The Magic of New Orleans: Total Life Found in Total Grief

I first went to New Orleans in 2012 after my mother died – my father had died 7 years earlier.

I knew nothing would ever be the same and I really wanted to mark the time between when my parents were on earth and when they weren’t.

So after my mom died I recorded my 4th album at home – also because I didn’t think my writing would ever be the same, and I wanted to gather my then-current songs together.

Within about a month right around that time these events happened which to me clearly lead the way…

  • Rob Frayne showing up at our door one day, and saying right on the doorstep: “Megan you should go to New Orleans”.
  • Being at an amazing Jeff Rogers show in Ottawa and members of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL showing up and dancing on stage with the band, and one member telling me I’d really like New Orleans.
  • The nurse one day, as my mother was napping, looking up from her book and telling me I should go to New Orleans.
  • That very night showing up for dinner to find my husband Mike and my cousin Nancy wearing shirts that said New Orleans.

I had no idea what to expect but I felt clearly that I had to go. I stayed with a wonderful woman, Karen, (her airbnb), who knew right away everything I would like – she dropped me off in the French Quarter, and she also told me about Frenchman street. I wandered around, kind of crying and also kind of elated – I had NEVER done anything like this before.

I eventually wandered into the Three Muses on Frenchman and sat at the bar, where they made the most delicious cocktails with total care. I overheard the chef come out and explain the menu to the waiters with such love and commitment. There was a singer-songwriter who was excellent and I just sat there, in awe, drinking in the feeling, the moment.

And then before I knew it I was crying… what was I doing here? What was I going to do for the next month? Nevermind the shock and grief of feeling like I’d lost both parents again.

I stepped out in the street, into the rain, and there was a brass band on the corner! I’m talking Monday afternoon – the best brass band I had ever heard was on the corner of a street in an area of about 4 blocks.

What could I do but DANCE! In the STREET! Crying and laughing in the rain! In NEW ORLEANS!

People wear anything there…people dance – you can bring your drinks on to the street. You can look people in the eye, you can be in your own world.

Frenchman is packed with bars – some the size of houses where you can hear the most amazing musicians right up close – everything from solo piano to brass and funk bands, old, new, nostalgic, contemporary.

I think I stayed out till 2 or 3 in the morning, just listening to band after band of amazing musicians.

And then I did it again, every day, for a month! Every morning I would wake up, make a nice coffee, write in my journal, coffee klatsch with Karen, head out for brunch and let the day lead me. Eventually I learned about other brass bands playing in other bars in other neighbourhoods and I would explore a little more.

And I knew why I was there – I got it instantly, and also in layers all month long – so many of the songs I grew up singing with my family are part of the repertoire there.

Plus this deep understanding. Total celebration of life right alongside total grief.