Thursday, September 30, 2010

Andrew Jackson

Look briefly.  This flag isn't pretty.
Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.  Whoever dreamed up the flag for the City of Jacksonville, Florida must have had indigestion that night.  Someone should have his vexillologist license revoked.  Whoever approved this as the official flag of the city has probably been voted out of office for decades and yet the banner still waves.

Recognize the figure in front of all the converging rays?  New Orleans' own Andrew Jackson on horseback just as he is posed in Jackson Square in this fair city.   Jacksonville couldn't even come up with it's own image of Old Hickory.  To make matters more derivative, Jacksonville's official nickname is "The River City."  Really?  The only one in the whole wide world?  That's a unique distinction.  Not "The Bad Flag City?"

Compare Jacksonville's flag to New Orleans'.
A thing of beauty: New Orleans' flag.

New Orleans' flag isn't my favorite but it is better than most.  It is simple.  A school child can draw it.  I'm not a fan of the narrow red and blue stripes and I think the flag could use an update with a little more oomph.  There's no need to rush though.  A redesign would probably involve committees and public hearings and debates and suggestions that it should be black and gold, which it should not.  I wouldn't be adverse to wider stripes colored green and purple, which are certainly New Orleans colors and would stand out from other American city flags.  Probably it's best not to try to fix something that isn't broken.

Plenty of city flags are hung off front porches in New Orleans.  Probably far more than are hung off the front porches in Jacksonville, FL.

My favorite city flag?  This one:
Chicago.  Now those are nice proportions.
I only visited this city once and I don't recall ever seeing the flag flying proudly.  I was a younger man and while I liked Chicago, I didn't love it.  The mass transit made an impression.  I love subways and elevated lines that don't get stuck in traffic.  I doubt I would enjoy the winters.  I'm happy in New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rebirth Brass Band

Sorry folks.  No picture and not even a decent article for you to read.  Just got back from listening to the Rebirth Brass Band play in Lafayette Square.  A bass drum, a snare, a tuba, a sax, two trumpets, and a trombone.  Man, can they wail.  That's a lot of breath being expelled just over the course of one three-minute song stretched out to twelve or lucky thirteen or the blessed, winding denouement and final note at 14 minutes 25 and three quarter seconds.

I won't say my ears are ringing from my front row seat on the grass, but my blood is pumping.  Listening to New Orleans jazz is the most aerobic exercise I've had in years.  I feel healthier since I moved here.

We will resume our more usual format tomorrow.

Thanks for understanding,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CBD, Canal Street, Tulane, etc.

Between Coliseum and  Camp Streets: Neutral Ground.

I was talking to a woman today and I asked, "Were all these tall buildings occupied six years ago?"

"No," she answered.  "They were empty when the levees broke."

"Who would build a skyscraper and abandon it?" I asked.

"These were built during the oil boom in the 70s.  When the 80s came, the companies moved out of town.  The last were gone in the early 90s at the latest."

That's a lot of architecture to just get up and abandon after building it.  It also explains why renovations aren't proceeding swiftly.  The buildings were empty to begin with.  They look like they were built in the 70s.  These would be unloved, ugly buildings even if they were humming with activity.

It makes me wonder:  A real estate market seemed so hot that developers erected these office towers but it left behind husks a mere ten or twenty years later.  So quickly that the Central Business District and O'Keefe Avenue and the area around Tulane Hospital seem like parts of a ghost town.  What went wrong?  What went so wrong that something new was abandoned so quickly.  What went wrong that the money moved to Houston, from what I understand.  Houston?  I wouldn't bring a dog to Houston let alone a corporate headquarters.  Maybe that's why I write a blog rather than run an oil company.  There are worse fates.

Monday, September 27, 2010

College Town

I noticed a change in the social climate in New Orleans at the end of August if not the temperatures.  College students began appearing in the places I was spending my time.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the most welcome change in season.  I just moved from Boston, a city which, along with Cambridge right next door, is home to 30 colleges and universities.

I find New Orleans' college students tolerable.  Of course, they are obnoxious and lacking social skills but compared to what I'm used to they are a bearable number.  I don't often go out late at night to their haunts.

For our viewing pleasure from Boston's Improv Asylum, a view of the drama that unfolds every school year in Bean Town.  Same issues at Tulane, I'm sure.

I haven't counted how many colleges are in New Orleans.  I assume Loyola, being Jesuit, is rather tame. Xavier is another Catholic school.  There are two seminaries that I know of, I can't imagine these are party schools.

