The Big Easy Never Disappoints

I just returned from New Orleans where the folks at TurnHere Video were filming a piece about my new novel, A Separate Country, out this September 23. It was an amazing few days down in The Big Easy as I returned to both the sites I had used in the story and those haunts in New Orleans that mean so much to me. By now, after more trips to New Orleans than I can number, they're often one and the same.

I found myself walking through Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the Garden District where John Bell Hood, his wife, Anna Marie ands their oldest child were all temporarily buried before being moved out to Anna Marie's family's tomb. Lafayette Cemetery #1 is the cemetery across from the even better known Commander's Palace. Both of which are about two blocks from the Hood's house on Third Street.

Amazingly, after standing in front of the gate of the house, peering into the garden and trying my best to get a sense of what lies within as I wrote about Hood's last days there, the owner, Malcolm Stevenson, graciously invited the film crew and me in. What a privilege to walk through this house where the Hood family grew as they made a life for themselves amongst the sheer beauty of New Orleans during another tumultuous time in its history. And just as this was the stage of the Hood's life in New Orleans, it proved to be the setting of their deaths. After I have walked through those rooms a hundred times in my mind as the novel came to life, there I was. Odd is this is about to sound, it was just as I had envisioned it, just as I thought it would be. Mr. Stevenson allowed the crew to set up shop and start filming there. Hopefully, yo will get a glimpse of the house as it is today, as I have to believe it has always been, when the video hits YouTube. Stay tuned for sure.

When we weren't filming or visiting the haunts of the story, I made time for a visit to my favorite men's store, some amazing meals and an evening with my fellow writer, Julia Reed and her husband, John. We began the night at The Napoleon House for drinks, then on to Herbsaint, Donald Link's truly amazing restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. Hey, my family has been regulars at Galatoire's since 1909. We consider ourselves loyal-types and I have no thought of ever not eating at Galatoire's when I have the opportunity. But I have to say, I can't imagine ever going back to New Orleans without a dinner at Herbsaint. I'm hooked.

On Saturday afternoon, after the filming was over, I grabbed a roast beef po'boy at Parasol's Bar in the Irish Channel, a sub-district of the Central City/Garden District Area.

Sadly, my favorite bar, The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street over in Marigny/Bywaterhas closed. I will never forget the first time I walked into the Spotted Cat several months after Katrina and heard Raphael Bas, the french guitarist who had moved to New Orleans holding court with his synthesis of New Orleans jazz and Django Reinhardt. I was somehow transported out of New Orleans and into some smokey jazz club in Paris, c.1949. It was amazing that night and it never got old. Time and time again I returned to the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen. Now it's gone. Between filming and the rest, I really didn't have a chance to figure out where Raphael Bas has landed, but hopefully I'll find him, yet.