There are certain cities that have always appealed to me: Charleston, S.C.; Mobile, Alabama; Savannah, GA; Dallas, TX: and certainly New Orleans. The writer side of me wants to write in these cities, and about them, to capture the images of their residents with my words.
Here are some quotations from the chapter of Condrescu’s book New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City by Andrei Codrescu (Algonquin, 2006) The chapter is entitled, “Se Habla Dreams.”
“There are certain cities and certain areas of certain cities where the official language is dreams. Venice is one. And Paris. North Beach in San Francisco. Wenceslaus Square in Prague. And New Orleans, the city that dreams stories. Writers come and eavesdrop and take some of those stories with them.”
“Ghosts and pirates are as thick as the morning fog . . . you dream without touching your coffee. The dead pass casually by: Buddy Bolden the creator of jazz; young Louis Armstrong; Marie Laveau, voodoo queen on whose grave at St. Louis Cemetery there are fresh offerings every night; Jean Lafitte, the pirate, whose treasure is still buried in the fireplace of the Old Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street; beautiful and sad Creole mistresses of French and Spanish aristocrats; old carnival krewes and mobs of others, slaves, sailors, adventurers, writers.”
Besides the above mentioned dream-cities, the chapter mentions the following places now on my list to see in New Orleans:
1. Lafayette Cemetery on Prytania, founded in 1833, where Anne Rice’s vampire, Lestat resides. (2,000 people who died of yellow fever were buried in this cemetery in 1852. I found out the last case of yellow fever in America was in New Orleans in 1905).
2. Apartment where Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise. 2900 Prytania Street ( I think)
3. Faulkner’s house on Pirate’s Alley
4. Audobon’s house, which I think is also in the Garden District.
5. The facade of the old United Fruit Company building (Pablo Neruda the poet cursed the company)
The city has long appealed to writers. Condrescu says, “Rarely do writers come here to meet other writers. The life about them suffices. Now and then I hear of other writers moving quietly in . . . I had the fleeting thought that everyone, dead or alive, returns to New Orleans. If people can’t come back in their lifetime, they come back when they are dead. And everyone who ever lived here, the costumed Spanish and French dandies, the Victorian ladies of Kate Chopin’s age, the whores and ruffians, and the poets are all still here . . . The city can drive a sober-minded person insane, but it feeds the dreamer.”
And as long as New Orleans feeds dreamers, I’ll be going there.