Friday, July 30, 2010

Lucky Dogs: a review

Your humble narrator.

We visited the French Quarter last night on a mission:  to eat a Lucky Dog.  As noted previously, Lucky Dogs don't have the best reputation at this blog or with anyone I've talked to.  [Representative review here .]  I had eaten one before and the experience is detailed somewhere in the archives for those with more patience than I have to find it.  The lady of the house had never tried one.  Let the games begin!

The carts were at just about every Bourbon Street intersection.  The Quarter is the only place you can find Lucky Dogs and there were often two carts, each on opposing corners.  We walked the length of Bourbon Street and doubled back and selected our cart.

The guy was nice enough.  He made a big show of applying hand sanitizer and then reusing some plastic gloves that were on the cart.  We ordered one Lucky Dog ($5.50) and one Regular Dog ($4.50) and told the proprietor to fix them as he saw fit since he's the expert.  He made both with chili sauce, mustard, ketchup and diced onion.  He said he sells at least a hundred a night.

The Regular Dog is a standard hot dog on a standard issue white bun.  The Lucky Dog is a larger version served on an oversized roll dusted with cornmeal.  Besides the Lucky Dog being bigger, especially in the bread department, there is no difference.  If I were to fathom a guess about the sausage's contents, I would say chicken and pork.  

We walked down the street and found a place to eat our dinner.  My instinctive reaction: "This is a bad dog."  My companion's: "It's not a bad dog, it's just not a good dog."  We finished all but a bite of the regular and got down about three quarters of the larger version.   

About ten minutes later my companion said, "What's that aftertaste?  That was a bad dog!"

We settled into Cafe du Monde for a cup of coffee and sipped at our cups, all the while feeling our stomachs complain of what we put in them.  Poor stomachs!  Lucky Lucky Dogs.  No wonder they don't want competition in the Quarter.    

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fare thee well blue lobster.

Remember that albino lobster I was talking about the other day?  Well, he's going to meet his maker.  Good Morning Gloucester provides the good news.  Would anyone walk a greasy pole to free a blue crawfish?

Jazz Po-Boys

There's a stretch of Washington Avenue in Central City that is home to a cluster of po' boy shops and sno-ball stands.  Taking Fourth Street, which runs parallel to Washington Ave., a two story, ramshackle looking, gray building has a handmade sno-ball sign mounted high on its back wall.  Jazz Po-Boys.  What could it be?

It's Jazz Po-Boys.  The sign mounted high on the rear of the building is echoed by another piece of cut and painted plywood on the ground.  This is a shop that obviously doesn't just serve po' boys.  They serve sno-balls too.  The rainbow concocted sno-ball is the common way they are depicted on signs.  I've never seen anyone eat one of these though I'm sure this tutti-frutti option is available if a skilled syrup hand is crafting the treat.  In reality, they seem to be eaten one flavor at a time.  Two at the most.
Here's the view from the corner of Fourth Street and Magnolia.  Washington Ave is a block away.  Note the classic Coca-Cola sign paired with the handpainted wall advertisement.  The awning sports the colors of Mardi Gras: gold, purple, yellow.  These are the joyful colors of a sunny disposition.  Don't bother with the door on the corner.
Jazz Po-Boys has a take out window (closed in this picture unfortunately).  This is the Magnolia Street side.  Notice the cobblestones alongside the sidewalk.  They are home to streetcar rails.  The street is paved in the middle and the cobblestones and abandoned rails run along the opposite sidewalk as well.  A streetcar once ran down Magnolia Street.

I've driven down Magnolia a number of times.  It is a picturesque avenue that has seen better days and more traffic in its time.  One can only hope, especially the residents, that the New Orleans Master Plan will revive this streetcar line.  It will be good for business for Jazz Po-Boys and be easier than schlepping down to St. Charles Avenue to catch a ride for the residents of this corner of the city.

A block away from this corner, on the other side of Washington, new homes are being built.  A lot of them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Orleans movie theaters

The back of Jazz Po-Boys on Magnolia Street

Caught the noon show of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Prytania Theater this afternoon.  Great on the big screen.  I wonder what Gene Wilder is up to now?  He is wonderful in this movie.

Whatever you think about Tim Burton, I don't think this movie needed to be remade.  Or Planet of the Apes for that matter.  Neither of the new versions was any good.  Of course I know they had to be remade for money and I was foolish enough to waste mine when they came out.  Fool me three times and shame on me.  I have no plans to see Alice in Wonderland or anything else he directs.  I did enjoy Edward Scissorhands and that was about it.

The Prytania is a gem of a place and thank Heaven there's a good theater in New Orleans.  We went to see Inception last week and I'll take Willie Wonka any day.  I think the New Yorker review nailed this one.  I've never seen any of this director's other films but, may I say, fool me twice and shame on me.

Earlier this week we went to see the Joan Rivers movie at the Cinemas at Canal Place.  I'll take the Prytania any day.  When you buy your ticket you have to choose your seat.  We didn't like what I'd chosen.  Now that I know what the theater looks like inside, I'll pick better if we go again.  In order to change our seats we needed new tickets issued from the "wait staff" and had to sign for them.  You can eat a real meal in your seat if you like and there's a button to summon the staff so you don't have to leave your seat.  Whatever.  I just want to go to the movies.  It doesn't have to be classed up to justify spending ten bucks on a ticket.

Films seem to have extended runs at Prytania so it's nice to have a little variety within bicycle distance but, as usual, I prefer a smaller, neighborhood locale.

I've finally figured out how to download pictures from my camera.  Instead of the tenuously thematic illustrations that have been my schtick for the past year or so, I'll be posting pictures I take around New Orleans from now on.  Sometimes they'll be random, like my days, and sometimes they will be the subject matter.  I'll post the other pictures I took of Jazz Po-Boys tomorrow.  Unfortunately, I tend to take a lot of pictures of signs.  I find them interesting.

