We got into New Orleans late Monday afternoon in time to catch this great sunset from a distance.

 

 

New Orleans was an absolute must destination while planning this trip as our best friend Andrew has lived there for the better part of the last seven years. Andrew is responsible for bringing the three of us so close over these last four years and is really the glue that holds us together. As you can see, it was a much needed reunion and these smiles remained on our faces for the entirety of our 48 hour visit.

On Monday night we had a chance to hang with a bunch of friends including Rocky and Emily and hear about some of the fantastic work being done to prepare for Iron Horse. This event is a benefit music festival being organized by Andrew and his friends to raise money for ALS research, inspired by his magnificent mother Carol who is fighting the disease. The project is certainly an ambitious one but the progress thus far is promising and I can’t wait to contribute over the next few months and see this dream materialize come September 26th of this year. Kudos to Team Iron Horse and sending lots of love and good vibes to Carol. Keep fighting and inspiring and raising awareness for this cause!

Jeff and I have both been fortunate enough to visit Andrew a few times together and separately the last few years. Because of this, we were able to maximize our time catching up and hanging with friends new and old rather than worrying about hitting all the popular tourist destinations. The French Quarter certainly has its share of treasures but we were glad to have avoided it for the entirety of this stay.

We did, however, make sure to visit some of our favorite destinations in town, including our traditional lunch at Mahony’s, where I was pleased as always with my choice of the alligator sausage po-boy. We then spent a relaxing Tuesday afternoon nearby at The Fly which is an awesome little park alongside the Mississippi River. We brought a blanket, some paints, and a gallon of strawberry daiquiris to split amongst the crew. A picture perfect afternoon to say the least. Before the daylight was up, we made sure to stop by the amazing Tree of Life, which is where you can find us scattered in and around below.

We made a great new guitarist friend in Louis while hanging at the park who we invited back to Andrew’s for dinner that night. Andrew treated us to a new specialty of his known as the PoTaco, filling a baked sweet potato with beans, carmelized onions, peppers, avocado, and Sriracha for a filling snack that is surely going to be attempted again somewhere along our travels.

On Wednesday we took a trip to City Park for a few hours of strolling, swingset swinging, and more tree climbing.

Within City Park was a sculpture garden where Jeff snagged this stellar picture of a fantastic piece called Karma by Korean artist Do-Ho Suh. Just wow.

After taking our time to peruse the sculptures and attempting to cover some of the huge expanse of City Park in a few short hours, it was time for a snack before we hit the road. We stopped by Morning Call cafe within the park and before even sitting down were greeted with a perfect New Orleans moment to close the visit. We were able to catch the last few songs of a captivating performance from a family who goes by Pelican212. This whole crew oozed passion and soul and epitomized everything I love about this town. Hearing a rockin rendition of Sweet Caroline by this band led mostly by a bunch of 10 year old siblings with so much talent and energy was energizing and awe-inspiring and just so damn cool.

After the unexpected performance, we polished off our afternoon with these perfect beignets from the cafe nicely complemented by chicory coffee. The New Orleans staple was a must before we hit the road to head northwest across Louisiana into Texas.We kept ourselves thoroughly entertained on the long ride by making a roadside stop for some delicious Louisiana strawberries, and then having quality storytime with Jeff reading us The Little Prince in its entirety. Thank you to Jeff for his excellent narration and to my mother for the beautiful story which I appreciate more with every read. We drove through the beautiful green lands of Louisiana and got to see another spectacular sunrise on our drive West.

We made a quick stop in Shreveport, LA for dinner and decided to do our best to keep things healthy despite being on the road. We made some refreshing lettuce wraps with coldcut chicken, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cilantro, and avocado. With all the amazing fried foods and BBQ both behind and ahead of us down South, we were pretty pleased with our efforts to eat healthy with minimal effort.

