My boyfriend drove me to the airport in the worst, rainy, cold weather I have ever experienced in San Francisco. The raindrops pounded the car and shoved their way inside as I swung the door open to race for the terminal. San Francisco is one of my favorite places in the world, and the most wonderful place to have called home for the last few years.
Lately, though, I’ve felt its wear. A particular afternoon in downtown comes to mind when I think of the turning point of my love affair with SF. Homeless people poked me asking for money, throngs of tourists body slammed me as they ran for the entrance to the Gap on Market Street, and the mismatched din of teenage gossip and crackhead mumble jumble throughout the half hour ride from Powell to Noe Valley all banded together to gift me with a screaming headache. A headache that now returns every time I even consider traveling into downtown.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic to accept a weekend far, far away in the land of Louisiana…
One of my friends from college was having her bachelorette party in New Orleans. She had worked for nonprofits, attended a top law school, and was enjoying the life of being paid not to work for a year while her firm waited out the recession. This friend was a blast in college, and I imagined that her bachelorette weekend would be a muted, nearing-thirty version of the weekends we once spent together in our early twenties.
I had never been to New Orleans, and expected the city to be a pretty backdrop of an otherwise insane weekend. As soon as I stepped out of the cab onto a tree-lined, cobblestoned street, I breathed in an aroma that was to bewitch me for the rest of the weekend.
Humid, dark evening air, mixed with jasmine, azalea, SUV exhaust, rum and a hint of early spring fresh cut grass. These are the smells I remember from my childhood in Richmond, Virginia. I felt my entire body sigh with nostalgia. Oh Louisiana, thank you for hugging me with this familiar southern spring air.
For the next forty-eight hours, I was accompanied by twelve other girls partying away with a rotating brew of cocktails in hand and the haunting presence of that sweet Louisiana air. Whenever I had a moment, I would steal away to the front porch, pull out my book, stretch my legs into the sun, and read Murakami with my old childhood friend.