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The worst part of a vacation is leaving it behind. The best part about leaving it behind is going home. It is a bittersweet thing and you almost wish you could snap your fingers and make the transition painless. But then you’d miss out on a kind of treasure that can only be found in bittersweetness. That is now a word.

Breezy is structured enough and has enough travel experience to wrap things up nice and tidy. Things were packed and organized in such a manner that moving out would not be a chore. She also had an agenda. Even though we had an a.m. departure the next day, she was determined to hit Clover Grill on her last morning. Her preparations were made 24 hours in advance.

I did a little bit with Miss Audrey before we went out into the gorgeous day and simply went where our feet led. We really wanted to have lunch at Port of Call but the line outside went a half block down the sidewalk. We crossed Esplanade and went to Frenchmen Street to Praline Connection. Although we pretty much walked right in, our odds would have been better at POC. We spent more than 2 hours there. Usually it wouldn’t matter but there’s something about the last day that makes you take things at a quicker pace.   You realize that there are still places to go, people to shop for, friends to be hugged, and photographs to be taken. So you either do them today…or next time.

We went back to Shushan’s in the Upper Pontalba Building and found a great hat for Donovan. It was new and it was original. We hoped he would like it. We then went to Laura’s Candies to pick up some Praline Pecans for him. We knew he’d love those. The girls selected some of their favorite things…pralines, truffles, fudge. This has been one of Breezy’s favorite places since she was about 7 years old.

As soon as the last-minute places were crossed off the list, we headed back home. Thankfully, Miss Audrey had not yet left for the day. We visited with her while she ironed her clothes and got ready for church choir practice. She told us great stories about the Honeymoon Suite—about the gentleman who faithfully rents this and the surrounding rooms for Mardi Gras—that the room is packed to capacity with boxes of beads so much that you have very little space to move. This particular gentleman is well-known for traveling to the International Space Station in what has been termed “space tourism”. He actually has many accomplishments and you can find them here: Richard Garriott.

We said our goodbyes to Miss Audrey and soon after, Breezy and Beth went for a swim.  I can’t say I’ve ever gone for a swim in November.  I cabbed to Frenchmen Street to visit one of my best friends. Michael is a kindred spirit who has the pleasure of managing d.b.a. He has been family since the day we met. As Michael and I were catching up, he introduced me to a young man that had just walked through the door. “Glen…this is Dawn.” I reached out for a handshake and was embraced, instead, with a strong hug–the real kind with strength and substance. I was so happy to have come on the night of Glen David Andrews’ performance.  Michael’s status updates on facebook are enough to make any Nola lover jealous.  It must be a tough job to have to hear live music on Frenchmen Street night after night.  The updates that make me most envious are the mobile uploads he posts on Monday nights: “Glen David Andrews crowd surfs at d.b.a. NOW.”

I often fear I’ll wake my sleeping household in the wee hours of the a.m. when I go to youtube for a “fix”. It is always Glen David Andrews because….well….just watch a video for yourself and see if you don’t get addicted. Whether he’s jamming on the street with friends, crowd surfing at d.b.a., singing gospel in a New Orleans church, or leading a crowd in a second line, he is a top notch performer. Really. This guy is extra special.

Between sets, Michael got us to pose side-by-side for a picture. Glen gathered me in an embrace and whispered, “I’m going to blackmail you on facebook.” You can clearly see the orneriness in his eye.

I didn’t make it home by 10 p.m. like I intended. That became an impossibility once the sound of brass filled the air. I stayed for most of two sets and made it home just after midnight.

A few hours later, we were up and ready to go. The girls enjoyed one last breakfast at a very empty Clover Grill.

They came back just in time to catch a cab to Louis Armstrong International.  We were home by late afternoon; back to work by evening.

We usually have a “next time” in the works but for now, we are focused on Breezy’s upcoming surgery. We do know we’ll be back soon. It is a place that somehow feeds our soul.  In a world that confuses productivity with running non-stop, it is a joy to take life, if only for a few days,  at a slower pace. 

This is a land in which the undrafted, the cast-offs, and the injured grow up to be Super Heroes.  Underachievers find their niche.  The invalidated and wounded souls grow up to be healers.  And a belief system that always existed is finally made manifest and bewilders all who took the easy way out… because unbelief  seemed easier than faith.

While home is home and we love where we live, we long for the embrace and unconditional acceptance of a place that beckons you to come as you are.

“My advice to you is to stay for a while in the old section of the city, sit for a time in Jackson Square and let the old world charm you. Give the atmosphere a chance to lull you. Take your time and wander slowly; look twice at the old houses, they are worth it. Talk to the beggars in the street; talk to any one you chance to meet. The natives of the Quarter are pleasant people and they will gladly tell you anything they happen to know.”
~Lyle Saxon, Fabulous New Orleans, 1928.