[ilds] NOLA OMG Notes from 2010

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Sat Aug 11 12:55:10 PDT 2018


7/7/10 Hotel Monteleone, Royal Street, New Orleans

Am I being self-indulgent? Yes – but it was also meant to be. Lawrence
Durrell. My poem. New Orleans and the Monteleone. They all came together.

I can’t spend hours now, bringing this up to date. I was supposed to write
on the plane, but the guy in front of me put his seat back…and anyway, I
didn’t really want to wallow in the messed-up stuff that happened – mostly
psychosomatic I now believe – between February and July. I think I’m
managing it better: I am losing a tiny bit of weight and getting in
infinitesimally better shape. It’s been getting better.

Here is a key quote from Seth, which I dipped into at a friend’s
suggestion, which seems brilliant and actionable:

"Do not personally give any more conscious consideration, either of you, to
events that you do not want to happen. Any such concentration, to whatever
degree, ties you in with those probabilities, so concentrate upon what you
want, and as far as public events are concerned, take it for granted that
sometimes even men are wiser than they know."
Session 891, Page 184

Now here I am. Room party tonight in the Monteleone – which started in the
famous Carousel Bar in the lobby…the Kaczvinskys were very nice to host.

<There was nothing here in my Journal about what happened at the room
party, or how I felt about it, but it was very positive. Everyone was
welcoming – it was a suite with a separate bedroom but it was pretty full
of people, and more were arriving, so I ended up holding the door to the
room open with my foot, and talking to a series of very nice people
including Grace, David & Molly, Anne & David, and Don, Chloe & Julia >

Julia directed me back to the Acme Oyster House around the corner, (which
M., the young B. & I visited on our previous trip, 16 years ago) for a late
dinner –

- including six of the sweetest oysters on the half-shell I can remember,
followed by a Gumbo/Jambalaya sampler that hit the spot – along with a
draft Abita Amber (a go-to brew we even enjoy here in SD at the Gulf Coast,
one of our locals.)  After that, I felt a powerful hankerin’ to return to
the Absinthe House for a Sazerac. Let’s crash – and see how this plays out.

#

Thursday July 8, 2010

I am embarked on the Conference. I am part of it, and looking forward to
delivering my paper on Saturday. This morning, after a fitful night, I woke
at 6 and was downstairs in the Iberville Room on the Mezzanine at 6:30,
drinking coffee, talking to the young man from the hotel about the Saints
and LeBron’s imminent plans, and reading USA Today until the first folks
arrived. People were super-nice: every morning I had a longish chat with
Merrianne and her husband Peter. Obviously morning people like me, highly
cosmopolitan and congenial. Got to know the other early risers and the
folks from last night’s meet-and-greet in Don’s room – and then I enjoyed
the morning program: a series of three 20-minute low-key talks – some with
Powerpoints, others simply read out loud as mine will be.

During the lunch break I took a quick walk on a warm day (luckily in the
80s rather than hotter) down Decatur to Jackson Square, and beyond to the
Central Market, where I enjoyed a delicious and justifiably famous
Muffuletta sandwich: Italian meats and cheeses, and a delicious olive
spread on a savory roll. Followed by a quick swim on the roof of the hotel
– and now I’m back for the afternoon program.

Following the afternoon session: adventures in the Garden District on the
St. Charles Streetcar. Very wonderful – costs $1.25 and the front windows
were open, creating a breeze fresh enough to knock my Key West Green Parrot
cap off. I got off at 4th and walked the wrong way, north, into an
increasingly sketchy neighborhood. I was doubly-confused because I
eventually found the Lafayette Cemetery I was looking for – except this was
Lafayette #2!

My instinct for self-preservation sent me gradually back – and across – St.
Charles, where I saw some of the amazing palmy Garden District mansions.
And I finally reached my destination, Commander’s Palace – but they were
closed. (I had hoped to enjoy a cold drink in their bar.)

So I took the streetcar back to Poydras Street, downtown, and walked to the
famous Roosevelt Hotel - <insert lyric from Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” from
Good Ole Boys> where I enjoyed my second Sazerac, in that eponymous elegant
bar where Huey Long used to drink – and it was well-prepared. They are
serious about preserving the Sazerac (Rye whiskey shaken over ice with both
kinds of bitters (Angostura and Peychaud’s) and a little simple syrup – but
they also pre-ice the glass and then coat it with a layer of Herbsaint, the
local poor-man’s Pernod – which they then pour out, before filling the
glass with the chilled contents of the shaker. A New Orleans classic
cocktail.

