New Orleans, Road Logs, The Great Adventure, Travel

A Tin Man’s Year in New Orleans

Now that I’ve finally finished my road logs through New Orleans, I thought I would throw together a quick overview of the time I spent there. New Orleans was meant to be my first long-term stop, but I originally only planned 3 months or so. Instead, I was there on and off almost a year. Here are some of the highlights, as I remember them.

October 17, 2012 (Day 103). Arrival in New Orleans. Slept well. Soon joined by friends Urban and Saumya, on holiday from Minneapolis.

Oct. 20. Anba Dlo. A major Hallowe’en festival/fundraiser at a local nonprofit, with close associations to the Vodou temple. The name means “From Beneath the Waters,” a reference to the community coming back after Hurricane Katrina. I volunteered at the event, which got me free admission; also dressed as David Bowie/the Goblin King from Labyrinth. After borrowing a young lady dressed as a goth bride (looked like Sarah), we won the costume contest. The costume was actually a big expense and I would later regret it, but it was worth it.

Jared and Sarah!

Jareth and Sarah!

Oct. 27. “Day of the Dead.” Actually Fête Gede, Vodou festival of the death god, but often just called Day of the Dead, a holiday more people are familiar with. To me this is like Vodou Christmas. The biggest event of our year and typically attracts 100 people or more to the Temple. This was my second year at the event, which consists of (a) a full Vodou ceremony with drumming and dancing for the raunchy, incorrigible death gods; (b) a big meal; and (c) a procession to the cemetery with a litter full of offerings and candles for the dead. My friend Cintain came from Mexico and joined us. Urban and Saumya there too.

November 2. House Blessing. I found a Creole cottage to rent, and moved in several days earlier. I christened it Rogue Chateau. I already had misgivings about the choice to rent it—client work was drying up, money was a little thin and I had passed up a chance to rent a cheap place with two other guys, offered to me days before I reached New Orleans. Saumya, Urban and Gary (all priests at the Vodou temple) came and did a house blessing for me. It didn’t fully settle my misgivings at the time, but this home would indeed be the site of the happiest year of my life (so far). I wrote:

“A gaggle of Vodou priests invaded my house last night. We processed backwards from the courtyard through each room to the front door, a traditional house blessing. Saumya poured a veve on the floor in corn meal, Gary filled the air with songs to Legba, and as he says, “all lights were on.” My mantle is an altar, its candles are a beacon, the door is open, the home is ready. Rogue Chateau is open for business.”

Cintain also lended a shamanic blessing of his own.

Rogue Chateau

Rogue Chateau

November 22. Thanksgiving. This was a weird but wonderful Thanksgiving. I went to at least three Thanksgivings total. First Gary and I went to the home of a very odd friend of ours, who went to great lengths to hold a feast for us but then immediately went and took a nap while we were eating. After we let ourselves out we went to Gary’s family’s house, where I was under strict instructions not to tell anyone he’s gay. Last we went to his boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving, a huge Puerto Rican family affair where the drink flowed and the jokes were raunchy. Then off to drinking in the Quarter. I bookended the whole day by stopping at my neighbors’ party twice, both too early and too late to catch their Thanksgiving but in time to snag some cookies and good conversation. It was a great day, much needed when I was starting to feel lonely.

December. The month as a whole was a turning point. With client work dried up, finances had gotten scary. As part of my effort to make new friends I also went to the local Couchsurfing meetup, where I met one of the guys I had almost roomed with. He was fantastic, and according to him so was the house I’d passed up. My rent there would have been $330, compared to $1100 at the Chateau. However, over the course of the month I confronted my financial situation head on. I found new clients, took on work on the side, sold artwork, got a grant and, at the very end of the month, took on a roommate. By New Year’s my life in New Orleans went from precarious and lonely to exciting and fun.

Saturday, December 8. Gran Bwa! Our temple’s head priestess was out of town for several weeks and we held a series of ceremonies on our own, with the other priests officiating. This was a really beautiful time because it gave me a chance to learn by doing, stepping up into roles that were normally filled by others. The one I remembered best happened on this date, for Gran Bwa, the tree lwa with roots reaching all the way down to the city of the dead. We held the ceremony under the tree in the yard outside the Temple, instead of indoors.

Ceremony for Gran Bwa

Thursday, Dec. 13. Launchpad. As part of my effort to turn my client work around I went to try out a couple free days at a local coworking space, Launchpad. It’s an excellent space and community. It didn’t lead to new clients, but did lead to new friends. This is also the day I met the girl who would, eventually, become my girlfriend.

Friday, December 14. Nerd Prom. Launchpad invited me to their holiday party, the “Nerd Prom.” I knew the girl in question was into me when she asked me to be her fake boyfriend to protect her from another man’s advances. It was the way she said it. Afterward we went for a walk and kissed. Unfortunately, she’d soon be heading out for several months in Thailand—the joy and pain of a fellow adventurer.

The R2 unit dispenses beer. Not kidding.

The R2 unit dispenses beer. Not kidding.

December 20. Date! Said girl and I went on our first real date. The downside: she’d be flying out the very next day. We took the ferry across the river and brought her cute little dog (with funny ears) with us. The ferry ride back, at dusk, was freezing. We missed a choir performance at the Cathedral so got dinner instead, then dropped off the dog and went out for a few drinks. She was sad to be leaving and I told her she would see me again.

December 24. Petwo! Christmas Eve is the night that the Petwo, the fiery spirits of Vodou, are given special honor. First we made fire baths in a special late night ceremony and blessed a variety of ritual implements, then we drove up to Lutcher, Louisiana, a small town on the river’s edge. Communities all along the river traditionally light giant bonfires for Christmas Eve. Our Vodou temple went as a group and we enjoyed a house party followed by the great bonfires themselves. A fitting celebration for the Petwo, and a good stand-in for my usual Midwinter celebration. (I described this a year later in more detail.)

At the bonfires

At the bonfires

New Year’s Eve. I spent this night with new friends, including my roommate and my soon to be best buddy Cole

January. Besides suffering from financial woes in November and December, I noticed I had given in quite heavily to New Orleans’ drinking culture. I decided to do a month of sobriety (a benefit to health, sanity and pocketbook). Friends told me this was a terrible idea, since January starts Carnival season, but I persisted and kept a clean record the whole month.

Also during this month I became seriously involved in my Mardi Gras krewe and our plan to dress as Led Zeppelin songs. We built an impressive float shaped like a Zeppelin, complete with fold-down guitar bar and keg.

Dazed and Confused Kewe (us). Picture by the Captain.

