Sunday, October 31, 2010

An uncaged city

The bounds of reason know no limits.
I have an inkling why the caged bird sings.  It sings for thee and me.

New Orleans is not about keeping animals in cages, except at the zoo.  New Orleans is about setting ambition free.  As I witness the chickens and peacocks that inhabit yards on Prytania Street, I am struck by how much freedom of movement and display exists in this freewheeling city where everyone is a talker except the dumb.  Well, even the dumb talk, just go to any watering hole with a congregation of Tulane students.  The mute don't.

New Orleans City Hall at night.  Some lights need replacing.
They say New Orleans' government is broken.  I think it's on the mend.  I haven't met anyone who says that things are worse now than during the past administration.  I also haven't heard anyone say that the form the city's government has taken over the decades is what is best for the city. New Orleans seems to run on a Tammany Hall model, if that is possible in this age of transparency and civic activism.

People have good things to say about Mayor Landrieu, but they are hesitant things.  So far, so good, but the proof will be when nobody is arrested for corruption after the fact.  So far the administration seems clean.  The mayor seems honest in providing an administration that works for the citizens.  The mayor, as promised, knows what to do and how to do it.  It isn't a smooth road, but it is much better and professional than I expected.  The decay that has been ever-present in New Orleans may reverse.  There is nothing wrong with decay when it doesn't impede progress.  There is something wrong with neglect.

I don't see the present administration neglecting its responsibilities.  It is active and robust and seems to strike the right balance between renovation and renewal.  Time will tell, of course.  In the meantime, the only consistently positive I hear is that Mitch Landrieu is no Ray Nagin.  Faint praise, perhaps, but in this case it seems to be that anything is better than the devil you know.



Saturday, October 30, 2010

The city of jazz

If you want to speak the lingo of beatniks, hipsters, hep cats, floozies, gun molls, rum runners, the sporting class, zoot suiters, dandies, rakes, and chronically underemployed poets, New Orleans is a better place than most to learn it.  I spent this morning in Bywater, hipster-central.  A nice, compact neighborhood that gets progressively more seedy as one progresses further from the quarter.  It seems to be a safe place though I wouldn't recommend it for families with children in search of role models.  Call me conservative, which I am not except when it comes to fiscal policy.

If you want to see something beautiful, look in the mirror.  That's what I do.  It should work for you.  If you want to something beautiful outside a mirror's frame, walk about New Orleans.  A wide, rambling city, every part of New Orleans shares similarities, but every block is unique in its own, eccentric way.  Bywater is dense, a fabric of homes and stores and small, old factories and you never know what a building holds until you try the door.

I haven't spent too much time in Bywater beyond just passing through in my zigzagging way on an errand to nowhere. When I moved here in June I thought it might be a nice part of New Orleans to call home.  A heavily tattooed, young woman in the Lower Garden District warned me away.  "Stick to the Garden," she said, "The people in Bywater are weird."  I don't know.

The little time I've spent nursing a coffee or beer in Bywater, I've been struck by the neighborliness of the place.  People know each other.  While I know my neighbors where I live, I don't bump into them regularly.  Bywater seems a self-contained enclave.  This is my impression.

If you want to see something else that is beautiful, there is a fence in the residential end of the French Quarter inspiring enough that it made me take a picture.
All sorts of glass flowers wired to the bars.  A tree may grow in Brooklyn but the imagination flourishes in New Orleans.

And with that, I am off to other business.  Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two blue states.

Your humble narrator, Whalehead King
Wandering about New Orleans and sometimes going somewhat further afield in each direction of the Mississippi River, I have recently been pondering the differences between where I am from and where I am.

First of all, New Orleans is like no other city in Connecticut.  Comparing New Orleans to Bridgeport or New Haven or Hartford or Waterbury (the four biggest in descending order) and then Stamford (#5 and the only one that is gaining population) is like comparing a carp to a goldfish.  They are of the same genus but the differences outnumber the similarities. My favorite description of Connecticut's capital: "The Nation's Filing Cabinet."

I compare the populations of the two states, which are roughly equal.  Of course, Connecticut is maybe a twentieth the size of Louisiana.  When I entertained visitors from out Iowa or Oklahoma or Texas in the Nutmeg State, they compared it an anthill.  There was always somebody else nearby and very little true solitude.  I guess that's why Yankees are so adept at not acknowledging the presence of others.  We have rich interior lives.