Till tomorrow then,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A city's song

One thing I've noticed about New Orleans is it doesn't seem to compete.  It abides.  It doesn't bother to compare itself to other places.  It celebrates itself with reference to nothing outside its boundaries.  If I may quote the greatest American poet:

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume, 
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

That's Whitman talking but it may just as well be the collective chorus of New Orleans, Louisiana, US of A.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bicycle in New Orleans

The nice thing about riding a bicycle in New Orleans is that the city is flat.  While geographers and flood waters can detect changes in elevation, I can't.  The whole place seems flat as a johnnycake.  This is bicycle terrain.  Two hours go by lickety-split and my legs are none the worse for wear.

While the lay of the land is ideal, the state of the streets is somewhat less so.  I've written before about the potholes and jangling so I won't drone on about that anymore.  It's part of the parcel.

I did take a nice ride today along some very nice streets though.  Picking up St. Charles Avenue at Audubon Park, that street has been recently repaved.  It's one lane traffic on this stretch toward Riverbend but with ample space between traffic and the parked cars.  After the bend, I headed up Carrollton Avenue where the new paving has left a bike lane on the right.  Nice.

I took South Carrollton until it turned into North Carrollton at Canal Street.  This is a nice block or two just after Canal.  Old Italian eateries are cheek by jowl with hispanic restaurants and a Chinese joint.  At City Park, I traced Bayou St. John down to Orleans Avenue.  That street leaves something to be desired but they are working on it so it may just be a matter of time before it's on par with Riverbend's standards.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Catholic Sunday

Every Sunday at 9:30 AM, St Patrick's Church holds a mass in Latin.  The church is at 724 Camp Street in the Central Business District if anyone is interested in attending.  I wouldn't normally recommend religious sight seeing but the church is a registered historic landmark and the interior is beautiful.

In a mood to experience more things Catholic in this most Catholic of cities, we visited the Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos shrine on 919 Josephine Street.  Besides the remains of Father Seelos in a reliquary, there are a number of saints' relics on display and an interesting history of this beatified Redemptorist known as the "Cheerful Ascetic."

The Seelos Shrine shares space in Saint Mary's Assumption Church, technically at 2030 Constance Street.  We thought St. Patricks was beautiful but the architects of St. Mary's Assumption pulled out all the stops.  It is an awe-inspiring space of multiple dimensions with statuary everywhere.  I'm not up on my hagiography, so there were more saints present than I could identify.  Magnificent.

Illustration courtesy of the Seelos Shrine.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blue lobster caught

Wasn't I just talking about blue lobsters the other day?   It turns out one has been captured in the historic fishing port of Gloucester, Mass. (great slide show!)  It is a thing of unparalleled beauty.  No word yet from the staff what will become of this majestic creature.

If you're interested, Good Morning Gloucester is a very nice site full of stunning pictures of this lovely, if oft under rated city.  Though I don't have any ties to Gloucester beyond a love of the sea, I check in regularly.  I recommend it.
While I'm in the mood to link to other sites, you may enjoy the Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables.  It's part of this site which eventually become not just one book but two.  I read the first one and enjoyed it.  I noticed that it's available in the New Orleans Public Library's main branch.  The first page of the vegetables link above cites my favorite painter.  Caspar David Friedrich can't be mentioned enough as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Orleans cat fight

I'm sitting in the park and two feral cats just had a fight about eight feet away.  I thought cats only fight at night while I'm trying to sleep with the window open.  Of course, few people sleep with open windows in New Orleans as near as I can tell.  I go on patrol after midnight and I hear the hum of air conditioners.

I wasn't alarmed that a battle had broken out to the left of me.  The cats went about their noisy, bloody business and left me alone.  When they were done, the loser ran off about two feet from my two feet.  The winner stuck around awhile, mewled a bit, and then disappeared into some bushes.

New Orleans is like that.  Engaged parties do what they need to do without bothering anyone else.  Those who witness, as long as no laws are being broken, mind their own business or enjoy the spectacle of city living at its best.  A lot of things happen in the Crescent City and very few of them make the news.  A city is the accumulation of tiny details.  New Orleans could fill a train of barges with all the details it harbors.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open Mike at Neutral Ground Coffeehouse

The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse is a bit off the beaten track but not terribly so.  It has an interesting history and if those battered walls could tell stories, I'm sure they would all be good yarns.  Prices are extraordinarily reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.  I watched two guys play chess for an hour.

We didn't go to the Neutral Ground to watch a chess match, however.  We went to an open mike poetry reading that is held every Wednesday between 8:00 to 9:00 PM.  An interesting bunch of gentlemen and one lady read from their own works and also from the classics.  By classics I mean Guillaume Appollinaire and Allen Ginsburg.  An on-the-spot decision was made to read Howl in round robin fashion in the near future.  That will be something worth hearing.  While I doubt anyone will be starving, hysterical or naked it should be a wooly recitation nonetheless.  There was some loose talk about waiting for Hallowe'en.  When a date is announced, I'll post it here if I'm privy.

As mentioned earlier this month, I don't consider myself a poet.  Despite that, I was inspired to write a little something that I may read next week.  It starts off with a bang of flourishes and then peters out into rather dry prose.  I think it has enough layers of meaning to have a bit of appeal, though I doubt it will ever be accepted for publication in Field and Stream.  What do you think?

The American Eel by Whalehead King.  July 21, 2010.

In a sea full of small fry and sharks, is there room for an eel and its shocks?  In the shade of hummocks, where blue crabs quietly clack through the brine, eels ply the wiggle room between roots and reeds that tangle the mangled shore.  Tide and time, by and by, fill the voids with eddies of slurry.  The flow pushes in, the ebb pulls away, the eels scuff their sandpaper skins on empty oysters and mussels and bamboo.
The American eel, fluid as a rope in a river, lacks the sparked sting and menace of its African cousin.  The American eel, a tough thing of stringy meat and more bones than a chicken or menhaden, as graceful as an ibis, less common than a tern, as quick as a snake and doubly as ugly, a startling, slippery, sinewy thing churned out of the kind of dreams that make children cry and women cringe, slides where civilized angels don’t bother to tread.
The squid, the shrimp, the crawfish, the jellyfish, the anchovy, the sardine, the sand shark and nurse shark, the dog shark, the catfish, the trash fish, the webbed feet of water birds that plod through the muck, the American eel slides between them, caresses them, and sometimes takes a bite.  A dark flash in shadow, seldom clearly seen and rarely caught without net or fork, as elusive as inspiration, the American eel is artful master of the shallow depths that make up its murky domain.

