For those who read this little blog from time to time, you will notice that I enjoy introducing you to the great many people who use the French Quarter for business or for a wide selection of diversions or those who call it their home.
One that I met many many years ago is the Grand Duchess of the Vieux Carre. I do not remember when I met her, only that my friend Roger Simonson knew her and had a deep admiration for her. He introduced us (quite formally as I remember now) one summer evening when we went to her building before going to dinner at The Steak Pit down the street. We were charmingly introduced to all of her beautiful cats (we were told that all were named after Roman generals or burlesque dancers) as she led us through her rooms showing us her incredible collection of 1920s erotica which seemed to include some self portraits. I saw her after that from time to time, but had not spoken to her since Roger’s untimely passing. When I returned to the area a decade or more ago, I received a note in the mail at my mother’s welcoming me back home. I have no idea how she knew.
With some questions about how things have been running around the Quarter, I recently tramped up the rickety wooden stairs to the Grand Duchess’ airy rooms to ask about her feelings on festivals in her village (as she is also known to call the Vieux Carre), and was granted the right to publish her “decrees” as she terms them. As it has been a great long time since her public had heard from her, many questions have arisen about her and her official status since the first post.
So, I once again trudged the circular, slightly dusty stairs to see if she felt it was important to attend to the public’s perception of her. She listened carefully to my thoughts on the subject and asked me to return to her door in a fortnight’s time.
After looking up fortnight up on my iPhone, I agreed.
We sat with paper and pen (she allowed me to use a ballpoint even though her views on them are well known) while I fired questions. She often drank from her creme de menthe slowly and gazed out the window with what seemed to be a great deal of interest. It turned out she did that only when she had decided not to answer a particular query. Took me a bit to figure that out, so this short interview took half a day and almost a full bottle.
What is your full title?
We are known as the Grand Duchess of the Vieux Carre. Not the “French Quarter”. We can be called Duchess informally.
What are your responsibilities?
We serve the people of the Vieux Carre as we see fit.
How long have you been Grand Duchess?
(Drinking, window gazing here. )
Will you be offering more guidance in the form of decrees?
What other form is there?
Do you think the French Quarter is managed well by the staff of Loyola Avenue? (DW: “The Staff or paid staff of Loyola Avenue” seems to be what she calls City Hall ) finally deciding after a great deal more drinking and gazing and long silence that she would not answer any question formed with “French Quarter” in the question, I rephrased:
Do you think the village is managed well by the staff of Loyola Avenue?
We do not think “being managed” as you term it (with a impish nod towards me) is in the best interest of my people. We do not worry about (or for) The Staff on Loyola Avenue, although we wish them good health and wisdom.
Will you meet with the Loyola staff?
The only meetings that matter are chance and clandestine ones.
How will they know what to do then?
If they commit to honoring all personal expressions (up until it negatively affects another) they will know what to do. If they employ clear thinking and direct communication with as many of my people as they can stand before making a decision on their behalf (and follow my directives) they will succeed.
As I had clearly been granted a great many answers without too many uncomfortable, lengthy pauses, I thanked her with a nod (or maybe it was even a bit of a bow). With that, I clicked close my ballpoint (earning a slight frown from the Duchess) and left her to the twilight and her many cats.