Here I am at a strip club on Bourbon, because it’s my 33rd and the lads insisted. They set me up for a private dance with Nina, a cute black gal with an ass like a jackhammer. But strip clubs weird me out, full of fake smiles and desperation. Here’s me in a back room with Nina’s ass in my hands and her tits in my face and nare a twitch in my pants.
Our seventh night out in a row. With this immersion thing, mistakes stack up fast. Harder to ignore and easier to fix. I’ve also noticed that the lulls never last. Like tonight, at about 1:30 a.m., all I wanted was to quit and go home. But I made myself stick it out. Sure enough, my energy soon bounced back and then there was dancing and karaoke and a girl named Tinkerbell.
In the supermarket, just approached, wondering now why she’s looking at me funny. “Wow, you really don’t remember, do you?” Takes a minute, but the penny finally drops. She’s the hostess I met on a cigarette break on Frenchmen two nights back. “So you hit on every girl you see, is that it?” Not every girl, I tell her. Just the really pretty ones.
7 a.m. Niraj on the couch, Shane and myself kicked back on the air mattress, exchanging old war stories and laughing our asses off. We haven’t been to bed yet, spent the night cycling around Walmart and doing the usual on Bourbon. It’s been a great week with these lads. Shane leaves town later today. We might meet again in Amsterdam.
Niraj will be on a plane before sunrise, rampage almost over. We spend the day challenging strangers and handing out $5 bills. Secrets spilled, proposals made, spontaneous dance parties unleashed. We have more fun than most with less money and no alcohol. Later we run into the twosome we messed up with last night, same mistake will not be made twice.
After ten straight days of being super-social, I’m all socialed out. I make my way through the Quarter to collect the bikes. Hot women all around, and I don’t talk to any of them. It’s not approach anxiety that stops me; I just need to let my introverted side breathe a while. And I’m glad I recognize this. Younger me would have felt like a failure.
I slept for eleven hours today, then went and caught a movie at the Prytania. Weaving a bicycle home after midnight, past porched houses and live oaks and across streetcar lines, Venus hanging in the sky alongside a crescent moon… I’m happy to be here, but catch myself wondering if I’ll outlive this city, or if this city will outlive me.
Given all the efforts made in recent weeks, I haven’t had a lot of success with women. Trying to put my ego aside and figure out why. I’m probably too eager, looking for quick connections instead of taking my time and letting things build more naturally. It’s tough though when I know I’ll be leaving town soon. Everything seems so urgent.
Life does seem to be speeding up. Hard to believe I left high school fifteen years ago, my day job almost five years back. Even South America is beginning to feel like a distant memory. I wonder if time will slow down when I do, if staying put in one spot for a stretch will make the months last longer. I hope so.
Back in the stands watching grown men chase a ball. I must have been to 100+ games at this arena. This scene is what first brought me to New Orleans, to live the bejesus out of a teenage dream. Everything is different now. The team has a new name, as does the arena. I barely recognize a face. I barely recognize myself. Who was that young man who lived for basketball?
Trying to be more present. I get caught up in my head a lot. Recognized it big-time last week hanging around with Niraj. There’s a man who lives in the moment, sometimes to his own detriment. But I could do with shifting more towards his end of the spectrum, not getting caught up in old plans, accepting and embracing whatever the now throws my way.
I was asked yesterday if it was lonely crossing the Pacific. Twenty-six days on a cargo ship? That was solitude. Loneliness is being surrounded by lots of people you don’t know, and who don’t know you. Even here in New Orleans, a city I could almost call home, I feel it. Stay away for four years and sure, people will remember you, some fondly. But nobody really knows you anymore.
I’m at a dance performance on St. Claude. It’s about a gay club in the Quarter named The UpStairs Lounge. Someone burned it down in 1973 and killed 32 people. It’s still the worst attack on the LGBT community in US history. Several of the bodies weren’t claimed, and there was no official announcement by the city condemning the attack. Humans make me sad sometimes.
Two and a half weeks left in New Orleans. I’m trying really hard to be here, now. It’s tempting to look ahead to Amsterdam, getting settled, having a home, building deep relationships. I have to stop myself from looking up apartments online, try to smile and fit in with the guys at the crawfish boil. But it’s tough. This freedom has become a cage.
Basketball mirrors life. Some guys love drama, argue every call, while others try to be fair. Some drive strong, others shy away from contact. Some taunt, others encourage. Some have too much swagger and too little game, others vice versa. Me? I tend to overthink and rush the play, but I’ll gladly guard their best player. I might get shook, but I’ll also get better.
My first paid speaking gig, giving a talk about travel. It went pretty well, people seemed to enjoy it. I felt at ease up there. I’ve found that nerves aren’t much of a problem if I’m well prepared. If you wing it and bomb, you kick yourself, wish you’d done more. But if you do good prep and it still goes poorly, you can’t really be mad. You gave it your best shot.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?