Royal Street, New Orleans
It was the music and the weightless quality of the air that I liked most about Royal Street in New Orleans, as if the busyness and heaviness of the year had laid to rest at the end of December, giving way to a peace that nestled itself inside of us. The way I remember, there was something in the air, not snow but something similar, that drifted in the air like magic, landing on the shoulders of each and every person.
We were walking along Royal Street when we heard the music, the gentle tunes of the guitar floating through the air and reaching our ears, making us pause in our steps and glance around. We saw him standing across the street and as he sang, and as I listened to the melody I had this moment not unlike seeing someone you recognize among all the other blurred faces in the crowd.
He was standing in front of a gift shop, the kind where they sell candles and keychains and little trinkets that you could really find anywhere (I still ended up buying a candle I never used). We crossed the street and stood near the entrance of the gift shop, pretending to look at postcards as he sang the last few lines of his song. He stood there playing as people walked by, his eyes following them as they walked past him on the sidewalk, as if he knew where they were going.
When he was finished we decided to stop hiding by the postcards and walked up to talk to him. He told us his name was Brian Hudson. His face was younger than I expected and his features softer, and we soon learned he was from Austin. He said he went to UT (and we said, me too!) and that at first he majored in Biology (and we said, me too!), and we laughed about majoring in Biology and how all we ended up here.
I bought his CD and we walked away after that, but I wondered what it was like for him, being from Austin but being there. The song that stuck with me the most from his album was Lonely as Balls, which was about, well, being lonely as balls. We listened to it over and over again in the car on the way back to Texas, and we laughed because we knew that none of us were actually lonely as balls. But it was a quiet laugh because we all still knew what that feeling was like – you know, feeling lonely as balls. There’s another song called Emily where the first line is Emily, come to Austin, but I guess she never did because he told his girlfriend’s name is Amanda.
And I wondered what it was like for him to play his music on the streets. I wondered if when he’s singing and playing and the people are walking by, if he’s waiting for a moment where there’s a face he recognizes. I wondered if he tries to make a memory out of each night, stringing together the fleeting moments where people pass by and listen for a moment or a song or maybe two, then walk on by with their lives. But maybe the moments all end up blurring together.
The music was beautiful that night and for once I got lost in it, the notes washing over me. We continued walking along the street, the gentle tunes of the guitar drifting over us and dancing in the air on that cold winter night, warming my soul. And we walked down in to the night, winding through a maze of people living ordinary lives with extraordinary moments, for every day and moment for the rest of their lives.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Esther and Kathy