July 20th, 2010

Adventure Knows No Age

Personal: First Night in New Orleans

Mike Novak, Southerner. Nope. Not quite there, yet. I mean, I'm there there, having arrived at my new apartment in New Orleans at about a quarter to midnight last night. My landlord's agent, Leslie, was beyond awesome in letting me take a cab to her place and getting the key from her, along with a lift over to the apartment. She said she was a late-night person, anyway, so it really didn't make any difference for it to be that late. My landing in New Orleans had an unexpected piece of drama when I pulled out my phone to call her and it started ringing just before I entered the numbers – I think from her calling me. I was so startled by the sudden vibration that I dropped the phone, watching it shatter on the tiled floor of Louis Armstrong International. Mercifully, the "shattering" was only the battery case door and the battery falling out. I put them all together and everything worked fine. I suddenly realized a moment later what a nightmare I had been spared in not losing my cell phone, with the only number that the movers are supposed to call when they are ready to arrange the delivery of my stuff.

My arrival was supposed to be around the later end of sunset, with my plane scheduled to land at 8:30pm. As it turned out, that's about when I took off into an absolutely glorious sunset at O'Hare International in Chicago, after 24 hours of fun with family. But a delay in the plane getting to Chicago from New York was compounded by a delay in finding a rivet having popped off the right wing. So while they announced it would take 45 minutes to repair that (and everyone on the plane enthusiastically supported replacing the rivet), my 6:15pm flight didn't take to the air until around 8:30. We flew west into Iowa to avoid a mass of bad weather directly in-between Chicago and New Orleans, and so I found myself looking out into the still lighted dusk sky once we were above the thick mass of clouds that were gathering around Chicago. It was like sailing over a forest on a world where whites and greys replaced the green of the leaves on Earth, fading away to plains and lakes as the sky grew darker around the Mississippi River. From my window seat, I could see we were heading west once we got into the air, and I looked down to see a break in the clouds at just the right place to give me a view of DeKalb from about 30,000 feet. I could see the lights of Douglas Hall, the Student Center, and other familiar lines of the town where I had done my undergraduate work. It seemed a sudden symmetry to pay homage to the place where I began my university life as I was on my way to the place where I would commence university life in my first faculty placement.

It was all quiet sultry night as I let myself into the new place. I was relieved to see that the power had already been turned on (so I could cross off "flashlight" as one of my immediate purchases from the nearly 24-hour CVS pharmacy) and that my inflatable mattress had arrived from Amazon that afternoon, just as I planned, since I was beating my furniture down from anywhere between one and five days. Also in my mailbox, I discovered that I already had mail from my student loan company, checking in and saying, "Hi! We know where you live!" Good times. I walked around the place again, taking it in once more, after my comparatively-brief time in it when I was in my mad dash of apartment-hunting in late May. It was larger than I remembered, and than I had been sketching out in floorplans for family and friends, with the oddly-shaped entry hall room and the living room both being larger than I recalled. The floors were rougher, and I looked with suspicion in each room as I entered, turning on the lights suddenly. I hate roaches with a passion, and therefore I knew I was kind of sunk with moving to New Orleans, where you just have to deal with wanderers coming in, even in a clean house. No signs of wildlife, and so my paranoia ebbs just a tiny bit.

I did need to go down to that CVS Pharmacy, though, to get some batteries for the pump for the mattress, as well as a few other supplies. And so I walked the five blocks there, crossing a pretty dead St. Charles Ave., and just wondering about what I had been told about the occasional crime in the area. Probably not the best time to be walking around, but, as Amy pointed out back in Milwaukee, I lived in a sketchy neighbourhood up there, although that was mitigated by being close to campus. I'm not in one of the bad areas of New Orleans by any means, but there's still the occasional thing that happens. What I did see was a pretty constant patrol in the area by a private security company called New Orleans Private Patrol. I guess all the mansion owners on St. Charles invest as a group in extra security for the neighbourhood. I got back with a few bags of things, and was annoyed to discover that two of the eight-pack of little bottles of Sprite that I had bought had been consumed and replaced in the plastic rings. Nice. I stored things away, checked my laptop to see if there was any wifi signal I could pirate (no), inflated the bed, and settled in for the first night in New Orleans. Now I'm on campus, in my office with my new office keys, and settling in for a lovely time with paperwork.