Little things

  • Aperture: f/3.2
  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter: 1/40 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

New Orleans, Louisiana

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. The correspondent who left this note couldn’t have known who would see it or how much it would mean to a lonely, messed up girl stumbling through another city, another strange place, another lonely night. Then again, maybe that’s why she did it. After a rough time in Baton Rouge, it made me feel better. This feels very much like a safehouse. The kind of place you could hide. The kind of place you could just stay inside and write, sleep, get your head together. I like it here. And I think when I leave I will write a note for the next person too. It changed everything.

By the end of the week, I will have slept in five cities. I’m currently in New Orleans writing a story for the Christian Science Monitor. I was in Baton Rouge the previous two days and in Slidell the day before that. I never thought I’d see New Orleans. Certainly never thought I’d drive there. The interstate was wild. I think I screamed the F word repeatedly from Kenner to New Orleans. Somewhere around Metairie, I just closed my eyes and screamed. I missed my exit, but found that my sense of direction got me within a street of where I needed to be anyway. Nevermind the fact that I couldn’t open the door when I got here. I found a nice looking boy to do it for me. It’s amazing what you can get for a smile.

So. The danger girl adventures for this trip:

While I carefully stepped out of the tub in Slidell, I managed to slip and fall, almost killing myself.

New foods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sushi? Blech. Duck? Yuck. Frog legs? Barf at first bite.

I made a left-hand turn at night, ending up on the wrong side of four lanes of oncoming traffic, which necessitated a fast U-turn.

I killed my D1H. Well, more accurately, the shutter blew. So I took the credit card and quickly bought a Nikon D80. So far so good. When the salesman brought it out, I said, “Oh, what a cute little camera!” He was like, “Lady, I don’t know what you’re used to. Most people think it’s too heavy.” Yeah, dude. Whatever. It feels like a toy, but I sort of like it a little.

I dropped my BlackBerry off a balcony because I had it between my teeth (hence the tooth marks) as I was carrying my luggage up four flights of stairs.

I washed my clothes in the sink and they didn’t dry, so I had to pack them wet and they stained the leather of my suitcase.

I ticked off a Louisiana cop by rolling my window down at an accident scene and asking one of guys standing around doing nothing whether my exit would be to the left or right. Thanks for nothing, sha (For those confused by this expression, it’s pretty popular here. I suspect it’s bastardized french for “cher” or “dear.” Anyone who knows the real answer, clue me in. Until then, my answer stands.)

When I first walked in this apartment, I panicked because it was filled with personal things. Shoes in the closet — one pair of tennies, knee-high black boots, sheepskin moccasin slippers, black mules, and a ratty pair of granny slippers. A few shirts — one chambray, one lime turtleneck, and one blue mock tee.. A bag of assorted makeup. A Sex and the City DVD. A copy of The DaVinci Code. And the food, jeez. Better than home, and most of it unopened. Smoked salmon, bottled water, blue cheese, Bulgarian yogurt, cranberry juice, organic cream cheese, Grey Poupon, strawberry jam, peanut butter, bread, ice cream, oatmeal, Swiss trail mix, cocoa, assorted hot teas and coffees, powdered eggs, Bertoli vodka spaghetti sauce, granola bars, beef jerky, assorted nut mixes, organic fruit and nut bars, tins of honey… I would go on, but I’m tired of walking back and forth to the pantry.

There’s a down comforter and a warm heater. I have my own wireless connection (no more stealing!) and hot water. And more importantly, only two people know how to find me. And one of those people sent me here, and the other. Well. The other always knows how to find me, even when I can’t find myself.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Or the next day or the next. But I never thought I’d get this far. There are so many things I had to make it through to get here. And the thing that worked best was just taking it one step at a time.

Just let me get to Hattiesburg. Ok. Made it to Hattiesburg. Just get me to Slidell. Find a hotel room. Hotel booked, obtain supper. Make it back to the hotel. Take a shower. And this morning, just get dressed. Carry the luggage out. Make it to I-10. Make it to the Gramercy exit. Make it to Metairie. Make it past this truck. Make it across this bridge. Make it to this lane. Make it 60 more seconds. And another 60. And another. Missed the exit. Damn. Make it to the next exit. Get off this interstate. Make it to the first road that looks normal. Ah. Magazine Street. Pretty. Very quaint. Wrought iron. Cool. Find the next street and the next and the next. Find the building. Make it up the stairs. Make it in the door. Make the obligatory phone calls. Make it to the bed. Open my computer. Find A. Say hello to N. Take a few pics. A’s demanding a self-portrait. Good God I look a mess. Ok fine. I’m feeling better. I’m stretching some. I’m getting warmer. Yes, I might be ok. I think I like this.

And so it goes as the light fades tonight in New Orleans, typing from an old wooden desk, scratches from the other journalists who have come before me, simple lamp at my right hand. Of all the places I’ve been this week, I suspect this will be my favorite, resting within the shelter of my paper. Taken care of. Spoiled, whether in fancy Comm Ave digs or a humble 1940s-era apartment.

The Monitor is good at that, good at letting you know you matter. And it’s not the splashy things, or even the way they pay so well, so quickly. It’s a stack of fresh reporters’ notebooks and pens, along with a pile of notes in hundreds of handwritings, giving the local ins and outs: “CC’s Coffee on Magazine. Free Wireless. Closed on Sundays but you can still access wireless outside. Theo’s Pizza just east of Napolean’s, TASTY!!, Igor’s Bar and Laundromat (Yes, that’s right. On St. Charles and Jackson. Machines in back.)”

It’s a note on the pillow. Peanut butter in the fridge. A tea kettle on the stove. It’s the way you know they’d fight their asses off to get you back if anything should happen to you. It’s all of it. I feel privileged. And safe.

Next step: supper.

Music: Through Glass by Stone Sour (lyrics)

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