29th May, 2014. By Harper Cowan:
A short teary goodbye did not do us justice, it couldn’t have. Two denim clad gals with long hair and hearts brimming with love. The silver lining is that I will never be without that girl because we are love. (“The most important aspect of love is not in giving or the receiving: it’s in the being.” – Ram Dass) We are love to each other and we carry that with us always. Sometimes our physical bodies are on different continents, sure, but really we’re never apart. So Jess went to the airport, and Maz and I moved as quickly as we could toward the Amtrak train waiting to take us down to New Orleans.
We ran from the sidewalk into the station, down the escalator, and leapt on to the train with literally not more than 80 seconds to spare. A 31 hour train ride and we didn’t have time to buy any snacks! We talked about how much easier we are finding it, now in our mid-twenties, to be the things we have long wanted to be. We talked about various romances and self esteem, and took naps in all kinds of positions at all kinds of hours. Maz brought her effortless glamour to the whole train journey, buying us a bottle of red wine and some cheese and grapes to enjoy in the dining car, reading her novel by the window in a long floral dress with her bobbed dark and shiny hair illuminated by the setting sun, and curling up under her turkish towel to rest. The train rolled on and on through the day and then through the night, and then through the morning, and through the afternoon, slowly, s l o w l y , through Georgia, and Alabama, and Mississippi.
We finally arrived in the city of New Orleans! In the days, we ate $1 pancakes at our hostel and went swimming in their lovely pool. We talked to a boy named Roman (great name) about his adventures on trains and all the things he was learning about himself from travelling alone. We went to art museums, shops, and a glass blowing studio. We tried pralines and po’ boys and wandered around in the heat, you can smell the water in the air, there are palm trees and it feels like summer.
In the evenings we saw live music, everywhere. One night we went into every single bar that we walked past, we must have seen at least 20 different live bands. One place we ran in to just because we could hear from the sidewalk that they were playing a song with the words “New York” in it, we threw our bags down in the corner, climbed up on the stage, had a dance (there were only 5 other people in the place, and 1 of them worked there), and left to go to the next one. We danced on a strobe-lit, fog machined dance floor at a Jamaican Reggae-Pop CLUB that we haggled our way in to. (2 for $5) At another place we danced to a band with a drummer that hugged us hard and later exclaimed “I’m on mushrooms!” which explained how and why he’d hugged us so hard when we met him. We stayed out until 5am and ate cold beignets at Cafe du Monde.
One night we were invited in to a beautiful apartment in the French Quarter by two friends having some beers on their balcony in the early evening. They fed us shrimp and grits, and some kind of sausage that finally forced me in to confessing to our gracious hostess that I’m a vegetarian. Another night an incredibly kind man literally rescued us from a flash flood in which we were stranded and drove us to his mansion in the garden district. We stayed up late talking to him and his wife, and their teenage son and his girlfriend reminded me very much of my teenage ways, and we almost got to sleep in their mansion’s pool house (probably also a mansion, in and of itself) but had to leave to make it to the airport by 4am to catch a solid half an hour of shut-eye before flying back to New York.
New Orleans is the Paris of the South, for sure. It is beautiful and there is so much fun energy happening all around you. There was no shortage of that famous southern hospitality, we were lucky to encounter so much kindness. Someone there told me New Orleans is called “The Big Easy” because it’s so easy to love. I like the idea of love coming with ease, I am trying my best to find it easy to love all challenges and obstacles that come my way. I am grateful for every experience, even and especially the trying ones. Thank you Maz for putting up with me, for all the good (amazing?) dances, and for being such a such a gorgeous friend, and inspiringly incredible person! Thank you New Orleans for holding us in your easy to love smell like summer music everywhere arms for a couple days! And New York, thank you for taking me back once again.