King Tut brought me to New Orleans the first time.
Kids in the gifted and talented program at my elementary school did not usually get to take out-of-town trips until the 5th grade. The exhibition of King Tut's treasures in New Orleans prompted a year roll-back and I came--petrified and overwhelmed--to New Orleans. I do remember the exhibit vaguely and the alarmingly gold t-shirt I bought at it.
Some years later I saw plaster of paris replica of said exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas. The "best authenticity money can buy," or so I'm told. Standing in LV looking at the plaster did make a vision of my nine year old self come rushing back. I remembered the crowds and the gold.
I didn't come back to New Orleans until my drive from Georgia to California as I departed for programs PhD. That time, I had a po boy, some beignets, and went to Preservation Hall. I came back later with the folklorists.
Ten years or so ago, I came back again for an education conference. I was involved in creating a new kind of undergraduate education program at Commuter State and one of my colleagues suggested we present a paper about it at a big education conference here. The feeling of being at a big conference outside of your field is not unlike being a third grader in King Tut's Egypt. I remember wandering around the city (it was just before Mardi Gras) and watching parades and feeling out of place and out of sorts.
At the end of my stay, I went to check out of the hotel and discovered that I had been charged $1000+ for some equipment. I protested that I had not rented any equipment and the fees were removed. I flew home. A few days later, I got a letter indicating that the charges had been placed on my account again. I called and was assured they would again be removed.
Then I received my American Express card bill. Lo, the charges were once again there.
I switched tactics and protested via American Express. They removed the charges and "investigated." Sure enough, I got a letter from them indicating that the hotel had satisfied them that the charges were legitimate and I was re-recharged. I asked for the "evidence" that the hotel had presented. I was sent a copy of an equipment charge signed by someone named Buffie who has my last name. Buffie. I am not Buffie.
I then had my dad, an attorney who recently compared himself to a late-year Grover Cleveland. Apparently President Cleveland in has late life got rather large and started shooting people when he was cross with them. Anyway, dad wrote a sufficiently threatening letter, mostly referencing his ability to sue and disparaging Buffie and all named Buffie. The charges were reversed and stayed that way.
Sometimes lawyers help when reason does not.
I came back about a year later (and stayed in the hotel across the street). That trip was marked by a missed flight that kept me from driving out to Baton Rogue to see Patti and Tom. I never saw Tom again.
I've been back since that incident, but only briefly when Patti took my mother and I on a post-Katrina view a couple of years ago.
So I'm back now. On the 35th floor of Buffie's hotel. Looking out over the river. It's not a great time for me to travel. The conference I'm attending is fine and interesting and has not reminded me of my King Tut self, for the most part, but I wish I were in the other LA.
Last night, I went to dinner with a whole bunch of folks from my University system. One of the attendees has left the system and is now the vice-president of the college across the street from my high school. The college where Patti was the chaplain for a while. I listened to her tell another person about her experiences. After she talked for a while, I said something about what she was saying, and she said, "I keep forgetting you know all about the places I'm talking about."
Yes. I do know about them. The memory of the past is strong here. It's written on the landscape.
I guess I'd rather start over with New Orleans. Go all the way back to the kid in the gold t-shirt and give her different experiences of this place.
But I'm here now, with all that I do know. So, I'll have a beignet, I guess. And drive to see Patti tomorrow. Then, I'll go home.
Honey has never been here, so I can come one more time sometime. We'll make new memories. And none will involve Buffie.