Hey, munchkins. Turned out that the connection costs weren't bad at all -- $10/day. I skipped yesterday, but I'm back with you today. Which doesn't mean I'll be spending that much time on-line -- conventions are busy, and I'm finding that literary conventions aren't much different from sf ones in that regard. Fewer hall costumes, though. Though since it's New Orleans, there are some beads and balloon animals.
I did pick up some beads tonight. I'll let you guess what I did or didn't do to get them. :-)
But I should back up a little. Lessee -- much travelling on Wednesday, relevantly innocuous (though the in-flight movie, Hope Floats was not worth the $2 for my set of headphones). Got to the hotel around 3-ish (the Radisson on Canal Street) and registered for the con, dropped bags in my room, etc. Then I took a long walk through the business district to Kinko's, made flyers. The business district was mostly pretty dull, but a few interesting observations:
- the further you go into it, the whiter the population gets (dramatically so)
- in the midst of staid buildings, you can glance up and suddenly notice bare-limbed trees absolutely covered with shiny plastic beads
Walked back, and met up with other grad students from my department around 6-ish. Some of them had done MA programs at Florida State, so we hooked up with people from that department too, and set off. More walking, this time into the French Quarter, down the classic Bourbon Street. Neon. Nudie bars. Lots of regular bars. Tons of places to buy drinks and go -- you can have open liquor containers 24 hrs in New Orleans (just not glass ones). We stopped at Fat Tuesday and got frozen drinks -- I got a strawberry margarita (small, 'cause I'm an alcohol wimp). Wandered down the street, pausing to listen to music here and there. Ended up having dinner pretty far down and over a few blocks, at The Gumbo Shop. Good food, but not spectacular. I'm kinda hoping for spectacular at least once while I'm here -- I think I might have to shell out some more money for that, though. We'll see. More wandering afterwards (overall, I think I walked for at least six straight hours yesterday). There's a really kind of charming energy to that area, though it's really amazingly commercialized. In my head, I think I pictured the French Quarter as being a lot more of a place where people lived -- with open air fish markets and so on. Not so much, at least not where we were.
We ended up somewhere else entirely after all the walking, sitting in a bar and listening to a pretty girl sing and bang a drum. She was actually pretty spectacular on the drum -- I have no idea how she got so many different sounds out of that little drum. Very cool. Around midnight, we wandered back, and I (having only gotten 1.5 hrs of sleep the night before, plus maybe a half hour nap on the plane) crashed hard.
Slept just about eight hours, woke up still tired. Dragged myself out of bed and to a panel on web publishing (fine, but nothing I didn't know). Took my SH flyers down to the table that Quarterly West and Western Humanities Review were sharing; they kindly let me borrow a corner. In return, I manned the table off and on in spare moments through the day. Went to a memoir panel (generally vaguely interesting, really impressed by the editor of Fourth Genre, who said quite interesting things about what they're looking for, most of which I've already forgotten). Went to lunch with Sam and Jeff. Went to a panel on women writing sex -- met Kim Addonizio, who I've been wanting to meet for a while. So that was very good. She did a little strip tease at the beginning of her presentation; really made some people uncomfortable, I think. Interesting! More watching table, and a nice chat with a guy who turned out to be a friend of Nick Mamatas, one of the SH authors!
Eventually, the Utah people gathered (it's so nice to have a bunch of grad students to hang out with at this thing) and we tromped off to dinner. Took a cab to the Garden district, which has just stunning mansions. Very beautiful. Ate good food (and great desserts, esp. the strawberry shortcake) at Copeland's, got too full. Walked for half an hour or so back towards the hotel, pausing often to enjoy the fabulous homes and churches and mortuaries (really, we passed a gorgeous mortuary), and generally enjoying the weather; it was just slightly cool, perfect walking weather. When we got tired, we hopped on the the St. Charles Street streetcar, also fun. Wandered down Bourbon Street, got more drinks, ended up in a bar with a nice outdoor patio and a piano guy going. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. Very pleasant. We sat outside and just chatted and gossiped for a while, then came back here. Somewhere along there, I collected a few beads.
I find the whole bead concept fascinating. I think I'd be more comfortable with it if it were less gendered -- if there were just as many guys flashing body parts in order to collect beads. I think I'd also be happier if it were more mellow -- some of the guys throwing beads were very directive in what they wanted in exchange. Made it seem more like actual prostitution, and less like fun exhibitionistic silliness. Odd dynamics.
But overall, I'm really liking this city. I've never been to New Orleans before, and there's a relaxed pursuit of pleasure here that I find utterly refreshing in contrast to Salt Lake. I think I'd get very little actual work done if I lived here, though. And the racial segregation is a little disturbing. Still -- there's a lot of loveliness too, all around. And charm -- beautiful old buildings, utterly gracious...that have a string of plastic beads wound around the balcony. It's just too darn cute.