The Value of X

The Lower Ninth Ward

"For public schools to be without air conditioning in 1990 was a disgrace, but such things were usual in this little corner of the United States that might be more properly called part of the Third World."


"They left the diner, rode the city bus down St. Claude Avenue, and walked to Rickey's house near the corner of Tricou and Royal Streets. Rickey's mother had left a long list of chores under the sugar bowl."


"Gary's house was only a few blocks away from Rickey's, over on Delery near the Jackson Barracks prison complex, so he took a roundabout way home."


" ...there was a spot where you could climb over the levee and find yourself in a grove of pecan, scrub pine, and the tall broad-leafed trees called misbelieves by Ninth Warders and Japanese plums by the rest of the city. The area was so quiet that it felt like you'd stepped out of New Orleans and into some sleepy country village."


"People who didn't live here only seemed able to see the trash on the street and the possibility that somebody might ride up on a bike, smash your head open, and steal your wallet. They felt safe in their big Uptown houses and Metairie condo-warrens, but Gary thought his neighborhood was a lot more interesting than Metairie, not to mention friendlier."


Other Parts of New Orleans

"Upper Bourbon was for the tourists, and the lower part of the street was mostly residential, but between St. Ann and Ursulines was the largest concentration of gay bars, dance clubs, and other businesses in the city. They had passed through this area over the years, never daring to look too close or appear too interested."


"They walked over to Burgundy Street and found the restaurant, a rather precious-looking little property called the Jolly Corner."


"The day after offering to send him to cooking school, Rickey's father had taken him to lunch at Commander's Palace, one of the oldest and best Creole restaurants in New Orleans."

Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie, New York

"He'd read about the CIA, how hardcore it was and how you were just about guaranteed a great cooking job if you graduated from there."


"Dear Gary -- Being up here is like being on another planet. The campus is surrounded by trees which are already starting to change color for Fall. The leaves are red, yellow, and orange. They don't just turn brown and dry up like in New Orleans."


"He went down to the riverside cliffs and sat shivering in a little gazebo somebody had built there. Very near Hudson Hall and almost always deserted, this was where Rickey came when he wanted to be alone on campus."


"At least George Orwell was in France. It was embarrassing to be down and out in Poughkeepsie."