It's Saturday morning. Not just any Saturday morning, but the Saturday before moving day. I am sitting amid piles of boxes, files of bills, and lists of lists of Things To Do Before Moving Day. The love of my life is at Home Depot in an early morning bid to accomplish items 67 through 82 of Supplies That Need to Be Bought For the House list, and I'm here alone, drinking coffee, and thinking about the neighborhood I am preparing to leave.
Osborne Village is a neighborhood with a personality that has changed with the times, yet managed to retain a modicum of its hippy-dippy roots. I wasn't raised here - the two-block main drag of the Village was exclusively lined with record stores and head shops when I was a kid - but I did grow up here, in ways that have become apparent to me as I prepare to leave it once again.
I used to come here in early high school with "the girls" - usually when someone's heart had been broken - to eat cheesecake at Baked Expectations and watch the firefighters across the street play volleyball on their parking lot.
In the summer before we went away to university (music for me, political science for her), my best friend and I used to dress up in our subversive best and come here to hang out as conspicuously as possible in the coffee shops, talking for hours aboud politics and philosophy and our grand plans to change the world through art and activism.
It wasn't until after college that I officially moved into the Village for the first time. At 21, I lived in a tiny apartment that once housed the serving staff in a converted mansion. I bought a piano with a co-sign from my Dad, I walked to work during the week and to the Village shops on weekends, looking at books and clothing I couldn't afford on my princely $19,000 first salary.
When I got married at 24, we moved deeper into the Village. We were there when one of the heritage building that had been a cornerstone of the Village shopping district burned down, to be eventually replaced by a bank and a tanning salon. I watched the community garden across the street be ripped out to make way for high-priced condos that wouldn't be built until years later. The independent bookstore became a chain coffee shop, the second-last head shop became a high-end boutique, the independent record store became a crappy sandwich joint, and the gentle dope-smokers that once were a fixture on the corner were slowly replaced by increasingly violent drunks. After 8 years in the neighborhood, we bought a house in the French Quarter.
Three years later, my marriage ended. Thinking back on it now, I never even momentarily considered anywhere else. Despite the changes, the Village was a safe haven, a retreat, my home. I came back.
The tiny apartment I am about to leave was a godsend during the two-and-a-half most transformative years of my life. Here, I recovered from the circumstances around the end of my marriage and grew into a love I never dared to dream existed. With that essential support, I fought the brutal, but ultimately final, battle against my anorexia. The band that has become such an important part of my life filled this place with music, and LoML and I spent two wonderful Christmas mornings here, Christmases that were easily the most magical and beautiful ones I have ever had.
On Friday morning, the movers will arrive, and they will carry my piano and my books and my yarn and my things to our new house, a substantial drive away from this neighborhood that has become the launching pad for new chapters of my life. This last chapter has been a doozy, but I can't wait to turn the page, because I have a feeling that this next one is going to be the longest and most wonderful one yet.
Back that truck up, boys. It's time to go.