Posted on June 17, 2011 by


There was one thing left for me to do before I got out of New Orleans and headed back up to Kansas to pick up my daughter. I had a guidebook and veered off my route there to see the mansions of the rich and famous. I heard that in New Orleans the rich and famous, like the dead in their above-ground cemeteries, live among us, with no fences and doormen to segregate.

Lest you think at I am a star struck obsessed faniac, I went, not to gawk, but to see why people gawk, My encounter with Papa Legba, the African god of intercessions at intersections, made me curious about all junctions and conjunctions, so I wanted to see wherever the fabulous joins the mundane.

This is what I found. The home of Archie Manning did not have a yard big enough for him to throw the football with his sturdy sons. Ann Rice‘s place had the requisite skulls on the wrought iron fence, but you had to believe that she would need to spend more time weeding the garden and cleaning the gutters, or supervising the job, than she could ever spend writing vampire tales. And the mansion of Sandra Bullock; let me tell you about the mansion of Sandra Bullock. This was not the efficiency apartment of the heroine of Speed, or the lonely flat ofWhile You Were Sleeping, or the family spread of the matriarch of The Blind Side, crawling with kids. This was a fussy gingerbread cake, loaded with icing that you are not allowed to eat.

I glided by in my Toyota, peering into the windows and over the grounds as if she might be outside trimming the bushes or by the window with her hands wrapped around a morning cup of coffee. It didn’t look as though anyone ever set foot on the porch except to clean in, paint it, or to futilely ring the doorbell, hoping to sell brushes. Nobody real could live there.

This, like the Manning and Rice homes, had to be a Potemkin residence that the star purchased so that guidebooks could say this is Sandra Bullock’s house, while the woman herself donned sunglasses and dwelled in Levittown.

I felt as though Samantha, my GPS, had given me bad directions and there was no intersection of the fabulous and the mundane. I had expected a thriving settlement at these corners, but only found a windswept stretch of empty road.  Do those two ever exist side by side, or, like strip clubs near a high school, do cosmic zoning laws prohibit it? What would happen if these two, the corporal and spiritual, the mortal and immortal, the material and the divine, the word and the flesh ever came together in the same space?

I must have been looking too hard for the invisible and thinking too much about the ineffable because I missed the stop sign at the corner. I returned to reality with the startling violence of a car crash and the smothering intervention of an air bag. Before I extracted myself from the wreck I had the disturbing fantasy that I might have run into Sandra Bullock herself as she returned from the grocery store. No, it was only the rental car of another gaping tourist.

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