Back in the Crescent City
It's my fifth day in New Orleans, and really the first moment available for reflection. Since I arrived last Friday I've been slowly adjusting to life at Camp Abundance, which is the name Dawn DeDeaux gave to her compound in the Gentilly neighborhood. For more than 30 years -- with the exception of 2007-2014, when I was a homeowner myself -- my New Orleans home away from home was my dear friend Bill Fagaly's beautiful Creole cottage in the French Quarter, which was walking distance to pretty much everything I needed in terms of food, music or socializing. But when Bill had an unexpected heart attack and died during my first post-vaccine visit in May this year, all that stability of a New Orleans home suddenly flew out the window along with Bill's soul, and that grief was worsened by getting unceremoniously rushed off of his property with one night left to my visit. The good ending to that story was that I ended up at Camp Abundance, with Dawn insisting that this should be where I hang up my hat when I'm in New Orleans, which includes a return visit in December to install the second part of my exhibition at Jonathan Ferrera Gallery, and again in January for what I believe will be the closing ceremony for Prospect.5, and Bill's long-overdue memorial.
Camp Abundance is about as different from Bill's home as it's possible to be. Instead of the perfect little cottage courtyard, Dawn has an extensive yard, with animals, outdoor artworks, and lots of opportunity to soak in the natural environment, which isn't something one typically associates with a visit to New Orleans. It's not really walking distance from anywhere, which seemed like a drawback at first, but as the days roll on, I'm finding that this too comes with a built-in advantage, which is the chance to detach a bit from the city and its ongoing party atmosphere, and hear myself think. In fact, aside from installing the exhibition at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery and going to the gym, my main activities have been going to hear live music (Saturday & Sunday), lying around the house, working on a writing deadline, and reading Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers. The idea that I might have a social calendar to pay attention to might become pertinent in a day or two, but for the moment Camp nAbundance seems like an ideal perch from which to appreciate a side of New Orleans that might never have made itself available to me before.
Dawn DeDeaux's outdoor sculpture at Camp Abundance, New Orleans