Friday, December 31, 2010

Nicolas Sarkozy for Mayor of New Orleans

Some people say it's too early to talk about who will be replacing Mayor Mitch Landrieu.  He is only into the first quarter of his first term and he is allowed a second term under the city charter.  Other people think that a stitch in time saves nine and they are looking to recruit a man who is up to the job of running the Crescent City before they have to settle for the lesser of two evils.

For the man they have in mind, seven years will be enough time for him to meet the qualifications.  According to New Orleans' charter:


Section 4-202. Qualifications.

The Mayor shall be a citizen of the United States and a qualified elector of the City, and shall have been domiciled in the City for at least five years immediately preceding the election. 

Mayor Landrieu has raised expectations in the city.  He ran on the promise of knowing what needed to be done to increase the city's general prosperity and improve its infrastructure, as well as knowing how to do it.  As the former mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Nicolas Sarkozy knows how to run a city.
As Co-Prince of Andorra, he knows how to run a principality, something which Orleans Parish has sometimes been compared to.  As President of France, he is used to the rough-and-tumble of politics.   Compared to a whole country the size of Texas, running New Orleans would be a cakewalk.  He would certainly have the chutzpah and wherewithal to stand down the bureaucrats in Baton Rouge and cut through the red tape to get the city the independence it deserves.

There's just the niggling detail of Sarkozy's nationality and place of residence.  Even in this most francophile of cities it would be impossible, by statute, to elect a Frenchman to the position of mayor.   It's been a long, long time since a french speaker had any voice in New Orleans' executive branch.

This is why Sarkozy partisans are looking for Mayor Landrieu to keep up the good work and win a second term.  In that time, Nicolas Sarkozy could retire from the French presidency, establish himself in New Orleans, gain citizenship, and register to vote in time to run for the city's executive office.  It would be a seamless transition from one charismatic leader to the next, albeit the successor would have more hair and may not possess the same sense of rhythm for dancing in second line parades as the incumbent.

Plans are afoot to rent a home on Saint Charles Avenue for M. Sarkozy should he be interested in the plum position.  Rumor has it that Tulane University is crafting a position for M. Sarkozy in diplomacy and that Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orleans is also setting up a desk for an unnamed possible grammar professor to be signed to tenure.  If M. Sarkozy is going to live in the city, true to his ethic, he'll have to work.

Word on the street is that this is all just hopeful prognostication.  Sarkozy's spokespeople deny that the sitting president has any plans beyond governing the French Republic and they refute that he any designs on being New Orleans' mayor.  I was in the back room at Iggy's the other night and I stumbled into a conversation between folks who were convinced of the contrary.

A grizzled dockworker opined, "Sure Sarkozy's a shoe-in.  We need that kind of expertise and I think we can sweeten the pot a bit.  Heck, I'll personally deliver five pounds of crawfish and a pot of Pontchartrain crabs to his house every day he's in office.  He'll be better than Nagin."

The pulse on the street is that Sarkozy, or anybody, will be better than this chap:
It may be damning praise, but we suspect Sarkozy won't mind.  He may be shorter than ex-Mayor Nagin, but he is head and shoulders above him in ability.

A letter writing campaign will be launched shortly to convince M. Sarkozy that it is in his and the world's best interest to run for Mayor of New Orleans.  This world class city deserves the best.  On it's upward trajectory, New Orleans has already elected a better mayor. When this one is done with his job, it will be time to trade up even further.  Aim high, New Orleans.  You are already the best and you deserve the best leader you can get.

This message paid for by the Committee to Elect Sarkozy.  They agree with this message.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Banking on the New Year in New Orleans.

It's not where you live that matters, it's what you make of your life.

I found the sign above laying on the side of the road.  I DID NOT BREAK IT OFF ITS POST!  That said, it is one of the few things I have kept since leaving Olde New London.  Naturally, I couldn't leave it there for someone else to pinch.  I carried it home on my motor scooter and it has become one of my prized possessions.  It is now on the mantle in a place of honor next to my pipe rack.

Bank Street is the most interesting and busy of New London, Conn's streets.  State Street (nee Congress) is stately, but all the real action happens on Bank.  I spent many hours over the course of a decade on this cluttered rattlebag of a thoroughfare.  Good times.  Good people.  Little traffic.  A vesperado's paradise.

If you ever find yourself in New London catching a ferry or a train, check out Thames River Wine and Spirits.  Don't stay on the ground floor.  Visit the cellar.  It will take your breath away.

Where am I going with all this?  We'll find out when I'm finished.  At the eve of the New Year, I am reminiscing.  I enjoyed my stay in New London, it made me Whalehead King.  My time spent afterward, in Boston, was less rewarding.  Dorchester, Mass. is a helluva town, but the rest of Bean Town and I didn't mix so much as mingle and the tingle that I felt when I first moved there didn't linger.

New Orleans...well, that's another story.  Like many people, I suppose, I feel home in New Orleans.  I don't understand much of what goes on around me but I'm sure I will in time.  I just spoke with a transplant from Worchester, Mass. (pronounced "wooster") and he said, "See you later, babe," when we parted company.  I don't foresee myself calling anyone babe anytime soon, but you never know.  It's happened to other yankees who came before me.

I've made some hard decisions and some resolutions for 2011 and beyond.  I didn't move 2000 miles on my little motorcycle (details of the trip in the sidebar to your left) to stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day.  I came to New Orleans to live, to be a productive citizen, to add my dram of whatever it is I've got to the cocktail.  Sink or swim, I'm here to stay, come what may.  So far, New Orleans has been as good to me as New London ever was.  Not better, but certainly  not worse.  It's up to me to make it better and, from what I survey, I'm on a level playing field ripe with possibility.

This post will be the last I'll subject you to maudlin introspection.  Beginning January 1, I will be up to my some of the more usual shenanigans long time readers are used to.  I'll be reporting on the subjective facts of what I encounter, but there will be more spirit of play and whimsy.  I have my bearings and I know my course.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year and best wishes to you and yours.
With a handshake,
WK
Smart women prefer to live in New Orleans rather than read about it.
With more adventures to follow.  Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Some days I feel like this chap in the picture.  Other days, I feel like the whale.

I moved to New Orleans to live in a city that was the opposite of Boston.  Boy, I got what I wished for with that.  I feel like I went fishing and reeled in more than I can filet.  At least I have enough for a cook-out, a blubber boil, a stew pot, a trying out of the essence from the vast wealth of meat, there will be plenty left over for the sharks.  I find New Orleans overwhelming, not in a bad way.  I haven't had any bad days since I've moved here, just the impression that I have a lot to digest.

Sometimes I feel like the whale.  I am a wealth of experience and talents.  Isn't anyone.  I have made a satisfying life for myself wherever I have landed and planted.  There isn't any reason to think I can't make my mark here.  New Orleans is a city of opportunity, where chance marries fortune and they have beautiful babies full of promise.  ...and then they die, like we all do in the end.

New Orleans has been around a long time, for better and for worse.  Sometimes the city itself has been the whale and sometimes it has been the fisherman.  The name of this blog is Excelsior!  New Orleans!! for a reason.  From everything I see as I'm on patrol at all hours of the clock over all the calendar's pages, I see a city on the move, ever upward, one that doesn't cotton to shuteye.  I encounter a city where something is always happening and things are getting done, even if those things are not the most reputable.  New Orleans is not a technology-oriented metropolis.  It has little truck or traffic with notions of a new economy.  It is home to a creative class, heck, the whole city is nothing but a creative class.  Orleanians channel their energies not toward profit or dominating a niche market, unless that market is New Orleans itself.  Orleanians enjoy their surroundings, their lives, and their acquaintances.  This is a city in which no one is lonely and no one is bored.

