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Thursday, July 12, 2012

A creepily inspired love note to New Orleans

A calm Bourbon Street
Yesterday was my day off and I had a list of things that I wanted to do in order to enjoy it. Yes, I even make lists regarding how I am going to "try" to relax. I made myself some delicious vegan and gluten free french toast (the recipe will come later, I promise), enjoyed a cup of coffee and put on an episode of "Final Witness" which I had dvred. I love murder mystery shows and I recognize that it is somewhat disturbing that watching tragedy is enjoyable for me, but I am always intrigued by human behavior in general. However, in recent months, I have started to become more spooked and anxious while watching these shows. Maybe it is because I am getting older and realize that the terrible things that I am watching, did and do happen in real life and could happen to me or anyone else that I love. Ugh. Terrifying thought.

Sam and I, the night we arrived in New Orleans
Either way, I put this show on, expecting to watch it and move on with my day and my list of things. If you have never seen "Final Witness," which is possible since there have only been 3 episodes, it is a show based on true crime, depicted by actors and narrated by friends and family of the victim and suspect. The episode I watched yesterday was "Graveyard Love" about Addie Hall and Zack Bowen, two people who fell in love in New Orleans and their ultimate demise. The show opened by explaining that Addie arrived in the French Quarter and immediately felt like she was home. Those who are close to me, know that my best friend and I were very close to moving to New Orleans about 2 1/2 years ago. So I can definitely relate to this statement and from the very beginning the episode sucked me in.

Here is the shortest summary of the show that I can provide:

Blurry Bourbon Street from a bar balcony
Addie and Zack met at a bar they both worked at and slowly developed a relationship. They were both lost souls, looking for a place to call home and looking for comfort and they found it in each other. Zack had been deployed and had already been married and had two kids by the time they met. Their love affair began before Katrina and when the storm was due to hit Zack decided he needed to be with his kids. When he went to go say goodbye to Addie, he decided that he could not leave her, so they weathered through the brutal hurricane together. What was interesting is that the show depicted the aftermath of the storm in a way I had never heard. Apparently, the French Quarter was never flooded, damaged yes, but still livable to an extent. Zack and Addie found magic in the fact that a city that is always "on" was now quiet and peaceful. They had the whole city to themselves and a few others who had stayed. When the city started to come back to life was when things fell apart for them. They started to look for the magic they had experienced in drinking and drugs. They fought. Zack had an affair with a man. Things got ugly. They tried to save their relationship by getting an apartment together, but Addie wanted to play it safe and secretly signed the lease with only her name on it. When she found out Zack was cheating, she kicked him out. Zack told people that she left him and moved back home. He was seen hopping from bar to bar, racking up tabs and leaving. A mutual friend of the couple called him to see if he was okay and Zack invited him out that night. They were out until 4 a.m., when Zack abruptly said that he had to leave and go on vacation, and then left. Soon after, police found his lifeless body. He had jumped from a building, committing suicide. In his pocket they found a note which explained that if the police visited his apartment they would find his girlfriend's corpse. They arrived at the address and searched the apartment, but no body was in sight. On the walls sayings were spray painted, such as "I am a failure" and "I really loved her." Addie's journal was on the table but the last few pages were written by Zack, where he explained how he killed his girlfriend. They had been fighting and she kicked him out. She would not stop talking so he, calmly, started to strangle her. It did not take long before she was lifeless. He slept next to her corpse that night. He went to work the next morning. He thought about how to get rid of her body and decided that he would cut her body into pieces and then cook the parts to detach the flesh from the bone. Police found arms and legs in one pot and a head in another, all partially cooked. Zack explained that he was not disturbed by the fact that he killed Addie, but by the fact that he had no remorse and this is when he decided to spend the last of his money having a good time and then take his own life.

Whew. Okay. That is a lot to take in. So I will give you a minute....

Here is my experience with New Orleans and why the episode hit me so much:

