noLA

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Where to begin? April began with an unexpected trip to Los Angeles to visit a friend. The visit was short, but felt like more falling face-first at the beginning of a long distance marathon. Without going into any personal details, I'll simply make my opinion on the city known: I strongly dislike it. 

I think back to my time in university studying film, and the peers who have since moved to LA with the ideal visions of La La Land dancing in their minds. Did they find what they are looking for? Is it really the goldmine of opportunity that it paints itself? Maybe at one time it was.

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What I think: the cliche that working in the entertainment industry and living in LA is nothing more than participating a rat race. Every corner is saturate with minds that deserve to be seen, yet are shrouded in each other’s spotlights. The city lacks room to breathe. I found quiet corner by some chickens and an herb garden framed in graffiti murals. Despite the oasis I had found, it was hard to take photos. I found myself with a Canon AE1 in my hands nonetheless. The next morning we made our way from the arts district to sunset blvd, only to be serenaded by car horns and billboards. The Hollywood sign in the distance was no comfort.

I marched immediately into Amoeba and bought Bark Your Head Off, Dog by Hop Along on vinyl and swiftly made my escape back to San Diego. It's simple: I personally can’t do LA. Thank goodness for Frances Quinlan's reassuring lyrics dancing in my head as I tried to blur the memory of aggressive traffic and relentless concrete.

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A couple of days later, I find myself scrawling my first airport journal entry since returning from Mexico last August. My big green backpack and me. Listening to Big Thief, watching the sun rise bright salmon through muted indigo clouds... in the wrong airport terminal - oops. I was too dazed and dreamy for my own good and almost missed my flight. Airports are strange places for hefty observer types like me. So many lives are in and out, always on their way somewhere. It's still somehow peaceful in a way, like a pulsing meditation of jets. I made the conscious decision to leave all that was troubling my mind and to simply be present for the next few days. 

Upon arrival, I get a ride from a local to an Airbnb in Faubourg, Merigny. The first whiff of air I get is intoxicating. There's something about the air below sea level that is sweet compared to the dry, almost smoky air of San Diego. After a night of exploring jazz on Frenchmen street and avoiding EDM on Bourbon, I woke to wind chimes out my window. I felt whole, and grateful to be there.

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With my closest friend and her partner, we explored the city and found some neat hidden corners off the heavily trodden track. My favorite place the whole trip was an illusive vampiric speakeasy perched above a bustling jazz club on Bourbon. I felt alive as we muttered the password (given to us by an entrusting local) and swiftly whisked through a hidden door and up a dusty staircase. We entered to a tall man with an electric guitar singing Al Green songs in a blood red silk suit. I was already in love. Only a few others had managed to get in, and we enjoyed the getaway from the more touristy places. We stand on the balcony and look down at everyone walk by with their colorful drinks, illuminated by warm gaslamp glows. Maybe if you're lucky, I'll share the password with you.

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I have been to New Orleans prior to this trip, but  far out of the context of vacation or exploration. Years ago, I had worked post-hurricane Katrina to restore grave sites in low income neighborhoods. Being below sea level, the water table was so high the many bones would surface and wash away in mud. It was aa moving experience, and I had loved the city so much that I considered moving to NOLA when I was accepted to Loyola.

Though I didn't end going to either Loyola New Orleans, Loyola Chicago, or Columbia College Chicago, I often wonder what my life would have been like. What if I had taken those paths rather than the one to Santa Barbara? What if I hadn't exposed myself to the socially conscious cooperative lifestyle, or had the privilege of exploring the gorgeous Chumash land surrounding me? I'm not sure what I would have or wouldn't have learned about myself. Without going into excruciating detail on the philosophy of it all, I'll say that it's always interesting to wonder what might have been.

In this world of infinite possibility, I happened to experience some bad weather on my way home. My flight out of New Orleans was delayed four hours, and I missed my connecting flight home from Baltimore. I called myself out of work the next day and braced myself to spend the night in Chicago: the other city I had passed up. The air was frigid as I made my way to a cheap hotel to sleep in for the night. Exhausted from travel, I didn't think much of it.

All I know is that I am in love with who I've become. Despite what I might have found in New Orleans or Chicago, I found a beautiful version of myself on the bluffs of Santa Barbara. I wouldn't dare exchange the experiences I had those four years for any other version of myself. I've grown too much, found too much light, felt too much love. I can still feel the parts of myself that were drawn to these cities, and with retrospect and wisdom choose to peek into those worlds, if only in a vampiric speakeasy or a windy city hotel bed. 

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~~~ A bayou is a body of water typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or a marshy lake or wetland. Though fauna varies by region, many bayous are home to crawfish, certain species of shrimp, catfish, frogs, toads, American alligators, American crocodiles, herons, turtles, spoonbills, snakes, leeches, and many other species.

Next up: San Francisco & Humboldt

noLA playlist: 

Tailwhip - Men I Trust, Plants - Crumb, How Simple - Hop Along, Prior Things - Hop Along, Wild, Wild, Wild Horses - A. Savage, Capacity - Big Thief, Salvation - Wanja Slavin Lotus Eaters, Nont For Sale - Sudan Archives, Water - Thanya Iyer, The Turnaround Road - Diane Cluck, Orpheo Looks Back - Andrew Bird, Pulaski at Night - Andrew Bird 

-Rach