Late January Lull

It was a chilly but sunny day, started off with a second line at the Jazz Museum. There was a breeze coming off the river, and even the Hot 8 brass band was getting blown away, not usually a problem for these enthusiastic players. 11 in the morning definitely looked early for the guys as they often play the midnight gigs around town. It was a good way to start the day.

I walked the Quarter in the spirit of Sunday Funday, following Miss Ellen’s advice that in the suburbs it is laundry day, but in the French Quarter it is the afternoon when the locals come out and stroll. I took a camera and shot some musicians and other street scenes, with the Queen Cakes and Doreen Ketchens topping the list. The Chart Room was standing room only, so I punted in favor of Johnnie White’s and Harry’s Corner, watching bits and pieces of football as I went. Frenchmen Street was crowded enough that I kept on going to the Rbar, photographing some of the dogs and people there, and calling it an early night. It was a much more reasonable version of the crawl.

I spent the holiday Monday playing with a new web page devoted to photos. It seems like a good way to share and syncs up nicely with Lightroom. The goal is to have an easy place to direct people interested in what I am shooting.

I went to Buffa’s for red beans and rice to comply with the tradition and to sit someplace warm for a little bit, and sorted through the costume closet in search of inspiration for Mardi Gras. So far the pith helmet will be incorporated into something, but that is as far as I got. I’m looking forward to the mask market the weekend before Mardi Gras, but I’d like to have a plan before that.

The week continued cold and then rainy, and town was slow. Even the entertainment columns in the newspaper were talking about a lull before the parades begin next weekend. I guess I will roll with it in anticipation of craziness to come, but I am reminded of why I scheduled sailing trips this time of the winter. I am back in the pool, but swimming is more fun in the ocean.

Sequins Everywhere

I woke up and walked down to Envie to be greeted by a line out the door, with the baristas work at their max. I waited the line out and found a good spot at the bar, watching the people inside and out of the bar. There is a jazz festival going on across the street, which was kicked off by a brass band leading a second line through the Quarter, marching past my perch twice.

I walked through the Quarter, moving through some big crowds up around Jackson Square to the Rouse’s and ran into two other small second lines and Doreen Ketchens playing in front of the store. I bought a loaf of bread and walked it back through in the warm afternoon, dodging cruise ship tourists and panhandlers while admiring the artists and musicians playing in the street, trying not to crush the po-boy loaf. Not everyone takes their lunch for a walk.

I stopped at Harry’s Corner, and watched the end of the first half and beginning of the second of a good Premier League match. A group of golfers from Texas, quite a combination, came in and complained that they were playing a non-American sport on TV and the bartender switched to a golf tournament. It wasn’t my crowd anyway. Mollie’s is a soccer bar, so I headed that way to watch the rest of the game.

Mollie’s was a little fuller than usual at this time of day, and there was a woman in a sequined flapper dress standing at the table closest to the door, but there was a seat at the bar and the game was on the TV at the back of the bar with a dj playing music. I ordered a Guinness and the bar started to fill up with people dressed entirely in sequins and glitter. I felt a little underdressed, in black head to toe in the afternoon, matched only by the dj, proving the New Orleans aphorism that you can’t overdress in the city.

There is a burlesque competition in town, and I thought the dancers had come out to play as part of the festivities. A group got their swag bags full of sample size glitter makeup and hair accessories, and stood next to me applying their makeup. One was a beautiful man dressed in sequin hot pants and suspenders and nothing else except for glitter and a sequined hat, and another was one of the Pelicans basketball dancers, who put her makeup bag on my po-boy loaf and stood touching me as she glittered up but not otherwise acknowledging my existence. The back room opened up, and this small group moved on to the back.

I asked the woman at the front table about the event, and she said it was the pre-party for the Sequin Second Line, to kick off around two, or whenever the band made its way through the traffic. Somehow I never got the invitation. Two drag queens showed up, and the bar began to fill up with all sorts of people dressed in sequins, wigs, and glitter. A woman, clearly a cruise ship tourist, stood next to me and said she had been told at the French Market that this was a quiet place to get a drink, and asked with wide eyes if New Orleans was like this every day. I was kind, and told her “only during Carnival.” She seemed relieved, and I didn’t tell her that Carnival lasted most of the winter.

