The secret is knowing when to say yes…

For most of my life, I’ve lived by this personal adage, that the secret to life is knowing what to say yes to. I would figure out what I wanted in life, then say yes to anything that drew me closer to that goal. But, some things you say yes to, some of the most amazing experiences, come from saying yes to something that just presents itself. Perhaps it doesn’t bring you closer to any goal, but it enriches your experience of being alive. Want to go to the Vatican and have a private audience with the Pope? Yes. Want to go to the Galapagos Islands and see what made Darwin come up with the theory of evolution while swimming with penguins and sea lions? Yes! Want to ride the fin of a dolphin? YES! Want to spend a week on a 300 foot yacht in the Mediterranean? YES! YES! YES!

But here, my lifelong sorting system has hit a snag – everyday here could be the most amazing day of your life. I’m now trying to figure out what to say no to. Last night, I turned down seeing Phil Woods, a living legend (78 year old) jazz saxophonist. Then I turned down going to Dos Jefes, a cool Uptown cigar bar. I knew I must be crazy, but I’m now in the enviable position of having too much to choose from, too many amazing stories unfolding for me to be part of them all. It’s why I have a love/hate relationship with bookstores and libraries. The bounty is SO huge, it serves as a reminder that I’ll never, ever read them all. Even now, the Italian festival is really kicking in, the parade is beginning and women are kissing Italian paraders for beads. Apparently, kisses are par for the course at the St. Patty’s parade also.

There’s always something happening in Los Angeles, too, but most of the events were closed to the public. Even at the height of my social calendar there, I rarely had to turn down a great invite because I just needed to sit on my couch and enjoy my home.

I said yes to joining my neighbor for lunch today. I’d eaten, so I chose La Divina, because, in addition to their insane sweet treats, they serve salads and paninis for her lunch. Turns out she’s had their food, says it’s great, so it was on. It’s a beautiful day and everyone’s out so I dressed for patio sitting and was applying mascara when she called to regretfully cancel. No matter, I was saying yes to a walk and La Divina. I put on my lipstick (I’m officially my mother now) and my Ipod and headed out. I passed a young woman in shorts on a bike and we nodded, she in her bright pink lipstick, I in my rose.

I stopped along the way at a tiny shopping center called The Rink, named for its original incarnation as a skating rink (1884). The Garden District historic walking tour starts here (perilously close to the greatest restaurant, Commander’s Palace). I stopped into the local bookstore, the one I visited when my sister-in-law had the dream, the Garden District Book Shop, an independent bookstore with more signed books than I’ve ever seen, a book club, a cook book club (and people bring food!), and many visits from authors. Isabel Allende is coming soon.

http://gardendistrictbookshop.com

After much debate with the enthusiastic and well read women behind the counter, I bought a detective novel by a local author set during Katrina. The shop across the lobby is an irresistible collection of chachkis, estate and locally made jewelry and fun furnishings like linen tea towels needle-pointed with a fleur de lis and “Who Dat.” I don’t remember the name of the store and it was cut off the top of the receipt for the gorgeous rhinestone cuff I bought for $19. Too bad, because, in addition to the fun baubles and birdhouses, it’s owned and operated by a super sweet man who remembered me from the one time I popped in over a month ago and bought nothing, and his wife (who I’ve yet to meet) who selects all the things for the store; the large hammered brass fleur de lis pendant with “Believe” emblazoned across it, the large collection of estate rings for less than $75, the beautifully kooky-elegant framed mirrors.

Oh, and I said yes to the cuff because, although I’m not buying anything but food right now to stretch my dollars, I fell in love with a rhinestone cuff before I left L.A. It was under $120 and a total steal, but I wanted to spend my dollars in New Orleans on things I’d wear a cuff to, so I left it there and wished I had it. For $19, the wishing stops.

And I said yes to the book because I went there to buy myself a treat. It had been too long and I haven’t seen a movie in weeks. Stop judging me!

I stopped into the store next door, a mostly pricier version of the same with pottery and soaps and personalized “Who Dat Nation” frames in addition to their jewelry and chachkis. Their front table always features decorations and novelties for the season. The Mardi Gras fun had been replaced by adorable decorative bunnies and chicks (as little as $4 and gorgeous) as well as many floral items.

A side note – as the neighborhood before was decorated partly for the Saints and partly for Carnival, now it’s partly St. Patrick’s Day and partly Spring, with wreaths encircled with pastel ribbons and flowers and pastel bows on lamps and railings.

Anyway, I was heading down to Magazine Street when I saw the gates of Lafayette Cemetery No.1 were open, for once.

http://www.tour-new-orleans.com/cemetery-tours.html

And for more history:

http://goneworleans.about.com/od/cemeteries/a/Lafayette.htm

That was definitely something to say yes to. So, I wandered in about 20 minutes before closing. There was a tour there, but I wandered on my own. The dates start in the 1700’s for births and the early 1800’s for deaths. So many of them were children. I wasn’t sure why until I stumbled onto a tomb for a family of 3 who’d died within 2 days. Above their names it said Yellow Fever. Wow. Then I wandered over to a tomb with lots of recent things left on and around it – not just satin flowers, but lots of tiny toys. I looked up to find it was “Destitute Orphans,” boys who’d died children without parents. Wow. It moved me. Lots of tombs had Madi Gras beads. I’ll have to take my camera next time.

Factoid overheard from the tour – the graveyard was not segregated by color in any way, but the Protestants and Jews are buried modestly in a back corner. The 6-foot-above splendor is only for Catholics.

As they were closing, Lauren called and said she’d love to meet me at La Divina.

http://www.ladivinagelateria.com

I got the spiced dark chocolate (Chocolate Azteca) / orange sorbetto combo again. An explosion of flavors for about $2. Amazing. And, like many places here, they’re very into “Green” business.  We ate at a sidewalk table and enjoyed the weather. I’m so glad I said yes to it, and in the end, I even had someone wonderful to enjoy my gelatto with – what more could I ask?

Oh – girls selling Girls Scout cookies in front of The Rendezvous Tavern.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Orleans-LA/Rendezvous-Tavern/112570913945?v=photos

You may recall it as the wholesome watering hole where  I watched the Vikings game and the Super Bowl, you know, the one with people dancing on the pool table.

Dang, I can hear the sirens and riverboat horns. The parade must have begun. The city is always calling…

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Filed under Culture, Local Cuisine, moving, shopping, walking

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