I think that I may have been high when I gave myself writing assignments to complete while vacationing in New Orleans. Well, I guess the sheer notion of writing while on vacation wasn’t too far-fetched, but I definitely set myself up for failure. What possessed me to believe that I would write, according to a prompt, for practically every day?
The first day upon arriving in New Orleans was dedicated to relaxation and sleep. My friends and I drove straight through the night Monday and arrived Tuesday afternoon, sleep-deprived and malodorous. During the daytime portion of the thirteen-hour road trip, I began rereading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I read it for the first time while in high school so it had been almost ten years since I was familiar with the story. If I’ve acquired any talent in my lifetime, it’s been the ability to read in any condition and environment.
I wrote something short and sweet after I settled into our condo, but I didn’t know what to do with it -when I returned home days later, I actually looked at the piece of paper and threw it away. I had found a headline from a newspaper that I liked and wrote about an incident that had elicited a realization that was quite personal to me. No matter how hard I tried to create a fictional narrative out of the facts, I couldn’t flesh out the story. While I’m obviously not going to publish it here, I do think that the experience was interesting: it became possible to write something so personal that it terrified me to explore it as a writer.
The next few days were spent eating decadent foods and exploring the French Quarter. If you work in an office, think about your worst day and what you wished that you could have done in that moment instead of being confined within a cubicle: I probably did it (let your imagination run wild; it’s more fun that way!) In hindsight, I realize that I didn’t get to see the historical aspects of the city like I had hoped, but I think that I ultimately got what I wanted out of the trip.
Our final day was when I did the most writing. I had finished The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald somehow made me feel guilty for being a lazy writer from beyond the grave. For days I had combed through the guestbook that previous occupants had signed to show their gratitude to the condo’s owners. Many entries included the reasons for visiting, restaurant recommendations, butchered French, and what not from bachelorette parties, Marti Gras veterans, and honeymooners.
I had to do better than that.
There was a chaise lounge in the living room where Rose would have posed on if Jack had drawn her like one of his French girls from Titanic. I sketched a poor image of the furniture on a page and wrote a poem below it. I woke up early that morning to work on it and ended up completing it minutes before we had to pack the car for the drive home.
Here it is in its entirety:
We all had arrived Tuesday afternoon
after thirteen hours on the road.
But even when our exhaustion was high
we managed to arrive in party mode.
Beer, vodka, hurricanes, hand grenades,
a cold beverage for every boy and girl,
when hunger set in there was Lucky Dog,
which subsided the feeling to hurl.
The next morning was rough to say the least,
like a scene from a familiar movie.
We found our wallets and a few dollar bills
which had not gone in strippers’ boobies.
The following days were not as crazy
living as tourists, buying souvenirs.
Our stay on Conti in the French Quarter
was the best part of vacationing here.