The Dazed and Confused Float

Saturday, January 19. Krewe du Vieux. This was my first Mardi Gras parade and, really, the first one of the season. Krewe du Vieux is known for its inappropriate humor, both sexually explicit and politically satirical. It didn’t disappoint. We went to a mixture of house parties before the parade. As the only sober one in the group, I was wide-eyed and lucid for the parade (but got worn out quickly later on). This parade truly dazzled me. The later tromping from bar to bar was more wearisome, but I still remember the night fondly. My landlord and soon-to-be good friend was a key part of it, as was his partner. It will forever be my introduction to Mardi Gras.

Natchez Trip, Jan. 31 – Feb 3. I took a long weekend to go see Jimmy, the host who had put me up in Natchez, Mississippi. He had invited me up about a month earlier to get my mind off my financial situation, but the invite came just as my fortunes turned around. Instead it was a very relaxing weekend, and I got to meet a friend of his who is the forester in charge of the entire National Forest I had adored bicycling through. We also walked along the river, met more of his wonderful neighbors, and explored the historic town in more detail.

Wednesday, Feb. 6. Nyx. This night will forever be enshrined among my happiest memories. Cole and her boyfriend Joe and I decided to bicycle up to the parade despite a forecast of rain. It was balmy when we set out, an electricity in the night air. Not long after we reached the parade route it began to rain. Not a soft drizzle but a good rain. We embraced it. The night was warm, and once we were soaked the rain was part of the magic. The women of Nyx doted on us, tossing us all kinds of great throws for being some of the only people to weather the rain. We ducked into a pizza shop where we traded throws for slices. We poured ourselves drinks from a kit we’d brought along and went back out. With bags and bags of throws, we retired to an Irish pub post-parade and eventually taxi’d home, to come collect our bikes the next day. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Thursday, February 7. Muses. Muses is one of the more fabled parades of New Orleans Mardi Gras, and I was surprised to recently learn it’s only been around 20 years or so. Another all-women parade, this one is “named for the nine daughters of Zeus and the goddesses who inspire the arts & sciences, as well as for the nine streets of New Orleans… Happy are they whom the Muses love!”

Happy indeed. This night was a treasure. The weather was clear and mild, we had a house party near the parade route to serve as our launching point, and I quickly made friends among the hundreds of people lining the block we chose to stake out. A group of our friends met us there, and among them was someone I’d met by chance only days earlier, who would eventually become a good friend. This friend managed to catch not one, but two of the treasured shoes that the Muses sometimes toss to revelers, each one a work of art in sequins and glitter. She gave one to two out of towners who were there on their honey moon. She also hooked them up with a room in a stone tower at a friend’s mansion, a modest step up from sleeping in their van as they had been doing.

What stands out most about Muses, however, was the fluttering butterflies on roller skates, their wings made of glow sticks and LED lights, holding  lights above them and passing out programs. This flock preceded the first float, giving the parade a sort of living overture, a buildup that made the excitement almost unbearable. It is rare to see such creatures of light, moving in inhuman ways, passing right by you and touching you as they go.

Our Mardi Gras krewe

Our Mardi Gras krewe

Tuesday, Feb. 12. Mardi Gras. There’s not much I can say that I haven’t already said in What Happens on Mardi Gras?

Saturday, Feb. 16. Bosale. I initiated into Vodou, as a free practicing member (bosale) of our House. Details are here.

Sunday, March 31. Easter. Early Easter morning I went to the Vodou temple. We had put the lwa to sleep earlier that week; in Vodou myth these are their days of rest. Now the altar was uncovered and coffee was laid out for each of the Rada lwa, the cool and wise spirits. I had a bad sore throat and had to beg some coffee from one of our priestesses to help soothe it so I could sing. One by one we sang to the lwa, woke them up and gave them offerings. Afterward we all ate cake.

Springtime. Eventually, the girl I liked so much returned from Thailand. We began spending time together. We went to a second line, a sort of street parade where revelers follow a brass band though a neighborhood (hence forming the “second line” behind the band). Originally it was a funeral tradition, but it’s used as an all purpose celebration and there’s one held pretty much every Sunday during the cool season. Neighborhoods take turns hosting them. The level of revelry in the street was intense, and we floated along as part of the crowd. We purchased beers from wheelbarrows of ice, jello shots from passing vendors, and cupcakes from a person with a few extras. Clouds of marijuana filled the streets.

The two of us were clearly falling for each other. Our courtship was slow, but bit by bit we became partners.

Also during the spring I found out that the Temple could not offer priestly initiation this year, unlike in previous years. This was crushing news to me as it was the main reason I had extended my stay in New Orleans, and had become a major part of my spiritual path.

April 13. Wizard of Oz. For Cole’s birthday, she asked us all to dress as Wizard of Oz characters. I took Tin Man. We bicycled through the French Quarter and the Bayou St. John, stopping for lunch and drinks and eventually ending up at City Park where we laid on the grass and enjoyed life.

Tin Man!

Tin Man!

April 30. Bealtaine. Although Vodou had become a major part of my life, I found myself homesick for my old Irish polytheist temple. I had no one to celebrate the Irish holidays with, and no one to perform big ceremonies for the deities with. Lorien, one of the priestesses at the temple, asked what was involved. Soon she and another practitioner, Geoff, had agreed to come do a Bealtaine ceremony with me.

We held it at the Chateau, in the evening before May 1 as is traditional. I constructed a new musical branch (a ceremonial implement) for this occasion. I had burnt my old one as a sacrifice, which is an appropriate offering in our tradition. I sang the invocations, they sang the chorus, we made offerings and greeted the gods, and then we had food and drink together. It was a true ceremony of the Seancreideamh.

May 18 – 20. Journey to the End of the World. For the first time I had someone else biking with me! Our fledgling romance growing, my new girlfriend decided to accompany me on the final stretch of the Mississippi River: about 80 miles to the farthest downriver point you can reach on land, and 80 miles back again. You can read her account of it here.

May 30 – June 4. Mexico getaway. Although an experienced traveler, my new girlfriend had never been to Mexico City, a city I adore. We decided to swoop away for a few days. Out of four nights, we spend the first three staying with a wonderful Couchsurfing host named Damián, and the fourth one at a hotel. I got to play tour guide. Our relationship became serious. One of my favorite meals of my life—Argentinian stake and red wine under the trees of the Condesa—took place on this trip.

June 26. I crossed the Mississippi River in a kayak. This was a better alternative to biking across the freeway bridge, and allowed me to cross under my own body power—no cheating. Thus, when I later left on bicycle, I could take the ferry knowing I had already crossed the river by hand.