Me, at peace, enjoying Cafe Du Monde coffee in New Orleans
As I mentioned before, I watch these terrible kinds of shows all of the time. What made this different is that in a weird way I felt connected to these lost souls in New Orleans. My best friend and I took a road trip to the city at a time when we were both a little lost. Me especially, after my parents shocking divorce, my abrupt break up and move from upstate New York back to Long Island, long nights working at a bar followed by long nights of drinking and little sleep. I was the definition of lost. When I got to the French Quarter, I felt like I was home. Apparently this is a very common feeling and it is hard to explain if you have never been to New Orleans. I felt calm. I felt like I could be and do whatever I wanted or needed and it would be okay. Granted, I was on vacation and that is a common vacation type thought, but this was different. I felt it in my heart and my gut. It is very easy to fall in love with that city. On our road trip back my best friend and I decided we would move there. Why not? We had no careers or boyfriends holding us down. It would be a fresh start. We were both bartenders so we could find work easily. Immediately we were excited and became wrapped up in the romantic idea of moving there. We made a time line and I even got a second job, mainly to help me save for the move. We both had a common goal that brought us even closer together and motivated us. We had Nola nights, where we drank Abita beer, made muffaletta's and watched "Princess and the Frog" (it takes place in New Orleans. Don't judge). Nothing else mattered because New Orleans was in our future. We planned a second trip to the city to look at apartments and secure jobs. However, the second trip lacked the magic that we had experienced the first time. This time we considered the reality of what we were about to do and bottom line, I think we both got a little scared. So instead of searching for our potential future residency, we decided to treat it like another vacation and the dream of moving there slipped from my fingers. It was devastating to let go of that dream, but when I woke up and looked around my life, I could not help but notice all of the improvements that I had made while holding onto this dream. I was happier, motivated, making more money, secure with who I was and the decisions I had made. Even though I did not physically move to New Orleans, the city helped me come back to life. It helped me find my balance. I will always carry New Orleans in my heart and my time there has shaped who I am today. I know people who had moved there and I carry a sense of jealousy toward them, but I would not trade my life at the moment for a life in that city. However, the city in part, got me the life that I have now. Which is why I proudly explain to people that the Fleur de lis on my wrist is not for the football team The Saints (Although my best friend and I literally cried when they won the Super Bowl), but for the city of New Orleans.
My Fleur de lis tattoo
There are a few reasons this episode of "Final Witness" hit me so hard. I can relate to be being a lost soul in that city. I can also imagine that my life there would have been somewhat similar to what their lives were. Each working in a bar and doing side jobs to stay afloat. I can imagine falling in love and having a whirl wind romance in a magical city. I had imagined these scenarios so many times while preparing and daydreaming about my move. I can't understand how Zack could kill the person he loved, but sometimes a downward spiral is only that. You are not guaranteed an upward spiral. That you have to work for. Basically, the episode made me look back on my time in New Orleans and my love for the city in a way that I have not done in a long time. I am that person who believes everything happens for a reason, and obviously New Orleans is not a city filled with all good (no place is), but New Orleans was my life preserver and I will continue to romanticize it for as long as I please.

1 comment:

  1. A few things about it... This hit me in a sensitive place, too - and I don't for a minute believe some of the worst rumors...I know Addie might have done some things she wasn't proud of - sometimes we are put in positions in life we never thought we'd find ourselves in.. knowing her background and what she survived, I can understand. Addie was not just a stripper, (but she was a stripper) she was a ballroom dancer, she went to dance classes and she taught people, how to dance, (in my case it was a group effort - but I learned to really dance for a wedding). I can hear her singing along - Janis Joplin's Bobbie McGee - some stanzas of which are eerily appropriate and I think might take it back to the beginning Durham NC long before NOLA

    "busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin'for a train and I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans.. flagged a diesel down, just before it rained, rode us all the way to New Orleans.. singin' soft while Bobby sang the blues.. Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose, notin' and that's all that Bobby left me.. Feelin' good was easy, Lawd when he sang the blues and feelin' good was good enough for me, ummhmm good enough for me and my Bobby McGee..

    but since I have to be reasonable I thought you might like to know if you're interested -

    In a chilling, too-close-for-coincidental and incomprehensible postscript - on that episode of Final Witness "Graveyard Love" one Margaret Sanchez, self-proclaimed best friend to Addie Hall, who said "(Addie) was everything a woman can be for another woman she was for (Margaret)" has been indicted by a grand jury on capital murder charges along with another friend of Zack Bowen/Adriane Hall. The murder and dismemberment is of another girl the couple worked with (at a strip club "Stillettos" on Bourbon), Jaren Lockhart, whom they enticed with the offer of pay for a night of partying and sex.

    As NOPD posed the question, "How many people do you know who have been murdered?" and I ask you, "..and dismembered?" I don't suppose that it is Sanchez responsible for Hall's murder... but the dismemberment of both victims is too much... Since she did say this was her best friend through a veil of tears.. even offer at the end of "Graveyard Love" (post-credits) her own theory of what was going through Zack's mind and how he went through with it.

    Still, I just can't shake their (Zack & Addie's) story at heart - it aches and it carries a message and it did once carry so much hope, like in the NY Times, like in real-life. I know what you mean. I can still feel it, too.