On the need to be ever-vigilant, inside and out

Dr. Ralph Newsome, Jr.

New Orleans is not the place to live if you’re paranoid about safety. Things happen here — good, bad, accidental, deliberate, and frequently unpleasant.

Of course, the city’s neighborhoods aren’t created equally. Despite its reputation as a hub for vice, the French Quarter is one of the safest places you can live in New Orleans. The streets are busy, the police patrols are frequent, and many of the residents are tourists, which makes local-on-local crime less likely.

Less likely, but not impossible.

As the big party weekend began ramping up last Friday night, somebody or somebodies decided to celebrate Halloween in a particularly cruel and unusual way: by stabbing a well-known surgeon in his French Quarter home, then setting fire to the place. Dr. Ralph Newsome was pronounced dead that evening, after being taken to the LSU hospital.

I didn’t know Dr. Newsome. I’m not even sure I recognize his face in the photo above — which is unusual, since New Orleans is a pretty small town. Making it doubly unusual is the fact that Newsome was gay, and for one reason or another, we gays tend to know one another, at least on sight.

That’s not to diminish the tragedy of Newsome’s death, of course, only to say that I didn’t know him: I didn’t know his likes, his dislikes, his personal preferences, what he ate for breakfast, how he took his coffee, or the other minutae of his too-short life that friends and family will remember over the weeks, months, years to come. I can’t say anything about Newsome at all, but judging from the fact that he was a gardener and kept tortoises, I think we would’ve hit it off really well.

Over at Towleroad, most commenters have jumped to the conclusion that Newsome was killed by what used to be called “rough trade”. I’m sorry to say, that was the first thought that crossed my mind, too. The area of the Quarter where he Newsome lived is well known for its population of muscled-up straight boys whose allegiance to money and crystal meth frequently outweighs their devotion to the female of the species. Mix gay-for-pay with gay-for-meth and…well, it’s proven lethal before.

But none of that’s been confirmed by the police. So far as I know, no details have been released at all. Conjecture leads to the worst kind of stereotyping (is there a better kind of stereotyping?): as proof, look no further than some of the knuckle-draggers leaving comments at NOLA.com. I’m trying to steer clear.

All I know is that murders in the French Quarter are rare; they galvanize locals who are fed up with the city’s piecemeal system of policing and justice; that New Orleans has lost a handsome, talented, and by all accounts loving man; and that if I were that man’s partner, I would be out for blood.

[Thank you for the reminder, Tyler]

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