Sunday, January 22, 2012

Down on the Corner and out in the Street

As I roamed around the French Quarter last weekend, I was captivated by the spirit of the people there. From the vendors in the French Market to the trolley drivers and shopkeepers with their lyrical twist on the southern drawl, I was fascinated by the colorful spirit of the folks who inhabit New Orleans. Polite and animated, they were so much fun to be around that I found myself accidently trying to talk like them. It is an atmosphere not unlike Times Square but with a more laidback feel. There is no hustle and bustle. Just a lot of friendly people celebrating life. Somebody, somewhere is always having a good time in New Orleans. I mean where else can you get your picture made with someone dressed as a voodoo priestess who will also give you directions to Cafe DuMonde? We stopped in a store looking for a cold soda, and I ended up talking to a man dressed in full makeup and costume as a jester. He was eating a ham sandwich and flagged me down to ask if I was in town for the photography convention when he saw my camera. I walked out of there thinking you don't see THAT every day.

Around Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter, are dozens of tarot card readers, musicians and artists plying their trades, especially in front of St. Louis Cathedral (which is a lovely church by the way).

There are painters, selling their work and showing their talent.

There are street performers who stand out and those that blend in.

Everywhere there are people trying to scratch out a living by using whatever talents they have.

We saw the same thing in Mexico.

And it occurred to me how brave these folks are. Granted, some of them, like the fortune tellers, are scammers, and some are just desperate, but most are chasing a dream or at the very least, trying to make the most of the skills they have. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there for every stranger to see. It's like standing naked in front of the world and asking for a verdict from the court of public opinion. You may get some praise, but you also get criticism, and in the case of the court jester, scorn from those who think you're nuts. It made Hubby a little nervous when he found me talking to that guy, but I found him to be sane and extremely articulate.

How many of us have the nerve to put ourselves on display like that? Those of us who write do it all the time, and I don't know about you, but it makes me very uncomfortable to share some of my writing with people I know. It's easier on the internet I think, to put it out there for people you've never actually met in person. You don't have to look them in the eye or run into them at the grocery store. You can hide behind a blog banner or a pseudonym. People you know will tell you what they think about your work. I want to write a book someday, but if I ever do, I'm going to have to work through the anxiety of having friends and family reading my work.

So, I tip my hat to the folks who stand on the streets of their hometown, sharing their work with us strangers who wander by with time and criticism to spare. Go right on being naked and doing your thing. You never know when that court jester is going to be the next Marcel Marceau. Of course, he could be the next patient at the loony bin, too so you might want to carry some pepper spray just in case.


the parishioner who doesn't do anything said...

This relative will read your book with joy.

Mike Golch said...


Trailboss said...

It is a fun place to visit but I sure wouldn't want to live there!

J.G. said...

You are so right -- the courage it takes to be creative in public is a real stretch for some of us. Perhaps signing one's name is another kind of freedom, though.