Thursday, August 11, 2016

Open the door

This is the entrance to one of the quirkiest "museums" in the South. It's the ICM Museum in Abita Springs, Louisiana; a collection of oddball stuff thrown together. Or, as one of the signs says, "a hobby that got out of hand."

There are ancient pinball machines, re-engineered bicycles. There are funny, doll-house-like dioramas featuring juke joints, general stores, trailer parks and oil refineries.

One room is wallpapered with paint-by-number paintings.

There's a tank with big old algae-encrusted snapping turtles. There are fake stuffed alligators everywhere, including a giant one, a dog-gator, a duck-gator and a pony-gator riding a bicycle.

It costs $3 to tour the place, and you can buy a souvenir t-shirt on the way out. It's well worth it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Butterflies are free

August is Museum Month in New Orleans - members of participating museums get free admission for themselves and a guest at other participating museums.

I'm a member at three local museums, so this was a fun opportunity to visit other places. Sunday, my friend Becky and I went to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium - a museum devoted to insects and their relatives.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tighty whities

Tonight was the New Orleans National Underwear Day Parade in da upper 9th ward. After a day of storms and tornadoes yesterday, it was a welcome infusion of fun and games.

Stripper pole

Risky Business homage

The group assembled at Castillo Blanco on St. Claude Avenue, and rolled through the Bywater this evening.

My friend Becky and I caught it on the corner of Poland and Burgundy, actually, we could see better on the neutral ground of Poland at that intersection.

We chatted with an NOPD motorcycle officer named Bernard, who was working the gig.

The parade turned on Burgundy Street, passed BJ's Lounge, and headed on into the Bywater, hoping to pick up more participants so they can set a Guinness book record!


I love living in this town!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Girl Power!

This weekend was Festigals Weekend, a woman-centric festival in New Orleans. This is billed alternately as a "girlfriend getaway"and as an empowering event for women. There are lectures, sessions, talks, and parties - mostly parties, from the look of the schedule. I have to admit that it didn't make much of an impact on me, but I did join up with a friend to go catch the Festigals Second Line - billed the Stiletto Stroll - on Saturday evening.

Pussyfooters, getting ready
The Second Line started at Harrah's Casino at the Poydras Street entrance. When we came upon it, it was almost starting time, and all the troupes were milling about getting read to march!

The Leijorettes - all dressed like Princess Leia from Star Wars
Marching clubs and dance teams like the Pussyfooters, some Baby Doll groups, the Leijorettes, and the Rogue Pirates came out. I think I caught a glimpse of the Big Easy Rollergirls, too.

Showgirls on the march
Ah, Second Line season will be upon us again in August, but this was a fun preview.

I love living here!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Good puppy

I was sitting outside the St. Roch market at one of the dining tables, holding the leash belonging to JJ, a large, gentle standard poodle. JJ's owner, my friend Bertie, was inside the market getting something to eat. I had gone in first, ordered a taco salad and then we changed guard, me watching JJ so she could order.

As I was sitting there, a family with two little boys approached the market entrance, and the little boys were entranced with JJ. "Can I pet your dog?" said one.

Without thinking, I said, "Of course!"  Which is what I always do when I'm with my own dog, Jack. Jack is fine with children, he loves the attention and is gentle, without flinching or making sudden moves that might frighten then. My response was automatic.

Then in a sudden flash I realized - hey, this isn't my dog and I don't know how he is with children. He is a gentle and sweet dog, but I don't know that.

The little boy was still hesitant; and just as I was about to reverse my invitation and tell him we could wait for Bertie to return, his mom said, "Maybe we better not bother the lady."  Did she sense the sudden doubt in my mind? Was she a wise woman, or was she a person who was afraid of dogs anyway?

The family went into the market, and I went over the incident in my mind. Was I stupid, foolish to have instinctively vouched for a dog I didn't know well? How awful if I had encouraged him and then something bad had happened. I need to be more careful, more thinking.

When Bertie came out with her food, I told her about the incident. "How is JJ with children?" I asked.

"Oh, he's good with them. He loves being petted. He's a sweetheart." A little later, another family with a boy and a little girl came up to us, and Bertie let them pet JJ.

