Mom and SUEN take New Orleans (Dec. 4-7 Part 2)

Mom and me at the Christmas Parade

Mom and me at the Christmas Parade

Egg in a Jar at Lüke

Egg in a Jar at Lüke

The next morning, mom and I hit up our final Besh restaurant, Lüke. I ordered the ultra-rich Egg in a Jar, which consisted of poached eggs, grits, fried shrimp and a cream sauce. Mom ordered Shrimp and Grits, which was relatively similar except non-fried shrimp and a tomato based sauce. The meal continued the trend of unbelievable food in New Orleans and me feeling sick to my stomach after eating past my limits (it’s hard to stop when it tastes so good!).

We had originally planned on going on a walking tour of the French Quarter until we learned about a Christmas parade going through town that we decided was worth seeing. We sat on the curb of Canal St. for hours watching floats and dancers pass by.

We took a long walk to get to the French Market, which had a large variety of knick-knacks, flea market goods and foods. I tried an alligator dog that was excellent. Our feet were pretty tired after the walk, so we left to go back to our hostel for another break before dinner.

Christmas parade float

Christmas parade float

Our final meal in New Orleans was at the famous Pascale’s Manale, which many people had said would be disappointing – it certainly wasn’t! Although the service was very slow (it was understaffed for sure), the Barbeque Shrimp was a messy delight – they gave us each a paper bib, which was truly necessary – and the Frutta Del Mare (seafood pasta) was filled to the brim with seafood. We left again unable to eat dessert.

Mom getting messy eating some famous Barbeque Shrimp from Pascale's Manale

Mom getting messy eating some famous Barbeque Shrimp from Pascale’s Manale

Mom wanted to go to bed early that night, but I was keen on going out for a last time in New Orleans, so I went to the common outside area of the hostel and met a group of Irish guys traveling through the South together and a guy from Quebec who I would go out with. We started with a live charity concert at Freret Street PUBLIQ HOUSE, where the boyfriend of the lead singer proposed on stage (my response: “could anything more American happen than a public proposal in front of a bunch of strangers?” – Europe got me too sarcastic).

We left PUBLIQ and cabbed to Bourbon Street where we drank more and danced a bit. The boys and a female bartender legitimately forced me to take a shot out of bartender’s breasts, which served as my coming out moment: “No really, I don’t want to – I’m gay,” I said as she grabbed my head and pulled it towards her chest. They all laughed when I told her that was as close as I’d ever been (or wanted to be) to boobs. I’m sure I’m the first guy she’s ever had to force to take shots from her. At 2 a.m. I got a text from my mom asking if I was alive; I reassured her that I’d make it home safely. I got back at 4 and my mom asked me if this was what it was like when I traveled.

The St. Louis Cathedral next to Jackson Square

The St. Louis Cathedral next to Jackson Square

“Occasionally…”

Mom and I left early the next morning after one of our best bonding experiences ever. I can forever say I successfully got my mom to take a shot of Fireball AND that she knows all the steps to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

Love you mom!

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The Hoarder House and a Promise Kept

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I took a weekend trip to New York City over the weekend with my friend Matt from abroad to visit a couple of Northwestern friends, Sarah and Kristin (who also studied abroad with me). Of course, many hilarious shenanigans ensued –

The entrance of the hoarder house.

The entrance of the hoarder house.

– like living in the hoarder house.

After a fun day of exploring the city (Upper East Side, Washington Square, Times Square and the Financial District), Matt and I headed to the apartment we would be staying in with Sarah. As we waited in the lobby, we commented on the swanky building and classy adult tenants.

The bedroom.

The bedroom.

Little did we know, we would be staying in a hoarder’s apartment.

When Sarah arrived and picked up the keys, we excitedly headed up the stairs to the room. When we opened the door, we were surprised with piles and piles of stuff (or as I like to call it, the horde). There was a two-foot-wide path parted for us, paving the way through old stuffed animals, furniture, jewelry, clothes, movies, DVDs, bags – you name it.

"Horde-ified"

“Horde-ified”

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Matt amongst the horde.

Okay so maybe it’s a little bit unfair for me to make fun of all this, but it was a pretty strange welcome into the greatest city in the country; only in New York, I couldn’t help but think.

It turns out that the apartment belonged to a woman who passed away a few years ago who made her sister promise that she would go through everything very carefully. I assume she had a problem with hoarding and was highly attached to her things. I can imagine that it would be a huge, emotional commitment for her sister to go through the horde, but it’s equally unbelievable that someone would ask her sister keep a promise like that.

Stack of expired tuna cans in the kitchen.

Stack of expired tuna cans in the kitchen.

Wooden hand covered in old costume jewelry.

Wooden hand covered in old costume jewelry.

I guess it’s not up to me to judge the intricacies and eccentricities of someone’s mind and attachments, but as sad as the situation was, it was also very weird and darkly comic as an outsider to the story.

Of course, we were curious to explore the place (as much as possible on the thin path we could walk on). There were paper-white eggs (secretly years and years old) in the fridge, wonderful costume jewelry laid out on counters and pill bottles still half full. The apartment seemed almost frozen in time – as if the woman still lived with all of that stuff. Maybe, in a way, she did.

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But the years of waiting untouched made obvious wear upon the things: the towel shed when I dried off after a shower, the liquid hand soap turned hard in its bottle and a strange dusty taste filled the air. The toilet seat fell off the toilet. A bottle of ketchup had turned brown.

I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the apartment’s tenants know what lies beyond the doors of the hoarder house. Did they know her when she was there? Do they know what still remains? It was a unique privilege to see and live inside of a mystery like that, and I will certainly never forget my night in the hoarder house.

That’s a promise I can keep.

Forever visiting

Today is a big day for me; my friends from home are coming to visit!

393995_1454827043783_973997250_nHarriett, me, Jodi and Laura Ann over Christmas break.

I’ve been really lucky to have some incredible friends from home that I have stayed close to through the almost three years since I’ve moved to college. We talk every day; I come to visit them; they come to visit me. It’s not easy knowing that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives having to make visits to see each other rather than being in the same place, but it’s what we’ve got to do. 

This week is one of those visits, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a rare occurrence for them to get to come visit me in Evanston, although a few have gotten to make the trek up here at one point or another.

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Christa and Laura Ann came to visit last year and met my best friend here, Jonny.

I love getting to show them a slice of my Northwestern life, even if it is glorified (I definitely don’t go into Chicago as often as we’re about to), and introduce them to all of my friends here. It’s really cool seeing my worlds collide. My friend Jonny even came to visit me in Little Rock this summer and got to see what my home life was like (again glorified – we went to the lake!). He has really connected with my friends from home, and they’re excited to see each other!

ImageHarriett, Addi and I stayed in Evanston last summer to go to Lollapalooza.

These visits make me feel like an adult and a teenager at the same time. We’re having a blast and acting like we always have around each other, but the circumstances are much more “grown-up.” One day, this is what we’re going to be doing with our kids!

If I know anything about this week, it’s that it will go too fast. Before we know it, they’ll be packing their bags and leaving for the next big break between seeing each other. It’s the nature of visits. But I also know that there will be more to come. Although the gaps between seeing each other can drag on, the trips themselves are some of the best days of our lives.

I can’t wait to see you guys.