As an armchair vexillologist, I spend a lot of time studying flags.  Connecticut's and Louisiana's are similar in composition and especially in background color:

 Few people in Connecticut speak Latin.  The state motto is "Qui Transtulit Sustinet."  Few people in Louisiana speak French anymore but you would think this former French colony would have a Gallic motto.  Nope.  It is "Union, Justice, and Confidence."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ms. Mae's Mondays

Are you busy at midnight next Monday or any Monday?  I happen to know where something happening is going on, Daddy-o.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hot dogs or turducken?

Open 24 hours a day
There is no more beautiful sight than Bud's Broiler, especially in the wee, small hours of the morning.  Located up by City Park, about a half hour from my humble abode by bicycle, this is the place that robbed me of my chance to meet President Obama.  I didn't really mind.  While I'm not a hamburger fan, Bud's serves a hot dog unlike any other in the Crescent City.  Cut in quarters with barbeque sauce on a hamburger bun, it a treat.

Not having any family in New Orleans we are looking for a place to have Thanksgiving dinner.  I figure Bud's is a good choice if they are open Thanksgiving Day.  I'll have to make a trip after work; their website doesn't say.

Not that I think a hot dog meal will go down well with the lady of the house.  She's got something else in mind....

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Orleans, Excelsior!

George' Bank herring from off the coast of Canada...
George's Bank is located off the coast of New England.  It is a fabulously fertile fishing ground that gave the Commonwealth of Massachusetts one of its symbols, the Sacred Cod that hangs in the Statehouse.  Can a cold water fish really be at its best when dressed in Louisiana spices?  Some would say yes.  I like to think so.

I was born and raised in Connecticut, a small state many people confuse with a city in Ohio when I travel cross-country.  Whether they it is Cleveland or Cincinnati or whether they there really is a Connecticut, OH, I've never bothered to ask.  Ohio was once a part of Connecticut's Western Reserve, but that is a story for another day.

As I discussed yesterday, I have lived in a number of cities and I would like to spend today's post discussing why I feel New Orleans is best.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Culture clash in New Orleans

When worlds collide...
I've lived in New Orleans since June 9th this year.  That makes four and a half months.  I can't say anyone has been anything but gracious and welcoming.  I can't say anything but that I find New Orleans the most wonderful city I have ever lived in.  To recap my history, I have called the following places home:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Orleans Mass Transit

A certain European I know likes to say there is no mass transit in New Orleans.  I point out that there are plenty of bus lines and three street cars.  Her reply?  "I think of mass transit as being faster than driving."

While I disagree with the semantics, I do agree with the aesthetics.  In order to be more tempting than propelling yourself by whatever means, public transportation should be more convenient.  Mind you, this is someone who takes the Riverfront street car line to cross the quarter while I forget it even exists.  The Riverfront Line is faster than walking from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue even if you don't catch it on time.

A bus will never be faster than a bicycle unless the bus doesn't have any stops.  RTA buses have stops, plenty of them, most people pay cash with wrinkled, dirty dollars bills the machines can't read.  The buses can take circuitous routes.  I have nothing against a bus.  It just isn't a way to get anywhere in a hurry.

The same can be said of the street cars.  They stop for traffic lights and their tracks can be blocked by cars crossing over.  I understand New Orleans can't have a subway because of the expense of burying a tunnel in mud, but in a city with so many elevated highways on which no commuter pays a fare or a toll, why not an elevated street car line that would zip over traffic and everyone boarding would have already paid before entering the train?

I'm happy enough to take my bicycle anywhere, but for long trips a limited access train would be a nice way to connect the far-flung parts of the vast city of New Orleans and knit it together even more.  While the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority may be too safety-conscious, it does a good job of keeping a dense city connected with all its component parts.

Mass transit is a vital part of New Orleans' civic life and it is a popular tourist attraction and service.  It isn't really a part of the city's identity.  Aside from the three street car lines, every city has mass transit buses and buses are considered the bottom rung on the ladder of options to get around.  Even walking is higher in the hierarchy.

I can't seem to post an image at the moment so I will direct you here, to this link of the Boston transit map that also includes the major bus lines.  The name of the map's code is "subway-spider jpeg."  That's aptly descriptive.  NORTA doesn't publish anything as elegantly simple and certainly not anywhere on signs where the public can read it on the hoof for direction and bearings.

