Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

My annual Gonzo Halloween Greeting.
 Halloween's a big deal in New Orleans. People here love any reason to get costumed up. Many people, myself included, have a costume collection. I have a small closet where all my wigs, costumes, and accessories live. Being in the Pussyfooters I get to dress up year round. Saturday we were in the Krewe of Boo parade that was an absolute blast! I found the cutest witch hat at the grocery store of all places, and built my costume around that. We all had to wear our pink corsets. Our colors are pink, orange, white and silver so Krewe of Boo is the rare chance to wear some black. Most of the pieces I already had. In addition to the hat, I bought the striped gloves and tights. I also found orange, battery operated Christmas lights that I sewed onto my tutu.

The whole ensemble with Staar behind me.

Me with one of my Camel Toe Lady Stepper friends.
Me with fellow Pussyfooter witch.
That's me photobombing my scarey doll friend. (The Times-Picayune)  
I also carved pumpkins this weekend. I knew they rot pretty quickly here thanks to our warm and humid weather. But this year was an exception. I put them out Sunday night, by Tuesday they were in my compost bin.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Somebody went to New Orleans and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

My next post was going to be about all the road construction going on in New Orleans, but before I could do that, I was over on the Yellow Blog where I discovered that things are heating up over at the French Market. Comments made by the new director, Jon Smith, have angered some French Market vendors. The vendors were already ticked off by changes made in Market rules in 2012 and they filed a lawsuit which is still pending. This article just gives more proof to how screwed up things really are at the French Market.

One sentence made me take pause: "T-shirts also are prohibited, but a number of vendors who sold them before the ban went into effect were grandfathered in." Before Katrina, many, myself included, was lamenting over the proliferation of tacky, tourist t-shirt shops in the Quarter. These stores would cram dozens of t-shirts, usually with crude sayings on them (like these), in the doorway, all the while blasting music, sometimes Cajun, sometimes not. It was really getting out of control. Since Katrina, there's been a new explosion of t-shirt shops by local companies whose New Orleans themed t-shirts are geared to locals and tourist in the know. Stores like Fleurty Girl, Dirty Coast and Storyville to name a few. T-shirts are a hot commodity so it's surprising the Market would ban them.

Tacky t-shirts are no longer the only thing that scream tourist. What are the (tourist) symbols of New Orleans? Crawfish, something playing the saxophone and beads. Beads are no longer contained to Mardi Gras. The tacky t-shirt shops also sell beads, beads, beads. Feather boas are big too. The hot trend in conferences is in addition to your big old name badge and printed bag is a fake second line. There have been several times I've been down river when a brass band comes by with a handful of people decked out in beads and feather boas stumbling down the street behind them throwing beads. Like this company says on their web site: "We go beyond shutting down Canal Street for your own “second line” parade, bringing in voodoo priestesses to conjure your future and teaching you the Cajun two-step." Under Services one of the "Program Enhancements" they offer is a Jazz Funeral. Good grief.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

French Market Corp. finally jumps on the Local bandwagon

"French Market Corp. hires Jon Smith as executive director after first pick declines job over salary dispute"

I read this article in the SomeTimes-Picayune print edition Wednesday (not to be confused with or T-P street) and just sighed. Quasi-private/public whatever orgs always seem disorganized. Reading how many hands it’s been through since the last official director stepped down reconfirms this in my mind.

I hope what Mr. Smith is saying isn’t just lip service:
"This is such a jewel for the city and it's just been so horribly mismanaged for so long," Smith said. "It needs someone to come in there and do the right thing and just be honest and transparent and forthright."
A mix of local artisans plus cheap trinkets is OK in my book. However, there doesn’t need to be 20 stalls selling the same silver jewelry or tacky tourist t-shirts. I like that you can go there and get inexpensive souvenirs, but there’s too much of the same stuff. Varg over at the Chicory is an artist who sells at Jackson Square and he’s OK with that too.

