Monday, April 8, 2013


Okay, okay, I've been slow about posting lately - blame the IRS.  The tax deadline is breathing down my neck.  Day after day - or so it feels - I sit at my board sorting receipts from the whole past year.  (To sketch for yesterday's production meeting, I had to total yet more receipts just to free my drawing board.)  I find taxes stressful.

Any one else?  Raise your hand.

Anyway.  More posts will be forthcoming eventually.

Meanwhile, I can heartily recommend other reading: the historical mysteries of Barbara Hambly set in the New Orleans of 1833 and later, with hero Benjamin January.  Start with Free Man of Color.  Good reads!  I happened across these because I'm researching a slightly younger New Orleans (1790-1820).

I haven't written too much here about my trip there last fall (afraid to dissipate my head of steam), but I can say that it's fun to take a vacation with a research goal.  It adds more interest to sightseeing when you're always mentally editing your surroundings: was this here then?  Would historic character X or Y have stood here like this?  Would character Z have smelled this?  Tasted that?  Been cold and muddy or sun-baked?  Surroundings become populated with ghosts you bring along with you - DIY haunting!  Of course, New Orleans is an especially easy place to do this because history just oozes out of the brick, but if you do your homework most places have more history than you'd think.  For instance, there's a mundane-looking hardware store just blocks away where I'd never work - never shop - because I remember the ex-employee of the ex-sporting goods store who slit the throats of several ex-coworkers for the sake of the weekend till and boxes of expensive sneakers.  Digging through old newspapers would turn up those facts... if you looked.  (The place has gotta be haunted.  Not that I'm superstitious - ha!)

Lately I've been dabbling in history.  The Journal of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, one of America's earliest and most distinguished architects is a fascinating read.  He visited New Orleans in about 1818 - died there too.  As did his son, also an architect, and yet another Greek Revival architect, Barthelemy Lafon.  All of yellow fever.  We forget how lucky we are to live in a time and place when epidemics are not the scourges they were.

This period of the War of 1812 - which we hardly remember - turns out to be an important turning point in the U.S. and Europe, laying foundations for later events: the industrial revolution, both the plantation system and slavery's abolition, the Trail of Tears and western expansion...  History is more interesting than I'd guessed.  But then fifth grade Texas History left out all: pirates; cannibals; slave smuggling; slave-smuggling, knife-wielding not-so-heroic heroes of the Alamo; and beautiful quadroon slaves offered up to Mexican generals as a military strategy.

The battle of the Alamo - public domain image

All the interesting stuff!

HERE's a link to what I did write about New Orleans - a bit about Plaza d'Italia, that post-modern fountain.

No comments:

Post a Comment