As the bar filled up, the crowd changed from professional dancers and entertainers to the Uptown crowd (derided by the Touro Street Irregulars who escaped from there) who were dressed like the professionals, with short skirts, skimpy outfits, sequined go-go boots, and extravagantly styled hair or wigs. This is what sorority life prepares you for, I suppose. One of the drag queens, who I have seen around town a couple of times, put on a longish set of four dances, which is probably enough for one day. A little drag goes a long way. I waited around, hoping to see the second line take off, but had my fill of Guinness and didn’t want to compete for the one-holer with the drag queens dressing, so wandered before the party hit the streets.

I saw later in the paper that half a dozen of the Mardi Gras balls were that evening, but I had not walked towards the big hotels where most of them were held. These balls are invitation only, and people in the krewes dress formally to a theme, meaning a particular color or accessories, but not in costume. It is still a fun people watching opportunity. There will be more and more as the season goes on, with the first big, and fun, parades like Chewbacchus and Krewe d’Vieue the first weekend of February.

A front came through, and the temperatures dropped from the 70s to the 40s in an hour. Still nothing to complain about, but the couple of weeks of perfect weather were enjoyable.

More Whisky!

Perhaps three pub crawls in a week is not a good idea. Following the big game day, I ran into Tron at Envie, and walked with him back to the condo. Our neighbor’s realtor was hosting an open house, and Tron is looking for real estate. The place is not what he is looking for, but it is always good to check out the less obvious options. We started with Happy Hour at Buffa’s, through the R-Bar, over to the Spotted Cat to hear Meschiya Lake sing(wow) as the swing dancers worked, walked down Bourbon to visit the Erin Rose and the Dungeon, and back up Lower Decatur. Tron is a fun guy to be with, as he presents a distinctive appearance with long red-blond hair, a Viking beard, and an eye patch, and many people recognize him as we walk the streets. I ended up getting a tarot reading from a woman in Harry’s Corner, probably in no condition to be throwing the correct psychic vibes. In any case, this evening leaned too heavily towards whisky, and the next morning was a little slow.

I had barely recovered the next day when Seker texted to ask where the music was, and my desire to maintain friendships and see music overrode common sense. The Quarter was pleasantly quiet, and we had a drink at Manolito, celebrating a humid 75 degree evening in January with an excellent daiquiri. This was a little mellower, but Chris has less of an attention span for the music than I do, so we ended up in more clubs on Frenchmen than I had intended. I was at little distracted, with Deanna’s Mini quitting on her on her way home from work on a cold day, and texting back and forth about how to deal with it when the mechanics that talk to me about cars won’t talk to her about cars. The Apple Barrel was fun, with more old time music from Beardsley and his five piece band, and some of the same swing dancers from the Spotted Cat the night before, who i complimented and got a nice hug of recognition from a woman, an excellent dancer with a fashionably shaved head. We stopped for a partial set from Jamie Lynn Vessels, who just got her first set at Jazzfest. It is good in the New Orleans music world to be in the same festival as the big boys, a recognition that you have something good going on.

Friday was a more mellow day, starting with a good long swim followed by a walk along the river with a camera into the Bywater. It is fun to watch the boat traffic, with a couple of big tankers escorted by tugs maneuvering the tight turn right in front of town, and the birds carrying on as if the city didn’t exist. The diving ducks are amazing, because the water is opaque with a steady 2-3 knot current moving downstream and visible eddies at the surface moving at least twice that, compounded by wakes from the ships, and the large ducks are diving for 45 seconds or so and popping back up to do it again. I’ve seen birds in clear water, swimming as if flying and apparently navigating and hunting visually. I have no idea how these ducks were doing it.

