To hear Brett WIll Taylor’s goodbye to the city on WWNO public radio, click here.
Two weeks ago, I was standing in one of my favorite places in the world: New York’s Penn Station. Like the other half a million people who churn through there every day, I was trying to get somewhere.
Boston’s Back Bay Station, to be precise.
While waiting for my train, a man walked by. He wore a beard, carried a briefcase and had that hurried look of one who has been catching trains, going somewhere, his entire life.
As he passed by, this very New York man took complete leave of his senses and did the unthinkable. He made eye contact with me.
It was a miracle on 31st Street.
“Hi,” I said.
The man nearly fell over his wing-tips.
“Do I know you?” he asked in a way that was equal part stern, stammer and shock.
“Well, no,” I said, “I just thought I would say ‘hello’.”
The man studied me, the way you study a monkey picking lice off another monkey, and walked away in silence.
“Thank you, New Orleans,” I said to myself.
I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Saying thanks. To New Orleans.
You see, in 12 days, our wondrous dance will end and I’ll be moving away.
Moving is always about deciding what travels with you and what stays behind. The books you’ve grown up with get packed. The pants you’ve grown out of don’t.
With this particular move, I’ll also be taking the many lessons this great city has taught me. Like saying “hi” to strangers. Because, well, why not say “hi”? As Maude once told Harold, we’re all the same species.
I’ll pack up the fundamental truth that any situation is made better with glitter.
As well as the indisputable fact that time truly is relative.
My friend Cara once got into a heated discussion with someone who was convinced it was Thursday. Cara knew it was Friday.
It was Tuesday.
I’ll take with me this city’s never-ending capacity to break down stereotypes, conditioned truths and judgments. To show you that pit bulls are the kindest souls on Earth. That your liver is infinitely stronger than you thought it was. And that nothing beats 3 a.m. gas station fried chicken.
Well, at least not when it’s 3 a.m.
But, mostly, I’ll take with me NOLA’s reminder that life is a celebration.
To be lived daily.
And with joyous gratitude that you were ever invited to the dance in the first place.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller. Follow him on Twitter @bwtshaman. His new column, The Diving Board Chronicles, which tracks his journey west with no map, no plan, no certainty, debuts next week.