Wednesday, July 28, 2010
There are moments that remain so clear in one’s mind that it would be suitable to say they were forever captured in a mental photograph. For me, one of these moments took place a little over a year ago, when on a chilly April afternoon – a snapping breeze was blowing in, unforgivably and unseasonably, from the Mississippi river only a couple of blocks down – I stood at the corner of Dumaine and Royal in new Orleans, and vowed to be back the next year or even sooner.
Earlier that day my parents and I had gone on a tour of Honey Swamp and, tired after the trip, my mother and father had decided to stay back at the hotel while I went strolling around in the Quarter. Once I crossed Canal Street, it wasn’t long before I felt as if I had stepped through a magical portal: Happy people, their lightly powdered shirts a delightful reminder they had betrayed their New Year’s resolutions, and had been unable to resist the forbidden aroma of warm beignets and coffee, walked around in no hurry, while the sound of street performers increasingly swallowed the pockets of silence with each step I took toward Jackson Square. New Orleans is one of those cities – in fact, it is THE city -- one can’t fully understand until one has experienced its magic. Unlike most beautiful tourist venues, New Orleans lives and breathes, and hums a melody of its own creation, familiar enough to make everyone feel at home within its weathered alleys, and certainly unique enough to take one’s breath away. Shy of the Eiffel Tower, New Orleans is the younger sister of Paris.
Once I got a little deeper into the heart of the Quarter, I suddenly thought of something: New Orleans isn’t only famous for its beautiful wrought iron balconies, but also for its pulsating spiritual essence…so what if I asked a little help from the very same Saints I had grown to know and appreciate throughout my life? I stopped by a bar and bought a beer, then walked down to a tobacco shop and bought a cigar -- both items are customarily offered to Elegba, the opener of doors, who’s also known as Eleggua or even St. Michael and St. Anthony, but I won’t linger on this too long, since it is really not important in this story – then sat on a doorstep, lifted the bottle of beer a trifle, and lit the cigar. As I blew a puff of smoke toward the sky, I silently offered the cigar and the beer to Elegba, and mentally voiced my petition – within a year, I wanted to be back in the same spot, and be able to once again drink in the joyful energy of the place.
After I left New Orleans, the year blew by swifter than the breeze lifting from the river. Many things happened in the interim, including the release of my two books; and now, as I am taking one day at a time venturing into the bayous of the publishing world, my petition came to pass: On September 8, I will be boarding a plane heading to the city of my heart, as part of The Book of Obeah promotional tour.
So, thank you Elegba, for opening this amazing door…I will see you in New Orleans, the cigar is on me.