Sweet rhythms and melodies of jazz surround the air in a warm embrace. It is both comforting and nostalgic, bringing me back to an era when music had no restrictions and the world was an oyster for those ambitious enough to grab it. I am at a lone table in New Orleans’ Café Du Monde, listening to jazz.
Heat clung to me as I stepped out of my mother’s car. Part of the Louisiana charm, I suppose. The city is new, foreign to my eyes as I examine the architecture. It’s definitely not what I’m used to in suburban Kansas. We step inside a visitor center, greeted with air conditioning and jazz in the background. It has a unique flair that instantly makes me want to dance. We get a taste of the history that surrounds the city in a cloud of mystery and intrigue. Even the layout of the streets has its own beat, if you can describe a city that way.
We walking until we come to one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, St. Louis Cemetery. Every mausoleum is cracked, fading, and probably housing the former wealthy elite. Supposedly one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country, it gives off an aura of spirituality. It is interesting to note that only mausoleums are found here, never a tombstone. New Orleans, geographically speaking, is located below sea level. So, if a person were to dig a six-foot hole, they would hit water very quickly. We came across one particular mausoleum with dozens of X’s written across the cover. Apparently it is a voodoo ritual and the X’s stand for the dead person’s name, which is unknown.
After we leave, the heat gets even more intense. The sweat continues to drip. The streets are bustling from both tourists and locals, each with a destination and goal in mind. The city is always alive with activity, never a quiet moment to be found. However, the sun soon finds itself blocked behind clouds. Drip, drip, drip. The sound of rain hitting the cobblestones echoes as the city is drenched. The air cools about 50 degrees as we seek shelter from the downpour. We navigate through narrow paths until Café Du Monde emerges like a sanctuary before us. We enter quickly.
Scents emerge from all around; the place is famous for its beignets, which are French doughnuts. We order some and sit at the far end of the restaurant.
That’s when I hear it – the music. It’s quiet at first, softly drifting through the air. Then the tempo picks up and the noise blares, filling all the corners of the café. I search for the source and to my surprise see a live band, standing in the rain, bringing joy to all.
I suppose that one action speaks volumes about the people of New Orleans. They do not shy away from adversity and are willing to make the world their own. Not many could face a devastating hurricane and build themselves up again. Music is the life blood of this city, and as long as it is playing, New Orleans is thriving.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.