Then more hiking in the heat. I decided to go back to the same liquor store
I went to yesterday, next to K Paul (I had picked up some local beers: two
different Abitas and a Dixie Blackened Voodoo) except this time I couldn’t
find it – so I walked to the river. By the time I got there I was a sweaty
basket case, nor could I find anything to drink where I was - not even a
drinking fountain. I was probably minutes away from death when I staggered
into the air conditioned Harrah’s Casino and inhaled a $9 large Sapporo in
a Go-cup.

Which fortified me to get some gift items (mostly apparel.) Finally found
that wine shop. On the way back I saw some of the people from the
Conference drinking inside one of the watering holes near the hotel (the
Chart Room I believe) but it was awkward: very crowded, and most of them
were seated, with no opportunity to “pull up a chair” or even stand in a
nonchalant way. After a couple of walk-byes I returned to the hotel to
write this, accompanied by a big Abita Abbey Ale at 8% - in preparation for
going back to the pool.

Heavenly. Here’s what I was supposed to write on the plane: “Hearing
Haydn’s 100th Symphony on NPR’s Performance Today – one of my favorite
symphonies that I have on vinyl, and have probably listened to 100 times!
[Well – at least 50…] On the flight to NOLA write it all down:

• Tension at work
• Bees
• Metal-detector guy
• Stroking out

Um…I’m not sure I want to write all that stuff down. Let’s try to stay
positive, and current:

Dr. Anna Lillios published my poem! (My name was spelled wrong in a couple
of places – but who cares.) I think she’s great…and all the people here at
the Conference are really nice. I was telling them: it’s like a
science-fiction convention. They will understand when I read my paper.

*

Great dinner tonight. I took a disco nap until 8, then walked over and
stood in line at the Gumbo Shop. One delicious Chicken Andouille Gumbo and
side of Turnip Greens with an Abita Amber lager (plus a small loaf of
French bread, which immediately went down the rat hole smothered in butter)
– and the bill came to $17.53. One of the best bargains ever.

This was my night to walk around the neon lights and blaring hip-hop of
Bourbon Street with a Go-cup of a small Hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s – and
something embarrassing happened right in the middle of the crowded street:
I was victimized to the tune of $10 for an impromptu shoeshine that I
didn’t want. As the turtle said about the snails who mugged him: “It all
happened so fast.” As I’m walking around with my go cup and my camera, this
black guy comes up and says “I like those sandals – where did you get
them,” and at some point during my friendly answer I looked down and this
joker had squirted some foamy shoe polish on each sandal – I go “Hey!” and
he pulls out his buffer rag and some kind of negotiation ensues. If I was a
pugilistic person I might have assaulted him – but part of the scam is to
spot people like me who won’t hit you. It’s kind-of like those
street-corner windshield washers who suddenly appear when traffic is
stopped. He appeared to be nearly as inebriated as I was, and I had a
perhaps mistaken impression that he had to do this scam drunk, as it was
personally embarrassing to him. When you think about it, it’s not a nice
way to make a living. He claimed to be giving me a deal because I had
mentioned the venerated Saints - and I ended up paying the guy $10 to buff
my shoes. But the chagrin I felt made it a much more valuable lesson.

Did I mention that Canal Street looks virtually identical to Market Street
in San Francisco? But it sure feels a lot warmer.

Friday July 9

Wonderful morning program, capped by H.R. “Stony” Stoneback’s very moving
talk, poetry reading and sing-along. The highlight of the meeting. There is
much more to be said about him.

Late lunch adventures in the Quarter, starting with a 10 block walk
northeast on Royal Street to the Mona Lisa at 1212 for seafood pizza with
two glasses of red wine. A walk to Esplanade Avenue – that boundary of the
Quarter – followed by one more glass of wine at Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop
at Bourbon & Philip (which is allegedly haunted – and looks it.) Then in
the heat and humidity to another boundary: Rampart Street, across from
Louis Armstrong Park. At Dauphine Street Books I bought used copies of
Justine and Tropic of Cancer. Then one frozen lime daiquiri (a “margarita
daiquiri”) and here I am, drying my clothes in the window.

This is a unique place. The old architecture is amazing. The heat is
bracing, if ultimately enervating. It would be difficult to be out all day,
laboring in the heat. But it’s a wonderful change from San Diego’s “June
Gloom”!

