I know this may come as a surprise to most of you, but Nola Darling has always been somewhat an idol and somewhat a muse in my adult life. She’s a woman aloof, but adored; young, but classic; adaptable, but certain. In so many liberating ways, she embodies the fine line between love and lust that we all need to get well acquainted with before we can say that we know and like ourselves. She lives in that intimate crevice of ourselves that we most certainly need to get familiar with well before we decide to commit to sharing that self with someone else. I like to think that Mademoiselle Darling (if she were European, she’d definitely be a Frenchie) is the most important still frame in a larger, coming of age, motion picture about finding balance between protection, pride and progress.
Perhaps, I’m the only person that sees Nola Darling and the Big Easy as one in the same being. Perchance, the modern beauty of an old soul is lost on the rest of the world. But, I have no doubt that what I saw in New Orleans has darling running all up and through it. Talk about hopeless romance… if you show me a person that hasn’t fallen in love with something about New Orleans, I’ll show you a person who is afraid of her own reflection.
I found something quite endearing about visiting a New Orleans that has so much youthful vibrancy within the remnants of a series of colonial eras piled up on top of each other. Whether in shotgun houses or on second floor porches, colonial and neo-colonial history glazed the faces of every drunken passerby and shone in the shadows cast by the hippie-dippie street dwellers, bearing filthy dogs in tow. What it is today appears to be a direct reflection of what it has always been: cultures misnamed as other cultures, living side by side with privilege and poverty, wrapped in sharp social distinctions that are only cross-cut by allowing passion, music and food to act as the currency of ‘passing.’
Darling, one thing New Orleans does not lack is passion. Somewhere embedded in resilience, passion must live, no? So, it makes perfect sense. To rebuild a city takes passion. To leave the comforts of some American metropolis elsewhere, to see what New Orleans has to offer, requires passion. To come back to the cinder block remains of your house takes a passion of proportions I have yet to fathom. To play the guitar way into nightfall, amongst bar crawlers, amid sex workers and in the face of so much work to be done after sunrise, takes passionate dedication to the potential fruit of one’s actual labor.
I’m willing to call NOLA my crush. I feel punch drunk and I don’t care what you sucker emcees have to say about it. I’m sure she doesn’t look like much to you, but I’ve been in her bed chamber and that’s a memory I won’t forget. Try as you may to tell me that she has old sewer systems, hoodoo in above ground cemeteries and Mystikal. My love doesn’t flinch. Call the politicians corrupt. Remind me that the graffiti on the houses isn’t all gang signs. Preach the injustice of the public school system. And I’ll respond that not in spite of all that, but because of all that, I’ll stay her Mars Blackmon.
Even if I have to share her with all you lames, I’m going to hold on to the bit of her I’ve got and never let her go. Because, even in her broken and exploratory state, she’s been more honest about her short comings and more inspirational in her quest to stay standing than anywhere else I’ve ever experienced. Something about watching the sunrise over the levies feels like a reflection of myself, a still frame in a larger, coming of age, motion picture about finding balance between protection, pride and progress.