Monday, July 25, 2011

G-8: Unsung hero of WWI

G-8 and his Battle Aces vs. the Reich's purple aces.
I've read this book.  I don't know why the events it describes were not covered in my "History of Warfare" class in college, or any formal education I've ever taken.  This is why I am an autodidact.

If this isn't true, it should be.  How many times have I said this in my life?  I live in a Fortean world.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Under the Claiborne Avenue Overpass, New Orleans, LA

Under the Claiborne Avenue Overpass,  New Orleans.
A drear and gloomy day today found me trapped under the Claiborne Avenue Overpass seeking shelter from the rain.  I was only a quarter mile from home, but it was pouring down, and I was in no rush.  

Claiborne Avenue used to have a remarkably wide neutral ground on this stretch with four rows of oak trees.  That was replaced for a highway overhead.  There is always something going on in this less-than-ideal setting.  In the photo above, there are tables with balloons in the middle distance.  Someone was holding a birthday party under the highway.

As I waited, I smoked my pipe and watched the rain come down.  I was stranded with many other people and we talked about our bad luck being caught in a storm, commenting that it poured for two hours yesterday, and, hopefully, today would not bring a repeat performance.  I was there for about a half hour.

I watched someone shoot a video under the overpass.  This seems to be a fairly common setting for local music videos, from what few I have seen.  This was the main business street in historic Treme neighborhood before the highway came.  I suppose it still is, but many of the businesses have moved on.  
Claiborne Avenue Overpass, other direction.
Instead of four rows of ancient southern oaks, the current Claiborne Avenue in this part of town sports four rows of pillars that support the highway.  Some of these are painted with oak trees, a dim echo of a not-so-distant past.  Others are painted with historic or inspirational scenes.  The out-of-focus photograph above was taken from the intersection with Governor Nicholls Street.

Two scruffy, young men approached me, having walked down from Canal Street and headed further downtown.  In New Orleans, downtown refers to the area east of Canal Street, downriver.  They asked me if I had an eggroll in my jacket pocket.  I didn't.

They told me that their had almost gotten hit by a car that flipped over further up the road.  One of them told me, "That happened last night.  We passed out and woke up outside the cemetery.  Have you got a dollar?  We want to buy an egg roll."  I didn't have a dollar to spare.

They pointed downtown at the purple building on the corner of Claiborne and Esplanade Avenues.  "Do you think they will have an egg roll?" one of the men asked.  

"They should," I replied.  "That's the Manchu Market.  I hear they have the best fried chicken in the city."

"We were up the street looking for chicken wings.  That guy wouldn't give us any.  That's why we're looking for egg rolls."  He must have meant the little wing shack on the corner of Orleans and Claiborne Avenues, just a few blocks away.

"You should be able to get either there," I told them, meaning the Manchu Market.  We all bumped fists, and they went on their way.

I did manage to take one picture in focus.
Marie Laveau mural under the Claiborne Avenue Overpass.
Like many people, I am fascinated by Marie Laveau, the most famous voodoo queen to have practiced her arts in New Orleans.  Her tomb is located in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, perhaps the very same boneyard outside of which the two scruffy gents awoke this morning.  Persons who pray to Saint Expedite in Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on Rampart Street, leave their offerings to the saint at Marie Laveau's grave, since the priests who administer the goings on in the chapel discourage leaving pound cake and rum within the sanctuary.

In other news, I got my hands on a Saint Expedite statue yesterday, at the F&F Candle Shop on North Broad Street.
Saint Expedite.
It cost $8.99, which is probably a 600% markup, but where else am I going to get a Saint Expedite Statue?  The proprietor offered me a sample of "Get Rich Quick Oil" that he formulates himself in the back room laboratory, along with all the other specialty oils, powders, and incense he sells.

Balaenius Rex!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A New Orleans Painter's Lament and Hope.

President Martin Van Buren.
Why Martin Van Buren?  Because I am fond of the Little Magician from Kinderhook, NY.

I have all sorts of photos to upload onto the blog, but I can't find the little device to connect the card to the computer.  It used to be much easier when I just had a shoebox full of snapshots.  Of course, I couldn't share them all with an uncaring world with a short attention span then.

I started painting again in February, after a five-year hiatus.  When I turned 40, I decided I did not enjoy attending gallery openings, I didn't enjoy discussing my work, I didn't enjoy hobnobbing.  I love to paint.  Since February, I have 23 good paintings in my portfolio.  I counted last night and decided to go for 24.  I now have 24 good paintings in my portfolio.  Some are better than others, but all of the good ones meet my semi-exacting standards.  I am not counting the duds that I have produced during the same time period.

It is nice to be painting again.  I gave it up because I don't like to talk about the work, but I live to make it.  Time drops by the wayside when I am painting, and the clock cannot measure the moments spent dabbing colors.  I am surprised by how easily I slip into that other, creative dimension where just the doing is all that matters.  The results matter afterward.  Luckily they are mostly good, but when engaged in the act, all that matters is the complex internal equations that I formulate as I go along to make a picture work and express what I want it to say.  Will the viewer take the same thing away?  Probably not, but that is not my concern.  My job is to paint like my life depends on it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Getting New Orleans.

