My photographs tell the story of what happened, but I'll try to explain in words, as difficult as that may be. I'll start with the car, because that was the beginning of the end. We were going to rent a car, because my co-pilot Jason doesn't drive stick; this means we would have to buy a club, get extra insurance, and keep an eye on our watches the whole drive back. It would have cost us lots of money, despite what the online ads told us. It seemed that the longer I was on the phone with customer service, the more this car would have cost us. I think there was even a fee for crossing the dashed line and hitting those stupid reflectors. At the last minute, I said "fuck it." We took my Honda Accord, fuzzy dice and all, and we managed to make it through the entire weekend spending less than forty US Dollars a day--for those noders who are afraid of the cost of such a gathering, let me break it down. For $40 a day, we got:
- The Voodoo Music Festival, incl. Better than Ezra, Bush, and the Black Crowes,
- Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters,
- A fill-up on unleaded in front of a giant papier-mache chicken,
- Monday night dinner at NOLA, head chef Emeril LaGasse,
- Admission to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at 735,
- A wonderful place to crash (complete with charming hostess),
- ... and so much more. I never could have anticipated this all on Friday, but I came, knowing that I'd encounter far more than I ever expected. Clearly, I have to break it down a little more.
First stop, Nashville. Having never met mitzi in person, we arrived, delirious but cheerful, wondering if they were stil expecting us. Turns out they were. Because of the time change to Central Time, we gained an hour. We wasted 10 or 15 minutes of it looking for I-265, which does not exist in Nashville anymore--be warned. After an hour or so of INVADER ZIM, I went to sleep on the fold-out couch, as did Jason. Sunday Girl attacked our fortified position with mixed results. I remained asleep; Jason did not. The Columbus Posse arrived: I remained asleep, Jason did not.
Morning came, and I awoke refreshed. Jason woke up, too. After a brief stop at AutoZone for The Club and new wiper blades, we hit the road, abandoning Apatrix to his gruesome fate on the grounds that we wanted to spend as much time in New Orleans as possible. Waved a quick goodbye to ccunning, zot-fot-piq, Pyrogenic, brassmule, cahla, WonkoDSane, mitzi, and of course, Sunday Girl.
We filled up at exit 6 off of I-65 south of Nashville. There was a giant chicken. I highly recommend it. Master Ninja Theme Song!
We arrived at Laura's place later on that same day. Hugs all around, and again I was swamped with name-pairs. "I'm Carson--Byzantine. My beard will surprise you into thinking I'm not in the military." "I'm Angel--oenone. Later on I'm going to give you a Badtz-Maru keychain which will light your way home." "I'm Laura--Templeton. I have more love in this little apartment that you'll find anywhere else in the city--and I'm importing more."
Reunited with old friends from Columbus and Appalachia and already-new friends from Nawlins, we posse'd up and went to dinner at Angeli. After a delicious burger, and a fascinating conversation about various dogma with dann, we wandered around some more. Suzy showed up, with blue-green hair instead of the pink #2 buzz I remembered from Columbus, and announced she'd be guiding some of us around the Quarter. We ended up ricocheting around until we found a nice bar on Decatur street. In retrospect, we walked maybe 8 blocks. It seemed like miles with all the sights and sounds. When we got there, we divided our time between keeping the ball out of the holes and putting the ball in the holes. While waiting my turn to shoot, I noticed a scary amount of grafitti dedicated to the same phrase: RIP Adam. This was a noder gathering in a city full of voodoo--expect the bizarre. I took a photo, took a deep breath, and kept moving.
We went home after a bit, colliding with the lately arrived Columbus Posse and several more noders in tow; groups changed around just a bit, and a few of us made it back to Laura's. I went to sleep after about 2 hours of intending to go clubbing at 735. I hear I missed a great time, but then I made up for it on
October 27 has always been a weird day for me where girls are concerned. This year, it was Marie. Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Just like in Easy Rider, we saw her grave. But then, that whole bit was much later in the day. We woke up parched and unaware of what was going to happen, and Jason & I wanted orange juice. OJ. Is that too much to ask? Apparently. Being a second lieutenant, I decided to get directions from someone who would give me a straight answer. The answer was, "Go that way until you can't, then turn right." Cafe DuMonde, here I come.
About two miles deep into the ghetto, zot-fot-piq suggests that perhaps we're going the wrong way. We asked a painter directions. His patois was worth being lost, and is one of the three memories I'm keeping all to myself and not sharing. If you want to know how beautiful English can sound, get lost in the ghetto on St. Bernard street, and ask directions.
We turned around, headed back, and briefly chastised Vasco de Gama for his directions. They were correct, you see--he'd just been facing the wrong way when he gave them. Setting out for Cafe DuMonde once more, with Magellan and his girlfriend in two this time, we made it... just after they had run out of the orange juice which we sought! I vowed revenge, patiently remembering my quest for a Butterfinger McFlurry weeks earlier. Ask me sometime. It's a crappy story, but I like to tell it. Oh, but lest you think it was a total failure, the sight of Christoper Columbus eating a beignet and getting powdered sugar all over himself was well worth it. And them beignets were damn good.