Even with four lines that are composed of tunnels, elevated lines and street-level trolleys, Boston's MBTA is iconic.  It's abstract map arranges how people visualize the city's layout and it is visible throughout the system for reference and reinforcement.  New Orleans doesn't have such a far-reaching or comprehensive system in terms of visibility.

This article isn't a complaint, just a review of different ways of doing business with different expectations.  The MBTA's jurisdiction extends to all the communities around Massachusetts Bay, not just Boston.  NORTA's jurisdiction ends at city limits.  As far as I can tell, only one Jefferson Parish bus connects New Orleans to the airport.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good customer gets feather in cap

I went to Meyer the Hatter at lunch yesterday.  I have enough hats, so I wasn't in the market for another proper topper.  I just needed some new feathers for my fedoras.  The South's Largest Hat Shop has a box on the counter toward the back with a selection of feathers for sale at 35 cents each.  They are a three feather affair, wide in the back, more narrow in the middle, and the front feather is a little, flourish-y tendril in a contrasting color.

I went in and there were five other customers and three staff.  The customers were trying on hats and asking questions.  The youngest of the hatters asked me if I needed help and I replied, "No, I'm just here for feathers."  I pawed through the box, careful not to crimp the merchandise and picked two hand-bound feather confection as artful as a trout fly and as dashing as one of Fred Astaire's handkerchiefs.

When I made my way to the register, a hatter was waiting for me with a small paper bag.  "That will be 70 cents plus tax," he said.  I apologized for my "whopping purchase."  "You came in and you knew what you wanted, knew where it was, and bought it.  That kind of customer is a luxury we don't often have here.  Come back anytime," he replied.

Being right off Canal Street, I suppose the staff at Meyer's is used to gawkers who take up their time without spending any money.  The staff is gracious and attentive regardless though they aren't quick to make eye contact.  They've been around a long time and know that sales will be made for their specific niche products eventually.  The same was true of the curmudgeons at L.J. Piretti in Boston.  The same was true of Parade News at 68 State Street, New London, Connecticut, about the only shop of interest that sold sundries and magazines and cigars a block from the ferry and train station.

What?  No Magazine Street photo?  Pshaw.  Here you go:
We've got one more sign to go until this series crosses the street and doubles back.  Pshew!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boston pizza vs. New Orleans pizza

Still on the same block of Magazine Street.  With a few interuptions, I started this photo series weeks ago.
While I lived in Boston I worked in the Longwood Medical Area.  I was reminded of it while looking at the picture here.  In just a few blocks of each other are Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Dental School, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  New England Baptist Hospital is a few blocks away at the very top of the hill.  I'm probably leaving something out.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I enjoyed walking across the lawn of Harvard Medical School on Louis Pasteur Avenue to get to work.  Beautiful building.  No point in linking to where I said it before since I just said it again.

Boston is a bigger city, of course, but I am struck by the concentration of biomedical technology and research and healthcare delivery in the city.  New Orleans is trying to build the infrastructure to be a hub of this, but I suspect this will just attract a sliver of the pie in this direction.  There may be state aid but there won't be the economy of scale.  Of course, if the state and city didn't encourage biotech they would be accused of missing the bandwagon on this trend.

Also in the Longwood Medical Area are seven pizzerias.  New Orleans isn't a pizza town.  You can buy a pie but I don't any shops selling pie by the slice.  Nobody walks around nibbling one.  Where I come from we call it pizza pie.  I haven't eaten much pizza in New Orleans but I haven't had a bad pie yet.  I've only been to two pizzerias and both were better than your average New England pie.

I'm not going to drone on about pizza today.  If you want to learn more, you can click the "pizza" tag below.  You'll find out all about Boston pizza from whatever comes up.

My favorite so far in New Orleans?  Rocky's.  It reminds of me of when I was a kid in Connecticut.  It is not as good as the best pie in Boston which a trip to our archives will reveal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

America's second-dirtiest city

Sophie Wright,  New Orleans educator.
Travel and Leisure Magazine ranks New Orleans as America's second dirtiest city.  I'm not going to say New Orleans is April fresh and clutter-free.  It isn't.  I've passed through clouds of questionable smells while walking through the French Quarter and other neighborhoods.  They are the kinds of smells you can't put your finger on and wouldn't want to if you could.  These are organic smells, not the industrial or chemical scents that define other cities I've visited.    

