My little weekend trip to New Orleans was a great success. Things didn’t start out auspiciously, though, as I awoke Friday to five inches of snow on the ground. But after sitting on the plane for ninety minutes and then undergoing a thirty-minute de-icing procedure, my flight did manage to take off. The 60- and 70-degree weather of NOLA was a nice respite from the chilly winter temps I left behind.
The Alternative Media Expo was a huge triumph for show organizer/my host/A.D. character Leo McGovern/antigravity_no. The Expo’s new location at the Contemporary Arts Center warehouse was tailor-made for the show, which boasted over 80 exhibitors and an attendance twice its previous high-mark, with over 650 paid attendees. As opposed to a typically indy comix show, the Expo was an intriguing mix of cartoonists and comics retailers (one of whom, Beth’s Books, had a great collection of alternative GNs, including some of my stuff!), zinesters, self-published authors, Etsy craftspeople, painters, video artists, and filmmakers. NOLA’s tattooed, pierced hipster contingent was in full effect, both behind the tables and in the aisles. Local cartoonist Caesar Meadows’s work really impressed me, with his humorous handmade minis delivered in unexpected ways: mini-CDs, gumball machines, and packs of cards, just to name a few.
As “special guest,” I had pride of place at the show, with a table all to myself right where the crowd came in. Many folks were alerted to A.D. by last week’s Gambit cover story, and I met all sorts of people who’ve been following the project. People kept thanking me for telling their story, and all I could do was thank them in return for being patient with my occasional well-meaning storytelling gaffes. I heard many hurricane stories, which just reminded me once again how A.D. is just scratching the surface, and how many stories there are to be told.
I was overwhelmed when a student at Loyola told me she was studying A.D. in her class on the graphic novel, and also by a teacher at the University of New Orleans who informed me that she was using A.D. as a model for her nonfiction comics class! Some of the Katrina-related comics from that class are online at www.c327.com/comic; I’ll be adding a link to them on the A.D. resource area soon. Caesar Meadows is also working on a Katrina-related comic, which I will definitely add as a resource on the A.D. site when he gets it uploaded to a stable URL.
Besides promoting A.D. with free handouts we printed up for the show, I sold a good number of my books, including Katrina Came Calling, A Few Perfect Hours, both issues of The Vagabonds, and even a couple copies of Titans of Finance. I was concerned that locals might be offended by K.C.C., but to the contrary people seemed intrigued by an outsider’s perspective on the storm and its aftermath. I ended up selling all the copies I had brought with me. I also picked up a copy of NOLA local Michael Bevis’s hurricane survival tale, And God Looked Away: A Katrina Journal (self-published through Lulu.com), which I definitely look forward to reading.
One funny note: On two occasions, upon seeing the 9-11: Emergency Relief book I brought with me, someone inquired if there was “anything in there about what really happened with the Twin Towers? You know, with the flurry of insider trading that took place, and reports of the firemen hearing explosions in the basement,” etc., etc. They could see I had no patience for their conspiracy theories, however, and quickly lost interest and walked away.
Leo & his girlfriend (and A.D. character as well) Michelle were terrific hosts, driving me all around and making sure I had a good time after the Expo. Along with fellow out-of-town guest (and talented cartoonist in his own right, tobycraig, who also makes a couple of cameos in A.D.), we hit some great eating spots: muffaletta at Wit’s End, Wasabi in the Marigny, coffee at Fair Grinds, brunch and delicious fresh-squeezed OJ at Surrey’s on Magazine Street, gelato at Brocato’s, and fried chicken and peas at Mandina’s (both in Mid-City). I didn’t make it to the French Quarter this trip, but I even got beignets at the Café du Monde in Metairie on the way to the airport.
We even got to take in the Oscars at a friend’s place, watching on DVR delay and skipping through the commercials and boring speeches on a giant flatscreen TV. In fact, everywhere I went I was confronted by these 50”– 60” monstrosities. To me, New Orleans’ new monicker is Flatscreen City! When I mentioned this to my hosts, they laughed about this being my FEMA money at work!
Overall, New Orleans seems much livelier than it was a year ago, and the inhabitants’ moods seem much more upbeat. Of course, I didn’t tour through the Ninth Ward or Gentilly, but there was a marked difference in the overall sense of fear and menace. And the streets of Mid-City were visibly much more populated than last January.
I topped off the trip with some great video interviews with Leo and fellow A.D. character Denise, who is back in New Orleans after a two-plus-year exile in Baton Rouge. We’ll be posting those interviews on the A.D. site in no time. Leo & Denise met in person for the first time, and now Leo has had the occasion to meet all the other A.D. characters except Kevin, who’s still at school out in Ohio at Oberlin (my alma mater!).
My flight back was delay free, and I got home just in time to give Phoebe her bottle and tuck her in bed. Now it’s on to finishing A.D. chapter 10!
Caesar (left) and Toby (right) amongst others, greet the crowds
Michelle helps Leo count receipts (note the flatscreen TV)
Sushi @ Wasabi’s in the Marigny