I have a friend who had a shop for many years in the Pontalba that sold locally made art tiles. The French Market Corp. runs the building and squeezed him out. There’s been a ton of national chains coming into the French Quarter and that seemed to be the direction they wanted to take their shops. They wanted to raise the rent and probably could get more money from a national chain than a mom-and-pop shop. I haven’t gone to see what took my friend’s shop’s place out of solidarity. (I’m also miffed because he’s let me use his bathroom. VERY important in the toilet-poor Quarter.) (I also do have to admit I am VERY excited about H&M opening a store in the Quarter. They aren’t even a national chain. They are international. But I digress.)

It remains to be seen if Mr. Smith does do the right thing. I know I’ll be watching.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Pleasant Morning

This morning I went for a walk. According to my fitness app I haven’t taken a morning walk since May. Oops. But that makes sense. Once summer kicks in even early morning walks are just too hot. The Autumnal Equinox was yesterday, marking the first day of Fall. We don’t have Fall here in the deep South. We do usually have some nice, cool, dry weather in October but it’s not Fall like other parts of the country. It does usually signify the end of the unbearable summer heat. This morning, the sky was clear, the humidity not too bad, and there was a slight breeze. People I encountered on my walk had smiles on their faces and said “Good Morning.” Could be the weather, could be the Saints victory yesterday. It was a relief, after the nail biter against Tampa last Sunday, to have a game where the Saints led early, held their lead and played well. Mark Ingram was noticeably absent, much to many fans’ relief I’m sure. Fellow ‘Nole, Patrick Robinson, is out for the season much to my dismay. I watched the game at Publiq House on Freret for the first time. I liked it. They don’t serve food, but we picked up burgers from Company burger and brought them with us. Plenty of HD TVs, good beer selection, no smoking and dog friendly. My kind of place!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rising Tide 8

I attended another Rising Tide this year and it has inspired me to blog more. The New Orleans blog sphere that rose up after Katrina has settled down with many of the people, myself included, blogging less or not at all. It's always nice to see the people I used to read almost daily. Plus the conference always has good content, a great lunch and refreshments.* A bargain at only $20 a ticket.

This year I spent most of my time in "Tech School" to brush up on my blogging and on-line presence. I learned some new stuff that I'm looking forward to trying. My friend Addie from Culicurious was on the second panel and did a great job. The biggest take away was just dooooo iiiiiit.

Gen. Honore, the keynote speaker, gave a rousing speech about Louisiana's disappearing wet lands, unfair and illegal practices by the oil companies, and the politicians who take money from oil companies and don't hold them accountable. He told us to work to change things, if not for ourselves, for our children, even if it meant engaging in civil disobedience. He was also quite funny but whenever his gaze came my way I felt the need to sit up straight and say "yes sir!"

There will be video of the conference soon, once it's been edited. Uptown Messenger live blogged some of the conference. I high recommend checking out the video once it's out. Video of past conference is available on the web site. I missed the tourism panel but I heard it got rather heated.

*Only in New Orleans is there a keg at a conference I bet.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Happy Jazz Fest 2013!

Locals usually pick their Jazz Fest days based on the out of town headliners. Unless you are one of those who go every day. Yes there are folks who go all 7 days. Usually they buy a brass pass which allows to enter and leave as you please. Regular tickets holder can’t do that.

We went the Sunday of the first weekend. Not to see anyone in particular but it was nice because I don’t normally go on Sundays. There’s usually someone I really want to see on the Saturdays, the biggest days the largest crowds. So Sundays are more chill. It stormed Sunday morning which also kept a lot of people away. It had stopped raining when we went but we had ponchos and zip lock bags just in case. Which turned out to be a smart move because it started raining hard again around 3:00. But a “bad” day at JazzFest is better than a good day at work.

When it rains at JazzFest it get really muddy. And stinky. It is a racing track for horse. Do not wear flip flops. You will fall on your ass or lose them in the muck. If you want to keep your feet dry and clean, rain boots or shrimp boots are the way to go. If you like squishing your toes in mud, go bare foot or wear something like Teevas you strap to your feet.

