I was walking down Bourbon Street on a cold night by myself the week before Mardi Gras thinking about intentionality, as one does.
The first full day of the Dad 2.0 Summit I was attending was, for the most part, in the books. I had a couple hurricanes in my stomach, and very little food, so I was relatively relaxed even after an exhausting day of peopling. This idea of intentionality pervaded my first day of the conference. Perhaps it was because, subconsciously, I was looking for it, but I felt like the importance of being intentional or purposeful in your parenting, writing, creativity, and relationships was being drilled into me by the speakers, panel members, and conference organizers and attendees.
“Decide what you want and make it happen!”
What kind of parent do you want to be? Figure it out and do it.
What are your goals as a writer or blogger? Formulate them and work to achieve them.
Want your children to be more engaged in their community, use less technology, or be more active physically? Model that behavior for them and show them the way.
So it was that my mind was swimming in a pool of intentionality as I strolled through the crowds of revelers, arms crossed on my chest to guard against the cut of a cold breeze.
I was putting my new-found mindfulness to immediate use: I was on a mission. I had my mind set on walking to Café du Monde, buying some beignets, taking a picture of the purchase and posting it on Instagram, and walking back to the hotel while stuffing my face with sugary fried dough, and you better believe I was going to make it happen.
New Orleans, gritty, raw, melancholy, and exuberant during the day transforms in the shadows of the night.
That sounds cool, right? I don’t know exactly what it means or if it’s true, though. My time out in the city amounted to less than a fistful of hours. About all I can say is that Bourbon Street at night during carnival season is about what you would expect: weird.
Beyond that, at night, it’s kind of harder to see because it’s dark. During the day, on the other hand, it tends to be more sunny and bright, you can see stuff. Like signs advertising ghost tours or a Trump voodoo doll stand.
During the walking tour I went on the afternoon before, we passed through a square filled with street vendors hawking beads, t-shirts, artwork, palm readings, fortune telling, and voodoo dolls, among other things. Considering my history with carnivals, it should come as no surprise that my step quickened and my armpits started to dampen as we entered the square. Our exuberant and eccentric tour guide was the antithesis of a fast walker, so I did my best not to lose touch with the group as I zoomed about two hundred yards ahead. I managed to make it almost to the end of the gauntlet without incident, mainly by pretending that I was wearing ear phones, when something caught my eye. A thin older man with black and white hair and gray stubble sat slumped in a folding chair behind a tiny card table holding a few small items, which I couldn’t identify with a surreptitious glance, and a ragged piece of cardboard with handwritten wording drawn in black marker. The words “Trump” and “voodoo” jumped out at me. I slowed for just a second and took a slightly longer look, but I dared not look any closer or else I would have had no choice but to buy the entire collection of what I assume were Trump voodoo dolls, which, now that I think of it, would have made a perfect gift for my mom. Once a street vendor has you in his clutches, it’s just rude not to buy his entire stock. And I’m not in the business of making people feel bad.
Luckily, the street vendors had scattered after night fall as I passed through dingy back streets and the mostly vacant park square in my pursuit of fried sugar balls. I whispered the word “beignets” over and over again as I crossed the busy street in front of the café, hoping to avoid any embarrassing pronunciation stumbles. I walked straight up to the take-out window and confidently said, “Umm, been…um, I mean, ben-yays, please?”
“One order of beignets?” the cashier asked. I could tell she was a pro.
Within seconds, I had my dough balls. I tucked the warm bag under my arm and started walking briskly back toward the hotel. I stopped at the first well-lit street corner to snap a picture of the bag and uploaded it straight to Instagram. That was going to get mad likes. Then I started inhaling the crispy, sugary, puffy little morsels of heaven.
Even while pounding beignets, I never broke stride. My only mistake while walking back down Bourbon Street, navigating clumps of glassy eyed men and women clutching drinks in plastic containers of various sizes and shapes, was that I kept straying from the sidewalk into the street. Each time I swerved away from safety, I would, with a sudden jolt, realize I was exposed and scurry back onto the protected pavement. As you might know, Bourbon Street is known for its balconies. These balconies overhang the sidewalks. And on those balconies are drunk people looking to humiliate unsuspecting passersby by hurling strings of beads onto their heads. I walked in constant fear that some rando would nail me and expect me to do something entertaining and/or tawdry. No thanks. Better safe than sorry. I stuck to the sidewalks as much as I could without getting too close to any hype guys standing outside bars and clubs. That’s a whole other can of worms.
Fortunately, I did get to see several people pull up their shirts to expose their bare chests in exchange for strings of beads. Classic Bourbon Street. They were mainly guys. Specifically, very drunk guys. All of which thought they were being super hilarious and original. They were neither. I did, however, envy their cluelessness and unearned confidence.
In the end, I made it back to the hotel, feeling accomplished and a little bloated. Which just goes to show you, maybe there is something to this whole “grab life by the horns” jazz. After all, if I hadn’t ventured out, I would have spent three days in New Orleans without gorging on fried dough, I would have missed out on double digit likes on Instagram, and I wouldn’t have seen any drunk guy nipples. So, let this be a lesson. Never let anything get in the way of chasing your dreams.
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