Wednesday and Thursday
I flew into Atlanta on Wednesday night, and on the following morning I rode to New Orleans with Macarthur and his parents. We drove through some rougher, decaying parts of the city before emerging into the vibrant, tourist heavy French Quarter. As much as I tried to lose myself in the narrow streets and French Colonial architecture, the drunk and noisy bros everywhere kept snapping me back to reality. The 28 strip clubs didn’t help either.
Mac, parents, and I slurped some oysters at Felix’s, a simple restaurant that was once a date spot for Mr. and Mrs. Jewell. Apparently, the key to cocktail sauce is ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice. Already exhausted from Bourbon Street, we switched to the touristy art gallery street, Royale. There we ate at Napoleon’s, a bar/restaurant from 1897 originally built as a home for Mr. Bonaparte himself. The plan was to smuggle him there from exile, but the smuggler died before that could happen. I had a Dixie beer, a fruity drink that was more popular before the hurricane.
Afterwards, we checked into the hotel, a Marriot right off the main drag which was a bit of a madhouse. Later we had a simple, if overpriced dinner of corned beef, mufaletta, gumbo, and red beans and rice at a cave-like restaurant across the street from the hotel. The Jewell’s couple friends, Rochelle and Saison, joined us. Bored by endless talk of Atlanta condo board associations, Macarthur and I left to go to bed.
On Friday morning Macarthur and I indulged in my favorite thing: hotel breakfast. Amidst bites of sausage and granola, we gazed out the window at our next destination, the Central Business District. While not as old or ornate as the French Quarter, I really loved the look of the CBD. Maybe about as large as downtown Minneapolis, it was healthy mix of boulevards, decorative high rises, black 80’s skyscrapers; old, squat buildings; and green, manicured parks. I miss a good park with a sculpture in the center. We walked around in circles before stumbling upon the Contemporary Arts Museum, part of a larger museum campus. The museum was smallish, but loaded with a variety of fun and innovative pieces. I particularly enjoyed the sassy ATM, talky still lives, and looping videos that kept referring to art as “sexy.”
Exiting the museum, we returned to the Quarter so Macarthur could eat beignets at Café du Monde, then double backed again to stroll Magazine Street. It had gotten quite muggy, so I disrobed to my teal tank top at that point. While I thought I would have a few more months to display the efforts of my time at the YWCA, I ‘m pleased at where I’ve gotten in just 5 months of somewhat consistent exercise. I felt almost manly strolling New Orleans in bare arms and shoulders.
Beyond the CBD lay the Garden District, a beautiful neighborhood of elegant houses not unlike those found in Savannah. Magazine Street proved inexhaustible in its boutiques and pubs. I snapped pictures on my disposable Walgreens camera, which I had elected to bring instead of my digital. I felt like a kid clicking and winding the little plastic thing, but really it proved to be a lot easier than a digital. Taking photos was a lot faster. I may buy a dinky thrift store film camera for my next trip.
We caught the bus back to Canal, then strolled the French Quarter in a futile attempt to reach the end of it. While we didn’t quite make it, we did get to a quieter, more residential part of the area. Tired, we had a beer at a small, simple gay bar. I miss the little bars of the Coastal South that you can flit in and out of. Minneapolis bars always seem to involve booths and no windows, and even less atmosphere.
For dinner we met up with Mr. and Mrs. Jewell, Rochelle and Saison for a fancy meal at K Paul’s (of Pizza and Pasta Magic fame). I had frog legs and fried green tomatoes for the first time. Although Macarthur and I were ridiculously tired from all the walking, plus the heavy dinner and booze, all of use cabbed it over to Frenchman Street to catch some nightlife.
This is when I started to get a little down on Minneapolis. It is roughly the same size as New Orleans, but it couldn’t be more different. Like Chicago, Savannah, Montreal, and Paris, New Orleans has a vibrant, youthful energy that is part of the personality of the city. People are attractive and stylish, bars are quirky, and there is spontaneity to the nightlife and the arts scene. Minneapolis is…sensible. Its quirk is understated, its chaos controlled. Watching hip 20-somethings sip beer in cutoffs and barhop to Blues bands put Minneapolis’ so far underwhelming night life in sharp contrast. I wish I could bring some of that energy to Minneapolis, but how?
