Saturday, September 02, 2006

New Orleans, the French Quarter, Good Writing Voodoo, and a Hell of a Baked Potato


In honor of what happened a year ago this week, I want tell you about New Orleans.

More specifically, I want to tell you about the effect New Orleans had on my writing.

I came to love New Orleans on a cross country trek from California to Florida in 1992. As they say in all the clich├ęs, it got into my blood and never left, and as a writer, I’ve never been more inspired than during a 2 day period I spent in the French Quarter in August 1992. When we arrived at our destination in FL, what I really longed to do was lock myself away somewhere and write, because ideas kept coming in like never before. We were pressed for time, so I journalled every chance I got…which can be obnoxious to ones’ non-writing travel companions, but I got some pretty good stuff out of it. The feeling lasted for months.

As happens to many people who’ve been inspired there, the stuff I wrote in those ensuing months had a dark, steamy vibe that managed to weave itself through the material without my intending it to be there. I wrote a lot by candlelight (which I’d never done before) and had a newfound understanding of where Anne Rice was coming from (literally). The guy I was going out with wondered what was up. (“Good voodoo” said I.)

The French Quarter, if you’ve never been, heightens your senses like a drug. Take a walk in the daytime, and your eyes are taken by the architecture and antiques, punctuated here and there by Dixieland jazz bands dressed in traditional costumes. Go out before the sun starts to set, and delicious smells fill the air as the restaurants prepare for the dinner hour: a whiff of gumbo in one block. A few doors down, something else. Turn the corner, and it’s the scent of freshly baked bread. Next block, something sweet and buttery coupled with the scent of brewing coffee; must be dessert. Meanwhile, you pass musicians heading out for their gigs, and occasionally hear a faint sound of someone rehearsing or tuning up.

By the time you’ve had a long dinner with friends and maybe a romantic walk along the river, the party’s starting on Bourbon Street, and the music’s in full swing. And the block you were on when you took your walk in the daytime is a whole other place, as if you’ve suddenly stepped into the middle of a circus (barkers and all).

And in the summer, it’s all wrapped up together like a present tied with a big, steamy bow.

The French Quarter isn’t a place you go; it’s a place you feel. And although it’s a little different now, it will come back. It just needs a little help from those who remember.

Go to NOLA, and write!

Meanwhile, as a remembrance of my favorite oyster bar, in our
Starving Musician column I’ve posted my version of an incredible smothered baked potato I ate there in 1992.

Go for your dreams!

Randi Reed, Editor in Chief / Founder,

Copyright 2006 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.