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The World's On Fire & I'm On Vacation

Alright, maybe not the entire world. But beyond the literal and the recent events of the Middle East, there's been as much metaphorical fire the past few years, months, weeks here and beyond...

And I just had to get out from under it all.

While this wasn't specifically a vacation, we took a trip for a family event and turned into a little more. And hitting The Big Easy made it...well...easy.

This wasn't my first go with this city, and it wasn't even the first time with my daughter, or my mother, or even both of them at the same time. But like anything else, when we revisit - a place, a task, it's a new adventure, filled with new perspective.

The first time I was here, it was an utter blur. I was 21 years old and it was Spring Break. Whip-Its were sold out of the numerous gotcha shops, with each store trying to best the last one - 5 for 10, 12 for 20, etc. Rumour has it my friends and I may have gotten tossed out of the famous Café du Monde, one of us may have left some blood on the sidewalk, and we almost lost someone after a spontaneous leap from a wall into what thankfully would up to be some bushes.

The second time I visited, a few years later, wasn't nearly as debaucherous, but still filled with some traditional Bourbon Street shenanigans, and I sang karaoke for my very first time ever and was told I was Patsy Cline reincarnated by a bunch of very intoxicated women in the bathroom at The Cat's Meow. I also got into a deep conversation with an evangelical missionary who, in the midst of all that is French Quarter tomfoolery, was literally carrying a giant cross - dragging it through the streets and preaching to anyone who would listen. That karaoke bar is still there, but I didn't see any missionaries roaming the street.

The next time, I was much older, and exploring the French Quarter with two young children and my mother proved a very different experience, naturally. We visited a voodoo museum, we had cafe au laits and beignets and some other delicious New Orleans fare and wandered. We were only there for a day and much of that is a blur as well - but certainly not for the same reasons as trip one. It was mostly daytime, and the kids weren't really old enough to know what the stumbling was about nor much notice the slurred speech of some the other tourists. They didn't need to know then, and I was there to shepherd them out of harm's way.

This time, with my 20 year old daughter, and my mother, the lens with which I approached le Vieux Carré was different once again. 20 is a tough age to go to a place like this. While the rest of the world treats their new adults like adults, here these 18-20 year olds are stuck in a purgatory of sorts - old enough to be enlisted and trained to make life and death decisions on a battlefield, but not trusted enough to have a glass of wine - I shake my head at America again. That aside, she had to experience some things from the sidelines, peering into the tall open windows and doorways of the numerous bars and clubs - standing just outside to listen to the music or see the drag show. And if you're thinking that I left her there when I went inside - you're wrong. Of course, I didn't. Hanging out on the outside kept the expenses down as well - even though I could have had drinks on the street - I didn't. Well, okay, I had one. But it was novel - a "blood bag" of sangria from The Vampire Cafe. Come could I not? And maybe...she had one of those too. Maybe.

We took a tour and learned history; we took in a parade - collecting a decent haul of beads and other sundries and learned community; we ate delicious foods; we shopped in thrift stores and gotcha shops and shops that featured oddities, and magick, and voodoo; we observed art - both formal and informal; we appreciated architecture; we listened to music - percussion, jazz, rock, country; we danced on the street; we ate some more; we high fived people and petted dogs (and an opossum, a rabbit, and a large snake); we walked, and walked, and walked...and spent time with family and celebrated a milestone of one them, taking in a lovely and inspirational bar mitzvah service, witnessing a young man proudly step into his Jewish faith.

I'll admit, I was nervous about that. My mother was nervous. I was nervous about my mother being nervous. The synagogue had more rigorous security than usual, and every person had to be scanned before entering. While I could expand on the impact that has on anyone's sense of being I'll refrain for now.

But as the rabbi said, to have this moment of joy and a reason to celebrate during such a trying time was, indeed, an inspiration, and somewhat of a miracle in itself. Being surrounded by community, joining in prayer and song, helping guide those to whom this experience was new, and commemorating a profound moment shared by generations of our people - l'dor v'dor - brought soothing comfort to a weary heart.

And then the French Quarter took care of the rest.

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