Sunday, August 6, 2017

Here comes the rain again

It was close to two in the afternoon on Saturday, and John Boutte was playing under the tent at the Satchmo Festival. The lawn beneath the tent - the lawns everywhere at the Old U.S. Mint - was thickly mulched with pine straw, although it failed to completely staunch the oozing black mud that had been generated by a torrential downpour yesterday. New Orleanians have learned that tall rubber boots are de rigueur festival footwear.

Still, the band was rocking. The canopied bar area was full of people drinking margaritas, bloody marys, and frozen daiquiris. You could smell the delicious aromas from the food tents - smoked sausage, meat pies, fried catfish.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another hundred people just got off of the train

"Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around

At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday.

It's a city of strangers,
Some come to work, some to play.
A city of strangers,
Some come to stare, some to stay.

And every day
The ones who stay
Can find each other in the crowded streets and the guarded parks,
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks,
And they walk together past the postered walls with the crude remarks.
And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never

"Do I pick you up or do I meet you there or shall we let it go?"
"Did you get my message? 'Cause I looked in vain."
"Can we see each other Tuesday if it doesn't rain?"
"Look, I'll call you in the morning or my service will explain.

And another hundred people just got off of the train."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nothing like the city

8th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen

A visit to New York always inspires nostalgia for me, remembering when I used to live here.

The city has changed so, with new construction, sleek new buildings. Old neighborhoods have become gentrified and tourist-focused. Yet some of the old feel remains.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Conversation starter

One of my favorite things about living here is that there are so many outdoor cafes and coffee shops. I like to treat myself to breakfast, sitting outside at a rickety metal table, watching the traffic go by and maybe reading a book while sipping coffee.

Yesterday I grabbed up a novel I'm reading and headed to my regular cafe. When I got there, I was surprised and delighted to see a friend sitting there. "May I join you?" I said.


I put down my book and went inside to order my coffee. When I came out, he was looking quizzically at my book.

"Sex and Rage?" he asked.

Later, a friend of his walked by. They greeted one another, and he introduced me to her. Her eye fell upon the closed book on the table and she did a double take. "Sex and Rage?" she asked.

Today, I met another friend for coffee at another cafe. While I was waiting, I chatted with the waitress. She glanced at my book. "Sex and Rage?" she asked.

Eve Babitz is an author born in Los Angeles who became somewhat notorious during the '60s for her semi-autobiographical writings about LA's rock and roll and arts scene, and the culture of Southern California itself. She played the role of groupie/muse for several artists, including Jim Morrison of the Doors, Ed Ruscha, Steve Martin, and others. Her work is now being reissued, and I'm fascinated by her crazy, kaleidoscopic take on Los Angeles in the '60s. "Sex and Rage" is the third book of hers I've read. The book - so far, anyway - is not really about sex, and not really full of rage.

Yet - the title on the cover is so bold it really stands out! For a single woman sitting in a public place, I seem to have found myself an unintended conversation starter.  What an interesting experiment!

Monday, July 10, 2017

River colors

click to "embiggen" 
A colorful sight on the river - a container ship comes downriver, past the Central Business District

Then turns

And heads toward the Gulf of Mexico, 106 miles away.

Friday, July 7, 2017


This morning's view from my river walk. It's already in the mid 80s! Looks like those clouds will bring a thunderstorm later on, but right now it's beautiful.

New Orleans in the summer!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Train Graffiti

I walk in the mornings for about a mile down Crescent Park, which parallels the train trains downriver from the French Quarter in New Orleans. The cars are colorful with graffiti of all kinds. But sometimes there's one I like. Like this one.

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.