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!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Flower mystery

Click any photo to "embiggen"

There's an amazing flowering plant just around the corner from my house. I see it every morning when I walk the dog. It's growing at my neighbor's gate, flanking the opening.

When the buds first appeared, in late September, they were intriguingly weird looking. Pale, green-white ovoids, like blind fish or spermatazoa, on curving tail-like stems, growing in tiers around the tall stems.

As the buds open, they become small florets, five petals swept backwards, almost as cyclamen flowers' petals, with long delicate stamens springing from the centers, like wires. The flowers are about the size of a penny. The petals open pale cream, like soft kidskin, and age a yellower cream. The stamens are tinged with pinky-red, with dark, purply anthers.

The flowering lasts a full month, and now, as the flowers are spent, they leave behind green bracts which flush a bright red, making this plant give double-duty in the beauty department:

I asked my neighbor what it was called, and he couldn't remember the botanical name. He said the person who gave him the seeds had two common names for it. By the time I got home, I couldn't remember the first name, but the other was "rocket-flower." Unfortunately, "rocket-flower"is as common as dirt, so when I search, I get a million hits, mostly for liatris.

I cannot identify this plant and need your help!

Here are two photos of its growth habit. You can see how tall it gets.

It is probably a herbaceous perennial or biennial, I think. It grows in tall spikes, the tallest spikes soar way overhead up to 12 feet or higher. The stems are thick and strong, though not woody. Large, green lanceolate leaves alternate around the stem.

What do you say, Southern gardeners? Can anyone tell me the name of this plant?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Dem Saints

Click any photo to "embiggen"
Today, November 1, is All Saint's Day.  I read somewhere - and I can't find it now - that the traditional celebrations of All Saints Day and All Soul's Day, which takes place on November 2, first occurred on the North American continent in New Orleans, one of the New World's oldest cities.

In L.A. and Mexico they use marigolds. In New Orleans, chrysanthemums
Like people in Mexico and Central America, on All Saint's Day, New Orleanians traditionally clean and tend their ancestors' graves, whitewashing the tombs and adorning them with flowers. After Mass at the church, the priests come to the cemetery to bless the graves and wish the inhabitants peace.