Saturday, October 14, 2017

On the river

This is a ship a couple days ago, heading out to the Gulf
Mornings, my friend Carol and I try to go for a walk along the Mississippi River. We text each other, and meet at Crescent Park - New Orleans' downtown waterfront now re-purposed as a park. We walk about a mile upriver, just below the French Quarter, before turning back.

The Port of New Orleans is still a vital economic engine, and on our morning walk we see its activity.
This morning's ship
This morning, a big red painted freighter came upriver.  As we watched, it navigated the serpentine curves of the stream - the ox-bow loop around Algiers Point, giving way onto the smooth curve that gives New Orleans its name of Crescent City.

Someone I talked to once about ships on the river said navigating these curves is an art. The pilots let the Mississippi's current do the work, shifting the ship's ass-end around in a counterclockwise turn.

Check it out.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

Out in public!

You know how when you were a kid adults would act scandalized to think you might dress or behave a certain way when out in public?

Well, that's what Southern Decadence is all about!

This weekend-long festival has been taking place  over Labor Day weekend in New Orleans for 46 years. It's said that even during Hurricane Katrina, the parade took place, attended by French Quarter hold-outs before evacuation.

Sunday was the parade that culminates the celebration. Friends and I went down to the Quarter to join in.

As might be expected, there were several organizations and people who didn't get the joke, didn't enjoy the spectacle. In face, certain religious figures even blamed Southern Decadence for the hurricanes that have hit the city over the years.  

Party poopers. But no matter. The spirit of fun and revelry will always prevail.

If you can imagine it, there was a costume for it.

You're not going out in public like that, are you?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sordid decadence

What happens when Southern Decadence + Sordid Lives + New Orleans + Vaughan's Lounge meet?


El Chapo got into the act too!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Weathering the storm.

Here in New Orleans, we knew to expect heavy rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey. Since the city's Sewarage and Water Board's incompetence has put our neighborhoods at risk of flooding, everyone has been nervous about the severity of the downpour.

Yesterday the rain started around 1:00 pm. I was at work on the University of New Orleans campus. My office window looks out into a courtyard, and we could see the pavement within pool up with water. As the wind dashed rain against the glass, we could hear a strange geyser sound, and I caught video here - it must be that as the downspouts reach capacity, they back up and burst up into the air.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Heya Harvey

Here's the New Orleans skyline this morning, with grey clouds to the west and over the Gulf.

The Texas coast is bracing for Hurricane Harvey. Here in New Orleans, we are bracing for rain, and hoping our city's pumps and drainage system won't fail us.

While I don't expect much flooding where I live, on the "sliver by the river," I'm still laying in supplies in case of power outages.

I also have a cute new pair of red rain boots, just in case!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Too Darn Hot

In tour guide school, they cautioned us to be careful giving walking tours in the heat of summer. Sunscreen. Plenty of water. A hat or a parasol to shield from the sun. Keep the guests in shade as much as you can.

We were told to watch our guests for signs of heat exhaustion. To place a cool wet-nap on the back of their neck to cool someone down. To duck inside air-conditioned places if possible.

During breakfast, Friday morning, WWNO announced the heat index would be 109 that day. I had a tour on Friday morning, and I kept all this in mind. I gave my opening speech inside the cool courtyard instead of out in Jackson Square. I cut short my stop at the Washington Artillery because there was no shade. I kept my six guests beneath the galleries and balconies on the street. I had a big bottle of water and carried a parasol.

Nevertheless, at about 12:15, standing on the corner of Royal and St. Louis streets, as I began to tell my guests about the old St. Louis Hotel and its infamous history as an antebellum market for enslaved people, I suddenly felt a strong urge to sit down.

"Whooo," I said. "I think I'm a little light-headed." My vision began to grey out around the edges.

My guests leaped to my side. "Let's go inside," they said, and supporting me, they guided me across the street and into the vestibule of the Omni Royal Hotel - the hotel built on the site of the old St. Louis Hotel.

I felt immediate relief in the air conditioning, but I was still dizzy and lightheaded. "Hey," I said. "This is embarrassing. I'm supposed to take care of you guys, not the other way around."

I ended up lying down on the cool marble floor with my feet elevated on someone's backpack. The hotel's concierge arrived with two cold bottles of water - I drank one and someone laid the other on the back of my neck.

"I guess this is the end of the tour," I told them. "Sorry about that." I urged my guests to go have a pleasant lunch.

Fifteen minutes later, I felt okay enough to sit up and call an Uber.  The concierge went outside to flag the driver down for me.

There are two morals to this story. 1) Be careful in the heat. It can happen even when you're prepared. and 2) People are kind. I am so grateful for the kindness of my guests, and that of the Omni Royal Hotel staff.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Here comes the rain again

It was close to two in the afternoon on Saturday, and John Boutte was playing under the tent at the Satchmo Festival. The lawn beneath the tent - the lawns everywhere at the Old U.S. Mint - was thickly mulched with pine straw, although it failed to completely staunch the oozing black mud that had been generated by a torrential downpour yesterday. New Orleanians have learned that tall rubber boots are de rigueur festival footwear.

Still, the band was rocking. The canopied bar area was full of people drinking margaritas, bloody marys, and frozen daiquiris. You could smell the delicious aromas from the food tents - smoked sausage, meat pies, fried catfish.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another hundred people just got off of the train

"Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around

At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday.

It's a city of strangers,
Some come to work, some to play.
A city of strangers,
Some come to stare, some to stay.

And every day
The ones who stay
Can find each other in the crowded streets and the guarded parks,
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks,
And they walk together past the postered walls with the crude remarks.
And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never

"Do I pick you up or do I meet you there or shall we let it go?"
"Did you get my message? 'Cause I looked in vain."
"Can we see each other Tuesday if it doesn't rain?"
"Look, I'll call you in the morning or my service will explain.