A Mardi Gras Indian, Super Sunday, 2011.
While I have rarely lived in a big city over the course of my life, I am a city person.  The raison d'etre of urban living is wired into my DNA.  I grew up in a smallish town, small by some standards, but larger than many cities in Oklahoma.  I lived close to the center of town, and I thought nothing of walking to the store.  The American cities I have spent the most time in are Newport, RI and New London, CT, both of which have roughly the same populations, around 25,000, in a similar area, less than 9 square miles.

When I moved to Boston, I had cracked the local code after two or three weeks.  I understood the city, and I moved about it naturally.

I was recently in Washington, DC, and when I stepped off the train, I felt like I was in a city again.  The landscape felt natural and the rhythms of pedestrians and buses and cars and trucks made sense.  Walking for blocks between multi-story, antique, brick apartment buildings, hemmed in but busy gaping around at the stores on the ground floor and all the people on the street, was nice.  So was having a subway that was quicker than walking, and discovering the beauty of its convenience and fare schedule.  But then it became too much of the same.  I could have been in Boston.  I definitely was not in New Orleans.

A year later, I still don't get New Orleans.  I love it, and not a day goes by that I don't say to myself , apropos of nothing, "I love it here."  I still haven't figured it out.  Every day is an adventure that brings unexpected surprises.  Every day I learn more about my new city, and about myself as I adapt.  It is a very nice place to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saint Joan of Arc medals for sale

Saint Joan of Arc medal.
I've written a little booklet about the history of Saint Joan of Arc in New Orleans.  I've been selling them in the French Market, and I thought it would be nice to offer them here, since a lot of people log on to learn about this very popular saint.

I have a surfeit of medals that I am using in artworks, but I have plenty to share if anyone is interested.  I am selling the pamphlet and the medal for $5.50 via paypal, and this includes shipping and handling, as well as any applicable sales tax.  The medal is hung on a velveteen cord, my choice of color, usually cerulean blue.

Joan of Arc medal and pamphlet

Bring the spirit of Saint Joan of Arc into your life.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saint Expedite, New Orleans, LA

Saint Expedite Medal
I've grown fond of thinking about Saint Expedite, and of looking at his statue at Our Lady of Guadelupe Chapel on North Rampart Street.  It is the only Catholic Church in North America to hold a statue of this saint.

While Saint Expedite does not have the most sterling reputation, I located a cache of medals that implore him to pray for us.  I've been using these in paintings, and to make magnets, and sewing them onto tee shirts.  It seems to be working well for both of us.

Many people don't know what to make of Saint Expedite, hopefully, by making his medals available, I will be giving him a bit more exposure.  He is the patron of those who need speedy relief.  Though his veneration has been tied up with local, New Orleans voodoo, I find him a reassuring presence, even if I have yet to pay him in pound cake and rum.

His full story can be found at the link on top of the (your) right hand column of this page.  It is available in kindle format.  I am happy to print up and sign an author's manuscript for anyone interested.  The price is $5.00 including tax and shipping.  It could be an heirloom someday since it will have the author's dated signature affixed to every one of its pages.  It is a short and informative read if you want to learn a bit more about New Orleans culture, and the history of this questionable saint.

Manuscript edition of The History of Saint Expedite in New Orleans, LA.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Algiers Ferry - New Orleans, LA

Crescent City Connector
I took the ferry to Algiers the other day.  I could have taken the bridge (pictured above) but it's so darned windy up there on my little motorcycle, and there is nothing really to see.  I prefer the ferry, which costs the same.  The toll to get to the West Bank of the Mississippi River is nothing.  To get back to the East Bank, it costs a dollar, whether you choose bridge or ferry.

This isn't to say that the bridge does not offer panoramas.  It does.  It is wiser to pay attention to the cars and trucks zipping by, and the road conditions, than it is to enjoy the landscape below.
New Orleans World Trade Center
Notice that I refer to the East Bank and the West Bank of the river.  The ferry runs from New Orleans to New Orleans.  Algiers is a neighborhood within the city, though it is separated by a wide ribbon of water.  It's a different world over there, but one that I feel comfortable in.  It is New Orleans.  The bridge has an Algiers exit, and then the highway runs through Jefferson Parish, which includes the City of Gretna, and then miles and miles of unincorporated places.  As a New Englander, I have little patience or respect for unincorporated places.  Jefferson Parish is wide and vast, and if the people who live there cannot be bothered to form a government, I have a hard time taking that seriously.

Of course, the views from the ferry are beautiful.  Another photo, that would be fit for a tourist brochure:
Saint Louis Cathedral.
There is some talk about doing away with the tolls on the Crescent City Connector because the dollar is too much an imposition for the people on the West Bank.  Crimminy!  A dollar!  When I paid the first time, I almost got off the Little Ninja and danced a jig!  From East Boston to Boston through the Big Dig Tunnel costs $3.50 the last I remember, and they are both part of the same city.  To get into Boston from the Massachusetts Turnpike is even more.  The last time I crossed the George Washington Bridge in NYC, it cost nine bucks!