The hoi polloi covet a passel of eels for the pot.  They wrestle with pliers to strip the skin off the body.  They hack at the head.  They chop chunks off the bloody cylinder that grew its original shape for stealth and surprise rather than stew.  The thrashing antics of a struggling eel in fresh air and sunshine lend a dull-witted man a superior sense.  Starred chefs procure a few of the slippery devils for well paying clientele with palettes attuned to the exotic or obscure.  By divine design, more suited to escape than suffer as prey, a special hell awaits the eel that gets caught.  Craved as game in backswamp kitchens and in epicurean restaurants, the American eel is seldom enjoyed at middle class tables. 

Is it poetry?  Well, I'm not the one to judge that.  I only write this stuff.

After the reading, a duo from Santa Cruz, CA performed an acoustic set.  Nice guys.  They wore ties.  They were very good, especially since they said this was their first acoustic set.  They usually play electro-pop.  

In case you want to study up for the Howl-a-thon...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be one for the Gulf

I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't post the link to this commercial and campaign.  If you're not from Louisiana you are encouraged to click the link and watch the video.  The accompanying Times-Picayune story is here.  The story explains what will be done with the petition you are encouraged to sign.  Though I am not an easily recognizable celebrity, Whalehead King encourages you to sign up your support.

A lot of New Englanders stop by the Dot Matrix.  The BP fiasco in the Gulf isn't a local problem.  It is national.  Any support will benefit us all in the end.


Say yes to beets!

Heaven knows how I get involved in some things or why, but for some reason I've become chummy with Aunt Nellie.  Who?  You know, Aunt Nellie the pickled beet lady.

Aunt Nellie is holding some kind of beet appreciation contest.  I'll paste the details at the bottom.  What caught my eye is that she is looking for possible cocktail recipes.  While very little surprises me, I can't recall anyone concocting a borscht based cocktail, let alone one with the beet syrup Aunt Nellie uses.  I'm not suggesting I wouldn't try it.  On the contrary, I would probably be the first in line.  It can be any worse than the Igor's bloody marys that the 24 hour bars serve on St. Charles Avenue.  In fact, I should suggest the bartenders enter this contest.

As for Aunt Nellie's parent company, I've only heard of three of their brands.  Aunt Nellie's beets, of course, and Libby's canned vegetables.  I remember Libby's from their annoying jingle so it served its purpose.  I thought Seneca made applesauce but apparently they've scaled back to the snack chip business.  Time marches on.

If you are interested in saying Yes! to beets, feel free to read below and enter.  What have you got to lose?


Aunt Nellie's "Say Yes! To Beets" Recipe Contest
June 15 - August 13, 2010
Submit all recipes to before 11:59 EST on 8/13/10

Recipe categories:

  • Beverages/Smoothies: Includes cocktails, juice blends and smoothies
  • Everyday Quick: Includes easy, everyday dishes for any occasion
  • Special: Includes special occasion and holiday favorites
Prizes include:

  • $2,500 Grand Prize: One winner
  • $1,000 First Prize: Three winners
  • $500 Second Prize: Three winners

   Aunt Nellie, you owe me a sawbuck.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fun crawfish facts

The Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association has provided some interesting nutritional information.  I was reading this morning that five pounds of crawfish provide only one pound of meat.  The lady of the house and I split two pounds the other day.  According to the charts, we each consumed 80 calories.  I'm unsure how many we expended with all the peeling.

Monday, July 19, 2010

City Hall, New Orleans

Now that's a city hall pictured above.  New Orleans City Hall is a non-descript, International Style building.  I presume it was built in the late 60s or early 70s.  I also assume Detroit has replaced the architectural marvel above with something more modern.  

New Orleans City Hall has "CITY HALL" spelled out in red neon letters just under the roofline and a schematic of the river running behind them.  A fleur-de-lis is placed between the two words.  Otherwise it's a non-descript edifice that could easily be mistaken for the library a block or two away built in the same style.  

The halls on the first floor of New Orleans' city hall does have some nice artwork running just below the ceiling.  Street names are painted in that distinctive tile typeface you find embedded in the sidewalks.  There are also trompe l'oeil bits of sidewalk detritus scattered over the inches thin and blocks long mural.  Security is light and I was able to walk the hallways in both wings to admire the artwork.  Nobody bothered me.  It wasn't a very busy place despite the new administration working hard to change the political culture with eyes wide open.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paid advertising

I know it's annoying but I'm trying out some in text advertising links.  These links will be double underlined and in green as opposed to my usual links to more interesting things which I've just set to appear in purple.  To regular readers, I apologize and I hope this doesn't turn you off the Dot Matrix (a new blog title should be coming in a few days).  Please feel free to ignore them and if they are too much of a nuisance, I'll get rid of them.

While I do make a little money off the Matrix, I wouldn't mind earning a few pennies more.  That's why I'm giving this a try.  Thanks for understanding.

Falling underpants

I've wasted a lot of time at the Institute for Official Cheer but I never wandered through this gallery.  It's amazing.

I don't know how you feel about women with their underpants inexplicably around their ankles.  I tend to vote in favor, but I understand if that's not your bag.  As a painter by training (I recently picked up the brushes after a long hiatus, New Orleans does that) it never occurred to me that there may be a market in pictures of embarrassed women.  I don't see why not.  It's practically an industry standard in all other media.

What I like about New Orleans women isn't just their sauciness.  I admire their strength and resilience.  I admire their pluck.  Being a man isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It's good, don't get me wrong.  There is something to be said for wearing pants, as the above picture proves.  New Orleans, the most seductive of cities, has both a soft spot and a pedestal for the women who call it home.  The sexes are equal without arguments or regrets.

I haven't seen any embarrassed women during my short sojourn in the Crescent City.  I haven't seen any women take any guff either.  Women shouldn't take any guff.

