Driving through Texas from west to east, in one day is an accomplishment, especially compared with driving through or into four states the next day.  Shades of grey (not the man) dominated the sky, clouds, road and water as I drove across miles and miles of bridges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Leafless cypress and bushy pine lined the bayous and Egrets great and small, gulls, and a group of five petrels flew in formation overhead. 

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The sight of so many cranes, fresh grey buildings, and open structures were visually overwhelming as I drove into New Orleans.  My intent was to stay on IH-10 East, but those were the lanes on the other side of the highway.  Crap!  Quickly, I exit on  Loyola Street, turn onto the cross street and into the first parking lot I see to renavigate.  There were a LOT of people milling around, so I quickly checked the phone and pulled back onto Loyola only to see a police car blocking the intersection where I needed to turn left.  Was it a murder?  There were even more people crowding around just to the left.  Then I heard the music and felt the beat of the drums.  I rolled down my window, smiled, and began to move to the beat, relaxing in my front row seat.  Everyone moved – performers playing the drums and horns, dancers and the audience walking with them down the street.  When they stopped right in front of the police car a young woman with magenta hair wearing a pink shirt and the old woman wearing a grey tracksuit and hat moved with innate rhythm.  Where else could a missed exit transform into a New Orleans appetizer and become a chance to feel the beat? 

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As I drove away I played a soundtrack of jazz from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Kenny Dorham and Thelonious Monk, all of whom I bet played in New Orleans.   The music is in our bones. 

More grey as bridges appeared to disappear into the drink and a plethora of billboards for casinos emerged on both sides of the road.  With the sunset behind me I entered Florida, the fourth state of the day.  Stopping for gas, I use the restroom and receive a blast of hairspray from a woman with the blackest highest teased hair and most intense black eye liner and white eye shadow I have ever seen.  “Better hairspray than the flu,” she says and I nod my agreement.  As she walks out of the station in her long black skirt and low cut black stretch top, her ride is nowhere to be seen and she disappears into the strip center next door.

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Hours of driving today with only me at wheel, but I am not really alone.  There is much death along the highway.  Road kill carcasses of all sizes, white crosses with names of the departed and shrines with flowers, professionally made posters and the people who are remembering them.  Thoughts fly to past loves and people I have known, conversations we have had, things we have done together and the impact of those interactions.  Memory.  Ghosts just like those plastic bags flying in the trees – used up and ready to let go in the wind and to become something fresh. 

 

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