Canal Street is clean.  Magazine Street is Clean.  Prytania Street is clean.  Banks Street is clean. There isn't an inordinate amount of litter that I see.  I think the impression of dirtiness comes from the state of disrepair that afflicts the city's architecture.  I can't say that St. Claude Avenue is dirty.  It just doesn't sparkle.  I feel this way about St. Bernard Avenue and Washington Avenue and Freret Street, the whole St. Roch neighborhood, Treme, heck, even the Vieux Carre itself.  It isn't litter, it's just disrepair.  In an old, moist city the decay and peeling paint are inevitable.  Some would say this is part of New Orleans's charm, others would say it indicates a lack of civic pride.

If New Orleans lacks anything, it isn't civic pride.  This is a place that inspires fervent love in its inhabitants.  It does in me and I'm new here.  I'll take any street in New Orleans warts and all over the prim, manicured vistas of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  Plop me on Jefferson Davis Parkway or any stretch of Broad Street or Chef Menteur Highway and I will find something to catch my eye and someone to talk to.  An entirely different city, New Orleans has the vibe of New York (the dirtiest city on the list).  Everyone is up to something.  They may not be chasing a buck but New Orleanians are engaged with their lives and their surroundings, working to make a mark.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Orleans Eyeglass Museum (part 3 of 3).

The New Orleans Eyeglass Museum, as it's commonly known is located on the fourth floor of Tulane University Hospital on Tulane Avenue, right across from the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library.  That mounted and laminated newspaper article comes from a 1978 issue of the Times-Picayune.  It describes the inspiration and raison d'etre of the collection.
As I've mentioned, the "museum" isn't so much a museum as a collection of eyeglasses and eye-related medical equipment, heavy on the glasses.  The glasses are arranged in chronologic order.  If you are interested in examining old things and drawing conclusions about how they were used and why they were designed a specific way, the visit will take 45 minutes or so.  Do not bring a companion who gets bored easily.  There isn't much to do at Tulane University Hospital if you don't have an emergency or an appointment and the cafeteria is nothing to recommend.

Because I take great pleasure in this, here is a clip:

I also enjoy metronomes, the sound of the St. Charles Avenue street car grinding along its tracks, and droning engines.
In other news, Amerivespa is coming to New Orleans next year.  It is a convention of Vespa owners.  That's right, even more motor scooters will be buzzing about the streets.  "La vespa" is the Italian word for "wasp."  Click the picture to see a vesperado popping a wheelie in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Orleans Eyeglass Museum

Not advertised.  Not a real tourist attraction.  Not much a museum either so much as a display of eyeglasses styles over the centuries and some vintage opthalmologic surgical instruments mounted behind glass.

Any guesses where this is?  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Orleans' eyeglass museum

New Orleans has a wax museum, a pharmacy museum, a Civil War museum, the National WWII Museum, and the Great American Alligator Museum (which seems to be closed but is gorgeous to imagine being open nonetheless based on the sign and window display), as well as two art museums, Louisiana's state history museum and who knows what else.

I know another.  It is the eyeglass museum.  It's not an eyeglass museum in the sense that this place is, but I spent a half hour today examining the collection.  I'll try to stop by tomorrow and take some pictures for the big reveal.  It will be posted on Saturday, I'm afraid.  We are going to the opera tomorrow night: Porgy and Bess at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.  Gershwin.  I love Gershwin.

I've seen Hershey Felder play George Gershwin twice on stage in Hartford, Conn.  If he comes to New Orleans I'll see him again.  If you think that's improbable, I'll tell you otherwise.  The two gents I saw in "The Mystery of Irma Vep" in Hartford are in town at Le Chat Noir at the moment performing the same exact script.  They are great and the play is great, bawdy, quick-costume-changing fun.  Recommended.  We are going to see that too.  See you there.


A different video version featuring Gershwin on the ivories once removed.  Fascinating stuff.  Don't complain about hearing Rhapsody in Blue more than once in a day.  There's no such thing as too much goodness in the world....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oyster Fest!!!!

