© Daryl D. Johnson, Shifting, Oils on Canvas, 32 x 54″

It was a giant shift in climate, latitude and attitude. I moved to New Orleans from New Hampshire a few months ago. How did that come to be?

My husband started listening to WWOZ, the jazz station from NOLA, over the internet years ago. He got hooked.

In early January 2019, my husband was buying tickets to JazzFest when I heard him call up to my studio: “You know, darlin’…if we moved there we could volunteer for JazzFest.” I dropped my paintbrush – that was EXACTLY the life I wanted to shift to. He would retire and I would have an art studio in a very different place!

We began a year-long effort to clear out the house where we had brought up two kids and two dogs. Sold tools and kayaks, antique sewing machines and typewriters. Sold the snowblower and cross country skis. I quickly learned where to sell items, where to donate them, how to give away things, where to recycle. Cleared the studio out as well. “Do I really need 3 drafting tables?” Bought our one new car we were to share, got rid of the two old ones. Sold his motorcycle, kept my little old BMW bike to zip around the town.

Of course the move faced complications during 2020 but we did sell the house in April, moved out of a NH AirBnB in late July and spent a week driving to NOLA where we would rent AirBnBs for 2 1/2 months before moving into the house and studio we bought.

How did we spend our restless time in NOLA waiting to move in? At museums, galleries, walking various parks, walking different neighborhoods. A great activity that cost nothing, was relaxing and a way to get to know the greater New Orleans area was to visit garden centers. We know NOTHING about tropical plants but planned to have citrus trees, a palm tree and a vegetable garden. We noted who had the best prices, best selection, a large variety of citrus trees, colorful large outdoor pots and friendly advice.

We chose the beautiful Bayou St. John neighborhood near City Park, 3 blocks from the Lafitte Greenway on which I bike 3x a week down to the outskirts of the French Quarter to swim at the Tremé Rec Center’s indoor pool. Being so flat, the biking is easy and a pleasant way to spend a morning. There seems to always be a breeze here with fresh air that clears my head.

Having lived in suburban New Hampshire where ones needs to drive everywhere, we now can walk to:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Coffee shops
  • Library
  • Post Office
  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacy
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Auto repair shop
  • Salons
  • Wine store
  • City Park
  • New Orleans Museum of Art
  • Sculpture Garden
  • Botanical Garden
  • Bike trails
  • Outdoor movie theater & concert stage
  • Voting Place
  • Bakery
  • Bicycle shop
  • Notary Public
  • Fairgrounds race track
  • Concert grounds
  • ATM

I can walk to a very nice art supply store as well. I tease my husband that I will tell the bakery around the corner not to sell him more than one baguette at a time.

Oh, yes, and we can walk to JazzFest at the Fairgrounds. Took a “practice walk” to the gates the other week.

The food here is fabulous, but you know that. The culture is deep and rich. We are always learning. There are eye-popping murals and artwork everywhere. We can’t wait for the Festivals to return.

Some surprises

  • Parks & Recs has “Big Treesy” events – free trees for residents of NOLA. Picked up a fig tree and a sweetbay magnolia in November.
  • Free weekly concerts from the balcony of the NO Jazz Museum in the French Quarter.
  • You can garden year-round. Tomatoes have two seasons.
  • Local bike store fixed both our bikes, at different times, for FREE.
  • Curtains for 10′ ceilings really don’t cost that much more than for 8′ ceilings.
  • There definitely needs to be some “bling” in one’s life. The chandelier in our new home will stay put.
  • Just noticed last week we can see a little bit of the Superdome from our bedroom on the second story.
  • There is a thing called “Mardi Gras Music” – they don’t get tired of it at all.
  • I don’t like King Cake – not one bit – it is an obsession here – but I haven’t tried all the 100’s of varieties so maybe I will someday. Crawfish King Cake, anyone?
  • I get why people suffer through the summer months with all the heat and humidity. The rest of the year has STUNNING weather! Absolutely delightful. I’ll have to remember that in August.
  • Hurricane Zeta made a direct hit here in NOLA on October 28. After living through Nor’easters in New England it was refreshing to go through a storm and not find 32″ of snow afterwards.

How can a gal born in NYC get used to New Orleans?

  • Started watching the Saints games 2 years ago.
  • Started eating spicier foods before moving!
  • Learned how to spell “Tchoupitoulas”.
  • Watched all seasons of “Tremé” on Netflix. (Note: Best TV show we have EVER seen.)
  • My mom was a southern belle and attended LSU.
  • I grew up eating grits and pecan pie.

There. That’s enough here to get along!

How will this affect my paintings?

I don’t know, yet. I have gotten more experimental, that’s for sure. I have started plein-air drawing and painting. Might take an Abstract painting class at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. I’ll keep you posted!

Bonus Fun Fact

On the night I met my soon-to-be husband in a jazz club in Stamford, CT, it was Carnival Season. He bought me a drink, we talked about our love of jazz and he teased that he should use his corporate credit card and we would fly down to New Orleans that night for Mardi Gras. (Scandalous!) OK, so we didn’t go. We ended the evening at a local jazz station talking with the on-air DJ in the studio at midnight. He was a jazz player himself and we ended up hiring his band for the wedding reception.

Here’s a shot of my new neighborhood, Bayou St. John, where pelicans dive down from the sky to fish.