“New Orleans ain’t a city, it’s a star.
It’s a home.”
Saw that in a public restroom today, the second part added by somebody else in different-colored ink. It’s in keeping with my own thoughts, feeling a resurge of my adoration of this city.
So Toni gave me some vital feedback on TCB that kind of forced some issues to a head, much like Jamey’s feedback at the beginning of this year did. How is it possible to get so entrenched in a massive book and forget what it’s actually about? So taking Toni’s “you have too many cats” comment to heart, I have to decipher what is the story and what is me “not trusting that the story and its emotions are enough and packing the book with more.” It feels like a house of cards to me, if I finagle out one character, subplot, issue, etc., the rest is going to come tumbling down.
There’s something I have to remember. When people ask me what my story is about, I’ve been saying, “it’s about the circus,” and that’s not true. The circus is a landscape of my book, as is New Orleans. But waaaaaay back in mid 2004, when the first recognizable inkling of this book (not counting my aborted story that I realized was a precursor) came to me, this is what came:
A woman is awake in bed next to her sleeping lover. She’s just found out that morning that she’s pregnant. She’s terrified and doesn’t know what to do. She climbs out of bed without disturbing him, packs a few things and leaves.
That’s what I’m writing about.
I was clearer about that last night when M. drove me around the French Quarter, the Marigny, the 9th Ward and Mid City looking for a good location for something important near the end of the book. It was amazing, as a writer and as a new local still breathlessly in love with her city, to take that ride.
But my favorite part of the evening, I have to say, was going to Parkway to get po’boys. A little while ago, M. and I had their roast beef po’boy at the Po’boy Festival and it was incredible. We only had one napkin between the two of us and we ate walking back to the car, getting messy, but eating greedily anyway. I raved about it here on the blog and I’ve been wanting to go to Parkway and have it again. Sometimes, when you have such an astounding food experience, it can’t be replicated and the food never lives up to that first time. That’s NOT the case here. I ordered the roast beef again and M. got the Thanksgiving Dinner po’boy (turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce) and we shared some sweet potato fries at the bar. It was a good choice to sit at the bar because the owner came by, chatted with us and seemed to enjoy watching us enjoy our food. I employed my super-secret turn-the-po’boy-over eating technique, but near the end, had to ditch the bread unfortunately and just finish the roast beef, as there wasn’t enough room for it all. M. quoted his friend, saying, “Go for the gusto.” We were too full to have dessert (and we’d scored some sweet potato pies from Hubig’s for later), but I asked the owner what he’d suggest we try next time we come. Perfect timing, it turns out, because his nephew came out of the kitchen with a rum cake they’d made by mistake for somebody. Hearing me ask his uncle about dessert recommendations, he said, “You can try this first,” and gave us the rum cake. So of course we had to try it! It was warm pound cake, soaked just right in rum and it was heavenly. We couldn’t finish it, of course, so I took it home (and you can bet it’s all gone now. Yum).
So today I’m trying to get back to my story, dreaming of rum cake and roast beef po’boys and idly asking myself, “Is New Orleans a star – celebrity or celestial object?”