I never got around to posting about the rest of my trip down to NOLA for the Katrina five-year commemoration (and paperback release of A.D.), so here it is:
Saturday was when the rain really came, and given the occasion, I couldn’t help but note the appropriateness of the weather. On my way to Cafe du Monde for a morning order of beignets, I almost walked right into former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in Jackson Square. He was just coming back from a "remote" interview, and I snapped a quick photo as I passed by. I dodged the drops back to my hotel before hailing a cab up to my first event of the day, a signing at the wonderful Octavia Books, where I had such an amazing event last year.
This time around the rain — and all the other anniversary events — conspired to keep the turnout for the signing pretty light, but that just gave me the chance to spend more time with the customers and staff. One guy I was thrilled to meet in person was G.K. Darby of Garrett County Press, publisher of Rob Walker‘s brilliant Letters from New Orleans. G.K. recently reworked my and Rob’s old collaboration Titans of Finance, producing a vibrant color edition for the iPad — a steal at $4.
While at Octavia, I had a great conversation with co-owner Judith Lafitte and the staff about the excellent HBO series Treme. After initially being "scared off" of the show by of the somber intensity of the first episode, I was coaxed into watching the rest of the season, and ended up really enjoying it — and admiring its creators. To my outsider’s eyes, I thought Treme did a really good job of capturing something essential about New Orleans — especially post-Katrina New Orleans. I know that native New Orleanians usually cringe when they see their city represented on film or TV, but for the most part, the "Octavians" agreed with my assessment of Treme. The thing I think Treme show-runner David Simon does really well is capture the special moments evoked by NOLA’s unique intersection of people, history, culture, and place.
My new buddy Blake Boyd met me at Octavia and drove me to his place, located right near Commander’s Palace and eerily beautiful Lafayette Cemetary No. 1. From there, Blake, Ginette, and I grabbed a late lunch at one of my favorite NOLA joints, Juan’s Flying Burrito, where I gleefully chowed down on the Pork’n-Slaw taco. Mmmmm, mmm!
Then it was time to hit my second A.D. event of the night, the paperback release party at Crescent City Comics. CCC was A.D. character Leo’s comic shop of choice before the storm, but the hurricane and subsequent flooding ruined the place and forced it to close down. But last year, CCC reopened in a new Freret Street location — this time with Leo as a managing partner! It warms my hear to think that five years ago Leo lost his entire comic collection, and now he is co-owner of a comic book store. He and Michelle were at the store, of course, and the clouds parted just as the party began.
It was a great turnout, and I spent most of the two-plus hours signing books and chatting with readers. I particularly enjoyed talking to local cartoonist Caesar Meadows, who edited the excellent FEAST anthology which I had a piece in. I also got to meet in person Sean Mallin, whose academic article "Steps to Nowhere? Rebuilding Haunted Landscapes in New Orleans," inspired the piece I did for FEAST.
Blake and Ginette graciously drove me back to my hotel after the party, but as we were driving down Freret Street I noticed something: a boxing gym with apartments above. Suddenly, it struck me that this was the house A.D. character Denise lived in when the storm hit. Denise having told me in such exquisite and chilling detail about her traumatic experiences there during the storm, I felt like I knew the place even though I had never never seen it in person before. Not having photos to work from, and having drawn A.D. before Google Maps with Street View had made it to New Orleans, I had drawn it from my imagination. Of course the actual building was much cooler than what I came up with, damn it! (See photos below.) if I ever do a special anniversary edition, I’ll go back and redraw all the panels with exteriors of her place.
I spent a few minutes outside, peering up at the residential windows above, contemplating the scene and how it would have appeared back on August 29, 2005…
Blake & Ginette
Denise’s former abode
My lame imagining