The World of Valentine Xavier

Everyone who spends a lot of time in the New Orleans French Quarter is either looking for something or someone. I started searching for Valentine Xavier long before Katrina. What began as a nagging curiosity ended with an obsession.

The character that I sought had often been seen walking on the cool, shady side of Toulouse street. He mingled with side walk artists and fortune tellers on Jackson Square. His camera was often seen peeking through palm fronds and palmettos, capturing the images of a decadent city. It was reported that Valentine sat on the curb on Royal Street, drinking Dixie beer and listening to the street bands that play for tips.

At night he visited the balconies and galleries almost hidden by hanging plants and bougainvillea vines that dripped from wrought iron railings.
In the early morning he frequented the bars.

You don’t ask a lot of questions in the Quarter. You listen and wait. I waited, and, on a Saturday before the hurricane, I saw him at a distance. Before I could reach him, he ducked into the Cathedral.

I found Valentine Xavier after Katrina. Like so many others I returned to a broken city, and joined the broken hearted. It was in the mirror at Johnny White’s that his image emerged. Through the snaggle-toothed bottles of spirits, he appeared. He was not the wildly beautiful thirty year old that Tennessee Williams described in ORPHEUS DESCENDING. He was older, but his classic features were unmistakable. His constant companion was a camera swinging loosely around his neck. Was it a manifestation out of a parallel universe, a figment of imagination, or a specter of my youth? I really don’t know, but that’s how the odyssey into Valentine Xavier’s world began.