That’s all for the Louisiana sightseeing portion of this post, stay tuned for an update on our trip to Texas coming soon. And feel free to continue below where I attempt to briefly discuss my favorite song and its relevance to this post and in my life thus far. See you soon.

 

__________________________

 

This post is a few days late mainly because I’ve been trying to decide how much of the following dissertation to include. I left it at the end in case you only wanted to hear about po-boys, beignets, and the like, but feel as though I owe it to New Orleans and myself and this blog to include it, so……

A year ago I was in New Orleans for a business trip and was struggling with an overwhelming feeling of stagnancy in life and work. I was having a hard time minding the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be and was starting to let feelings of frustration outweigh those of motivation. It was during this visit that New Orleans-native and rapper/wiseman Jay Electronica came out of the shadows to surprisingly release his song better in tune w the infinite. I already had a special appreciation for the city and this occurrence only served to strengthen the bond.

A year after its release, the song has quickly become one of my favorites of all time and has the unparalleled ability to bring a total sense of calm over my whole being upon every listen.

After fascinating samples of speeches from Elijah Muhammad and The Wizard of Oz‘s Professor Marvel to open the song, Jay finally comes in over the gorgeous strings and piano production (sans drums!) to deliver an absolutely brilliant verse. As soon as I first heard him open with “It’s frustrating when you just can’t express yourself….” I knew I had found something special. It’s a rare but powerful moment when someone else’s art is not only able to speak to you but to speak for you, helping you put your own thoughts and experiences into words not yet formed in your own mind. Experiences like this are what have caused me to fall in love with hip hop music so many times over the last decade, and why it continues to be the best and oftentimes the only medium through which I can contextualize my emotions.

Throughout the song, you can feel Jay’s frustrations with the world and his career as if they were your own. Despite the walls he has run into and the forces against him, he is determined to believe in himself and fight for the change he wants to see in the world. Towards the end of the song, these thoughts are apparent with the lines:

 

The waters in the bayous of New Orleans still glistenin’
The universe is listenin’,
be careful what you say in it

Jay first reminds us that the beauty of New Orleans is still shining despite the devastation caused by Katrina a decade ago. He then goes on to describe his belief in the law of attraction. In short, your thoughts shape your reality, and thus it is crucial to be conscious of the energies you are putting out into the world. The reminder to “be careful” is an important one. As powerful as positive thinking is, you can just as easily cause harm to yourself with negative thought patterns.

With the support of my family and friends like Jeff and Andrew and the wisdom gained through this song, I was able to rise above and work out of the funk I found myself in a year ago. In the words of Jay, I learned how to take control of my situation and 

 

Pause take a step back
Record all the setbacks
And fast forward towards the stars in a jetpack

Rather than letting said setbacks or missteps weigh me down and come to define my existence, I have documented them as the crucial learning experiences they are. The road ahead is full of innumerable more mistakes and reroutes but the best thing I can do is embrace the journey and continue to attack each day with a positive mindset. Listening to this song a year later and seeing where I am now is an incredibly powerful motivator and reminder that it really is possible to change your circumstances with the right mindset and a tireless work ethic.

I am just starting to learn that you have the power to change your world and live the life you desire. It starts with believing this to be true and being willing to work your ass off over and over and over again to see it through. As LaTonya Givens closes out better in tune….

 

Yesterday is gone
Tomorrow is on the way
You don’t have time to wait
Gotta get it right

 

 

Thank you to Andrew for hosting us and for bringing so many magnificent people and experiences into my life over the past few years. I know of no other people whose own college friends are now some of my best pals in three different cities across the country and I think that alone speaks to how bright and loving of a person you are. Even from this short trip, the fact that we met a stranger in the park who was eating dinner in your house 5 hours later speaks volumes about your character and your kindness. Staying up on Tuesday night with Trey and Jack and Jake and Molly and Cash (all people I just met this week and instantly fell in love with!) and trying not to cry while playing charades was some of the most pure fun I can remember in recent memory. Thank you for everything and I can’t wait to see you soon buddy.