All great stories eventually come to an end. I knew I’d have to leave New Orleans one day, I just did not think that when the time came I would be quite so desperate to stay. In two days, I fly to a city in Spain called A Coruña. I’ll spend two months there as a resident at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Over the next eight weeks, I will research and create a public art project all about transforming mundane sites in our cities into places of wonder through signs, telephone calls, storytelling, sound, and music. It will be immersive and magical and memorable, like stumbling into the pages of a book, or a scene from a movie, before continuing with your day.
In the meantime, I am sat here in my double-shotgun house a short walk from the New Orleans French Quarter, a swinging mix of 1920s and ’30s jazz on the stereo, waiting for the evening to come so I can go dancing, waiting for tomorrow to come so I can pack my bags, and waiting for the day after that so I can fly away for a short while.
This is an ending of sorts, until next year at least. I feel sad to be leaving and happy that, this time at least, I will get to return.
1. Watch a live feed direct from my favourite New Orleans jazz venue, The Spotted Cat.
2. Learn about A Coruña, my home in Spain for the next two months.
3. See Fats Waller singing ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’, this tune never fails to make me laugh.
Back when we moved to New Orleans, we rented a shotgun house. It was damp, dark and ramshackle. June bugs, which are actually really big, skittish flying cockroaches, would crawl up the kitchen wall. The pool in our backyard had dried out and become home to a colony of red insects.
Beyond the backyard was an alleyway. The walls of the alleyway had been painted with dancing skeletons and giant skulls in top hats. We were told that the alley led to a voodoo temple. At night as we lay in bed, we would sometimes hear the sound of drums.
Just next to the voodoo temple was something called the Music Box. A shanty town of houses rigged with musical tools and toys. We never visited on account of the alley being a little too spooky. This weekend, we finally got tickets to a performance at the Music Box.
I first met James A. Reeves in a bar called Ahven, a couple of blocks from my apartment in the centre of Helsinki. The bar was decorated in brown and served expensive imported ales. James drank a club soda with lime, wore an eggshell white blazer and was tall.
We introduced ourselves. He’d just moved to Helsinki from New York. He ran a design agency and a record label. He was trying to be a writer. He took photos, thought a lot, and wanted to run. I had just moved from London to Helsinki. I designed and wrote music. I smoked Kent Menthol cigarettes and I did not run.
In the summer, James and I would carry his big desk into the yard and work in the warm sun. Several months later, he left Finland and moved back to New York. We had become solid friends and agreed that one day we should work together. And that was that.
Months later, James moved to New Orleans. Together with Candy Chang he founded Civic Center, a creative agency that makes cities more comfortable for people. And most recently, in the summer, James invited me to join Civic Center. I accepted his invitation, quit my job, packed my bags and took a flight to the United States of America.
Now, my local convenience store is called Mardi Gras Zone. They sell boat soap, mouse traps and Bob Marley dietary supplement. Strangers smile and greet me on the street. I like to smile back. Some days I wear shoes but not socks. There are palm trees, freight trains and secret Asian restaurants. There is a voodoo temple behind our house.
I don’t smoke, but I run. And I do good work with good people.
1. Visit Mardi Gras Zone online and purchase beads, pickles and coffee.
2. Read more about Civic Center, James and Candy’s agency