Music for May 28, 2013
Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Ed Volker, Calexio, Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ swingers, Honey Island Swamp Band, Gispy Kings and Treme Brass Band tribute to Uncle Lionel.

Food eaten (very important!): Cochon de lait po boy. Crawfish sack, crawfish beignets and crawfish bread.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New (used) wheels!

I've ridden bikes my whole life, for transportation and for fun. I moved to New Orleans with a racing bike that got stolen. I bought a "hybrid" Trek that is really great for riding on trails and off-road but not really good for tooling around town OR crappy New Orleans streets.

I decided to use some of my Christmas money and get a cruiser. I never rode a cruiser until last summer when my friend and I rented a pair in Florida. I was hooked. I decided to go used. Our weather is unforgiving and if this bike got stolen I wouldn't be devastated. I went to The Bike Shop on Freret. They have a great variety of used bikes for sale and the guys who work there are nice. They recondition and paint the used bikes before reselling them. There were a number of cruisers but I took the one with fenders. With all the rain we get, I thought that would be a good call.

I've slowly been tricking it out. Today I added the rear basket. I have a cup holder, rear view mirror, horn, light and little pouch that holds my iPhone so I can see the screen.

It's been such a rainy winter I haven't been able to ride her that much. The first ride was to a friend's to watch a Mardi Gras parade. Parking can be such a nightmare I decided to bike it. I didn't have a light yet so I put several light-up Mardi Gras beads on me. Her second ride was an Irish Pub crawl on bikes. It was a hoot riding with 80 other people all on bikes, all wearing green. We got some funny looks!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Mardi Gras Madness - Part 4 - Super Bowl

What does the Super Bowl have to do with Mardi Gras? Nothing really except when Mardi Gras parades have to be rescheduled because of the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl fell on the weekend before the weekend prior to Mardi Gras and there are usually parades Friday night through Sunday so it was sandwiched between parades and festivities.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in New Orleans was really REALLY hoping that this year's Super Bowl would include the Saints. A few years ago we finally made it to, then WON, the Super Bowl, so we wanted our return to be in our home town. But alas, that was not to be. Hosting the BIG GAME is a BIG DEAL for the host city and New Orleans has been busy spiffing up the downtown and French Quarter for the game. Road were repaved, new streetcar lines were built*. Homeless were moved.

Personally, I was going to avoid the whole thing. I joked I was going to hunker down at home as if riding out a hurricane. The last time the Super Bowl came to New Orleans, February 2002, it was the first game after 9-11. The area around the Superdome was locked down few days before the game but that was about it. This time, blocks all around the Superdome were locked down a week or more before the game. And there were all these events that didn't happen before. Fan Zones and Fan Experiences. CBS took over Jackson Square and ESPN took over the huge parking lot in the French Quarter both broadcasting from these remote locations. What caught my eye was the FREE concerts along the Mississippi of local, New Orleans bands and artists! This all started happened about the Wednesday before the BIG GAME. Super Bowl Sunday, I broke down and G and I headed down to the CBD to go see what the hoopla was about. It was early and I figured the tourist would be either sleeping their hang overs off or at brunch. But no, there was SF and Ravens fans walking around. But what struck me was how many Saints fans were out and about, wearing the black and gold. You would have thought the Saints were also in the Super Bowl judging by the number of jerseys I saw.

I wasn't really that interested in the game. If I had to root for a team I was going with the Ravens. Went to a pot luck Superbowl party with amazing food and fun folks. The first half of the game was a shut out and the commercials were a bore. Half time with Beyonce, what ever. Third quarter BLACK OUT! Finally things got interesting.

*Loyola Streetcar line - $45 million, took 19 months and goes 9 blocks. Progress!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Mardi Gras Madness - Part 3 - First Weekend of Parades with the Pussyfooters

Here comes the girls!
Technically, Mardi Gras is the last day of Carnival but we use the terms interchangeably. Carnival starts on 12th Night, January 5. The Phoney Phorty Phellows take a streetcar ride, throwing beads and what not to those that come out to see them. I was meeting a friend on the Avenue and was running late, so I missed the first pass and almost missed the second pass. There are parties this night as well as the Krewe of Joan of Arc that marches through the Quarter.

