Measured Extravagance

23 April 2002 - 12:29 p.m.

Caroline asked: (is NO smelling sickenly sweet as night falls? how many shades of magnolias?)

I have to confess, I do not know, even though I was just there. Night had already fallen when we rode in, and we were both very tired as we sped along Esplanade towards Saz and Erac's house, so for me the fragrances of the night were the concrete sidewalks of Faubourg-Marigny, the cool white sheets and and pale green comforter on the guest bed, the bergamot-perfumed soap in the bathroom, the four glasses of red wine Erac poured out as we gathered in the kitchen, and the warmth of Saz and Erac's bodies as I hugged them.

I don't know how many shades of magnolias, though I can tell you of being struck anew by the many colors of the houses, both bright and faded, shiny and rusted, and also the clothes of the people standing outside of the churches, and the baubles for sale everywhere, and the frozen drinks spinning in their steel laundry-machine-style dispensers. That Bourbon Street smelled putrid at high noon (the excesses of the previous evening not having been sufficiently hosed down), but the stench eased as one moved further away from the heart of the Quarter. That one of the silver-paint "statues" was dancing very un-statue-like to a boom box, and another man on another corner was "finishing" his face, which he had covered in white greasepaint. We zipped by restaurants we haven't yet tried and boutiques I want to peek into the next time I have time to stroll around at leisure. I told them about my guilty pleasure in Frances Parkinson Keyes' very dated novels and stories - someday I will get around to visiting her house - as Erac drove us down Prytania Street.

Back here in Nashville, some of my basil seedlings are starting to resemble actual basil plants. The danger of frost is probably past (it was 58 degrees at 11 p.m. last night) but I'm waiting one more week before I move the pots out of my bathroom. There are trees flowering pink and white and purple around town; in my yard, bushes with a name I cannot remember flamed into red a few weeks ago and have already faded into rust.

One year ago, the puppy wanted to bite the towels that dried her. Some things haven't changed.

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