Violet is an unincorporated town in St. Bernard Parish.  I tried to have a woman from Mireaux explain to me how it works but we weren't speaking the same jurisdictional language.  I don't have any problem switching the word "county" for "parish" but I have a hard time understanding how a town can't have it's own government.  How do you have a New England town meeting if everything is governed at the county level?  We don't don't even have county-level government where I come from.  It was just another layer.  You have your town or city and then you have the state.  No middle man.  In St. Bernard there is middle man and state.  Curious, but it seems to work.  The parish is probably bigger than five of the six New England states though it only has a smidge of the population.

I'm going to the Oyster Festival in Violet this weekend.  While I doubt I'll have to stand trial, I'm hoping a posse of deputies corrals me for a vigilante sentence: "Whalehead King, we sentence you not to tar and feathering but to a dozen oysters at parish expense."  A sensible verdict, indeed!

A man can dream can't he?  I know I'm waiting for the weekend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Garden District Pub, New Orleans.

Garden District Pub, Magazine Street, New Orleans.  A nice place.

Within a block of each other, the Garden District Pub, The Saint, and the Half Moon, all offer enticing drinking experiences.  I tend to cotton more to the GDP.  It's a no frills place, basically a hallway with a bar in it and two rest rooms at the farthest point from the front door.  The conversation is good and there's no overloud music.  It's a talking bar and a sipping bar.  Nothing fancy, just a comfortable place to cool your heels at day's end.

“I never changed anything, except my socks and my underwear.  And I never did anything to glorify myself or improve my lot.  I took what came and did the best I could with it.”
–Robert Mitchum

Garden District Pub has a website.  Read the history page on their site.  If you find yourself in the neighborhood, succumb to temptation and pop in.  This is what a bar should be.  It's old school like a cable-knit cardigan you can't bear to toss because it has served you well for decades no matter how many times the styles have changed since your grandmother gave it to you. 

I'm not a regular patron and no money exchanged hands to post this review.  They don't know I'm doing it and I doubt anyone there would know me from Adam or Caesar if I walked in tonight.  I just like it.  A tip of the fedora to Dianne and Veronica.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Politics at its best

I'm not tempted to run for office at the moment.  I have no idea of what the lay of the land is here.  If I were though, I would take a page out of this cat's book...

Yep, this ad is from this year.  Hot off the camcorder.  Brilliant.  I'm not familiar with anyone in office at the moment except the mayor but I'm not sure if they are all as squeeky clean as this chap presents himself to be.  One can hope.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pipe smokers! Unite!

Should you ever find yourself in the area, you know where to find good company.
While I doubt I have (m)any readers based in Jacksonville, FL, especially since my critique of that city's flag, I would like to point out to anyone who may be visiting Florida's River City on the 3rd Sunday of any given month that a pipe smoker's club meets at the Island Girl Cigar Bar at 6:30PM.

As you may gather from the illustration above, the proprietor of this blog has a tenuous connection to the esteemed and gentle pipe smokers of Jacksonville.    
The Peterson Pipes Irish Sea imported from Dublin on the Emerald Isle.
Goodwill exists between the pipe smokers of the Pelican State and the Sunshine State.  Believe no one who tells you otherwise.  It's not just Louisiana and Florida either.  Pipe smokers, as an ever-rarer breed, bond like members of a secret society whether they hail from Seward's Folly, the Nutmeg State, the Heart of Dixie, the Gem of the Mountains, the Granite State, Big Sky Country, the Keystone State, the Old Dominion, the Beehive State, or Little Rhody.  Membership is open to all.

Whether you pocket a briar, a meerschaum, a corn cob, or an olive wood bowl....whether you hold in your hand a churchwarden, a bulldog, a pot, a poker, a calabash, an apple or an egg.... bent, quarter bent, straight, or some wizard-worthy, Renaissance faire confection....if you enjoy tobacco in a pipe you are part of a club wherever you happen to find yourself, be it in New Orleans or Jacksonville, FL.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, folks.  If you don't have a pipe, you should consider it.  Ladies too.  Studies show pipe smokers live longer.  Early death statistics focus on cigarette smokers.  A cigarette is a nicotine delivery device direct to the lungs and if you read about how tobacco is processed to make a Marlboro it will make your cilia curl.  Pipe tobacco isn't inhaled, it is savored.  That difference separates the connoisseurs from the addicts.  Of course, I am biased.