I walked a zigzag through the Bywater, ending up at Mimi’s for a break. The chef was there, and several people at the bar were ordering tapas. He was doing great stuff-steamed mussels and well done meat pies with an etouffee. Definitely a place to put on the list for a happy hour time snack. I resisted the food temptation there in favor of a set of music and a fried oyster po-boy at Bamboula’s. I had heard the band before, younger University trained guys playing solid pre-modern jazz, and becoming one of my favorite groups on the street. I wandered home for a nap, and then out to the Rbar for the Friday evening dog convention. I’m a little amazed that people travel from around the city to hang out with their dogs at the Rbar, but it is fun to have dogs to visit, and not just the regulars. I cant really imagine a better place to socialize a dog, with lots of people, some other dogs, everyone tolerant and paying attention to them. And the guys cooking jambalaya outdoors don’t hurt a bit, with the dogs politely asking for scraps. I’m getting excited for crawfish season, just around the corner. It was a good day.

Envie was crazy in the morning, with lines out the door on a pleasant Saturday, and a second line promoting the Danny Barker music festival at the Mint came by. A brass band at 10 am can’t be wrong.

Big Game Weekend

I was surfing Craigslist for used furniture sites and came across a round marble and brass coffee table. I walked over to Royal Street in the Marigny to look at it. The woman selling it had an immaculately restored shotgun down the block from the Orange Couch cafe. The interior had been opened up, with an open kitchen screened by an original brick fireplace in the center of the room at the rear and a living/dining space in the front of the main room. It was designer-curated, and full of interesting and expensive art. She described the table as being purchased from an art dealer on Magazine Street, and that is was purported to be from approximately 1960 and imported from France. I agreed to buy it, and found it weighed about 75 pounds, a little too heavy to walk across the Marigny. She graciously offered to deliver it in her Mini Cooper convertible, and we took a ride across the neighborhood.

Apparently her brother is a fisherman who works on a seiner in Craig for a captain named Lars. She told a story about her brother noticing a Haida raven tattoo on Meschiya Lake, a local jazz vocalist, and asking her about it. Apparently she is Haida! I’ll have to talk to her next time I see her perform.

The table is a definite upgrade, and will look great once the couch is gone and the chairs get moved around. The ikea coffee table went to the curb, and I walked to the postal drop to pick up a package. I stopped at Manolito for an excellent daiquiri on the way home, and talked whales and scuba diving with the crew who were in a lull before the football weekend begins.

Later in the evening, I left the house to find a 60 something creepy looking guy with a dog on a leash up on the porch on the front of the house, examining the electric meters, and exclaiming that there were six units. I’m not sure if he was a real estate tire kicker or our friendly neighborhood rule kitten concerned about zoning. I’m not really clear on the regs, but there is a reason that our big building is broken into two street addresses of three units each. Hopefully this does not create unnecessary imperial entanglements.

I walked over to the R Bar and talked with the “Hank was here” crowd and Michael Wilder, who is putting on a show next week at Sidney’s. It will be a new venue for me, always a good thing, and it seems they do music a couple of days a week. I went to Frenchmen Street and listened to an eight piece reggae band called “One Love” at the Cafe Negril for a set. One of the percussionists was Amari Neville, a late 20s looking member of the clan. I’ve seen him headlining other shows as a rapper. I couldn’t get a seat at the bar for Aurora Nealand and Tom McDermott at Buffa’s, but there will probably be a next time.

Next time came quick, as I followed up a day of walking around the Quarter doing errands while sore from the increase in exercise at the pool and on the floor with a set of music from Aurora Nealand with her old time music band, the Royal Roses. There were a couple of swing dancers in dba, so it was a full show. I like it when the good dancers get dressed up and come out to play. A man’s got to know his limitations, but it is fun to watch.

I ended up at Buffa’s for a beer and met Eugenie there, the woman with the sweet big Doberman. She had adopted a male dobie who had been starved, and was doing well with it for a few weeks when it got food anxious and bit her has she was trying to feed it. It got her hand and forearm with three solid bites, but not the crushing bites that they are capable of, thankfully, and a cut to the face when she fell and her glasses broke. She will probably have some scarring on her arms, but her face is okay. She was able to place the dog with a rescue facility as she did not want to put it down, but it is a scary story. I know some folks say that breed doesn’t matter, but I am pretty confident I’m not going to be adopting a Doberman or a pit bull anytime soon. The rumor at the bar was that there was a mugging outside the Rbar relatively early in the evening, so a little extra vigilance is probably warranted.