A tip of the fedora to James Lileks for celebrating the work of the artiste Art Frahm.

Mutant crawfish

Where I come from they call crawfish, crayfish.  No body's ever seen one, but we hear about them.  Where I come from, we've got lobsters.  Big ones.  Cheap.  Fresh off the dock.  A three-clawed mutant was just caught off the coast of Gloucester.  Good morning, Gloucester.

For those who don't know, Gloucester is pronounced "Glowstah."  The 'ow' is like you hit your thumb, not like 'glow.'  If you happen to be looking at a map of Massachusetts, the second largest city in New England, Worchester, is pronounced "Woostah."

When an oversized lobster is caught, say a ten pounder, it can make the news.  These are either tossed back after ample pictures have been taken or they are put in a tank at some lucky restaurant to live out their days as a tourist attraction, usually with a nickname like "Mr. Big" or "Lucky."  No one will ever accuse New Englanders of being imaginative.  Lobsters never stop growing so Colonial era reports of a six foot lobster may not be exaggerated.  I haven't read that crawfish ever stop growing.  I don't know if one has ever gotten a chance.

Another kind of lobster guaranteed to make the news is the famous blue lobster.  These are a rare mutation, along the lines of albinism.  They are still good eating though people rarely eat them.  Again, they get put in a tank as conversation pieces, sometimes in restaurants but more usually in aquariums.  I have yet to hear of a blue crawfish.  It might happen.  There's no reason to think otherwise.

Blue lobsters, and presumably blue crawfish, turn red when boiled.  I suppose if there are a blue crawfish the same thing would happen, I wouldn't know.  I have yet to boil one myself.  I buy them pre-cooked and pre-seasoned.  They are always red.

Of course, there is one blue thing I encounter every day, my Little Blue Ninja.  Today's photo of that most beautiful bike was taken in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  You can see them in the distance.  Breathtaking country; some would say it's God's country.  I remember when sport bikes came out and people said they looked like insects.  No one ever accused them of looking like crawfish.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oktoberfest announcement

Oktoberfest at the Deutsches Haus will be held this year at their present, threatened location, 200 South Galvez Street, just a block off Canal Street.  You can take the street car.  It runs on September 24, beginning at 4:00 in the afternoon, and then continues on every Friday and Saturday in October.  If you haven't been, I recommend you go.  It's a great space and, if you are a man, you'll be treated to the most stately urinal in New Orleans.  It's a great club full of very nice people, the way most New Orleanians are, and you don't have to speak German to get along (good for people like me!).

If you like beer and good food, you'll appreciate the Deutsches Haus.  They have both as well as good company.

Editor wanted and needed

Whalehead King on midnight patrol.

I don't usually post rough drafts or even finished drafts  of my other endeavors, recent evidence notwithstanding.  Nevertheless, I'm working on something that is on par with what I used to do in New London, Conn. and I'm wondering if my local readers find this interesting or even accurate.  I enjoy writing this stream-of-consciousness way, letting one word suggest the next and one sentence suggest the next.  Maybe it's dull stuff but I enjoy writing it and I enjoy reading it aloud.  It used to be my bread and butter.  I have yet to find an open mike in New Orleans for the written word as opposed to musicians, but once I've finished this piece I'd like to give it a public tryout.  How is it so far?  Have I lost my touch?

New Orleans.  When the rain stops falling, the sun shines.  The sky can pour down on a sunny day with raindrops spattering off the bands of rainbows.  New Orleans.  Don’t get your hopes down and keep your umbrella handy.  Stock up on galoshes and rubber protection.  The Wet Grave, the American Sodom, the Most Unique City in the World...when you are in New Orleans, you can’t predict the weather.  You can only predict your disposition.  The dimples around a grin mirror a pair of upraised thumbs.  Care and the Devil may visit New Orleans but Hope makes its home here.

There’s a big, muddy river on one side and there is a big, crystal, blue expanse of lakefront on the other.  Between the two there are vistas that will whet your appetite and break your heart.  New Orleans is prone to flooding.  There are floods of tears shed in both sorrow and joy.  You receive a measure more than you bargained for when you spelunk down New Orleans’ streets.  There are more than four corners, there are more than five points.  A compass isn’t reliable.  Navigating New Orleans requires the experience of a sailor used to Fate’s caprice.  Snap a chalk line and you’ll end up in chocolate.

The heat won’t kill you in New Orleans though the humidity might make you wilt.  New Orleans makes lifelong friends in weather both fair and foul.  Once you’ve been cooked, you’re done; your button is popped, ready to be pressed.  Stewed in your own juices, simmering in your own brew, New Orleans offers rich, fragrant gravy.  If hunger makes the best sauce, New Orleans piles up smorgasbord temptations.  Eat heartily, drink heartily, New Orleans will starve a cold, feed a fever, and slake the most withering thirst. 

A cornucopia of overripe fruit, a spice rack stocked with packed apothecary jars, a green grocery with groaning shelves, a kitchen in which the cook cannot stop cooking like a mad fiddler in a fairy circle, a tangled grid of streets laid out like an enchanted spider’s web that has trapped more surprises than a pedestrian can imagine; New Orleans is anything but dull.  A riot of color and noise is choreographed by an invisible maestro into Arts, Music, Abundance, Humanity, Law, Annunciation, Benefit, Desire, Felicity, Sage and Liberty, all of which are New Orleans street names.  

I tend to fill a page with this kind of free association meandering. I'm about three quarters of the way through and it needs some revision and cutting once the end comes into focus.  I see some changes need to made, more words, more meandering words.... I'll go back and pretty it up, complicate it, and maybe ruin it.  Right now I'm pushing around 400 words.  500 ought to do the job.

Please feel free to leave comments in the 'Comments.'  This is a work in progress but at this point I'd like to know if it rings true, not only to visitors but also to citizens.  If you know of an open mike for writers, I'd appreciate if you commented on that as well.

Thank you for your indulgence.

