The heat broke today.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not Seattle in May or anything, but it stopped being balls hot out here and just settled into a pleasant not-as-many-balls hot. Really quite lovely (British var.).
I’ve been here for just over a week (357 days left) and I’m making my adjustment to my new year.
Every new city requires it’s own unique adjustments, and those adjustments are affected by what city I was living in previously. For instance, the adjustment from Chicago to Nashville was dramatic, as was from Nashville to Seattle. If, however, I had gone directly from Charlotte (my 1st city) to Nashville (my 6th), the adjustment probably wouldn’t have been as noticeable. The same if I had moved from San Francisco (4th) to Seattle (7th).
Saying Seattle to New Orleans is an adjustment would be a colossal understatement. Part of that is the difference between locations within the city. Jumping from Seattle’s highly-developed, relatively affluent Belltown neighborhood to New Orleans racially-, politically-, and sexually-diverse Marigny with its population of working class, working artists and bartenders offers stark contrasts in city living. Neither one is the version that I imagine when I see myself finally settling down, and yet both offer so much that it would be unthinkable to leave them out of my experience.
And then there are the adjustments that are general to moving. Looking for new work (again, ugh), meeting new people, finding new places to drink (check) and getting to know the local scene.
Music is obviously fundamental to New Orleans’ genetic make-up. There is an intensity of pride in the local music scene that just doesn’t exist in most other cities. I think some residents would be content to listen to nothing but home-grown sounds, never caring if anyone outside the levees ever heard a lick. It’s an admirable show of support for the artists here, though, for a guy such as myself who thrives on experiencing great variety, I have a concern that such insularity may feel stifling after a year. Time will tell.
For now, I’m happy to experience the music here because it’s fascinating, exciting and generally just fun. One of the things that I believe New Orleans is becoming known for is the way in which it mixes genres. The music scene is a fresh pot of jambalaya and half the excitement is in seeing how 2 (or more) seemingly incongruent sounds merge together.
Take for instance the Zydeco/Punk stew that is the (appropriately named) Zydepunks.
I’m a firm believer that, while the genre can sound a little stale when played straight, punk influence added to anything else always sounds fantastic. It’s the whiskey of music.
Accompanying the roommate and a friend of hers, I had the chance to see the band play last night at Maison de La Musique with a crowd mixed of obviously longtime local fans and tourists just wandering through the Quarter and stopping in for a show. We danced, we jumped, we raised our hands into the air like a Pentecostal tent revival and we drank the night away. Fantastic music and a superb show.
And a reminder of why I do this.
Because every year, making the adjustments necessarily to not just survive but thrive in a new city seems more and more daunting. You’d think the opposite would be true as I’ve been doing it for so long. But I’m growing older, and while I’m not old, I am reaching a stage in my life where settling into some form of normalcy doesn’t sound too unappealing. Certainly, it doesn’t get any easier leaving friends behind.
But then I have a night like last night and I am able to relish the unique and eccentric possibilities of my life. Not just seeing local music from all over the country (any tourist can do that), but feeling like I’m part of a scene and thus feeling invested in it. I want to support the Zydepunks because their exuberant music celebrates the city that birthed them, and that is the ideal heart of city living. Locals supporting artists who, in return, breathe life into the city, and thus, its citizens.
I’m still adjusting. I’m still getting my footing and figuring out what to do with myself day-to-day. Hell, I don’t even think my internal clock has adjusted to the different timezone yet.
But I will adjust. I will find my place here. I will learn what it means to be a resident of the Big Easy.
And then I’ll leave.
And re-adjust, all over again.