So you can read my books

Thursday, April 11, 2013

P is for PIRATE'S ALLEY ... The Quarter as Only the Damned See It

Robert Frost talks of how geography shapes literature.

If ever you should go to New Orleans looking for Victor Standish and his ghoul friend, Alice, breakfast at Brennan’s,

visit the Aquarium, drinks at Pat O’Brien’s, Dinner at Antoine’s and jazz at Preservation Hall.

You should continue down Bourbon St. following the music and revelers until St. Philip where the crowd thins.

 If your sixth sense prickles your scalp, it’s time to chart a new course.

The Soyoko, evolved raptors who hunt in the French Quarter's shadows, may be following you.

One block to your right is Royal St. At this time of night it seems like another world. And it is:

Rue La Mort.

If you see a fog-shrouded building of iron balconies and heavy moss, bearing the name, Meilori's,

listen for a young boy's gypsy laugh and an upbraiding British girl's voice. Listen closely, if there is gravel in the girl's tones, keep on walking.

Alice is growing hungry.

Head instead toward Canal Street in the thick humidity and soon find yourself in back of the St. Louis Cathedral.

The large garden behind the 215 year old church is surrounded by an old iron fence, scarred and pitted by the elements.

What stories could this fence tell? Stories of love and honor, of the duels fought on the grounds it protects, stories of betrayal and murder as well, of plans and plots by patriots and treasonous cowards as well.

And how one foggy night down Pirate's Alley, Victor Standish ran laughing as Hell hissed at his heels. Along its balconies, roof-tops, and streets, Victor raced taunting his reptilian pursuers.

{Courtesy of Stevie Z's Photography}

But that is for him to describe.

Pirate's Alley you ask?

Oh, there are spirits there!

Souls from long ago who lived and died in these streets with such passion that they refuse to hide in the dusty ruins of the past.

As you push ahead to the end of the fence the air is heavy with a scent of the damp vegetation and you will find your skin is wet.

You breath deeply, swallowing that thick hot air as if you are drowning, and you begin to melt into the city itself, the Vieu Carre, the heart of New Orleans.

Look now to your left, up along the side of the Church. You have discovered PIRATES ALLEY!

Pirate's Alley is the subject of much legend and lore, some true, and much false.

Pirates Alley, about 600 ft long, and 16 ft wide, is not even shown on many of the French Quarter maps.

Wisely so, for many tourists have walked down its foggy length at night never again to be seen.

If it is so dangerous at night, why do tourists dare this avenue?

The sight of the alley at night is unforgettable.

Every surface is covered with moisture giving a shine and a reflection of the dim lights ahead along your path. On your left, St. Anthony’s Garden, on your right, the old Fleur di Paris hat shop faces Royal St. with its beautiful window display that brings to mind a more elegant time.

But further along, you discover that a plaque on the wall of one of the Creole houses identifies this as the residence of the great William Faulkner, indeed, the very house where he wrote his first novel "Soldiers Pay."

And should the Soyoko find your scent pleasing, you may find "Unwary Tourist Pay."

Or you may find salvation in the form

of the legendary undead Texas Ranger,

Samuel McCord, the man with the blood of Death in his veins.
The Lafitte brothers were no strangers to Pirates Alley.

They came to New Orleans about 1803 the year of the Louisiana Purchase, at 24 and 26 years old. Soon they went about with the Creole gentlemen of town and were seen in the streets and coffee houses.

Jean Lafitte spoke several languages and was educated. A familiar sight on these streets, people would regard him with curiosity, and whisper the word PIRATE!

In reality, Lafitte considered himself a Privateer.

Of course, smuggling had been going on in the city for 50 years before Lafitte,

and it eventually became the main business, but soon, Lafitte and his band of Baratarian Pirates controlled black market commerce and all transactions went through the brothers.

Goods were sold openly in Pirates Alley and eventually it became so congested that the "vendors" were allowed to display their goods inside the garden behind the iron fence.

The locals would walk along outside and money and goods were passed through the fence, giving rise to the expression

"Fencing stolen goods"!

We imagine that the brothers made regular charitable "donations" to the church for this convenience.

And should you walk this alley at night, keep your eyes over your shoulders. Sometimes Alice the ghoul grows hungry. She, too, looks for donations ... of human flesh.


  1. You live in an area so rich with atmosphere - as do your characters.

  2. Alex:
    My surroundings are certainly colorful, beautiful, deadly, and evocative. In a sense, my characters truly live because of where I live. Thanks for visiting twice this night when I know you must be exhausted! :-)

  3. I love getting glimpses of your amazing New Orleans!

  4. Raquel:
    New Orleans is truly amazing. Its true history could make a movie that would rivet the imagination of most audiences ... and when you add in voodoo, superstition, ghosts, and hauntings ... brrr. :-)

    I'm so happy to see you here visiting again!!

  5. Sounds muggy. Add ghosts and stir. Not likely that I'd wander about New Orleans after the witching hour.

    Sam McCord can't be everywhere, can he?

  6. D.G.:
    You're a wise lady! Sam McCord and Victor can't be everywhere like you said ... but evil never seems to run out of foot soldiers! :-)

  7. Wonderful post, Roland! It is not that iconic wrought iron balcony on Royal and Dumaine that epitomizes the Quarter for me, it's always been Pirate's Alley. Although, I've certainly been at one end or the other after dark, I don't believe I've ever walked down Pirate's Alley at night . . . nor will I. :)

    ~VR Barkowski

  8. VR:
    Thanks for the nice words. Pirate's Alley has ghosts haunting it at night that you can almost see and hear. And like you, I don't think I would feel comfortable walking all the way down it at midnight! Sandra says I should do a haunted New Orleans tour one day - she might even go ... but not late at night! :-)

  9. A spooky place. But I do LOVE the history behind it. Place like that have a special magic of their own. Authors and artists particularly like alleys, churches, graveyards, steeping in history and folklore.

    Excellent post Roland....

    You always please the descriptive part of my personality.

  10. Michael:
    Victor likes to think of it as evocative not spooky -- but then his lady love is a ghoul! :-)

    Your into's are gems of description and riveting. Great post today, Roland

  11. This makes me want to go back to New Orleans and spend time in the French Quarter.