New Orleans heatwave

My old chums from the Northeast were complaining about a heatwave recently.  Looking at my New Orleans thermometer, I don't see what they were complaining about.  I wonder what I'll be thinking come winter.  The coldest month I've spent in New Orleans was a few weeks this past March here, herehere.  I didn't find it chilly in the least, but then it was in the low 40s back in Boston when I left.

I wonder if I will ever have to use all the sweaters, coats, scarves and long underwear I brought down to New Orleans.  I couldn't bear to throw them away on the chance I would just need to replace them.  

As much as I've grown to hate winter, as my October through March posts from the past few years will attest (no links, you'll have to skim the archives yourself), I do enjoy winter clothes.  I love long coats and I love to wear hats.  When I was packing prior to the move, I did donate a few hats to Goodwill.  I didn't think I'd need all the toppers in my collection.

I did keep my trusty tricorner, a hat I love very much though in the past I haven't had much cause to wear it except while I participated in reading the Declaration of Independence while living in New London, and on Patriots' Day, a holiday unique to Massachusetts.  While it may seem an impractical hat, one that attracts stares and calls of "Hey, pirate!" on the street, I figure I can wear it for Mardi Gras.

At least one piece of winter gear will be put to use.  

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Orleans hot dogs

As you can see from the Urban Spoon page about New Orleans hot dogs, Bud's Broiler scores high on the list.  I think of this as a hamburger joint rather than hot dog heaven.  Other entries are in Metarie, outside proper city limits.

Lucky Dogs scores a poor seventh place showing.  This isn't remarkable considering their reputation on the street.  Still, even if it is food fit only for drunks who have no sense left in their heads, I may want to revisit the monopolistic competition to see what they offer exactly beyond convenience and flashy carts.  To me, a hot dog is all about the cooking and the condiments.  Once you've got that down, the rest is gravy.

I'll be checking out Bud's Broiler soon.  There's a picturesque shop by Delgado Community College on City Park Avenue.  It didn't too seem busy when I passed by today around noon, but this is the summer semester.   I'm not much of a hamburger man myself, but I'm married to a woman from Hamburg.  I wonder what that really makes me?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alright is enough

As a painter who subscribes to the school that a painting is done when it is good enough, I enjoyed this article about Harvey Pekar.  I don't want to seem like a Pekar devotee, because I'm not.  I've always been aware of him and his work has always been in my peripheral vision but I can't say I've read much of it.  I doubt Harvey made a dollar off me.  Maybe seventy-five cents in royalties.  This, of course, is symptomatic of a problem that plagues artists of whatever medium:  nobody will pony up the cash even when they are told its good.  Not enough flash for mass distribution.

Tonight, I'll be watching the film that jumped off the library shelf the other day when Harvey Pekar passed to the great beyond.  This isn't a New Orleans-specific post, or even one that goes back to my New England roots.  I've never been to Cleveland, Ohio.  I have been human though.  Isn't that what art is about?  Expressing and explaining the human condition.  I like to think that most days.  Those are the days I'm not just trying to churn something out to make a buck.  Brother, can you spare a dime?

A busy port in any storm

We went to the Riverview Park and watched the barges go up and down the Mississippi.  It's amazing how busy the river is.  I normally don't see it, so today was a nice respite.  It's supposed to rain for the next three days.
One tug was pushing five barges.  Others were shorter trains.  Speaking of trains, the Public Belt railroad pulled through.  They have an exceptional logo and the corporation itself is a good idea.  I don't know much about it and how it affects commerce but, from their website at least, they seem to be beyond political manipulation in favor of commerce.  I don't understand the ins and outs of port operation.  I've never seen a port as busy as New Orleans.

Both New London, Conn. and Boston, Mass. are port cities that I've spent considerable time in.  They don't seem to handle a fraction of the traffic that plies the Mississippi up to New Orleans and beyond.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spicy adventures in New Orleans

For a city that has long had the nickname of 'the American Sodom and Gomorrah,' I have to admit I haven't had any spicy adventures in New Orleans beyond eating boiled crawfish.  These little crustaceans sell for $2.00 a pound or so and they are available all over the city in the back of corner grocers.

Unlike in New England, where shellfish are boiled in salt water and served with drawn butter, in New Orleans, they are boiled in a mix of spices, including bay leaf and cayenne.  The spices settle in the cracks under the carapace, and they provide quite a complementary kick to the crawfish meat.  Be warned:  though a crawfish resembles a lobster, there is little to savor in the claws or legs.  The tail is the show here. Some people suck the fat and such out of the heads.  While this part is also full of flavor, I didn't find it added to any satiety so much as being a little bonus of flavor.

Interestingly, Boston is considering regulating food carts.  I find it hard to believe they haven't been doing this for decades already.  There is such a dearth of options that I naturally assumed that Boston had all but outlawed them.  It seems that laissez-faire American Sodom can teach a thing or two to the Athens of America.

On another note, I discovered that Mayor Landrieu and the Councilmember from northwest New Orleans have taken a stand on preserving Fleur-de-Lis Park.  Good for them.

A tip of the fedora to Dr. Hermes.

And yes, I still call them 'crayfish' reflexively.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My library is bigger than yours

Nobody is going to confuse the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library with the main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
The New Orleans Library looks to have been built in the 1960s, an International Style block of cement indistinguishable as a temple of knowledge except that it has a sign out front.

The librarians are very helpful and good thing too.  The nonfiction books stop at 299 in the Dewey Decimal system where they are followed by 700.  To find 300-699, you have to go to the other side of the first floor behind the fiction racks.  I don't know why and when I asked I got a shrug and a smile in return: "That's how we've set it up."  Okay.

Even if the building isn't particularly inspiring, the collection is extensive and I found everything I was looking for and then some.  I took my first trip to the second floor today, where the magazines and videos are kept.  Guess what jumped off the shelf into my helmet which I was using as a shopping basket:  American Splendor.  I picked it up to watch.   Harvey Pekar died yesterday and it's a good movie so I thought it's worth watching again.

George Steinbrenner died today.  His career is getting a lot more coverage on bar televisions than Harvey Pekar's will.  Too bad.  I prefer Harvey.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A man's life

Harvey Pekar is passed to the great beyond.  From the streets of Cleveland to Heaven's gate.

