Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy

I’ve talked previously about the inspirations for my vampire novel series, The Matriarch Vampires. The central West Virginia locations, Glenville State College, and the character nods. After shelving the original first drafts of the book two decades earlier, why did I feel it was time to dust them off and finally finish the story?

One of those reasons was certainly Jonathan Weiss.

neworleansjacksonsquarenight2010My wife and I enjoy walking through old cemeteries and taking local ghost tours. There are many haunted places around the U.S., often in old cities like Birmingham, Alabama, Savannah, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida. Back in 2010, we traveled to New Orleans and took such a tour, and our guide to the city at night was none other than Jonathan. He looked the way I imagine a time traveler might, combining a classic appearance with a modern sensibility, a person whom has long since reconciled the old and new ways with a natural ease, elegance, and an eagerness to share his experience.

Not having given much serious thought about fiction writing for twenty odd years, Mr. Weiss captured my attention and filled my imagination with stories and embellishments as we toured the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, recounting local legends with intriguing details and playing to the crowd… and yes, much was said about vampires. He and other occupants felt like a necessary part of the city, a piece of its soul that would be lost forever if abruptly cut out.

Yet, as I understand it, that’s exactly what some are trying to do.

This kind of thing has happened on and off again in various places, most notably on St. Augustine, Florida’s famous St. George Street. In the name of security but more often over local businesses trying to push out so-called competition, laws are proposed to push the local street performers and tour guides out of the area with prohibitive licensing designed to “clean up the streets.” Now, again for “the umpteenth time” as my elders used to say, these sort of measures are being brought to bear on Bourbon Street.

neworleansatnight2010Violence occurs everywhere, and to be frank, tourists tend to forget that everywhere isn’t Disneyland when they drink themselves silly and wander out into a strange city. If such security concerns are truly paramount, those plans should include the street guides and performers — hell, they should be PAID to be the eyes and ears of the city, not banned from it. Who better to see when things are not as they should be and help protect visitors to the city who’ve become the lifeblood of incoming revenue?

The biggest reason I can imagine to keep them, however, is that they are expected. Like any good Renaissance Faire, players and performers are part of the atmosphere, and in places like Savannah and New Orleans, their absence would not only be noticed but mourned: “Where have the old souls gone?” I call upon Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Councilmember Nadine Ramsey to consider carefully any and all plans made in the name of security to be inclusive rather than obstructive if they wish the continued patronage of myself and other creatives with time and money to spend in The Big Easy.

Don’t remove one’s soul in the name of safety.

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One thought on “Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy

  1. I’ve taken a number of walking tours in the many times I’ve been to New Orleans, and Jonathan’s tour was certainly one of the best. Safety is always a concern in the city; I’ve seen some guides heckled and some have had security come along with them. And they city should welcome them as the eyes and ears of their community. They are essential elements of the tourist experience which many cities depend on, and should. Guides with a love of and passion for their cities should be treasured. Keep them, and visitors, safe. Most definitely cities would be wise to keep and attract great guides as well as tourists.

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