I'm new here.  I may be wrong.  I may be the fisherman.  At least I can say I was here.  There's something to that.  Better a bad day spent on a New Orleans street than a good day of fishing.  You can put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Orleans architecture promotes exercise

It's a fact of life, men can lose weight in a hurry.  Some of them don't gain very much to begin with.  When I lived in Italy for three years (courtesy of the US Navy) I gained twenty pounds.  It took me more than three weeks to lose them on returning to the States, but I've managed to keep them off without too much trouble.  While I am ten pounds heavier than I was two decades ago, I like to think I'm in fighting trim for a desk jockey.

What does this have to do with the price of a Luzianne teabag in New Orleans?  I'll tell you.   During the whole relocation process of moving from apartment to house, we've been eating out a lot.  Not just po'boys at the Parkway Tavern but also pizza at a joint up the street in our new neighborhood.  I stepped on the scale last night and guess what?  I lost a pound.  I credit all the heavy lifting of boxes up the stairs.  That and the fact that a New Orleans house tends to be loooong.  I'm getting my exercise walking from front to back and back again every time I've forgotten what I got up for in the first place.

I've got to ride my bicycle from the Lower Garden District to Faubourg Marigny sometime this week.  That won't really be exercise. New Orleans is so flat, you can't really break a sweat if you ride like I do.  I ride like I write, just meander about hither and yon, take a detour and then double back to stay on course.  It isn't the destination that matters, it is the journey.  I tend to make the most of the spaces in between.

My mother will tell you that even as I child I was one to stop to smell the roses, a regular Ferdinand the Bull as opposed to Taurus (I'm really a Sagittarius, ruled by the loins, born in the Year of the Snake).  Some inclinations are hard to break, more so than habits.

So, fit as a fiddle and sleek as a bowspit, I wander my new neighborhood, chatting up everyone I greet and asking questions only a stranger would ask.  It's a real Nantucket sleigh ride.  They must be thinking,  "Who is this new weirdo who rides a motorcycle in a suit down Ursalines Street?  Will he still be here next week?"  Yes, neighbor, he will.  He lives here for better or for worse.  Probably better.  Nice to meet you!

-WK

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Orleans men's rooms

I've discussed the most glorious men's room I've found so far in New Orleans.  Unfortunately, it is being demolished in the name of urban renewal.  Now I'd like to discuss the less savory.

I tend to like a dive.  I've been in some nice restaurant rest rooms, but I've been in some that are best described by the English term "water closet."  The WC in Bud's Broiler on City Park Avenue is such a place.  It's clean but it's a cramped space with a toilet.  The men's room is marked "Pa" while the ladies room is marked "Ma."  No one expects to spend a lot of time in Bud's loo (I hope) so there's no complaints about the cramped quarters.

There are some bars in New Orleans, however where you expect to have some space to stretch your elbows, maybe stand akimbo while nature takes its course.  The photo above was snapped in Lucky's on Saint Charles Avenue, a 24-hour bar, game room, grill, laundromat and notary.  With all these options available, as well as a front porch and free red beans and rice every Monday and karaoke on Wednesdays, you'd expect adequate toilet arrangements.  In order to stand close to the urinal, you have to have the coin slot of the condom machine press into your shoulder like a nag you ignore at your peril.

Lucky's men's room is clean enough by dive standards, which aren't particularly high, as is its women's room.  There's no lock on the door and there isn't much space for creature comfort.  It's a closet without a latch and I've had the embarrassment of walking in on someone who is sitting on the throne.  He said, "I'm sorry, I should have put my foot in front of the door."  I said, "I should have knocked first.  You obviously have enough to keep you occupied."

Another ill-starred men's room is at Ms. Mae's at the intersection of Napoleon Ave and Magazine Street.
It isn't pretty.  It's 24 continuous operating hours day after day show on the walls.  It features a tin sheet trough that is usually filled with ice.  There is room for two gentlemen to stand side by side with their backs pressed against the stall behind them.  People don't usually use the trough in tandem.  If someone is conducting business there, the newcomer usually heads for the stall which lacks a latch.  It tends to be an awkwardly uncomfortable experience.  The sink is a plastic industrial model found in back roads gas stations and industrial shop floors across America.

Not all dive men's rooms have to look like the bomb shelter of last resort.  I've been frequenting Iggy's Bar on the corner of N. Rampart and Touro Streets.  It's a narrow hallway of a joint, also open around the clock.  It's men's room is not palatial but it's spacious enough to hold a conclave of three: one squatting, one standing, one washing hands.  It's kept clean enough you feel you could eat of the tile floor if necessary, not that I would want to.  No picture of Iggy's lavatory, unfortunately.  I don't have the cord to attach to my phone.  Rest assured, there are decent men's rooms at New Orleans' 24 hour dives.

I wouldn't recommend the lavatory at the Absinthe House, though.  It is a cesspool with plumbing though it is staffed by an attendant who will offer you a dollop of liquid soap for a tip as well as hand you a fresh paper towel, one to a customer.  Tip well.  You may be back.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What motorcycles like to do.

Season's greetings!  If anyone gave me a carton of Camels for Christmas I would think they were wishing me an early grave.  Different times.  It used to be the gift of choice, like being delighted to find an orange in the stocking you hung over the mantle on Christmas Eve.  A tin of Prince Albert, on the other hand...well, let him out of the can.

We've been driving around to look at Christmas lights every night.  My recommendation:  Take Ursalines Street from the River to where it ends in Bayou Saint John.  The displays get more elaborate as you progress and there are some show-stoppers toward the end of the line.

A bicycle is better than a car, even when the mercury drops into the 40s (F).  Somewhat like I was told in boot camp, "Too cold for you?  Get up and go!  If you can't pedal a few miles what good are you!"

I drove my motorcycle today.  Everywhere I stopped, people said, "Little cold for a bike, isn't it?"  No.  It's never too cold for the Littlest Ninja.  The engine may complain at first ignition but once it gets running it is the happiest motorcycle in the whole of New Orleans.  No motorcycle likes to be neglected.  It is never too cold for a motorcycle, only for the drivers. The motorcycles like to run and hum and rev and thrum and heat up and burn and whine and grind and scream and roll and pause and exhale and sip the gasoline and show what they are made to do.  I've contracted a touch of windburn this afternoon.  The Littlest Ninja and I are happy after tootling about town, flitting through traffic and fitting into the pockets between cars as conveniently as a a pack of smokes in a rolled-up tee shirt sleeve.

I hope you had a happy Christmas and that you will have a happy new year.  Ah, New Orleans, your traffic and landscape contain many delights.
Fresh air, fresh oil in the gears, fresh grease on the chain, and a fresh tank of gas.  A motorcyclist wears gloves all year long, thick leather gloves.  My hands never know what the ambient air temperature is but my head knows the ambience through which I pass.  My heart swells, my eyes feast on passing delights; I wave to everyone I pass, my lungs are cleansed by the wind that hits me and flows by as I cut it like a blunt tip whipped through cream.  Nothing is chill in New Orleans.  I absorb the heat off the purring engine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I unpacked first

Ever the inefficient man, what did I unpack first out of the many boxes that are filling the new house?  My pipe rack, which I put in a place of honor on the mantle of the room that is intended to be my headquarters.  A memento from my days in New London, Conn. was also in the box, a street sign that I DID NOT break off but happened to find in the nick of time to squirrel away.  It is a treasured possession but if the city wants it back I will do so.

