Update from New Orleans

It’s a warm, sunny, breezy day here in New Orleans.¬†And I’m enjoying it immensely. I had a tasty, huge meal of crawfish (four different ways), crab (stuffed), and barbecue shrimp pasta last night at Deanie’s Seafood.

Last night’s stroll down Bourbon Street was¬†wild and crazy.¬†I first heard the term “Storyville” when, as a much younger fellow, I first heard Robbie Robertson’s album of that title. I’ll have to revisit that record now. While that nickname apparently has a colorful history, and relates only to a section of the city, it strikes me as a good nickname for the town… insofar as its blend of styles, cultures, old, and new are a storyteller’s dream. Every block is so full of personality — dazzling style, exquisite disintegration, boisterous new growth. The sublime and the sinful. I could write a book of short stories here, because every block is lined with buildings of such disparate style and character. And it’s alive and bustling.

My colleagues Jennifer and Reece walked with me all over the downtown area, and what we saw made our heads spin.¬†A brass band blasted the biggest most joyful noise I think I’ve ever heard, and they did it for free right on the street, for a dazzled crowd. So much spirit… and stamina too. They were still playing two hours later when we walked back after dinner. That stroll felt like reading the Divine Comedy in one sitting. Glory and porn, white tablecloths behind polished windows and a guy in a sandwich board that said “Big Ass Beers to Go!” A kind local guy who gave us recommendations, and a beautiful woman who suddenly bent over and puked in the street.¬†

I had a few minutes to walk along the waterfront and check out some of the beautiful old-fashioned riverboats. Wish I’d had time to learn more about the history of what I saw there, but it was inspiring, nonetheless. I’ve been surprised at just how many friendly folks I’ve encountered along the way here, people who really want to be here and are passionate about this place. They’ve been generous in their storytelling, and quite welcoming. I want to come back and spend a good long time exploring, sometime when I don’t need to sit in air-conditioned conference rooms all day.

But the conference has been inspiring so far. This morning I had the privilege of hearing famed sportswriter and NPR commentator Frank Deford speak about his career, and about the soaring glories and the disgusting lows of the sports world. And I attended a motivating seminar on finding great story material on your college campus.

I just got back from a reception where I never did find my coworkers, but oh well. I’m ready to head back out, find a quiet place to sip something, taste something, and work on Cyndere’s Midnight. So, I hope your evening is as promising as mine.

 

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  • http://lookingcloser.org Jeffrey Overstreet

    I once had a teacher who said, “You can be right about something. But if you’re not careful how you say it, you’ll be damned right.”

    As one who is far too frequently damned right, or even damned wrong, I’m trying to do better.

  • gordonhackman

    Jeffrey,

    The most bizarre part of Higginbotham’s comments is that he seems to know he was being rude as revealed by this comment:

    “It also doesn‚Äôt matter what my demeanor is, how polite or rude I am, etc. The facts will not change, although your reception of my comments will.”

    That comment makes me wonder why he didn’t just alter the tone of his e-mail. It’s as if he would rather justify himself and go on being rude even though he knows it decreases his chances of being listened to. Unfortunately, he is not the first person I’ve seen in the blogosphere who seems to embrace the attitude that “As long as what I’m saying is truth/facts, it doesn’t matter how I say it.”

  • http://lookingcloser.org Jeffrey Overstreet

    Interesting. I hope I can get back to New Orleans soon, and that my next trip allows me more opportunity to explore and learn about its history.

    Yes, H. was right about the history of Storyville. It’s good to know. Not sure why he had to be so condescending, but oh well…

    Thanks, Julio.

  • jibanez01

    I wasn’t going to correct you earlier for fear of sounding like a school marm and intruding on your poetic license. But since someone else has taken the lead and in such poor tone, I figured whatever I had to add would seem more interesting and less pedantic. (with no offense intended to the first poster).

    I believe, and anyone is free to correct me if I’m wrong, the term “Storyville” actually applies only to a part of town just outside the French Quarter that used to be well-known for its numerous brothels. And also served as the launching point for Louis Armstrong’s career who used to play for their patrons when he was very young. All the old buildings, unfortunately, have since been destroyed and replaced by apartment buildings.

    And, I believe the first poster was right in that this red light district was facetiously named after a famed reformer.

    Enjoy!

    Julio

  • http://lookingcloser.org Jeffrey Overstreet

    Monsieur Higginbotham wrote:

    You wrote:”It‚Äôs easy to see why this town is called Storyville. … I had a few minutes to walk along the waterfront and check out some of the beautiful old riverboats. ”

    The line about Storyville fits neatly into your paragraph and allows you to subsequently express your feelings and opinions about the city. Unfortunately the “Story” in Storyville comes from the name of reformer Sidney Story (http://www.jstor.org/view/00943061/di973915/97p12796/0) and has nothing to do with your usage.