He wasn't a fascinating man but he was a man you could respect.  I always have.  A nice quote in his obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer is by R. Crumb (in the link above): Pekar's material was so mundane it verged on the exotic.

New Orleans is a city so colorful that to outsiders it can't be anything but exotic.  Spend a few years here and I'm sure the flourishes blend into the background: static, white noise, distractions that lead a wayward soul to the empty perdition of ennui.  It is a place of great beauty, of magic, of the exuberant excess that joy and sadness exude when pressed against the humdrum reality of getting by against all odds.  New Orleans, LA is no Cleveland, OH and vice versa.  It is the same way no two people are alike.  You make the most of the gifts you are given or you squander them.  New Orleanians, not a swimmer in the bunch, bathe in the luxuriant atmosphere their city unconsciously exhales.

"From the streets of Cleveland...."  This epigraph has always stuck with me.  From the streets of Cleveland came an American splendor.  That same splendor can come from the sidewalks of Ophelia Castle Haley Boulevard, nee Dryades Street.  It can come from Dorchester, Mass. the biggest and best of Boston's neighborhoods.  It can come from New London, Conn., a city in which you can't swing a broom without hitting an artist.  All it takes is the person with the eyes to see and the will to craft his or her surroundings into the material that paints a perfect poem of the universal human condition.

Harvey Pekar was such a person.  Every metropolis, every community, deserves such a bard who wields both pen and imagination with either broad strokes or spidery crow quill scratches.  New Orleans, the Sodom of the South, the Wet Grave, the City Care Forgot, the Big Easy, the Flood City, can nurture such a person if there is an audience to hear, respond, and add to the chorus the artist inspires.

It can take two to tango.  It can take one to sing.  It can take a million to make an event.  It only takes a few hundred thousand to make a city for the future that will last a millenium and more, inspiring generations, keeping the flame of love of place aglow in hearth and heart.

Don't believe me?  Well, while I don't approve of the language, I agree with this sentiment.  Ashley Morris seems to have been the kind of man who translated and focussed the communal viewpoint like a half full glass in the sun.  The world needs more people like this.  Where there is devotion to a place, there is a reason to live there.  There is American splendor.

I'm a new New Orleanian so I can't really claim any genuine post-Katrina outrage except from a distance of 2000 miles via television and newsprint.  I'm here now in the flesh and I'm here to stay, witness to the wreckage that is still unsettled and ready to put my shoulder to the wheel to push events forward toward a better tomorrow.  I can't claim to be a native or even to know what's going on most of the time.  It's too soon.  I am sinking my tap root though, ready to join a coalition of the willing.

As we like to say in Connecticut, Qui Transtulet Sustinet.  He who transplants, sustains.  I'm home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Corner grocer, New Orleans

An interesting picture of 701 Bourbon Street at S. Peters. (I haven't looked at a map but I don't think these streets intersect.) Corner grocers still abound in New Orleans but not as much as in days past.  What were obviously once commercial storefronts are peppered at intersections.  Some are still in business, many have been converted to homes, some are just boarded up waiting to be put to reuse.  Sun and humidity fades ghost signage painted on clapboards in yet-to-be-gentrified parts of the Sodom and Gomorrah of the South.

I was reading the city's zoning laws recently and just because a space once served commercial purposes there is no guarantee that it can again.  There is a convoluted permitting process but I'm not sure what it entails.  I doubt it is as regressive as Boston's with endless community input and neighborhood associations able to issue the final veto.  Though New Orleans is seemingly more tolerant than its New England brethren, it is still a modern city with all the red tape that includes.

I'm betting on Mayor Landrieu's administration to streamline things a bit, but you never know.  Once the bureaucrats are in charge there's no end to the hurdles they'll put in one's way.  Maybe it's all for the best but I've lived in a world class city buried under layers of regulations, like a dowager smothered for her own good.  Be careful how much control you cede to the powers that be.  There is a law of unintended consequences and once a rule is established, it is nigh impossible to erase.

Thanks to Shorpy for the link and the view.  Note the comments on the initial link to see what the block looks like today.

Finding my Bible at Harrah's

There are a lot of places open in New Orleans at all hours of the night.  An insomniac by nature, I went on a hike from my address and ended up at Harrah's.  The New Orleans location is one of the least profitable of the Harrah's properties.  The Crescent City is home to so many diversions that it makes gambling for mere money humdrum.   I have yet to find a twenty-four hour church... or have I?

I wandered to a half full blackjack table and I remembered Wink Martindale of all people.  I let him be my guide.   I didn't bet a penny, but watching the cards brought me down to earth, or to a version of Heaven, if you will.  If you hep cats don't want to click the Wink Martindale link in the previous sentence, I'll give you a second chance here.  No matter what you believe, you had better be able to sell it like Wink.

A tip of the fedora to Dr. Hermes for uncovering this nugget from before my time.  I only recall Wink as a game show host, but of what... I can't recall for the life of me.  As far as I'm concerned, he's the patron saint of Harrah's.

Report from the Mississippi coast

We drove down Route 90 along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi.  While the thermometer read 91 degrees, the breeze off the Gulf made the sun seem deceptively cool.  One would think this would be perfect beach-going weather but there were remarkably few people enjoying the expanses of white sand for recreation.

We saw a total of six sunbathers in swim trunks before we hit Gulfport and, after that, there were a smattering of families and tanning enthusiasts centered around the umbrella and chaise lounge establishments set up along the shore.  There were other people on the beaches, however.

Work crews dressed in blue jeans and high visibility vests like road construction crew flagmen wear, walked the tide line and clustered under nylon cabanas.  They were smoking and joking.  We assumed they are clean up crews on hand for the BP oil spill disaster.  They were outfitted with plastic snow shovels and clear, polyethylene bags.  They didn't seem to be employed in any oil spill clean up so much as beach cleanup.  The bags weren't full of much beyond handfuls of sand, maybe a few cigarette butts and shells, some skeins of dried seaweed.