Harvard and MIT aren't known for being particularly rambunctious either.  It's the other institutions of higher learning.    Come to think of it, Boston College is a Jesuit school and Boston University is Methodist.  I guess religious affiliation isn't the proper yardstick to guess the seriousness of the students.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Plantation Tour

Not Laura.
We went to a tour of the Laura Plantation in Vacherie, about an hour toward Baton Rouge.  It was okay.  The cost was $18 per adult and the tour lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes.  You'll learn about the plantation's proprietors.  The tour is a little skimpy on anything else and it was interrupted periodically with spiels for items sold in the gift shop.  Not great but not bad.  The best tourist attraction in Louisiana?  I don't know, I haven't visited many beyond the city of New Orleans.  I can't say I learned much and I can't say I wasted my time.  It was interesting, if thin gruel.

Laura Plantation.

As for Vacherie, we've never seen a place like this.  None of the roads we went down are connected to those that run parallel.  No cross streets.  After about a half mile, you cross the railroad tracks and land in sugar cane fields with small road side cemeteries.  It's all dirt roads on the other side of the tracks.  This isn't affluent or cosmopolitan country.  There's nothing wrong with that, but if you don't have any business there, there's no reason to visit.  I'll stick closer to home.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Orleans Art Market

Our last illustration was from the same shop.  Yes, you can buy a piano on Magazine Street.
The New Orleans Art Market is held on the last Saturday of every month in the Carrollton Park at the end of the St. Charles streetcar line.  Today, of course, is the last Saturday in September and we rode our bicycles to where Carrolton Avenue becomes South Carrollton Avenue, at the intersection with South Claiborne.  It's all very confusing unless you look at a map.  Carrollton Ave. has an excellent bike lane and it is well shaded and you can race the streetcar to the next stop.

The art market is quite extensive.  There were probably 150 artists exhibiting their work.  This isn't museum quality work but much of it is more satisfying than the things you'll find in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in the CBD.  While artists from all over Louisiana and southern Mississippi are invited to participate, locals predominate.

Noteworthy is how much of the art is locally proud.  New Orleanians love their city and they don't seem to be able to get enough of things that express their pride in place.  You can see it in the flags and banners hung outside homes and on the bumpers of cars.  You see tattoos of fleurs-de lis on every city block and it is safe to assume these stand for love of the Crescent City rather than alliance to the Bourbon monarchy.

I work with four women and they all wear fleur-de-lis earrings, a bauble as common as pennies on the sidewalk.  The buckles on my Puritan shoes have fleurs-de-lis on them.  I bought them in Boston to remind me every time I looked down that I would soon be living somewhere else, somewhere far away and more grand.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You can't do wrong doing right.

Art as advertisement.  Magazine Street. New Orleans.
Not every night on the town in New Orleans ends in a dance.  There's plenty of song and syncopation, and sometimes even some tap dancing.  New Orleans isn't synchronized though.  It moves by serendipity.

While in Houston last week, I visited a bar called Sherlock's that the hotel staff recommended.  "They have three floors and it's always busy."  It was a long room in the strip mall that did, in fact, have three rooms connected by a step or two between each.  The music was a combination of canned top 40 hits from the 80s and 90s.  The clientele was a bunch of blowhards in chinos with their oxford shirts unbuttoned and tie-less.  Nobody danced, nobody mingled.  Groups sat at tables to see who could talk the loudest.

There was no there there, just a collection of warm bodies going through the motions and paying their tab as they went.  Houston really put me in a funk that I haven't shaken yet, five days later.

I'm not a talker by nature.  I keep to myself though I love to go out.  The day after I arrived in New Orleans, I went to my usual watering hole and everyone asked where I had been.  I answered simply, "Houston."  Everyone commiserated.  I didn't buy a drink all day.  Sympathetic souls took up a collection.  "This guy just got back from Houston, can you chip into the pool so that he forget the past week?"

It didn't work.  I'm not one to overindulge in Dixie beer or sympathy.  A man's got to do what a man's got to do.  Before last week, the last time I was in Houston was 15 years ago.  I hope it will be more than 15 till I go back.  I'll take New Orleans any day.  Houston may be the 4th biggest city in America in population but it is last in appeal in my book.

If Houston is for you, and no offense to Houstonians, especially those I ran into at Sherlocks, more power to you.  You have more thickly skinned souls than I do.