As you can see, I have an empty room full of boxes and no furniture but I figure I have to mark my territory.  What's a pipe rack without pipes?  I unwrapped all the pipes and put them in place.  Then I put the tins of tobacco where they belong.  Even though the room is empty it already feels homier.
I foresee a real gentleman's sanctuary here with two overstuffed chairs and a jackalope's head on the wall.  There will be a desk to one side where I do real work but the rest of the room will be dedicated to musty books and souvenirs from past adventures and misadventures as well as inspirational knickknacks that will spur testosterone-fueled daydreams of future escapades.

It will be a place where I can settle in and read the newspaper and make lonely, important decisions after a bout of brooding contemplation.  I'll also share a brandy or scotch with a fellow traveller while we wear our silk smoking jackets.  "I say, did you see the ponies at the Fairgrounds yesterday?" I'll say to my guest.  "It isn't the season for mudders," he'll reply and then we'll talk about the arts scene in Bywater and real estate investments in the Ninth Ward.  Then he'll ask, apropos of nothing, "Where did you bag that jackalope, exactly?" during a lull in the conversation.  My answer: Montana.

He'll look over my pipe rack, something of which I'm very proud even though I know there are collections that make mine look like a rattlebag of seconds and discards.
Too many corn cob pipes for some people's tastes but a cob is faithful go-to pipe that is made in the good old U.S. of A., light on the wallet and as durable as the USS Constitution.  He may admire the green Peterson Irish Sea (the one with the double silver band, a bent, Holmesian pipe) and he may pick up a few of the briar pipes, cradling them in his hands and testing the balance.  He may even open the harmonica box and ask me if I play.  No, I just noodle between smokes.  I'll improvise a tune to prove it.

I hate to move.  I was honorably discharged from the military before retirement because I hated relocating every few years.  I've batted about New England recently, much more than I feel comfortable with, and find myself now in a different world altogether.  Now, in a brief six months, I have turned from renter to New Orleans home owner and direct payer of property taxes.  I'm not moving again any time soon.  Have pipe, will settle.

Pipe smokers like to sit and contemplate, don't they?  I'll be perched on my front stoop watching the world go by with my pipe collection and tobacco tins a door's width and a few steps away.  The plan is all in place.  Let the calendar pages turn.  On my first day of unpacking, I knew what was important.  I unpacked that box first and carefully arranged its contents where they should be, where they belong, and where I can reach them.

If you want to learn more about pipe smoking and what makes it so seductive to a certain kind of person (myself and many others included), please investigate the Pipe Smokers' Forum.  It will answer the questions of the curious and expand the horizons of the converted.

A New Orleans Christmas

No post tomorrow.  I'll be dining on a Christmas goose to celebrate the holiday, prepared according to an old German recipe.    In lieu of writing my best wishes to all tomorrow, I will do it now.  Thanks to our new readers.  I hope you are enjoying the ride.  If you enjoy what you find here, please spread the word and share.  What is an artist without an audience?

Six months and two weeks into my New Orleans life, I couldn't be more content.  I would like to thank everyone I have met along the way.  I am a granite-hearted New Englander used to both giving and receiving a frosty reception.  New Orleans isn't like that.  I am fitting in quite nicely and everyone, everyone has been kind and helpful, from new friends to complete strangers who are really friends yet-to-be.  In New Orleans, no person is an island.  Each is a part of the community adding to the color and flavor of each ephemeral and effervescent moment.  You can only be bored in New Orleans if you're dead and I'm not even sure about that, having never experienced first hand (yet).

I'll be watching the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye classic "White Christmas" at the Prytania Theater on Christmas Day.  If you see me, say hello.  I'll be the chap in the wide brimmed fedora, usually the only one in the crowd.

I'm thinking about seeing two movies on Christmas Day.  With no family we don't have any plans aside from eating leftover goose.  It's a toss up between "The King's Speech" also at the Prytania or "True Grit" which I assume is playing on Canal Street.

I'm of mixed minds about True Grit.  As I've gotten older I've become a fan of a good western (I'm reading "Riders of the Purple Sage" as we speak) and I understand this version doesn't feature a lot of coarse talk and CGI.  On the other hand, as I've gotten older I have become a big fan of John Wayne.  Why mess with a classic?  I've only seen the original version one and a half times (fell asleep during the Netflix rental) but it's John Wayne being John Wayne, which is really what he settled on being no matter what role he was cast in.  We'll see.  I expect to be disappointed by the new True Grit which usually means I'll enjoy a film.  If I think it's going to be great, that's when I leave halfway through.

I'll let you know on Sunday after I dither about it and then decide to do something else.  It's a good thing the lady of the house has the patience of a saint.

The illustration above is by Stan Ekman courtesy of Today's Inspriation, a blog about mid-century illustrators where I fritter away a lot of time and learn a few things.

Happy holidays to all, peace on earth, goodwill, etc...  From the heart.
Best wishes,
WK

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Loose ends in New Orleans.


Please play today's soundtrack while you read.

New Orleans' best sandwich won't be available after tonight until next year.  Glad I got it while I could.  Tonight we ordered the large Thanksgiving po'boy (description in the link).  The crew in the kitchen did a superlative job, this was one overstuffed loaf of french bread and, boy, was it delicious.  We were sad to learn today is the last day of the season for this Wednesday special.  There will always be next year.

I usually want to ricochet from one thing to the next but it is so nice out tonight.  We sat, stuffed with luscious po' boy goodness and enjoyed the evening air while wearing nothing more than shirtsleeves.

I took the Littlest Ninja down Bienville Street to head homeways.  While I tightened up the screws to eliminate the motorcycle's most embarrassing rattles a few weeks ago, they are slowly returning.  It's streets like Bienville that are the cause.  With all the bumps and pothole-dodging I weave down the street like a baby elephant's walk.  The Ninja is built for going fast, not navigating rough terrain.

It's so nice out I wanted to sit on the porch and smoke my pipe and write this article.  Unfortunately, the chair and table are at the new house.  It is supposed to get cold for Christmans.  Oh well.  A cold day in New Orleans is warmer than any December day in New England.  It's like complaining about a bad day spent fishing.  There's no such thing.  I don't fish, but that's what I'm told.

Now I'm off on patrol with Henry Mancini compositions in my head.  There are worse soundtracks to my minor adventures.

Gute nacht,
WK


 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No title, no reason.



I've been listening to a lot of Marvin Gaye recently for no particular reason.  I watched this video without sound.  The man could sing.  I suppose that's why I listen even if I don't particularly like many of the songs.

The hot dog's answer to turducken.

Boudin.
I think I've found the perfect New Orleans hot dog.  It didn't come from a Lucky Dogs cart in the quarter.

I was patrolling down St. Roche Avenue around lunchtime and spied a cart in the neutral ground.  I felt a little gnawing in my middle and the smell from the cart tempted me to stop.  I'm glad I did.

The proprietor served me a wiener that sums up New Orleans. It was over the top in it's meat-centricity and reliance on local cuisine.  Allow me to paint you a picture...

