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If I Can't Have You, Can I At Least Have My Gator?

Monday, 1st April, 2002

Back when I started travelling in the summer of 1999, I soon found that the United States of America is not one country. There are a number of different highly distinguishable countries that gel vaguely together under one flag, with different ways of thinking and different ways of living. New England is a country all its own, so is the midwest and the deepsouth, and there's Texas, the left coast, the southwest, California... I can now add N'awlins to that list. There is nowhere else remotely like it.

I remember when Tracy and I drove down I-75 and found where the Bible Belt started (ah yes, another country within the country), because the graffiti in the restaurant restrooms changed from 'ring xxx-xxxx for a good time' to 'Jesus loves you'. In N'awlins the Wicked One and I walked down Bourbon Street and found the natural opposite. Look left and there's a particularly chic Ramada Inn, all colonial balconies and Charleston ironwork. Look right and there's a string of sex clubs, explicitly decorated with six foot photos depicting just what goes on inside. The character of N'awlins is that it seems entirely natural.

Walking round Phoenix, and indeed much of the States, and I can feel about as much history as I can in a random English council estate. Everything's still too new. Heck, I'm sure half of Phoenix must still be covered in packing material. There are exceptions, however, and they are notable ones. Savannah and Charleston are the two I can still feel in my bones, and N'awlins is another.

N'awlins feels alive. That's not just the people who live there but the city itself. I don't think it's an accident of geography that Anne Rice and Nancy Collins and so many other writers have populated the city with vampires. The French Quarter is one big vampiric entity that draws us in and does with us what it likes. Call it Heaven, call it Hell, but it's something that won't let itself be forgotten. It assaults the senses and stays attached to them symbiotically, because it gives back as much as it takes. Bourbon Street is so alive that you can almost hear its heartbeat. Somehow it seems natural for people to be born out there in the middle of the street, to the sound of zydeco records and nine-in-the-morning blues guitarists; to live their lives without ever leaving the French Quarter; and then die right where they started some salacious Saturday night. There are ghosts there partying along with us, and I don't just mean at Marie Laveau's...

A Cosmo meetup is far more than just its location, though. N'awlins seeped into the bones of our group like a dense fog but it was the players that made the event what it was, and it was something special. Thank you, Madame Cin and the Somewhat Sane One, for you did yourselves proud. To those English players who don't turn up to Sophie's regular UK meetups because of distance, read this and weep: players descended on N'awlins from far and wide. It cost us time, money and effort, but I for one couldn't put a price on the meetup. What we had together in N'awlins is worth far more than any price.

Arctic Doll made it all the way from Alaska. In a wheelchair. Mr and Mrs GolfFan drove down from Quebec, Huron66 nearly as far. The one and only Sundance65 left -30� of Edmonton winter for +80� of N'awlins humidity. DirtDevil flew in from San Francisco (a country all of its own), Wicked Twin from Phoenix, Alouette from New York, Kindamara from Chicago, Missfitt from Georgia. Davey and I, the token English gentlemen, were just outdistanced by ZanyZab who flew in from Paris. If it wasn't for devaluation, we'd have also enjoyed the company of WatersFan from Argentina. Even the almost locals don't live right on the doorstep. What these distances mean is that you, wherever you are, can make the next meetup, wherever it is, and truly become part of this amazing community that we share. We're looking forward to meeting you.

I'd met some players before but it was great to meet up again with Susan, who gets browner every time I see her; with Mary Jo, who I got to surprise in the airport; and to experience once again Izzy's banter and Tatiana's exotic charm. Then there were those I hadn't met before, including our hostess, the inimitable Madame Cin. To meet Sundance was worth the trip alone, and Lyn who I so nearly met three years ago in San Francisco. And Dana, Dana, Dana... one day we'll make that trip, I promise. The GolfFans, Huron, War Talon, X-Ring: all wonderful people who I wish I'd have been able to spend more time with. Next time, folks...

Highlights for me? Too many, far too many, to mention. I've written far too much already and can't do justice to these new memories. But I can't not mention... acquiring used lipstick from strippers in Bourbon Street, petting sharks at the Aquarium, Dana molesting the Italian gentlemen on St Joseph's, my first Scavenger Hunt, the entire group hassling waiters, navigating the Escher layout of Mary Jo's hotel, watching black kids tap dance with attitude while Vern, Twin and I ate turtle... and that's enough for now.

Thank you, Cin and Dave. Thank you for the magic.

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