8:00 a.m. June 29. Drew Parade. This was the day I was scheduled to bicycle out of New Orleans. I planned a big going away brunch, where friends could stop by for champagne, doughnuts and coffee and then we’d bicycle through the Quarter together to the ferry. Then they’d watch me leave and I’d bike off toward Texas. I went by Drew then, so the event was named Drew Parade.

It didn’t quite work like that though. Now firmly in love, I wasn’t ready to give up on the fledgling relationship and neither was she. So instead, at the brunch we announced a surprise: instead of me leaving for Texas, she and I would both be leaving for a few months in the Dominican Republic. It was, we hoped, a chance to get time together and to decide what we wanted to do with our relationship.

We still bicycled across the Quarter, and then she and I went on to her house where we stayed several days till our flight.

In the Dominican Republic.

In the Dominican Republic.

July 4 – August 30. Dominican Republic. The trip was entirely different than we could have imagined. Talking about it recently, we agreed that many of the surprises were downright unpleasant to live through, but make hilarious stories now that they’re over. You can read her account here (mid-trip) and mine here (end of trip).

August 23 – 25. Haiti side-trip. We also crossed over to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for a couple of days. It was rough, the roughest travel I’d done to that point. Plus I came down with a terrible head cold during my time there, which would haunt me for some time to come.

August 31. Birthday! The day after our return home, we met with friends for drinks for my birthday and a chance to catch up. I think both of us vented at length about our bizarre experiences in the Dominican Republic, probably more so than our friends were prepared for.

September. False starts. Once back in New Orleans, I had planned to continue my bicycle trip, and the two of us agreed to try our relationship long distance. My plans were temporarily stymied, however. I’d still had my Haiti cold on the flight home from the DR, and my congested sinuses caused intense, painful pressure in my ears. This led to trapped fluid, pain, dizziness, and partial deafness that went on for days… then weeks (and ultimately months).

I had first planned to leave Sept. 8, after a week of work time to catch up on writing and side projects. I put this off ffor another week, finally insisting I leave, but to no avail. I set out on Sunday, September 15 but all factors conspired against me. The ear problem, a late start, mechanical issues and heat stroke. At sunset I had to call a friend to pick up me and my bike and take us home.

Friday, October 4, 2013 (Day 455). I departed New Orleans on bicycle, beginning the ride to Texas.

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Adventure, Sea Kayaking, The Great Adventure, Travel

What I Fear Most About The Kayak Trip

Photo by Éole Wind.

When I get to Texas I will give up the bicycle and switch to boat. Every leg of my Adventure must be powered by my own body, and the Gulf of Mexico will be done paddling.

Here is what I fear most about the kayak trip.

  1. Running out of water. The first 200 miles after crossing into Mexican waters there will be no one. The first town is Tampico and until we reach that there’s nothing but deserted coastline. Not even farms. I always wondered about that on maps and now a more experienced kayaker has confirmed it. 200 miles could easily be 8-12 days of paddling and it will likely be the toughest part of the whole trip. Obviously, being alone heightens the risk in many ways but the most urgent one is water: we have to bring our own and ration carefully, with nowhere to take on more fresh water on the way.
  2. An accident. People have so many fears for me on this trip such as hurricanes, storms and cartels. We won’t be out in hurricane season, we will stay ashore if there are severe storms and the cartels just aren’t known for preying on kayakers. But every morning we are going to have to paddle fiercely to break through the surf and get out to sea, and every evening we will have to ride big waves back to shore like surfers. There’s so much potential for something to go wrong during these crucial, wind buffeted times—especially with rocky shores. It’s a matter of training and experience, knowing how to handle your kayak, but the training curve is steep.
  3. Personality conflict. This is the first leg of the Adventure where I’ll have co-adventurers and the idea of companionship sounds great. I’ve also been warned, and seen firsthand, how friendships can suffer under extreme stress. We will be living off rations, physically exhausted with daily discomfort and dangers. That makes people mentally tired and grumpy. Little things become big things. Everyone will look to me as the expedition organizer to keep things together. Will we get along?

These fears don’t hold me back. To me, fear is something to give you consideration: it says here are the issues you need to address. Right now is the time to make plans and preparations so that these risks will be minimized. We will learn to deal.

What I Want Most

Despite the above I look forward to this trip with happy excitement. There are many things I look forward to: days at the beach training, the thrill of riding a wave, paddling into small fishing towns, eating street food after dark, seeing dolphins leap beside me.

It will be good.

But of all the things I hope to see and experience on this trip, there’s only one thing I want the most:

Fellowship. 

I believe adventure is a life-changing practice, and I want to share it with others. There must be more people out there who have the bold or reckless spirit to commit themselves to the journey; who have a quest without, perhaps, a cause. How many times I’ve experienced great joy (or hardship) in private moments on the road—and wouldn’t the joys be sharper, the hardship lighter, with strong-hearted companions?

To adventure is not to find heaven, but to discover earth; it is to fall in love with our fickle, wonderful world and her many highs and lows.

I’d like to meet the kind of soul that takes a chance on the love affair.

Right now there are two individuals tentatively planning on joining me. That makes three of us putting paddles in the water this winter, three of us crossing the face of the sacred earth.

I wonder if there are more of us.

If you’re interested in joining the Adventure you should email me. We’re training in Corpus Christi, Texas this fall, then paddling 1,000 miles to Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Interested? Email me at [email info removed—adventure is over!] Not sure yet? More information here

Please tell others.

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Adventure, Bicycling, New Orleans, Spotlight, The Great Adventure

The Jessica Version

This is a guest post by Jessica, who accompanied me on the final 80 miles of my ride down the Mississippi River.

Jessica

Jessica

5.21.13: 

This weekend Drew had to ride the final 80 miles of his trip—the Mississippi actually goes past New Orleans to Venice, LA—the southernmost point in Louisiana, gateway to the Gulf! He kept trying to plan this trip with his friends and had trouble planning it. I made a list: Trail mix. Power bars. Baby wipes. Tubes. Tent. Tarp. Sleeping bag. 1 pair clean socks. 2 pairs clean underwear. 1 clean t-shirt. 1 long sleeve t-shirt. Sunscreen, bug spray, water.

The trip started Friday night, when I dropped my bike off at Drew’s house and we geared up: two saddle bags for me and four for him, plus the tent and air pad strapped on the back. I had been sicker than ever since my 90 minute practice ride on Wednesday, but was bound and determined to go.

I cabbed it to “Rogue Chateau” at 7:45 am Saturday, already knowing that if I showed up at 7 as planned he wouldn’t be close to ready, and we left a little after 8. It was 9 before we left New Orleans, though, since Drew had to stop at a hardware store and get pliers and fix his bike (I bought/made fingerless gloves I thought I might want) and adjust his front panniers half a dozen times and stop at New Orleans’ own “end of the world” (in local parlance). Finally we were on the bridge towards Chalmette and feeling ok.

