My life since late August has been jammed with parenting, cleaning, canning, and grading papers. Lee, my husband, seemed to sense my weariness and, with the discovery of cheap post-Labor Day airfare, bought me a flight down to New Orleans. I’ve been to the Crescent City several times before, and once before alone – but that trip was one I’d rather not remember (double-fisting Hurricanes is a bad idea). This time, I vowed to make the weekend count – to use the time away to refresh and renew myself, as well as research for my books and grow as a writer. Come with me on my journey, and see if I can convince you to take one of your own – a solo trip to New Orleans, a city that thrives on fellowship and togetherness.
The Flight Down
I take my seat and whip out Poets and Writers. I hold the magazine up so that people can see the cover. I’m a writer, fools! I’m a teacher and a mom, but on this plane my armor is plus-one plate, maybe even plus-two. Because all you see here, lounging across (count it) TWO seats, is a woman taking up space. A writer. A solitary traveler. A classy broad, educated as hell.
I believe in auspice, in harbingers. I think an empty seat next to you on an airplane is about as far from the Ides of March as you can get.
I pour through Poets and Writers like it’s my real job, and instead of being juiced like a lemon against other people’s success, it all seems achievable.
I think wistfully of my husband and daughter in a way that echoes the nostalgia of a Civil War letter, Ken Burns style. “My dearest Rosalyn, all the men in the platoon have dysentery. I long for the day when I will feel your sweet kisses again.” The best part about coming home will be coming home to them, but that’s for Sunday.
I’m a very high-functioning introvert who can pass as an extrovert. I hover in a world between being paralyzed to do things alone and needing solitude, a vampire, greedy. It quickens me.
In Atlanta, I’m pleased with how at home I am in airports, how I find my concourse and gate and typical brew-pub dinner. A nine dollar glass of wine, but damn! They are generous! If you keep people liquored up, lubed, really, it makes everyone’s lives in the airport easier.
People in the restaurant make this kind of swollen, distended small talk with strangers or stare at their phones. I wrote. I’m a writer. I don’t want small talk. I wouldn’t mind someone asking me, “What are you writing? Are you a writer?” This guy next to me ordered wine, too, and then promptly face planted into his iPad. If you love your tablet so much, why don’t you marry it?
I hop my plane to New Orleans, and this time the flight is full, but I don’t mind. The guy next to me has huge muscled arms that pop over onto my side of the seat, but I don’t care, and I don’t shrink away from the touch. We’re just sardines in a can, buddy. I look over at him sleeping and I wonder how a man’s eyelashes could be that long, Kardashian long, fake-looking even.
Instead of sleeping, I get on my phone and scare the crap out of myself reading some ghost stories from Jim Harold’s Campfire. This means that when I arrive at the elegant International House, a gorgeous Beaux-Arts masterpiece with a tiny, posh lobby and European-efficient rooms, I’m ripe to be creeped out. My room is tucked in a Winchester-mansion weird corner by the elevator, and I get an eerie feeling walking in that shivers up and down my skin. My major misgiving is that there is a closet in the room with a door on it. I can’t remember the last time I was in hotel room with a closet door for a spooky ghost to hide behind!
I go down to the bar. I need to calm down. The ghost in my room needs to calm down. We need a break already. The bar is called Loa, and it’s a weird mash up of a lounge area on the Titanic and a Voodoo altar. The bar is stuffed with baubles – they overflow in such a way that there’s little room to rest your drink or your elbows. Glass grapes, ebony statues, colored glass bottles, fake moss. Yet the seating area away from the bar has red upholstery and marble sea horses everywhere.
I love things that match yet don’t. Poseidon meets Voodoo? Fine with me. If you saw my house, you’d understand.
Hmm. I could order one glass of wine for 10 dollars, or I could get a bottle of wine with four or more glasses for 28 dollars. The math makes sense. But when I order it, ask for it corked, and only one glass, yeah, I can sense the bartender’s judgement. Or at least, I think I do. But I also thought I sensed a ghost in my hotel room closet, so who knows.
But then I square my shoulders. Yeah, I’m traveling alone, and I’m gonna drink wine in my room, and I’m not ashamed. Half the bottle for tonight, and half for tomorrow night. I march back up to the elevator.
The creepy feeling in my room evaporates when I find a hilarious show on MTV about a struggling actress who doubles as a nanny. She’s making her little charge drive around with her practicing lines for an audition where she’ll be playing a hooker. “What’s a pimp?” the little boy asks. “A real mean boss,” she replies. I laugh so much at the show I forget to be freaked out, or the ghost has decided I’m okay.
Stay tuned for Part 2!