New Orleans is a charming, charming destination. There's really two phases to enjoying New Orleans. The first is to enter it for the first time wide-eyed and loving the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, happily partaking of the drinks one can by over the counter and consume in the streets, and engaging in the voyeuristic pleasures of young women flashing breasts and more at the populace. The food is regional and programmed to be delicious, and the architecture has been mostly unchanged for centuries. It's like someone threw a frat party into a mixture of colonial Quebec City and Savanaah, GA.
But once one has visited the city enough times watching fraternity jocks and sorority "basic girls" get their drink on on the western side of Bourbon wears thin. The buskers and house bands doing zydeco and dixieland no longer are something to stop and marvel at, the music simply soaks into your soul and becomes something you bask in for its familiarity. You move further, to where the locals drink on the south east side just before it gets dangerous, just past the giant farmer's market on Decatur St, where you're aware of the proximity of the river, but it's just over a bank.
You also expand where you go. The natural boundaries of Decatur, Canal St. etc. are ones you go past, and not just to the cemeteries on the cemetery tour.
The Garden District is where the really nice homes are and they're on display. There are some very expensive and charming places to live in the Quarter, but they're usually walled in behind courtyards, iron fences and narrow passageways lit by gaslight in the evenings. In the Garden District however it's worth walking the uneven sidewalks to see some of the places. And Anne Rice's house is a known destination.
Approaching it to take a picture, I heard the barking of guard dogs in a sufficient number to make any crazed fan think twice, and any fan too crazed to think twice to not get very far intact should he or she break in.
But what was more fascinating was the man who came out of the house, all smiles.
He first started a banter about how it was the ANNE RICE HOUSE, you know, ANNE RICE, of THE VAMPIRE LESTAT and other famous books. I mentioned that thanks to the movie, I'd bought and enjoyed the book series.
Then he began a subtle fast sell. Did I know that you could unofficially tour the place? It's twenty bucks, but you can come past the fence and tour the grounds and get some unforgettable pictures. This would be quite the sell, because just about everyone who resembles Winona Ryder from Beetlejuice has a collection of grainy black and white photos of Marie Laveau's tomb, just like the millions of other photos that have been taken of her tomb. I made some head-nod motion to the "I will kill you" growling of canine fury somewhere on the premises and he said naturally they contain the dogs first.
Was I going to be here the rest of the week? Because at Hallowe'en she's putting on a party at some New Orleans location, tickets are twenty five dollars, but it's going to be quite the ball. Sadly I informed him not only was I leaving well before Hallowe'en but I was far too young to attend such an event.
I don't even remember many of the offers that were made, but even though it was a private dwelling it seemed that Ms. Rice, or at least people who work for her, are more than willing and able to find ways to monetize the property. At least that was the case ten years or so ago.
It remains to this day one of the creepiest aspects of my stay there - I got the idea that if I stayed long enough, or bought in to some of the offers, I'd eventually be offered the chance to buy some of her underwear for $100 a shot, or something.