Friday, January 4, 2013

New Toulouse en Fluxe

New Toulouse in its recent incarnation
Change can be tough, no doubt about it.

When you're steeped in commitment but have lost the spirit, what do you do?

You may plod on as best you can with what you have and hope it doesn't show. Perhaps you get your friends to take on some of the tasks which once energized you and which now feel like a dead weight on your back. Suddenly there's gravity in a virtual environment. Once you thought it was doable with everything else in your life.
Hey, it happens.

But say you've become attracted to something else. Another genre perhaps? You begin to feel that old magic again. If only you could unload the current project and start this one.  With all that you've learned and all that's going on in your life, you're confident it could all work out if things were done on a much smaller scale.

But no, you can't let people down. They rely on you. They look to you not just as a landlord or landlady but for guidance and the occasional dance party. This project is sustaining itself, so why break what doesn't need fixing?

Of course I'm projecting.  I couldn't begin to guess Gabrielle Riel's RL beyond what she's shared with us as her residents, and that's already a considerable hand dealt.  Add to that the virtual: running a series of web-based radio stations out of and the New Toulouse estate. This includes coordinating the past few years of Mardi Gras and hurricanes and monthly soirees and then some.

New Toulouse is an oddball theme in the great scheme of things Second Life.  It is presently 1912 there, which is post-Victorian and pre-Jazz Age.  It doesn't really fit it into Edwardian because it isn't British.  I'd call it early 20th Century Americana, only a lowdown Cajun-Immigrant corner of it. No illusions within the illusion.

Many residents like myself were attracted to it by way of a RL connection.  I was born in New Orleans.  A neighbor is into all eras of Jazz and hosts live talents regularly.  There have been Ann Rice fans establishing another kind of nightlife in line with her novels, and they've maintained a full residence in their cemeteries.

Radio Riel provides the soundtrack for many Second Life genres with a gamut of musical styles, among them Baroque, Dieselpunk (between the World Wars), gothic and experimental (aka Steampunk channel), and more.  The Steamlands appear to be Gabrielle Riel's affinity, with a presence each in Caledon, Steelhead and New Babbage, as well as sidetrips to Winterfell and Seraph City. 

Many years back when the owner put the estate up for sale, she took the plunge and saved the day.  New Toulouse had not only a dance hall for Radio Riel, it was Gabrielle Riel's domain.  A stream was added to RR's repertoire, the only stream named for an estate; it has been the perfect soundtrack.

Did I see signs?  Of course. Several on many levels. The most prominent of them was her decision to turn a discarded NT sim into the epitomĂȘ of gothic New England for an HP Lovecraft festival.  I knew the sim would remain beyond the festival and Halloween.  In November there were plans to rename it to Witchport, open it up to rentals and attach it to New Toulouse via a homestead water sim.  Many Taloosters and post-Lovecraftians expressed interest in moving over to early 20th century New England with options to visit via boat.

Witchport on a chilly winter morning
About three weeks ago came the news that she would be putting the estate up for sale.  Witchport would continue as a separate entity from New Toulouse: a much smaller project and better suitable to work harmoniously with her other projects and RL. If nobody took the estate over by the first of the year, the sims would be sold off one by one.

Naturally there was panic. I think we all looked around for an alternative, but we already knew that there was nothing like New Toulouse on the grid. Anything claiming any resemblance to New Orleans looked like a Linden Labs sim with stuff plopped on it. New Toulouse has a look and vibe which instantly transports you to a place, and no one's come close to that with this theme.

I got to thinking: If nobody stepped forward - not just anybody of course - there would be no Mardi Gras, no hurricane, no Madhu's Café. The latter would continue somewhere else; I frequented Carter's place before NT so that will live on wherever it ends up.

I asked one of the vampires. When New Toulouse Jardin (what became the Lovecraft sim. This was previously NT's upscale garden district) was decommissioned over the spring/summer, they moved off-theme to Skybeam. I've never warmed up to Seraph City and don't know of any other 1920s themed sims with lax rules on dress code.

With the holidays came word that about three potential buyers were in discussion with Gabrielle Riel. An original resident had been notified and stepped forward and would take over two sims: New Toulouse and New Toulouse Bayou. NT Ponchartrain and NT Bourbon would be sold off; one has since been claimed. New Toulouse Algiers would be renamed Witchwood and join Witchport to the south. Two friends will be making the transition there, one of them Carter.

With so many people interested in staying and others having departed, there has been a fair exchange in parcel ownership. The new owners won't be lacking renters once they install new meters. There were many times NT as a whole would have no vacancies. Most of the time one or two parcels showed yellow on the map, maybe an occasional cemetery plot.

Naturally change affects people differently.  With word of the changes I was pleased. We had answers and saw a future. With word of Gabrielle Riel finding closure with New Toulouse and friends riding a landmass to her new world I'm happy.  She's handled this fairly and been helping the new owners as best she can. Gotta give her kudos.

I'm a little concerned though for a neighbor who seemingly expected everyone from four dense sims to want to squeeze into our two, so much so that she asked those not associated with New Toulouse whether they found their new parcel yet.  She hasn't spoken to me since that day.  The neurotic in me suspects that she interprets my laid back behavior as non-allegiance. We had previously discussed the pros and cons of places we had both escaped from before coming to NT.  I don't want to see her turn into another "us vs them" type, and I'm aware she may be in shock and just need some time. Hopefully she'll snap out of it and get back to her old self, welcoming residents and visitors (including ex-pats) with equal enthusiasm.

IMHO nobody should be judged because they choose to keep their parcel in favor of relocation. They weren't any more or less of a resident. Everyone has their reasons for being where they are, and if somewhere else suits them or they came to NT because of Gabrielle Riel and her events, so be it. She's a very good landlady and maybe some want to continue being somewhere she's in charge. At any rate they're all welcome to my place. Nobody switches off an interest in music or art because they've moved. If Gabrielle Riel wants to hang out when I play 20s tunes that's just fine.  And she knows I'll continue to show up wherever she has a party going. If Madhu's is in Witchwood then you'll find me there on World Music night.

The only thing likely to deter me from continuing in the revised New Toulouse is how the estate is run. Naturally a certain estate buttinski would be grounds to leave if he were added as a manager. While this is far from their genre of interest, power IS a genre of interest unto itself and he'd be attracted to with claims of experience. Happily he hasn't been in evidence.

I was invited to groups these past two days. K.I.S.S. I always say.  People sometimes think an event or place needs a group for each minutia of topic (RFL SLB and Burn2 all suffer from Group Diarrhea). I've only ever belonged to one group for New Toulouse: The residents group. They have a website with an events section anyone can see. If they officially choose to keep the NT renters group apart from a social group and we're no longer allowed to comiserate in group chat, I can understand the change. If all non-residents are effectively ousted from the rental group and expats benefit from a social group, I'll join ONE of them. UPDATE: The latter is the case, and all former residents should join Gens de New Toulouse ;) .

But for now, New Toulouse is saved, new owners are experiencing a steep learning curve while Gabrielle Riel brings them up to speed while the map will remain in flux just a little while longer.

New Toulouse as of this morning.

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