The Dirt

Maurice Ruffin

You have been a lawyer for some time now, why the move into being a writer?
I was born a writer, but didn't get my work into the world until recently. Also, the two are not mutually exclusive. Contrary to popular belief, most writers don't make a living as "writers." Many wait tables, give French Quarter tours, or teach. None of those things are writing. Writing is more than an avocation, but not quite a career for most of us. I prefer it that way. I've been a full-time, practicing attorney since 2003 and each feeds the other. The practice of law is high-stakes, fast-paced, and intense. The writing life is rarely more than one of those at any given moment. The fact that I'm an attorney is the yin to my writing yang. I'm better at each because of the other. Frankly, being a lawyer gave me the courage to go for the writing brass ring.

What are some of the ways you stay inspired?
Everything inspires me. It's the way of the ninja. Use all the elements of your life to move forward. But more specifically: hipster music, foreign cinema, jogging down St. Charles Avenue, reading magnificent, but flawed novels, and, of course, my ragtag crew of weirdo friends. These questions inspire me. The period at the end of this sentence inspires me.

What should someone add to their bucket list for experiencing New Orleans and the surrounding Parishes?
Any of the festivals. A festival is a way, anywhere in the world, be it Scotland or Scottsdale, to grok what a community is like when the gravity shackles are wild. I've always been partial to the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. It's a festival in Ponchatoula that has strawberries. I like festivals that are completely sincere.

What does it mean to be a New Orleanian?
Gracious. Grateful. Ready to convert anyone who just doesn't understand that life is about the ethereal experiences we have with the people we care about. A house full of friends at one in the morning. A bucket of nice gumbo. The moment after you catch a Zulu coconut or a Muse's high heel. That's the currency of this here town.
What neighborhood do you live in? What is great about your street and block?
I live Uptown just off the Freret corridor. I love the mix of hipsters, yuppies, and working-class folk. I've been boxed in by innumerable second line parades. I'm a very fortunate person.

Who do you respect as creators of culture and great community members and why?
I have a lot of respect for Terrance Osborne. As an artist, he brings a perspective that should be obvious: tropical colors, second line bands, shotgun houses, respect for African-American culture. Yet, before he came on the scene, who really made this Art?

Snowball flavor (s):
Strawberry with condensed milk and whipped cream because I'm a very fancy man.

Who would be your ultimate festival headliner?
That depends. Am I allowed to resurrect Ernie K-Doe?

How do you do Mardi Gras Day?
Different every single time. Generally, I like the sampler approach. Maybe catch Zulu on Jackson Avenue. Then go to the Marigny for the costumes. Then maybe back home Uptown to watch the annual stumbling of the frat boys.

Your favorite Dirty Coast shirt design?
The Jolly Louis: because it pretty much sums us up, doesn't it? Also, I can't help but visualize the pirate Jean Lafitte somehow flying this on his ship. This makes me extremely happy. Tearfully happy.
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