Your typical American hot dog:
It didn't look anything like this.

The man handed me a half a baguette in which was sandwiched a frankfurter.  He dressed it with a butter knife slathered with coarsely ground mustard.  On top of that he added a generous layer of shredded roast duck.  The juice out of the duck drenched the bread.  "Would you like some holy trinity with that?" he asked.  I assented and he dipped a spoon into a chaffing tray and ladled the sandwich with a confit of simmered bell pepper, onion and celery, better than any pickled relish.

That was one succulent dog.  Price: $5.50.  With a soda and small bag of chips: $6.50.

I asked why he didn't use boudin.  "Boudin is too expensive.  The duck drives the price up enough as it is.  I use Nathan's franks and they match the duck well enough.  Boudin would be too rich."  Words after my own heart but I don't doubt that many of his patrons wouldn't mind biting into a rich pork and pork liver sausage for lunch.

As it was, it was a meal that stuck with me and repeated itself all day.  Much better than the fare at Lucky's which I tend to toss in the trash after a few bites as money wasted.

A summary of New Orleans' hot dog market.  Here's another (each sentence in this paragraph is a link)!  Here's how they do it in Boston. 

New Orleans is not a hot dog town.  This gent's on the right track to make it one.  Just add duck.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A city of the future in love with its past: New Orleans

Shanghai, China is not New Orleans, LA.
Say what you want about the Chinese, but I think they can build a city.  Their architects craft cityscapes informed by the aesthetics of 1930s pulp science fiction magazines.  As much as I like old places, I daydream what it must be like to stroll around Shanghai.

The lady of the house has lived in China, in a city of several million that you've never even heard of.  China is like that, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, going its own way unperturbed by the rest of the world.

New Orleans is like that too though more low-slung and closer to the mud.  I think everyone in the world has heard of New Orleans.  If not, they have at least heard of Louis Armstrong who was the biggest hearted man you could ever hope to meet.  New Orleans is like that too.

New Orleans doesn't seem to be a place of soaring ambitions with anything to prove.  It hunkers down to do what it does best, live the best life available while darning the consequences.  Things usually work out for the best, at least eventually.  Rallying against any setback, Orleanians know how to play the hand Fortune has dealt them and walk away pleased, if sometimes a bit lighter in the pockets then fuller in spirit.

I was talking to a bald man with a head shaped like a bullet.  He said, "I was born and raised here.  I lived in Chicago for awhile and I hated it; too cold and the people were the hardest people I've ever run up against.  I lived outside St. Louis too for a few years.  Man, I couldn't wait to get back to New Orleans.  Now that I'm back I'm never going to leave.  I love it here."

I've never lived in China nor St. Louis.  I spent a few months in Chicago and left unimpressed.  I've only lived in New Orleans six months and I feel like this guy.  I love it here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gayerre Place, Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA


I've been in love with this little vest pocket park since I first saw it when the lady of the house and I  ventured to New Orleans last August.  We came to the city to see if we would like to move here and we wanted to sample the weather at it's most unbearable.  We were sure we could shrug off a Louisiana winter (so far so good) but weren't sure about the deepest doldrums of summer when the temperatures reach one hundred and the humidity is close enough to be a hundred percent that no body bothers to measure anymore.

Gayerre Place is a mystery park.  There is no indication why it is there besides the fact that the parcel of land bordered by Esplanade Avenue, Bayou Road and North Tonti Street is too small to house a home or commercial structure, even a snow ball stand.

With it's masonry pedestal and its neo-classical statue, the parklet beggars a descriptive placard.  There's a plaque that say's Gayerre Place and that's that.  The visitor is left with his or her imagination to fill in the blanks as to why this picturesque monument stands here.

Chales Etienne Arthur Gayerre was known as Louisiana's premiere historian.  He as elected to the US Senate in 1835 as a Democrat but immediately resigned for health reasons.  After directly traveling to France for a cure (where else would the grandson of New Orleans' first mayor travel?) he researched the documents pertaining to his home state and wrote four volumes on the progress of the Pelican State from founding to his present day.

The statue today is a replica of one that stood during the New Orleans World's Fair in 1884.  It is Cleo, The Genius of History, The Goddess of Peace.  I'm not clear how these two attributes became conjoined for this Greek Muse who also has a street named after her Uptown, spelled and pronounced differently: Clio (kl-EYE-oh as opposed to the Greek kl-EE-oh).

This gorgeous little triangle of urban green space and civilization is a sort of blank spot on the streetscape.  My initial research yields all sorts of conflicting stories that I am interested in getting to the bottom of, sifting the details and weighing the evidence probable and improbable.  Much of it is dry as an old dishcloth but, if you are interested as I am, it is interesting stuff.  I am going to be passing this site every day and it was my first evidence that New Orleans is a city rich in history outside the Vieux Carre.    I am enraptured by Esplanade Avenue, a long neighborhood that bears little resemblance to the surroundings through with it passes.  Esplanade Ridge is an interesting slice of New Orleans.

Someone's got to figure it out.  I have appointed myself the mission.  WK, armchair historian will be at work poring over the records, gleaning the archives, blowing dust off crumpled papers brittle with age, turning the microfiche, and walking the boulevard to query neighbors.  Donning a fedora I will be the Indiana Jones of Esplanade Ridge.  It's a good thing Whalehead King is a suitably romantic and dramatic moniker for the task ahead.  Adventures are sure to follow.

Adventure dogs every step in New Orleans.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I am not curious about the rest of Louisiana.


I moved to New Orleans and I am in love with the place, sinking down roots and drawing sustenance from the landscape and atmosphere.  I must admit, I am not terribly interested in the rest of Louisiana.  I've visited some parts of the Pelican State, admittedly not much, but nothing in I've seen has captured my imagination.

New Orleans is the biggest city in Louisiana.  Baton Rouge holds the number 2 slot.  I've been there and have no plans to go back anytime soon unless I have some business to conduct.  I haven't been to faraway Shreveport, the third largest urban conglomeration.  To my New England honed sense of distance, if I travel as far as Shreveport, I will be in a different country.

People from outside New Orleans, myself included, talk about the place as a world of its own.  It is.  I'm from Connecticut where every town is its own entity, an island in a sea of Connecticut towns, each similar but each unique with history and quirks of charter to prove it.

I figure if a place has a name, it has its own government.  That's not true in Louisiana.  In Connecticut we abolished county government, who needs an extra layer of legislation and paid employees.  If services are duplicated every few miles at least they belong to the people most directly affected.  In Louisiana, they went the opposite route: who needs the lowest denomination of civic administration?  Parish government is the rule of law.  Of course the population of the vast state of Louisiana is roughly equal to the vest pocket area of Connecticut.  Orleans Parish is co-existent with New Orleans city limits.  
If I am not curious about the rest of Louisiana, maybe it's my own fault.  I am too busy learning the ways of my new home city.  Maybe in time, Heaven forbid, I will get bored and jaded about the lifeways that knit New Orleans together.  Then I may head out to Belle Chase or Metarie and think about expanding my horizons.  I doubt it, but anything is possible.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Orleans crime statistics

A cup of Confucius or a cup of commercially mixed Hurricane will do you well when trying to figure out what to make of the crime scene in New Orleans, LA.  I investigated the NOPD's crime map to see how many reported crimes took place within two miles of my new address since June 1.  Answer: Zero.