Thanks to the Institute of Official Cheer for our footage today of what an ideal New Orleans night is like when the stars are aligned.  You won't find that in Space City, Houston's official, apt nickname.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Win free groceries!

Still meandering down Magazine Street in New Orleans.
You can win a year's worth of free groceries by clicking here.  It's not a hoax but a sweepstakes from the "World of Pasta" family of brands.  You don't get food stamps but the first prize winner gets a sweet check for $5,200.  450 runners up will get $100.

You have to name your favorite brand of pasta from a predetermined list.  Unfortunately, Prince spaghetti isn't on the list.  Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day, as everyone in New England knows.

I know Luzanne is tea and Dixie is beer.  Blue Plate is mayonnaise.  I assume Crystal Preserves are jelly.  Is there a New Orleans pasta?

Guess what Juan's Flying Burritos sells.  I'll give you a hint: It isn't flying donkeys.  The shop is very popular.  I haven't tried it so I can't recommend one way or the other.

My camera battery gave out the day I took all these Magazine Street sign photos.  I didn't get halfway through photographing them all and we haven't gotten halfway through the ones I took.  There are that many thriving little storefronts along about three blocks.

And, sorry, I couldn't resist one more:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street.  For the life of me I can't remember what they sell.
I was walking down Magazine Street this afternoon and I noticed an Up in Smoke outlet on the Jackson Avenue intersection.  I hadn't noticed it before.  I am interested in all kinds of smoking products, whether I am interested in smoking them or not.  I just find it interesting that this niche market exists after all the anti-smoking hullaballoo I am used to in New England.  Did you know that in Boston, pharmacies cannot sell tobacco products?  Not only is smoking forbidden indoors, in workplaces, in restaurants, and in bars, it is also forbidden on the outdoor patios of said places.  It makes for an interesting culture as people get up, leave their drinks temporarily behind (no drinking on the street in Boston) and walk half a block to have a cigarette.  The city claims this is good for business.  I have no opinion pro or con but I am happier in New Orleans whether I smoke or not.  Live and let live.

While I doubt Up in Smoke carries the kinds of pipes I'm interested in, the shop is worth an investigation just to make sure.

Anyhow, I don't know if this head shop just opened or if it has been there the whole three and a half months I've been passing the storefront since I've moved here.  That's the thing about New Orleans: the city is so thick with details that it takes repeated exposure for me to notice them all.  This isn't true of just Magazine Street; it is every street.

When I posted the photo above of the next sign on our tour down Magazine Street, I couldn't remember what was in the window.  I still can't though I obviously walked by it today.  I was too busy looking in the Aidan Gill window next door.  See?  This is what New Orleans does.  It captivates your imagine with one facet and then reveals another when you aren't paying attention.  Luckily I have another errand to run in the neighborhood tomorrow.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Orleans traffic

Aidan Gill on Magazine Street.  So tempting, it hurts to walk past without stopping in.
I'm used to living in old, dense, New England cities.  I'm a cranky Yankee who isn't against taxes on principle but has little respect for laws I find a nuisance, especially traffic laws.  It always boggles my mind when I see someone from the Pacific Northwest obeying a traffic signal on an empty street.

Whether the sign flashes "Walk" or "Don't Walk," I don't care if the coast is clear and I'm not going to interrupt anything.  That seems to be the way in New Orleans.  Traffic flows, pedestrian, bicycle, motor scooter, car, truck, without much attention to the written rules of the road.  I find this a good thing.  Here are my reasons. I think I am smarter than an automated traffic signal.  Many New Orleanians seem to feel the same way within reason.

I have to admit I've never been inside Aidan Gill's shop even if I've crossed the middle of the street to gaze longingly in the window.  This is the kind of shop I've dreamed all my life to have close by.  What's stopping me?  I just landed a job at an unnamed local hospital and I don't know how much I will have to invest in my personal appearance or whether it will matter.  This outfit is run by a national corporation out of Houston and their dress code is business casual.  I'm not even sure what that means but, based on what I saw in Houston last week, I am supposed to dress like a computer programmer.  Friday is casual and I can wear jeans if I owned them.  It was like taking a trip back to 1995.

I'm happy to be well-groomed and, once I run out of the supplies I have stockpiled from Boston, I'm sure I'll be visiting Mr. Gill.  If not for professional reasons, at least for personal ones.  When you look good you feel good.  Of course nothing and no one looks very good in Houston so that may explain the dress code.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yakety Sax New Orleans

I don't usually discuss my adolescence, but I don't mind going on record to say I was a big Benny Hill and Star Trek fan before I emerged into manhood.  I enjoyed watching the above combination today of these two boyhood influences and it is congenially brief if you are not interested.

