Chewbacchus Week

Monday was a good day, with a stop at Mollies on the way home from the Walgreens, and a successful cooking experiment. I used the communal grill in the courtyard for the first time to cook a hunk of salmon and discovered it does not get very hot. The thermometer only got to 250 or so, and I had to finish it in the oven. It was good to cook a little bit.

I spent some time cleaning up the pith helmet in preparation for Mardi Gras. It is considerably whiter, and now I need an appropriate plume to top it off. I’m thinking a military style jacket or something underneath, but that will require some shopping. In the meantime, the parades start this weekend with Chewbacchus, the Star Wars/science fiction themed parade, and I am deciding whether to dress for it or just photograph. The general rule of not being able to overdress in New Orleans may apply. I can probably rustle up a decent Senator/Emperor Palpatine from the costume closet, but a Sith Lord or Jedi would require a few more parts.

I went to dba to see Gal Holiday, who is a well reviewed country rocker who covers Hank Williams, John Prine, and Johnny Cash along with originals in the same style. She rarely plays Frenchmen Street, but many of the regulars, including John Boutte who has the Monday night early slot at dba, are touring leading up to Mardi Gras. It was a fun show, with a different feel than the usual jazz or brass band music I seek out.

The next day was bright and sunny, and I took a walk with my camera through the Quarter, seeing the Mardi Gras decorations starting to come out and some street musicians along Bourbon. I walked the length of Bourbon to Canal, with light tourist traffic. I stopped at the Chart Room, and met a photographer there who had kind things to say about my photo site, and suggested a commercial outlet. He does landscape photography in Colorado, and sells to hotel chains and such to outfit rooms with affordable art. I’m not sure that is the way to go, but it was a nice compliment anyway. I continued on, stopping at Molly’s and walking Frenchmen

Street in the late afternoon light. It was a good photo walk.

After dinner I went out to dba for a short set from Dinosaurchestra, and met Seker at the R bar for a little bit. He was chatting up a couple from Canada as they played pool. They were fun, but I know better than to try to drink with Canadians unless you are ready for it, and called it an early night.

I did some photo editing at Envie and decide to split my grocery list between the Rouses on Royal and the Robert’s to work in a walk through the Quarter and the Marigny. Carrying a grocery bag provides a certain immunity from the street hustle but allows for reasonable people watching, even on a slow day for the party crowd.

The walk through the Marigny was more fun, with a stop at the Costume Center for inspiration. I bought a white ostrich plume to top off the pith helmet, which now works well. I just have to figure out the rest of the outfit. I have seen some high school band uniforms in the second hand stores, but will keep looking. Costuming is kicking into high gear all around town.

I stopped at Mimi’s on the way to the grocery store, and met Mimi, a mid 50s hipster who owns the place. Mimi’s did not disappoint, as the beautiful tattooed and facially pierced bartender was joined by her boyfriend, a guy covered in hand-poked tattoos, wearing John Lennon round wire glasses, an “Anal Cunts” band t-shirt, and bright green short dreads. Definitely street wear, but he could hop right up on the Star Wars bar float at the parade and have the best look there. Mimi’s boyfriend, a 60-something guy with shoulder length wavy and professionally maintained hair, shorts, birkenstocks, and a corduroy sport coat with exaggeratedly thick ridges, gave the alien a California greeting-the hug and “oh my god, its so good to meet you” with dead eyes. The cruise shippers definitely don’t get out this far into the neighborhood.

As I walked St. Claude towards home, I appreciated the embarrassment of riches, passing by half a dozen good or at least interesting restaurants that have been well reviewed or recommended by friends, including a pasta place, a charcuterie, two Vietnamese modern restaurants, the St. Roch Market with its food stalls, and the ones I have tried, like Em Trai and the NY Slice place. I also walked by the Hi-Ho, the Carnaval Lounge, Kajun’s Pub, and the Allways Lounge, all live music or performance venues. What a good neighborhood.

I ran around town costuming, settling on a pair of motorcycle boots and a toy pistol to complement the pirate costume. I looked at sashes in the costume stores and decided to go with an old bedsheet. It won’t be Pirates of the Caribbean movie set ready, but plenty good enough for a walk up Bourbon Street in the dark. I can add pieces and parts as time goes on.

I walked by Washington Square Park and met a painter there, Wayne, who paints his impressions of old jazz clubs, like Big Percy’s and the Ebony Lounge, in large format oils. He claimed to have played in the Negro Leagues, and had a painting of a man in a baseball uniform from that era. I’m intrigued, but we didn’t talk price.

I went to Manolito for a daiquiri, and a conversation with the staff. It was a super slow night, and the bartender had been assaulted by a couple of guys in a Mustang as she rode her bike along St. Claude. The car edged her off the road into the curb, and one of them pointed a gun at her demanding her purse. She is tall, and was able to straddle her bike and get it up on the sidewalks and get away, but was still shaky and scared. The same guys made the paper in the morning, similarly going after several bicyclists that afternoon. Big city stuff, I guess.