Not a bad track record.  I can walk Ursulines Street and St. Bernard Avenue without a care in the world. The crime map does offer a caveat, however: "The City of New Orleans makes no representation that the information is accurate, complete, confirmed, investigated, timely, consistent, or correctly sequenced.  Users must not consider the information reliable..."  You agree to this disclaimer before you are allowed to check any statistics, such as they are.

I've been monitoring some internet chatter about a rash of break-ins and attempted rapes and robberies in the 7th and 9th wards, around Marigny-Bywater.  I'm quick to dismiss things as alarmist, especially when reports contain bandanna-masked desperadoes kicking in doors.

If it's not on the crime map and it's not in the Times-Picayune, New Orleans paper of record, how much weight should I place on loose talk heard in the street?

Some young women from the Bywater neighborhood came to view our apartment last night.  We made chitchat while they talked amongst themselves about how much more room this apartment would give them over their current half shotgun.  "Why are moving up here?" I asked.  "Because there's a crime spree in the Bywater and we don't feel safe," they answered in triplicate.

I'm more inclined to trust these ladies' gut instinct than I am to trust a crime map that says no crime, no matter how petty, has not been committed across a vast swath of the city for six months.  No news may be good news but sometimes it's just ignorance forced from above.  I can understand the only city-wide newspaper of national repute not wanting to paint the city with a tarred brush, but withholding news is not a newspaper's mission.

I've been reading the T-P the past few days with more than my usual diligence.  I learned today that the film "Black Swan" deserves only three stars.  "Yogi Bear" got a star and a half.  I haven't read the Lifestyle section yet, just the first section, the metropolitan section, and the lagniappe.  Maybe unsafe conditions are in Lifestyle; it is a city lifestyle issue much more than comic strips advice columns and diet advice.

So, is everything rosy in the Crescent City?  No.  It is a city, no matter what the truth may be, bad things happen, distasteful things, the kind of things people try to protect their children from experiencing.  There is so much good in New Orleans that is leavened by the criminal.  Criminals are everywhere.  That is why we make laws.  Some laws are just, others a nuisance.  Breaking and entering no matter what else follows, is a crime.  This is news that should be counterbalanced and outweighed by the positive happenings in a city as big as this with as big a heart.

The T-P and the NOPD are in cahoots, letting pastel be the shade of the day by omitting details.  They do us a disservice.  I'm not moving away.  I just bought a house because I believe in this city. The administration and the media cheat me of making a responsible decision based on the city's character painted as a whole.  Luckily, I don't rely on the NOPD or the T-P to guide my decisions.  I am alive on the streets, I take the good and the bad, weigh each hand-to-hand like Osiris balancing a feather against a cardiac weight.  New Orleans is good no matter how you describe it, warts and all, every facet, every wrinkle, every pock mark, every scar.

I am happy to live here no matter what I am supposed to know.  I know New Orleans is good and I made the correct decision to plant my roots in the Mississippi mud.  I am home and I raise a toast to the Crescent City.  Long may it thrive.  I am onboard for the journey for the rest of the decades I have left to do the deed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Devil or Devi? New Orleans.

Misunderstand the distaff gender in New Orleans at your peril.  There are plenty of strong women on the streets even if they show no outward signs of masculinity.  You'll see your bearded women and your tattooed women, the same as you'll see your bearded and tattooed men.  What sets New Orleans' women apart from those found elsewhere in the world?  Spunk, and I don't mean jism.  I mean comeuppance.  I mean pride.  I mean self-assurance.

New Orleans is home to supported housewives picking children up after after school activities and of single mothers raising children alone on a skimpy income that barely affords daycare.  Family is everything in New Orleans, no matter how narrowly or widely defined.  In a city where everyone calls everyone else "baby" there is a sibling bond that defies definition trading in common, toss-away parlance.
New Orleans' women are dashing and daring.  They may not dash about on daredevil motorcycle rides in short skirts,  but they pursue the thrill of the chase.  They take risks.  Living in this most glorious of cities is a chance in a bag that may or may not swell your purse.  New Orleans' women know this, they measure the prospects and plant their belongings and get to work.  It's serious work.

It is better to be a woman than a man, all evidence and testimony to the contrary.  It's been said that women are the niggers of the world but in a chocolate city, sweets come in all colors and flavors.  Creed, class, and orientation count for naught in the nougat.  Well, class counts for something more than caste.  In New Orleans, if you can carry your convictions with ample bearing you will win the day no matter your sex or your starting point.  Money never stinks.  Attitude sometimes does.  Success is the sweetest smell of all.  If you can make it in New Orleans, you should be able to make it anywhere, even in Manhattan.

In New Orleans, women are king.

New Orleans is a world-class city, irreplaceable.  It is a cut above any haberdasher or tailor could conceive; too many measurements by half.  The globe will still spin without brass bands.  Macroeconomic rules will be in play if no one joins a local, second line parade. New Orleans would collapse without its female citizens.  New Orleans would be poorer without the labor and delivery its female citizens bring to bear on the city's fabric and pulse every hour of every day.
You don't have to know a beautiful woman to appreciate one.  You just have to see her.
I'm not a woman but I'm glad there are plenty of them in New Orleans.  Without them the city would crumble to silt.  Say what you will, there are no she-devils in the Crescent City.  There are angels in our midst.  Gentlemen ignore this fact at their peril.  In a city so succulent and seductive, so lush and flush with temptations, it is New Orleans' women that keep the city on the straight an narrow.  Testosterone leads it astray.  New Orleans' women are more than estrogen in the tonic.  They are the tonic, the spark and the sinew; the muscle, the conscience, the moral standard, the judge and the jury.  They are the ethereal fizz and the psyche.  Don't cross a New Orleans woman.  You'll live to tell the tale but no one will call you Ishmael.

Gentlemen, considered yourselves warned.  Walk softly where angels have trod before you along every sidewalk, in every aisle, and around every public space.  If you feel safe in New Orleans, it is because of the will of its women.

'nuff said.
WK

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday special: $7.32

Everyone knows I'm a Parkway po'boy fan just like Barack Obama.  It's a messy sandwich but a good one that leaves both palette and belly satisfied.  I dined there during the first extended period of time I spent in the city.   I've been back many times.  Let me tell you, Wednesday is the day to go, especially at 4:45PM: no lines.

Parkway is closed on Tuesdays, so don't plan a visit then.  On Wednesday though, for now at least, they are offering a special: the Thanksgiving.  It's eight inches of baguette packed with stuffing, dark meat turkey, gravy, and a spread of cranberry sauce.  It's a messy meal (I used a fork) but boy is it good.

My favorite Parkway sandwiches in order of preference:  Thanksgiving, Reuben, BBQ beef, beef, hot turkey.  I only get them dressed with letuuce, tomato and pickles, when dressing is an option.  No mayonnaise for me.

You might be surprised that this meat-adverse epicure (no need to bring up my affection for Bud's Broiler's hot dogs), enjoys Parkway's menu.  I appreciate a job well done.  

The regular Thanksgiving po' boy is priced at $7.32.  Large is $10.79.  For once, I'm thinking about ordering a large next time.   Pity my poor stomach.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fabulous New Orleans

I find it very interesting that I am one of the few men wearing a dark suit while I walk up and down Canal Street during my lunch hour.  I'm actually one of the few men wearing a suit, period, but that's another matter.  Not that anyone is wearing a robin's egg blue suit that I've seen.  New Orleans doesn't have a sense of basic black.