Macarthur and I didn’t stay out too long that night. We drank next to some French guys (how appropriate considering we were on Frenchman street) at a Japanese bar called Yuki. A guitar Blues band played while we stared at Japanese movie posters and Ultraman stickers. Macarthur’s furry friend Merk and his roommate Matt joined us, and Matt told us about a time when he tore his scrotum. We were in bed by midnight.
We started out on Saturday around 11, grabbing the St. Charles trolley to Uptown. Taking the trolley was a bit like stepping back in time. It made a thumping sound while it creaked along the boulevards. The conductor and passengers bantered back and forth freely, determining if someone needed to get off, or what street we were approaching. I wonder if the Twin Cities trolley was anything like this. Too bad their tore out the tracks in the 60’s. Eventually, we made it to Napoleon Street, a tree lined avenue which we walked up to the reach the up-and-coming Freret Street.
There we met Macarthur’s friend and SCAD grad, Chase. We had delicious burgers at Company Burger, a new joint that featured a mayo bar. Chase was very hairy, and talked about New Orleans neighborhoods and how the hurricane affected a lot of kid’s college experiences. Then we went to a quality comic shop that reminded me a lot of Challenger’s in Chicago.
From there we parted ways and Macarthur and I strolled down to the Uptown stretch of Magazine Street. Again I was overwhelmed by the beauty of New Orleans residences. Why can’t every city be as effortlessly gorgeous as this one? After a bit of window shopping we caught the bus back to the hotel to nap, then got some dinner in the Central Business District.
We had a proper night out gay bar hopping in the French Quarter with Merk. Good Friends was the first stop, a 2-story bar with a balcony overlooking the street. After a fine bar number 2 (Lafeet’s), we braved the epicenter of Bourbon Street in a moment of madness. While we had to shore through crowds of bros and brohoes, we did get to see the Traffic Tranny, who is exactly what she sounds like. Merk snapped a picture of her frisking some drunk girl. The third and final bar was Rawhide, a creepy leather daddy hangout that charged a cover even though no band was playing. Both the interior and the clientele were really old, and the TV’s showed gay porn. Although I really had to pee, I went nowhere near the bathrooms, which were really just unlit caves with perverts lurking inside. Someone asked Merk if they could watch him pee.
We declined an invitation to go to Saint’s, a dive bar in Uptown, as it was already past 1am. Macarthur and I said our goodbyes to Merk around 1:30 and fell into bed around 2. The following morning we were up bright and early to make the return trip to Atlanta. We passed some cemeteries that I wished I had visited, as well as the more dilapidated parts of the city that I kind of wish I had seen as well. One good reason to live in Atlanta: you’re only a 7 hour Megabus trip from New Orleans.
Something about this upcoming summer has felt different, and up until now I haven't been able to put my finger on what it is. No, I'm not talking about the obvious things that are going to change, like living a graduated life in Chicago. My feelings about the season itself are more charged than usual.
I realize that I'm more excited for June this year because I've been in the Midwest for spring rather than in Savannah. Unlike in the Coastal Empire, spring in Illinois is totally its own beast. The smell of the air, the types of flowers, the cooler temperature, they are all belong soley to March, April and May. Often I feel a lack of regional identity, especially in the face of the South's strong presence, but the upper Midwest's four distinct seasons are something that are deeply ingrained in me.
So, I've spent the springtime daydreaming about shorts, sleeveless shirts and sunscreen. I jazzed up a plain a black a-shirt of mine yesterday using some small mirrored tiles, and today I took in and de-sleeved an 88 cent shirt I picked up thrift last week. Not long now! Summer in the Midwest!
