When traveling, few things impact me as much as the people I meet. Sure I’ve witnessed some epic sunsets, walked alone on endless deserted beaches, learned some amazing cultural customs, and explored more than the average traveler.
But the people I’ve met along the way, by far surpass every other wonder of travel. People who have added incredible value to my journeys. Without them I would have never discovered half the treasures each destination offers.
Those are the unforgettables.
I can’t possibly list them all in a single story but since I just returned from New Orleans last week I’ll tell you about the most recent one.
I bet he doesn’t even know he was this memorable. But does he remember us?
My travel partner and I thought surely this man must have been a trust fund baby and somehow he became our date, just for one night.
His name was Harrison and we bumped into him outside the Nopsi hotel in downtown New Orleans. We spent the evening at the rooftop bar of the hotel and just as we decided to call it a night and go back to our own hotel, we met him.
Harrison was standing out front of the Nopsi smoking a cigar. He was wearing a casual suit and a straw boater hat that would fit in well on a plantation or at a polo club. Khaki pants, a dark suit jacket, white dress shirt, and that hat.
No one dresses like that where I come from.
I can’t even remember how a conversation sparked between us and him, except that we were all smoking.
I thought Harrison was arrogant at first. His sentences were short, he wasn’t forthcoming in the conversation at all, and he reeked of old money.
This was only our second night in New Orleans so we hadn’t been anywhere yet, nor even figured out exactly where we should be. Yet Harrison seemed perplexed that we hadn’t heard of the world famous Sazerac bar. It is located in the classy Roosevelt hotel (a Waldorf property). Of course we didn’t know about it….we’re not that classy.
In his dry, arrogant way he remarked, “Alright, come with me ladies. My treat.” He spoke in a tone that made it sound like a chore.
Harrison placed himself between us, put his hands on each hip so we could loop our arms through his, and he became our escort through the nighttime streets of New Orleans.
We were on a journey to the 1930's.
When we walked through the door of the Sazerac bar accompanied by Harrison, it was like walking into a piece of history. Everyone knew him and he didn’t even need to tell the bartender to serve us each an elegant glass of the world’s first mixed drink.
Our cocktails appeared out of thin air in this order:
First, the famous Sazerac cocktail. An $18.00 concoction of Sazerac rye, Paychaud’s bitters, sugar, and Herbsaint.
Second, the equally famous Ramos gin fizz…shaken so vigorously it comes out with meringue on top. It literally tasted like a slice of lemon pie in a glass.
The coolest thing about Harrison is that the more we chatted with him the less arrogant he seemed. He morphed into a dreamer. A star crossed lover sharing the tale of his beautiful fiance in Estonia.
I mean, of course he has a beautiful fiance from Estonia….he’s Harrison.
As he spoke of her his face lit up, his eyes sparkled, and he gazed off into the distance with a tender smile on his face. We couldn’t help but fall in love with the guy!
The night ran late and the three of us were intoxicated so we decided to walk arm in arm back to the Nopsi to drop off our date. My travel partner and I walked the last few blocks back to our own hotel.
And that was our one and only night with Harrison of the historical Sazerac bar. He was one of the most memorable people we met on our ten-day trip. I even told him I’d be writing about him one day.
Does he remember?
Throughout my journeys, I’ve run across a million and one other Harrisons who have added just the right amount of brilliance to my life of travel. Most of them I’ll never forget.
I’ve often wondered if those one-time meetings in the most random corners of the world meant anything to the other person. Obviously, they’ve meant something to me because I end up writing about them.
But do they feel the same way? Did I add enough sparkle to their lives that they would remember that one night in a fancy bar? Or was I just some tourist they met in passing?
This is the beauty of traveling to destinations unknown and opening ourselves up to possibility. The possibility of having an impact on a stranger, leaving our “stamp” somewhere in the world.
Even if we never see that person again.