A big storm passed through on Friday Night and Saturday morning, but none of the predicted big winds, at least in the immediate neighborhood. The front passed through andSeker texted that he was out for a pub crawl with “the girls”. I had been taking advantage of the stormy morning to clean house and do my floor exercises. The group was Cecile and Chris, Ken and Cyndi, and Cecile’s guest Powell and her friend Blaine. We walked into the Quarter, stopping at the Golden Lantern, Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, Johnnie White’s Hole in the Wall, the Cat’s Meow for those interested to do karaoke, the Olde Absinthe House, the Erin Rose, Pat O’Brien’s for a hurricane, and the Dungeon. It was definitely a Carnival event. I lost my sunglasses, inhibitions, and some dignity, but it was fun in the over the edge kind of way.

Powell is a graduating grad student from Las Vegas, who intends to move to New Orleans in May. I showed her the place Sunday morning, and we made a handshake deal for her to rent it for the summer as she looks for work and a permanent place to stay. I missed the battle of the college bands on Bourbon Street, and the crowning of the beer drinking champion, opting to relax and recover from pub crawling.

Monday was the actual game day, and I walked across the Quarter to the bank. People were starting to come out dressed for the game, so I went back home and came out with a camera to try to capture some of the shenanigans. There were a lot of college age kids out, and I headed back for the security of the inner orb when the frat boys started pushing and wrestling on the street. Nothing good was going to come of that. I stopped at the Dungeon, looking for my lost glasses without success, and had a Guinness at Mollies.

I watched the final interesting football game of the year on the porch, having a good conversation with Ellen and Tron as LSU steamrolled Clemson amid much hooting and hollering.

No sense of adventure

It was a good day to make groceries and run some errands. I made groceries at Robert’s, enjoying the walk across the neighborhood. I bought a couple of smaller saucepans, opting for the lowest end line of Cuisinart aluminum/stainless to fill in the gap under the 3 quart pot which was too big for many simple tasks. The kitchen may be complete. It was a big mail day, with three packages to tote back and unpack. The mustache clippers look a little scary with lots of room for error given recent experience.

I went to the geek fest at Buffa’s, watching the Mandolorian with Huggy and his followers. It is a pretty mellow way to pass an afternoon in a bar. The first season is over, and I’ll look forward to next year. One of the highlights was a thirty something woman who received a package at the bar and opened it to reveal green, gold, and purple sequined Chuck Taylors she had purchased from Etsy. She squealed like a 6 year old on Christmas morning, unpacked the box and immediately put them on. She climbed up on the bar and danced along the bar modeling the new kicks, still squealing. The enthusiasm was impressive for 5 in the afternoon, especially since she wasn’t one of the performers getting ready for the show in the back room.

The contrast with the couple sitting next to me was striking. They were 60ish, dressed conservatively, and reservedly friendly, doing the usual “where are you from” conversation-Minnesota. They pressed Huggy for recommendations on what to do in the city between now and Friday, and he was unusually(for him) helpful. I’ve heard him direct the wrong people to the Phoenix leather bar and into St. Claude, so it was refreshing I didn’t have to jump in to save anyone. He had a list of solid recommendations based on his impression of these folks, including Cafe du Monde, the WWII museum, a cemetery carriage tour, and Preservation Hall including the bars to wait in across the street and the need to bring cash. He also recommended a walk on Frenchmen Street and the Three Muses. They shut him down, saying they had to be back in the hotel by 6 for the Jeopardy Championships on TV all week, and will be eating room service. I suppose I don’t have any room to talk, watching Star Wars in a bar on a Tuesday night as the drag queens walked by to their gig, but I’m thinking these folks missed the point of visiting New Orleans entirely. I hope they have a good time.

I was a little sore from getting back in the pool, but it feels good to be back. I got a call that our “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans” sign was ready over on Magazine Street. I took the bus across town, and was pleasantly reminded of how easy it is to get to the lower end of the neighborhood, at least when there are no parades. It was not easy last St. Patrick’s Day. I walked by the flag store at Jackson and Magazine, and a Mardi Gras flag discounted to $15 from $45 caught my eye. Now we can fly the Carnival flag!