People will disagree, but I think if you want to live in the suburbs and pay your property taxes there, while working in the city, you should pony up a little to keep up the infrastructure and opportunity to continue to do so.  Yes, it does cost five dollars to spend a work week in New Orleans, or elsewhere on the East Bank.  That is the equivalent of a draft beer and a tip that gets spent in thirty seconds.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let's meet our New Orleans City Council

The following images and designations were taken from the New Orleans City Council website, this morning.  Its address is .com vs. .gov for some reason.
City Council President (according to the website)
City Council Vice President (according to the website)

District A
District B
District C
District D
District E
I don't want to put too fine a point to this photo essay.  The reader can make his or her own conclusions.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The most important two-wheeled tip

Kymco 2011 Like 200i
The lady of the house is taking the Motorcycle Safety Course to get a motorcycle endorsement on her driver's license.  I recommend everyone take it, and, yes, take a refresher from time to time.

I took it several years ago, and should take it again, so I don't remember the acronym that stands for being alert and aware all the time.   The lady of the house asked me what is the most important thing you can do while riding.  My reply:

"Always look.  Look six inches in front of you, then look ahead.  Look from side to side.  Look for anything that may be a hazard.  Anticipate hazards before they come into your path.  You can make eye contact with everyone else on the road, but that only means you see them, not that they see you.  They do not see you.  Expect that.  Look in your rearview mirrors, but don't let someone behind you distract you.  Look ahead.  Always keep looking and gauging the risks ahead.  When you let your guard down, that is when disaster will strike."

I think that is good advice.
Ninja 250XR, 2006 model in City Park, New Orleans, LA.
I took the Littlest Ninja out after two weeks of riding the motor scooter exclusively.  The Ninja's engine was coiled like a spring, ready to roar.  It felt quite intimidating after two weeks of lazy puttering around town.  Fifty miles from home base, and I was in the groove again, leaning into curves at reasonable speeds, and shifting intuitively.  The whole time, I was looking, always looking for the next disaster.

The power that a motorcycle grants needs to be treated respectfully by the driver, because no one else knows what powder kegs reside between a motorcyclists legs.

Drive safely.
Baleanius Rex!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Finding a good reuben in New Orleans.

A good reuben.
A good reuben sandwich is a thing of beauty.  New Orleans has a long history of active and robust Jewish community, but the kosher fare, or even a good Jewish deli, is hard to come by.

There is Stein's Deli on Magazine Street.  They make a good sandwich, but I haven't tried their rueben.  Stein's is pricey, and they tend to go heavy on the meat.  This isn't a bad thing, as any New Orleanian will tell you, but I prefer balance over a heavy hand at the slicer.  For this reason, and for this reason alone, I have resisted the temptation to try Stein's reuben.

You might think that I would also avoid Parkway Tavern's reuben sandwich, but you would be wrong.  While Parkway is famous for its messy, overstuffed sandwiches (as I have happily reported elsewhere in the archives), the corned beef is mellow and savory, and everything else is added in just the right amounts.  A reuben is the sandwich I order most often at Parkway.  This hasn't stopped me from looking farther afield.

We went to the Kosher Cajun today, at 3519 Severn Avenue in Metairie today.  Already, my New England fustiness about what constitutes New Orleans, disqualifies the Kosher Cajun's sandwich from being the best in the city, but other people are not so particular about municipal boundaries.  It is a nice deli, don't get me wrong, but like anything, some things get lost in translation.  The bagels, for instance, are frozen and flown down from the New York metropolitan tri-state area.  I'm not saying which state is their point of origin, but it isn't the Empire State, and it isn't the Nutmeg State.  There is nothing wrong with this, but, being the stickler I usually am, if I get a New York bagel, I expect it to originate in Queens.  So it goes.

The Kosher Cajun makes a good reuben.  It isn't the best I've ever had, and I still prefer Parkway's.  I will certainly be going back to this deli when I am in the neighborhood.  That is a rare occurrence, but it does happen occasionally.  They do carry the full line of Dr. Brown's soda, and I love to slake my thirst with a Cel-Ray, so there is icing on this cake.
Celery tonic.  Cel-Ray refreshes!
I have heard rumors that the best reuben in New Orleans can be found at Cooter Brown's in Riverbend, of all places!  They take their beer and their oysters seriously.  There is no reason to think they don't take their pastrami seriously.  From what I can gather, Cooter Brown's uses pastrami rather than corned beef.  This is not a concern.  Rumor has it that the pastrami is shipped special delivery, COD from New York City on a regular, weekly basis.  I don't see the reuben listed on Cooter's menu, but you never know until you try.  I foresee an exploratory errand in my future.

Credit where it is due:  The first illustration, of a reuben, is courtesy of stickygooeychef.  That, my friends, is a really good sandwich.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Don't play with firecrackers!

WPA poster

I am briefly out of commission due to a mishap.  I should have read that poster more carefully.

Balaenius Rex!


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