More days in Louisiana

From Tulsa I passed on to Shreveport in Louisiana, where I was the guest of Delton Harrrison, with a fine house built in the 1930s designed in an antebellum classical style by Howard F.Staub – one of the leading country house architects of those years based in Houston. The house is surrounded by trees and I noticed the sound of rusty swing but later was told this was probably the sound of a mocking bird, imitating a swing – a curious sensation. Mr Harrison is a wonderful host and the ESU lecture was given at the Shreveport Club and there were a hundred and twenty guests and cocktails before and a fine sit-down supper afterwards – of gumbo and red snapper. From Shreveport to Monroe, after giving my talk at their country club, to a friendly and enthusiastic audience, I was given another very good supper in an converted old warehouse overlooking the Ouichita River, just as the sun was going down.
From then on to New Orleans where I stayed with Dr Peeper, an Oxford-educated gynaecologist and his partner Michael who works for a law firm; they live in a very handsome house in the Garden Quarter. This is the year of the centenary of Tenessee Williams’s birth, so Dr Peeper has arranged for me to join a walking tour of all the streets on which Williams’ lived, which is fascinating and gives you a good feeling for the context of his writing – brought up in the genteel surroundings of his grandfather’s rectory he lived in poverty as a young writer, often barely able to pay his rent. Like a good southern gent, Dr Peeper insists we have lunch at Antoine’s a fine, old world French restaurant with waiters in black tie, where we eat gumbo (spicy soup) and local shrimp, and we drink a toast to Tennessee Williams in 25 cent martinis – and then admire photographs of the annual Mardi Gras parades. Couldn’t be better. We also do a tour of the main districts other than the French quarter, and I am interested to try and understand the impact of the hurricane and flood that followed, five years on – overall I am really quite beguiled by New Orleans and the constant flavour of a good party going on. Next stop Texas.

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