Early evening dinner at Mandina’s, 3800 Canal Street in Mid-City. I’d been
looking for an excuse to take the Canal Streetcar – but it’s not so nice as
the St. Charles, just as Mid-City is not the Garden District. It’s night
now and there are lots of well-dressed people on the streets, and the
Carousel Bar here in the hotel is full.

I think I’ll stay put and do some reading. I can hear tuba,
trombone-and-drum music down on the street. It’s great being here!

One of my conclusions from the Conference: after Alan Friedman’s Plenary
Session speech, I thought to myself: “OK folks – conference is over. Time
to pack up and go home: Durrell is sexist, racist, misogynist and
Imperialist.”

But as I finish re-reading Balthazar – the language is so beautiful. Even
when he’s describing ugliness, the description is gorgeous. This is why we
keep reading him and talking about him. And why we came all the way to New
Orleans this summer: to wrap our arms around him, 20 years after his
passage.

Saturday, July 10

This being the morning that I successfully read my paper to the group,
toured the Saint Louis Cemetery #1, walked back in the heat with the lovely
Japanese ladies, enjoyed a delicious fried-shrimp-and-oyster Po-Boy
sandwich at The Acme with an ice-cold Abita Amber, and then took a
restorative dip in the pool.

*

Dramatic poetry reading this afternoon in the Iberville Room, as thunder
rolled and rain poured outside the tall windows. I read my poem “The
Permittivity and Permeability of Free Space” to a group of sympathetic
listeners – including Stony! It has now finally been published, 23 years
after I wrote it. I thanked Anna and David – they have no idea how much
this means to me. It’s been wonderful looking out these second storey
windows, past the cast iron railing to the corner of Royal and Iberville
Streets, down upon the real city (so full of music) while we discuss these
cities of the mind.

Wonderful people here at the conference. This is a short list of the major
players:

Don, Julia & Chloe
Merianne and her husband
Normajean and John
Michiko and Chizuko
David and Anne
Molly & David
Fiona
Pamela & Greg
Jamie
Jimmy
Charles
Anna
Nabil
Stony
Alan
Kerri
Alic
Marthe
Paul
Dianne
Grace

In a few moments I will walk down Royal Street to The Court of the Two
Sisters for the farewell dinner. All good things – especially things like
this that you know are temporary – come to an end. But it’s been great. *

Well. That was it for the Journal. But I find there is more to say.
I wrote those names down for my own reference, as a reminder (attaching a
name to a face) before going to the Conference Banquet. The Court of the
Two Sisters is an amazing place – one of the classic old Quarter
restaurants, steeped in history. We had a great table: David and Molly to
my left (David & I had gotten progressively closer as the Conference went
on, and had read & enjoyed each other’s poetry) – with the charming
Japanese ladies next to and across from me (I had bonded with them  on the
long hot walk back from the cemetery), and Normajean and John (whose face
 absolutely lights up when he smiles.) We were joined by Aljaz, working for
the European Union in Brussels, who had delivered a paper at the session
opposite mine. I had catfish, and numerous glasses of red wine went down
the hatch.

Finally the dinner was over and people were scattering–but I caught a
glimpse of Stony out the window in the patio, so I grabbed my glass and
pulled up a chair out there, followed by David and Molly. Bill and Fiona
were out there with Charles–and I got a  chance to tell Stony how much I
dug his presentation, and about my college friends from Berkeley being big
Jerry Jeff fans. He laughed when I said they all bought cowboy hats and we
started chewing tobacco. But then the darn restaurant kicked us out– so I
had one last long talk with David and Molly on the walk back to the hotel
(about Tennessee  Williams)–but then it was 3:30 in the morning, and I was
up with a nasty headache.

Out the door before 4, cabbing to the airport...luckily the cabbie was
playing a tape of the Moody  Blues, which I appreciated. 6 o’clock flight
to L.A. which allowed me some sleep, and got in at 7:45 in the morning
local time. Major problems with my connecting flight, which finally arrived
in San Diego at 1 p.m.–and the lady who got off the plane before me took my
bag by accident! (These little commuter jets load on the tarmac– and
they’re too small for the roller carry‐on bags, so they leave them outside
on a cart.) So this was a major cluster‐$&@# that caused me and my wife
(and the airline employees we were yelling at) huge amounts of heartburn.
The lady finally called our house four hours later and delivered the bag so
I guess that’s pretty much the end of my Durrellian adventure. 8 years ago
now during the hot summer of 2018.

@kgammage
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