July 8th, 2020
When my bassist, Twiggman, and I left our base in Florida one month prior, we had left our sleepy little town behind with a vague-yet solid plan to sublet a room somewhere in New Orleans for one month… and then simply, ‘go from there.’
Almost one month into, ‘there’ and that expiration date sat lazily upon the horizon like a fat, calypso sunset that was in danger of melting. The couple with whom we had sublet their room would return soon and, with the darkness of the unknown gently approaching, Twiggman and I needed solidify some quit-semi-serious, but also some not-so-very-serious life decisions regarding our future location.
The phrase, ‘In these uncertain times,’ rolled around and around in my mind’s eye like a penny rolling down a wishing well. It was a phrase that has been used in the mainstream media over and over again to portray these unstable days that we are currently living in, where in which nothing supersedes the fact that shit is very much fucked up: Environmentally, Socially & Politically. And because of it, we cannot continue to consume in the same way or even resume our regular programming for the foreseeable future. And maybe that was ok.
Just about everyone had developed a distaste in hearing of ‘the uncertainty,’ in some way or another. I certainly had. But one cannot simply just tune out to what is happening all around... no matter how much we may desperately want to scream, ‘Beam me up, Scotty,’ and leave this world.
When attempting to plan and to move forward whilst in the midst’s of a predicament that is as sticky as laughy-taffy, I was just like everyone else: Subject to this circumstance and pretty much stuck. We were, in all actuality, living in “uncertain times” but each time that those syllables were strung together, it hit a cord within us all and has even been said to haunt a few spines with cold and nervous shivers.
One month into our stay in New Orleans, Twiggman and I had had no further bites on the Fishing Rod of the Future. Tour looked a bleak prospect. And from the sight of things, the state of the world was only getting worse: The amount of confirmed Covid 19 cases had spiked to an incredible high due to ‘premature reopening,’ And one by one, establishments began, once again, closing their doors. Florida’s Corona Case numbers increased dramatically. Louisiana issued mandatory facemasks in all public establishments and shut down the French Quarters until cases declined. England even deemed ‘sex with someone other than who you live with,’ absolutely illegal. Things were a hot mess. And with all this uncertainty, it was time to, once again, choose where I wanted to be, time to make a decision, and time to nest.
I could have dramatically weighed out ‘leaving or staying in New Orleans’ on the Libran balancing scales themselves. I could draw for you a picture depicted of great uncertainty, making mountains out of molehills in the same lucid way in which I am actually ‘The Tits’ at doing. But in truth, it was not a difficult decision to make at all. We would remain in New Orleans.
Twiggman and I had been but a few weeks NOLA, however, in that small blink of a peacock painted eye, had stumbled upon a small, yet prominent pocket of community; where in which conversations, hair braiding’s, time wasting’s and musical compilations had all so easily transgressed. The Big Easy was a humble dream come true. The first sight of dry land to a weary and shipwrecked crew.
So, before our month at the Purple House was officially over, I began putting out the feelers for a continued residency in the city, whilst Twiggman, more so now than ever, assured that he truly trusted my lead and encouraged me to navigate us through our next move. His support, as always, empowered me.
Although it had been a great place for us to first touchdown in New Orleans, our living situation at the Purple House was far from perfect. Occupying a small bedroom and trudging through other people’s personal bedrooms just to reach the bathroom or kitchen, had made life feel rather limited. And with the community space being right on our front porch, just on the other side of my sofa bed, and Harley’s animated room being right on the opposite side, inhabited by an enthusiastic puppy, life was loud and even more limiting for my Cheshire Prince, Foxy; who, without a doubt, detested his new life in the ghetto and spent most of his days sleeping as far away from me as he possibly could, daydreaming of free-roaming back in the Golden Garden of Eden.
So, when Twiggman and I were offered a room further down the dark hallway of the
shotgun Purple House, smack dab in the middle of it all, we respectfully declined. Twiggman had grown weary of sleeping on the floor and I had tired of sleeping on the sofa. We were both exhausted with holding our bladders during the dark of night because we were each too concerned with personal pleasantries and space. The novelty of early mornings spent in the middle of the bedroom floor huddled around my campfire cooker in order to boil water for tea, had worn off and, as the writer in me resurfaced, there was a strong calling for a much quieter cave in which to not be disturbed from. It was clear that each of us were in need of a little more room to breathe if we were to continue our life here in New Orleans. And something told me, speaking in the tongues of fate and destiny, that we would eventually find a place that was perfect for the three of us. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Once the decision to stay was solidified, I hit up Craig’s List in anticipation of finding our Perfect Placement and began entertaining a few different visions; from living in a beautiful vintage mansion that looked remarkably similar to Mon Cirque wine bar, to dwelling in the squalors of dimly lit dungeons. However, when the leads all went cold and there were once again no further bites on that futuristic fishing line, Twiggman gently informed me,
“Dat ain’t how you do things around here, girl. We gotta’ just ask around. It’s all word of mouth here.”
