Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

N'aw Lins: Huge Disasters, Wonderous Music, Lurid Sex, and Hot Cajun Cookin'

Yep, this is Bourbon Street. What does it all mean? What are the connections?

Retirement requires the invention of a new hedonism, not a return to the hedonism of youth.   Mason Cooley

While I wait for a copy of my new book, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, to arrive from my publisher, and while I take a break before I tuck into the re-write of my next work-in-progress, I'm in New Orleans with Terry who has meetings here this week.

Until she had to attend to her biz, we spent two days wandering the hedonistic streets of the Big Easy hearing all sorts of tales of glorious excess and witnessing the happy degradation of the willing tourist hordes. This, of course, is the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter, where no one speaks French or needs to, speaking instead the universal language of lurid sex, mysterious religion, loud music, and spicey gastronomy. All of it is jumbled all together, in no particular order; a sex-arama is next to a Voodoo shop is next to a hot restaurant is next to bar blasting out music.

First, a disclaimer. I'm very aware that this is not really all of New Orleans. It's just the most famous part of that city.  I'm sure the locals roll their eyes at it. Most of it, the real city, the city of recent disaster and the long, unfinished, muddy recovery, lies outside the Quarter and carries on the business of cities much the same as any other metropolis inspite of its rotten luck. In fact, flying in over the better heeled suburbs, I did not see, from my side of the plane, any of the devastation left behind by the storm of five years past, or any hint of the current disaster in the nearby waters of the Gulf. For some of the city and for the tourist haunts at least, LIG.

But what is it all about? What draws the tourists? What brings in the conventioneers from teachers' unions to "swingers?" What are the connections? Observations: A young mother and father walk down Bourbon Street with their son who is maybe nine years old (they were expecting Disney Land, maybe?). So the mother ends up reaching out to cover up her son's eyes when they pass a woman standing in a doorway dressed in hardly anything and who is trying to entice Daddy into joing her inside her establishment (We know what Mom is thinking, but who knows what's going on in Daddy's mind? Or the boys?).

They then might step into a bar/music hall where jazz, the very emblem of New Orleans, is being played wonderfully, and then order some Jambalya at an "authentic" Cajun restaurant. For desert, they might step into a store where the dark and scary talismans of Voodoo are on display or for sale: real human skulls, potions, powders, masks, and of course, Voodoo dolls that everyone knows you can stick pins into to wreck revenge on unsuspecting enemies. So the son learns that naked ladies are bad and so is Voodoo (but not as bad as naked ladies) and that even though they're bad, Mommy and Daddy find them fascinating.

I suspect that this is what it is: it's Disney Land without the purity, without Mickey and Minnie and Goofy. Because within the spectacle of Bourbon Street, there are real people and many of those people are really pretty scary--burned out, wiped out, strung out. And you have joined them, shoulder to shoulder, walking down the street. It's that kinda of place. Happy and miserable, brilliant and devastated, the very talented and the very empty, and the pitiful losers--all mingling, all out there as part of the grand and gaudy parade and all celebrating the things that connect us as people: music, food, sex, and the ineffable mystery of the spirit world.

So, those are my impressions so far. And now that Terry is at work, I'm left to my own (de)vices. I just ate a fried oyster lunch, not recommended by cardiologists. And it's raining and is supposed to keep raining for the rest of the week. S'all right. Tonight more jazz and tomorrow watch this space for more Voodoo, my favorite brand of spirituality. Wonderful.

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