One day in June 2011, just four months after starting this experimental citizen-journalist website devoted to New Orleans culture and community called NolaVie, I received a submission in my inbox. In those early days, we were still beating the bushes for good writers and articulate voices, and didn’t get a lot of unsolicited literate fare.
This piece stopped my day. In it, a newcomer talked about a moment. A moment at the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival when he watched a woman dance. A moment when he realized why he had been drawn to New Orleans. A moment that said something to him about the universe, and about place, and about music, and about living life to the fullest and following the cosmos and your conscience.
I wrote the author to tell him we planned to post the piece. And invited him to have a drink. (That’s what we do here, right?)
“You’ve made my day,” Brett Will Taylor wrote back. “Y’all are the first place to publish my work (this is a new path for me) so your note and NolaVie will always be very special to me.”
And so he has become to us. Very special indeed.
In two years of writing weekly Love NOLA columns for NolaVie, Brett Will has shared many moments with his readers. He is, in fact, the master of the moment – using the intimacy of experience and observation to draw conclusions about the bigger things in life. If, as David Simon has said, New Orleans is a place where people live for the moment, then Brett Will Taylor has been our channeler of them.
Brett Will’s writings – wry, witty, eloquent, passionate – have touched thousands of people. He’s probed everything from the city’s murder rate to costume basics, bar talk to beating the heat. His Ten Things You Learn Living in New Orleans earned more than 6,000 facebook likes, and his column routinely launches conversations that are loud and lively. This year he began taking his unique commentary to the air, with bi-monthly broadcasts on WWNO radio.
Obviously, he connects.
Like so many of those who find New Orleans, Brett Will came here in search of something. What, he wasn’t sure. He jettisoned a 19-year career in consulting and politics in Boston to move to a place he felt called to. He didn’t know New Orleans. He says he didn’t choose it.
New Orleans chose him. And he spent three years learning it. Exploring it. Loving it.
He didn’t make easy choices. He rented a house in Treme, a complex and alluring neighborhood, a place were violence paid more than one visit to his street.
He befriended young, old, straight, gay, black, white, neighbors, strangers, interlopers, the homeless. He dove into controversies – the Bacchanal shut-down, gay marriage, mental health – and beat the drum for all things New Orleans — Hubig’s pies, second lines, termites.
Brett Will Taylor is a curious guy.
But mostly, I think, he discovered that, if you love New Orleans, she loves you back. He says he has been healed by the city. In a way no other place would or could have done.
And now he’s leaving her. But not us.
In early November, Brett Will, having once again jettisoned a life and an identity, will climb into a rented car, when the planets are aligned properly, and head west. I assume Tyra Banks, his beloved canine companion, will be riding shotgun.
There are those who may fault him for leaving – we’re a self-obsessed lot here in New Orleans, and, really, no other place can compare, right? But I think what he is doing takes an incredible amount of courage. And faith. In oneself. In the universe.
And besides. What New Orleans gives should be taken away. Literally. West. North. East. Wherever the universe compels Brett Will to stray, he will carry New Orleans with him.
Those who come and are changed by the city never really leave it, do they? They simply export it.
So Brett Will has promised to continue to weigh in on the road. To allow those who have followed him for the past two years to tag along. To find out what those moments experienced in New Orleans will convey to him about the rest of the country.
He’s calling it The Diving Board Chronicles, this new monthly column. Because he is diving in. To new experiences. To whatever it is he is supposed to do.
It will be a column in which he looks forward. And back. In which he will learn new things, by reaching back and drawing from what he learned here.
God bless him. And for the rest of you, stay tuned.