So, we began to ask around, starting with our neighbours Rob and Estee, who had inadvertently become our direct contact for obtaining, well, just about anything that we needed here in the Big Easy. And true to form, the couple provided a lead: Just two houses down, Rob, being the jack of all trades that he is, had done some floor work on the neighbours Granny Flat, (mother-in-law-house), of which, they were ready to rent out.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Rob, with a smile like a piano, had assured from the front porch.
“You gonnah love it.” Estee promised, her dark eyes sparkling like a secret wish that had been cast out through space in order to fulfil its Greatest Destiny at the nearest star.
That evening, Twiggman and I sat in our Purple House bedroom, lit the fragrant sage, blessed our cards and did a tarot reading-with the ritual of incredible intention and prayer placed towards our perfect future placement. Because bestowing such specific intentions always make a difference and each day, ceremony and ritual becomes more and more important upon this spiritual journey.
Eventually, in that same slow snail pace way that the Big Easy seems to roll on at, the introductions between the owners of the Granny Flat, Twiggman and myself were made. Later, inviting us into their quaint home, I was introduced to the lady of the house, Diane.
A curvaceous and brown skinned elder, Diane, sat in her living room chair with a kind smile, her contractual agreement at her fingers and grandmother vibes permeating out from within the warmth of her heart. Her husband, Derwin, was a lanky, older gentle man whose brown skin and peppered freckles reminded me of Morgan Freeman. The couple were both as warm as a homemade apple pie.
Derwin stood in the kitchen tending to his Red Beans and Rice, whilst his wife, Diane, entertained Twiggman and I with stories of their family tree, stories of their lives. As Twiggman and I, entertained as ever, prepared to sign upon the dotted lines, I was gently reminded of what it was to be in the belly of a proper home. Looking upon the family pictures that took rest upon the dining room table, the pastel colours that had been splashed all about the walls, and the fusion of the couples musical appreciation within their own familial connections to said music, my eyes took rest upon a kitchen that was casually bursting with signs of life and love throughout and I exhaled with a soft sigh of appreciation.
Renting a room in a punk house can certainly leave much to be desired. While providing what we needed at the time, our house was very much basic. And, although quite crowded, it was also somehow empty. Sometimes, you just don’t even know what you have been missing out on until the succulent aroma of homemade authentic Red Beans & Rice straight from the teat of New Orleans, starts rising right up out of the pan and under your nostrils, seductively.
“Well, let’s go look at the place.” Derwin suggested, stepping away from his cauldron. “Follow me.”
Stepping out the side door, the four of us began down a long, private alleyway that ran the length of the house. Treading gently through a puddle that had pushed a bed of fallen pink flower petals up towards our feet in offering, we soon arrived at the door of a blue stained apartment. Private and humble, the apartment sat there stoically like a soft, blue light at the end of a dark and uncertain tunnel.
“This place,” Diane remarked, her voice muffled by the sound of hopeful keys trying their luck with the door. “This place was gonna’ be a Bed & Breakfast. We had just finished building it, everything’s brand new but, because of the Corona virus, well….” Diane trailed off without any need for further explanation.
We all knew the situation. And these times, they were certainly uncertain. Yet, as I stood in
that doorway waiting for admission, I was as hopeful as the keys that were quietly turning.
“I built allotta it.” Derwin smiled through his words, whilst his face and fingers fixated on finding the appropriate key. “I did the plumbin’, the electrics and, well, just about everythang’.”
As the locks eventually shifted, so too did my feeling of apprehension. Derwin, with his lock wrestling days behind him, ceremoniously opened the front door and we each stepped inside.
Immediately entering the kitchen, we were welcomed into a large and open space. The afternoon sunlight poured in gently through the windows like a dreamy lullaby. A fridge, still with some of its plastic packaging attached, sat quietly in the corner. And a wooden high-top dining-room table sat proudly off centre, awaiting the day in which to fulfil its greatest life purpose.
In the three weeks that Twiggman and I had occupied the Purple House, not once had we used the kitchen. It was, for lack of a better word, uninspiring. Yet, as we each walked across the tiled kitchen floor to the Granny Flat, I envisioned healthy smoothies happening, late night feasts flourishing and even small neighbourhood dinner parties transpiring. A kitchen, even for a culinarily challenged person such as myself, is, without a doubt, what makes a house a home.
During our previous snail mail communications, the four of us had come to an agreement of tenancy where in which we planned to rent the apartment for four months, or until the state of the world resumed a sense of normalcy again. Twiggman and I still very much wanted to hit the road and take Story & Song as far as we could, whilst Diane and Derwin still had great plans for their Bed & Breakfast. Neither plan, though, could move forward until ‘these uncertain times,’ made up their god damned mind. The agreement, however, worked out well for us all.
With a little work still in need of being done to the place, we had also agreed upon a slightly reduced rent rate, compensating with an offering of assistance towards the finality of the air B & B. Twiggman had a few handyman skills beneath his belt and I, being born into it, have certainly done my fair share of painting and decorating within this lifetime.