Go into a pipe smokers's den and you'll be greeted by an aroma far different from a cigarette-freindly bar.  In the first, you'll inhale and want to linger so you can examine what's lying around and get a glimpse of what material adds to a thinking person's soul.  In the second, you'll want to wretch and order something quick to dull your senses.  To each his or own, of course.  I'm a natural snob.  You don't toss a pipe away when your done like a dead butt.  You clean it and care for it and get it ready for the next interlude with your thoughts mixed with the sublime, ethereal, vegetable gift the rich land of the American South offers up through the dedication of generations of farmers and experienced blenders.

And now I'll step off the podium.  For more information, you can e-mail

If you are tempted to smoke, pick up a pipe.  It will change your life and your appreciation of it.  'Nuff said.


Another magazine street sign.  I haven't been in here.
I rode my bicycle through Hollygrove this morning.  It's a neighborhood that has escaped my attention.  I like to think I have been down most streets at least one on my meanderings but I didn't realize that this was a part of New Orleans.  I think of Airline Drive as being a part of Metarie.  Now I know.

I found the Hollygrove Farm and Market.  Though not so much a farm as an oversized garden, this was a plum discovery.  I'll be heading up next week after work to pick up some fresh, local produce.  The neighborhood itself is a mixed bag of occupied and abandoned homes.  I've never heard of Hollygrove so I assume this part of the city is off the radar.  There were a number of abandoned bars and businesses as well, far outnumbering the ones that have reopened post-levee failure.  The main commercial activity seems to be on South Carrollton Avenue since the neighborhood is hemmed in by railroad tracks and Earhart Drive in the other directions.

I paused on the Cherry Street Bridge to look into the Palmetto-Washington Canal, which connects to the 17th Street Canal.  I was surprised to see egrets, fish, ducks and tow rather large snapping turtles in the water.  It's not the most picturesque waterway but I was amazed to see the abundance of wildlife in what is basically a concrete trench.  Has anyone taken a canoe or kayak down these canals?  This one is fairly shallow and I think it would be very interesting to watch what's under water as you lazily paddle along.  It's certainly nice weather this time of year.

Does anyone catch the turtles for soup?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Whalehead Pledge

A mural on Magazine Street.  The top was painted by convicts under the supervision of the Sheriff.
I'm recently moved to New Orleans, just this past June, and I really have no knowledge of this wonderful city I now call home.  

This blog used to be called just "Whalehead King," my nom-de-guerre, when I lived in New London, Conn., a place I called home for twelve years.  I'm from Connecticut originally, a state with roughly the same population as Louisiana packed into an area that has less square footage than Jefferson Parish.

I lived in Boston, Mass. for three years prior to moving to New Orleans.  During that time, this blog was called "The Dot Matrix!" because I lived in Dorchester, Boston's biggest neighborhood which is commonly referred to as "Dot."  I was a'swim in the matrix of events and trends and local politics around a few square blocks of my home where I spent much of my time.

This blog is now called "Excelsior! New Orleans!"  Moving here, I feel like I am trading up from Boston.  Bean Town and I haven't lost any love on each other.  It is a beautiful city and a pleasure to stroll around in warm months.  I was never a good fit there, however, for reasons described in this blog's archives for those who choose to trawl through them.

I don't have a trademark unless you count my rambling prose and the image of Yippee the Whale who appears in the upper right of this blog: A Five-Star Whale Production.  Whalehead King, however, does have a pledge.

This blog will contain only clean and wholesome, if idiosyncratic, information.  Even when it deals with adult or distasteful subjects, you will never read anything that would make your great-grandmother blush.  I neither regulate nor eliminate whatever subject happens to catch my fancy on any given day but I do ensure that it is fit for public consumption.  The goriest and hoariest details are included by implication and no parent need worry that Junior will be learning how harsh the real world is by visiting these pages.  I call it as I see it and live it, and I generally have a sunny, if jaundiced, disposition.

My New Orleans experience may not be yours.  I am a Nutmeg Yankee (which means a born and bred Connecticut native) and my presuppositions are probably very different from those of someone from elsewhere in America or the world, even someone from Rhode Island, which is Connecticut's tinier neighbor.

In all, I am enjoying being a citizen of this wonderful city or New Orleans.  I cannot and will not choose to live anywhere else.  I made the right choice when I saddled my motorcycle and took the back roads from Boston to New Orleans to make a good life worth living.  If my observations seem askew, they are.  I am a stranger in a strange city that speaks a different dialect and has customs that leave me blinkered about what just happened.  I am enchanted, enthralled, and feeling effervescent every morning I leave my apartment.

