“First I must explain how our quartet used to do its hustling so as to attract an audience. We began by walking down Rampart Street between Perdido and Gravier. The lead singer and tenor walked together in front followed by the baritone and the bass. Singing at random we wandered through the streets until someone called to us to sing a few songs. Afterwards we would pass our hats and at the end of the night we would divvy up.” Louis Armstrong, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
As long as there’s been a New Orleans there has been New Orleans street musicians. Just as the city absorbs, assimilates, and adopts food, architecture, and culture, puts it all in the same pot, stirs it up, and claims it as it’s own so it does with music. It’s one of the very few places left where a musician can arrive from anywhere with nothing but a horn, a guitar, or a voice, and be warmly welcomed.
Doreen ‘The Clarinet Queen’ Ketchens. After Hurricane Katrina classically trained clarinetist Doreen Ketchens was forced to take her incredible talents to the street in order to feed her family. Something tells me she, and her family, have never been happier.
Grandpa Elliot and Oscar Castro on Toulouse Street perfectly demonstrating that unique blending of culture and sound New Orleans is famous for.
Smoking Time Jazz Club performing in The French Quarter. This group of excellent musicians never know which ‘members’ will show up to play on any given day, nor do they care, the music will go on.
And because he’s such an icon, such a part of New Orleans street culture, here’s Grandpa Elliot once again doing what he does he does best; uniting people, blending sounds, and making people happy.
New Orleans street music – Always free, no cover charge, no drink minimum, no age limit. Always good!
I LOVE Mardi Gras! To the rest of the world today is Tuesday…down in New Orleans it’s Fat Tuesday…Mardi Gras Day! It’s the one day of the year when I get ‘homesick’. This year it also serves to remind me that I haven’t been ‘home’ in 6 years, and my last Mardi Gras was the one immediately following hurricane Katrina. Since Mardi Gras is a completely free party estimating attendance is particularly difficult. The success of a Carnival Season is based on how much garbage is picked up in the streets. The trash is stored on a barge floating on the Mississippi River, then after Mardi Gras it’s weighed. (Roughly about 8,000 tons of trash.) Pre-Katrina attendance was usually estimated right around 1 million. (Yes, 1 million! Can you imagine throwing a party and having a million people turn up?!) Post Katrina attendance is quickly catching up to this number with estimates ranging between 750,000 to 850,000….still a shit-load of people!
A check of the weather today in New Orleans shows it’s partly cloudy with a high of 73 degrees. The weather is irrelevant though, the party would go on, and has gone on, regardless. To those of you who’ve been I don’t need to explain what happens to the city at this time of year…to those of you who haven’t been, well…there is no explaining. From The French Quarter where the party on Bourbon Street never stops, to up-town where Zulu, Rex, and the truck parades will roll today along St. Charles Avenue….to out in the small Cajun towns like Eunice and Mamou it’s Carnival time!
And if you’re wondering what’s going on today in the more traditional celebrations of small town Louisiana…check these out! To me this is FAR more interesting!
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!!!
I LOVE…weird, exotic food! I’m one of those people who will try just about anything once, and most things twice if I think maybe I did it wrong on the first try. This also applies to food. One of the incredibly awesome things about travel is trying new foods… some things I never in a million years thought I’d be ingesting! I found this Food Challenge over on kimkiminy’s very cool Check Your Premises blog.
So here I go….The 100 Foods Survey….
1. Abalone: Nope, never tried it.
2. Absinthe: Yes, and umm….it’s ok.
3. Alligator: Yes….I’m from New Orleans! Either fried or in a sauce piquante. YUM!!
4. Baba Ghanoush – Yes, and I love it as I do most Lebanese food. (I know it’s cooked in other places, but I’ve only had it at Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurants.
5. Bagel & Lox - Bagels-yes, Lox-no. I don’t think I know what a lox is….
6. Baklava – YES! Delicious!
7. Barbeque Ribs – Please…I’m living in Texas! Rather pork ribs over beef…with TONS of sauce. Best ribs in Texas: Salt Lick in Driftwood outside of Austin!