I met with Simon, who remembered me from last time, and we talked about his role as the King of the Jeanne d’Arc parade. He insisted we pose for a picture, and invited me back to the courtyard for his St. Patrick’s Day party. His shop backs up to the lawyer’s office parking lot where they did a big crawfish boil last year. The sign is gorgeous with lots of color, and will make a good addition to the living room art in Craig. As long as I was in the neighborhood, I decided to walk the sign over to Parasol’s for a roast beef poboy, as good as I remembered.

I Ubered back, not wanting to wrestle the package on the bus, and walked into the Quarter to pick up a package. Things were relatively quiet, with the football championship crowds not here yet. I stopped at Harry’s Corner on the way home, and sat a couple of seats down from a guy engaged in deep conversation with a regular, a 60-something year olds woman who was clearly entranced. He was a big athletic guy in his 30s, wearing a tank top in 65 degree weather which marked him as not from here, although he had a dog with him. True locals are wearing jackets. He switched his attention to me, using an apparent pickup line-“you look just like a friend of mine, only better looking”-and I changed the subject. A few minutes later, he said, apropos of nothing, that “tonight was going to be the greatest night of my life.”

A drunk or impaired, but friendly and energetic woman, fit, good looking and well dressed, made up to go out, demanded that I take photo of her with the big guy, and then that the bartender take a picture with me, insisting that with my mustache I had to be gay, and getting just a little too close for strangers in a bar when I told her I was not. “Didn’t I see Bohemian Rhapsody?” This is the denouement of the Mustache Massacre, a drunk woman in a bar insisting that I looked just like Freddy Mercury.

I made my escape as she challenged the muscle man to an arm wrestling contest. I’m guessing, or at least speculating, that those two were a couple working a grift that would end with someone with their pants off and their wallet gone. Or perhaps I just have no sense of adventure.

It’s Carnival Time!

The Saints ended the season with a poorly played and disappointing game which left the neighborhood in a kind of funk. Things will get better as it is Twelfth Night, or 3 Kings Day, or Epiphany, the official end of Christmas and the beginning of Carnival which ends in six or seven weeks on Mardi Gras. No fear, though, because St. Patrick’s Day follows close on. The king cakes start and the Jeanne d’Arc parade is tonight, and there will be Carnival festivities throughout the season, not to mention the football national championship next weekend. the pressure is on for LSU now that the Saints are out of it.

Deanna was here for the longish Christmas break, and we packed in a lot, including a trip to Shreveport for Christmas itself. We had some excellent meals, trying out restaurants that we had not been to before. We had a Christmas meal at Muriel’s on Jackson Square, a New Year’s meal at Kingfish, neighborhood meals at Adolfo’s, Mona Lisa, Snug Harbor, and Three Muses, fancy cocktails and snacks at Manolito, Jewel of the South, and the Belle Époque, more casual stops at Em Trai, Royal Sushi, 13, Juan’s Flying Burrito, the Who Dat cafe, Croissant d’Or, Buffa’s, the French Market, and Envie. We made pretty good progress through our list of destination restaurants, but failed in crossing many off the list of ones that we would not want to go back to, instead starting to build another list of places to go for happy hour specials or to go with friends from out of town.

We saw good music just about every day, highlighted by sitting in the front row of tables for Walter “Wolfman” Washington, seeing Glen David Andrews and his brass band in a room slightly bigger than our living room and smaller than the chapter room at DU, John Boutte at dba, a modern/academic jazz set at Snug Harbor, and all of the street musicians.

We walked the French Quarter daily, shopping our way through the galleries, antique stores, and junk shops. We commissioned some custom art from Simon on Magazine Street for the house in Craig, and bought a couple of nice chairs for our place in New Orleans. Simon, from France, was the King of the parade, and made a number of the signs people carried. It is fun to be part of a living culture.

We socialized a lot with friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood and our favorite bars, running into people we knew just about everywhere we went, even on the busy days. It was a good couple of weeks in the old city for the holidays.