Last night I got to see Lauren. Her, Megan, and I walked around Jewel and watched How I Met Your Mother. Robyn Sparkles may be my new favorite fictional pop star (sorry Hannah Montana).
Today Zachary and I went to Wizard World Chicago. It was smaller than I expected, especially for the entry fee of $30. Even so, when you get in everything is on sale for dirt cheap. I wish the artist's alley had been larger. The sales floor is dominated more by comic book vendors. People weren't dressed too outlandishly. Sure, there were some stormtroopers, but most people just wore trendy comic t-shirts. I ended up purchasing:
2 graphic novels
A mini-comic or two
3 individual comics
An awesome painted wood block that says "Krunk"
A cardboard painting of hello-kitty Dazzler
Zachary and I stayed for four-ish hours. None of the events started till 3:30pm, so we departed around 1:30pm. We left wondering what the American comic industry needs to become more wide read and appreciated. It's crazy that one of the three largest comic industries in the world is a niche market in its own country. Is there nothing we can do? (I actually have my own private answer to this question, but the idea is in utero.)
This summer I've been taking an American Moderns: 1900-1945 online class through SCAD. I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would, having discovered the amazing Dorothy Parker through our readings
From paging through the short stories of Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald I've become intrigued by the courting rituals of the early 20th century rich. Men and women live very separate lives. Because of this, couples are often a mystery to one another. One of Wharton's tales tells the story of a husband who's wife is a stranger to him. In another story a woman sits across from a man she ran off with, realizing she doesn't know him at all. Once a couple is determined to be a good match, they are quickly engaged. To wait too long would be suggestive and scandalous. These marriages often break up for sake of the story. Those that do last inevitably involve cheating, or at least the couple falling out love. Oh, and naturally divorce has disastrous consequences too.
I would not have survived in this world of money and hand written invitations. I am slow to warm up to potential suitors. This would inevitably have two consequences: I would lose out on real love, or end up ceremoniously married to someone that I cared nothing for. I suppose communicating by fancy letters would be fun though.
Over the past few months, I have met people who hold suburbs in disdain. My professor in Lacoste was particularly against these sort of communities, at one point saying something to the effect that suburbs were cultural wastelands. I feel that suburbs have gotten a bad rap. People are tending to think of them as white, conservative, cookie-cutter communities that only exist to leech off of more culturally rich cities. Coming from a western suburb of Chicago, I can't help but feel personally insulted by this view. While there may be some suburbs that fit this description, it is important to understand that many do not. In the Married with Children chapter of Who's Your City, Richard Florida discusses the different communities that families seek out. His sketch of what he calls a Preservation-burg resonated strongly with me.
"These are 150-year-old places with great Victorian houses built along riverbeds or railway lines and shells of a industrial past. They're some of the most authentic American places, with noble, sturdy houses and the rich patina of history. Formerly centers of transport, manufacturing, and commerce, theses areas lost much of their luster and verve by the mid-twentieth century. Now, stocked with sturdy older housing, revitalizing town centers, and reusable warehouse buildings, preservation-burgs are attractive to young families looking for authenticity and a real-town feeling. The Hudson Valley suburbs of New York City fit the bill here, as do the many river towns of Illinois."
The key words here are history, and authenticity. These are two things that suburb-haters often accuse these communities of lacking. I have always felt a strong sense of history living in the Tri-cities. I do not feel dependent on Chicago for an identity. I am very proud of where I grew up and excited about the future of Batavia. It is time for some people to realize that there are different types of suburbs, and many of them have a lot to offer.
I just got back from my meeting with the chair of the art history department, Geoffrey Taylor. I am in awe, both by his knowledge and his helpfulness. He had a million ideas about how to proceed with my thesis topic and my career goals. Coming away from the meeting, I feel that this thesis is going to be more work than I thought, but I also think I'm in good hands. I also think I'm done thinking about the long term future for a while. There are too many variables.
I suppose I've always had a soft spot for Romantic landscape paintings...I need to get back to studying for my Indian exam.