Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fried pickles

What's better than fried pickles?

Fried pickles and beer.

Fried oyster po'boys, of course, and firecracker shrimp - that is, shrimp fried and doused in Crystal hot sauce, on a po'boy.

Served here at Parasol's bar in the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hello there

Waiting patiently. Near Barataria, Louisiana.

See him? He's watching you.

Click to "embiggen."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

King John's Christmas

by A. A. Milne

King John was not a good man —
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air —
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon…
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tributes from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “JACK.”

“I want some crackers
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now,”
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow —
The first I’ve had for years.”

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: “As I feared,
Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t got a pocket-knife —
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all…
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas passionflower

There are some 500 species of passionflower, but this one, growing in my relative's garden in Florida, is probably passiflora coccinea, the scarlet passionflower, sometimes called red grenadilla.

It is said to be invasive - this is confirmed here, as it has swamped several other shrubs and a pool enclosure.

What bright and pretty red flowers for Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Merry Christmas from Mr. Hai

We were cruising around Lakeshore Drive, our morning errand briefly derailed by a closed office ("Closed today only - will re-open at 12:30") so lunch on the lake stretched into a glass or two of wine.

On the way back, we passed a row of long low modern houses, stark against their broad green lawns, the garish holiday decor contrasting against the architectural purity of their lines. We turned the car around and went back to take some photos.

At one house, a domed glass atrium rising above an entry flanked by white stone foo-dogs, a couple of cars were in the driveway, a yardman was blowing leaves, and several men milled around, one holding up his phone.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bully for us!

We were on a road trip to Oxford, Mississippi, three students and a professor making a pilgrimage to the home of author William Faulkner. It was lunchtime and we were hungry. We used our phones to Yelp as we approached Jackson, going north on I-55.

"How about barbecue?" someone suggested. "Something that's real Mississippi."

"This one comes up with 42 reviews and all of them five-star."

Friday, December 11, 2015

No roadblocks to creativity

Mermaid with a tall boy
 New Orleans streets are a challenge, especially in the Bywater, where the city has been undergoing a repair project that seems mostly to result in gaping holes left open for weeks.

But New Orleanians are a creative bunch, making do with whatever city life brings us. So here at the intersection of Piety and Dauphine, someone has used the opportunity of the street repair project to create an urban vignette.

You can't roadblock creativity.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Our lady of the Bywater

Seen on Desire Street. I hope she will intercede for me tomorrow during my final exam.

And then, buy me a drink! I've been studying hard all weekend, I need one!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The home stretch

We have had our final day of classes for Fall Semester. We're coming down the home stretch.

Yesterday I turned in a final paper that I sweated bullets on. It was 12 pages long; I wrote a prospectus for it a month ago and crunched away at it for several weeks, before realizing that I really didn't have a clear thesis. I met with my professor, who pointed out something secondary I'd scrawled in my messy first draft that he thought I should focus on instead, but I resisted the suggestion. After all, I'd worked so hard already, I just needed to whip it into shape, right?

I brought my laptop to Key West, figuring I just needed an hour or so of work, and I'd be done. And the whole time I was there, I resisted turning the thing on.

Hemingway's study
Let's go to Hemingway's house instead.

Hemingway's toilet
Another daiquiri, please!!

I knew I'd hit a wall. I came home and realized I needed to start from scratch. I had two days' time, and - luckily for me - someone to help bounce ideas off, advise me on structure, and proof-read. (THANKS, Chris!!) I worked for twelve hours on Wednesday - less an hour for lunch, and two twenty-minute walks with Jack.

Thursday morning all I had to do was make sure all the citations were correctly formatted, proof-read it again, and print. I handed it in at 11:00 AM.

Now all I have left is to put the final touches on another paper before turning it it (I got this one solid!), and study for a final exam scheduled for Tuesday morning. Final writing workshop Tuesday evening will be a celebration at the tavern.

I will have completed my first semester at graduate school! Now I can relax a little Next semester starts January 11th.

I wonder if I said...

It's the holiday season. This year a new meme is showing up in my Facebook feed - it says:

"I wonder if I said Merry Christmas how many friends would say it back?"

Then it instructs me to share the meme and find out.

I'm not going to. Because I don't believe we should put kindness to a test. If you are thoughtful enough to greet me with good wishes, it makes me happy. It doesn't matter what words you use.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

For Heidi

Hemingway's cat. (One of them) I didn't count his toes.

A daiquiri in the old man's honor.

More island sights

This morning I stumbled on a yard sale during my walk. Look what I found, for $8!

More Key West sights below, taken in the neighborhood away from Duval Street.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Island paradise

I am sitting on the breeze-cooled porch of a guest house in Key West, while the private jets roar overhead and the palm fronds sway.

