Tonight at the CAC, Harry Shearer and Judith Owen will be leading a holiday sing-along at 8pm. Tickets are $20, I think. Harry and Judith are dog people, which anyone might guess from the poster advertising this show. Last month, when I was signing books at Kiehl's on Newbury Street in Boston, Judith came racing in screaming (in a totally friendly way) "I can't believe you're here. A friend just gave me your new book." Etc. She and Harry live part of the year in New Orleans, but we'd never met before this random Boston intersection.
Tomorrow, I'll be signing books at the Bywater Art Market (at Piety and Dauphine). There is a whole section of my book which takes place in the very same park. In fact, when I was on tour, a woman in Portland raised her hand to ask "Can you tell us more about the people who talk about the people in the park?" I gave some kind of broad answer that I thought might be easily digested by the crowd, most of whom hadn't read the book yet. But the woman asked again. "I meant," she said, "can you say something about the real reason they talk about the people in the park." It was a former resident of New Orleans, it turned out, who knew very well what the answer was.
Here's the passage in question:
On the neighborhood’s online forum, people are talking about the people in the park.
Be careful of them, one says.Don’t believe anything they say.
In New York, people used to gather around the dog run as if they were at a zoo. Who were they studying: the dogs, or their owners? One day I was watching too, along with two young women who had their eye on a jack Russell terrier who was racing around in the snow wearing t-shirt. The dog’s owner removed the shirt and he continued running. One of the women turned to the other and said, with an inappropriate degree of awe, “Now he’s completely naked.” That’s when I decided to get a dog of my own, so I could be on the opposite side of the fence from them.
There are phases to recovery. There are phases to grief. There is a time when everyone is unified in their efforts, in their anger, and then most people turn inward again, get suspicious and distant.
Whatever they are talking about, I wouldn’t believe it, someone types on the forum.
Maybe they think of us the way the Puritans thought of the witches. Maybe our dogs are our familiars. They give us a power that puts others on edge.