Wednesday, December 28, 2016

World market

There is so much on offer in Oaxaca! The old central square of the colonial city, or Zocalo,  with vendors of all kinds - from shoe-shine stands to balloon sellers, to sellers of toys with their wares laid out on the pavement.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Oaxacan second line

It was about 9:00 o'clock in the evening - pretty early in this socially active city. The streets were packed due to the annual yuletide Noche de los Rabanos festival. I was sitting at the bar with my three companions in a mezcaleria on Calle Cinco de Mayo.  A mezcaleria is a little place where you can sample mezcal by the glass and buy it by the bottle if you like. Some places are part of restaurants, and serve cocktails like any bar, but this little place only served mezcal.

We were sitting at the bar comparing different pours, sipping the smooth smoky liquor. There was a guy from New Jersey crowding my shoulder. He was drunk, and he was checking my Jersey bonafides by asking me whether I knew which town exit number 115 was.

"Turnpike or Parkway?" I asked him.

When suddenly from outside was a loud boom, following by the unmistakable sputtering squeal of a bottle rocket going off.

The drunk paid for his bottle and, twirling a set of BMW car keys on his finger, headed out the door.

"I sure hope he's not driving," said my friend Alice.

"Oh, he's driving," said the young woman behind the bar. "Look." We watched a black BMW roll slowly down the narrow cobbled street.

The fireworks continued, increasing in frequency and proximity, and suddenly there was one going off right out in the street. We could hear music. "What's going on?" said Janet.

"It's a calendaro," said the woman behind the bar. She explained it was a private celebratory parade people give for weddings and other occasions.

The mezcaleria was a tiny place, the bar just inside the door. We only needed to take a few steps to be out onto the sidewalk for a look.

A man had an apparatus set up in the middle of the street, and as we watched, he shot off another bottle rocket. The sparks glowed orange in the dark, the streets here being far more poorly lit than streets in the United States. The music grew louder, and in the darkness we could see huge fantastic shapes floating toward us.

They were papier mache puppets and spinning globes, held aloft by marchers. They headed up a cortege of parading people - women in flowered and feathered headdresses and others carrying glowsticks. Behind, a brass band blared, clarinets trilled, and cymbals crashed. Crowds of spectators ran alongside.

"Hey," I realized. "It's a goddam Second Line!"

The video I took is very dark, due to the darkness of the street, but the sound of the parade rings true.

I think I like this place!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hola from Oaxaca

The flight into Oaxaca from Mexico City was delayed by an hour and a half, so I didn't get in until after dark. The driver that had been sent to pick me up, Samuel, was right there and was such a nice man. He spoke excellent English, and guided me to the hotel and gave me some suggestions for dinner.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sending her home

CJ was a beloved person in my neighborhood. She and her late husband held a place in the hearts of so many people that lived, worked, and played in what is known as the "Barmuda Triangle" of the Bywater - a three-block area housing Vaughans Lounge, BJ's Lounge, and the J & J Sports Lounge.

I never met CJ. But I was sitting at the bar at Vaughans last week when people learned that she had passed, and I could tell by their reactions how much they loved her.

Saturday, a celebration of her life was held, and because this is New Orleans, it was marked by a second line parade that started at Vaughans, and then snaked around the block, stopping at the other two watering holes.

Presiding over this was Big Chief Honey Bannister of the Creole Wild West. CJ's friends spoke and related their memories of her. One woman said:
"Here to celebrate our sister as we begin to come and to gathering today.
Know that although her flesh part has left us, her synergy self spirit still circles round above.
Each of us that she touched she is with us in spirit
And let us know begin to give that life walking home for her.
And let us rejoice and live the life that she would have expected us to
Rejoice even in our sadness."

"She was a refined woman!" said one mourner.

"Yes she was," said another. "And funny, and smart."

Then the assembled company took to the street.

As we walked, under the grey December sky, beneath the towering cypress trees that line Lesseps Street, we sang, our song accompanied by the diminished chord-like horn of the train that punctuates our lives here in the Bywater.

"Here come the Indians! Hoo nah nay!"

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Revillion night out

"Revillion" is a New Orleans holiday tradition, although it has been updated since its 19th century beginnings from being a Creole post-Midnight Mass meal to being a celebration of holiday foods in general. Revillion means awakening, and here at the restaurants and bars of the French Quarter, there are plenty of holiday menus to awaken your senses.

We went to a matinee movie and then followed up with a Revillion version of a pub crawl. I am so seldom in the nighttime streets of the French Quarter that it's always a surprise to see it so vital and lit up.

The holiday lights and decoration gave the streets a heightened festivity.