There are plenty of workers but little work being done or to be done.  Most of them were taking shade under their makeshift tents.  If they are on the BP payroll, it may be an act of civic preparedness, it may be a boondoggle, or may be public relations.  Maybe they are municipal employees who are always on hand in this number at this time of year.   It seems like a large maintenance crew for beaches where the groundskeepers outnumber the visitors a hundred and twenty to one.  Buses idle in parking lots with the A/C running while the driver takes a siesta with a newspaper over his face.

We stopped at a fishing pier and went out to the end to eat a picnic lunch.  The water, to our untrained eyes, is oil-free for the moment.  This isn't to say that doom isn't due to wash up any day.  It is.  What is   mind-boggling is the idle manpower passing the time while there is critical work to be done elsewhere in the Gulf.  Those buses can go anywhere, after all.

This is just two people's weekend observation for what it is worth.  These are presumably BP's dollars at work rather than the taxpayers' but still, this money could be more wisely spent and these people better employed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Anchovy pizza

We had a Greek pizza from Slice the other day.  Not bad: artichoke hearts, olives, feta, onion.  Anchovies optional.  You know who opted for the anchovies.  The pizza chef's had a judicious hand.  The fish were't too few and they weren't so many as to overpower the rest of the pie.

I would be just as happy with a regular pie, double anchovy, but that's not what you get when you share.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

State of New Orleans' hot dog market

I went to City Hall to find out why the only hot dog carts seem to be Lucky Dogs' carts in the French Quarter.  A very nice (anonymous) lady at the applicable office told me Lucky has a monopoly on the Quarter, which I had already read about.  The Supreme Court has upheld it so if you want a dog, or any other cart food in the Quarter, you're out of luck.  They've cornered the market.

She also said, in passing, "Its too bad too because their hot dogs are the worst!"  At least I'm not the only one to think so (I assumed she wasn't punning).  Lucky's puts on a good show.  Their carts are well designed and attractive.  It's the sausage that isn't up to snuff.  Well, to be honest, it's the meat, the bread and the condiments, but the carts are spot on and the vendors themselves are the nicest people on earth.

A salute to Lucky Dogs for good design, good help and a lock on the market!  Well played, gentlemen, well played, indeed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Nothing against Gretna, but...

I drive down Tchoupitoulas Street fairly regularly.  Amazingly, there isn't a lot of traffic.  I think this is amazing because a) there aren't a lot of lights, and b) the roadway is remarkably smooth by New Orleans standards.  I am very tired of being jostled around on every thoroughfare.  Sometimes I think my turn signals are going to fall off and I am constantly adjusting my rearview mirrors.  After a mile or two on New Orleans streets, my left mirror offers me a view of the sky.  While this is relaxing it doesn't do me much good when I want to change lanes.

I pass under the overpass that connects some kind of pedestrian terminal with what is supposed to be the Jackson Avenue Ferry.  According to wikipedia, the ferry is still operating but I've never seen anyone using it.  I figured it was out of commission and I always wondered where it went.  I could have looked at a map of course, but instead I solved this mystery by passing through the City of Gretna.

Gretna doesn't have much to recommend it for the eyes.  The real action is all along the frontage road that runs parallel to elevated Route 90.  As you can imagine, it is a long strip of shopping centers, chain stores and motels that have seen better days.  Downtown Gretna, where the city is connected to New Orleans by the ferry (or was) is another matter altogether.  This is a tidy little burg full of charm and an expansive public green.  There isn't much happening there but it is picturesque.

I would never choose to live in Gretna but I enjoyed tootling through its historic core.  I didn't enjoy it enough to stop, mind you, just enough to soak up the atmosphere.  The wikipedia page for Gretna doesn't do much to entice me to change my mind.

During the manmade levee failure that occurred at the same time as Hurricane Katrina, Gretna earned the distasteful reputation of being a place unfriendly to refugees in need.  I'm sure the citizens of Gretna are nice folks outside of a crisis, but I'm not going to take the time to learn differently.  It's nothing personal.  There isn't enough "there" there to catch my fancy to begin with.

Even if the ferry does ply the Mississippi to Gretna, I'll take the one to Algiers.  Not much more exciting, I know, but Algiers is a part of the City of New Orleans.  You can't have one without the other.

Pipe smoker's poem

I've been all over the place recently, authorially speaking, and I don't know when I'll get a chance to focus again my new New Orleans experience.  With that in mind, here's the results of a commission about pipe smoking.  If you don't know, and there's no reason you should, I smoke a pipe.  It's not an affectation but something I've come to enjoy more and more every day.  I'm not really a poet, as you can see below, but I tend to get lumped in with the poets whenever I'm classified as a writer.  Either a poet or a reporter.  I don't think of myself as either, but that is a story for another day.  Material for tomorrow, perhaps....

Evening Smoke.  
Dusk settles across the sky and lawn.
A match catches spark that flares then fades, echoing the setting sun’s smolder.
The rough edges of packed tobacco glow in a bowl.
The colors the pipe holds mirror the clouds’ undersides from here to horizon.
Another day is done with dignity.
Time again for repose, contentment and contemplation.
Time again for steam and smoke to silently rise.
Time again for combustion, respiration, condensation, inspiration.
The land exhales dew, the river exhales fog, the air is still and alive with implication.
One moment leads to the next, one breath leads to the next.
Time again to smoke a pipe and take the measure of a day.
In the dark, the end of a pipe is a beacon within reach.
Its bowl warms the hand, its contents warm the soul.
In the dark, in the end, a pipe focuses attention.
Its bowl holds potential pleasure and displeasure in equal measure.
It’s stem, like life, delivers both to savor.
A pipe at day’s end is the sum of experience.
Handle it as best you can.
Dusk settles so another dawn can break tomorrow.
Another day, another morning, another evening to follow.
There will always be another pipe to savor.
There will always be time again to speculate, gesticulate, articulate, enunciate.
A person with pipe clenched or cradled knows what reward a day’s work earns.
A person with a pipe knows what spark brings dignity and contentment.
A spark catches.
July 6, 2010.  Finished on St. Charles Avenue watching the streetcar rumble by through the dark.