Me, mid-step-turn.
In New Orleans, the majority of parades start 2 weeks prior to Mardi Gras day. I'm in the Pussyfooters, a woman's dance group, and we were invited to perform in two parade the first weekend, Krewe of Cleopatra and Krewe of King Arthur. Both parades are about 5 miles long and took about 3 hours to complete. That's a lot of dancing and marching! But it is so much fun, and it's always a thrill to spy someone you know along the route. What was fun about these two parade is the first one was at night, the second the day, each a different experience. The night parades are more of a blur because you can't see, but even in the daylight, you aren't always sure where you are. The crowds blank out the landmarks and cross streets. It's fun to be able to see the people in the crowd and interact with them.

Here's a bunch of photos on Flickr from the King Arthur parade. We glow in the daylight!
Here's a video of us performing one of our dances in the same parade.
Here's a video of us from the Krewe of Cleopatra parade.

It's such an overload of senses. We have our own music - this year with a live DJ! - then there's the yelling and crowds noises, music from other groups and marching bands. We use hand motions and whistles (you'll hear them in the videos) to alert everyone about an upcoming dance. Sometimes you miss both until you realize everyone around you is dancing so you just jump right in. Like I said earlier, visually it can be a complete blur, but then you spy someone in the crowd you know and they just pop out at you. That's usually when I mess up. LOL And then there's the smells. There are horses and mules in the parade -ugh- but you also catch whiffs of fried chicken, BBQ and boiling crawfish along the route as well. Yum!

St. Charles Avenue in the Lower Garden District.

In front of Gallier Hall downtown. I'm the one in the pink wig. ;-)

Canal Street.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Mardi Gras Madness - Part 2 - Stomper's Ball

I'm a child of the 80s so I love dressing up and dancing to 80s tunes at the 610 Stomper's Ball. This year's theme was "Headbanger's Ball" but I had already got pieces for my Madonna wannabe costume before the theme was announced. Even though the ball was the night before the Krewe du Vieux parade I just couldn't miss it. Before the ball, I got together with some of my girlfriends for last minute primping. That really took me back to high school and college days.

Band reunion! LOL

I love the varieties of 80s wear.

I look like the love child of Madonna and Robert Smith.

Our friend M as Paul Stanley.
She was crowned Queen of the costume contest.
The King was a Freddy Mercury look-alike. LOL

The 610 Stomper's performing their new dance.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Mardi Gras Madness - Part 1 - Krewe du Vieux

For the past few years G and I have been in a subkrewe of Krewe du Vieux (KdV), the Krewe of PAN. Our original subkrewe was suspended (looong story) but we reformed with some of the other members and got conditionally accepted into KdV as Krewe of SPANK. (See what we did there?) KdV doesn't normally accept new subkrewes but we were an exception. G was elected co-captain of SPANK and I secretary. Since being accepted in September, we've been super busy getting by-laws written (ugh) getting incorporated, filling up membership, collecting dues. The unique thing about KdV is each subkrewe comes up with their own theme, decorates their own float, comes up with and/or makes their own throws and costumes. However our float was stolen out of the den (another long story, we have an idea who took it) so we had to improvise. Luckily one of our members had a mule drawn carriage lying around (only in New Orleans, right?) so we used that. All the floats are pulled by mules or people.

The weather was fantastic that evening (never a given) so the crowds were huge but pretty well behaved (also, not a given). We had a blast marching through the Marigny and Quarter accompanied by the Lagniappe Brass band, winging penalty flags at the crowds and handing out other throws. Doug McCash, art critic for the T-P said our penalty flag throws were the best of the parade. Woot!

Here's a few pics, more can be seen here.

Moi with a "Vilma for Mayor" sign.
©Ride Hamilton

Our "float" ©Ride Hamilton

G marching. ©Ride Hamilton