Sober in New Orleans: Day 4

Everything in this world seems to improve when you make a robust change to the music.
– Some dude in my dream, 3.18.18

Well, this has never happened before.

I was laying fast asleep in bed, dreaming of driving recklessly all over the place, when my dream flipped over to some dude pointing to some written words on a blackboard.

He was using a pointing stick to tap out the words on the board: Everything in this world seems to improve when you make a robust change to the music.

Click click click. He tapped out each syllable as we went over the phrase over and over again.

He repeated it a few times, placing emphasis on different words each time, as though it were a lesson I was in class to learn and never forget. Then I woke up. I laid there for a second in typical waking where-the-hell-am-I transition. I was rocking my head from side to side, my neck stiff from cheap pillows, still repeating the words in my head. Then I stopped at centre, my eyes snapped wide open, inspired and absolutely awake, still mouthing the words from my dream:

Everything in this world seems to improve when you make a robust change to the music.

I grabbed my phone to stick the line in Evernote, so I wouldn’t forget it, as if I actually could if I tried. I even wrote down the date, 3.18.18, along with New Orleans, Louisiana beneath it. I attributed it to “some dude in my dream.” I didn’t know exactly what it meant yet or who this mystery teacher was (because I hadn’t had any coffee yet) but what I did know is that it was something I wasn’t supposed to – and didn’t want – to forget.

I’m writing all of this about 15 minutes after everything above just happened. The slippery way that times handles sleeping and dreams is that it already feels like it happened to someone else 10 years ago, not me, just 15 feet from where I’m sitting right now typing this. I guess that makes it easier to write about, since it feels like I’m telling someone else’s story.

The word robust is jumping out at me. It’s the one word that’s sticking out so I have to call on Miriam-Webster. Here’s my favourites of what I found for the meaning of robust:

  • Sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
  • Marked by richness and fullness of flavour
  • Strong enough to withstand or overcome challenges or adversity

Everything we do, every moment of the day, creates our personal soundtrack. Some days we create soothing, classical scores, and some days we sound a lot more like the Muppets theme song. In movies and television, the soundtrack creates the tone, mood and the overall feeling of what we are experiencing.

Our thoughts create our personal soundtrack. And our actions, beliefs, environment, inner dialogue and fears create our thoughts.

Do you want to listen to the soundtrack of a horror movie or an inspiring adventure?

If we don’t like what we’re listening to, we have to change what is creating the music. 

You can be having the perfect day, cool Jazz be-bopping you along until BAM! you’re in the middle of a situation and your soundtrack starts to sound more like those impending doom moments in Jaws. It rises up from your belly, dun dunnn…dun dunnn…dun dun dun dun dun dunnnn, swirling around and out into the world, changing how you perceive everything.

Something bad is about to happen.

I spent so very long listening to a soundtrack that kept me in a constant state of suspense, tossed between the saddest drama and epic tragedy. The way I was living my life created it, because I kept playing the exact same notes over and over again. Dun dunnn…dun dunnn…dun dun dun dun dun dunnn… Drinking to excess and tearing my life apart from the inside out kept me on repeat, always feeling like Jaws was about to attack.

What I’m learning is that if you don’t like the music – change it. If you don’t like the movie – leave the theatre. If you’re tired of watching the same old re-runs – change the channel. If you’re sick of the song – change the notes you keep playing.

You have to make a robust change to the music.

Every single experience can be transformed if you choose to transform it. Change it by adjusting your attitude, switching to a new environment, shifting your perspective or deconstructing your patterns and habits. What is important is that when you become aware that you don’t like what you’re experiencing, or you hate what your soundtrack sounds like – you change it, no matter what it takes.

Seek out and create a soundtrack that soothes your soul.

Last night, Day 4 of our vacation here in New Orleans, Hubs and I had a nice dinner before we intended to take in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, then meet up with some friends for live jazz at a favourite spot of ours, Fritzel’s European Jazz Bar, unfortunately located towards the end of Bourbon Street.

Everything went from calm, cool and collected to slowly unravelling chaos in a matter of seconds. The difference in environment between the restaurant and the debauchery of NOLA’s historically famous drinking district was alarming. It was no surprise – we’ve bumbled along like cattle down the Bourbon Street corral countless times before.

Hell, some nights I felt like I was leading the damned Drunk Parade.

Claustrophobia was kicking in and I was getting increasingly irritated by the minute. The sheer volume of screaming, bead-tossing drunks was scraping on my freshly sober nerves.


I didn’t like my soundtrack at all.

