New Orleans and finding home

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. Everything after Memphis seemed to go at warp speed. Hoping to catch up on a bunch of things in the next week or so. Stay tuned …

I could not wait to put Memphis behind me. The frustration over the tire/bearings and just the fact that the park itself was kind of a dump made me ready to get out of there.

I held my breath as I drove off, praying that the wheel was put back on correctly and that it wouldn’t fall off again as I drove away.

I had found another place on HipCamp that was perfect.

It was a farm in Jackson, Mississippi. I was the only one there. There was a small pond in the midst of this beautiful piece of land. Mind you, bugs the size of my cat but, hey, that’s the South, apparently. It was a good night to finally breathe out, let go of the tension from Memphis and get ready to head to the next stop – New Orleans.

I was looking forward to New Orleans because I had three friends – Tracy, Edgar and Suzanna – who I was looking forward to seeing. One of the best things about this trip was getting to see so many old friends and get to spend some time with them.

As I drove into New Orleans, over a very long bridge, with these incredible trees weeping with moss hanging over the water, I fell in love. I had learned on this trip that I am deeply tied to water. Weird, since living in Los Angeles for more than thirty years, I rarely went to the beach. Getting to the beach is a pain in the ass in LA unless you live right there. Two hours to get to the beach – forget it.

I parked the trailer at a regional park, which was just lovely. Indy immediately leapt out to explore.

Suzanna had invited me to join her for dinner in the French Quarter that first night. I got there early so I could wander around before I had to meet her. I was greeted by a jazz band performing on a corner as I circled, trying to find a place to park.

My artist heart fell in love immediately.

There is so much art in New Orleans. Murals everywhere. Buildings in residential areas, buildings in commercial areas, it doesn’t matter. Paint is spread on a wall and becomes beauty.

The French Quarter has its own beauty. The elegance of the ironwork on the balconies, the delicate colors on the facades, even the way the street names are inset into the sidewalks so you have to look down, not up, to see them. Gallery after gallery after gallery filled with art of every kind. Even shops themselves seemed to be filled with gloriously beautiful things from mid-century lamps to beautiful handcrafted dinnerware.

Suzanna and I had an amazing dinner as we caught up. We had met several years ago at San Diego Comic Con, sort of accidentally. She ended up being on my Women On The Dark Side panel the next year and we stayed in touch. But we have never really had a chance to just hang out, so it was a pleasure to wander around the Quarter with her and hear about her new life in New Orleans. And her tales of living in the very haunted Sultan’s Palace. Holy crap, the stories she had.

The next day, I decided to splurge on a swamp tour because I figured I would never be here again so why not?

What a blast!

Tearing around the swamp in an air boat, hanging on for dear life. Watching the guide toss marshmallows at the alligators so they’ll come right up to – and sometimes climb into – the boat. The incredible trees just dripping that gossamer moss. Frogs the size of small dogs. And getting to hold a baby alligator. One of the best times of my whole trip.

I spent a lot of time in the French Quarter. Row after row of art galleries and small shops selling local art. And just people-watching is a blast. Jazz music everywhere as musicians take to the streets and play everywhere they can. People dancing in the streets, big smiles on their faces.

All around Jackson Square, which is a park in the center of the French Quarter, artists hang their artwork off the fencing around the park and sell their wares. Everything from cheesy touristy artwork to really beautiful fine art. Immediately, I started to think about investigating how to do that, if I decided to move to the city.

I have to insert a COVID thing here – yes, a lot of people were wearing masks and, yes, a lot of people weren’t. Most tended to give you a wide berth regardless of mask status. And everyone was wearing one inside of shops. I ate at an outdoor restaurant where there was no one around me. Felt pretty safe, for the most part. However, going down Bourbon Street made me turn around and go back. Lots of people drinking lots of things and nobody in masks and everyone pretty drunk. Not my scene on a good day, never mind during a pandemic. Avoided that area mostly during my visit.

I did take a ghost tour around the French Quarter. The tour guide was not the greatest storyteller but he had a great focus on the history of the various places. (Once again, most people were in masks and they limited the size of the group and it was outdoors.)

