Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Down in jungleland

Jack in the jungle
My landlord contacted me and told me he was a little concerned that my back yard was looking "a little jungly."

Well, yeah, it is. When I moved in, the backyard was a kind of mess of dirt and broken concrete - this was early spring and it was hard to know what plants were growing there. He laid some cheap sod over the top of all this, and - amazingly - it took hold.

But then in June or July, the elephant ears and cannas that previous owners/tenants had planted awakened from their dormancy and asserted themselves.

Around the same time, I bought some big-ass planters and planted some things. Some of them really thrived! Including what was sold to me as a "dwarf papaya tree," 10 inches high in a gallon pot - look what it's become now!

Along with the elephant ears, cannas, and potted plants, the grass my landlord planted also grew tall. In July I asked my neighbor if he would be so kind as to weed-whack my yard, and he did - but since he did it for free and turned down any offers for recompense (including cash or beer) I am reluctant to continue to ask him. He's a nice guy but I don't want to take advantage. So - yes. It's a little jungly out there.

It's been too hot to work in the garden this summer. I should have figured it out - New Orleans gardening activity takes place in the fall and spring. In summer, you should only worry about maintenance - and not that much. I mean - who even goes out there in August?

Jack enjoys it in the backyard
OK - Now it has gotten cooler, And I will pay more attention to my backyard. I am talking to friends and neighbors to see if there is someone - a handy-man or a local guy - who would be willing to clean up my little plot on a regular basis, for a reasonable sum of money (or beer - I'm willing to traffic in beer). Because I really need to get a handle on the jungle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Far pavilions

Down in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, just by the Mississippi River Levee, stand two twin houses that stand out as exotic and fantastical creatures among the small bungalows and modern solar townhomes.

They are the Steamboat Houses, built on Egania Street by steamboat captain Paul Doullut between 1905 and 1913 (the first for himself, the second for his son, Paul), they stand proud, their cockpit towers looking over the levee to the ship channel beyond. The houses' design was inspired by river-going steamboats, as well as Japanese pagodas exhibited at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

They survived past Hurricanes with little damage because, according to the description in one article, the surfaces in the lower floor is completely covered with ceramic tile.

The walk on the levee near the houses is a pleasant one now that the blazing heat of August has been tempered by the outer tendrils of tropical storms in the Caribbean. The grass green and the slopes of the levee are dotted with yellow rain lilies. Enjoy the day!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Here lies Vera

One of the most iconic photos of the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina is a photo taken of a makeshift grave in the Lower Garden District, of a woman named Vera, who died of mysterious circumstances in the storm. She had stayed behind in her home rather than evacuate, and when she went out to a local store for cigarettes and beer, she never returned.

It's thought she was killed by a hit and run driver, though later autopsy reports did not confirm that. In any case, during the chaos of the storm, Vera's body lay unattended just off the sidewalk in a vacant lot at the corner of Magazine Street and Jackson Avenue, until neighbors made her a makeshift tomb. Surrounded by bricks from a damaged building, and covered with a spray-painted tarp, it read: "Here lies Vera. God help us."

From all reports, she was a lady about my age; she liked dogs, and she liked to party; she enjoyed wearing wigs of different colors and she was known and loved by her neighbors.

Vera's body was eventually cremated and she was laid to rest with her family in Texas. But her memorial remained on the corner of Magazine and Jackson. When a new building housing a restaurant was built on the site, the memorial was updated, and it still remains. I stumbled upon it yesterday, August 28. I didn't really connect that this weekend was the 11th anniversary of the storm, but seeing this memorial called it home for me.

There are always reminders in this city.

It's a doggy dog world

When I was a little girl, I misheard the phrase, "It's a dog-eat-dog world," and instead thought it was "it's a doggy dog world."

Much nicer, don't you think?

These are the various dogs who hang out with Jack at the Crescent Park dog run.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Magnificent ruin

I was driving out to see friends yesterday when ahead at the corner of Broad and Orleans I could see the blue flashing lights of police motorcycles, and a crowd of people in black and gold spilling out into the street.

In any other city you might think there was an accident or some kind of emergency, but this is New Orleans - it had to be a funeral second line. It was also right where the Zulu Club's headquarters is on Broad Street, so it was obviously the rites for someone prominent in the community.

To avoid traffic, I cut across the neutral ground and headed uptown a couple blocks. Suddenly, I came upon a most fantastical sight - the crumbling Art Deco ruin of the General Laundry and Dyers building on St. Peter Street.

This building was built in 1930, registered as a National Landmark in 1974 by preservationists,

Its brilliantly colored red, green, blue and yellow terra cotta tilework makes it unique among Art Deco buildings, most of which are more subdued in color.

It is owned by the Southern Recycling Company, which for several years has been seeking permits to demolish it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hello again!

It's been a busy couple of weeks.

The day after my last post, my son came through town and spent some time with me. He was driving across country, from Florida to California, and stopped off to spend a few days with me.

He headed west out of New Orleans on Saturday morning....only to be stopped just east of Baton Rouge by flood water over the road. After several hours stranded there on I-12, he hopped a ride on a National Guard truck to an emergency shelter; like many others, he abandoned his car on the highway.

Yep, he ended up right in the middle of the record floods in South Louisiana.

We stayed in touch that night by text. After a sleepless night, I hopped in my car and drove out I-10, which was open early in the morning, and picked him up in Baton Rouge. We returned to New Orleans, and three days later drove out again to rescue his car from a tow-yard. It had taken on two inches of water in the passenger cabin, but the engine was dry. We were able to drive it back to New Orleans.

By this time, he was already some five days behind schedule. I had already started my first class at the university; he was due for a meeting at his university, Cal Berkeley, on the upcoming Monday. The car was checked out by my mechanic, and then taken to a detail shop to deal with the water damage.

It was nice to have him with me for a few more days, but it was time to get him back to California. I promised to deal with his car, and he flew out a week ago yesterday.

We'd shipped my car here by auto-transport when I moved here from Los Angeles; I contacted the same company and got a quote.

The car, when I picked it up on Monday, was in good shape. The shop had removed the seats and carpet, and removed and replaced the under-carpet padding. Then they'd steam-cleaned the carpet, reinstalled it and the seats. When I picked it up, there was a faint funk smell that I couldn't swear hadn't been there before the flood; but the dank, muddy, moldy greenhouse smell that had greeted us in the tow-yard was gone. I bought an air-freshener and put it in one of the cup-holders.

Yesterday, I drove to the Truck Stop on Elysian Fields and dropped the car off with two nice young guys from Miami who were driving the auto-transport truck to California. Bye!!

As far as the floods go, we are among the lucky folks. All we lost was a little time and a little money. There are other people who've lost their homes, their livelihood, and their loved ones. Please take a minute to give generously to flood victims. Here are a few good organizations that need your help:

Second Harvest, New Orleans.

American Red Cross

American Humane Society

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