Sunday, September 27, 2015

Whole hog

At 6:45 in the morning, fog clings to the fields that flank the East St. Bernard Highway through Meraux, Louisiana. The road is lined with white rail fences and passes beneath an avenue of huge and ancient live oak trees. We are 18 minutes out of New Orleans, but this idyllic setting feels like another world. Just past the trailer park, the sign for Docville Farms tells us we've reached our destination.

Slow Food New Orleans and Lache Pas Boucherie are hosting a traditional Cajun Boucherie here at the farm. Dedicated to the principles of sustainable food and the preservation of local food traditions, it's all about knowing where your food comes from and how it gets to your table. Today's event features the slaughtering and butchering of a live hog, and the preparation of traditional Cajun foods using every part of the animal, from nose to tail. If you are squeamish about this, or disapprove, you should skip the rest of this post.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Morning fog

Click to "embiggen"

We're down in St. Bernard Parish, early in the morning, and the fog holds tight to the fields as the sun rises.


What makes a po' boy a po' boy? Leidenheimer's French bread.  The bakery, which was established in 1896, makes New Orleans style french bread and also round sesame-seed flecked loaves for muffaletta sandwiches.

In 1996, the bakery's delivery trucks were painted with a cartoon of New Orleans cartoonist Bunny Matthews' 9th Ward characters Vic and Natly.

I snapped this delivery truck Uptown on Magazine Street.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bywater evening

At the corner of Royal and Desire, down in the Bywater. After a hot dog and a couple glasses of chardonnay at Markey's Bar, walking home.

My friend Naomi works at the pottery company that makes the reproduction tiles used to restore these historic street signs. I think of her every time I cross the street!

Yappy hour


 Every bar in the Bywater has a sign at the door - "No Pets Allowed."

They also have waterbowls outside the front door, and a stash of dog treats behind the bar.

This is a city that breaks the rules.

There are three dog-friendly bars within walking distance of my house - they are dog friendly depending on the bartender. At Vaughan's Lounge, when Krinkle or Beth is tending bar, Jack is welcome. They both love him. The regulars like him too. LJ's a real softie for dogs.

There are other regular dogs at Vaughans. Linda brings her two little Lhasas. Another woman brings her dowager hound, Nola. Greg brings his shepherd, Heather. There's never a conflict when one dog is in the bar-room and another one enters, but sometimes there's a little barking, which is loud and annoying enough that one dog owner decides to go out on the gallery. Usually it's whoever is a smoker, but I've chosen to take Jack out, if I think I've had enough time inside.

J & J's
J & J's Sports Bar can be dog-friendly - but sometimes not. It depends, as I say, on the bartender. Once, I brought Jack inside and everyone at the bar patted him. As almost a formality, I asked the bartender - who I didn't recognize - if it was OK if he came in. "No, it's against the rules," he said. "Sorry."

"Okay," I said. "I'll come back another time without him." When I said it, I was looking at the treat bag behind his shoulder, where another bartender had given Jack a bacon-treat a couple days before.

I've never tried to bring Jack inside Markeys Bar, but that's because Markeys has some good sidewalk tables where he's welcome.

Jack doesn't drink. He's my designated walker.

Vaughan's Lounge
In the afternoon - some afternoons, not all - we take our walk, and our feet naturally lead us to the corner of Lessups and Dauphine Streets here in the Bywater, to Vaughan's Lounge.

My afternoon sojourn is usually one drink long. That's all I need to relax, and that's all Jack needs of adoration and praise before he's ready to go back to our place for his dinner.

School Daze

Picture of the Creole Queen on the Mississippi - just because

I have three classes; one at 11:00 am, and one at 4:30, on both Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesdays only, I also have a 6:00 pm class. This means that I have some time between classes, about four hours. It's enough time to go home - especially since New Orleans is geographically so compact. My commute to school takes about 20 minutes by car.

So on Tuesdays, I go home for lunch and to study. Maybe even take a nap if I want. But on Thursdays, I have lunch on campus, and try to find a comfy place to settle in with my laptop or books. There is a facility with a food court and a bar (an actual bar!) just a few steps from the building all my classes are in, and it's pretty convenient. I actually typed this from there.

The only drawback is the music.

Piped through the entire facility - even its outside patio - is a Pandora music channel that, maddeningly, seems to play the same dozen or so songs on repeat. I don't know the name of any of the songs, but after three weeks of the semester, their ear-worms have invaded my brain.

The songs are relentlessly pop, young, anthem-like, and feature an array of digitally manipulated effects, including auto-tune, which makes my skin crawl.

I guess I need earplugs!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where the wild things are

New Orleans is the kind of town where you can stumble on the unexpected.

If you take a walk on Rampart Street in the Bywater, and go downriver past Poland Avenue, you'll come upon a scene that's almost rural - a gravel lot, a grassy field, a stand of mature trees. The train tracks cross the end of the road, and beyond the tracks - skirting round the end of a chainlink fence topped with razor wire -  a vast, green-grass hill looms before you.

This is the levee facing the Industrial Canal. There are no signs, no "Keep Out" or "Authorized Persons Only;" equally, there are no helpful municipal park signs, no trash cans or path markers. It's just the levee, and you and other dog-walkers, fishermen, homeless people, partying teenagers and urban campers are free to enter.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Who dat?