    As I care about facts, I’m grateful for this information. I was introduced to the term “Storyville” when I was much younger, and Robbie Robertson released an album with that title. Clearly, with the many stories he told on that record, he appreciated the double-meaning of the term. So that’s how I’ve always thought of it.

    But, having never *studied* New Orleans, I have a lot to learn about it. I wish I had the opportunity while I’m here, but alas, I’m in town for an editors’ conference, and my sightseeing time is painfully short.

    Higginbotham says:

    Having read a number of your columns, I suspect you will say that this does not matter

    Hmm. You must have seen the post about how “facts aren’t important” on some other blog. I’m actually quite fond of them. (See my comments on Hillary Clinton and James Frey.)

    Higginbotham says:

    … it is an impression of the city you are trying to convey, not an actual history. I feel that getting facts straight is more important.

    I’ll try to refrain, then, from being snarky about the fact that your URL for the Storyville information is inaccurate. Apparently readers need membership to that site in order to access its pages. You see, even though you made a mistake, I’m still willing to believe that you think facts are important. Perhaps you could extend the same courtesy to me.

    Yes, I was conveying an impression of the city. I have not studied its history much, so I suppose I might misunderstand a thing or two about it. I walked along the river for about fifteen minutes during the lunch break at this conference. Somehow I failed to absorb every fact about the history of that place. Please, find it in your heart not to hold this against me. I’ve only just arrived here after all.

    I’m happy to learn about anything… from folks who can speak truth in kindness.

    Higginbotham:

    It also doesn’t matter what my demeanor is, how polite or rude I am, etc. The facts will not change, although your reception of my comments will.

    Facts are important. So are grace, kindness, humility, and politeness. In my opinion.

    And your demeanor, had it been different, might have changed this fact: I won’t be allowing any more of your comments unless your formidable grasp of the facts is accompanied by some grace.

    Higginbotham:

    Similarly, I fail to see how, on rereading, you are surprised when people react negatively to the wording of “Seems like at least one Hollywood celebrity is thinking for herself instead of just going with the general flow of ‚ÄúPull the troops out immediately!‚Äù” in your question about Jolie’s opinion.

    Take your comments on that thread back to that thread, please. I’m not interested in going back to that old conversation here in a post about how much I’m enjoying my trip.

    [Also, none of the riverboats you see are old.]

    I saw the boats as I walked by. They’re certainly appear old-fashioned, at least. But again, thanks for the lesson. If you ever seek to address me with a dash of respect, I might actually enjoy our conversation. Learning is a joy. Being scorned for not being a know-it-all… that’s not so joyous.

    Now… the comments are open to well-mannered adults who would like to share their impressions of New Orleans. Facts are welcome. Maturity, respect, and a modicum of kindness are celebrated. Fight-picking… fuggedaboutit.

  • jahigginbotham

    You’re a writer/editor; I am a lab technician. Perhaps these different backgrounds affect how we view the world.

    You wrote:”It‚Äôs easy to see why this town is called Storyville. …
    I had a few minutes to walk along the waterfront and check out some of the beautiful old riverboats. ”

    The line about Storyville fits neatly into your paragraph and allows you to subsequently express your feelings and opinions about the city. Unfortunately the “Story” in Storyville comes from the name of reformer Sidney Story (http://www.jstor.org/view/00943061/di973915/97p12796/0) and has nothing to do with your usage. Having read a number of your columns, I suspect you will say that this does not matter; it is an impression of the city you are trying to convey, not an actual history. I feel that getting facts straight is more important. It also doesn’t matter what my demeanor is, how polite or rude I am, etc. The facts will not change, although your reception of my comments will.

    Similarly, I fail to see how, on rereading, you are surprised when people react negatively to the wording of “Seems like at least one Hollywood celebrity is thinking for herself instead of just going with the general flow of ‚ÄúPull the troops out immediately!‚Äù” in your question about Jolie’s opinion. The wording clearly suggests that Hollywood celebrities in general do not think for themselves and detracts from your stated goal of getting responses to her column. This sentence was especially unnecessary given Jolie’s history of doing things her way. [Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt by the way have done and are doing a tremendous amount in rebuilding the city of New Orleans. I have only seen a few excerpts of Spike Lee's programs and was not impressed with either the attitude or the accuracy.]

    [Also, none of the riverboats you see are old.]

    j a higginbotham


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