Pointing to the vacant beige wall behind the dining room table, Diane enquired of me, “You any good with calligraphy?” I searched my capabilities, nodding cautiously.
“Well, this place, Derwin and I, we named it after our late daughter; our baby girl who left this world at only eight months old, our guardian angel and the sweet, sweet child that actually helped us to secure this whole property, just by touching her angelic little hand upon the previous property owners cheek… our baby, Destiny.”
With that, the word Destiny caught a ride upon the afternoon sun light and casually floated around the room, filling the kitchen with a quiet kind of magic.
“I wanna’ write, in beautiful calligraphy, right up there on that wall… Destiny’s Place.” Diane finished. I nodded, respectfully.
Walking through the kitchen, we soon spilled out into the living room. The room itself was a
humble space that contained only a large sofa bed, a matching leather footstall and a room length floral floor matt. In keeping with the way that NOLA residents lived, we began envisioning the living room turned Twiggman’s bedroom. He could have his own personal space, with our instruments and musical endeavours potentially placed unobtrusively in the corner, ready for our every adventure.
Through the living room, we entered the main bedroom. The room itself was a warm space,
containing a double bed, a vanity dresser and a side table, all wooden. It was a cosy and welcoming room that I quickly claimed it as my own.
“That bed,” Diane began, pointing to the soft blue hues of the bed set, “ain’t nobody ever even slept on it. Even when ma’ son was living here-cuz of the Covid, I made him sleep on the sofa bed.” We each smiled a separate smile and mine was secretly steeped in visions of me finally stepping far away from that brown, sordid sofa that I had come to know as a bed and instead, I saw the future me lay peacefully upon that brand new bed, full of dreams and a casual space from which to write. My personal space of quietude was so close that I could taste it.
Finally, as we walked through the bedroom and past the built-in closet, we came to the last room of the house, the bathroom. I further imagined my future self being able to use said bathroom whenever I needed, without having to trudge through anyone’s room but my own… and I almost prematurely peed my pants with excitement. The bathroom itself was a small space that bore no windows, yet, in its perfect simplicity, had a toilet, a sink, and a bathtub-where in which an animal print shower curtain hung triumphantly, patiently awaiting my leopard-print obsessed accessories to join it. Destiny spoke in many tongues.
Rounding our way back to the kitchen from whence we had begun, my mind was firing on all axles. I imagined, above all other things, what it would mean to commit to renting such a perfect space and what that would mean to our time here in New Orleans. A wave of excitement caught a ride upon the blue butterfly’s wings within my belly.
After signing upon the dotted line and explaining to our new landlords of my obsessive and cleanly nature, I assured them that Twiggman and I would keep their place clean, organised and even more beautiful than the day we found it. We would respect their space as if it were our own… because now, it was. Diane and Derwin, happy with their new tenants, handed over the keys to Destiny and left us to our own devises.
Alone in the apartment for the first time, in our apartment, Twiggman and I looked at one another with secrets glossing over in our similarly brown eyes. This was our new life.
We would cook and nourish ourselves properly. We would bath at our own leisure and tend
to our bodies without fear or guilt. And we could live comfortably, still connected-yet with a sense of privacy, in our own respective bedrooms. And to top it all off, Foxy would have the whole apartment in which to explore and play within. Foxy’s uncertain fate of being cast into New Orleans as a potential Street Cat, soon dissipated with the last of the afternoon light. The cards had spoken. And Destiny’s Place was, without a single doubt, the perfect placement for us all.
That evening, as the afternoon sun slipped into its silken evening attire, Twiggman and I wasted little time in collecting our belongings from the Purple House. We had officially been in New Orleans a month exactly… and it was moving day. Fortunately, we were only two doors down and with very few possessions to our name and only a few steps to take in order to reach our new abode, it was an extremely easy move. The most difficult part was manoeuvring through the ample bodies that sat time wastin’ upon the steps, rootin’ us on in their own strange ways.
Twiggman and I, with our final possessions at hand, tumbled our way through our privately gated entrance and locked the world out behind us. Breathing a little easier, we pressed forward. As we slipped through the hallway of quietude, respectively stepping over the crushed blossoms of yesterday, we each left all that needed to be, back in the past where it belonged. And as we stumbled our way into our brand new kitchen, weighted by belongings and dripping with salty sweat from the thick Louisianan evening, there, sitting upon the dining room table waiting patiently for our return, adorned with two cold cans of Ginger ale, sat two steaming-hot bowls of homemade Red Beans and Rice.
And as Twiggman and I each pulled up a chair to our new way of life and proceeded to dig into the most delicious New Orleans style Red beans and rice ever to be inhaled, we both knew that, through the salty spirit of direction, the freestyle flow of the universe, and the resounding respect towards forces much greater than ourselves, amongst the unrest of complete uncertainty, we had each found a home within our own perfect Destiny.
April Lee Fields
April Lee Fields