It did get me thinking though, what if every one of my New Orleans escapades was filmed, choppily edited, and set to the tune "Yakety Sax?"  I think it's a fitting tune for many of the sights I witness in New Orleans.  Things happen.  Some of them comic and others tragic, but the pulse of the city remains the same: a fluid, compound jazz melody off which everyone is improvising from the mayor to the urchin.  You can laugh off the soundtrack but the visual evidence remains the same: something to be dealt with and deliberated at a later, more sober time.  The joy is in the being and it is good to be alive in New Orleans no matter what stones you need to dodge for whatever reason.

My escapades may seem a joke when cast that way.  They are a serious joke to me.

Back in New Orleans

I haven't lived in New Orleans long enough to be considered an antique.  I've probably moved to late to gain that cachet.
I've been back for a few hours, thank Heaven.  I took the Airport Shuttle, cheaper than a cab, to Lee Circle.    Unfortunately, the driver decided to go to the other end of the French Quarter for his first stop so I knew I would be last.  I was hoping to be first.  I didn't mind much.  I don't visit the Quarter often at night and certainly not from the viewpoint of people getting their first impressions.  Everyone in the van was excited and marveling at the scenery.  New Orleans is infectious.

When the driver found out my plan to be dropped off in Lee Circle rather than at Hotel Le Cirque, he just took me to my street instead so I wouldn't have to walk so far.  We discussed recent news in the Times-Picayune.  He brought me up to speed since I've only been reading hotel copies of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.  I love to read the WSJ, which I milked for information every day this past week.  USA Today takes about ten minutes to finish for anything of interest.

I spoke with a professional body painter who is in town for a workshop.  I was polite enough not to ask if that is a real career.  We talked about the recent body painting work at the last White Linen Night, which she knew all about.  New Orleans: where body painters come to perfect their craft.  Who knew?  We do now.

She had never been here and she said she had dreamed about a visit for years.  Me too.  She is coming down in March for three weeks with her husband to celebrate her birthday.  He is originally from Slidell.

When the van driver learned I have lived here for a little over three months (!) he welcomed me and said everyone appreciates having new citizens in the city.  I promised to be the best citizen I can be.  I don't know how I am going to accomplish this yet, but it has always been my intention.  The road to New Orleans is paved with good intentions.  I arrived here by motorcycle on all back roads from Boston.  I think I am qualified to comment on the road to New Orleans.

There are many ways to the same nirvana.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Four days and five nights in Houston

Magazine Street, New Orleans.  I haven't seen anything like this in Houston.  I've seen plenty of Chili's outlets though.
I'm headed home tomorrow afternoon.  It's not soon enough.  Nothing against Houston but it isn't for me.  I've never lived anywhere that is so brand-spanking new and spread out.  Blocks of architecturally unimaginative apartment complexes are punctuated by strip malls and glass office buildings.  Houston architects must all subscribe to the same copyright-free newsletter.  Either that or they got their degrees from a correspondence school.

I've got nothing against the 600-odd square miles that make up Houston.  The city just doesn't charm me.  This is not a coquettish place.  I have no desire to return any time sooner or later.  God bless the people who call this place home.

Everyone complains about the heat.  I've seen people drive a hundred yards to have lunch.  I walk during my lunch hour.  I travelled two miles today in a suit.  Based on the reaction when I returned you would think I walked to the Gulf of Mexico and back.  I have no idea how far I am from the Gulf.  The landscape is generic and without anything I would call a landmark unless you count the Home Depot between my hotel and where I spend nine hours a day watching power point presentations.  It seems to be a city in which imagination slumbers due to boredom.  I know I said I have nothing against Houston.  Let's think of this as a non-judgemental, subjective observation.

People complain of the heat.  As a New Englander from birth, I eat dinner on restaurant patios and the wait staff comments, "You must not mind the heat."  If it's not snowing I'm going to be outside.  The heat is nothing compared to the New Orleans summer I just spent the last three months enjoying.

I'll be happy to be back in New Orleans where places stay open late, the music isn't all pop pap piped over the juke box, where food isn't made in a New Jersey factory and then trucked a few thousand miles for reheating in a chain, commercial kitchen by "chefs" specifically trained in the arts of the convection and microwave ovens.