Fans at Vaughans lounge in the Bywater
What the heck does that mean?

At our neighborhood bar, everyone was out with their best flair, but, in the end, Dem Saints lost to the Arizona Cardinals, 19 to 31.

It's not because local fans didn't try!

A miscellaney


I'm not doing a very good job of journal ling, or blogging, these days. School is demanding!

Here's a sample of what's been occupying me this week.

After a week of rain, today is a glorious, cool, perfect Sunday! Perfect for taking Jack to the dog run in Crescent Park, where he found a couple of friends.

He doesn't get to play much, so this made him happy. He romped with a couple of puppies - really, puppies - and I think it tired him out!

I have these new shoes that are eye-shockingly bright! They looked much more subdued online. But they feel so good, I'm keeping them.

When I went to get a new haircut, I was a bit early, so I had a glass of wine in a neighborhood bar across the street.  Great, older place, quiet and dark. The clock doesn't work, so it wasn't 8:05.

My stylist is trying to move my part to the other side of my head. I like it, but I'm always trying to push it the other way before I remember!

Saw this exquisite little oxalis blooming beside my driveway. Look at the shape of its three-way leaves!

This cucumber salad was beautiful and delicious, but how are you supposed to eat it? I tried rolling up the ribbons first, before I gave up and cut it all into pieces.

Jack and I are going for a walk at 2:00. Dem Saints are playing at 3:00! Better find a good bar to watch it from!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Constant is the rain

Morning rain clouds over Royal Street
It started raining this morning at 6:00 am, and it's been raining pretty much ever since.

Yesterday it rained - it started coming down when I left class around 12:30. I got to my car and drove somewhere for lunch.

The day before it rained at least twice - once in the morning while I took Jack to the park, and then again later in the day, before my 4:30 class.

I think it rained Monday, too, and I know it rained Sunday, as I had an early dinner at Markey's Bar.

Will it ever stop?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My first publication!

I've got a piece on the Bayou Magazine blog! Go read it HERE.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I didn't see that coming!

The park - a different day!

This morning Jack and I were in the dog run at Crescent Park, and suddenly huge fat drops of rain started pattering down around us.

We're only a short distance from my house, but that's compounded by the double-back I had to do to get to the railroad track crossing and then back to my house. By the time I stood at the crosswalk to Chartres Street, I was absolutely soaked, and so was Jack.

I didn't take a photo for fear of getting my phone wet.

I got back to my house and once Jack got up on the porch, he shook himself - well, at least he didn't do it in the house!

Starting the day with a cold shower!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Deep into the mix

Oh, I am deep into the work now! I am reading 18th Century feminist tracts, while also trying to decipher a Deconstructionist's take on William Blake ( GAH!). I'm also writing a paper on a heartbreakingly beautiful memoir about growing up on the Mississippi Coast in a poor, African-American community, as well as reading pieces submitted by my classmates to our Writing Workshop, and writing my critiques of them

I am not in over my head, but I am definitely treading water!!

Today I worked from about 9:00 am to about 4:00 pm, and then I took a break and went down to a neighborhood bar for a beer and a burger.

While I was there, a ferocious rainstorm came down, clattering on the tin roof of the gallery, and sending people running inside with their shirts spattered with raindrops. I waited it out and then came home to walk Jack the dog.

There was a rainbow over the Poland Street Wharf. Things are going great.

Friday, September 4, 2015

September rain

Bar room at Tujagues
Yesterday around noon, the skies opened up and it rained hard for about an hour. We were on the number 5 bus to the French Quarter, and watched the water sheet down the windows as the driver expertly threaded through the narrow streets.

We got off on Decatur Street, and went into Tujagues for lunch. The bar-room is narrow, with a stand-up bar dating from the 1850s along one side. When we walked in, the tables were all full, so we went through the passage to the dining room.

The dining room, with its hexagonal-tiled floor, bentwood chairs and white linen cloths, was charmingly old-fashioned and utterly empty. We were the only diners, though it was mid-day lunchtime. Septembers are slow, the waiter told us.

Tujague's dinner menu is extensive, but the lunch menu was simple. I chose shrimp creole, [The Man I Love] chose crawfish etouffe, but the waiter pointed out that we could split a sampler platter with those two dishes and red beans and rice, so that's what we did. I loved the shrimp creole with its bright tomato and vegetable sauce. The etouffe was rich, dark, and intensely concentrated in flavor. The red beans included nice chunks of smoked sausage. There was just enough food to satisfy.

We walked through the streets of the French Quarter. Though it was rainy, there were still tourists out, and street performers doing their thing.

We were in search of bookstores, and went into the one run by the William Faulkner Society. The cashier there was another student from the Creative Writing program; a third year poetry student. We talked a little. I told her I was curious about the fabled bar hang-out evenings I'd been told about - kind of a literary salon for the program, taking place after the writing workshop classes. "Are they only Monday nights, or is it after every workshop?" I asked, noting that my non-fiction workshop was on Tuesday night.

"Oh," she said. "You're non-fiction. They don't seem to drink much. You might want to hang out with another genre."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

City on a river

A view of New Orleans' central business district from the Piety Street Wharf in Crescent Park yesterday, clouds overhead. The rain will come in later around noon.