I had a catfish po-boy at Bamboula’s, a really good piece of fried fish, and listened to a set of 1920s-30s style jazz in an almost empty room at the dinner hour. Many days I cannot find a place to sit on Frenchmen Street at that time of night, so this was a bonus. Seker texted that he was playing pool at the R bar, so I headed that way. I noticed a trio of acoustic guitar players, an unusual group, at the Marigny Brasserie and an empty seat at the bar. I sat for a few songs, and the group, a white hipsterish guy, a young black woman in a t-shirt, and a younger white woman in more typical alt-country costume, was very good, between them covering the full vocal range and providing good harmonies for their original songs. Serendipity strikes again for finding good music.

I had been there for a few songs when an obviously drunk guy dressed in business clothes, a vest and shirt and tie, came up to the bar and ordered food to go, declining to see a menu but giving specific directions to the bartender. He said he was drinking across the street, but ordered a martini and insisted on buying me a drink. He pitched in on singing harmony with the band, showing off a gospel voice and energizing the group, who were performing well for the ten people in the room. I got the full-on “You’re a very attractive man…” spiel, at a least three times as he did not remember running the same lines over and over. A compliment, I guess, but also a quick escape with a go-cup. And the weekend hasn’t started yet.

A Solid Weekend

It was a rainy morning, and after a short walk through the rain to run some errands and get some coffee, I waited out the rain at home. After the rain quit, I decided to get my steps in by walking to the other side of the Quarter. I walked down Burgundy to Three Legged Dog, the source of my first New Orleans crawfish and rumored to be one of the best boils in town. They are only doing it on weekends, but the whole place smelled of old boiled crawfish. It is a dive type bar, and the people hanging out there included a young black woman who had the body of a dancer who complained of a hangover so bad she couldn’t even drink, a friendly 50-something couple from Wisconsin who ordered every item on the menu and struggled to understand why they bought so much food, and a very drunk local who was very upset by the lack of body recovery at the Hard Rock Hotel. An odd crowd, but perhaps I will return for crawfish.

I walked over to the Erin Rose, inundated by a group of 10 or 12 bachelor party guys drinking a lot of frozen Irish coffee. It was a little much for my mood, so I headed over to the known quantity of the Chart Room, which, although on the far side of the Quarter, is a comfortable place to hang. I talked with a guy named Patrick from Dallas who has a small condo in the CBD and comes to New Orleans a couple of weeks at a time. He is in a different tax bracket, but a nice enough fella to talk fishing with. He insisted that sturgeon were a big commercial and sport fish in Alaska right up until I showed him a picture of a halibut which he identified as a sturgeon.

I walked back through Frenchmen Street, having some boudin at Thirteen, and ran into Chris and Cecile at the Marigny Brasserie just as the bands took a break to switch performers. I ended the night with the Hank was Here crowd at the R bar. There was a French woman with hair an improbable shade of red, cut short, and wearing no makeup who joined the group, and was an interesting change of pace, adding a directness of conversation and manner which is refreshing or rude, depending on your perspective. I kind of like it, but it is off-putting to someone with American manners. I’m not sure if her comments about my shoes and her extensive footwear collection were flirty or about shoes, but she was not shy about offering suggestions about shoe care.

Friday was another good mellow day, with kind of a cloud of melancholy hanging over it from Mike McKimen’s death. I walked the camera around the Quarter, and did the slow walk back, stopping for a burger at Turtle Bay and ending the evening at the R bar as Roberto cooked quesadillas loaded with cilantro. I was glad to have eaten earlier.

Heather of the Hank was Here crowd pointed out an estate sale in the neighborhood, and I went out in the morning to the Lanaux mansion on Esplanade and Chartres. It is a beautiful house with gorgeous art and furnishings, most of which were for sale at perhaps 10% of what I have seen similar items priced at antique shops. I made a rookie mistake, seeing a painting that I liked and not grabbing it immediately. I went back after reflection, and it was gone. It was like a garage sale without the junk predominating the goods. The house felt like a museum, and I was glad to see the old photographs although none caught my eye at the price point. I feel good about going to my first estate sale, and now I will have to keep my eye out.

Seker was bored and suggested a walk through the Quarter, and we took the Harry’s/Chart Room/Manolito route with a stop at the cigar shop in Exchange Alley. I successfully avoided buying a cigar, but they are smelling better and better. We ran into Ken and Cyndi at Harry’s, and Ken invited us to a music show at Carnaval by a couple of his friends. Perhaps I can fend off one bad habit. I had a good daiquiri and a Cuban sandwich at Manolito and then relaxed at home for a bit.

I headed out to Carnaval, running into Tayja and Vince in the courtyard on the way, and found the band playing to the bartender and Eric, the chef from Buffa’s. I have seen him around a lot, and he probably cooks three meals a week or so for me, so I sat down with him and introduced myself. The band, a duo with a great name, The Dirty Rain Revelers, played mellow country rock with the lead guitar leaning hard into virtuoso rock and roll guitar. I am still a little freaked out by being directly addressed from the stage through the PA, but the small venues are fun that way, with friends playing for friends. It was a good performance, and fun when Ken and Cyndi showed up for the last half dozen songs. We sat for a bit after the show with the band, and then went across the street to the new New York style pizza/gelato joint on St. Claude next to the Robert’s. We had slices and an affagatto, and the food lived up to the positive reviews-cheap, good, and straight forward, with the owner serving the pizza. A good place to support.