Ah well, no use crying over a less-than-stellar week.  Looking at the bright side, I have confirmed in my mind that I made the right choice to move from Boston to New Orleans.  I am happy in New Orleans, ecstatic really.  I doubt I would be able to same the same thing after living three months in Houston.  One week in Houston makes me appreciate the three years I spent in Dorchester (Boston's biggest and best neighborhood) which seems like it passed in the blink of an eye compared to this past Sunday night and now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing New Orleans

Yippee the Whale is being facetious.
I'm in Houston.  Wanna know how I like it?  If you lived in New Orleans, how would you like spending a week in Houston?

I don't like it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Louisiana crab limits

A photo continuing my walk down Magazine Row headed downriver.
I was up in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, an area that makes up about a quarter of New Orleans East, though without a map I can't tell what it's borders are.  It's a different world out there on Chef Menteur Highway (US Route 90 toward Mississippi).

Municipal New Orleans and Orleans Parish are coextensive.  It's an enormous place, as I've mentioned previously, much larger in area than any other city I'm familiar with.  I find it amazing that so much swampland exists within city limits.  Of course, the "back of town" used to be swampland until fairly recently.  The "urb" of the urban environment gradually filled in New Orleans present footprint over the course of its history, most quickly during the 20th century.  You can read all about it in the fine book "Bienville's Dilemma."

Back to the subject of today's report, fishing and crabbing are permitted in Bayou Sauvage, which I found surprising in a wildlife refuge.  The limit for taking crabs is twelve dozen!  Whether anyone actually has ever caught this many, I don't know but no one I've talked to seems surprised by that number.

I was chatting with a chap who was gong fishing at Grand Isle the other day and, after talking to me, he said he just might bring some crab traps along.  When I encountered him next, he told me what fish he had caught and mentioned he had captured three dozen crabs and brought them home.  Three dozen!  I would be happy coming home with six crabs.  I wouldn't know what to do with thirty-six.  He said, "I boiled 'em up at midnight.  The smell woke the kids up and they ate 'em."  It's good to have growing boys in the house.

I don't even know what kind of crabs I used to catch in New England except to say that they were rare.  This same gentleman gave me some tips of where I might find profitable hunting grounds up along Lake Pontchartrain.  "Lake Pontchartrain crabs," he said, "There's no better eating in the world."

Today's illustration is the next installment of the overhead signs on mid-lower Magazine Street.  I think the business is defunct.  I can't find any scrap metal on display in the storefront but that doesn't always mean anything.  Places I think look abandoned are oftentimes thriving concerns.  New Orleans is full of retail experiences that confound me.

A fascinating read.  Highly recommended.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Fun Comics in Carrollton

Let's admit that it is unfair to stereotype every comic book store employee as having poor social skills.  Let us also admit that there may be a kernel of truth in the law of averages.  More Fun Comics is located on Oak Street in Carrollton.  Though I don't buy a lot of comics, I like to go to a comic book shop maybe once a month.  I'm not their target clientele but I appreciate the art form and, if there were more comics I liked, I would be a more regular patron.  If I miss an issue I don't lose sleep.

I've been to More Fun a few times.  The clerks are more interested in their own conversations or reading material than in assisting customers but I've come to expect that.  My wife was with me one time and she was interested in a hardcover book that had obviously been more than gently used even though it was being sold as new.  The clerk told her that they used to have two copies but he'd already purchased the one that wasn't manhandled and dog eared.  Ha! Ha!  She bought it on Amazon for a discount rather than pay full price at smug More Fun.

I was there yesterday and a portion of the racks were empty.  A new shipment had arrived.  New comics were strewn all over the boxes of back issues.  Two clerks were on duty.  One was inventorying the new stock.  The other was watching a vintage 1980s Eddy Murphy movie on the television.  Ha! Ha!

There was a woman about my age in the shop when I arrived.  I stepped in and no asked if I needed assistance.   As I wandered along the edge of the shop I thought the inventory clerk would say, "If you can't find what you want in the empty shelf space, it might be here."  Maybe, when he saw me looking over the back issue boxes that were his workspace he could have said, "If you want to see anything, I'll be happy to move this out of your way."  I did want to look for some back issues.  The conversation didn't revolve around how customers might find what they want to purchase.  Instead it consisted of this: "Eddie Murphy is funny when he says fuck!"  Ha! Ha!

After a few minutes of obscenity-laden, tepid, juvenile, DVD humor the lady left without buying anything.  I followed soon afterward.  The clerks were too busy to notice or bother.  They were busy watching their movie and guffawing every time Eddie Murphy said fuck.  Great fun for them perhaps but it wasn't much fun for me.