Nine miles in I got my first flat. Drew will boldly hold a lane against traffic and assert that bikes should be treated just like cars. I’m wimpier and ride on the shoulder, and he told me later that “that’s where all the shit from the road ends up.” I ran over a little piece of glass. Luckily a few weeks ago Drew had given me a crash course in how to change a flat tire so I was not completely clueless, but it took the two of us an hour, which included replacing the ruined tube with the same ruined tube Drew had thrown down on top of the new tube I had taken out of the box, trying in vain to use his hand pump, using my iPad to watch a Youtube video about said hand pump, being offered a foot pump by a funny guy mowing his lawn nearby, who didn’t want to talk to us but left the pump in the bed of his truck, yelled “HEY!” and pointed at it.

Finally we’re back on the road, gunning it (ha!) towards Plaquemines Parish. 22 (or according to them, 10) miles before the Point a la Hache ferry we’re flagged down by Greg and Gina Meyer, a sweet local couple. She’s an ambulance dispatcher and he sells drinks at the movies (he said at the movies, Drew points out, not the movie theater—which may explain why he has cases of water, soda, and Perrier in the back of his truck). He offers us all three, and we gratefully take several waters and talk to him about Hurricane Isaac, which for them was worse than Katrina. I’m semi-desperately hoping they’ll offer their bathroom, but they don’t; they do give us their phone number, in case of emergency, which I take. A few miles later, we flop down on top of the levee and I find a log to pee on. Then we eat some trail mix and chug Greg’s water.

We press on to the ferry, which we’ve just missed. We wait for about 25 minutes until it comes, then 25 minutes on it in the (blessed) air conditioning. Drew passes out with his head in my lap—he’s appalled that the heat and effort (we have a 9 mph headwind) are getting him so bad, but I remember that while I have a $300 dad-funded Trek, he has a free 40 pound steel bike loaded down with gear.

It feels like we’re the only passengers, but when we get off on the West Bank a line of cars is getting off as well. One slows down and I hear “Jessica? Is that you?” It’s Joel, who I vaguely know from LaunchPad, and his girlfriend Toy, who I met once. They’re fascinated by our trip, take some pictures, and give us some chocolate chip cookies. Joel also gives me his cell number and promises a ride back to New Orleans if we need it. They offer us the “emergency water” in the trunk of their car, but, convinced (thank to the Meyers) that there’s a donut shop right around the corner, I tell them “You might have an emergency!” Although Toy seems ready to drop out of life and join Drew on his adventure, Joel seems antsy, and they head off on their afternoon excursion to Port Sulphur, 10 miles down route 23. Instead, we’re the ones with the emergency: almost out of water, and miles of nothing but a headwind, cars whizzing by us at 55 mph, and a trucker whose WHOLE WHEEL, not just the tire, came off. The truck is sitting lopsided on the shoulder and we realize how lucky we are to not have been there when the whole situation went down.

Eventually we decide to start knocking on doors—who’s not going to give water to a sweet young couple who have been biking for 50 miles? We see a sheriff’s car in front of a mobile home and I knock on the door (“You’re cuter,” Drew points out). No answer. We wander around the small cluster of trailers and see two guys getting out of a truck and hear what sounds like a small party. Indeed it is a party, at least after we get there: We ask to fill our water bottles, explain what we’re doing, and get invited in for crawfish with a family who never tell us their names. From what I can gather, it’s a grandma, her daughter and the daughter’s husband and their daughter, another woman and a passel of grandchildren. We go to town on their crawfish and accept more cold water for the road. Bless those people forever.

They tell us about the donut shop too, but we never see it. In fact we don’t see much of anything in Port Sulphur (we’d been promised thrift shops), except St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which looks deserted. We press on to Empire, where we find the Empire Inn—almost exactly 60 miles from New Orleans. We’re pretty thrilled to shower and bike another mile (“Before the bridge!” our friendly innkeeper Danica assures us) to Dad’s, where an overworked young waitress ostensibly assisted by a drunk guy called Twig serves us burgers and beers. Christina at the next table hears us talking and sits down at our third chair: “Are you guys cyclists?” She too is from New Orleans, and full of advice on where to ride. “People down here aren’t used to seeing cyclists,” she warns us. In New Orleans, it’s different, and she calls it the most bike friendly city she’s seen—compared to New York, Illinois, and North Dakota.

We return to the Empire Inn for a sweet night of sleep and sweet slow morning. The headwind is still going strong, but power bars and trail mix take us the remaining 20 miles—in about 8 hours. We can’t find an open restaurant (it’s Sunday), but we still manage to make a lot of stops—first to buy a white t-shirt for my poor sunburned shoulders, then to sit under a tree and eat apples and cashew butter. We’re cornered by a toothless “spiritual advisor,” who asks if we have any questions about the Bible and seems unphased or not understanding when Drew explains that he worships the gods of nature.

More riding. I realize I’ve left my sunglasses 6 miles back under the tree, but it’s cloudy and I don’t fret. We stop at a gas station where a confused guy and a clerk who “has a bad case of being 19,” according to Drew, tell us that there might be somewhere to eat in Venice but that “we have food here!” We don’t want their hot dogs or gas station pizza, so I use the bathroom and we press on. Our destination is the Venice marina, and a fisherman tells us we’re on the right track, but when we get to the very promising restaurant at 2:52, they tell us the kitchen closed at 2. As a very pissed off Asian guy storms away, we ask for beers and if they know anywhere we can camp.

The manager, Brad, says something about his friend’s condo and gets on the phone. The waitress, Kristen, is from North Carolina and on her fourth day of work. She tells us that if we want to ride back up to Empire (not bloody likely!) she lives in a trailer park there with cabins available. She’s cooking a feast tonight if we want to come by—here’s her number. She was going to bring home these two plates of shrimp but since she’s cooking tonight she won’t eat them so we should have one. In fact she’s going to put it in the microwave right now. We beg her not to, insist that we want to hold out for a full meal. Brad’s friend’s condo isn’t really an option (they stopped letting people stay there after some groups of drunks trashed it), but another restaurant is “just a mile and a half” around the bend.

A mile and a half? Maybe. Clearly no one ever goes to this place except by boat. We make it, though, and fortify with po boys and fish and boudin egg rolls and cheesecake, plus two more beers for Drew.

