New Orleans, Then and Now
Rand knows how much I hate change. He teases me about it, saying I’m the only die-hard liberal who gets angry when she has to alter her routine.
“I don’t hate progress,” I explain. I am excited by advancements in feminism and LGBTQ rights and Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. But I will rage long and hard about Nordstrom redesigning their flagship store in downtown Seattle or my landlord moving the recycling bin.
We hadn’t been to New Orleans in six years. It was reasonable to expect that some things would have changed. This is who we were when we were there in 2010, for our friends’ wedding:
I do not recognize those people. But that poor guy is wearing a three-piece suit in 80-degree weather and that woman has some remnant of a muppet in her hair.
Still, they look happy, though, don’t they?
They do. They look happy and her eye make-up looks pretty good and she’s glad she gave away that dress because it was too, too short.
The years passed, and eventually we went back to New Orleans.
We look happy, don’t we? We do. And my eye make-up looks pretty good and the skirt I am wearing is not too short. If anything, it might be too long.
And he, damn him, he just gets handsomer.
The nice part about old cities is that even if you don’t return for many, many years, they tend to stay the same. You don’t recognize photos of yourself from that last trip, but you will recognize certain avenues and the way the light hits the pavement and the scent of beignets heavy in the air on a humid night.
There is something beautiful and haunting about New Orleans at nighttime – I remembered this from our first trip there. The sun goes down, and a small measure of the stifling heat that characterizes spring days begins to dissipate.
We stayed away from Bourbon Street, joking that we were too old. But even when we were here in our younger years, it had proved too much for us. We walked down it for just a few blocks, enough for indelible memories of bacchanalia and noise to etch themselves on our brains, and then we left in search of beignets.
This time, our route was less circuitous. We avoided the crowded avenues and instead took to quiet streets, where the lights glowed dimly and the shadows danced and the sound of noise and partying was reduced to a faint din, and we headed straight to Cafe Du Monde.
It was exactly as I remembered, which I suppose is unsurprising. Cafe Du Monde has been in the French Market for a hundred and fifty years. It wasn’t going to change in half a decade.
Here are the beignets in 2010.
And here they are now.
And here is my beloved in 2010.
And here he is now.
Six years apart, and I’m fairly certain we are sitting at the same table.
Time changes everything. But sometimes the things that caught your eye years ago still manage to hold your gaze.
And you hope that will always be the way it is.
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