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February 23, 2008

Mixed Drinks And Mosquitoes...

A package arrived this morning from a good friend of ours, Greg. Greg's someone we used to run with when we lived in Houston, Texas. We weren't expecting anything. We opened it hurredly. The box was full of beads. Mardi Gras beads.

Tim and I are travellers, or at least we try to be when time and money are on our side. The anticipation of an upcoming trip is often what keeps us going, day to day, through our working lives.

Being based in London we're afforded the fantastic opportunity to easily experience the myriad sights and cultures throughout Europe and beyond. We just got back from Amsterdam a few weeks ago and we have a trip planned over Easter which will take us from Budapest, through Vienna to Prague. We're throwing around ideas as to what to do in September. The short list covers three continents... four if you include a long-haul flight to Hong Kong.

And yet... and yet...

There are places that have a special hold over our hearts. Places that are hard to leave behind. Without reservation, New Orleans is the Queen of those places. The box full of Mardi Gras beads brought back to me a longing I'd buried deep.

Before the storm, before Katrina, we had settled upon the Crescent City as where we would try to retire, where we would take each other's ashes when we were finally separated by death. We would grow old disgracefully together, becoming just another pair of 'characters' that roamed the streets of the Quarter at dusk.

Even now, if I close my eyes I catch a sense of the Old Girl. I can taste her humid air, hear the mosquitoes' hum. I imagine myself sat on our front porch, picking out a wistful blues, home-made red beans and rice simmering in the kitchen.

But now, the memory of her sits like a stone in my heart. We've not been back since our wedding there, half a year before the waters came. All our news of her is second hand, from friends, from relations. We made the conscious, rational decision to wait five long years before returning. Three years have passed. Two more to go.

In the weeks following Katrina a dark cloud sat upon us. One wistful fantasy about our future lives felt like it had been forcibly wrenched from us. The only thing I could do to try and make things seem better was to write a song about her.

She has weathered
All the hard times
Always dancing
Always proud

Dug her heels and
Stood defiant
Though some folks would
Tear her down

Scared that I lost her
In the storm of yesterday
Her heart may be scattered
But she'll come home some day

Streetlights flicker
In the Quarter
And the stores start
Closing down

But Bourbon Street just
Keeps on swinging
Keeps on playing
That Cajun sound

Scared that I lost her
In the storm of yesterday
Her people may be scattered
But they'll all come home some day

When street cars get to rolling
That’s the turning
Of the tide
The waters came but
Now they’re gone
And it's time
For that second line

Boy, don't be scared now
'Cause that storm was yesterday
Her people are stronger
And the Old Girl's here to stay

Boy, don't be scared now
'Cause the Old Girl's here to stay

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