Monday, July 05, 2010

New England hot dogs and New Orleans hot dogs

I don't follow a lot of sports.  While I haven't been able to escape the recent World Cup coverage, it's mostly out of the corner of my eye.  Even when I was dragged to watch the recent Uruguay vs. Germany match, I read the newspaper and took along some clerical work to keep me occupied between goals.
There is one sport I do follow every year however and one athlete I particularly admire.  I salute Joey Chestnut and his fourth consecutive victory, earning him the right to wear the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt.  I am almost ashamed to admit that I am fascinated by competitive eating.  I've never been to Coney Island myself and it's probably not in my future anytime soon, but I sometimes daydream that I will one day go heat-to-head against Joey Chestnut.

The lady of the house scoffs at my ambitions and shuts off the conversation as soon as I start discussing my aspirations.  We used to go to Spike's Junkyard Dogs where you can get a free tee shirt and your picture on the wall if you can eat six dogs.  My record is two dogs in a half hour. I have some training to do before I can match Joey Chestnut's accomplishment of this year's 54 in ten minutes, and this isn't even his career best.

When I lived in Boston, I would stop at Downtown Crossing and grab a hot dog from one of the Boston's Best carts.  It was a cheap meal on the run.  In New Orleans, I can get into condition by visiting the various Lucky Dogs carts scattered around the French Quarter.  The fact is though that I don't like Lucky's dogs.  I tried one once and I didn't finish it.  Not because it was too much for my frail stomach, it just didn't taste good.

Boston has plenty of good hot dogs.  Speed's of course is in a class by itself (scroll down their page a bit to read the Wall Street Journal review).  I can't even finish one of Speed's creations though the condiments set the culinary standard for what best complements hot dog flavor.

There seems to be a shortage of hot dog carts in New Orleans.  I understand that Lucky Dogs has an exclusive franchise in the French Quarter, but what about anywhere else?  The CBD (Central Business District to our non-New Orleanian readers) and Audubon Park can certainly sustain a cart.  These are just the two most obvious locales aching for a hot dog cart.  It will take a trip to City Hall to discover the answer to this burning question.

An appreciation of sardines

Sardinistas of the world, unite!  Is there a local chapter of sardine affectionados in New Orleans or only fresh seafood?  I see tinned sardines in every corner grocer.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sticker symbolism

People have been asking me, "What are those stickers on the side of the Littlest Ninja?"  If you are new to the Dot Matrix, the Littlest Ninja is my motorcycle, a 250cc, 2006, blue Kawasaki Ninja.  Formerly the Littlest Ninja this side of the Charles River.  Now the littlest on the East Bank of the mighty Mississippi.
Here's what the Ninja looked like in Boston.  New stickers now, visible here.

This isn't entirely true.  The 250cc Ninja is Kawasaki's most popular bike.  I see them all over New Orleans.  I saw a few in Boston, but less often.  I always find it amazing to read that this is a best seller because every asks me about it, mistaking it for a larger 500cc.  "I didn't know you could get a 250!"  You can.  It costs about $3000 and gets 75mpg.  It's a nice commuter bike and it's very forgiving.  You can handle the twistys and keep up with larger bikes as long as you aren't racing.  Sometimes I think about trading up, but for the minimal upkeep and expense, I'll take my Littlest Ninja.  So far, so good.  I've gotten more than my money's worth.  It's got 22,000 miles on the odometer and it purrs like a kitten getting it's ear scratched when I pull on the throttle.

So, what are the stickers about?  On the right hand side from front tire to rear, they are:  One of Coop's voluptuous devil girl stickers, not the naughtiest of them but risque nonetheless.  The one on the right side is clothed in pink lingerie.  The one on the left is a mirror image except nude with one nipple showing.  There are also three flags on the right faring.  One is German, one is Connecticut, one is Louisiana.  This represents the composition of my household and where we now call home.  The Louisiana flag replaced the Massachusetts state seal over a year ago.

On the right side is the aforementioned naked lady.  Why devil women in states of undress?  These tend to get a lot of attention when I'm stopped in traffic.  Young men will hang their heads out the window and say, "I like your sticker."  I reply, "That's how I like 'em: big and naughty."  Not really but close enough.  There is also the logo for Air Hamburg Airlines, a carrier you probably never heard of.  I've never flown Air Hamburg except in my dreams.  On the Littlest Ninja, it often feels like I'm flying when I'm not stuck in traffic.  I like to think I am going to exotic locales, islands in the North Sea, for instance, even if I'm just headed to the supermarket.  That is an adventure of its own in its way.

So now you know.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pelican diet

A gulf menhaden

Pelicans, like many of the birds and larger fish in the Gulf survive off a diet that consists mostly of menhaden.  This is a small, oily fish full of tiny bones that fishermen disregard.  Because of the bones and the taste and the size, menhaden aren't considered food fit for humans.  Most fishermen will catch the menhaden in nets and then use them as chum to attract other fish.  These are small fishermen catching small fry.  There is another kind of fisherman who catches every single menhaden he can find for sale.

Omega Protein is the corporation that dominates the menhaden fishery.  As they boast, and rightly so perhaps, they use every single bit of this small fish.  They manufacture those omega-3 fish oil pills you find in health food stores.  They also grind up the fish for animal feed and pet food.  That chicken you eat was probably fattened, at least partly, on menhaden meal.  Mmmmm.

The data isn't yet in on how the menhaden stocks are faring in the current BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill fiasco.  This once plentiful fish will no doubt be affected, however, and not for the better.  Menhaden stocks are already at historic lows.  No matter how many oily pelicans are scrubbed clean with dish detergent, they will still need to eat.  The Gulf ecosystem will be in a shambles for years to come, the food chain disrupted.

Someone will devise some other feed for the factory farmed chickens.  Omega Protein may already be on the case.  That's not the main worry.  What about the pelicans?  They feed themselves and there won't be many fish for them to find.

If you are taking fish oil supplements, you may want to switch to eating tinned sardines from Morocco.  The pelicans will thank you if they survive this.


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