Walking through the Quarter last night with IB, I told her that every Iowan I'd met in New Orleans went to Grinnell College and all were Strange. "That's not fair," IB said. "What about K? She's pretty normal."
I considered. "At her going away party we spent the evening having an in-depth conversation about how much we liked bulldogs."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"I don't know. It seemed meaningful."
A woman walked us by. She was heavily made-up and wore a feathered headdress and a black leotard covered in sparkling gold sequins. When she was out of ear shot, IB commented, "Don't you ever see someone on the street and want to know who they are or where they're going? That must be one hell of a party."
"In New Orleans?" I said, "She could be going anywhere for any reason."
We walked a little farther down the cracked, hot pavement. It's been hot and muggy in New Orleans for months and this isn't even the worst of it. Maybe it was never cool. In Interview with a Vampire Brad Pitt's character comments, upon returning to New Orleans, that when he smelled the air he knew he was home - jasmine and flowers. For anyone who's spent any time in the Quarter in the summer, this observation is hilarious.
"But about bulldogs," I said. "They look like they're always smiling. You know Drake University in Des Moines has a bulldog beauty contest every year? It's hilarious. They put a little crown on them and everything."
"Where did that come from?" IB asked, somewhat disgusted.
"I like bulldogs."
"That sounds like a great competition!" we heard someone behind us chime in. We turned and saw another woman wearing a black leotard with gold sequins. "I mean, who needs an excuse?"
"Can I ask you where you came from and where you're going?" IB asked. "You see, we saw someone dressed like you just walk by and we thought there's gotta be a great party along with that."
"Yeah," the woman nodded. "I got left by the group in a bathroom and now I'm wandering the Quarter looking for them. I mean, how hard can it be to find a group of rowdy girls in gold sequins?"
"Where are you coming from?"
"Oh, we were just doing this fundraiser for kids to buy instruments. Now we're out to get trashed."
"Only in New Orleans," IB said, shaking her head.
"I love this town," said the woman.
"He's leaving," IB said, gesturing at me. "For Iowa."
"Why would you do that?" the woman said, looking at me in horror.
"It doesn't suit him," IB said.
The woman nodded. "Yeah, this place, you either love it or you hate it."
"I think I see your group," IB said. We rounded the corner and saw about twenty young women glittering and dancing in the middle of the street around some sort of two story float to Lady Gaga. We waved goodbye and walked away. It only occurred to me later that, wherever I end up going after New Orleans, I will probably be surprised to see twenty nonprofit fundraisers pole-dancing in the middle of the street just for the hell of it.
I'm leaving New Orleans this Wednesday and will travel almost to the opposite border of the continental United States. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but none of them worth sharing.
As Adam Duritz offers, maybe this year will be better than the last. Sure, it's not the year's end, but this is a New Chapter. I'm going back to the land of Seasons.