New Orleans winked me in and the deeper into her heart I trolleyed, the more enamoring she became.
Residents and visitors brushed past one another as if searching for the perfect beat — the perfect buzz. Jazz danced through the streets, twirling like a baton from one pub to the next.
This was my first time in this city and Mardi Gras was over, but I was determined to dive into the culture. I grabbed hold of the pole on the tram where a young lady was twisting out of her seat and escorting a blind lady into it. Through the window a man lay on the street as if it was his bed. Maybe it was.
As I jostled along the route, snapping pictures of places called names like Voodoo BBQ and The Bourbon House, and of the stately homes, one in which author Anne Rice lived when she wrote her best-seller, a gully-washer hit, rain pouring faster than the birds could fly, drenching the gorgeous city in a sort of shimmering shawl.
By the time I disembarked a few blocks from my hotel, the clouds had emptied their entire contents onto the pavement in the Big Easy. I slugged through the streets beside other pedestrians, water to my knees, and imagined how poor navigation would have been when Hurricane Katrina swooped through.
One passerby along my route commented how the city had failed to turn on the pumps which would have enabled the flooded streets to drain. As I wrestled my way through the water, I considered how unexpected torrents in life can knock us off our feet or suck us into the undercurrent if we forget to turn on our pumps.
I trudged on feeling like I needed to drain some non-essential elements from my life — like I don’t need to be lugging an iPad with me right now and when I return home, I should give away the clothes I no longer wear.
When the floods subsided, I followed a trail of people who were jumping like popcorn kernels in a hot pan down Bourbon Street as the beats from various bands blared into the streets lined with revelers, young and old, until I reached an oyster bar. I was tucked behind a table over alligator bites and a drum fish when a different sort of urge to purge hit.
The gnawing inside my gut felt like the alligator I’d just consumed was alive and digesting my innards. I grabbed a Rolaids and made a mad dash to the hotel with the intention of resting in a Mid-New Orleans’ slumber, but as I sprawled across my bed, the churning in my gut increased. I sat up and rammed my finger down my throat trying to incite a rampage, knowing that even when I was a youngster, vomiting didn’t come easy for me.
I imagined that with each breath, my belly was pumping poison throughout my body, and finally, I was able to wrench until the offensive contents of my stomach filled the trash can as violently as the rain had filled the gutters earlier.
After hurling, I thanked my body for pumping the contaminated food out. Joy washed over me, and a renewed sense of the importance of purging flowed with it.
It was raining when I left the next morning, and beads draped the magnolia trees like oxygen dripping into a withered-up, old friend. As my cab weaved through traffic, I smiled toward the souls hopping aboard the trolley in search of their own adventures.
Despite mine having roughed me up a bit, I felt an ease in the Big Easy — an ease that reminded me to let things that do not serve me stream towards the storm drain. The desire to taste new foods just may be my first item on that list.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.