"Busted Flat in Baton Rouge" or Where I Go From Here

Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin' for a train
And I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans
Bobby thumbed a diesel down just before it rained
It rode us all the way into New Orleans...

It's raining here in the French Quarter tonight - a gentle, relaxing rain that mirrors my state of mind at the tailend of a whirlwind excursion to The Big Easy. After many months, I finally have some certainty about my next step.

This August, I'll find a carpetbag, pack up the laptop, and head south to attend Tulane Law School here in New Orleans.

It's an exciting prospect. I look forward to starting my life anew in a city that is doing likewise. I think I have found a place as idiosyncratic, as eccentric, as lively, as haunted, as unique as I am. Katrina, as one Bourbon Street saxophone player noted last night, was a bitch. But floods leave fertile ground when they recede, and so I think I will plant myself in this peculiar little spot for a few years and see what opportunities surprise me.

And, if nothing else, it will be one hell of an interesting cockpit to blog from. Live music. Live oaks. Live nudes. Live catch of the day. Laissez le bon temps roulette.

Tulane Law School itself looks promising. It's a top 50 law school with a nationwide reputation that has, if anything, been enhanced by Katrina. It places grads around the country. The building itself is nice and centrally located on campus. The Uptown neighborhoods seem livable. The unviersity abuts the great green expanse of Audubon Park, as well as the St. Charles Avenue Cable Car (when it resumes service this fall), which makes for a short ride into downtown and the French Quarter. And, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Tulane is the only American university to transition from a public to a private institution.

Admittedly, I think Bucky Badger could take Green Wave mascot, Riptide the Pelican, anyday.

Having only been in New Orleans briefly once in 2003, I wanted to make sure it was a good fit, hence the extended weekend foray. And it is. From my runs and ramblings, I know there are still many portions of the city in dire need of revitalization and repair.

Yet even with all those who left as a result of Katrina, new people are swirling in as of late, smelling not just the odor of occasional rot, but the scent of excitement. The new Loyola theater professor I had dinner with by complete chance. The bartender at Oceana in the Rue Conti. The bookseller at Faulkner's old lodgings in Pirate's Alley. My Pakistani cabbie. It's a heady sensation that counterweights the blue tarp roofs and street corner rubble piles.

I'm eager to dig into New Orleans, much as I did with Madison. My interval year after graduation has been memorable. I've worked as field director on a state senate campaign, legislative aide at the state capitol, restaurant host, freelance writer, law firm messenger, and street musician. I made new friends. I've avoided debt. I've seen some great shows. I've become more physically fit. I've changed in a number of ways for the better.

At the same time, the year framed many of the darkest periods and moments of my life. Suffice it to say, I am glad to be moving beyond them. And some of their underlying causes.

So, as droplets closed the day's curtain on the palms of Jackson Square, I sat contentedly in the warm air at Cafe du Monde near the Mississippi, powdered sugar from beignets scattered as if the place was awash with Columbian smugglers, digesting my jambalaya and Abita beer over a cafe au lait, reading Faulkner's Mosquitoes, which described not only the very square I looked upon, but also education:

"I don't think it hurts you much, except to make you unhappy and unfit for work, for which man was cursed by the gods before they had learned about education. And if it were not education, it would be something else just as bad, and perhaps worse. Man must fill his time some way, you know."

Perhaps. And so it seems I will fill mine here, an entrancing place, a place where even the most cynical, the most dour of observations are muffled by the veiled tinge of a smirk on the speaker's face and the wry gleam in the eye as a tiny lizard climbs the wet wrought iron railing, echoes of a brass band slipping in from down the street.

So, to answer the infernal, nagging question of questions, I'm going to Tulane for law school. I'm going to New Orleans. And I'm grinning to think of it.

We'll see what this means for the blog; likely only good things. More posts from the Crescent City if I get the chance.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.