"Why are you going?"
"Why are you here?"
But when asked, what other answer could I possibly give:
I don't remember much about our first few visits to New Orleans. We only lived an hour away then. I was eleven. I remember the flower crowns with colored ribbons blowing out behind our small backs. I remember the book of houses describing the histories and rooms and gardens and inhabitants - both past and present of the Garden District. It was a green book with a white house, outlined, like a house-ghost.
But I do not remember the houses themselves. I remember walking and walking and sweating and thirsting but not the houses we were walking around to see.
Just the book.
Just the heat.
Just the thirst.
And now, as an adult I decided to come back. To see it now. To remember it again. I brought my momma, my sweet and enthusiastic momma. My encouraging and adventurous champion. Swollen feet be damned, she walked everywhere with me. Throngs of people drunkenly stumbling out of the bars, she and I walked downtown on a Friday night. She wanted to see the lights. See it at night. See it after the sun had gone down. Her cheeks pinked when she saw the naked girls. She heard the shouting drunk men. She saw the sticky wet concrete and the homeless men and women and dogs and beads, everywhere beads. But she came along. I took the turn down into the madness of Bourbon Street and she followed, eager, curious and willing. We walked six blocks through that alternate universe, that foreign land, and then returned to our nook, our safe haven, our refuge of escaping somewhere together.
I don't think a person needs a reason to travel other than for its own sake. If I had stayed home, if I had worked, if I had slept in and walked the dog, and done laundry and washed the car, I would have felt accomplished, but I wouldn't have recalled that weekend as being any more special than another. If I had saved my money, put it towards retirement or another, bigger vacation, I would have felt a little bit more secure. But I wouldn't have gotten to catch up with my mom. I wouldn't have been able to see the tombs and mausoleums and statues and river and trolleys. I wouldn't have seen the voodoo dolls and the oysters and the washtub bands on the street corners. The break dancers in the square. The Faulkner House. The masks the colors the beads the art the tattoos the coffee the beignets the history the haunted condos the sky the breeze the people the place.
I fly out in seven hours. I am already planning my next trips (New York, Boulder, San Francisco). But like every other place I've visited, I try to picture myself living there. Could I make a home here? Could I work here? Could I write? I bet I could. If not forever, for a little while.