From New Awlins to Vegas: My first decade of adulthood

Ten years ago this past summer, my buddy Jim Lauterhahn and I embarked on a trip to New Orleans. I was a broke college junior who used the last paycheck he’d ever receive from hauling parcels off UPS tractor trailers overnight to pay for the jazzy weeklong romp.

We left on a Monday in July, stopped at Duke University briefly to see a friend (we missed him), stopped in Decatur outside Atlanta for a night to see a Mets-Braves game and made it across the bayou and into New Orleans in about 52 hours. That’s what one of the postcards I found recently says. I don’t remember much of the timeline. I was really in a chill mode of my life. I’ve since promised Jim I’d write about the trip Kerouac-style one day but that day hasn’t yet come.

I’d still like to think Jim and I are in the chill mode of our lives, I mean, responsibility sucks to a certain extent – and by certain, I mean, almost the whole extent. But 10 years later, it’s getting harder and harder to look at both our lives and think: yea, we’re still riding along sweet and such, doing our own thing.

For one, Jimbo, or Slumpy, as his brothers Dave and John and Steve call him, has moved to Vegas. Yea, cool, he must be like a Texas Hold’em poker pro or something, right? No. He’s a school teacher in the special ed program of the Clark County School District. Oh, well, he must party hard in the City of Sin picking up all the vulnerable chickies who come in looking for a quick good time over a long weekend, no? No, indeed, he’s very happily married to a real sweetheart. And they have the cutest kid ever. So it’s all leave it to beaver-style and not very “Let’s wing it down to New Awlins for the week” anytime soon.

I recently got back from his wedding, which was two months ago. Stayed in “Old Las Vegas,” down on Fremont Street, got the “Fremont Experience.” Everyone else in the wedding stayed in the middle of what I can presume is “New Las Vegas,” at the Excalibur Casino in the middle of all the glamor and so forth. I was proud of myself for bucking the trend – the Lauterhahn brothers call it the “Pollard-effect” after a guy who apparently doesn’t like to follow reservation suggestions either – but my pride collapsed my sinus cavity after I got into the casino I was staying at. It smelled like cigarettes that had been smoked back when Old Las Vegas was still New Las Vegas. The chill factor that I might once have gotten a kick out of from staying in some dodgy dump off the beaten path no longer serves as a lens for how I see the world, so it seems.

Now that I make some real money, and don’t have to spend nights slinging hundreds of boxes of cargo around, chilling out on a vacation comes with a certain amount of refinement. And it also most times now comes with my fiance, Nikijha, who enjoys the finer things in life as well. Jimbo and I had talked a couple years back about a second trip to New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of our initial romp, but that trip turned into me heading to Las Vegas for his wedding with his new wife Lisa. It counted, sort of, in my book as a trip for us.

We’ll head back one day to New Orleans, I imagine, maybe on the 20th anniversary, sometime in July 2021. I’ll be two decades into adulthood by then and should have a firm grip on what it is to be responsible and accountable and such. By 2021, I imagine Jimbo and I will need another trip to New Orleans. We’ll stay in the Garden District and go to the Maple Leaf and spend one day – just one – on Bourbon Street. It’ll shake off the cobwebs a little. It’s always good reminding – not often now, but very occasionally, I reckon – that you once did things no one else thought was a great idea and found out no one really knows what they’re talking about. Makes you feel and act like less of an adult. Adults think they know everything.

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