There's a comic shop on Freret Street that I'm going to patronize instead.  It's a bit out of my way but it just landed on my regular errand route.  When I walked in the door I didn't even have time to scope out the layout when the clerk asked what I was looking for.  Not really wanting to look at all the variations of Batman and X-Men on display, I told him and he fetched what I wanted off the shelf.  We had a nice conversation about comics in general and the title I bought in particular.  He told me that one book I was following was being cancelled, which is usually the way.

There aren't any comic shops on Magazine Street that I've been able to find.  Hence my voyages to Freret Street.  No worries.  New Orleans is flat and bicycle-friendly.  Any trip is a pleasure unless, of course, it's a trip to More Fun Comics.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Questioning the Central Business District (CBD)

Magazine Row again.  Riverside of the street.  Headed toward the CBD.
Upriver from Canal Street is New Orleans' Central Business District (CBD).  It's got a lot of tall buildings.  For the life of me, I can't figure out what business gets conducted in the CBD.  It may be another post-Katrian phenomenon but I think most of these buildings are abandoned in their upper floors.  I know the Entergy Building is home to the electric company.  One building is home to various state agencies.  Law offices are relatively thick in the CBD as, I assume, are high-end accounting firms.

Poydras Street was designated to be the street that was supposed to be a miracle mile of skyscrapers leading from the convention center to the Super Dome.  There are tall buildings there, but what they house and what purpose any workers there serve is an undiscovered mystery.  Most of the tall buildings around the CBD sport hotel chain logos around the roof line.  Tourism is a linchpin in the local economy, but what other business gets conducted?

I would expect to find bank headquarters and venture capitalists.  Maybe a publishing house or two.  Marketing firms?  Biotech startups?  There are a few banks in the CBD but they aren't exactly an overwhelming presence.  What is the business of New Orleans exactly that it needs a central district?

Today's illustration is more typical of the city's business culture.  It's a store that sells men's clothing on Magazine Street.  A local shop rather than a chain.  New Orleans' business tends to be small scale.  I like it.  It is spread all over the city from restaurants to snow ball stands to wig shops to corner meat markets.  New Orleanians seem to have an insatiable appetite for fresh meat.  There are local watering holes, clothing retailers, this and that.  Very little high finance or high stakes are evident, least of all in the CBD which doesn't resemble a financial district to me so much as a collection of mysterious buildings.  I know some shipping and oil outfits must have offices there but, like the wharves along the Mississippi and the rigs offshore, they are invisible.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Peterson Irish Sea

I picked up a new pipe at Mayan Imports.  For anyone interested, the shop is located on the ground floor of an old orphanage at 3009 Magazine Street.  Pipes, pipe tobacco, cigars and accessories.  Nice people.

It amazes me how many orphanages there once were in New Orleans and also how they are apparently not needed any more.  The one that houses Mayan Imports also advertises luxury apartments in its other spaces.  The complex takes up a whole block.  The same is true of the St. Vincent Guest House, just a few blocks away at 1507 Magazine Street.  St. Vincent isn't luxury apartments, its part hostel-part hotel.  Beautiful lodging for the money.  From what I can gather, all these orphanages would have been run by nuns.

Anyhow, the pictures that follow aren't for my regular readers but for my "brothers of the briar" at Pipe Smokers' Forum.  I can never figure out how to post pictures there but I've mastered how to do it on the blog.  Apologies to those of you who don't find this interesting.

Peterson Pipes is a long established company based in Dublin.  The Irish Sea line features bowls crafted out of briar and finished in sea green.  The band is nickle-bruyere (I have no idea what bruyere is) and the stem is vulcanite.  It's a very nice pipe, light in the hand and cool to the touch.  The shape of this bowl is known as "egg."  The line also comes with bowls in bulldog, apple, billiard, pot and dublin shapes if that means anything to you.
The stately Peterson Irish Sea.
Top View. Peterson Irish Sea with New Orleans mold in the background.
The underside of the Peterson Irish Sea. Rotund and shiny.
You can see the raw briar where the stem meets the stummel.
While this pipe cost a little more than I would usually spend on a pipe, I find it a good value.  If you are a cigar smoker, just think:  you can buy an ounce of good pipe tobacco for between three to ten dollars and it will last you a week.  How long will a three dollar cigar last you and how good will it be?  For you cigarette smokers, I know you can buy a pack of smokes for three dollars or a little more.  How long will that last you?  Will you remember every cigarette?  Me?  I'll take a pipe any day.

