Tuesday, April 13

I Hear That Some People Relax on Their Vacations

This is my first night home after the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. I feel as though I should be mentally and physically exhausted, but for some reason I'm not. I am basking in the glory of a week well-spent with friends, meeting new people, eating way too much, drinking way too much, and looking at pretty, shiny things.

Without being overly vague, I'll say that I'm excited about things that are happening. I love that my life is changing and gaining momentum, even if it's only in the elementary stages. Everything is still up in the air, but I'm strangely comfortable with that.

After the conference, I was relaxing in New Orleans when I realized that Stacy managed to forget his suitcase and was heading back to Maryland. I was already planning to mail a camera and other things that had been forgotten by other people (you know, the minutia that normal, sane people forget in travel), so I figured I would throw the whole thing in a large box and mail it later. Then I found out that he was staying in Northern Alabama for the night after being a guest on a radio program and watching the 5th district debates at UAH.

So I did what any normal, busy, exhausted girl would do when faced with an additional 6 hours of driving after a 5 hour drive home and work the next morning at 7:30... to return an unessential case of items to a man I had just spent the better part of a week basically talking to like a step-mother talks to a rotten child.

I drove to Huntsville.

Thinking about it now hurts my head. This is a level of exhaustion that it will take days of compulsive routine and buckets of tea to cure. My face looks tired. I think I've grown new wrinkles. After driving the three hours from Montgomery to Huntsville, it was nearly midnight.

I had some fun conversations with a congressional candidate and his campaign team, met even more interesting people, ran into some familiar faces, and learned a great deal of juicy campaign gossip (my favorite kind). Most of it is probably (hopefully) untrue. I tend to be skeptical of men in general, but when there is alcohol involved I believe them even less. Consider it part of my genius.

I'm returning to Huntsville again next week to be on a radio show. For the fun of it. I'll keep you posted.

So I'm home now. I have not eaten a proper meal in four days. Yesterday I ate an ice cream cone and I have a vague recollection of a diet coke around 2:00 a.m.

I don't know what's wrong with me when I travel; I just don't take care of myself whatsoever. In normal life I have a neurotic routine of gym time and balanced meals and manic closet organization; in travel, everything goes out the window. I focus on arriving punctually to unfamiliar places (not getting lost consumes about 85% of my travel-brain) and looking "put together" (whatever that means).

Tonight I am returning to normal... which is difficult considering I have no reference point for normal. I have unpacked, uploaded the pictures from my camera, and I've hung a row of damp sun dresses to dry.

It is astonishing what little is required for me to feel accomplished.

I have plans to tackle the epic stack of business cards I collected from people and stuffed into the various pockets of my computer bag during the conference. I will most likely put them in a drawer so I don't have to look at them.

I had an absolute blast. Most of the people I met were charming and excited (we Southerners love a good time). They all seemed eager to share their views and strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I didn't hear too many thick Southern accents, but I've been told I'm immune to dialect after years of living in the South.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to listen to many speakers since I was working on other things.

Despite what I have said in the past, some part of me feels like New Orleans could be home.

I suppose anyone could feel that way after spending a good amount of time walking through the dirty streets in perfect Spring weather. The dented fenders of nearly every car in the Quarter had some fashion of an "I love New Orleans" bumper sticker - post-Katrina relics that brought the community together. One read "I remember Helen Hill" and it sent chills up my arms. I tried to explain it to the person I was walking with, but I think I failed. I'm not a very good story-teller.

Maybe it's the clothes the people wear... or the way they wear them. I get the impression that everyone (even if it isn't what they "do") is an artist or a connoisseur of trinkets. They are gentle but loud and passionate; casually adorned with outlandish accessories; questionably insane, but they exude a sense that they know something you don't. Something I just can't put my finger on.

And me with pearl studs and a sun dress, constantly worried about being mugged: I could never aspire to be that cool.