Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

Yes, I do know what it means to miss New Orleans.

That’s a strange statement as I have never actually been to New Orleans. I do hope to go someday, but as of this writing I have never walked its streets...

No, that’s not true. I walked its streets virtually for four years. In January 2009, I purchased the Second Life estate of New Toulouse from Carricre Wind. She had launched New Toulouse at the end of February 2008. 10 months later the estate was about to slip beneath the pixel waves of the Second Life grid when I stepped in and bought it, thanks to help from a group of “investors” who provided loans and in some cases cash gifts that enabled me to buy the estate.

Looking back on it now, five years later, I marvel at my spontaneous decision to take on New Toulouse. I had never leased a parcel there so why on earth would I jump in and take over an estate that I had only visited a few times? At the time I saw it as an opportunity to own an estate that I would not have to build. I was not a builder and I greatly admired the artistic vision and work that had gone into the New Toulouse sim. I could feel how special it was.

I also saw an instant fit with the music of New Orleans and Radio Riel. Back then Radio Riel only had ONE audio stream. NT gave me the idea of branching out into more streams, each providing a specific soundtrack. Now we have six streams with six distinct themes. I don’t know if I would have ever thought of branching out like that if I had not thought of creating a stream for New Toulouse.

What started as a spontaneous leap for me turned into four years of ownership of New Toulouse. Four years of memories of joy and pain, friendships, heartbreaks, adventures and music. NT was two sims when I purchased it. I was able to grow it to eight at its peak population. I spent thousands of hours of my time and effort on it. I learned so much! I was also blessed with wonderful residents and the creative partnership I had with Eclectric Breitman. I have been so lucky!

Just over two years ago I went back to school as a full time graduate student. I truly thought at the time that I was going to need to sell or close NT. But my first year of grad school, while a lot of work, still left me with enough time for NT. My second year of grad school was a whole other story. It was sheer Hell. The amount of work and the high levels of stress in the Fall of 2012 just about killed me.

In the same way that my purchase of New Toulouse occurred in a perfect storm of circumstances, my decision to finally sell it occurred in a similar storm. There were a lot of “little” things that suddenly converged with the very big thing of my second year of grad school. It was too much. And I was suddenly just totally and completely done. I had to reorganize my life otherwise I was going to collapse.

I walked away from NT on January 2, 2013 and have never looked nor went back. Not as Gabrielle Riel or as an alt. I was so overburdened with school and other RL issues that I had to make a clean break. It was a Steamlands precedent. No other estate owner had sold an estate and yet stayed in Second Life.

Honestly, I never thought about New Toulouse. I had so much going on and I had effectively put up a mental and emotional wall on the topic. I left all the NT groups (on purpose) and told my friends that I did not want to hear anything about it. I had school and big RL responsibilities. That was plenty!

Therefore I was surprised that in August-September of this year that I began to have feelings that I had not thought possible: I was beginning to miss MY virtual New Orleans! I would hear music or see something on TV or read something in a book, and I could feel a pull, this thing that seemed like a part of me was missing.

These feelings were so unexpected! That probably seems silly to you looking at me from the outside because it’s only logical that a person would miss something after putting as much time and energy into it as I did NT! But they were a surprise to me.

As much as I had loved NT, there was a part of me that kept it in a dispassionate business context. I had had my heart broken by a community (Caledon) and had been through what I now call my “divorce from Caledon”. I was never going to have my heart broken like that again, and it’s important to be able to maintain emotional distance when dealing with business.

I would love to know if Yankees like me who move to NOLA are treated the way I was treated by some people when I bought New Toulouse in 2009. It was a tiny minority, but for the entire four years that I owned NT there were a few folks who were always more than ready to communicate to me that I did not belong there. “Go home Yankee. You don’t know New Orleans. You don’t belong here. You aren’t doing this the ‘right’ way.”

Does that come as a surprise to you? I never talked about it. Some of you likely heard it through the “bitch and moan” grapevine if you were an NT resident, but my guess is that most folks did not know that I dealt with with that arrogance, ignorance, prejudice, and in one case, out-and-out racism.

I never gave a flying fig about people who acted in that manner. I actually found some situations extremely humorous! I do what I want, when I want, in the manner of my choosing. And for every arrogant “I am more NOLA than thou” jerk, there were ten people who were giving positive feedback. I was a trainer for 10+ years. I am built to follow feedback from my “customers”. And I do.

My work and focus this year has been on my school and RL. I also started playing regular shows on Radio Riel again, which was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. Poor Radio Riel got short shrift when I owned New Toulouse. As the dust settled over the months and time and distance put things in perspective, I was so surprised to feel that, yes, I know what it means to miss New Orleans!

These feelings do not make me sad. They make me happy! It means that I succeeded with New Toulouse in the way that I had so wanted, I had opened myself to the NOLA spirit and let it do its work through me. The feelings are validation. My heart feels what I knew in my head.

I have the NOLA spirit and it’s not going anywhere. The holidays are almost here and I think a NOLA Christmas music party is in order! I’ll put that on the calendar and we’ll have a great time!

I think Laurell K. Hamilton says it best: What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in New Orleans, goes home with you.