© Nicki Faulk / Www.Nitallica.Org


Even today, I can close my eyes and instantly be back on the banks of the Mississippi.  The wind blowing through my hair, caressing my face -- I'll never forget that summer.

Needing a break from a job that I had grown to loathe, my mom suggested that I go to New Orleans with her and Dad.  Reluctant to force myself into a typical "family vacation", I first said "No thanks".  She insisted, and I eventually gave in.

I flew out of Birmingham physically ill with my usual allergy symptoms.  My job literally made me sick.  It seemed that I was allergic to the glue in the new carpet on our floor.  That, plus the compounding stress mounting on me, day after day, had taken its toll.

I had two options: take a much needed vacation and actually get away from everything and everybody, or pick out a tower and a nice rifle.  (My supervisor didn't find that too amusing.)

Anyways, back to NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana). I arrived, sniffing and sneezing the whole way.  The weather down there was no different from Birmingham's -- maybe a little hotter -- but I began to immediately feel better.  Maybe it was the humidity from being on the water, or maybe it was me finally beginning to relax.

My vacation was care-free and delightful.  Mother and I would shop and visit the various places around the Riverwalk, and Dad would spend his time relaxing with a game (usually baseball) on TV.  I visited the Aquarium of the Americas, among several other "touristy" places, including the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.  Sitting out on the patio at Pat O'Brien's quickly became a part of my daily routine.  Mother and I would sip cocktails, gaze at the lovely surroundings, and inquire with any passerby carrying a drink we hadn't yet tried.  (Pat O's is known for its lengthy cocktail list.  Although some are a bit pricy, I found them all well worth the cost!)

Every afternoon, near dusk, I'd walk past the Riverwalk and gaze out onto the Mississippi River.  Even now, I can remember the wind on my face, and how free I had felt.  I never wanted to leave.  (I was even considering a move to NOLA).  But alas, like all good things, my vacation came to an end ... ending seemingly as quickly as it had begun.

On the day I left, I found myself thinking of the job and other worries awaiting me at home ... I became sick once more.

I've been to NOLA several times, and it seems each visit is more magical than the previous.  New Orleans holds a special place in my heart, and still remains one of my favorite escapes.

Last summer, I watched a documentary on television about the Mississippi River.  It's said that New Orleans is literally a sinking city, each year falling farther below sea level and below the river level.  Scientists estimate that within ten years, New Orleans will be washed over by the Mississippi in a flood, and will be lost forever.

I hope that never happens, but if it ever does, I'd be happy to live with the memories I carry with me in my heart, forever.

To NOLA, with love -- thanks.