So I never did find the time to ride the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, the one that takes one through the Garden District, even though it went past my hotel just before its turn from Carondelet Street to Canal (Canal Street being the upriver edge of the French Quarter), nor did I go on the Canal Street ferry which, I understand, affords a beautiful view of New Orleans on the trip back from Algiers.  Perhaps the next time.  But I did go to World Horror Convention where, in spite of the most inhospitable hospitality suite of any convention I’ve attended (even the worst in the past has at least offered a plate of potato chips and a cooler of Coke during most of the day, plus morning coffee, and space for people to meet and relax — the one here was mostly just closed except for one or two sponsored parties each day), I had a great time.  And New Orleans does have little neighborhood grocery stores on almost every corner for snacks and sandwiches plus a plethora of restaurants, some quite inexpensive (e.g., red beans and rice and sausage for lunch at Mena’s Palace at Iberville and Chartres Streets, a block toward the river from the con hotel).  In all, in fact, New Orleans — the multi-ethnic, history-laden French Quarter in particular — is such an appropriate place for a horror convention I wouldn’t mind seeing it being made a permanent location.  And that’s even with the 90-plus degrees mid-June temperatures and humidity.

But first things first.  My initial view of the French Quarter was from the airport bus (this costs one extra, hotels in New Orleans don’t supply their own), starting on the approach with a view from an elevated expressway of several of NOLA’s above-ground cemeteries.  Once in the French Quarter, my impression was one of compactness as the bus twisted and turned along narrow streets from one hotel to the next while I, spotting street signs from the window, made a fair shot at calculating where we were in terms of the maps I had studied before.  Then at last to my own hotel, a no-frills businessman’s kind of place just across the line in the Central Business District, from which I had no trouble navigating the four blocks back to the convention hotel.

Of the convention itself, I had a full plate (cf. April 9, “World Horror Convention — At Last It Can Be Revealed”):  two panels, a reading, a kaffeeklatsch (at which I’d “requested” French roast and beignets, but we ended up having to settle for water), a mass signing, and . . . well, this was the surprise I couldn’t reveal before, for the second year in a row being a presenter of the Bram Stoker Poetry Award® , or, as I said from the podium, “Always a godfather, never a god.”  (I also added, noting that THE TEARS OF ISIS will be eligible for a Stoker in the Fiction Collection category next year, for those getting tired of seeing me on the presenters’ side of the podium, “You know what you’ve gotta do.”)  The panels were Friday’s Dark Poets Face to Face, moderated by Poet Guest of Honor Bruce Boston (who was also the Kaffeeklatschee two hours before) — “Leading poets in the field of dark literature read and discuss their favorite poems by other members of the panel” — with Linda D. Addison, me, Norman Prentiss, Chad Hensley (who was also the Poetry Stoker co-presenter on Saturday night — which, by the way, was won by Marge Simon!), and Marge Simon; and Saturday’s Reclaiming the Vampire with moderator Nancy Kilpatrick — “shifts in the vampire over time, where the creature began, where it is now, and what to expect of future blood-drinkers” — with Carl Alves, me, fellow vampire panelist and Bram Stoker Vampire Novel of the Century Award® juror from last year Lesley S. Klinger (cf. April 3, 2 2012), and Jim Gavin.  Both went well, I thought (seconded by audience members afterward too), especially Bruce’s Dark Poets that we, the poets, may have found more interesting ourselves than even the audience.  But more than just the program items, the meeting of friends old and new was a major attraction, in this case including meeting Bruce Boston for the first time — as well as supper with him and Marge Simon Sunday evening in the hotel restaurant (seafood gumbo, sliced roast duck with sour cherries, vanilla ice cream for dessert, from which I went on to an after-dark tour to learn about ghosts and vampires in New Orleans, cf. post just below).

And of course there’s business, chats with THE TEARS OF ISIS publishers Max Booth III and Lori Michelle among others, TELLING TALES OF TERROR:  ESSAYS ON WRITING HORROR AND DARK FICTION’s Kim Richards, signing stock in the dealers’ room, reminding editors of one’s existence. . . .

And then New Orleans, where I did have time for some exploration.  Of course I checked out Bourbon Street Saturday night (for the best jazz, though, I’ve been told by several sources that Frenchmen Street, just outside the French Quarter downriver, is the place to go), but more interesting in its way was the more residential — and beautiful — Burgundy Street two blocks lakeside (that is, farther from the river, toward Lake Pontchartrain) on Sunday afternoon.   Also Friday, and again Sunday, I made a point of walking the length of the French Quarter along the Mississippi, the river itself not actually visible from the city until you go past Decatur Street and climb the levee.  Sights included Woldenberg Riverfront Park and the Moon Walk (no, no, no, it has nothing to do with Michael Jackson; it’s named after one-time New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu) heading downriver Friday morning from Canal, passing the steamboat Natchez at dock, and on to the French Market just setting up at a bit before 9 a.m.  I also visited Jackson Square (not named after Michael Jackson either, but this time Andrew) and St. Louis Cathedral, though I didn’t have a chance to go inside.  Then later Friday I went back to the French Market and bought two masks as souvenirs (having seen them among other things being unpacked before — this was from the downriver “Flea Market” end; the upriver end is still called the “Farmers Market” as in the old days, although it’s mostly made up of prepared-food stands now as opposed to fresh produce) one a red lady’s mask with glitter and the other — the prize! — an all-black face of a raven.

It seemed appropriate.

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