At that point, our paths diverged. Jason and I had come to town with the expressed purpose of seeing New Orleans in all of its gaudy glory. Despite little or no noder accompaniment, we wandered off. We saw Marie Laveau's grave, listened briefly to a spiel about her from a tourist guide, and then in the pause between the two crowds of tourists, I left an offering, made a wish, and knocked three times. I had forgotten the first rule I ever learned as Jurph, which is: Girls named Mary are trouble. Marie was no different, and I have since learned to be careful what you wish for.
On our way back, we saw Louis Armstrong Park
, a voodoo wedding
, and some ducks which were clearly pure evil
The day was only about half over.
I'm not sure how or why we got there, but we wandered around the waterfront with zot-fot-piq looking for an oyster bar which, we had been promised, would be full of moist noder flesh. We asked at least five times, "are there any oyster bars within a block of here?" and were told "no, but check that direction..." Each time, we'd set off in a different direction and find one within a block--but no noders. Finally, after a few confusing phone calls, we arrived at Desire. The food was delicious, the company exquisite: noders make any meal taste better. I categorically deny stealing anything. Lee, despite panamaus' apology, was a wonderful conversationalist--one simply could not ignore his opinions, and a lively discussion on the walk back ensued. We were bound, you see, for the Voodoo Music Festival.
When we got there, Snoop Dogg was on stage, asking for a moment of silence for the victims of September 11, 2001; in his own words, "that's some real love." I went off to a different stage and saw Better than Ezra finish their set. I also saw a heron, which should have been white, illuminated by the sunset, and it was a beautiful shade of red. But I am selfishly hoarding its beauty; this is another one of the three memories I am keeping to myself. Bush came on, and played their hits. It was fun, but I have never seen a crowd take less care of their own. It made me appreciate noders that much more. Finally, we wandered over to the last stage of the evening, and watched The Black Crowes play an awesome set. The energy of the crowd rejuvenated me, and by the time we caught a cab (blaring Bob Marley) back to Templeton's place, I was ready to earnestly begin having fun. It was well after 11pm.
You can read elsewhere about how I teased the drunk gay bicyclist. You can also read elsewhere about what was in Clover, or what we all ate. I spent my extra hour of Daylight Savings Time in that fabulous diner, telling oenone the "Fuck You, Clown!" joke, and singing along to Gloria Gaynor on the jukebox. Jason ate the pickle slices off our plates--all of them in one bite--and broke the ice for the rest of the evening, which was now 1 a.m. again.
We moseyed over to 735, and I was thrilled to find out that we were "on the list". It took me a moment to remember aphexious' real name, but she had indeed put our names in, and the word "Suzy" was enough to get us past the cage and onto the dance floor. BAR took our tickets--huzzah for noders infiltrating society! Angel had attracted a fan, and we were all having a great time (as near as I could tell). Just as my legs were beginning to regret the day, Suzy showed up. Another hour of dancing, give or take, completely re-energized me. Our local heroine slayed the stalker, and boogied like a woman possessed. Covered in sweat but dizzy and happy, we all grabbed seats at the bar. Our gracious hostess for the evening bought a round of drinks. I don't drink except in a few rare circumstances, but her hospitality was infectious; I chose from the very short list of drinks I enjoy. Guinness? None. Jameson? Score. So I had a Jameson, quickly. It had been a long time since Clover, I was likely dehydrated from the dancing, and, as I said, I don't drink. Deduce my reactions for yourself, or look at my photos. I was in the company of friends, and enjoyed myself greatly; I don't plan to do it again in the near future, but then, I hadn't planned to do it this time.
My last memory of the day was trying to get home before first light so my mind wouldn't fuck up and reset. I loathe having to readjust my internal clock. I slept very well. If I had to pick a day I enjoyed most, this was it. A week later, and I can still see flashes of the day burned into my memory vividly.
My body was not pleased with me when I woke up, but I was not hung over. Mad props to everyone who told me to drink water. A fast shower, and we were bound for the Quarter again, this time for brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. A long, noder brunch, and I had the distinct pleasure of sitting with bozon. She is an amazing woman with all kinds of stories to tell, and I wish I had seen more of her. Dataknife and I resumed a conversation we'd started at Angeli, and got sidetracked into a million different threads. We were on Imperial Japan when the dixieland combo arrived and played Happy Birthday to toastido. Huzzah! Lest I forget the E2 is people, this brunch reminded me. I won't go into the nipple-licking, but the omelette was good. In fact, the food was the best I'd had all weekend at that point. I thought I was giving my wounded body the treat of treats. But I was wrong.
