibilities, and the present moment all exist at the same time. The city keeps its traditions, even as it changes them to fit the moment. No matter how many times I vist, I never quite know what to expect. I love New Orleans.