Sassy New Orleans: Creation Found in Beignets, Jazz, and Poetry

sassy new orleans

Written while waiting for my flight home in New Orleans…

I’m sitting at the gate in New Orleans waiting to go back home. Sometimes, a quick getaway really does the trick. Overall, 2016 was a rough year but November just sucked. Filled with stress and mistakes and a strained back, I really needed this month to end. When things get overwhelming, I usually need a few days to clear my head. When I saw that I had three days off work, I turned to Leon and told him that we had to book a flight somewhere. New Orleans immediately came to mind and it turned out to be a good choice.

Too often we succumb to the whining and bitching that makes up our everyday life. It’s normal considering how fast-paced our lives have become these days. However, New Orleans gave me a bit of perspective on why I travel and my reason for creating this blog. I spent the last few months getting wrapped up in SEO and social media marketing, but I just wanted to recount my travel tales and share my photography. The more involved I became in the business of blogging, the more disenchanted I became with the whole prospect of creating this blog.

Suddenly, crash, boom, kerplunk, (insert calamitous noise here). My blog imploded and I spent a very stressful day hashing it out with tech support. Two months of hard work down the drain. I was spent. I cried a bit. And then I said, “Fuck it.” A friend of mine (Irene Herrera, if anyone is looking for a web developer) told me to chill out and go to New Orleans. Afterwards, she would help me piece everything back together.

Best advice ever.

I set aside everything for one week, intent on recovering from a strained back and taking a small break from life. A few days later, away we flew to New Orleans.

jackson square and st. louis cathedral
Jackson Square’s impressive St. Louis Cathedral stands over the rest of Decatur Street.

Way Down in New Orleans

The first thing I noticed about New Orleans was that the people are intensely proud of their heritage. We met our driver at the gate (Mr. Stanley) and he introduced us to his city on the way to our Bed & Breakfast. Mr. Stanley introduced us to the Garden district and its beautiful homes, the haunting cemeteries spread throughout the city, and the historical Tremé neighborhood, a.k.a. the birthplace of jazz. We pulled onto Esplanade Avenue after a wonderful thirty-minute ride filled with good conversation, ending with Mr. Stanley walking us to the door of our unique Bed & Breakfast.  

The house was filled with antiques and trinkets. We stayed in the Cajun room, overlooking the back patio which appeared to be on a slight decline. The house itself used to be an old funeral home (which I discovered during our ride from the airport), but had been converted into a Bed & Breakfast by a lovely Georgian couple in the 1970s. We set down our bags, and immediately walked over to the French Quarter to grab a bite to eat.

beignets and cafe du monde
Delicious beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde.

We sensed that Cafe du Monde was nearby when we saw a growing crowd spilling onto the sidewalk. The famous green and white awning appeared from around the corner as we strolled down Decatur Street. We walked in and grabbed the closest table, still dusted with powdered sugar from the previous inhabitants. Two cups of coffee and a couple of beignets later, we felt pure satisfaction. Powdered sugar covered our fingers and shirts (we recommend wearing white if you visit), but we felt happy. Sometimes, all you need is a coffee and dessert to set you straight. It was the perfect introduction to New Orleans.

Sassy New Orleans

girl sings in sassy new orleans

Over the next few days, we would walk around the French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny, the Garden district, and City Park, drinking in the sights and sounds that truly make this city unique. However, what struck me in particular were the people native to New Orleans. I believe that every city has its own identity. Nevertheless, the people give New Orleans its sassy personality.

dancer on frenchmen street
A New Orleans resident dances in the street as a jazz band plays on the corner of Frenchmen Street.

The energy and life that permeate every street corner is infectious to every passerby. Jazz musicians stand against Creole architecture belting out soulful tunes, not caring whether anyone listens. There’s a tradition each musician upholds where they walk around with a bucket for tips while the band continues to play in the background. Some bands donate this money to good causes, such as one “Superband” that donated their tips to victims of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. To me, this was unusual. I’ve passed by countless street performers, but they always seemed a bit hardened after working so hard to further their artistic careers. Not in New Orleans: these people looked so at ease and seemed so happy doing what they love. Creating for the sake of creativity. How often do we see people doing this anymore?

superband on royal street
A “Superband” plays on Royal Street, collecting tips to donate to the victims of the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

We took a free walking tour of the French Quarter and our guide pointed out one musician who had captured my attention earlier in the afternoon. Our guide pointed to this lady and said, “You’re standing in the presence of the greatest clarinetist in New Orleans. She doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from. Anyone who could play an instrument or sing a tune got invited to perform beside her.” Her love for music was written all over her face. This is why people love the arts: it makes us feel emotions only felt through musical notes or a paintbrush or a typewriter.

jazz queen on royal street
The ‘greatest clarinetist’ plays on Royal Street, inviting visiting musicians to perform beside her.

‘Poets for Hire’ lined the streets, writing poems in 10 minutes for anyone willing to give them a few key words. Artists sat next to each other, chatting in between sessions with clients without any sign of competition or malice towards each other. Even the homeless created and entertained, using their dogs as sidekicks. In a city that’s been repeatedly battered by environmental disasters and ignored by politicians, its residents found solace in creation.

poet for hire on royal street
A poet sits on Royal Street, composing poems with only three key words that clients would like to be included in the prose.

The Joy of Creation

While walking around an empty side street, Leon and I came across a doorway with a picture of Tennessee Williams and quote scrawled underneath his portrait.

“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

I’ve never been to Cleveland, so I can’t completely agree with Mr. Williams, but I understand the reason for this statement. After reading a couple of books on the benefits of creating for the joy of creativity this past summer, I can see how these innovative and creative cities stand out from the rest of America.

tennessee williams
Tennessee Williams’ portrait peeks out with a famous quote.

I suddenly felt silly and embarrassed after trying to get into the “blogging biz.” I had forgotten the joy of creating something for myself. Writing, photography, and travel are all things that I enjoy because they make me happy. Kudos to those who are able to make a buck from blogging: it’s so much harder than I ever realized. However, I think I’m just going to enjoy the ride for now.

Cheers to the people of New Orleans for reminding me that happiness isn’t measured by rewards. Success can have multiple meanings. Whatever you create can be wonderful purely because you created something for yourself.

new orleans mural

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1 Comment

  1. It’s nice to see this kind of perspective. People too often forget that the purpose of doing something is not always for monetary success, but just for sheer expression and enjoyment. Thank you for illustrating this to us through your recent trip to New Orleans. Cool pics too!

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