A quick detour and I was exhaling my tension on much more tolerable side streets, my music changing from soul splitting horror flick to a much more tolerable (but still annoying) Von Trapp Family Singers from The Sound of Music.

It was better, but the hills were still very much alive with the sound of obnoxious drunk people.

I’m bitterly reminded of how many years I spent wasted, and how many years I spent listening to (and creating) a soundtrack that only made me wish I’d go deaf. It took a long time to figure out I had to change the notes I was playing if I was ever going to enjoy what I was hearing.

We arrive at Fritzel’s and I find some harmony between the amazing 3 piece band that’s playing Countess Ada de Lachau’s Little Liza Jane and the tonic water I’m sipping. The music is as much of a tonic as my drink – it washes over me taking with it the remnants of the dischord outside that we just escaped.

Our friends never make it – one is still hungover and immobile from last nights escapades.

An overly affectionate, obviously very intoxicated couple comes and sits in front of us (it’s worth noting that the seating in Fritzel’s is a small step up from sitting on one another’s laps. To call it tight quarters is an understatement.) She’s eating her beads. She’s all over the place and almost knocks my tonic water over about 8 times. I’m losing focus on the incredible live music and become fixated on plotting ways to injure her without actually hurting her.

I promise I’m not a bad or remotely violent person, but my patience lately – especially around crowds of the obnoxiously intoxicated – has grown to be shorter than Peter Dinklage.

They finally leave, thank god. A pair of drunk frat boys on a St. Paddy’s Day tear take their place. Bloody hell. These two are worse than the bead-eater. One of them is hollering and fist-pumping over the band’s sweet rendition of Louis Armstrong’s St. James Infirmary as if he was watching Mayweather vs. McGregor fight it out instead of a soulful musical performance. He yells something that sounds like “Fuck yaaaaa bass player bug dum loooooo me go yeahhhhhhh.”

He’s sweating buckets of pure, cheap, 3-for-1 draught beer.

We have to leave. Hubs agrees. 

At this point, I’ve lost all interest in catching – or being anywhere near – the parade. We head over to see YaDonna sing at the Omni Hotel, since she told us the night before she’d be there from 8:30 until late. And this lady can sing the phone book. She covers Adele better than Adele can do Adele.

The moment we step through the doors of the hotel my soundtrack skips from Nine Inch Nails to Norah Jones. The lobby alone is soothing (and clean, for a refreshing change). We find YaDonna and are introduced to her friends, as well as her cousin and Aunt who would be singing with her.

I quickly find out that they’re the holy trinity of my soul’s soundtrack.

I feel like I’ve found my family.

No, seriously.

I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. They’re sober. They’re sweet. They’re sincere, authentic, soulful, welcoming, pure Southern class and brimming with Grammy-deserved talent. I’m left speechless when she starts her set, and forget entirely about my virgin Mojito when she dedicates a funky, jazzy rendition of “My Guy” to Hubs and I.

I have a video of it that I need to post online so I can put it here, but in the meantime, here’s a clip I found of her performing Etta James’ At Last – just so you don’t think I’m exaggerating about her talent:

Finally, my soundtrack has found it’s groove.

Hubs is about to burst, inspired and in love with literally everything.

So am I.

We stay chatting with everyone at the end of the evening, wrapping things up around 11:30pm, making future plans for dinners and for everyone to come visit us one day in Canada. All of our notes play together like one perfect, harmonious chord.

Music to my ears and to my soul.

So much of the evening before arriving at the Omni was spent stuck on a soundtrack that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. So much of my life has been spent composing it.

And I don’t want to listen to that anymore.

I had to make terrifying, sweeping changes in my life to finally start hearing something that sounds like the beginning of an album I could listen to forever. I’ve had to start swimming in different waters, where Jaws is no longer welcome. I’ve had to put the Von Trapp Family Singers to bed, and wish them so long, farewell, auch wiedersehen, goodbye.

Everything in this world seems to improve when you make a robust change to the music.

Robust: Strong enough to withstand or overcome challenges or adversity.

This is the NEW New Orleans I’ve been looking for. This is the soundtrack of my soul I’ve been searching out, only in all the wrong bars and all the wrongs places, surrounded by all the wrong people. Of all the times we’ve been here, this is the first time we’ve made real, authentic connections – unobscured by alcohol, with all of us playing in the same, sweet band.

I can’t wait to hear what today sounds like.

A closing treat: I have a special little video to demonstrate how changing the music quite literally changes the experience (I die laughing every single time I see this). Please enjoy the spectacle of what happens when you overlay the Thomas The Tank Engine theme song on Beyonce’s Single Ladies video. I can’t even. It’s amazing.

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.

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