There was an impromptu art market on the street, and one of the vendors ran up to me and greeted me with a hug. She was grossly offended that I didn’t immediately recognize her out of context, but I think she was a bartender at Mimi’s who I had a pleasant conversation with last spring. It is good to be recognized, but I felt bad to have hurt her feelings, even though I know it was more about her than anything I did.

We wandered from there back into our neighborhood and down Frenchmen Street, running into Lynne, Ellen and her nieces, and a couple of other of the Touro crew outside Snug Harbor. A couple of 20-something travelers got into a semi serious fight involving two guys rolling around on the concrete in our group of friends standing on the sidewalk. I spoke sternly to them using my best “These aren’t the droids you are looking for” voice and gave them the stare, and they brushed themselves off and walked away. They might have thought it was their idea. I’m glad I don’t do that regularly or professionally anymore. I usually avoid bar or street fights, but this one literally rolled up on my feet and threatened to knock bystanders over.

I listened to a couple of songs from the rockers at Checkpoint Charlies and called it a night. A solid weekend.

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.

Second Line Sunday

I tried to mellow out over the weekend by walking the Quarter and Marigny with my camera, perhaps not the best tattoo recovery plan, but enjoyable and I can pretend the extra steps constitute exercise. The weather was perfect, pushing 80 but not too hard.

On Saturday, I did a double loop, catching the morning quiet on Bourbon Street as I walked to Mary’s for pieces and parts and through the upper Quarter Christmas and grocery shopping at Rouses. I camped out for a bit at Jackson Square, and ran into a wedding second line, with half the band playing off the balcony at Tableau, and the other on the street. I’m guessing these folks, celebrating at the Petit Theatre, had a little pull in town because they blocked St. Peter for at least a half hour, backing up traffic on Chartres all the way to Canal. Tourists who pay for a second line don’t get that kind of deference from the police.

I walked my groceries home, and took a short break before heading out again, this time with a mission to visit Meyer the Hatter and Courtney at the Little Bar, even though it meant crossing over into the American Sector. I am still a little confused about how the streets work, changing names and running off at oblique angles after you cross Canal, so I walked Bourbon Street from Lafitte’s to Canal, where it changes into St. Charles. I stopped at Johnnie White’s and visited with a laid off reporter from the Philadelphia Enquirer who was in town working on a freed lance story about the art world. An interesting fella, with the look of desperation I see in a lot of people my age who did not win the pension lottery. 35 years in journalism, starting just out of college, with a solid career, and then no more, not enough in the 401k and no health insurance, and no plan or sense that there is any opportunity even given a formidable set of skills.

I continued on to take photos of the Christmas decorations inside the Royal Sonesta, and saw a group of women in designer clothes, with perfect makeup and hair, wearing light-up Christmas bulbs they had bought from a street vendor. Upper Bourbon on a Saturday afternoon was crowded, and both too crazy and not crazy enough to be pleasant. I got across Canal, and went to the hat store, a Southern institution. The elder Meyers were in the shop, and it is one of those few remaining places where the inventory is huge and invisible without help. I shopped next to a man who seemed vaguely familiar who was shopping for a pork pie hat, and who I later found out was the actor who played Clay Phillips in the Wire. I bought an upscale Saints hat, a Stetson flat cap with a fleur-de-lis embroidered in the back. A suitable substitute for a ball cap in the city.

I went over to the Little Bar to see Courtney for the first time since I got back. She is doing great, recently engaged and apparently a lot happier and more together than I have ever seen her. From there, I wandered back into my orb, stopping at the Chart Room and seeing Chris the neighbor and Tracy at the bar, and having a good conversation with a much richer denizen of the Quarter who was interested in Alaska stories.

I had a nice sandwich an a drink at Manolito. It is a funky place, and I arrived to find the bar empty except for the 5 staff. I was feeling guilty, and too much the object of attention, when two small groups came in and immediately filled the place.

Sunday I walked to the sound of a brass band, intercepting a second line on St. Claude near Elysian Fields and following for a bit into the Marigny. This was a 9th Ward group, and there were a few of the hard boys from the neighborhood trying to look cool along with the families dancing and having fun. The bikers were out, a different kind of bike culture, with a number of the three wheel slingshot type bikes, customized to the hilt, and a group of “9th Ward Riders” wearing leather vests and riding small, almost toy looking Japanese bikes. They didn’t look like outlaws, but they were riding security on the parade like Angels do on Klan rallies.

I walked through the Bywater and along the river, enjoying the afternoon, and ended with a burger at Turtle Bay, watching a little of the football game. Lower Decatur was crowded with the cruise ship demographic, jostling to find the best t-shirt shop. A good mellow weekend.