Leaving home is particularly weighing when you do it twice in a row.
I found myself in my Brooklyn apartment for the last time. Some snow had fallen the night before and a sheen of ice had hardened on the street. I disassembled my bed frame and hunted through the drawers one last time. If this were a movie I might reflect deeply for a moment on everything that had happened in the apartment, but I didn’t. The truth is that I couldn’t wait to leave, couldn’t wait to start my life again, couldn’t wait to reinvent myself, to fly, to become a hard and confident man, to steer my life where I wanted to go. My wonderful trooper of a father arrived and we carted everything down the stairs to the van. We edged onto the freeway and I didn’t look behind me once.
Being at home #2 (which is, of course, still my home) was quiet and wonderful. I got to cook for my parents almost every night and in the early mornings I worked out hard at the gym. By the time Stephen and our affable nitwit of a friend, Jon Mark, pulled up in Stephen’s car, I was feeling pretty terrific and ready to start my adventure.
All then there was Mardi Gras. There is nothing quite so strange as watching an entire city get drunk for five straight days. What’s especially strange is that it really is... everyone. I saw the drunks drunk, college kids getting drunk, and I saw what looked like a country club’s worth of rich white people standing in the middle of a side street drunk and smoking cigars. It can turn dark really fast; in few places on earth can you see the numbness of an entire species quite so clearly as Bourbon St. on the last night of Mardi Gras. A “Romanian gypsy” whose breath smelled like vomit read my palm. I saw people doing scandalous things to try and convince strangers to throw plastic beads at them from balconies. Solo cups slid down a river of human matter and booze so fast that rats could have used them as ferries.
By day three I needed silence and found it by cycling along Esplanade Avenue and north to the southern bank of Lake Pontchartrain. Along the way I found a church, Our Lady of the Somethings, and sat in it for an hour, just relishing the nonexistence of stimulants in my system or sound waves careening around me. In that sensory deprivation tank, I thought back home to my family, to the life I’d left behind. I found my thoughts unsettlingly pulled back to where I had come from, and for the first time wondered if I had made a mistake in leaving. I lit a candle, said goodbye to the silence, and got back on my bike.
By the time I got back in the car, hungover from alcoholic slurpies and desperate for a cure, I wanted nothing more than to flee from the insanity of that festival. What’s strange is that I can’t stop thinking about it now.
There is a place in New Orleans called F&M and it is a shithole. I don’t use that term lightly because that evening it was, factually, a shithole: there was an overflow of human feces spilling out of the men’s room and into the corridor, where I advised the couple whispering behind me that no, no they did not want to have sex in there.
This probably gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of bar F&M is -- people dance on top of a pool table, the music is a strange mixture of early 2000’s rap and hip hop, country, and modern chart toppers. The place dribbles over the edges with horny 20-somethings looking for a Mardi Gras one-nighter. I don’t do well with these kinds of situations: it’s like I don’t know what to do with my body. This is how it’s always been, ever since high school dances. Let me reiterate that: ever since high school. Why the hell, then, did I find myself in this shithole in Louisiana? Wasn’t the point of my leaving home to start fresh, to start all over, to not find myself in the middle of a club dancing to music that I hate and wanting to be anywhere else?
Answers don’t come easily to questions like these. I’d like to go back for a minute, far before this trip was conceived. It was winter and I was having a long conversation with a good friend of mine, Jim. We were talking about the west coast, how I was planning on moving there and how much good I thought it would do me. Jim, after a pause, told me that my problems would follow me wherever I went. “Yeah, but being somewhere where I’m at least happy wouldn’t hurt,” I countered. I don’t think I need to say that Jim was right.
Your problems follow you no matter where you go, because having problems is as integral to individuality as having DNA. It’s really pretty out here in California, I’m putting 100% of my time into something that I’m passionate about, but those same “problems” persist and will do until I decide to take action. That moment of decision can happen in New York, in Los Angeles, or in a shithole in the middle of New Orleans. Where doesn’t matter; you is the location of the issue.
So, with that in mind, I’m taking a hard look at myself during what is probably the strangest time of my life. I’m in a city I’ve never been in before, looking for odd jobs, and shooting up into the air a couple times a week in a trike. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.