Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wildflower walk

Tradescantia ohiensis - spiderwort
Some sights from the Wildflower Sanctuary along the Riverwalk in Batavia, Illinois.

Trillium recurvatum - "Wake Robin" trillium

This volunteer-built sanctuary was begun in 1991, showcasing the native woodland plants growing along the Fox River in Northern Illinois.

Aquilegia canadensis - wild columbine
When I lived here as a child, I explored the woods, prairies, and creeksides of this landscape. My mother helped me identify flowers I found.

Anemone canadensis - meadow anemone

Wild iris
Walk through the cool shade to find small treasures.

Phlox divartica
Bright flashes of color in the green.

The Challenge Windmill Factory building
The walk follows the river, which powered mills and factories beginning in the 19th century.  The factories are built of limestone quarried nearby.

Batavia's factories built windmills, as intricately styled as flowers themselves. Some of these antique windmills are on display at the park.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crabby hands

My mouth is tingly and my hands are stained reddish brown. There's a pasty, spicy mixture caked under my fingernails. 

It's crab boil time. At Vaughan's Lounge.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day parade

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and also the annual celebratory parade for the Social and Pleasure Club Original Big Seven. As I stood on St. Bernard Avenue waiting for the parade to cross Claiborne, the crowd was full of mothers and children, holding hands. Many mothers were wearing corsages, and the children were wearing hair-bows. Everyone was wishing one another "Happy Mother's Day!"

The sound of revved motors split the air, and around the corner came a fleet of women on sleek and fancy motorcycles. They wore helmets adorned with bright pink mohawks. They made a pass up the Avenue, made a U-turn through the neutral ground, and circled back, parking their bikes in formation at the curb.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reminders everywhere

Walking through the Bywater, warm summer afternoon. Faced again with a reminder to BE.

Monday, May 8, 2017

His Master's Voice

El Chapo is a little white puppy beloved of many people at Vaughan's Lounge, but the person who loves him the best is Big Chris.

And El Chapo loves him back. Here's El Chapo at the door, recognizing the sound of Big Chris's van pulling up outside.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


When the world sends you a message, take it to heart.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I've abandoned you. I'm sorry. But I'm back.

It's been a long time - since Mardi Gras. I have completed my spring semester. I've also embarked on a new path.

In March, I undertook a training program to be a licensed tour guide in the city of New Orleans, through the Friends of the Cabildo, a local historic preservation group. I will be part of their team of guides giving walking tours of the French Quarter. It's fun and it's also challenging.

Right now it is the weekday interim between the two weekends of Jazz Fest - officially called the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This is a huge music and cultural blow-out; major national bands alongside local bands and players, food tents and vendors and booths for cultural groups, all arrayed out at the fairgrounds. I'm not a big festival fan, but what I like is how the rest of the city's cultural life is enriched by the presence of so many musicians and music fans during this time.

Yesterday afternoon I was treated to a performance by one of my favorite musicians, singer and songwriter Dayna Kurtz, at Euclid Records, with Robert Mache.

Last night at Vaughan's Lounge, a couple of bands rocked the house - Jamaican Me Breakfast and the Fortifiers.

Tonight is Blood Jet Poetry reading at BJ's Bar, and tomorrow Corey Henry kills it at Vaughan's.

Who knows what Friday will bring?

Having this much fun is exhausting!


February 16, 2017
For the last couple months, I've been walking in the mornings with my friend Carol. A morning walk with a friend, talking and sharing, is a good thing.

We walk through Crescent Park, which follows the curve of the Mississippi River downtown from the French Quarter. We walk from the Mazant Street Wharf down to Mandeville, where a footbridge takes you over the railroad tracks. That's where we stop and turn around.

February 23
When we get there, we always walk right to the rail over the river itself, and look out at the city-scape. Almost every day, I pull out my phone and take a photo. Here are some views of the city of New Orleans, the Mississippi River, and the view.

March 21
We can see the Crescent City Connection - the bridge from New Orleans to the West Bank. We watch the traffic on the river, barges and freighters and cruise ships. Some morning are crystal clear and sunny; others are foggy and blurred with clouds. Some days the river is placid, other days it is turbulent, murky and thick with debris. The sky and the light vary so much.

Today - storm clouds brewing.
I love living in this city. I'm so lucky to be here.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alt-Mardi Gras

It was 6:30 in the morning, I was exhausted after a late night of revelry. But suddenly the sound of beating drums broke through my sleep. At first I thought it was the garbage men, but this wasn't their pick-up day.

Then I heard brass band music. Good Lord, I thought, who's practicing this early?

But something made me jump out of bed, throw a jacket on over my pajamas, grab my camera, and look out the front door.

There on Chartres Street, a few costumed people were assembled, and they were looking with anticipation downriver. The sound of the brass band got louder. I ran down to the corner. "What is it?" I asked a young woman there.

"It's Eris," she said. Then she looked me over. "You might as well come with, Looks like you got everything you need."

Named after the Greek Goddess of Discord, the Krewe of Eris is a renegade parade. In one 2011 neighborhood rag article, it was described as a "permit-disdaining anarchic foot explosion of beautiful costuming and craftsmanship that runs wild through downtown, clogging streets in boisterous celebration of unrule."

