1. When you do find yourself missing New Orleans (and you will), don’t beat yourself up about it. Know that in so doing, you are part of an international fraternity/sorority of lovers and lawyers, politicians, professors and pizza deliverers, accountants and a whoooooole lot of artists who feel the same deliciously damned way. You can call it the Krewe of N.O.stalgia if you like. Join your Krewe kin for a swim in the bittersweet streams of beads and beignet dust and recognize that the reason your sadness is so great is because you found a place that gives you a happiness even greater.
2. Try to find an objective space inside of yourself that recognizes your affliction from a separate perspective. You can call it the Krewe of Calm Conscience if you like. The captain of my Krewe has a dispassionate-yet-kindish male doctor’s voice; kind of a cross between HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dug the Dog from Up. He says things like: “I notice you’re missing New Orleans again. It’s okay. Quite a common ailment, actually; especially on Ash Wednesday. Try not to be overwhelmed by the symptoms, but if you need to, purge. Your purging will taste like an Angels on Horseback po-boy on Napoleon and St. Charles, sound like Bourbon and smell like Canal. Don’t worry; I’ll clean up after you. Your insurance will cover it.”
3. Remind yourself that the place that you’re leaving New Orleans for is the place where your moves are based. It may not be “Home”, but it is headquarters. It is the launchpad from which your dreams will take flight. The ground for your grind. And the seeds you plant in this soil of service will reap a harvest which will fund your next ticket to New Orleans. Miss NOLA, do you? Me too. But this is where you earn your return. So getcha money, yurd me? Streetcar ain’t da only green thing that’ll take ya back up St. Charles, ya know?
4. Stay busy. Ya prolly got a stack of work ya left behind to go down dere. Get it in. Oh, ya finished, huh? Well I know ya wasn’t working out too steady when ya was down dere second-linin’ and daiquiri-drankin’, so getchu a li’ workout in. If you need any suggestions on books to read, movies to watch, or music to get into, hit me up. I gotchu. Rule #1 only works if you don’t stay there. But if you just sit dere and think about how much you miss New Orleans, then yes, you will be depressed, my behhh-beh.
5. Shake up your routine. Part of the anticlimactic effect of leaving New Orleans is knowing your destination probably doesn’t have as ready a supply of magic. Indeed, few places do. But there is some magic to be made in changing up your everyday. I know dey prolly won’t have no parade or no second-line band waitin’ for you at the airport and your gym will be playing the same old music (more Meghan Trainor than Meters) and your supervisor will be back to stressing you out over petty stuff. But even the old stuff won’t be so bad if you find new ways to deal with it. So create some new habits. Find some new hangout spots. Getcha “staycation” on. Build you a NOLA shrine atcho crib with all dat stuff you caught at da parades. Carnival is a celebration of life. So honor Carnival and the Crescent by continuing to celebrate when you return to your “re-guh-luh” life.
6.Find/start a support group. In the DMV area (DC/Maryland/Virginia, for those who don’t know), we have the Louisiana Network. They organize cookouts, trips to Saints games, charity drives, political awareness, and more. But you could probably also find you some other “Ex-Pat Who Dats” (shout out to my sister Courtney who came up with that name for her fantasy football team) among your own friends and fellow travelers who will feel your pain. Talk to them about how they get through. (In the education industry, we refer to this as “sharing best practices”.)
7. Eat your feelings. Even a pity party needs a buffet, yurd me?! I’m sure one of the things you miss about New Orleans has to be the food. And I know the further you go from the Boot, the less authentic the so-called “southern cuisine”. In fact, I could hear y’all now, complainin’ ’bout: “Dey don’t DO it right! It ain’t da SAME! Dey don’t know how ta SEASON nuttin’ up here, yurd me?!” But surely there must exist some reasonable facsimile; at least enough to hold you over until your next trip home. Here in DC, I like Bayou in Georgetown. Acadiana is nice too (if a little pricier). And if all else fails, pull out your Zatarain’s mix and make it happen like once a week. If you didn’t generally cook a lot before this and manage to get friends involved too, you’ll have managed to combine rules 4 through 7 at the same damn time!
8. Share the spirit with others. The city ain’t sing you all dem songs so you could keep ‘em to yaself, ya know? Share your stories, photo albums, and swag with everyone who’ll receive them. Spin your spells splendidly enough and you might could seduce a new breed of NOLA converts and thus afford to mob up on that Air B&B joint you were looking at near the Quarter come next Mardi Gras/Jazz Fest/Essence Fest/Bayou Classic.
9. Retox. For some addictions, you must detox(ify) yourself in order to heal. But New Orleans is a different kind of addiction. Sufferers of N.O.stalgia despair because they feel they can’t get over the energy. So don’t try to get over it. Get with it. Reintoxicate yourself. Let the energy of the city lift you out of your sadness. Don’t think of this energy as something that’s apart from you; think of it as something that’s inside of you. Give a decadently deep French kiss to the bong of the Bayou and take a pull of dat Crescent City cannabis sativa until all dat musical, magical, sensual smoke makes moss of your lungs. If you’re an artist, your means should be most obvious. Capture that swamp-surfing firefly in the jar of your genre. Put some Pontchartrain on your paintbrush, some Sachere’s in your song, some Tipitina’s in your tomes, and some Chef Menteur in your microphone. Dem people ’round ya don’t know yo’ song. But you do. Pay homage to your muse by putting some New Orleans into everything you do.
10. And now, finally, laugh. Have a rich, hearty, Zapp’s flavored laugh atcha self for even thinking you could really ever “leave” a place like New Orleans. And laugh atcha self some mo’, you sweet silly soul, for forgetting to remember that New Orleans is so much more than a physical place; it is, rather, a place in your heart, and you couldn’t leave it if you wanted to. Ya done made love ta da Mardi Gras, behhh beh. Done orgasmed the Mississippi and gotcha self pregnant with a king cake baby named Memories. Now pass da baby on to a friend so the next party be on dem, yurd me? But in the meantime, do laugh. Make your face resemble the Comedy mask from our iconic Carnival symbol even as your heart feels more like the Tragedy. And in those quiet moments when you suddenly “hear” something faint and familiar, don’t be alarmed. Know that it’s just the sound of a stray horn in the French Quarter hitting the refrain of its siren song calling you home. Know that physically, you’ll be back. And know that spiritually, you never left.