This is a story about a road trip where dreams come true, and it is best read with musical accompaniment.
Apparently I’m a weird person. I have no qualms about sleeping in strangers’ houses while traveling, I currently live with my ex of ten years and I recently baked scones for his new girlfriend, sometimes I even make close friends by holding the door open on the subway. So it should shock absolutely no one that about two weeks ago I embarked on a 6-day road trip with someone I “met” on Okcupid. (Sorry dad I totally lied to you and said he was a friend from college, thanks for the ride to JFK !!)
I was sitting in the Louis Armstrong International Airport waiting for Paul to pick me up for our first date—which he was very, very late to— and reflecting on our first email exchanges. I knew we’d be fast friends when his initial contact included a hypothetical question about whether, if faced with heart surgery, I would opt for a mechanical valve or one made from a cow. Turns out Paul was getting his chest sliced open that week in January and recovering in his hometown about an hour away from Brooklyn. We didn’t manage to meet up before he returned to work in Houston but in early May he proposed an adventure, and who I am to turn down such a thing? Paul was planning on driving from Houston back to New York and wanted to know if I’d like to go along. I would, and so I flew down to New Orleans, because I don’t do Texas. Austin, sure; Texas, no.
I agreed to the road trip on three conditions: 1) That we would eat at Green Goddess in New Orleans, a restaurant I have attempted and failed to visit twice before; 2) That we would go to a drive-in movie since that has been a lifelong dream; 3) That he would purchase a copy of 50 Shades of Grey for long-car-ride dramatic readings (because I thought this would be a funny thing for a Sociologist and an English professor to do); and 4) That we would stop at every Waffle House we saw. Paul immediately vetoed the fourth criteria which was a good thing in hindsight because the total number of Waffle Houses we passed on Monday alone? 25.
Eventually Paul showed up at the airport and we made our way into NOLA to pick up my friend Sean, another “stranger from the internet” who I met through couchsurfing two years ago. Sean and Paul clicked lightning fast, the way super nerds do, and were sword fighting on the banks of the Mississippi within an hour of meeting each other.
That evening Paul and I drove to the French Quarter to FINALLY eat at Green Goddess because third time’s a charm and it had to happen this time and nothing would prevent it from happening, right? But we stopped along the way when we drove past one of New Orleans’ famous cemeteries. Paul had never been to one and I can always use an excuse to commune with the dead so we pulled over and spent the next 90 minutes or so wandering around, breaking into graves and taking inappropriate photographs.
We showed up at the restaurant just before closing time- we managed to get our names on the list, but there was a forty-minute wait. I would normally prefer to eat my own face than wait that long for a table but they had sidewalk chalk and being basically complete strangers, Paul and I had plenty to talk about. So we waited. And drew things on the ground. And watched people lose their shit on the wait staff because of things they did wrong for example: making it rain, or making a lot of people want to come eat at their restaurant. When we were finally seated we ordered a not small feast and got free drinks because we were awesome customers and everyone else sucked.
We were the last people out of there and as we were paying our bill the skies opened up again and our cheery waitress offered us plastic garbage bags to wear as rain jackets which we gladly excepted and then ran through the streets of the French Quarter like a bunch of hooligans.
Monday morning we headed out on the “scenic route” through Mississippi and Alabama with scenic stuff like, racist anti-abortion ads (although, this one is kind of just doing a good job advertising for Planned Parenthood)
And oddly related “Souvenir Cities”
And then over lunch -at a BBQ place so tactfully named “Slap Your Momma” (where a woman in the bathroom had, I shit you not, a “Ride or Die” tramp stamp) –we attempted to read aloud from 50 Shades. But then we couldn’t get more than three minutes in because of the sheer amount of times the word “sandstone” appears in a page and a half. It’s painful. And you have to erotically whisper sandstone, that’s a rule.
The sandstone highlight of the day was definitely a sandstone, white marble beach on the Gulf Coast where I found the most textured and colorful sandstone seashells I have ever seen and basically spent an hour down right frolicking on the sandstone shore. Like seriously, that many times.
Then we got in the car and drove for six hours through the Deep South in torrential rain, which sucked but we only almost died twice and zero of these instances were for being Yankees.