Saturday, April 30, 2016


My piece about the mule deer in Topanga Canyon has been published by University of New Orleans' literary journal, Ellipsis.

Here's the link: 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Confederate Jasmine

It seems like in just one day, all the Confederate Jasmine in town has burst into full bloom. Everywhere I go I smell its sweet scent, and see it white flowers. Here massed in a hedge. There climbing up a telephone pole. There on a fence, or  climbing over a vacant house. I once grew this plant as a finicky hanging basket plant in Seattle. Not here. Here it takes over!

Trachelospermum jasminoides is a vigorous evergreen vine with white five-petaled star-shaped flowers. It's a native of China and is not related to the "real" jasmines of the genus Jasminum. 

It gets its common name because it grows so well in the Southern states, those once part of the Confederacy. This is a legacy that perhaps this pretty flower should have outgrown. In Europe, it's called Star Jasmine. That might be prettier.

Nevertheless, there is so much of it here in New Orleans that it has filled our late April evenings with scent.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fruits of wisdom

I went to the New Orleans Museum of Art today with a friend. On Wednesdays, admission is free to Louisiana residents.

Looking at art with a friend is always a good thing. Some works stir my brain, other works stir my friend's brain. We can point out interesting details to one another. We can go to a cafe after, and talk about things that well up in our minds after seeing the pure and vivid expression of feeling that others - some long, long past - have left in the world.

I am thinking of a Greek double-handled vase from 400 BC, emblazoned with an image of a swan flapping its wings.

Or the stairway of the Paris Opera House in 1880, viewed by an impressionist painter.

Or a medieval altarpiece portrait of a saint - who happens to look exactly like a bartender friend of mine.

Being able to share these experiences with friends is a treasure. I'm so lucky.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hey y'all

It's a busy time for me. Sorry for no posting. I'm moving into a new place and things are scattered. I've got papers to write, too. Also family things going on.

Spring in New Orleans is lovely, and each time I can snatch a moment to be outdoors or take a walk on the levee, or hang out with friends, it's a treasure.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bywater spring morning

Mornings right now are full of birds; their songs and cries fill the air. This morning dawned clear and washed clean by last night’s rains. The streets were still wet, with standing water in the gutters. The wide spread of grass in the vacant lot at Mazant Street was wet with dew. I walked the dog beyond the tracks toward Poland Avenue; it gets a little strange back there, with odd structures and houses cluttered with eccentricities.

The dog completed his Prime Directive on Royal Street just past Poland Avenue; I picked it up with a plastic bag and slipped it into the black garbage bin.

There’s mystery and oddity here. Houses sport signs warning against parking in front of driveways. Cats congregate like street toughs. On Royal, just past the tracks, there’s a low structure, completely covered with vines. You could walk past it a hundred times and never notice it. But there’s a door, and a mailbox, and a street number. There are two planters flanking the door, painted with fleur de lys and planted with elegant dwarf Italian cypress trees. Someone lives there. The door is painted red. It’s dark and mysterious.

There’s a warehouse attached to a shotgun house, a kind of weird, irregular amalgam shaped by the triangulation of the railroad tracks that bisect this neighborhood. Though it appears unoccupied now, the back yard of the place indicates some former enterprise having to do with plants – there are black plastic six-packs and 5 gallon pots piled neatly but lazily around. A closer look at the house itself, and you get a shock of recognition. The brackets beneath the roof – the gingerbread brackets so ubiquitous to New Orleans shotgun houses – are carved in the shape of a gun. Truly, a shotgun house.

Walking back home, past the grass-grown site where, just months ago, a brick apartment house stood abandoned, I see in the morning air a moving puff of white vapor on the corner of France and Royal; like a wraith it circles, rises, twists in the air. Then it dissolves. A woman comes out from a nearby house and opens the door of the Chevy idling at the curb. She puts it in gear and drives off, trailing another ghost from the tailpipe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

One Day on Lesseps Street

One of these days I'm going to get it together
Gonna buy a watch gonna get it together
Stop wasting time

One of these days I'm gonna get out of bed
I'm gonna turn off the TV
Gonna raise the dead
Raise the dead

One of these days when I fall in love
It won't fall apart like it always does
One of these days I'll forget about you
Take out the trash that's what I'll do

One of these days and it'll be real soon
I'm gonna kick some ass
Gonna clean my room
Sometime soon

One of these days I'm gonna touch the sky
Like that awful song
"I Believe I Can Fly"
I believe I can fly

One of these days you'll be so sorry
Sorry that you let it slip away
One of these days I just won't care
If you're sorry anyway

One of these days I'm gonna get it together
Gonna be on time
I'm gonna get it together
Stop wasting time

One of these days I'll accept the fact
I'm not getting any younger
And I can't go back
Can't go back

One of these days when I fall in love
It won't fall apart like it always does
One of these days I'll forget about you
Take out the trash that's what I'll do

One of these days I'm gonna stop saying one of these days
One of these days I'm gonna stop saying one of these days
One of these days I'm gonna stop saying one of these days

 - Jill Sobule

Listen to the song here:

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Good Friday fish fry

Mr. Okra's truck
It's Good Friday. I haven't been to church in a long time, so I'm not sure what observant people do. But in New Orleans, what I know they do is have a fish fry.

There've been signs cropping up on the roads for the last couple of weeks advertising fish fries at local churches. In general, they haven't registered with me - I see them on the way to class and don't think about it.

But it is Spring Break right now. Thursday night, around 5:00 pm, I came home to find a tag on my front doorknob. It was from the City's sewer contractor, warning me that on Friday - March 25 - I would be unable to run water down my drains between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The fugitive

My friend Becky and I were sitting on the bench outside of Vaughan's Lounge on a Saturday evening, about two glasses of cheap Chardonnay into it, when suddenly she peered out at something in the street. "It's a crawfish!" she said.

The night before had been one of Big Chris's weekly crawfish boils. Looks like a fugitive had made a run for it and he'd got this far, a mere 50 or so yards from the kitchen. There he was, scuttling along in the gutter, bent on freedom.

"I don't want him to get run over," said Becky, and she started to pick him up, but his claws opened and closed menacingly.

I thought I'd give it a try but he intimidated me, too.

A few minutes later, we saw Mario heading toward the bar. "Mario! Can you tell Big Chris there's a crawfish out here in the street?"

Mario bent down and expertly picked the little guy up. We've all seen steamed crawfish, bright coral red. But this guy was the color of a thundercloud, brown-blue and dusty from the street. He was a good-sized mudbug, alive and kicking - and angry. Even in Mario's fingers he waved his red-speckled claws at us to back off.

"What are we going to do with him?"

Becky figured we could put him in one of the yards down the street. At least that way he can't get run over by a car. Mario showed her where to grip him to avoid getting pinched. She held him at arms length, his claws waving and his antennae winding in circles around his head, and we ran around the corner,  She bent down and released him in the cool grass and weeds.

"Do you think he'll be all right? How long do you suppose they can live out of water?'

"I don't know."

"What about cats?"

"Crap, I forgot about cats."

"Well, he's pretty lucky he got this far, anyway."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Super super Sunday

On the Sunday closest to St. Joseph's Day, New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indians come out to parade in their finery for the first time after Mardi Gras Day. This year, Super Sunday, as it's called, was clear, brisk, breezy and sunny.

Other demands press, and I don't have the time to tell you all about it until later. But I can show you some of the photos I took, and ask you to patiently await what I hope to write later! Click any photo to embiggen."