Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Orleans

Written on 12/29 Fri:

Winston and I have been in New Orleans for five days now, and we’ll be flying back to NYC tomorrow. The idea of a working vacation has been a success for me. I spent the mornings revising and rearranging Payday Loans, my 30-sonnet sequence, for publication in January. It helped to have a spacious hotel room to work in, $75 a night at the Sheraton, and not some quaint but claustrophobic bed-and-breakfast.

Afternoons saw us wandering round different neighborhoods: the French Quarter, the Garden District (where we saw Anne Rice’s house, Rosegate, and Lafayette No. 1 Cemetery), Uptown, the Faubourg Marigny (with a gay bookshop, to our surprise), and the Warehouse District.

Wednesday night, we went to Oz, a gay bar, where we sat beside two godly-sized lesbians from Yorkshire. When I asked one of them if they hailed from York, she repeated Yorkshire, and went on to explain what a county is. The drag show we saw there (Oz, not Yorkshire) was amateurish and poorly-hosted. One, a skinny white drag queen, had real stage charisma though.

Thursday night, we attended a poetry reading at the Gold Mine Saloon, curated by Dave Brinks, the publisher of Yawp: A Journal of Poetry and Art. The Gold Mine Saloon has clearly seen better days; it was half-blind now. Dark pinball machines backed up against the walls were unnaturally quiet, and the pool table ate someone’s dollar. A roach lay on its back in the metal urine trench in the men’s.

An assortment of stuff was performed: rants, letters from a satirical website on Katrina, a gothic dream narrative in blank verse, guitar-accompanied songs, free verse poems. Mostly locals and regulars, the audience was audibly angry and sad still over Katrina. I read two sonnets, “Come on, straight boy,” and "I can’t decide which organic bread to buy,” and two lyrics in ballad form, “Don’t ask me more than I can give,” and “Cut by an edge.” The ballads went down better with the audience than the sonnets.

After the reading, we went to the club, Bourbon Parade, just across the street from Oz. The Student Body Competition, an excuse for college boys to flaunt some flesh, featured two competitors: a tall white guy (a junior?) with an hourglass build—Go, 79, go, go!—and a short white girl who wagged her voluptuous figure at the audience. No prizes for guessing who won.

Tonight we head back to Faubourg Marigny, to Frenchmen Street, where we may hear jazz with our dinner, or not. I think it would be fun to return to New Orleans during Mardi Gras or Southern Decadence.


Greg said...

Jee Leong I'm thrilled, delighted, and little scared for you at the thought of your reading "Come on, straight boy, and make gay love with me" in Louisiana, which I've considered (though I've never been there) as a US capital of violent ignorant bigotry. From your posting however it sounds like you emerged uninjured & have been considering Louisiana's pleasures and disappointments in freedom and comfort. Maybe my image of Louisiana needs revision.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Greg,
you overestimate my courage. I betted on the fact that poets and artists are likely to be more tolerant of gay seduction. Still, I was surprised by the quiet reception of "Come on, straight boy," a poem which usually gets a few laughs when I read it in other places.

Jee Leong