Friday, February 12, 2010

Serendipity


I recently got back from a trip to New Orleans, and as most trips to New Orleans go, I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I need to lose the weight I gained (fried shrimp poboys!), gain the sleep I lost (late night jazz clubs!), and regain the liver function I abused (bourbon!).

That said: I have no regrets. The trip was full of magic. Yeah, you heard me right. Call it stars aligning, mere coincidence, or that voodoo that Louisiana do so well, but weird stuff was going down. Chill-inducing stuff.

Stuff you probably wouldn’t buy if you read it in a novel.

Which got me thinking, but more on that later. For now, back to the coinkidinkies.

Firstly, the Super Bowl. We (my husband Tony and our friends Jayson and M.E.) had originally planned our trip for a week earlier, but things didn’t work out, so due to our schedule rearrangement, the second-to-last day of our vacation happened to fall on Super Bowl Sunday. We’d purchased our tickets and reserved our rental condo (half a block off of Bourbon Street, in the French Quarter) well before the playoffs began.

So there we were, in the craziest of party towns, a town that had never been to a Super Bowl let alone won one, a town whose recent tragedy made a thing like a football team victory more important to it than possibly any other town in the US – there we were, poised to jump out onto Bourbon Street, king of all party streets, a mere minute after the Saints won.

I have never been in such a large crowd where every single person was elated, and for the exact same reason. It was beautiful. It was insane.

Case and point:

(Rock on indeed, sweet viking girl, rock on.)

But what are the chances? It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we happened to be there.

Next, there was the Minnesota connection. Our whole time in NOLA, we just kept on running into Minnesota wherever we went. This shopkeeper was born in Fergus Falls, that barista’s husband was from Minneapolis, this artist, that street musician… it went on and on. Tony even ended up second-lining in a parade that was being filmed for the HBO series Treme (another cool happenstance), and since it was cold out, he put on his MN Twins ski cap, which caused the actor Steve Zahn to approach him and chat with him, because Mr. Zahn is from, you guessed it, Minnesota.

And throughout the trip there were a bunch of little pleasant moments of that sort. For instance, Tony is a jazz clarinetist, and we ended up at a club where the clarinetist had called in sick, and he got to play with the band the whole night. Seats in very crowded bars happened to open up for us right as we arrived, cabs were readily available, etc.

But my favorite bit of weirdness, that would-be-really-trite-in-a novel moment was the following:

Jayson and I were walking down the street, and stopped to looking in an antique store window, which featured large rusty keys.

Jayson said, “I love those; I love worn old stuff like that.”

We continued walking.

I said, “I used to wear a tarnished key around my neck all through college. Funny, now Tiffany’s sells fancy, expensive diamond-encrusted keys…”

I looked to my left. Just then we passed a window that was filled with, you guessed it: diamond encrusted keys.

“Huh,” said Jayson. “So it’s going to be one of those days. Quick, say something else you want to come true.”

I said, “…and then they found a million dollars in the gutter.”

We laughed.

The next day, on a walking voodoo tour, Jayson found 200 dollars. In the gutter. I kid you not.

Okay, so it wasn’t a million (a million would fill a lot of gutter), but… come on. Manifestation City, right?

In real life, we freaked out a little. It was wild, cool, funny, strange. All the stuff that good scenes in good books are made of. Put that in a novel, unless the book is full of magical realism, or just plan magic, it would be… too pat.

But our brains love patterns, love to find connections between events, love to believe that the world functions with a sort of higher order - so all these things are definitely worth exploring as a writer.

But where the world needs to bop us over the head with a pretty strong connection to elicit that feeling of wonder, I believe the best stories do it with subtlety. Parallel scenes. Symbolism. Foreshadowing.

So, moving forward with the second draft of my book, I’m going to think about how to evoke that magical feeling we get from sensing connections with places, events, images, sounds, and people.

But you know, subtly.

And now: boobies.

(Check out the look on the woman's face standing next to her)


4 comments:

Jon said...

I love the look on the woman next to her: "Oh no, honey... Put those away!"

MarkoftheBeast said...

Hey Q, nice post. Sounds like a great trip.

Surprised by Witches said...

Wow. That is too cool. Definitely a trip to remember.

Hope Jayson bought the drinks that night. :-)

Qlaudie said...

Better than that, he bought us dinner at the Palm Court!