23 May 2007

The Things We Do for Love

I drove DCE to the New Orleans airport today and met a friend for lunch afterward. It had begun to rain while we ate and was coming down pretty hard by the time we went out to our cars. Traffic was still moving but slower as I set out. Some great old school R&B was on the radio. I was suffused with good feeling--back in New Orleans again!, good conversation on the drive over, good food and conversation with one of my favorite people, and now cruising New Orleans! on a rainy Wednesday listening to Barry White. Yeah. Life is good.

I stopped for gasoline. A nice-looking male cab driver was getting into his taxi when he spotted me. He smiled and greeted me with some typically silky New Orleanian comment. I don't remember exactly... Something like "How you doin' Queen." He wasted no time. And I was absolutely charmed--though, as usual, I maintained some reserve... He gave me his number and asked for mine. I said, "I'll call you," and I think I probably will.

As I drove south on Airline the downpour grew stronger. I felt like I was driving across the bottom of a bowl. There was no serious flooding but water was standing on long stretches of Tulane. By the time I ramped onto I-10, the sky had opened. It was a deluge. Traffic was crawling. And the radio was still serving up a perfect playlist.

Who can say why or when insight comes? As I raised the speed of the windshield wipers I realized another reason I love New Orleans: being there pulls me down into my soul, makes my hips and heart feel broader. I feel beautiful when I'm in New Orleans. I'm moved by the place. Provoked. It awakens dormant intelligences and sensitivities. My awareness expands to meet the experience of being there. New Orleans is extravagantly generous, offers something for my eyes, nose, tummy, buttocks; inspires intellectual, sensual, artistic response.

At points on the road to Slidell, visibility was nearly nil. I was actually scared a couple of times. I remembered the last time New Orleans weather had scared me: a tornado-strength storm one night in December 2005 that plowed through the service worker tent city where I was living at the time. The huge tent, that slept 12 comfortably, imploded in the storm with five or six of us inside. I felt very much at risk and went into mild shock afterward.

My fear was not as intense today. I never even considered pulling over and waiting for the weather to break. It was not a question of thinking "nothing bad can happen to me in New Orleans--NOLA loves me." It was, and this is, of course, an inadequate translation of the feeling, more like "Whatever happens--life or death--where else would I rather be?"

This is a new experience, my "long distance" (about 75 minutes) love affair with New Orleans. In the past, all my lovers came to me; I never had to go to them.