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All That Jazz, and Then Some!

After twenty years in Manhattan, it was time to water my Southern roots. Since I’d always loved New Orleans food, music, history and unvarnished hedonism, I took an apartment in an 1840s Creole townhouse in the French Quarter. My landlord Frank, an eccentric elderly Sicilian with an eye patch, quirky attitude and murky past, occupied the downstairs and slave quarters while I took the second floor with a gallery overlooking the street. Frank explained that the mansion fell into decline when the Quarter became a slum in the ’30s. By the ’80s it was a derelict pasta factory which Frank (whom I discovered was once heir to an Italian food empire), restored to a fare-thee-well. A deeply superstitious charismatic Catholic with a life-sized Jesus in his...

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Village People

My 1967 summer in Margaret Mitchell’s Atlanta apartment building was a revelation, but that old house was only a nostalgic island in a mundane commercial district. Eager to live in a truly historic neighborhood I moved to New York’s Greenwich Village and took a second floor apartment on West Tenth Street. Tucked between Bleecker and Hudson Streets I was happily immersed in another century. The only modern interloper on the block was the Sixth Precinct Police Headquarters across the street. Our paths would eventually cross but more on that later. My new life in America’s Bohemia was magical. Because I was still an unpublished novelist, I walked around in a daze, trying to grasp how many writers I had followed there. Mark Twain, Herman Melville,...

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Living with History

In the summer of 1967, I was a college student in Atlanta looking for a summer rental before heading off to Navy boot camp. A classmate steered me to a place called the Windsor House near the corner of Peachtree and Tenth Streets. Thoroughly no-frills, it was nowhere near as grand as its name, but it fit my meager budget just fine. What pleased me most, however, was a jackpot provenance in a city with a dearth of historic sites. A small plaque by the front door proclaimed that this building was where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind!  I didn’t exactly meet her ghost, but it could hardly have been more colorful than my new neighbors. Windsor House turned out to be more like a rooming house than an apartment building, attracting the sort of...

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