A week ago today I was eating beignets on Jackson Square with my dear friends Steve and Nancy. We've known each other since Steve and I sat across from each other at the Post-Herald and solved the world's problems over club sandwiches at La Paree. Both instutitutions are long gone, and Steve and Nancy have been in Mobile for years, but when we hang out, it's like no time has passed.
Steve makes art -- art that celebrates the Gulf Coast, and Mardi Gras, music, and folk art. He repurposes Mardi Gras beads, creating intricate patterns on everything from mannequins to taxidermied fish. (I want that fish.)
The fish is a big mouth bass found on Craigslist. He transformed it into the mythical "Gulf Tiger Fish." Working in his garage, Streve studied pictures of tigers to get the pattern right and the beads on one by one. The passers-by were drawn to the fish, all wanting to touch it.
We sat in folding chairs, and Steve and Nancy told me stories about the characters and artists who live in and around the Square. I got beignet sugar all over my skirt and a little sunburned, and laughed a lot. It was a good morning.
It was interesting to be in New Orleans a few weeks after the news that the Times-Picayune, like the papers in Alabama, is going to three days a week. It was of course a subject of our conversations. Steve's newspaper career was a stellar one -- he made the decision to leave the Mobile paper last year to embark on an entire new adventure.
He's building big things, including The Mobile Mask, the definitive guide to Mobile's Mardi Gras. He's making his art and traveling to New Orleans, where he's become a fixture among the talented artists in the Square.
Back in Birmingham I had coffee with a friend who was displaced by the massive layoffs, staying positive and strong and planning for the great things ahead. And there are great things ahead, beyond shuttered papers and the old dreams. There's art to make and stories to tell. There are mythical fish to invent.