A Vieux Carre cocktail at Broussards
With my three companions, we sipped traditional cocktails and holiday toddies at Broussards, one of New Orleans's old-school Creole restaurants, and then crossed Canal Street to check out the decorations at the Roosevelt Hotel lobby.

Roosevelt Lobby
We wandered through the Ritz and then found a seat at the cozy Bombay Club, just in time to beat the expiration of the Happy Hour menu. With four minutes to spare, we ordered snacks and cocktails.

On the prowl again, we strolled through the French Quarter, stopping off at the Pelican Club. My companions were planning to catch a friend singing later on, but I begged off and caught an Uber car for home.

My social calendar has been quite full this season, and I have to conserve my energy!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Accidental amaryllis

It's growing in the space around the street tree in front of my house, and it's blooming today. Once upon a time a new acquaintance mis-remembered my name and called me Amaryllis.

This is an amaryllis.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


My dog, Jack Waterman, died yesterday. He was an older dog; 11 years. He had been having some bad arthritis pain, which I expected to nurse him through for many more years. Yesterday, he was unwilling to go out to the park. I thought it was joint pain; I gave him a pain pill and he lay on the living room carpet, panting, while I worked at my desk.

After a little while, he moved next to me, lying on the rug by my chair. I came down to the floor and stroked his face, trying to understand what he was feeling. He was still panting, heavily, and I could see that his tongue was pale lavender instead of pink. I thought about getting him to the vet, but how? If he was unable to walk, how could I get a 65 pound dog in the car?

We have a local house-call vet in the neighborhood; their office hours begin at 10 am. It was just about that time, and I was keying in the phone number, when Jack got to his feet.

He staggered weakly into the bedroom, a distance of maybe 6 feet, and then he lay down. I touched him and felt his body move with his breath, then I ducked back to my desk to grab my phone.

When I got back seconds later, he was gone.

Thank you to my good friends Linda and Scott, who helped me get Jack's body to the veterinarian clinic. Jack's ashes will be spread in a national park somewhere.

Thanks to all my good friends who hugged me and let me cry and tell stories of Jack. Thanks to all my friends online who sent me good wishes.

Jack and his friend Franny
Jack was a good dog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday in the park with Jack

It's become a morning ritual. Get up around eight o'clock and head out the door to the Crescent Park dog run.

There's a group of about a dozen folks and their dogs that come around the same time. The dogs are now all friends, and most people know all the dogs' names. We even can remember one another's names, instead of designating them as "Augie's mom" or "Petunia's dad."

Jack has been slowing down lately, as a result of his arthritic hips. He had a bad spell this last week when it was so very cold.

But this morning, he was running and playing with the others. It keeps him active.

It's become a little community. We exchange phone numbers and text when we're heading to the park. Or we'll text, "Cold out today, dress warm." We share our social calendar. We turn one another on to cool events that are happening, or give tips on what store to find special items in. The human companionship keeps me active and connected, too.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The bee on the flower

It's cold here - in the low 40s. The cutting wind blows off the Mississippi River into Crescent Park. In the dog run, an alley of evergreen shrubs includes a stand of white camellias.

Even though it is cold and chill, there's a bee nestled in the white flower. A sure sign that life goes on, that spring will come. And with it - at least, here! - Mardi Gras.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

He brought roses

I was sitting at the bar at Vaughan's Lounge, in anticipation of a musical set by Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet. I was with some girlfriends, C. and J., hanging out. The crowd was building, and the place was getting busy. The door buzzer rang, the bartender pressed the button, and someone came in. He was at my shoulder. A greeting kiss and hug - that's how they do it here in New Orleans.

And then he held out a rose to me.

A florist's rose, a large-flowered hybrid tea. The bud with petals still tightly furled, just beginning to open. Like a Valentine's Day tribute only this one was a subtle mauve tipped with crimson on the edge of the petals. Faded from use, but still lovely. The stem was cut short - maybe six inches at the most.

My friend works for a floral and special event company. They have been busy for the holiday season. He had just got off work and had salvaged some blooms from a display. He gave C. and J. rose blossoms as well (J.'s boyfriend filled an empty Abita bottle with water to serve as a vase), and there were still five or six clutched in his hand.

Wholesale roses at the L.A. Flower Market
My friend is a working man, serious and dark, and usually wearing a Saints jersey, jeans, and a pair of sunglasses pushed up on his head. Kind of a badass. The hand that clutched the bouquet was calloused from hard work. I said to him, "I love the way you look, holding a bouquet of roses in your hand."

He said, "There were more when I started. I was walking through the French Quarter and handing them out to people who looked like they should have one. You know - a lady here, a couple there."

Fading but still lovely
Who got the remaining roses that night, I don't know, although I am sure they were just as charmed as I was. I tucked my rose into my neck scarf, and put it in water when I got home.

I love this city.

Thursday, December 1, 2016