Unlike Brad Pitt in Se7en, I was expecting the box. (Same size, a bit heavier.) Because it arrived earlier than anticipated, it still took me by surprise. Unlike Morgan Freeman, I didn’t slice it open with a switchblade. I used hedge shears. (Because I knew where they were and was too impatient to search for scissors. Or perhaps I wanted to outdo David Fincher in creepiness.) And inside the box? (Spoiler Alert!) Not pretty Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, but beautiful copies of Calvin’s Head. I didn’t cry like Brad Pitt, but my allergies did act up a little.
Before the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival began last weekend in New Orleans, the friend I stayed with took me to newly opened Crescent Park. We climbed the elegant rusted steel Piety Street Bridge (one block from Desire) to cross the railway tracks and explore the beautiful, if minimally designed, riverfront gardens. All that remains of a once bustling wharf is a lone three-story white wall and the burned out skeleton of beams extending over the muddy water. The city skyline glimmers in the distance. Rusty poles bearing words like Diversity are interspersed with concrete slab benches etched with quotations.
That quote in particular struck a chord, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps a premonition of the experience I anticipated having the next four days? I’ve attended many festivals, conventions and conferences in the last two years. Saints and Sinners, with its combined queer and literary focus, was by far the most inspiring, entertaining, enlightening, and – (How do I say this? In Dutch the word is ‘gezellig’ – an almost untranslatable mix of cozy, warm and friendly.) I thought: this is what Christopher Isherwood meant when he wrote about his tribe.