He really wants to get to The End Of the Road, so we go. We pass Haliburton signs, and a few trucks pass us, but mostly we’re alone, walking our bikes down gravel roads, riding through a few inches of water, spotting a dead alligator by the side of the road…until finally there’s a sign, “Gateway to the Gulf,” southernmost point in Louisiana. Pretty fucking proud of ourselves, though I’m getting freaked about the night riding we’re going to have to do if we don’t get a move on—it’s almost 7 (he’s not wearing a watch).

In addition to the end of the road, he wants to make an offering by the end of the river, so I’m drafted into taking some pictures of that, which are surely disappointing.

Drew makes offerings at the end of the Mississippi

Disappointing?

I really want to camp. I want to be tough and hardy and besides, we’ve hauled this damn tent for 80 miles (I took it today, since it was a short day). Nowhere looks great, but it’s getting dark quick, so we pick a spot on the river side of the levee, which is not too quiet and not too cool, but fairly hidden, except from the trucks on the service road who keep driving by as we hustle to put up the tent and get in it, away (hopefully) from the swarming mosquitoes.

I’m in the tent. I’m bitten up. I’m hot. I’m miserable. I’m made more miserable when Drew points out that this, to him, is “kind of swank.” I lay quietly, try to cool down from the inside out. Finally I state my case. I really want to camp, really don’t want to spend another $80 on a hotel, but more than that, I want a shower. I want to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s 80 miler.

We give it up. We ride the mile to the Venice Inn (owned by the same people who own the Empire Inn) and explain to Melissa at the front desk that we biked down from New Orleans and would love a room.

The AC is already on and I feel better immediately. A cool shower reveals at least 42 big bites on my back, legs, and ass, but a Benadryl puts me right out. In the morning they’re calmer. Drew snoozes as I bustle, but we’re on the road by 8, laughing about what we might find in the tent: a bum, sleeping? Another dead alligator? Will it be open? Did someone come to prey on us and find the tent empty? Will we hear about ourselves on the news later?

None of the above. The tent, dirty socks, and accompanying mosquitoes are right where we left them. We pack it up with the quickness and hit the road back to New Orleans.

Two hours down the road is Alice and Woody’s Restaurant. We make a quick stop to retrieve my lost sunglasses (right where I left them under that tree), but otherwise hold out till then and I’m so glad we did. Bacon, eggs, pancakes and hash browns for me… French toast for Drew, with extra bacon and plenty of coffee. The waitress thinks we’re nuts but keeps the ice water coming.

We pedal on and on. We unintentionally manage to miss the hellish bridge (not too long but a crazy steep grade that had Drew walking his heavy bike on Saturday) and ride down some back roads. I stop to pee and Drew picks some wild blackberries…not ripe yet. We pass one house and hear, “Hey! Remember me?” It’s the toothless spiritual advisor from Saturday. We keep going, fight off a dog or two, and eventually have to get back on 23. It’s as un-fun as we remember, but I suggest that we try to make the 1 pm ferry. We kill it on that road, and the tailwind helps, but even though my watch says 12:58, we see the ferry pulling away.

Another one’s not far behind it though, and we make our first ferry crossing of the day. On the other side, we stop at the Plaquemines Parish courthouse, which was burned down in 2002 by someone wanting to destroy the records of his past case. Gina Meyer told us about it and I talk to the woman in the post office, which is set up in a trailer behind the courthouse and is sweetly, blissfully air conditioned.

The ruined courthouse.

The ruined courthouse.

I have a little snit because Drew wants to stay and take more pictures, so we ride separately for a little while. We talk it out and I’m glad, because it’s a long ride before the next ferry, at Belle Chasse, where we choose the smoky but air conditioned cabin. A mom with two bad little boys is in there and I hear him express amazement at my lifesaving, wonderful, amazing Camelbak: “She got water in that bag!”

We get off the ferry right as a woman getting on finds her car won’t start. She’s already on the boat, with a long line behind her, so Drew helps push her.

We realize it’s only 11 more miles to Algiers and we’re thrilled—until we see the miles. First, a traffic-packed main street we can’t possibly ride on, so we hit the sidewalk on the other side. Then we turn on to a less trafficked but fast road, only two lanes which is actually the worst because people can’t always pass you. We haul ass on that road and get off it as fast as we can, only to find that next is another ridiculous bridge—not quite as steep as the one in Empire (at least we never have to get off and walk) but long…it’s got to be at least a mile up. We make it and I’m thrilled. I love the feeling of conquering a physical challenge.

A few more meandering miles to the Algiers ferry; the road we’re supposed to take leads us to a “No Trespassing” sign at a port, but one gate is open. No way to exit, though, so we double back through some not-too-nice neighborhoods. And finally, there we are, at the Dry Dock, site of our first date back in December. After some disappointing spinach salads, Drew orders a burger and I hit some shrimp scampi, plus the most delicious beers ever.

We contemplate dessert but decide instead to push back to New Orleans for chocolate chip cookies. On the ferry, the decision is made to buy cookie dough at Rouse’s, hit the Rogue Chateau for a final tag, then ride in tandem uptown to get my dog Nola, eat cookies, drink champagne, and call it mission accomplished. After a pleasant morning and breakfast at Coulis, we part ways, and I have to remind myself that plenty of people come into your life for a reason or a season, and there is so much to be learned from this one…

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Adventure, Bicycling, New Orleans, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life, Travel

Journey to the End, Day 3: Who Beside You?

And after the End, what is it like? How do you get back?

One of the magic places on the way back.

One of the magic places on the way back.

The Levee

The last leg of the Mississippi River was behind us. We had biked all the way to the end, made offerings in a lonely place, ignored a sage perhaps; we were done. And it was dark, or damn near.

We planned to camp on the levee. I have written before about the problems with illegal camping, but down here was different—we were far from any farm, any house, no one was bothered, no one could find us.

We could lie where we pleased.

What pleased was the nearest, flattest, driest, quietest place we could find, with “nearest” leading the compromise. It becomes a scramble when the sun is low—I remember these days well; Jessica was about to be initiated.

Venice is built outside the levee. We crossed back over to the protected faux-basin of lower Louisiana. We took a side road that followed the levee, a high rampart above us. I spotted what looked like a service road and we went to investigate.

Below the levee’s crown was a flat spot. It was protected from view, it was grassy, and it was high up—zero danger of flooding and little of gators. The breeze helps reduce mosquitoes, though that’s a joke: you’re in a swamp, son.

We hauled our gear up by hand, to lighten the bikes. Then we hauled the bikes.

As with an air pump earlier, we had never before used the tent we’d brought. It’s actually an ingeniously designed piece of gear, but in sweaty dusk by lamplight and ear-buzz I would have welcomed something a little less ingenious, a little more familiar.

