For the Love of Reading - the College Years Part I

I could spend the rest of my life writing about New Orleans.

The dream is always the same. It is Jazz Fest season and I show up to my old apartment on Palmer Avenue a few blocks from Tulane University's campus. The second floor windows are all open and you can reach out of these windows to touch an oak branch. Someone new is living here. Sometimes they tell me I have to pay money to stay there during the Fest, and sometimes they are not around at all but know that we have a "deal" and that I am allowed to stay here whenever I want. It is always a little nerve racking hashing out the deal with the new tenants or just taking over the apartment when they are not home as I feel as if I may be invading their space, and may get into trouble. On a few, rare occasions the new landlord even shows up to tell me the deal is off and he is going to put new locks on the doors. The tenants are always pretty nice to me, though, and override the landlord's request as long as I don't mess anything up during my stay(I usually offer them liquor). Sometimes the tenants are girls, but most of the time just unappealing and often bearded young men. Students I am guessing. The front door is always open just like it was when I lived there almost twenty years ago. My friends and I spend most of our time in the living room/dining room area staring at the large, open front windows which gaze onto healthy green centuries old trees. Sometimes there are 3 bedrooms and sometimes eight. The houses on Palmer are less New Orleans architecture and more Chicago bungalow. But it is the same apartment I joyously co-habitated for Junior and Senior years of college. Even the outdoor washer and dryer are still in place. Sometimes there is a running river down a hill from our backyard. It is an old and sometimes abandoned recreation area/amusement park with seaside vacation homes. I can see it from the back window. I don't remember it being there while I was in school, but I know I can walk down there if I want to. Our close friends live in a fabulous New Orleans style home on our same block a few doors away. I always hope that I run into them. I check to see if their cars are parked in front so I know they are home. I tirelessly look for old things on the shelves of the Palmer apartment - books, journals and picture frames. Something that is mine. I rustle through closets looking for clothes which more often than not, are no longer there. Usually there is a phone number I am desperately trying to find, but never do. It is always missing the last number or I keep screwing up entering it into the phone itself. I somehow always miss attending the Jazz Festival with my friends - either arriving at the end of the day at the Fairgrounds or at the end of a concert at some small smoky venue on Magazine. Everyone has left already. I am angry and disappointed for having arrived so late. The weekend is over and my friends all seem to be leaving the house to go to the airport and back to their lives. I am already missing them. I have failed to spend the time that I wanted to spend with them. Someone asks me how old I am and I say twenty, then remember I am twenty-seven thinking that is old to be living on campus, sometimes eventually remembering I am thirty-seven and I get scared. I somehow work out a deal to stay in New Orleans. Perhaps staying in my old dorm room at Irby Hall to hang out on the UC Quad or wait in line for a bagel at PJ's coffee house which never comes out the way I like it. Last night it arrived to me as a sickly sweet cake which I refused to eat yet still did not get the bagel I requested. There are some new restaurants on Willow street which I pass by on my walk from campus back to the Palmer apartment. I resolve to cross South Claiborne to get a cheap po-boy sandwich from the Indian grocer next to Robert's bar and Bubba's Beauty Bowl, if they are open. I think I am paying rent at the old apartment and will be getting another degree, a Master's perhaps, at Tulane. I miss a class or am in jeopardy of failing, as I seem to have not studied for an important exam. I am a few credits short of graduating and that is why I am here, I tell myself. I always try to find Maple Street to get to my favorite coffeehouse but end up getting lost once I hit the Boot bar on the corner of Oak and Broadway. Mardi Gras is usually going on at the Boot and people are covered in feathers and beads drinking from plastic cups outside. It is much bigger than I remember it.

I wake up, or shift seamlessly into a different dream, wishing next time to find that number, eat that bagel and to get to the Fairgrounds on time.

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