Now that the seersucker season has expired, it seems that gentlemen wear tweed.  Earth tones and pastels predominate in male New Orleanians' professional wardrobe.

I visited the Soul Train suit warehouse (warehouse being the operative word about that store's interior) and the black suits were in the minority.  Every other color of the rainbow was well represented, as well as patterns I associate with musicians and Mardi Gras.

I see am the only man who wears a slouch brimmed fedora.  There are plenty of proper hats in New Orleans, not just ball caps, but few with a full brim.  There isn't a large population of Hassidim.  This may explain why I can't find a good bagel.

I walk down the street and I feel like the Shadow.
This doesn't particularly bother me but I see it will take me long while to fit into New Orleans sartorially.  While I won't be wearing a Saints' jersey anytime soon, I see I still have some work to do on my wardrobe.

Illustrations copyright DC Comics and Street and Smith.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Orleans is everywhere

I stand corrected.  I stumbled across a video the other day that caught my fancy and I posted it because it matched my mood.  I said it didn't have a New Orleans connection.  I rarely watch videos.  Who can why this caught my fancy.  Serendipity, perhaps.

Astute reader Leigh C. pointed out that there is a connection after all.  The soundtrack is provided by Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe.  All I know about Ernie K-Doe is what I've read.  I've never heard a song of his before, not even "Mother-in-Law."  Well, I guess I have now: "Here Come the Girls."

A tip of the fedora to a legend.  Thanks, Leigh!  It turns out I can stay on topic unconsciously.  Good to know.  New Orleans is everywhere.

Big in Japan


New Orleans isn't as much as a twenty-hour town as I was lead to believe.  While the city doesn't sleep, large swaths of it cat nap.  Despite that, there is plenty to do at all the wee hours.  Where else can you go to a twenty-four hour bar and laundromat?

Cafe du Monde in the Quarter is open around the clock.  It's a nice respite to enjoy coffee and beignets (donuts) between bouts of pub crawling.  Thanks to the Chicory blog for pointing out that Cafe du Monde is also operating in Japan.  Big in New Orleans and big in Japan; the best of all possible worlds.

I found it disconcerting to visit the shopping malls in Metarie and Gretna and see a Cafe du Monde franchise in that squeaky clean environment.  Well, everyone needs to make a buck.  If you've got a name people know, you might as well live off it.  I know I try.  I'm trying to book appearances at regional malls as we speak.  I need to widen my exposure and appeal.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Family-friendly oysters in New Orleans, LA

Not really, but it may as well be.

The Comics Code Authority seal of approval appeared on all comic books when I was a lad.  I don't see it anymore and there's no surprise in that.  Along with the general coarsening of the culture, comic books had to keep up.  You don't find comic books in spinner racks at the newsstand anymore.  I dare you to find a newsstand.  I haven't found any in New Orleans.

If I want to buy a magazine, I go to the Borders on St. Charles Avenue.  It's not too much of a chore but I don't associate a big, chain bookstore as a place to pick up the latest issue of Popular Mechanics.  Does anyone read Popular Mechanics anymore?  A newsstand is where I buy news, be it a magazine or a newspaper.  Beyond the Times-Picayune, I see the New York Times is for sale in some places.  I'm surprised the Baton Rouge paper, whatever it may be, isn't for available.  I assume it would contain state-wide and legislative news.  Nowhere sells international papers that I am aware of and I have yet to find a copy of the Wall Street Journal.

New Orleans is an island.

I don't watch television unless I'm in a bar and I don't listen to the radio except for WWOZ occasionally and NPR when I'm in the car on Saturday mornings.  I get my news from the T-P and from people I bump into who seemingly get their news the same way.

They say New Orleans is not a family-freindly city; its stories would not be approved by the Comics Code Authority.  I suppose there is some truth in that.  In a city known for drinking and carousing, libertinism,  and winking at breaches of law and order, the city can seem fairly toxic to impressionable, young minds.  I encourage families to steer clear of the first few blocks of Bourbon Street closest to Canal.  It's not that the businesses there cater to the animal instincts that is most disturbing, it is that they are so tacky.

There is a whole city outside the more libidinous blocks of the Vieux Carre, however.  Parts of New Orleans are so genteel that a New England blue stocking can feel put to task to prove his credentials.  I was fortunate enough to take the holiday home tour sponsored by the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans today in the Garden District, a look behind the gates of some of the most beautiful edifices along Prytania Street.  Lovely.  Please click the link and visit PRC's website.  The home tour will be over by the time you read this, but it will be worth a visit come next December.  PRC offers a number of programs and does good work in the city.  It's where I attended the first-time homebuyer class this past week.  I'm going to try to be more involved within my time constraints.  I say the same thing about lowernine.org.  There is so much going on this city and in my own life, I don't know if there are enough hours in a week.

All in good time, all in good time.  A city runs on the effectiveness of its organizations.  The government should enable them as long as they don't get out of control.  Power corrupts.  Mayor Landrieu, a creature of democratic government if there ever was one, seems to be balancing competing interests well.  No missteps thus far, but his administration is still new in office.  I'm told Mayor Nagin was lauded in the beginning of his first term.  We know how that turned out in the end: like a bushel of oysters left on the neutral ground in August rather than like the one's served at Casamento's.

By the way, CBS news is filming something at Casamento's this afternoon.  Probably something to do with the local seafood industry.  The restaurant is closed Sundays so this must be a special photo op.  I won't be able to watch the news the next few days (no TV as stated above).  If you happen to see WK mugging on camera, please let me know.  I'll be the guy in a gray fedora advising everyone to eat genuine Louisiana Gulf seafood.  I've got a soft spot in my belly and heart for oysters.  I can't seem to find any clams here.

Cheers,

--WK

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Goggling agog and agape in New Orleans


The day began humdrum enough.  I had to go to Covington, my first time, across the the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a twenty-four mile  long bridge with nothing to look at.  I know people who drive this span everyday to New Orleans and back.  It would kill my spirit.

Approaching the opposite shore, I was struck, as I usually am, by the flatness of the land.  In this part of Louisiana they measure elevation with a yardstick.  I passed through Mandeville into Covington.  I don't mean to insult the aesthetics of my new state but, as the lady of the house has commented to me whenever we venture beyond Orleans Parish, Louisiana is ugly.  Not the land.  The landscape is intriguing with its fecund wetness and nooks and crannies.  The towns are ugly.  The buildings are ugly.  The layout that men and women have built for themselves is ugly.

I'm used to my New England landscape where stone walls border twisty roadways and recede into the woods, where a town is anchored by a public green with a white, steepled church, a sprinkling of monuments, and houses and commercial buildings that have stood the test of time.  New England isn't overly fancy but it isn't plain.  It is lived in.  Outside New Orleans, everything is functional and seems to have been built on the cheap.  Louisiana's towns, when they are even incorporated, aren't fancy and they lack any fancy whatsoever.  Uniform, slab housing and sheet metal buildings predominate.  It is an industrial streetscape even when it is intended to feel homey.

A power station Uptown.
Returning to New Orleans, a city aswarm with craft and details, I was happy to be back home.  I don't live in Louisiana; I live in New Orleans.   I wandered a few hours, getting my bearings and getting the city back under my skin, savoring the little things.
The details are always interesting.
Having a home in which I have ample room to spread out may curtail my constant perambulations about
the city.  Not too much, of course.  I am still an urban animal and I enjoy being around people even when I don't engage with them too much.  Given the choice between sitting in a smoky barroom (and smoky barrooms are my habitat of choice) and here...
...sitting on my back porch, it will be a tough decision to make.  Both are in New Orleans and both are part of life in the city.  I'm sure I'll strike a balance somehow with both gadabout WK and homebody WK sharing the best of both worlds.