If you don't want to spend relatively big money on a briar pipe, there are always corn cob pipes.  Don't laugh.  These are a the best kept secret in the tobacco world.  If it's good enough for Mark Twain, a corn cob is good enough for you.  The fascinating world of Missouri Meerschaum is here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Crossing the Crescent City Connection

Heading downriver along Magazine Street.
The chain on the Little Ninja has been loose for about a month.  When I slowed down it would clack-clack-clack and one time it even fell off the rear sprocket.  Time to go to the shop again.  I could figure out how to tighten it myself but I'm not very mechanically minded, more dreamer than technician.  I don't mind paying someone to do something I don't have the patience to master but, since I live in a city, I expect goods and services to be close by.

There are a couple of scooter shops in New Orleans, but only one that doesn't deal in cut rate, Chinese models.  I'm not against things Chinese.  I shop at WalMart when I need something of low quality at a low price, but I don't trust a mechanic used to working on Chinese technology with my Japanese engineered motorcycle.  Why didn't I go to Big Easy Scooters?  I figure they are busy enough with scooters.  Though the staff is pleasant enough, there is still a divide between motor scooter culture and motorcycle culture, even if the Little Ninja's engine is no bigger than a Vespa's.  I'll recommend Big Easy Scooters to anyone who wants a good bike.

There is only one motorcycle dealership in New Orleans.  It's in the Central Business District and it deals with Ducati, Triumph and Vespas (Big Easy Scooters doesn't have the local Vespa monopoly).  I haven't been in this shop though I've heard good things about it.  I've also heard they have a backlog on repair business.  I have a Kawasaki and I prefer going to a Kawasaki certified mechanic, even for something as simple as tightening a chain.

I headed out to Kenner.  Kenner!  It's not far but its a trip over the bridge and a dollar toll to get back.  I can't complain about the service.  Though the shop is woefully inefficient as most motorcycle shops are, the price was much less than I expected and the service was relatively speedy in motorcycle shop terms.

Kawasaki is not an uncommon brand.  Why do I have to go to Kenner for the nearest Kawasaki dealer?  I shouldn't complain.  I haven't seen many car dealerships in New Orleans either.  Both cars and motorcycles are vehicles that don't really fit in the urban transportation grid.  I will say though that, like scooters, motorcycles are much more congenial for cutting through gridlock.  They may have more power than necessary but sometimes even I need to go to Baton Rouge, for instance.  Or Delacroix.

This isn't a New Orleans specific complaint.  There were no motorcycle dealerships within Boston city limits either.

D & L Powersports in Kenner doesn't seem to have a website.  If you need any work on your Kawasaki though, I can recommend them even if I don't enjoy the trip over.

Monday, September 06, 2010

No trashy emergency

What can I say?  I can say the staff in the emergency room at Touro Infirmary is professional, efficient and a pleasure to deal with.  I'm not one to visit a doctor usually, but it's nice to have a fully staffed hospital down the street.  I can't wait to see the bill.

Being a medical biller, I know that insurers purchase medical services wholesale while people without insurance pay retail.  Everyone knows that only a sucker pays retail.  No insurance means that I didn't have much choice.  It's how the system is set up.  Unlike other businesses, you can't ask for a discount if you pay cash up front rather than set up a tedious payment plan.  They aren't allowed to offer discounts on prices they conjure out the air.

If a clinic were open in the dead of night, I would have much preferred to go there for half the retail expense.  It's the luck of the clock.  The nurse was nice enough to tell me what clinics are close to my home so I wouldn't have to go to a full scale hospital if my symptoms recurred during normal working hours.

Now that I know the problem, there isn't much chance I'll be seeking professional care over OTC, self-treatment until a doctor's office opens.  I woke up in the middle of the night and I said to myself, "If someone told you this, what would you advise?  You'd tell them to go to the hospital and damn the cost."  For once, I listened to reasonable advice, even if it was my own.  I opened a dresser drawer to put on a shirt and the sound awoke the lady of the house.  "What are you doing?" she asked.  "I'm going to the hospital,"  I answered.  "Do you want me to drive you?" she replied.  "Yes," was my answer.

No hubbub.  We just got in the car and took care of business.  Have I mentioned before that I am in love?