It made me feel like maybe my instincts are not so bad, after all.

Introducing Hairy Beggarticks

One of the most common weeds I see in the streets of New Orleans is this little daisy-like flower, Bidens alba, also known as Hairy Beggarticks. Also called Spanish Needles, it rambles up from cracks in the sidewalk. It is also growing out from under the raised piers of my little shotgun house.

Bidens is a natural antibiotic that will successfully treat antibiotic resistant bacteria.  It is said to  be able to out perform penicillin, tetracycline, methicillin, and other antibiotics for both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Bidens increases the efficiency of the kidneys to excrete uric acid from the blood, decreasing the likelihood of a gout attack. It also acts as a tonic and preventive in gastritis and ulcers, diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. It is good to treat inflammation of the mucous membranes in just about any part of the body.

Because its active ingredients are not soluble in water, people make a tincture of its leaves, using alcohol like vodka, and add black pepper, which is synergistic and enhances the properties of bidens.

Recipes instruct users to steep the macerated leaves in vodka with peppercorns and some grated ginger for about eight weeks.

I don't think I'm going to put up a tincture of Hairy Beggarticks soon, but there's something intriguing about making medicine from the weeds that grow in your neighborhood, isn't there? Plus - how about a Harry Beggarticks martini?

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Fixed

In Chapter Four of Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she recounts an experiment by the 19th century French entomologist J. Henri Fabre. Working with pine processionary caterpillars, who travel through forests in single file, led by a silken marker laid out by the leader, Fabre lured them onto the rim of a large vase, where they marched around in a circle. Fabre wanted to see if they would realize they were trapped in useless motion, and do something to change their path. But, to his amazement and horror, the caterpillars continued marching in the same circle for over a week, unable or unwilling to change their course despite lack of food, the heat of day and the cold of night.

Out on the gallery at Vaughan's Lounge one afternoon here in New Orleans, a tussock moth larvae was trapped in its own lonely circle of hell, going round and round the rim of an ashtray. My friends and I saw it, and then, repelled at its bizarre, almost dangerous tufted yellow appearance, turned away and sat at the other table. Yet when we passed the ashtray again a little later, it was still there, marching around and around.

Dillard contemplates this "blindered and blinkered enslavement to instinct." Fabre calls it the "abysmal stupidity of insects" who "lack the rudimentary glimmers of reason" that would lead them to abandon a futile effort.

This has been an odd summer for me; one of tremendous change and yet numbing stasis. I procrastinate and put off creative work. I fall into mindless routines to take up my time, and though my kitchen is sparkling clean, my inner life is neglected. I fixate on the same emotions that repeat like an endless loop in my head, reliving old arguments or seeking to undo old mistakes. Like Fabre's caterpillars, I sometimes try to stray from the path, seeking nourishment, adventure, or escape, but am so often pulled back to it.

The inability to change, to gain a higher understanding of our place in the world and our own agency to forge a path for ourselves is what Dillard calls "The Fixed." It is, she says

a world without fire - dead flint, dead tinder, and nowhere a spark. It is motion without direction, force without power, the aimless procession of caterpillars around the rim of a vase, and I hate it because at any moment I myself might step to that charmed and glistening thread.
At Vaughans, once she realized the caterpillar was trapped, my friend Becky decided to rescue it. Together with another friend, LJ, she lured it onto a piece of cardboard and then took it across the street to a young cypress tree and coaxed it onto the leaves.

I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek just after it came out, in 1975. It was my last year in college, my first painful experience with love, and a time when I learned to let go of some childhood myths. I still have the same tattered paperback copy I bought then. Its pages are fragile and stained now, but I remember how her exploration of nature, and the cosmos opened my eyes and helped me orient myself in whatever new world I would inhabit.

A photo of Becky - posted with her permission. I think this is the night she rescued the crawfish - which is another example of how much of a hero Becky is!

Wish me luck
That moment of re-orientation is what I'm dealing with now. And now it's about time to lift my eyes from the fixed path and view the world around me, experience its wonder.

Friday, July 22, 2016


I apologize for the long silence. I'm feeling a little shell-shocked by the hate on display in Cleveland at the Republican Convention. Thank goodness it's over.