Below, at the pool deck, people lounge by the water.

We are just a couple blocks off Duval Street, that easy, sleazy thoroughfare. This morning I took a walk through the neighborhood, past the art galleries, antique stores, t-shirt shops and adult entertainment parlors.

Here are some pictures.

We're going out to explore now - see you later!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Working my butt off!

Train grafitti. Click any image to "embiggen."

I have two final papers due - I have to submit the drafts on Monday, and then revise them over the Thanksgiving holiday.

So that's why I have been neglecting my blog. Hope you all don't mind. I've shared some photos of my neighborhood.

Single shotgun house with an incredible blooming senna shrub

Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

Beautiful old rose growing on a Bywater fence - Reve d'Or, maybe?

Jack, hanging out on the gallery outside of Vaughan's Lounge

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Press Street tracks

Click to "embiggen"
Press Street at St. Claude Avenue. Here is the unofficial boundary between the Marigny, uptown of the tracks, and the Bywater, downtown.

It was an afternoon with thunderstorms in the air. The locomotive was bearing down on the crossing.

Residents of the Bywater have to negotiate the trains everyday. It has become an interesting exercise. There are no gates over the tracks, only red flashing lights. Sometimes, people take a gamble - the engine is slow or even stopped; they drive over the tracks.

Other drivers decide to take an alternate route - they cut through the neutral ground - sometimes at an intersection, sometimes driving right over the grass - and make a U-turn. I've done that - cutting a quick right turn down Press Street toward the Mississippi River, racing the slow-crawling engine to Chartres and crossing the tracks clean. Or else they go lakeward through the St. Claude neighborhood to Claiborne Avenue, which has an overpass spanning the tracks.

Whatever you chose, the trains are a part of your life. Deal with them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"You need to stop this"

I once lived in an apartment house where the resident manager, turns out, was beating his wife. All of the tenants gradually figured out what was happening by sharing information about our encounters with them.

He was doing it so quietly; we would never have known otherwise.

Here, this year in New Orleans, we are living in a rental house with a studio apartment sharing the same wall. Our neighbors are a young couple. Their apartment is too small for two people, and she is pregnant. He is recently unemployed. We sympathize with them, and have been as supportive as we can be.

On Piety

Click to "embiggen"
On Piety Street here in the Bywater, this shrine is here, in front of a neighborhood house. Who does it commemorate? Does it commemorate anyone at all, or is it just an expression?

You decide.

Then, go into Frady's One Stop Food Store and get yourself a po' boy.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rainy Day Parade

Today was the Mirliton Festival in the Bywater - In the United States, it may be the only major celebration of a squash on record.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate. When I went down to Mickey Markey Park around 1:00 pm, it was sprinkling. It was that kind of half-rain, where you're not really sure it's worth opening your umbrella or not. I had Jack with me - he chose the moment before entering the festival to perform his magnum opus - the Prime Directive of every dog-walk. He took a giant shit just by the entrance to the park. Fortunately, I have my stash of dog-poo bags, and I picked it up like a good citizen.

There was a band playing onstage, a morose soundman under a dripping canopy. There were food booths, selling mirliton curry, mirliton gumbo, mirliton tamales - you get it. There were booths for New Orleans Rum and for Abita Beer.

We took a tour of the park - several festival-goers admired Jack - and then headed back home, to warmth and coziness.

The rain increased into evening. Now it was seriously pouring down, in sheets. Although it's only a few blocks, we took the car to Vaughan's Lounge for an evening cocktail. One drink into it, the place was suddenly over-run by a group of crazy women in costume.

The aqua-wigged lady sitting next to me explained that they were a contingent of the Pussy-Footers, a group focused on empowering women. They had planned to be part of the Mirliton Festival's parade, but they'd been rained out. They crowded raucously up to the bar. With the parade cancelled, the hardliners among them thought they might wait it out to go to the masquerade ball at the Port event venue.

It just goes to show - you better keep yourself receptive, because you never know what you're going to encounter in this city.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Only in New Orleans

Seen in the French Quarter.

Study hall

Taken with my Microsoft Surface-Pro
I'm settling in to the habit of school. Thursdays, after my first class ends at 12:15, I have lunch and then set up my little computer at a table in the casual bar-room of the Student Center. I can work here until my next class starts at 4:30.

The only draw-back to this has been the Muzak - they play a Pandora station with current, pop music that is so trite and repetitious it can drive you mad.  It's also so loud you can barely tune it out.

Today, however, it sounds like someone of my generation has commandeered the music. It's not deafening (thank you!), and it's a mix of late '80s early '90s metal grunge with a few classic British punk tunes (think the Clash, think Talking Heads.)

Bravo, kind sir, whoever you are!