The tent went up.

Sweatbox

Inside was a nylon oven. Sweat threw itself from every pore. Itchy legs, dirty clothes, fever skin, exhausted limbs. Rationed water.

I got ready for bed.

I looked over at Jess. “How are you doing, Broome?”

She looked straight ahead. “Give me thirty minutes.”

It was the voice that brings men ulcers: the am-not-happy voice of a woman. But she was self contained. She neither complained, nor blamed, not pretended to be well: she asked for thirty minutes.

I nodded, said nothing, and gave her the time.

This is miserable, I knew. Not the trip as a whole—the trip I adore. But there is a certain malarial fatigue that happens when you race the sun to camp. You arrive exhausted, stressed and worried; you must then do physical work by little light in unsavory conditions. When at last you get into your cocoon you’re wired but deflated. You tremble, you toss around wishing you could sleep.

In 1,900 miles I had many nights like this. I never grew to like them, but I grew to manage them.

The person beside me was experiencing her very first one.

Thirty Minutes

I’ve been reading a book by Ed Stafford, the first (known) person to walk the entire length of the Amazon (thanks Sharla!). The biggest barrier to Ed’s trip, every day, was tension with traveling partners: guides, friends, locals. Learning to handle the psychological and social aspect of the adventure was far more critical to his survival than knowing how to deal with snakes, spiders or caimans.

Likewise, as I prepare to kayak the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve spoken with a wonderful doctor who’s done the same. His words about travel partners echo Ed’s perfectly.

And that was my only concern with bringing Jess (or anyone) along: we get along great, but how about under pressure?

The answer, it turns out, was not bad.

Jess calmly listed her thoughts in no particular order. Thoughts like:

  • She did not want to give up if camping out was important to me.
  • She was hot and miserable.
  • She wanted to be able to say she had camped on the levee.
  • She knew she could force herself to remain in the tent all night, uncomfortable as it was.
  • She was worried that if she slept poorly our final day of biking would suffer.

I listened to all points and suggested we go to a motel.

On the way we got lost in the fog.

Checking the phone (map) I turned us around. Jess asked me several questions: how we missed our road, why we needed to turn, how sure I was, etc. These are reasonable questions. Finally I had to answer:

“Right now my body’s tired. When my body’s tired my mind gets tired. I really need to not answer questions right now.”

She understood and we continued in silence, successfully reaching the motel.

After coffee and showers, I said: “Jess, I feel like we both did something mature tonight.”

She nodded: “I’m really proud of us.”

Ferries! (I did not make us late.)

Ferries! (Me not making us late.)

Tail Wind

All of that was the night of Day 2. Day 3 deserves little mention, because it was so simple.

We had a tail wind. We had different priorities for pace and schedule: fellow adventurers warn that this is the biggest source of contention. To her, we had reached my goal and the mission was over; get home quick. To me, we’d found one magic place at the end of the river and there were many more to discover.

We worked this out, doing mature things.

We pedaled 80 miles in a grand day, sailing on an 8 mph tail wind and strong legs. We crossed three ferries so we could follow the prettiest roads; in Algiers we faced our toughest traffic, conditions that left me with a pounding heart and an iron grip on my bike. Jessica handled it with a cool head.

We also crossed this bridge:

Highway 407 Bridge

“Report a Problem.” Problem: THIS BRIDGE!

After a rain shower and a gated dead end we reached the Dry Dock bar and restaurant (site of our first date) beside the Algiers Ferry. (For non-New Orleanians, that means one ferry ride from home.) There, no one cared about the miles we had gone or the dangers we had faced. We were just two more people with too many requests for our overworked waitress. Her adventure occluded our own.

Beer, salads, and too much food; an oddly comfortable ferry ride; a jaunt through the Quarter; coming full circle at Rogue Chateau; and 3 more miles back to Jess’ place for champagne and cookies.

This is the first leg of the Great Adventure. The first leg of a dream, a prophetic dream come true; the first leg of wresting Fate, of choosing Fate, of lightly holding Fate.

This is what it is to seek the heroic life.

This is the last part of a series. You can also read Day 1, Day 2 and reflection 2.5. Better yet, you can even read Jessica’s version.

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Adventure, Bicycling, New Orleans, The Great Adventure

Journey to the End: Barbarians Take Showers

Afternoons such as these are rare, rare in the life of humanity. Afternoons where you survive first by the strength of your own good body, second by the warmth and cheerfulness of fine companions, third by the kindness of those you’ve just met, and only last, only a distant last, by the money earned through hard work—which you give freely without a hesitating thought.

Such afternoons are rare.

Drew and Jessica at the End of the Word. Photo by Jessica Broome.

Drew and Jessica at the End of the Word. Photo by Jessica Broome.

On July 4, 2012 I began my journey. I bathed in the waters of the sacred Lake Itasca, I swam to her center and made my sacrifice, a dear friend watched on the shore, I waded in the stream Mississippi and I bicycled away.

1,700 miles I was alone on the road.

Saturday I set out again, now to cross the final 80 miles and see the end of that little stream, that little creek. She disgorges 12 million hatboxes of water each minute I’m at her side. In Minnesota I crossed her in four careful steps.

This is the story of that final 80 miles from New Orleans to the end of the Mississippi River (part 1).

Day 1, Heat Stroke

Jessicais my companion. When Jessica declared she would come along, I was happy—and cautious.

“80 miles is a long day on the road. What’s the furthest you’ve ever biked?”

On my advice, Jessica tried a 20 mile ride along the levee. That night she was painfully ill; a day later she did it again. Well, Doctor, welcome to the Great Adventure.

The jump from 20 miles to 80 in a day is a nasty one, but as far as I was concerned she had the right spirit. Worst case scenario we fail completely; then in a week, try again. So we began.

We left on the dot of “seven o’clock ish,” which is to say 8:45 after numerous spot repairs, delays and adjustments. In other words we maintained the same stringent schedule I’ve held myself to since Day 1.

We paid our respects at “the End of the World” and crossed the metal-cage bridge out of the city that care forgot.

There are two sides of the river, the East Bank (through Bernard Parish) and the West Bank (through Algiers). The East Bank is longer but prettier, and after 46 miles the road ends. That’s the side we took.

(For the love of the gods don’t ask me for maps.)

10 miles in we got a flat; a stranger loaned us his pump (better than the one I brought). 25 miles in, a man yelled for us to stop and get cold water. His home, and miles of parish around it, looked like they’d been bombed from space; he told us calmly that Hurricane Isaac was—and I quote—“far worse than Katrina.” Did you see that on the news?

