Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All writers should go to New Orleans

Screw New York; it's too expensive, getting more so by the minute, and it's cold.  I know that's where all the agents and publishers are; they need to see the error of their ways and move to the French Quarter. Don't they know that writers are poor?  They certainly ought to, considering.

No doubt some smartass will point out that the French Quarter is not exactly low-rent, either.  But as expensive as it is, it is not remotely in the same class as Manhattan, which is reaching the point where even being a multi-millionaire is simply not enough to live there. Besides, there's such a thing as actual value derived from qualities other than the price tag on your real estate, which New Orleans in general has in spades. And there are other neighborhoods that are actually affordable and relatively close by the French Quarter, which is not true of anywhere in New York that I have heard tell of.  The closest reasonable rent to anywhere in Manhattan is Vermont.

Look:  In New Orleans, you need never lack for material.  It is literally just out there walking around, tending bar, waiting tables, and chatting amiably with you on the street corner, big as life. People are interesting here.  They have character.  They have a lot of it. 

And they are very friendly.  As I was walking down the street towards my hotel (reputedly originally owned and run as a boarding house by Marie Laveau), some folks were sitting on their front stoop taking the air.  I said hello (because I too am from the South) and they asked me where I was visiting from and "what brings you to the Quarter?"  I explained about my writing project and they allowed as how "there's lots to write about here, that's for sure."  See?  They know.

Even the street hallooing is of a different character. I was greeted while walking along Burgundy with "Heyyyy pretty in pink!" but it did not perturb me.  It was neither vulgar nor threatening; it was rather delivered in tones as if the speaker felt that it would be nearly ungentlemanly to let a woman walk down the street without applause.  Another complete stranger winked at me.  This rarely happens in Atlanta.  People are very friendly in New Orleans...The street life is riotous and legendary, even when there isn't a festival going on. When there is, it's practically transcendent.

And yet, it is also a place with many little enclosed oases, courtyards that can be barely glimpsed from the street or not at all, where it is possible (I know this from experience) to have a quiet conversation even at the height of Mardi Gras.  Your typically introvert writer can go out, sample the panoply of life's rich pageant, and then scuttle back into his or her hidey hole. I personally am currently sitting in my aforementioned historically awesome hotel room, with the French doors open to the balcony which overlooks the courtyard below, where I can hear the tinkle of a fountain (and the HVAC unit, but whatever). The cool night breezes can come wandering in. There are many, many good restaurants within easy walking distance, and many of them stay open quite late, so if I decided to stay up all night and write I could probably find sustenance or inspiration whenever I needed to.

What I am saying is, it's a civilized place. So civilized it is also well debauched.  As a matter of fact debauchery is something of a primary export, as it were.  Consequently they have good booze, good music...and good coffee, all things that are important to the writerly life.

New Orleans is a good place for a writer.  That's part of why I came.  I wish I could stay longer, in fact.  I guess I'll have to come back.

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