The Whalehead Pledge:  To be true to one's roots while adapting to one's surroundings is the best a person can do.  Connecticut's official state motto is: "Qui Transtulit Sustinet."  You know what that means?  "He (or she) Who Transplants, Sustains."  It pairs up nicely with Louisiana's motto: "Union, Justice, Confidence."  I weld my identity to New Orleans'.  I treat everything I contact with an open mind and wait long, scratching my head in puzzlement sometimes, before I pass fair judgement.  I seek to understand rather than dismiss.  I am confident that moving here was the best decision I have made in the four-plus decades I have been alive and I am sure tomorrow will be better than yesterday.  I believe in New Orleans' promise.

'Nuff said for one day.  It may be enough said on this subject for the rest of this blog unless I think of a better way to say it.  Words are tricky things, describing as much as they leave out.

Cheers! and with a handshake,
Thank you for making me feel like I am home.

Your source for Uptown News

Uptown Messenger
Up and running since last month, the website Uptown Messenger promises to deliver timely local news between the Garden District and Carrollton.  That's the length of the site's beat, no word on its width.

As with most things in New Orleans, I discovered this site by happenstance.  I was trying to find some information on something I knew was occurring in the city but hadn't seen reported in the paper of record.  While I much prefer to get my news in page-turnable format, the Messenger is up-to-date, as it promises.  I catch up on what's going on every evening.

You'll never guess who is published as the site's first letter to the editor.

In other news, the Messenger has just published the route and start time for a second line starting in the Irish Channel tomorrow.  It's that kind of scoop that draw readers from the Times Picayune to the Messenger.  It's what we in the typing profession call "relevance."

Thus far no society pages in the Uptown Messenger.

Friday, October 08, 2010

An RTA driver's opinion

WK (steps aboard the bus): "I really like your new uniforms."

Bus driver (perking up):  "Thanks!  I like them too.  Much better than the old one's.  I don't feel like Barney any more in that ugly purple shirt!"

They really do look more professional and crisp.  This new black pants paired with a real, teal shirt suits the drivers much better than the purple polo and khakis.  I spoke to another driver today who was out of uniform except his hat (which sports the same stylish logo as the shirts).  He admitted he enjoyed getting dressed for work.

I'm going to stop by RTA HQ tomorrow to see if they have any gear for sale to the public.

The anti-Landrieu

I have no opinions on the website being advertised in the video above.  My interest is on the spokesman. It's Boston's current and longest serving mayor.  I've watched this four times and I still think he's saying "George Washington dot com."

He seems to be an able, if uninspiring, manager.  He is always out and about and his name is plastered everywhere.  He must have some asset to make up for his lack of charisma but in three years I was never able to observe it.

He's like an anti-Mitch Landrieu, the most telegenic mayor I've ever had the pleasure to see in person.

A tip of the fedora to Universal Hub for the clip.  Read the local Bostonian comments here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Who runs New Orleans mass transit?

Was this yesterday's illustration too?  If so, what can I say?  I admire work well done and well placed.
I don't know why this sartorial change wasn't reported in the Times-Picayune or maybe I just missed it.  Bus and streetcar drivers are sporting a new uniform.  Instead of the old purple polo shirts, drivers are wearing river-blue aquamarine oxford shirts with buttons all the way down and real collars with collar stays to keep them looking crisp.  The shirts seem to be 120 thread count Egyptian to my inexperienced eye.

I think it's an improvement and more professional looking.

Unfortunately, to guarantee work shirts won't be worn outside of work the RTA has embroidered the operating company's logo over the owner's left breast.  It reads: "Veolia."  That't the private outfit that has contracted to run New Orleans' mass transit system for a set number of years.  It's a French company, which is fitting for New Orleans, and they have experience.  The results are apparent besides the drivers' uniforms.  There are maps in the streetcars where there used to be none and the maps follow modern graphic design standards for metropolitan mass transit systems.  The maps are posted on all three streetcar lines and they are easy to understand and a pleasure to behold.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dixie Beer

Not seen at the WalMart on Tchoupitoulas Street.  In New Orleans, this would be a fleur-de-lis.
I ride my bicycle down Tulane Avenue fairly frequently and it always fills my heart with sorrow when I pass the abandoned Dixie Brewery.  If the view from the front isn't painful enough, I often take Banks Street because it has less traffic and the view the back is even more forlorn.