Today's illustration is the sign for the Trashy Diva shop on Magazine Street.  Have I mentioned before that I love New Orleans?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The utility pole banners on this stretch of Magazine Street call it Magazine Row.  The heart of the area is Sophie Bell Wright Place.  It's very nice and I enjoy walking around here though I don't do any actual shopping.

I've taken pictures of all the signs that hang under the balconies for a picture essay but that's more pasting than I care to engage in at one sitting.  I much prefer to type.  So...guess what our illustrations will be for the next few weeks? Yup.  You guessed right.  See you tomorrow.  In sum, they make for an interesting example of gentrification brings.  Nothing wrong with it, in theory of course, but this is what your urban planners have in mind when they set their sights on Treme or anywhere else that they think deserves a master plan, which would be all of New Orleans.

In the meantime, here's the statue of educator Sophie Bell Wright.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Clean clothes in New Orleans

Laundrymat seems to be the most common spelling for what I would call a laundromat.  There is a Laundryrama in the Vieux Carre.  I would call this a laundr-o-rama.  I've seen a laundryteria too.  Again, where I come from, when you combine laundry with an ending, we generally substitute an 'o' for the 'y'.  Keeping the 'y' is a sign of ignorance or lazy sign painting.  Live and learn.  I haven't heard anyone say "laundromat" out loud since I've moved to New Orleans but therein may lie the explanation.

No sightings of an al-night automat yet.  Now that would be the bee's knees.

This photo is from a Magazine Laundrymat.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Better comics, please, Times-Picayune.

This is a recent edition of the daily comic strip F Minus.  It appears in many newspapers of national repute, a class in which the Times-Picayune deservedly belongs.  I think it's a pretty good strip, one of the better ones on the market.

The Times-Picayune features a full page of comic strips and for that I'm grateful.  Some of the choices are a bit lackluster, however.  When I was a kid, we called the comics pages "the funnies."  The Daily News (New York) had the best comics pages on Sundays and my grandfather bought that paper.  When the grandchildren would visit on Sundays, we would fight over who had dibs on the funnies and the losers had to settle for the Danbury News-Times.  I doubt anyone is doing that with the Times-Picayune since its the only paper in town.  It's the only "funnies" there are.

The unfortunate thing is that about half (I'm being generous) of the strips featured in the T-P (and I use this abbreviation for all its implications as far as comic strips are concerned) are not funny.  They are not amusing.  They aren't even mildly interesting.  If the comics editor (my dream job) wants to continue Blondie for old times' sake, I don't have an issue with that.  If he or she wants to include Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, and Hi and Lois...well, this is another regrettable, daily disappointment I face every morning.  One I can understand.  Since they are all created by the same people and they are all as dull as dishwater, I don't see the point, even if all the creators live in my neck of Connecticut and I've met most of them.  More power to them, but I don't think you should be paid to sleepwalk your fathers' creations.

Curtis is probably the worst strip on record and while I understand why it is published, I can't understand why at the same time.  It stinks.  It has always stunk.  If it never gets any worse but it also never gets any better.  The bar for this one is so low, it can't get worse.  I have a two word review for every episode of Curtis: Pee You.

I have a system when I read the T-P's comics.  I start with the worst and I meander over the page in a semi-clockwise direction to do my penance for subscribing to home delivery while looking for a few gems amid the dross.  They're there more often than not but the bad outweighs the good.  The abysmal outweighs the acceptable.  The humdrum counterbalances the brilliant.  I'm left feeling empty rather than amused.

Thanks to Tony Carillo for the strip above.  For anyone looking for a job in this market it is more relevant than the tedious, dead end "hi-jinx" portrayed in Curtis.  The T-P is due for a comic strip revolution in my opinion.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Sun over the New Orleans marshes

That was a nice sunrise over Bayou Sauvage yesterday.  Let's look at it again from a different angle a minute or so later.  As seen from Route 11 between the canes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Dawn east of New Orleans East

I headed out to Bayou Sauvage before sun up this morning.  I took Interstate 10, which is elevated above most of the rooftops it passes by.  All of the 9th Ward smelled like pancakes from just after Elysian Fields Avenue to just before the Industrial Canal.  The air was rich with the scent of pancakes and sorghum.  On the way home, around 8:00AM, my nose detected neither.  The moment had passed.  I wonder if this happens everyday and why.

I did manage to capture a picture of the sunrise which I've mounted above.  It was a beautiful, fragrant morning.  Out there on Bayou Sauvage, even though it's within city limits, you forget the city except for the irregular sounds of traffic on Chef Menteur Highway.


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