Thinking About New Orleans #mojogce

Group creativity experiment: 1“Litanie des Saints,” Dr. John

I’ve always felt a personal connection to New Orleans. My mother’s family lived in Baton Rouge for a long time, and I spent a few summers down there as a kid. I remember one summer coming back home with a slight accent that never fully disappeared and slips through whenever I’ve had a couple of drinks too many.

The Big Easy is still one of my favorite movies, long after I got over my Ellen Barkin crush, and it was also the name of the first restaurant I worked at when I lived in Miami Beach, which closed a month-and-a-half after I started there.

I went through an Anne Rice phase largely because her books were set in New Orleans, and I love True Blood (the books and the TV show) because I’ve forced the association in my own mind.

In the summer of 2005, one month before Hurricane Katrina, my wife and I visited New Orleans for our 7th anniversary and had a great time, oblivious to the horrors to come.

Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area — Saulet Condos — once they tried to get cars from there… well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is “horrific.”

New Orleans? Or Baghdad?

I hate that Katrina now overshadows all of my memories of the city I’ve always fantasized about living in one day. When we visited that last time, we played our usual game of “what if…” and I even had my fantasy business figured out:

We spent a lot of time walking up and down Royal Street, the Quarter’s 5th Avenue to Bourbon’s [pre-Giuliani] 42nd Street, since it runs parallel to Bourbon and doesn’t stink, and I found the perfect location for a comic book store in the 700 block where an Importico was going out of business! There are a lot of galleries on that end of Royal and I could imagine a high-end, indie-centric shop with a gallery and an emphasis on trade paperbacks called Graphiqué. If only…

This probably isn’t quite what Moriah Jovan was looking for from this experiment, but Dr. John will always represent New Orleans for me — the Big Easy (restaurant) had his album, In a Sentimental Mood, on heavy rotation — and it will be a long while before I can think about New Orleans without it being a bittersweet feeling.

I’m still holding on to the idea of Graphiqué, though, if only to savor that particular memory so filled with hope and passion in a city that has somehow managed to keep a grip on both, despite having a million reasons to give up.

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