Many great writers including William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and John Kennedy Toole lived in New Orleans. One thing that made each of them great was their ability to create amid the cacophony and ado of the Big Easy.
I remember reading a humorous essay by a journalist that had lived there for several years. He’d moved to the city looking for inspiration, fully expecting to pen the next great American novel. Something quite different happened instead.
The semi-tropical city steams in the summer with hundred-degree temperatures and humidity through the roof. Like many cities in southern climes, life’s pace is slow, skidding almost to a halt during summer months. Lunches tend to drag on until two, and workdays often end by three or four, usually with a trip to some dark watering hole.
The journalist finally moved away from New Orleans without completing a single chapter of his proposed novel. He lamented that he’d never sufficiently sobered up, but that he did meet many interesting people and had enjoyed himself immensely. I had a similar experience during a post-Katrina trip to New Orleans.
There are so many things to see and do, and so many wonderful places to eat and drink, it is difficult finding time to write. Still, artists, writers and poets continue to fill the City. On my way to the Sheraton where I was staying, I stopped at a little bar on Decatur Street called Kerry Irish Tavern, and ordered a pint of Guinness. The bartender was a friendly young woman with a Scottish accent, her big dog snoring as he napped behind the hardwood bar.
Late afternoon, the dim tavern was almost empty except for a young man talking to the pretty bartender. His name was also Eric and we struck up a conversation. An aspiring writer, he had a manuscript in progress. Gill, a graphic artist, and his friend Tim, a poet with a distinct stutter, soon joined us. Our new group quickly became locked in conversation.
I stayed for another round, and then another, discussing Eric’s book and viewing some of Gill’s art. Realizing that I liked poetry, Tim recited several of his poems to us, never once tripping over his words because of his speech disorder.
The three men finally left, on their way to another bar. “We’ll be back at midnight for the band. Will you join us?”
“Maybe,” I said.
After paying my tab, I returned to the hotel to sober up, and never made it back to the Kerry Irish Bar.
I’ve thought about Eric, Gill and Tim many times. Did they finally finish their masterpieces? I’m betting no, and that you’ll find them in some French Quarter bar, locked in alcoholic hazes, and still contemplating the art they love to talk about but are never destined to complete.
Born a mile or so from Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma, and continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. If you liked Alcoholic Hazes in New Orleans, please check out his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages.