I just finished reading a fascinating book that I couldn’t put down, Nine Lives by Dan Baum. It was my choice and I hosted my book group last week to discuss it. The book reads like fiction but it is real life. For a writer who is not a native New Orleanian and who was on assignment after Hurricane Katrina (or “The Storm” as natives say), he really captured what it is like to be from and to live in New Orleans. His profile of nine people: several who lived in the Ninth Ward, the wife of a famous Mardi Gras Indian, a prominent lawyer, to a transvestite in transition, a cop and the city coroner demonstrated the interconnectivity and eccentricity of a multi-cultural city. Some of his true life characters have serendipitous connections with others as the book progresses from the earlier days of the last big storm, Hurricane Betsy in 1965 (this is telling — my birth year) to Katrina and immediately after. The last entry is in 2007 after The Storm and ends truthfully, with no closure with the characters still finding their way to reconcile how The Storm has forever changed their lives. I have many dog-eared pages for descriptive and profound passages to remember and mentions of people I know. Weird. “Big Mike” from Hermes being one and my Sewanee classmate’s father who gave the attorney character, Billy Grace, his first job. This may be worth a second read because there are a lot of subtle details and because he flips from one character to the next it is a bit difficult to keep it all straight. If you’re not from New Orleans, it’s very insightful. If you are, it confirms what you know and gives insight to worlds of separation that come together during Katrina.
The front cover, Telemachus, by Frank Relle is captivating and visually gets to the heart of the book. There is something both sad and beautiful in ruin. At once you can see the grand past and history remaining, stalwart and strong and withstanding the elements and the same time there is disrepair and brokenness. We met Frank Relle and his artist/girlfriend Rebecca Rebouche at the Home and Garden Tradeshow in which casart coverings participated last March. His work is really wonderful. There is a Magritte sensibility of other worldliness about his photos. I ran across this video with them discussing New Orleans, in which they mention the individualistic spirit and Art being everywhere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IgMumRE5hE.
Other fun places we went while there was a second foray to the St. James Cheese Company. The food is great and it is very different than other gourmet food shop/eateries. It doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t apologize when the item you most want is no longer available; even though, it is still on the chalkboard menu but is out of supply due to the popularity that day.
While eating there, I had my sister take this photo because it reminded me of uptown — old cars and palm trees. For an iPhone, which I’m thinking of getting, I wasn’t all that impressed with the quality while looking at it on the gadget but it looks fine here. This could be my Aunt Katherine’s car.
I can’t mention food enough and New Orleans is where to find it. On my final night, we had a wonderful meal at Bacco’s where Cliquot was served with every course.