Take Me to the River – New Orleans

I was born in Miami, lived there till I was about three, then lived in the western end of Broward County outside the Everglades, right on the borderline of that greater swampland running from the southern tip of the peninsula to Lake Okeechobee. New Orleans felt like an extension of that in some way, maybe because it’s still swampland. It didn’t feel too far from home, and relative to the distance I’d go in the future, it was very close to home. Close to home and the doorstep to the greater universe. To American music, good food, beautiful people, and the river.

Seeing the Mississippi was the first time I’d ever seen such a river, the quiet frontier of the city and the lifeblood, a reminder that it’s built on land and water and that for all its might, the city rests upon something older and wiser, bountiful and nurturing. Steadfast and always flowing. Always changing. Yet it feels eternal.

I didn’t think much about these things during that first visit to New Orleans. I was swept up in the music and the people. Like so many of the best cities in the world, it feels like one that’s always celebrating something. There’s something about it. Everyone just seems happy and at peace and enjoying the company of the person next to them, whether it’s a friend or complete stranger. It could be the delicious food. It could be the music. It could be the fact of the city’s survival after a hurricane left it in ruins.

It’s hard to miss the symbolism of a city lifting itself out of destruction and neglect and returning stronger than before. Maybe a music as improvisational, emotional and even healing as jazz naturally comes from a place like this.

Of course, there is no place like New Orleans.

Remembering to keep it close is a vital part of living my life, the recurring decision of how I want to live it, and what I want to stand for while I’m here. Somehow, every time I return to the river, I’m reassured that many of these things will, in a way, take care of themselves. I can exert some of my will, decide where it is I want to step, but then eventually, I have to let the flow of the river take me. As ever, it’s important to enjoy the ride. Put it this way, there are few things that make me feel quite as patriotic and at home as American music, and to me, that music was born from the river, this river which ends and begins again in the city of New Orleans.


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