And another hundred people just got off of the train."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nothing like the city

8th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen

A visit to New York always inspires nostalgia for me, remembering when I used to live here.

The city has changed so, with new construction, sleek new buildings. Old neighborhoods have become gentrified and tourist-focused. Yet some of the old feel remains.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Conversation starter

One of my favorite things about living here is that there are so many outdoor cafes and coffee shops. I like to treat myself to breakfast, sitting outside at a rickety metal table, watching the traffic go by and maybe reading a book while sipping coffee.

Yesterday I grabbed up a novel I'm reading and headed to my regular cafe. When I got there, I was surprised and delighted to see a friend sitting there. "May I join you?" I said.


I put down my book and went inside to order my coffee. When I came out, he was looking quizzically at my book.

"Sex and Rage?" he asked.

Later, a friend of his walked by. They greeted one another, and he introduced me to her. Her eye fell upon the closed book on the table and she did a double take. "Sex and Rage?" she asked.

Today, I met another friend for coffee at another cafe. While I was waiting, I chatted with the waitress. She glanced at my book. "Sex and Rage?" she asked.

Eve Babitz is an author born in Los Angeles who became somewhat notorious during the '60s for her semi-autobiographical writings about LA's rock and roll and arts scene, and the culture of Southern California itself. She played the role of groupie/muse for several artists, including Jim Morrison of the Doors, Ed Ruscha, Steve Martin, and others. Her work is now being reissued, and I'm fascinated by her crazy, kaleidoscopic take on Los Angeles in the '60s. "Sex and Rage" is the third book of hers I've read. The book - so far, anyway - is not really about sex, and not really full of rage.

Yet - the title on the cover is so bold it really stands out! For a single woman sitting in a public place, I seem to have found myself an unintended conversation starter.  What an interesting experiment!

Monday, July 10, 2017

River colors

click to "embiggen" 
A colorful sight on the river - a container ship comes downriver, past the Central Business District

Then turns

And heads toward the Gulf of Mexico, 106 miles away.

Friday, July 7, 2017


This morning's view from my river walk. It's already in the mid 80s! Looks like those clouds will bring a thunderstorm later on, but right now it's beautiful.

New Orleans in the summer!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Train Graffiti

I walk in the mornings for about a mile down Crescent Park, which parallels the train trains downriver from the French Quarter in New Orleans. The cars are colorful with graffiti of all kinds. But sometimes there's one I like. Like this one.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wildflower walk

Tradescantia ohiensis - spiderwort
Some sights from the Wildflower Sanctuary along the Riverwalk in Batavia, Illinois.

Trillium recurvatum - "Wake Robin" trillium

This volunteer-built sanctuary was begun in 1991, showcasing the native woodland plants growing along the Fox River in Northern Illinois.

Aquilegia canadensis - wild columbine
When I lived here as a child, I explored the woods, prairies, and creeksides of this landscape. My mother helped me identify flowers I found.

Anemone canadensis - meadow anemone

Wild iris
Walk through the cool shade to find small treasures.

Phlox divartica
Bright flashes of color in the green.

The Challenge Windmill Factory building
The walk follows the river, which powered mills and factories beginning in the 19th century.  The factories are built of limestone quarried nearby.

Batavia's factories built windmills, as intricately styled as flowers themselves. Some of these antique windmills are on display at the park.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crabby hands

My mouth is tingly and my hands are stained reddish brown. There's a pasty, spicy mixture caked under my fingernails. 

It's crab boil time. At Vaughan's Lounge.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day parade

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and also the annual celebratory parade for the Social and Pleasure Club Original Big Seven. As I stood on St. Bernard Avenue waiting for the parade to cross Claiborne, the crowd was full of mothers and children, holding hands. Many mothers were wearing corsages, and the children were wearing hair-bows. Everyone was wishing one another "Happy Mother's Day!"

The sound of revved motors split the air, and around the corner came a fleet of women on sleek and fancy motorcycles. They wore helmets adorned with bright pink mohawks. They made a pass up the Avenue, made a U-turn through the neutral ground, and circled back, parking their bikes in formation at the curb.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reminders everywhere

Walking through the Bywater, warm summer afternoon. Faced again with a reminder to BE.

Monday, May 8, 2017

His Master's Voice

El Chapo is a little white puppy beloved of many people at Vaughan's Lounge, but the person who loves him the best is Big Chris.

And El Chapo loves him back. Here's El Chapo at the door, recognizing the sound of Big Chris's van pulling up outside.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


When the world sends you a message, take it to heart.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I've abandoned you. I'm sorry. But I'm back.

It's been a long time - since Mardi Gras. I have completed my spring semester. I've also embarked on a new path.

In March, I undertook a training program to be a licensed tour guide in the city of New Orleans, through the Friends of the Cabildo, a local historic preservation group. I will be part of their team of guides giving walking tours of the French Quarter. It's fun and it's also challenging.

Right now it is the weekday interim between the two weekends of Jazz Fest - officially called the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This is a huge music and cultural blow-out; major national bands alongside local bands and players, food tents and vendors and booths for cultural groups, all arrayed out at the fairgrounds. I'm not a big festival fan, but what I like is how the rest of the city's cultural life is enriched by the presence of so many musicians and music fans during this time.

Yesterday afternoon I was treated to a performance by one of my favorite musicians, singer and songwriter Dayna Kurtz, at Euclid Records, with Robert Mache.

Last night at Vaughan's Lounge, a couple of bands rocked the house - Jamaican Me Breakfast and the Fortifiers.

Tonight is Blood Jet Poetry reading at BJ's Bar, and tomorrow Corey Henry kills it at Vaughan's.

Who knows what Friday will bring?

Having this much fun is exhausting!