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11.07.2011

When in NOLA...


I went to New Orleans for a business trip. This the furthest south I have ever been. It was supposed to hot, but Louisiana autumn is 59 degrees. I have Vietnamese (tropical) blood, despite living in DC/MD all my life. 59 is cold.

Mainly, the trip was business. But of course I had a few hours of free time here and there. And of course I hunted down the bookstores.

New Orleans surprisingly (not sure why it's surprising) has many bookstores. Mostly (I think all of them) used bookstores. Which of course isn't bad.

My first stop was Crescent City Books. In the French Quarter, it's a two floor bookstore selling mostly used, some new books. The guy up front was hipster-ish with glasses and a beard (I think). When I walked in he didn't look up. There were handwritten paper signs pointing to poetry, regional authors, history. Upstairs it's fiction and philosophy and gay books (books that are attracted to books of the same gender). Crescent City Book has a cat problem. A cat wanders around aimlessly: it saunters, licks itself, finds a place to rest. You would barely notice it, except it's long when it's stretched out. Otherwise, it doesn't look at you while you're browsing. I have a hypothesis that the cat here is in control, the owner of this place. I left with a JCO book I've been searching for for a long time: Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is In My Heart. The guy said he liked my shirt. I laughed and said thanks!

To get to Dauphine Street Books, you have to go further into the French Quarter. The streets are smaller and you past mainly quiet bars and restuarant and people drinking beer from plastic cups or else bottles wrapped in paper bags. It's easy to miss, but it's the bookstore with book stacks in front of it. It also has a used book smell to it: "like grass, with a tang of acidity and a hint of vanilla." The place is quiet, nearly silent except for the two workers talking among themselves (and when they have something secret to say, they whisper and pretend that you don't know they're whispering. The place is a book hoarder's dream.



It's impossible to look at everything, but it's beautiful, though I was told I was knocking things all over the place and the bookseller on duty gave me mean looks. He said that he was working on getting the place organized. I said I liked it, it's lots of books. He said, No, he didn't have any law books. I said, LOTS of books. He said, yes lots of books. He kicked me out.

The farthest I went into the French Quarter was to Faubourg Marigny Art & Books. To get to it, you need to walk several blocks, pass Jackson Square, past bars, and places that smell like beers and crabs. There were voodoo shops and loud music: house and metal and hip hop and jazz and blues. Of course, Faubourg Marigny, like all the other bookstores, were messy. Piles of yellowing books, along with some new books. You wouldn't really know the place was gay if it weren't for the paintings of naked men and a small section of specifically gay books.

At the end of my trip, I didn't buy too many books (two JCO, one Nicola Griffith, none New Orleans related, but all I've been searching for quite a long time!), but not for the lack of supply.

Between the public drunkeness--CVS sells mini-wine bottles, there are cocktails to go--and loud music that you can hear from the 37th floor, even when you have a flight out at 7 and need to be up by 5, NOLA ain't that bad for a bibliophile.

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