I've been so busy lately, it completely escaped me that I passed my 6-year anniversary of moving to New Orleans.
I haven't been doing much recently, except working and riding my bike, so life has been a little lifeless. I come home after long hours and have to think for a minute about what I should do. Should I do the dishes? Nah, too tired. Clean the kitty litter? I should probably do that. Oh yeah, what's my cat's names again? And I think to myself, it's a good thing I don't have a dog, or kids, as they'd probably feel neglected. Aside from a few necessities, cat's pretty much take care of themselves. I like that in an animal.
So basically, not much free time, though I did actually get the chance to squeeze in Ant-Man at the Theaters at Canal Place. There's nothing like watching a good comic-book movie while munching on popcorn with chocolate, peanuts and bacon. Yes, they have that there. It's a thing, and it is glorious.
But while I ride my bike home from work, usually at night, I do get a thought or two to myself. While going down Chartres Street, I'll notice the gas lamps shining the way – one of the staples that preserves the old-world feel of the French Quarter. I'm reminded of my old jogging-route while living in Ohio. I would run past this gorgeous house, because whoever lived there had put up New Orleans-style gas lamps outside of their home. At the time, NOLA was a favorite get-away spot for me, and I'd think about what it would be like to actually live here. What it would be like to have a jogging-route in a city full of gas lamps. It's in these moments where you realize that you have the ability to carve out a destiny for yourself. You have the ability to think on a thing, focus on it and bring about the reality. I allowed myself to inch towards a path that would lead me to living in one of my favorite cities.
Six years into living here, it's easy to take certain things for granted. You become accustomed to feeling as if certain things are a given, or normal, like you perhaps almost begin to think that Mardi Gras parades happen everywhere. Everyone in the country eats king cake. No one is at work on Fat Tuesday, the whole world must have the day off.
But then I'll grab a drink with a friend. Outside of the pub, a pink Cadillac is parked behind a truck that has a cart hitched to it, containing a heart-shaped hot-tub, because why the hell not? Or I'll notice that on my Bywater jogging route, someone has turned an old phone-booth into some kind of shrine, and I think, yep, only in New Orleans. I actually live here.
I'll ride my bike home and pass at least two brass bands on a weekend, one in Jackson Square and one on Frenchmen Street. And I'll think, only in New Orleans. I actually live here.
I'll go to the store with the express purpose of buying ice cream, only to find that I'm staring at a freezer case with nothing in it. All the rows where the ice cream should be turn up empty – and not just the Blue Bell. And in the same vein, I'll go to McDonald's at an hour that's not exactly obscene, and be told that they are out of hamburgers – and I think, only in New Orleans. I usually nod and smile when something like that happens, because what else can you do? This city, like no other, loves to pull pranks on you. In order to love it, you have to laugh along with it. You can't get mad.
Six years in and, at times, I still feel like I just moved here, still an outsider. When I meet a new person, usually they can tell that I'm not from here. Maybe it's my ingrained use of the word "pop" instead of "soda" or "cold drink." Maybe it's because I still have to ask questions, like "how far away is Shreveport?" But other times I feel like a veteran, like when I see tourists walking around with hand grenades and I think, "aww, I was them once." Or when I have to explain to my New Orleans-born husband where a street is in the French Quarter. I feel like I've done the time, I can now claim NOLA as my own. While traveling in other cities, I no longer hesitate to say New Orleans when people ask where I'm from. It's where home is.
And it's to the point where the second weekend in July will pass, the exact days that I moved here, and it completely slips my mind that another year has gone by.