No New Year’s resolutions, but I will be working on a new blog site featuring photos. It has been frustrating to not have a good way to show photography to folks who are interested other than social media. Hopefully this will be fun for people, and a way to share some work without being overwhelming, either to produce or to look at.

I apparently wore myself out after three weeks of fun, and was not in much of a mood for Carnival crowds, but did go out with a camera to the parade. It is one of my favorites, in the French Quarter and short but fun. It tells the story of Jeanne d’Arc with a couple of notable additions like the Flaming Heretics dance group dressed like devils or tormented souls and brass bands. A young Jeanne leads the parade dressed in gold on a horse, surrounded by footmen on hobbyhorses, and there are a series of floats and groups illustrating battles and her persecution by clergy, followed by her ascension to the accompaniment of a brass band playing “Hallelujah”. I’m not sure where the dragon or the stilt walkers come in to the story but the kids seem to like it. I had forgotten that people costume to attend the parade, so just being in the crowd is an event. The street clothes v. costume game gets really hard, and will only get harder as Carnival goes on. I forgot about the neighborhood Twelfth Night party, but it was probably just as well.

I made it back to the pool in Treme with a nice walk through the neighborhood and a good swim, but I am going to be sore after a couple of months off. Long slow distance for a while.

It was a warm day in the city, around 80, and I was expecting FedEx to deliver the new chair. I had promised Courtney I would get her some fish, so I walked across the Quarter to her bar. There had been an explosion of sewer gases on Dauphine that destroyed a couple of cars and damaged some high dollar real estate, and caused the normally slow traffic to stop. Folks turned onto a street, and were just trapped there. There were few people on foot, just mad motorists and Colts fans looking perplexed.

I worked up a sweat hustling back to the Marigny after getting a call from the FedEx guy that he had just dropped the package over the gate. A little risk of damage balanced against the porch pirates. It took a solid hour to carefully assemble the chair, and aside from the urge to say “make it so, number 1” and a surfeit of furniture in our little place, it looks and feels great.

I ran into Cecile, seeing her for the first time since I got back, and walked around the block with her and Roscoe. She is still fighting some kind of crud, and seems not quite on her game. I listened to a set of music at Bamboula’s and had some catfish. I think Jim Rothwell may be right-they do fried catfish pretty good in Columbia. I haven’t had fish to beat the brewpub in downtown Columbia yet.

I watched the Saints demolish the Colts at the R Bar. The usual Touro crowd all went to the game to watch Brees set all kinds of records, so I sat with the Hank was Here group and the R Bar regulars, a younger and hipper crowd than the usual folks I hang around with. The game is projected on the outside wall, and people set up fest chairs in the street, leaving one lane barely open for traffic. People bring food potluck style, and a vendor was doing Philly cheesesteaks for $5.

Lots of people bring their dogs. The highlight was a beautiful bloodhound who would get excited when the crowd reacted to a play on the television and bay “Whoooo”. The crowd replied with “Dat”, making the dog excited again and rewarding it for baying, so it would bay again. It is without a doubt the best football mascot I have ever seen, and I was unreasonably entertained by the dog cheerleader all night.

As the night progressed the crowd changed as the people who had to work in the morning thinned out and the game provided no suspense. A late teenage or early twenties girl, clearly high and apparently living rough from her unwashed hair and traveler clothes, sat down and bummed cigarettes from folks, giggling at jokes she was telling herself. She thankfully made no effort at conversation other than asking for cigs or a light, but she was having a rough night, and probably life. It’s a good thing I am not in the saving teenagers business.

A front passed through overnight and the temp dropped to the mid 40s. Sweating to shivering in 12 hours. I walked through the Quarter to the Walgreens for little bits, and stopped at Mollies on the way home. I made some ramen for lunch to warm up, and went over to the Roberts, where I set a new record, seeing four people I knew from the neighborhood in the store. Pretty soon it will be like Craig. I went to Buffa’s, trying to time the sci-fi film festival so I could just watch the newest episode of the Mandolorian, but Huggie had different plans, starting later than last week. I sat with one of Huggie’s friends, Catherine, and watched the whole series again over a good burger and a couple of beers. The geek runs deep in the old city.