Monday, September 8, 2014

Magical Places

What makes a place magical? I grew up visiting Disneyland and understood that as a special place (ok, maybe a manufactured special place, but still special). Some might even call it "magical" (heck, the commercials for Disney experiences are founded on the idea that Disney is magical). How about places that don't have "imagineers" working to provide a magical experience? What makes those places magical?
I currently have a job as a tour guide in south Louisiana. I know, I know. I am surprised I am here, too. No need to dwell on the past or what I am doing or how I got here; all you need to know is I am excited for the experience, the job is a very good one, and my life is going well all around. Now this tour guide job is really more of a tour director of a tour throughout south Louisiana, starting and ending in New Orleans. I am writing this from my super plush hotel room, in fact. I even got a fruit basket upon arrival. It's fancy.
Now that we got that sort-of-crucial set of details out of the way, I can get back to my original question. What makes a place magical? Prior to my arrival here, I spent a few days with in-laws up in rural Wisconsin. That place was magical (and I don't just mean because of the abundance of cheese and beer). The undulating landscape rolls on and on and on into seemingly infinite hillsides. County roads pass one picturesque farm after another. Waterways and small lakes stitch these properties together to create a place bursting of greens and golds. And the atmosphere provides for some of the most stunning skyscapes I have ever seen: stormy skies, clear skies, foggy skies, sun rises, and brilliant sun sets. I suppose my historian self is also intrigued about the families and former settlements that make up the history of the place.
That is all magical to me. I don't know what made it that way, though. It just is.
Today's task upon arrival to the Big Easy was to orient myself with the city, especially with the routes and stops and hotels and restaurants for the tour. Tomorrow is the big first day officially and attendees will be arriving for their first day(s). So I did my first set of walking mid-day. Then another round. After I thought I had settled into my hotel room for the evening, I could see the sun was setting out of my window and decided to walk one more stretch as the sun sank into the horizon. And it was magical.
The humidity creates a feeling so that it seems microscopic beads of water gather in every individual pore. Just a full sixty seconds in this environment makes you aware of individual pores and the sweat that is about to drench clothing. That dense air also means each breath taken is velvety. The magic rests in how every body around the city feels it, too. We collectively just move slower. Except this is still a major city so while people may mosey, the traffic flies through the narrow streets, adding to the street noises. It stays busy and easy-going simultaneously. So many people (on a Monday a night!) crowd the streets and while that in itself is not magical, everybody is seeking something different. The historic buildings serve as the stage- beautifully colored props that please the eye. Then the players come out! On a Monday night, some folk have comfortable summer clothes, some look like "tourists" complete with fanny packs and visors, some have rolled up their blue collared sleeves and are looking to relax after a day of meetings, some have dressed to go out to the renowned five star eateries that seem tucked in around every corner. Everybody's plot weaves into this story that is New Orleans as they experience magic.
I don't even know if those things are what makes this place seem magical. These elements contribute to the vibrancy, to the hum, to the magic, but they do not complete it. Maybe it is in me and in each of the other beings that walk around here. Maybe it is just in us and up to us to find it and embrace it.
Jackson Square
Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House- I would be remiss if I did not incorporate the pirate lore somehow on my pirate blog.
A sunset view over the French Quarter

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