According to Wikipedia, the damage was done after the levees broke in 2005 and the brewery was flooded and then looted of equipment and scrap metal.  I haven't looked into the history that deeply but I believe the scrap metal theory more than the equipment one.  I can't see a pawn shop fencing industrial-grade brewing vats.

Dixie is still around.  It's brewed by contract now apparently.  It isn't the best beer in town but it's an honest beer and it's a New Orleans beer.  Drinking Dixie is like being in Pennsylvania and drinking Yuengling, which was a pleasure to sip while I was passing through PA.  Drinking Dixie in New Orleans is like living in southeastern New England and drinking The Official Beer of the Clam.  Like the folks at Narragansett Brewery say, "You're not from New England if you're not drinking Narragansett."    

I think Dixie needs to print rebuses and trivia on the underside of their bottle caps.  That would be icing on the cake or head on the pint, as it were.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How much does an artist earn in New Orleans?

Ah! Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA!
I neglected to mention that we attended the "Art for Art's Sake" event this past Saturday.  Galleries were open in the Warehouse District around Julia Street and Magazine and further down Magazine, around the 3000 addresses, between roughly Louisiana and Napoleon Avenues.

We spent our time Uptown on Magazine Street, figuring Julia Street would be too crowded.  We walked over on White Linen Night and it was just too congested.  Magazine Street was a pleasure and not just because of the weather and the crowds and the musicians.  It wasn't just because we wandered into welcoming shops that we haven't wandered into before either.  We saw some really nice art.  That's always refreshing and it got me thinking about the city's art scene anew, not that I've been losing sleep worrying over it.

What we saw was top-notch.  It wasn't as esoteric and conceptually generic as that displayed in the Julia Street galleries.  It was a cut above the art for sale at the Riverbend Art Market (no offense intended to those professionals).  It was a little rougher, perhaps, than what you'll find in the tourist galleries on Royal Street, but it had a little more flavor too.

What struck me most about the shows was the prices for the artwork.  This was good, solid work in many media but no price tag seemed unreasonable.  In fact, a savvy collector could snatch up a museum-worthy roomful at a bargain.  For the effort that obviously went into some of these pieces, I was surprised for what they were selling for.

I don't know what this says about New Orleans' art market.  I know Julia Street galleries have a reputation to build and they charge accordingly.  I didn't see much there during White Linen Night to catch my fancy.  I know the artists in Jackson Square make their living moving product and they have low overhead costs; some of the work down there exceeds the Warehouse District's wares.  The galleries on Magazine Street are showing local art removed from critical acclaim and the tourist trade.  What I saw on Saturday was outside the standards of both of these and better both as an aesthetic pleasure and an investment.

It was art for art's sake.  Ars longa, vita brevis.  I was talking to a Jackson Square artist the other day.  He said, "I make a little as a bartender and I make a little as a painter.  It's a hard life."  I think the law of supply and demand may be at play here but I need more time to test the waters and hold my finger in the prevailing wind.

A tip of the fedora to New Orleans painters, sculptors and sketchers,

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Oktoberfest parade today

Deutches Haus is having a parade today starting at 3:00 PM.  Their website is sketchy on the details but according to the paper, the parade starts at Elysian Fields and Royal, heads through the Quarter and then continues on Canal Street up to the Haus on South Galvez.

We'll be catching it along Canal.  The quarter seems too crowded.

This is the last year Deutsches Haus will be located in New Orleans.  They are being forced to move due to the poorly planned LSU and VA hospital campuses to be built on their property.  Mostly, LSU is to blame.   The Haus is relocating to Metarie.  This will hopefully be a temporary move.  I don't have any inside information, it's just a personal wish.  I have no desire to go to Metarie.


Friday, October 01, 2010

Toot Sweet New Orleans.

In case you couldn't make it to the Prytania Theater two weeks ago...

I can see the Rebirth Brass Band adding a new instrumentalist.  Or, the audience could have an instrument with which to play along rather than just their hands.

Maybe the sponsors can get it arranged to have some candy flutes available when Dr. John plays next Wednesday in Lafayette Square.


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