I can summarize this chapter with just the title: NOLA. ENJOY!
Traveling was something I had always wanted to do. Life, however, had other plans. Ryan and I rushed into marriage and jobs so fast that we never took the time. The absence of him in my life has created an opportunity for me. I don’t think most people think of someone’s death as an opportunity. I wish this had happened a different way. I wish that he was here with me and we were traveling the U.S. together. But God had plans I couldn’t prepare for.
I arrive in New Orleans just about sunset. The sun kisses the tops of buildings and burns like a purple fire in the sky. I almost can’t see where the land ends and the water begins. I’m driving across Lake Pontchartrain and am filled with wonder and awe as I notice how beautiful the city looks. There are still signs of the damaged caused by Hurricane Katrina, and I suppose there always will be. A person can’t forget the impressions made by something so massive, and a city can’t either. All you can do is pick up the pieces and move forward. New Orleans and I are picking up the pieces together, I think.
I park and walk over to Café Du Monde. Beignets are perfect at any time of day, and I can always use some coffee. I settle in on the patio to watch the sunset finish. I begin to people watch. People watching should really be considered a sport. I watch families with a stroller walk by as a toddler has a meltdown to come inside and get the ooey gooey doughy goodness and their mothers decline. I see old-time lovers and remember things my mother used to say, “…they hold hands to keep from hitting each other.” I laugh but I know she was only kidding. She was with my Dad for 40 years. They loved each other every day. Still, I can’t help but think about the stories shared by the passersby. Have they been together forever? Did they just meet? I build scenarios in my mind that could rival the strangest stories told by any soap operas.
As the sun continues to set, I notice the crowd changes from the elderly and family mix to more of the younger, tourist, and party crowd. I decide that I need to figure out where I’m staying tonight or for however long I think I will be in town. The girl cleaning tables seems kind, and her friendliness with the customers seems like she might be the right person to ask. I wave her over and introduce myself. Her name is Mandy and her accent is striking. We talk about the best places in the city to see different things, and tours I should take. Finally, I feel comfortable enough to let her know that I’ll be staying in town for a while and that I’m traveling alone. She suggests I go about a block away to Dauphine Street and stay at the Maison de Luxe.