Near the end of those 46 miles is the Pointe a la Hache ferry, the last crossing of the entire Mississippi River. I decided a long time ago that taking the ferry is not cheating—in this specific case. That’s because I’ve crossed the river by my own body power many times on the Adventure; I could’ve stayed on the West side if I’d wanted. In any case I went to the farthest bikable point on the East side, ferry free; if you’re a purist, consider everything else gravy.
Jessica was rock solid. Myself, I had a hard time.

I was disappointed that my body didn’t handle the heat. It was used to this, once. By the ferry dock we were low on water and I had heat stroke.

Then my companion got her first lesson in car owners’ many failures; the town “just across the ferry” (to drivers) was twelve miles away. We could expect no gas stations, and maybe even no houses. The situation was dangerous.

In the shady den of the ferry I laid on a steel bench, the cool metal leeching sunshine right out of me. I fell into a sickly sleep that lasted thirty minutes, and seemed more like three—I barely stumbled outside to make offerings when the boat finally moved.

How do you handle heat exhaustion? Jessica once asked me what I learned on my Adventure. My answer was:

Above all I learned to pass calmly through hardship, and take delight in small pleasures.

Both lessons conspired to save me. After my rest I felt dizzy but improved; ready at least to foray out in hopes of a house with a spigot. There are few options, and I accepted them with a shrug—if it became an emergency I could rest in shade while Jessica went ahead.

And small pleasures! One of the cars on the ferry turned out to be two of Jessica’s friends. Complete coincidence, and of course they had no water with them—but they had cookies. They gave us nearly a dozen, and we ate them slow-like, careful of our tummies. But the sugar and the fellowship perked me right up, and I was ready to go.

The West Bank 

The far side brought new adventures. The road there is a high speed highway, shade is lacking, settlements far apart.

When at last we saw houses, we stopped for water. That was 7 miles after the ferry.

Did they give us water? Yes, but I hardly noticed: they invited us in for a full blown crawfish boil. It was two branches of a black family and I suspect they’ll be talking about the crazy dehydrated white people for a long time. They were very gracious, very generous and extremely helpful in telling us what lay ahead. I ate more crawfish than I should have, and never regretted it.

And this bears mention—Jessica and I set out with the best of digital technology. We had a map and forecast at all times; we knew the route, the ferry schedules, the distances involved. We had full access to apps that show local restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and of course Wikipedia with its info on local towns. All of that was useless.

Jess said it well:

We would’ve done just as well with nothing but a paper map.

I’d say she’s right. Seeing the roads and route was useful, but Google didn’t know about any local businesses and we were riding blind into the unknown. We really had no clue if our final destination (Venice!) would be a picturesque resort town full of fishers or nothing but refineries.

It ended up being a place we couldn’t have begun to imagine.

Dad’s

We weren’t headed all the way to Venice on Day 1; after the crawfish boil it was evening and we knew we wouldn’t get that far. But we were refreshed and in high spirits, plus the sky cooled down. We made a very clever decision:

We would go till we found a motel. 

Locals indicated that might be around Buras, a good 20 miles more; I heartily endorsed the plan.

The Adventure is often camp-outs and bush life, but that’s by necessity more than design. Given the option, barbarians take showers.

We lucked out finding the Empire Inn after just 12 miles, clocking about 60 total for the day. We got a discount rate—“because of the fishing tournament”—and found out the only nearby restaurant, a mile down the road, would close in just one hour.

These two bicyclists took the fastest showers you’ve ever seen, then raced on. We arrived just before closing at a great roadside eatery known as Dad’s (motto: “When you can’t go to Mom’s, go to Dad’s.”) I recommend it if you ever get down that way, but you never will.

Dinner was thousands of calories, including giant local oysters fried to perfection. We drank two beers apiece, which after a marathon bike ride amounts an amazing cocktail of buzz, joy and sedation. Completely sated, we chatted on the restaurant porch before wobbling half a mile back to the motel.

Both forgot to set alarm clocks, and quickly fell asleep.

Tomorrow I’ll cover Day 2, in which we attempt an “easy” 20 miles and discover that the Road to Venice has yet more tricks to play. If you want to ask for pictures, don’t; I’m a writer not an Instagrammer, and this log is worth more to me than a megapixel.

All other comments are greatly welcome. I like it when the story of the Adventure spreads, and the contact with readers is a big part of what keeps me going. Please share this post on Facebook or wherever you share fine digital paraphernalia. I’d love to hear your questions, thoughts or worries.

Update: You can read Day 2 here.

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Adventure, Bicycling, New Orleans, The Great Adventure, Travel

I’ll keep walking, walking at the end of the world

Photo by Chuck Coker. End of the Great River Road.

I have never seen the End of the World, but I met those who went there, and it is good.

The End of the World is in New Orleans. Did you know that?

More specifically it’s in the Bywater, a ramshackle neighborhood that used to be swamp and then plantations and only when the city really, really grew did it become actual houses. The Bywater is the ghost of Before the Flood and it is a town unto itself, a town of hand-built drum machines, lumbering vardos, secret gardens and working artists.

You know how the grinds settle out in good coffee? If New Orleans were a cuppa, the Bywater would be that last rich sip with the grit in your mouth.

And somewhere in that mouthful, right around where you make that wrinkled face, you can find the End.

It’s just a strip of riverbank. It juts past the levee, unpoliced, a place to smoke your hashish. That is the end of Orleans Parish; that is the end of everything.

Then fog, murky water, dragons, Arabi, chemical plants, bayou.

I tell everyone I biked the whole length of the Mississippi River. It’s a lie. New Orleans isn’t the end, though many an adventurer has stopped there for good. Siduri has a back door, and she says keep going. Go past the End of the World.

So Saturday I bike 80 miles. 

With me is this sly East Coast girl who’s never pedaled more than 20. In her words: “what’s the worst that can happen?” I like her accent, like Old Fashioneds and empires.

80 miles on a narrow road in a land of semi trucks, refineries and sun. There’s nowhere to camp, nowhere good that we confirmed; but there are places no one looks.

What do I do things like this? Why go into the unknown? Is there, as it feels like, some current in the land that gathers in these lonely spots? And if there is, why is it so hard to feel once you’re out in the thick of the heat, the sweat, the fear?

The journey may be gentle or ungentle. We might succeed or fail. Smoke and towers in the bayou, two hearts under the sun. It’s worth the sweat. Somewhere down there the road just stops, it stops, and I’ll see it, and keep walking, walking at the End of the World.

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Adventure, New Orleans, Personal Development, The Great Adventure

The day I had nothing left

New Orleans began in crisis.