Many people began to leave, and the sad, quiet process of noder attrition began. Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged, plans for another rendezvous were set, and those of us who were left went back to home base. Jason, C-Dawg, m_turner and I set out with General Lee and panamaus to enjoy still more of what the Quarter had to offer. After a forced march quest for the elusive Mint Julep, a trip back in time to a Cartographer's shoppe, and trying aggressively to get Master Ninja Theme Song out of my head (or into someone else's), we parted company with Lee & panamaus. Then the four of us who remained headed back towards Emeril LaGasse's restaurant NOLA. We looked through the glass door at the host, but he was clearly not in the mood to open the locked door for riff raff like us. We called the number that was painted on the door from a cell phone, while standing next door to the restaurant. A tin can and string could have done the job. We were told that walk-ins were our best bet, but walking in would be risky. After about an hour of wandering aimlessly, we waltzed in about 5 minutes before opening, were seated at the bar, and were served drinks by a fairly attractive redheaded bartender who reminded me of Laura Prepon.
I'll be brief about my meal: I had the mirliton etouffe with crawfish and sweet potato shavings in a light cheese sauce, the hickory smoked duck in a pecan-bourbon glaze with fresh corn, haricots, and pecans, and a mocha-toffee torte in creme Anglaise with a fudge drizzle. It cost about $50. It was worth it.
We brought leftover duck back to Templeton, and then she & I bored the other noders to tears playing name tennis from our Delmarvalous past. That occupied the time between dinner and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Again, we headed to 735, and again, we were on the list. The speakers were far too loud, and hearing the callbacks wasn't really going to happen; I've never had to wear earplugs to Rocky before. But Science Fiction Double Feature made it all worthwhile--most casts put on a striptease, but how many casts put on a smoldering lesbian striptease that would be illegal in Utah? Yow. Lest I be accused of misogyny, I'd like to say that their Frank N. Furter was also very sexy. We had to head back right after the show, and so we said sad goodbyes to aphexious, BAR, NightShadow, and toastido, and wandered home again. At some point, I fell asleep again.
Day 4 - How much longer can one weekend get?
Woke up hungry and thirsty. Sir Edmund Hillary wasn't there to give us confusing directions, so Jason & I managed to get to Cafe DuMonde before the OJ ran out. Beignets and OJ... mmmmmmmmm. Upon our return, discofever--who I still regret not getting to hang out with more--led us to BAR & aphexious' place. After catching everyone up on their cultural literacy (Aphex Twin and eminem videos for all!), and saying goodbye to aphexious and BAR once and for all, we headed to see the Tree of Life. After a pit stop by the dancing James Brown at Walgreen's, we saw the tree. Call it the perfect end to a perfect weekend, and a great way to say goodbye to the raucous city--we played around like monkeys on the rope swing. I said goodbye (again!) to NightShadow, toastido, and the ever-gracious discofever. We hit I-10 and drove all afternoon to Nashville, studiously avoiding I-265.
Day 5 - "North! You want I-65 North!!"
Scott, Sunday Girl, mitzi--thanks again. For friendly bookends on each side of the trip, a welcome port at the almost halfway point, and of course, more wonderful conversations. Oh, and thanks for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, where I had blackberry pancakes for the first time ever. Yum. The drive north was mostly uneventful and relaxing. Although I had problems getting used to looking for I-65 north, my cheerful navigator kept me straight. I think I pulled my Achilles Tendon on my clutch foot in traffic near Louisville. I got home in time to order a pizza, and watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" with my wonderful girlfriend Erica.
When I add up the damage--two hundred dollars, a hole in my jeans, a torn Achilles Tendon, sore legs, chapped lips, a stiff neck, and some scratched paint on my front bumper--and then try to count the benefits to compare, I realize they can't be counted, nor compared.
When I got back from my first gathering, I felt a beautiful buzz for days afterwards. It was better than the rush of logging into E2 for the first time, better than discovering some insane editor had decided that one of my nodes was C!-worthy for the first time, better than when Mary said she'd go to the junior prom with me (after forgetting I'd asked for 2 weeks). At the time, I kept saying the same thing over and over: "I've never met this many cool people at once." Well, now I've met you all again, some of you for the third or fourth time, and it's not just meeting people: it's falling in love.
That dizzying rush like vertigo that enables noders to stay up all night long, makes noders do things they normally wouldn't, gives us all perspective into the lives of each other, no matter how dissimilar we appear to be--it's falling in love, no two ways about it. Just like when you meet the camp counselor who knows all 117 sailor knots and has big McGyver hair, or the physics teacher who can show you why gyroscopes work and knows when the best time of day to visit a Renaissance cathedral is, or the girl who's so electric that your watch stops and you can taste sparks in your mouth... it's a crush, it's passion, and it's love. This weekend, I fell in love with all of you.