I am sanguine about moving out of the Lower Garden District.  Magazine Street has spoiled me and the constant ferment that goes on in the area is good for me.  Greater Treme is another world.  I'm sure I'll love it, it is New Orleans after all and what's not to love, but I don't know the area well enough yet.  The Lower Garden was an easy fit.  I'm sure Esplanade Ridge will be too, just different.

Heck, all of New Orleans is different from anywhere else I've ever visited, let alone lived in.  Let the games begin.  I find myself content with my surroundings, as if I've eaten a bellyful of oysters.

Cheers,
WK

Friday, December 10, 2010

2112: We've taken care of everything

An iconic image from my adolescence.
The number 2112 holds a lot of meaning for me.  It is the name of an album (when albums were platters made of vinyl cut with tiny grooves) by the love 'em or hate 'em, Canadian rock band Rush.  I read that Rush is the thinking person's rock music and that is partly true if your thinking runs along the tracts of Ayn Rand's philosophy.  There aren't any love songs to speak of or ballads in Rush's songbook.

Please click the soundtrack to listen to while you read:


I have nothing but praise for Ayn Rand.  You are free to leave comments on that statement and they won't be deleted.  There you have it: I enjoy and agree with the ideas in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.   I am a curious hybrid.  My favorite authors are Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Ayn Rand.  Make of that mix what you may.  I admit Ms. Rand has the heavier hand when it comes to plot and a poor ear for character's names.  I mainly enjoy her books for the monologues.  I read the other two for the whole book.

As a much younger man, almost a proto-man, I listened to the album 2112 over and over while I toiled in my makeshift painting studio in my parents basement.  I had it on cassette tape and learned all the words, without the benefit of liner notes, through repetition.  I can sing all of side one from memory to this day.  I need cues for side two.  Though I have a CD of the album I rarely listen to it anymore.

I remember thinking this was a very deep piece of musicianship.  It's a concept album.  Side one tells a story progressing through each track.  In a totalitarian world a man discovers a guitar and learns to express himself, learning in the end that self-expression is against the collective norm that keeps society humming along.  He commits suicide in the end just before the world is liberated for free-thinkers.  Heady stuff and the stuff that makes teenagers thrum with self-justification.  I don't think it's a bad lesson.  I never seriously considered suicide.

The number 2112 reappears in my life from time to time, probably because I am sensitive to it.  The emblem above (without the lettering) is emblazoned on the Littlest Ninja's windscreen.  Twenty-one twelve.  It rolls off the tongue, beautiful alliteration; one word, two words, two numbers, four numbers, one number.  I am not a numerologist.  I think that field contains nebulous arguments inside of arguments, none of which can be proven and none of which are relevant.  

I bought a house today.  My address: 2212.  So close!

New Orleans is not a totalitarian state.  I am not rebelling and I don't feel that I don't fit in.  I am sinking roots, happy to be a permanent citizen, happy to be able to enjoy and participate in the life of this great city.  No thoughts of suicide in the Crescent City.  The crescent moon is waxing not waning and I bask in its glowing light.

Cheers all.
WK

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Esplanade, New Orleans.

Central City barber shop.
An esplanade is a strolling ground and Esplanade Avenue is certainly a place that invites strolling and gawking.  Not so much a promenade where people come to admire each other, Esplanade Avenue is a street people visit to admire the scenery.  It is a shady, majestic thoroughfare.

When I tell people where I am moving they tell me that Esplanade Avenue is the most beautiful street in the city.  High praise when you consider New Orleans also contains Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue.

I don't have much to say about it yet.  I've strolled from the Art Museum to the Mississippi River and found it beautiful.  I've taken my motorcycle down it at all hours of the day and night and I have loved it despite the bumps and cracks that jostle the wheels and rattle my bones.  It is New Orleans.

In time I'm sure I'll have more to say about the area, not just Esplanade Avenue but Bayou Road and Orleans Ave and Ursulines and Kerelec.  For the moment, I can only say that Esplanade Ridge, located in the Greater Treme area rather than the Historic Faubourg Treme, is lovely.  I am lucky to join the ranks of people who live there.

Soon...soon...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pirate Alley


I was walking down Pirate Alley the other day, between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo when I was reminded of an old chum of mine, the artist Randy Carboni.  Besides doing all the other things he does, he is a fine painter who has been seeing his share of long-awaited success recently.  Click the link.

He's started a new site called Pirate-a-Day and his partner is running out of steam.   Mr. Carboni can be an obsessive draftsman once he gets a project in his head.  When I last bumped into him he was making a painting a day of some limes he had on his kitchen counter for 100 days in a row.  Those limes were pretty sour by the time he was finished.  

Now he's drawing a pirate a day.  A partner and he challenged each other to draw a pirate a day for as long as they could keep it up.  His partner's well ran dry after nineteen but Mr. Carboni is a fountain of ideas.  Fond of rebuses and low-brow humor, he doesn't limit himself to cartoons.  He can paint evocative depictions of a pirate's soul as it is written on a weathered freebooter's face.

No man is an island.  The artist Randy Carboni doesn't need competition but he appreciates a friendly challenge to spur him on and keep the sap flowing.  Enter your man in the field: Whalehead King. 

While I am not as active with pen and brush as I once was, I still know my way around the easel.  Since I'll be soon moving into a home that will contain a studio I figured there's no time like the present to loosen up my drawing joints.  I've learned my new home is apparently in an arts district which means I won't need to collect the city's crippling 9% sales tax if I set up shop.  If you ever needed another reason to purchase an original WK masterpiece to hang in your guest bathroom, here it is.  Details will follow.  In the meantime, feel free to sample the glory of the Carboni-King collaboration at Pirate-a-Day.

In a recent newsflash it is apparent that Chris Smith, Mr. Carboni's partner at Pirate-a-Day, has re-risen, like Lazarus, to the task.  After careful consideration and some sweat equity invested at the drawing table, he is back on board having walked himself to the end of the plank and  done an about face to get back a'board.  He just finished three pirates for the world's viewing pleasure and contemplation.  He's got his gumption in an uproar of creativity and the salty talk can't stop flowing from between his lips as he gets to the task.  They say great minds think alike and this is especially true when pirates are concerned. 

Other artistes will be participating as well.  If you don't have enough pirates in your life (does anyone?) you now know where to go.  This isn't the first Carboni-King collaboration.  The first happened more than twenty-five years ago when two younger men co-wrote two impressive books of poetry, now out of print but highly sought after by collectors of poesy and scholars of the suburban beat movement that swept western Connecticut in the eighties.        

If you are ever in a used book shop and see a volume of "Hitchhiking Corpses" or "The CIA Stole My Brain" snatch them up.  Not only will you be the envy of college English professors, you'll be able to enjoy such classics as this:
Hey, Lumberjack
With your arm cut off
If you stay there much longer
You may bleed to death.

You can now snap your fingers several times and mutter, "Cool, daddy-o.  Way cool."

