A late Saturday afternoon flight after a great morning at Hordon Health seemed like a relaxing way to end the day. I was going to read my book, maybe take a nap, and prepare myself for everything New Orleans had to offer. To my surprise, and admittedly my satisfaction, the first leg of my trip got me started early on my cultural education. But it wasn’t New Orleans I experienced on that first flight; it was a mumbling Irishman who had moved to Southie about 7 years ago.
For some reason, even with his voice directed into my bad ear and the jet engines roaring right outside the window, I was able to make out nearly every word he muttered and relay it efficiently to the girl sitting on my right. I’m glad I did, since he mentioned at one point how frustrated he was with people who didn’t listen. “You can’t understand me? No, you’re just too stupid”, he said with a thick brogue.
His son was in Chicago being christened that weekend. His son that he rarely ever sees because the boy was born to a woman he met one night in Boston on vacation from the Windy City. As though he could not bear 3 hours without a beer, he ordered Heineken after Heineken (they didn’t have Guinness) until the fasten seatbelts sign came on for landing. Of the words I understood during our patchy airplane conversation, there were a few interesting pieces of food for thought, proving that if you just keep your ears open, you will hear a brand of insight you may not have heard otherwise. The girl sitting next to me, Tori, at one point said, “I wish I was born in Europe. I could travel so much more.” The red-haired Irishman replied, “Nobody wants to be where they’re from it seems. It’s all the dead beats who stick around and don’t do anything.” He went on to talk about living in the now, traveling if you really want to and how he moved around a lot, got jobs, saved up just enough money, and moved on to the next city. While I don’t entirely agree that those who stick around their hometown are always deadbeats, I do admire the freedom my new friend affords himself and the ever popular but rarely practiced philosophy of doing-what-makes-you-happy-in-life attitude.
As the plane descended, my fellow passenger said he hoped to see us in Southie on St. Patrick ’s Day, which would be just another day to him, but also a day when all the fake Irish people would try to keep up with him. We said hopefully, with little intention of following through, but with some smidgen of hope that it would actually happen just so that we would have a story to tell. That was how we met Sean, and I can only assume that’s how he spells his name, because he is as Irish as Irish can be.
The rest of the travel day consisted of rushing to our connecting flight, having that short bit of relaxation time I expected of a travel day from Chicago to New Orleans, and a stereotypical (in the best way possible) southern welcome to the city at around 10:30pm central time. We knew we were in the South when the shuttle driver sported a smile, offered genuine “How y’all doin’ tonight,” and showed concern for our health given our spring time attire. Coming from a nippy 40 degree Boston to a balmy 55 degree New Orleans was reason to celebrate for our group of 12 hailing from nowhere South of New Jersey. As we boarded our team vans to complete the home stretch of our journey, I got my first taste of music. In pursuit of broadening my musical repertoire, as Coach Q so often hassles me to do, I opened my ears to Trombone Shorty, apparently a New Orleans favorite and all the rage with the kids these day, on the way to my home for the week. This would be but one of the many musical experiences I would have, and though it was a slightly unorthodox hip-hop, jazz, blues fusion, it was by no means the strangest musical encounter of the trip.
(Photos all taken by me. 1. Jackson Square on the Mississippi, 2. Day 1, "before" picture)