The writing of A. F. Waddell has been characterized by culinary bikers,
literary ghosts, women on the road, New Orleans detectives, Marilyn & JFK,
California screenwriters, nineteen-fifties culture parody and more.



Anthology Excerpts & Links       Semi-Deep Thoughts: On Writing       New Orleans: Bodies of Water        Bell-Bottom Blues
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Bodies of Water

The inspirational spark for my story Bodies of Water was a place: New Orleans. The characters later swam in my head and played on paper, changing over time. Protagonist Erica morphed from a private investigator into a homicide detective. Over time I was writing in my head, before I became so bold as to put my words on paper and hope that people would read them.

In reality, I’d first rolled into New Orleans’ French Quarter during a nineteen-seventies winter. Winter chill, wind and humidity were easier for me to tolerate than the hellish, humid summers. The Quarter would bustle with colorful characters and Tourist Hell as we watched from a sagging (and likely dangerous) wrought iron balcony. 

It felt surreal when I ran into Tennessee Williams on Dumaine St, boasting his stylishness  in a lightly-colored cotton suit, Panama hat, and brown wingtips. The extreme humidity could truly induce Williams-esque ‘spells’ - for which I imagined his dialog: “I’m feeling a bit faintish, could you please fetch me chilled refreshment?” (Mr. Williams, whatever you say!)

I found a cheap hotel at Chartres and Dumaine, a couple of blocks from Jackson Square. The hotel entryway led directly up a dark flight of stairs which took a sharp left turn. There was the check-in desk (with its sexually-harassing proprietor), which preceded a maze of wide, dark hallways. At the back of the hotel was a large communal kitchen where scavengers hung out. It was big and bare, with only the basic necessities. It was a good idea to label your foodstuffs or lock them up, due to the bands of roving residents suffering from the munchies, or genuine starvation, or both.

Large cast iron skillets decorated the ancient stove. Cast iron skillets: I'd always found them to be interesting: organic, funky, homey, decorative, and could be handily used as a weapon if need be (see the film Eating Raoul). Versatile indeed.
 

Cooking in a cast iron skillet could be exciting, as cast iron gets very hot. How does one time the cooking process? Meat could be black on the outside and pink in the middle. Can you say ‘trichinosis’? The Fried Breaded Stuffed Pork Chop Incident lingers in my mind. The huge pork chop stuffed, egg-washed, dredged in flour and bread crumbs, I managed to lift it, and ease it into sizzling skillet. The result was blackened on the outside and devoured by the kitchen lizards.

To the right of the kitchen was a hallway which led to many small, funky rooms. The rooms had old, leftover mix-and-match furniture. Some had fireplaces. My room was on the second floor, facing Dumaine St. It had french doors that led to a balcony.
 

There were bathrooms down the cavernous hall. The bathroom near my room had a huge claw-foot tub; it paid to bring Comet or Ajax. Its large, bare window faced a small, neglected courtyard. I met lots of people here: not only at the bathroom or in the kitchen, but throughout the establishment. Appearing spaced-out, many milled about near the check-in desk and sat on the stairs.
 

I made a few friendships; some were cemented by impromptu cross-country road trips. From New Orleans to Montana to Oregon to California to New York I went, growing and shedding new friends, like snakeskin. But the Quarter was special.

It happened to be May 2005 when I wrote  the story Bodies of Water. As I wrote the story sinking cities played in my head, subsiding and eroding, moisture permeating and destroying. Nature can no doubt be brutal; however the human horror and the neglect of a people - the Katrina debacle - is beyond comprehension.