I had spent everything. I had rice, beans and two empty rooms in the poshest hood.

Here’s how it happened:

October. I was making great money. On the road I had almost no living expenses but I still worked 3 days a week. I arrived in NOLA Oct. 17.

November. After an exhaustive two week apartment search I knew I had to either pay big or live in squalor. I signed a $1,000 a month lease on Rogue Chateau. I tried to scale up my client work but the opposite happened. I had less work coming in every week.

December. Disaster. Savings spent, no paying work—plus morning terror. I was going to miss my rent. I was done.

That was the last time I blogged about money issues—which is a little unfair to all of you. What happened in December and how am I doing now?

When I realized I was failing I felt paralyzed. But I made myself take steps anyway to try to pull out of the crash. Some steps worked and some didn’t, but I’m glad I acted.

This is what I did:

1. Exit plan

This was the most important thing. If you get committed to a plan it’s easy to think of it as all or nothing. It would be hard to be more committed than I was to wintering in New Orleans and practicing Vodou. But I was running out of money and had no local safety net. I might have to leave.

I have fond memories of two nearby hosts from my journey South: Jimmy in Natchez and Carla & Ryan in Vicksburg. I contacted each of them. I asked if I would be able to rent a room from them for a fair rent (much lower there than NOLA) while I saved up money. They were all agreeable.

This one step made everything else easier, because I knew I had a backup plan.

2. Keep pitching

Even though I was getting no response or negatives from potential clients, I still made time to pitch more every day (more than 160 total). It got depressing but prospecting has a low success rate and you have to ask a lot to get that one crucial yes. As it happened none of these pitches resulted in the immediate income I needed, but some later became regular clients and made the subsequent months much easier.

3. Current clients

I also reached out to my existing clients and offered to do extra work at a bulk rate, or pitched them on different projects. This got me a few smattering of assignments right away and led to more work down the line.

4. Be honest

I didn’t ask anyone to float me. I didn’t even ask my parents. But I was very honest about the difficulty I was facing. This led to several friends and readers reaching out to me with offers of paying work. At least two of those projects became reality and were a win-win for everyone involved.

5. New lines of work

One friend reminded me that I have all the skills necessary to build basic WordPress websites. Many people wouldn’t want to try a new venture when they are in the middle of facing bankruptcy but what did I have to lose? It was unnerving to dive into a new line of work but I did it anyway. This led indirectly to a major freelance gig right away and several web design projects since then.

6. Never said no

If someone asked if I do kind of work I immediately said “yes.” It didn’t matter if I had never done it before—if it’s even remotely within my skill set I said yes. Freelancers need to be flexible. I had plenty of free time and no other work coming in; worst case scenario I would have to spend long hours teaching myself new tricks in order to complete a project.

7. Used my free time

With no work I used my free time to produce creative things. The biggest complaint my friends hear from me is “I never have enough time for all my projects.” On the gallows it’s strangely relaxing and easy to work creatively. I produced short stories, book outlines and lots of visual artwork in this time.

8. Collaboration

I reached out to people I respect and admire. I pitched two musicians on a collaborative project (I have never worked on anything musical before) and one accepted. That’s in the works right now (so you’ll see it in, like, 8 years). I also reached out to two authors and pitched collaborating on books. Both said no but I’ll probably write one anyway. I worked on trying to create a portal for Afro-Caribbean religions on a major religion website (executive editor not interested, wth?). I pitched a TV show to a producer and I also pitched a vlog series to a Vodou priest. Some of these will never see the light of day but it brought an infusion of creativity and ideas from new sources whom I would never have time to scheme with if I was working.

9. System D

I sat on the street with artwork and sold it to passersby. I squatted on the sidewalk and painted little panels where people could see me at work. I walked into shops and asked if they wanted to sell my work. I sold things on Craigslist. I hustled.

10. Investors 

I said above that it’s inappropriate to ask your friends for charity. That’s true but it’s wholly appropriate to ask them to invest in something that will pay off. (There are rules. Only ask friends who actually have spare income; give them a professional pitch; make sure they will benefit from it; treat it like a real business. This is not your own money you’re dicking around with.) I had a whole website I pitched one friend on. Again most people said no. But it did lead to getting a grant to write about Celtic polytheism, and eventually I will create up to three books on that topic thanks to that money.

11. Generosity

I had almost nothing but I still bought cups of coffee at the coffee house in order to use their wi-fi. That’s more than a lot of people can afford. So I started tucking $1 bills into my back pocket to give away to beggars and gutter punks. When you need to pay a grand in rent losing a few $1 bills is not make or break. Likewise I would drop a dollar into the hat for musicians and artists on the street and always tip my barista. That is not charity, it’s just good manners. (If you don’t tip your barista you need to think about some things.) I added value to my own life by contributing to others.

12. Magic

I am a magician so it would be stupid not to enchant for money. I created a spell card and tucked it into my notebook that I always have with me. That same week things started to turn around. That could just be coincidence. I want to be clear that with 17 years of magic experience I have no idea whether magic really works or not, and any magician who says they do is lying (to themselves or you). I think it’s good to add magic to your strategy but don’t bleed your last drop for it. That’s why we’re doing Magic to the People.

13. Roommate

Not everyone has something they can sell but in my case I had half a cottage. I meant to live there alone and use one room to host travelers. Wealthy Rogue in another universe can do that. I also worried about what kind of person I would get as a roommate and whether it would be enough extra income. But these are all defeatist fears. “Roommate wanted” would not fix things on its own but as part of the strategy it saved my life. And I ended up with the very best roommate a guy could ever ask for.

Things I would have missed if I fled New Orleans.

Things I would have missed if I fled New Orleans.

14. Friends

The roommate also widened my network of friends. Previously my local friends were all from the Vodou community or a few artists I had met. My roommate opened me up to a whole other circle of friends on many walks in life. “Networking” is a fancy corporate word for being friendly and helping the people around you. I networked my ass off and now I have some of the best friends in the universe. They all contributed to my sanity, my happiness and my life.

15. Adventure

The keystone of my recovery was the attitude and lessons I got from the road. I have faced giants and ogres, the street I do not fear. I have slept alone in the rain, I have collapsed in the sun, I have picked myself up because no one was there to grab.

Life is good today. I drink good coffee and love good women. Another day life will sting and burn. I drink the hemlock right with the ambrosia. This is my world and I love her, I hold her close, who else is there to love?

My actions weren’t perfect. When you are anxious the mind races and you go in a million different directions. 15 directions in my case. For better advice you might like a piece by James Altucher called 10 Things You Need To Do If You Were Fired Yesterday.

Tomorrow I will tell the exact same story as today except different.

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