Sometimes when I’m getting yelled at, or feeling annoyed, or really hungover, I’ll access the happy thoughts portion of my brain to keep me sane.
I’ll vividly remember eating boiled crawfish on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in New Orleans while I return an angry phone call from my desk in South Carolina.
I’ll remember how PERFECT the weather was at my recent birthday park party while I wait on hold for the electric company, again, to figure out why we haven’t gotten a bill for the third month in a row.
I’ll even go as far as to dream about sitting on my couch watching bad reality TV with a bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese to ease my mind while I go to the eye doctor.
Yet, like gym music, happy memories can lose their effect after a while.
Sure, there are some “go-to” happy memories — like laying out on the beach with a juicy celebrity magazine, or remembering the look on my horrible former boss’ face when I told her, “I quit!!!!! OH YES I DO! I QUIT, QUIT, QUIT!”
While those are particularly happy memories, I find I need a fresh, regular supply in order to continue to function.
I’ll forget the exact feeling of older happy memories, and less-than-vivid thoughts don't always get me through an all-nighter at work. Or cheer me up when I check my account balance.
Thankfully, I got more than my share of new, happy memories this past weekend at Jazz Fest. They're gonna sail me right through spring.
It was just a perfect, perfect weekend back home, even with torrential rain, a 12-hour drive to get there and daily hangovers.
I spent the entire weekend with my boyfriend, who is fortunate enough to live in the city, and we danced OUR FACES OFF to true New Orleans music — during the day, at night and well into the early morning hours.
A large percentage of my happy memories involve dancing to live music, you see. And the bands we saw during Jazz Fest were just perfect. Can I say that again? Perfect? Ok, once more. PERFECT!
For me, happy memories that involve dancing are even better when the memory includes someone else to dance with.
All weekend long we fast-danced, slow-danced, Zydeco-danced and I even danced on a bench against the wall to better see the bands play. My boyfriend kept holding my hand and dancing in front of me.
All that dancing went right into the happy memory vault in my brain, locked away with that time I caught a ridiculous fly ball in kickball and the day I graduated college.
Another happy Jazz Fest memory was spending time with my brother, who I only see a few times a year.
He’s in the movie business and pointed out actor Steve Zahn from the TV show Treme at the bar we were at.
He was just sitting by a doorway tapping his foot to the music. A celebrity! I tried to check out what he was drinking.
“I’ve never seen Treme,” I pouted, as I looked at the actor without recognizing him. Damn HBO for being so effing expensive!
“Well, he was also in the movie, ‘You’ve Got Mail,’” My brother said.
Even though Steve Zahn didn’t excite me as much as, say, Justin Long “the Mac Guy,” I placed the memory of checking out a celebrity at an awesome bar in New Orleans into the happy memory vault as well.
I made some surprising happy memories at the George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic show during Jazz Fest, seeing as it was pouring down rain pretty much the whole time.
I made new friends among the umbrellas and raincoats — Monty and Bill — a gay couple that welcomed me into their seating area without judging me for being at the festival alone.
I hadn’t planned to go to Friday’s festival alone, but a torrential downpour and the possibility of hail and tornadoes scared my friends away. Wusses.
I, for one, would not be deterred. Of all the bands playing all three days, the ones I was most excited to see were George Clinton and the Black Crows — come hell or high water!!!
As I was waiting for the show to start, I made a reference to a movie called PCU to the strangers sitting next to me because George Clinton had made an appearance in it. Monty and Bill said they knew exactly what movie I was talking about and started quoting it. We became instant festival friends.
Monty, Bill and I watched the hour-long George Clinton show together, pointing at people falling in the mud, clapping and cheering when the rain subsided and wondering aloud exactly how old George Clinton is.
It didn't matter than we were dirty, smelly and soaking wet. It was much more fun than being alone. Happy memory vault check.
Give these happy legs a bath STAT!
That Sunday — the one day I skipped the festival due to exhaustion and my throbbing calves from all the dancing — I met up with my dear friend Tatiana, who I have known since I was 7 years old and who has a wonderfully fascinating life in the French Quarter.
Tatiana lives in a beautiful brick apartment on Royal Street where her grandfather used to live, and I’m fully convinced that if the apartment could talk, it would beam with pride at the number of musicians, artists and pot luck dinners found within.
Tatiana’s house has become a makeshift hostel for musicians from all over the world, and she fully embraces each person’s talent, spirit and life experiences. Inside the house there's swing dancing, authentic New Orleans music from 1940s and postcards from all over the world.
It just so happened that on that Sunday, the French Quarter musicians threw a “Tatiana appreciation party” on Royal Street and set up instruments, food and wine outside her apartment, playing music and singing a capella.
There was Tatiana — my best friend — being celebrated for being such a wonderful person and it was wonderful to witness.
We caught up with one another as I drank a screwdriver in the street, people on bicycles peddling up and giving her hugs and kisses.
Happy memory vault check.
The last happy memory before I returned to South Carolina was a makeshift early Mother’s Day dinner we had Sunday night, since my brother, twin sister, Joy, and I were all in town at exactly the same time.
My dad grilled steak — using the same recipe we ate growing up — and we sat on the back porch in the mild weather eating and drinking wine.
My boyfriend came, too, and even he had a good time hanging with my family. What a trooper.
I put these new memories to use right away. They were exactly what I needed to focus on during the 12-hour drive home Monday. With a wine hangover.
Work today has been rough, with 105 emails I've accumulated in my four-day absence and 8 voicemails that needed immediate attention.
I sat at my desk this afternoon, SAD. Sad that I had no crawfish for lunch, sad to no longer be in New Orleans, and exhausted from yesterday’s drive.
Then I started remembering things. And immediately started to feel better.