It was a wild, raucous, rag-tag bunch. The smell of marijuana was strong in the air. Costumes were made of rags and bits and tree branches and palmetto fronds. Paraders balanced on the bullwarks, crowded the verge of the levee. Some young men clambered up the side of the train cars and danced on top of them, waving flags.

I tagged along for three blocks. Then came to my senses. It was not yet 7:00 am, I was in my pajamas, without a cent of money. They turned the corner of Pauline and Royal Streets, and I stood on the corner, watching them go.

As I stood there, a young woman came up to me and pressed something into my palm. It was a tiny sharks tooth. Then another woman came and did the same - this time it was a small round acorn. "Water is life," she said to me.

As I watched them go, another resident stood outside his house. "I just got up to pee," he said in amazement.

"A bunch of crusties and stoners," said another guy on the street.

"I'm going back to bed," I said, and I did.

NOW - there is a follow up to this story. I did go back to bed, and when I woke up, about two hours later, I decided to go out for breakfast. I headed uptown to the Marigny, and at Press Street, where the train tracks split the Marigny neighborhood from the Bywater, there was a train on the tracks. While stopped there, I could see the blue lights of police motorcycles, and I could also see young men scaling the train cars, going up and over them.

I waited for about 15 minutes and then did what every Bywater resident has learned to do - go around. I illegally backed up half a block and then headed toward St. Claude Avenue, to cross it and go up to Claiborne Avenue, which arches over the tracks. But to no avail.

St. Claude was jam-packed - the train stoppage had halted a convoy of floats destined for uptown and parades later that day.

Just another example of living in New Orleans at carnival time.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Having fun is exhausting!

One aspect of life in New Orleans is how exhausting having fun is. This was the last weekend before Mardi Gras day on Tuesday, and during the two days of Saturday and Sunday, I managed to see five parades. I'd planned on two others but pooped out before I could drag myself any further. But in addition to the parades, I also attended an Oscar-watching party. It's simply too much!

There are some amusing and uniquely New Orleans aspects of Mardi Gras, however. I'm curious about this - why does every parade begin with a boom truck and end with a fire truck?

What of the crew that follows up after the horse riding groups?

Parade ground amenities:

Viewing ladders and chairs as people stake out their turf on the neutral ground. They say the ladders are for the kids, but as the afternoon goes on guess who takes over....

And here's a look at what folks do during those idle moments when parades stall:

Here for your enjoyment is the all-male dance crew, the 620 Stompers, at the Krewe of Thoth parade uptown:

Saturday, February 25, 2017


I had a great invitation Friday night to watch three of the big Uptown Mardi-Gras parades. My friend's party was on a balcony right at the corner of St. Charles and Canal Streets - a perfect viewing site.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring awakening

There are signs of spring in New Orleans, although it's easy to think we've skipped spring and gone right to summer, since in recent days the temperature has been in the high 70's.

This morning on my walk along the river, I spotted redbud trees, cercis occidentalis, in bloom.

The sun on the water was glittering, the breeze was light, and the water of the Mississippi River slapped lazily against the old wharves.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Costume madness

Serious costuming - St. Ann parade 2016
It's Mardi Gras, and everybody is talking about costumes. There are costume parties. Costume sales. The Beauty Plus store on St. Claude at Elysian Fields is crammed with shoppers.

I never really got excited over dressing up for Halloween. My mom once made me a fairy costume, complete with wings. But I felt silly in it. As a pre-teen, the most common costume for my social set was a "bum" which meant torn clothes and dark smudges on my face. Maybe a blacked-out tooth, if I got really creative.

As a teen, I was way too cool to dress up at all.

And as a young woman, I felt too self-conscious to draw attention to myself even with flashy normal attire, much less fancy dress.

I worked in a trade where the standard attire was t-shirts and jeans. I remember one year when I was desperately poor, I stretched my budget to buy a clean flannel shirt to wear to a cast party I was invited to, and thought I was dressing up.

Purple wig, gloves and a cocktail - getting there
At my recent job, my agency had a cross-departmental Halloween party, with a costume contest. The Solid Waste Division seemed to be the most creative, dressing everyone up as recycling bins and composters.

So, as I have now, in my second half-century, moved to a place where costume, fancy dress, and just plain eccentric attire is the norm, I have to get with the program.

Mardi Gras Day 2016 - still dressing down
Last year for Mardi Gras, I discovered head-wear that suited me. I have never liked to wear hats - my head is too small for most.

But fascinators - they're lightweight, fun, and don't leave you with hat-hair. So last year I made baby steps of wearing a red fascinator to Carnival.

At the Race Track
The same strategy worked for me at Halloween this year; and also at the Race Track for Thanksgiving funny-hat day.

This year, I attended the annual Twelfth Night party at Vaughans Lounge, where costumes were mandatory. A mask and a purple wig went a long way.

I have visited some of the wonderful and hidden secret costume sales that pop up all over New Orleans.
Mardi Gras bandeau - good for cold nights
Mardi Gras chapeau
I have discovered a new liking for hats.

Note to self: no more corsets
I have had a few costume mishaps.

This week, I'm putting the finishing touches on my Mardi Gras Day costume. I'm spending a lot of time with a hot glue gun.

I hope to be able to show you my results - without embarrassment.