Way cool, indeed.  A tip of the fedora to Randy Carboni.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

If New Orleans were a woman

Nancy Sinatra
I had a dream last night.  I don't really know any current celebrities.  I think John Goodman lives in New Orleans or at least he has a love for the city (who doesn't?).  An actress lives here, I think her name is Susan but I don't much about her beyond her relationship with the chopper mechanic Jesse James.  I only know that because it was in the paper and, as a motorcyclist, I'm vaguely aware of Mr. James though I have little interest in choppers.  My Littlest Ninja is good enough for me.

My dream didn't contain Nancy Sinatra.  That would have been a nice dream, not that this dream wasn't nice.  It was set in New Orleans, after all.  Celebrities seem to like New Orleans.  They don't cause much of a ripple in the atmosphere and I suppose they enjoy that.  It is a pain in the neck to be recognized everywhere you go.  

In my dream I was walking down Dauphine Street just past where it intersects with Toulouse Street.  My companion was this woman, the woman of my dreams:
She bears a remarkable resemblance to the lady of the house.

She's appeared in my dreams before, usually sipping coffee in Cafe du Monde or sometimes I bump into her (in my dreams) at Ms. Mae's or Lucky's or at the Roosevelt Bar.  I glimpsed her once dancing at the Rock 'n Bowl and one time I saw her going to the ladies room at the Saturn Bar.  I've never known her name so I asked her last night (again, in my dream).

"Why must you ask such a thing?" she sighed.  "Why must gentlemen always know my name?  It's a terrible bore.  Like finding flowers on my doorstep or anonymous poems in my mailbox.  I'll tell you and then you'll tell me it's a beautiful name for a beautiful woman.  My name doesn't make a difference.  I am what I am and I am not a Rose."

I got down on one knee and begged.  I offered her a dollar.  When that didn't work, I offered two dollars.  When that didn't work I took the ring off my index finger, the ring I bought last August with the fleur-de-lis.  She held the ring in her hand and and held it up to her eye, looking at me through the void where my finger usually is.  She was scrying me.

She shook her head and her hair floated as if a breeze had just wafted off the Mississippi River.  She sighed.  "My name is Calliope Terpsichore St. Roche," she said.  "Now we are going to reverse direction and go to Tropical Isle where you are going to buy me a hand grenade."

She handed me back my ring and it seemed shinier than when I had given it to her.

Then I woke up and went to work.  



Monday, December 06, 2010

Pink elephants and white elephants.

Seen in City Park the other night.
I'm a bit discombobulated today and behind schedule.  Spent a few hours learning about Holy Cross, a neighborhood in the Lower 9th Ward.  Lowernine.org is an organization I ran into on my first preliminary visit to New Orleans.  I detailed it sometime in mid-May but it's too late in the day to link to that post beyond pointing you in the general direction.

Laura Paul tells me that the organization is putting on a second line celebration on December 19th.  My usual cursory scan of their website doesn't provide any ready information but I'll be checking in regularly and will post the details when I'm aware of them.

In other news, the Times-Picayune reported on how the RTA will be looking into building a line from Canal down South Rampart Street and St. Claude with a spur down Elysian Fields.  It doesn't appear on nola.com's front page and a search of "streetcar" yielded the most current result dated in June, 2009.  Nice work T-P!   For local news, a "hard freeze" on the North Shore is considered more interesting, featured front and center under "New Orleans news" than a neighborhood expansion of mass transit.

A line will be built along Loyola Avenue between the train station and Canal Street, a little over a mile long.  While I'm not one to criticize the current administration, this is the project that won federal funding.  While this line will be convenient for people going to the Superdome from Canal Street, saving them a fifteen minute walk, it will do little to knit the city any denser.

St. Claude may not be the prettiest street but it is picturesque.  Making it more accessible would spur more development than taking what pedestrians there are off Loyola's sidewalks.  A streetcar line down St. Claude would make the already attractive Treme, Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods more attractive.  The proposed streetcar line will be a bit too far from my new home to hold too much appeal to me, but I am sure more people would benefit than from another line sequestered downtown.  I wish the RTA the best of luck pulling this off.  It's needed.

And with that gentle readers, I bid you good night and pleasant dreams.
WK

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The gods are not crazy

Who hates Bloody Kansas?  There are worse places and there are also much better.  I can't comment on Nebraska.

The saints have special favor for Louisiana, New Orleans in particular, and I don't mean the football team.  A glance at the television shows me that the Saints are playing the Bengals today, and winning at this point.  No surprise.  I wonder if the Saints will be in the Super Bowl this year.  Evidence of their 2009 victory season is everywhere in this city.

There are two topics of conversation in this city: Katrina and the Saints.  Other subjects crop up, don't get me wrong, but if you are an eavesdropper like I am you'll hear talk of these two things more than any other.  I shouldn't find this surprising since both are an ongoing presence.  The Saints, of course, play every weekend so its natural they should be brought up regularly.  I'm used to living in Boston, a sports-obsessed town if there ever was one.

Boston has the Celtics (basketball), the Bruins (hockey), the Red Sox (baseball), and the Patriots (football).  New Orleans has the Saints (football) and the Hornets (basketball).  I never hear anyone talk about the Hornets.  Never.  I wonder how the Hornets feel about that.

The federal levee failures that occurred during Hurricane Katrina have been patched and the floodwaters pumped out.  The aftershocks are evident everywhere though.   Most of the neighborhoods I frequent don't show obvious signs, but if you listen to people talk, as I do (my ears are bent), the psychic effects continue to linger.  People talk about where they were and what they did after the storm.  They talk about how they rebuilt and how they are still rebuilding.  Visit places like Hollygrove or the Ninth Ward, not even the Lower 9th, and you can see the physical wounds to the infrastructure and civic fabric without needing to eavesdrop.

I am at a loss when anyone wants to discuss either subject.  I don't follow sports and I wasn't here for the event that unravelled New Orleans' tightly knit tapestry.  To me, everything is new and just as it has always been.  I get my knowledge of the past city through books and archives.  Pre-K New Orleans is viewed only through microfiche.  Armed with what I've gleaned, I can say that New Orleans is resilient. Its citizens do not know how to bow.  This is a place where funerals are commemorated with parades rather than tearful wakes.  It is that never-say-die, never-give-in, never-give-up-hope spirit that inspires me in its turn.  I may have what seems a superficial take on things.  My newness is my alibi.  In time, I will absorb more.  More of the city's spirit will fill in the chinks of my own.

New Orleans, despite hardship that would break an innocent's heart, does more than survive.  It thrives.  Whatever gods may hate Kansas or any other state in the Union, they shower bounty on New Orleans.  It is a city of animal spirits afoot and a'prowl.  If anything comes easily in New Orleans, it is a smile and a chance to talk about why this is the greatest city on earth.  And it is getting better.  The proof is everywhere, discussed within earshot of anyone sensible enough to listen.  I listen and learn.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent but everyone is thinking about Mardi Gras.

My last post left the impression that I adore all women, and I do.  I would much rather spend my time with members of the fairer sex than with men.  All shapes, all sizes, all ages; a woman is a wonderful thing rather than a sometime thing.  Just to keep my masculine credentials intact, though, here is something that I could watch all day long...


Not much of a New Orleans connection except the saxophones.  It is cut and paste electronica rather than the instrumental craft that New Orleans musicians spend lifetimes mastering.  Unlike the song, New Orleans' destination is not unknown.  The future is brighter and better than anything that has happened before.  When you are in New Orleans, you are not far from home.  You are there.  I am and I am glad for that.

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