The tour was very entertaining until we got to the Lalaurie Mansion, which is considered the most haunted place in New Orleans, which is saying a lot. It was a mansion where slaves were chained to the stove and the owners experimented on others who were trapped in an upstairs room. All came to light when the place caught fire and the firefighters found mutilated slaves locked in the room and the cook chained to the stove. We stood across from it as the guide told us the stories and then we crossed over to get close to it.

Suddenly, I felt this horrible, horrible presence almost pushing me away from the building. All I could think about was the bad things that were done there. It was as though the dead slaves were still there and reaching out. I found myself backing away from the building and had to force myself to stand in one place. I told the tour guide about this as we left, explaining that I am apparently spiritually sensitive, and he said more than one person has felt the same thing. Cool.

I did try to go see the abandoned Jazzland amusement park. I love abandoned places. It was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and has been shuttered ever since. I could only get as close as the front gates.

Heavy fencing and barbwire ran around everywhere. I snapped a couple of photos, realizing that I wasn’t going to climb the gates to get inside. As I walked back to my car, two big black SUVs appeared right inside the gates. I’m going to guess security has their hands full keeping people out.

Oh, and I got my nose pierced, something I had been planning to do for a very long time.

I also met my friend, Tracy, for brunch at her favorite local place. Tracy and I did theater together years ago. She is an amazingly talented actress. Her marriage ended recently and she came back home to New Orleans. It certainly agrees with her because she looked happy and healthy. We had a great time catching up. She invited me to join her and her friends for a drink that night (again, socially responsible), which I did.

When I had drinks with Tracy that night, I said I was going to move to New Orleans. Just like that. I had almost decided when I first got there, but something about spending a few days there sealed it.

I had never even considered moving to New Orleans. My focus had always been on Austin, which was next on my list to visit on my way home. I had looked forward to New Orleans just because, well, New Orleans. But I never expected to feel so at home there.

Tracy laughed, saying she understood it. I think she said people like me are called “never-lefts” – came for a visit and never left.

I got back to the trailer, my fate decided. I would go back home, think a bit more, but was ready to pack up and head back as soon as possible.

The rest of the trip seemed uneventful after that.

I did stop in Austin for a couple of days, but nothing there really sang to me. Maybe it was a leftover resentment because of a rental scam I had gotten caught in, but I didn’t feel any connection with the city. I had a nice visit and moved on.

I stopped in Flagstaff to see an old friend. We had a nice visit and got to catch up. I woke up to a light sprinkling of snow on my last day there, which was lovely.

I got back to Los Angeles, uncertain of where I would park while I made some decisions. There aren’t a lot of campgrounds near the valley, where I wanted to be, so I had resigned myself to be parking on the street most of the time. However, a dear friend came forward and said I could park in her driveway for at least a few weeks. She had a long driveway, part of which is enclosed by a fence so I wouldn’t really be in the driveway. I am so grateful for that. She also opened her home to me. I spent my days outside in her yard, painting and working and letting Indy run loose (kind of). Then in the evening, I would go inside and we would watch movies and talk. She is one of my best friends. She had lost her roommate and very best friend earlier in the year and was very lonely. I’m so glad I got to spend so much time with her. She’s the one I figured I would miss the most.

I spent about six weeks cleaning and reorganizing the trailer since I wasn’t sure where I would be living when I did get to New Orleans nor was I sure how long I would be living in the trailer.

I also did a lot of research, wanting to be sure that if I made this move, I wouldn’t be in the same situation as I was in for the past few years in Los Angeles. I checked rental prices, trailer park rental prices, as well as various areas to sell my artwork. The more I looked, the more possible it seemed. Rents are nowhere near as bad as they are in Los Angeles. And venues for selling art were still around, despite COVID restrictions, and they seemed to be ways that would be safe to interact with the public.

I spent a lot of time trying to visit friends. It felt unreal that I would be leaving my second hometown. I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 after I got divorced from my first husband, and I never thought I would leave. But it was way past time. The only thing holding me there now were my friends, and they would stay with me no matter where I went.

All too soon, it was time to leave. I wanted to leave in early December and get to New Orleans about the sixteenth to avoid bad weather and to get there before the holidays so I could have a better chance at booking a campground.

It was hard to leave Los Angeles, and I’ll write about the separately. Yet as I drove away, I couldn’t help but feel that my time there was done.

So Indy and I headed off back to New Orleans to see what kind of life we could find there.

I will write more about that as well …

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