It’s true. I got to visit this magical, mystical land in order to help promote The Butterfly Clues at the Winter Institute–an independent bookseller’s conference-y thing at a shmancy hotel in the french quarter. Now, it must be noted that never have I ever, in my adult life, had someone pay for me to travel somewhere I really wanted to go (or, even somewhere I didn’t want to go), so this alone was pretty thrilling for me. I took full advantage of the bewildering luck of all this by staying on an extra three days, with friends, outside of the touristy-realm.
I think what I found most heartening and glorious about the whole experience was that it’s a place seemingly built on “good living”–this is how the friend I was staying on with described it, or something like this at least, to avoid heinous misquoting and the like. “The big easy,” is how it’s also known, among other things like crescent city (which has something to do with its being situated around the Mississippi, I think. Oh, god, I could be getting all of this wrong, in which case, please first forgive, and then correct me.) New York living is built around ambition, and success, and seemingly endless striving. It’s not meant to be a “comfortable” place to exist; it’s challenging, it’s built to be challenging, and I don’t know a single person who lives here expecting otherwise. There’s plenty that’s amazing about the struggle and aiming-for and mad rush of humanity you experience living here–it forces you to work harder to find ways to feel calm and grounded and happy, which is a good skill to start grappling with as early on as you can start a’grapplin, and, it’s a place full of amazing artsy-and-otherwise energies…and food. But, it can also be one of the most anonymous and lonely places ever, especially at first, especially when you haven’t yet found your way into some of the wonderful communities that do exist here.
Oh, and people in bars don’t dance.
BUT THEY DO IN NEW ORLEANS. YES. In like a dance-for-your-own-enjoyment kind of way. And, they say hi to you, on the street! And you say hi back, and it isn’t creepy! Wild! A place where the norm is friendliness, and openness, and SEVENTY DEGREES in January? They don’t want you there if you’re not into being a nice, decent person! I wore goddamn backless summer dresses the whole time and sipped iced beverages on benches and saw lots of cool dogs and walked around, wide-eyed, joyful, like it was my fucking job. I’m also a real sucker for older people who call me “baby,” in a non-creepy, totally grandparent-y way of course, and that happened, too.
On the downside: hard place to be a vegetarian, but, not impossible.
Another upside: found a book of poems by Mary Karr in a cool old bookstore, crammed to impossible, creaky heights with old books that smell just as old books are supposed to smell. (You know what I mean.) I’d been wanting to read her poems for awhile, and had trouble finding them browsing through used book stores around here, and so it was an exciting find.
Whew. In other news: if anyone’s around on February 8th: I will be reading: at the New York Public Library (I’ll get back with exact location soon): at 6 PM. And then my roommate and her band will be playing at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn at 10. So, meet me at the ‘brary and hear me, and several other YA authors, read some stuff, and then follow me to BK for some music!!