8. Bellini – I know it’s some kind of drink and that alone is enough for me to try it! But I haven’t as yet.
9. Bird’s Nest Soup - No…..
10. Biscuits & Gravy - Hell yes!
11. Black Pudding – Nope, what is it?
12. Black Truffle – Would like to, but haven’t.
13. Borscht – Yes, once….I’m not sure it was cooked right. I need another sample.
14. Calamari - Yes, and when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad…..ewww!
15. Carp - Yep.
16. Caviar – Yes, at parties….the kind of parties I’m not usually invited to!
17. Cheese Fondue – Melted cheese=good!
18. Chicken & Waffles - Never heard of this, but I’d give it a try.
19. Chicken Tikka Masala – No…but I SO want to!
20. Chile Relleno – Oh yes, plentiful here in San Antonio, and quite good!
21. Chitlins – Ok, yes I’ve tried them….and I never, ever, want to again!
22. Churros – Yep!
23. Clam Chowder - Yes, but I rather Crawfish Chowder.
24. Cognac – Yes, don’t mind if I do!
25. Crab Cakes - Love crab cakes….my mother’s!
26. Crickets – Nope, but it would be interesting.
27. Currywurst – Again, I don’t know what this is…..
28. Dandelion Wine – No, sounds good though.
29. Dulce De Leche - Mmmmm, yes!
30. Durian - Interesting….but no, never had it.
31. Eel – Yes, I’m kinda iffy on eel though. I’d give it another try.
32. Eggs Benedict – Anytime, yes, and with a Mimosa please!
33. Fish Tacos – Yes, awesome fish tacos at The Cove in San Antonio.
34. Foie Gras - No, thanks.
35. Fresh Spring Rolls – I knew a woman who made these, yummy!
36. Fried Catfish – Yes, my folks have a catfish pond!
37. Fried Green Tomatoes – Yep, and I can take it or leave it.
38. Fried Plantain – Yes, when living in Jamaica.
39. Frito Pie – Yes, I hate to admit…but I have had this.
40. Frogs’ Legs - Of course, I’m Cajun! Taste like chicken! (Not really.)
41. Fugu – Ummm…nope. Would I? Maybe….
42. Funnel Cake – Well, yes, I’ve been to a Fair before.
43. Gazpacho – Yes, I have a friend who makes it wonderfully!
44. Goat – Yes, goat soup in Jamaica. Interesting, but a bit greasy.
45. Goat’s milk – Yep, but I’m not a milk drinker no matter the source. Love goat cheese though!
46. Goulash – No, would like to.
47. Gumbo – Oh Yes!! See my post on COOKING. Not only do I love eating it, I love cooking it!
48. Haggis - It would take some convincing, but I would try it. Haven’t as yet.
49. Head Cheese – Yes, I’ve tried it, my step-father use to make it in his butcher shop. I’m not a fan.
50. Heirloom Tomatoes – YUM!! Yes!
51. Honeycomb – Delicious!
52. Hostess Fruit Pie – Fried pies! Ok, I’ll admit I have….but Hubig’s pies on Dauphine Street in New Orleans are SO MUCH better! Cherry or apple!
53. Huevos Rancheros - Of course….again I’m in San Antonio!
54. Jerk Chicken - Ah….jerk chicken! Before I moved to Jamaica I had spent the pervious 5 years as a vegetarian. The smell of jerk chicken cooking broke this. I wish I had some right now!
55. Kangaroo – Yep, it was alright!
56. Key Lime Pie - Yes, and as often as possible!
57. Kobe Beef - No, but I would.
58. Lassi - No…what is it?
59. Lobster – Yes, but only once. Would like it again!
60. Mimosa – Do you even have to ask……Yes!
61. MoonPie – Yep!
62. Morel Mushrooms – I’m allergic to mushrooms, but some are worth the reaction!
63. Nettle Tea - Yes, in Australia….horrible!
64. Octopus - No, not as yet….cook it up!
65. Oxtail Soup – Yes, in Bali….delicious!
66. Paella – Yes, I like it!
67. Paneer – Never had it, but I want it!
68. Pastrami on Rye – I love pastrami, not crazy about rye bread.
69. Pavlova – Yes….very nice!
70. Phaal – Another food I don’t think I know of….I’m starting to feel very unadventurous about which foods I’ve tried….
71. Philly Cheese Steak – Of course!
72. Pho – Vietnamese….yummy!
73. Pineapple & Cottage Cheese - No….not together. Love pineapple though.
74. Pistachio Ice Cream – Love it!
75. Po’Boy – Again this is a New Orleans thing, so, definitely yes! Roast beef po’boys are the best!
76. Pocky - no….should I?
77. Polenta – Yes, yes, yes!
78. Prickly Pear – No, want to though.
79. Rabbit Stew – Yes, my mother’s. I don’t eat the meat, too many small bones for me, but the gravy and rice is heavenly!
80. Raw Oysters – Are you kidding?! Fuck yes! And I love them naked…not me naked, the oysters. If they’re fresh and naturally salty there’s no need to add anything.
81. Root Beer Float - Yes! What’s not to love?
82. S’mores - Yep, over-rated….I’ll just eat the ingredients as is please.
83. Sauerkraut – Never have, and I feel that I should.
84. Sea Urchin – No.
85. Shark - Yep. In Australia most fish and chip shops have ‘flake’ on the menu, it’s shark. It’s not bad but it’s not nearly as nice as barramundi. The barra is worth the price difference.
86. Snail - Yes, unfortunately I have.
87. Snake – Yes, it’s alright…not something I would go out of my way to have again.
88. Soft Shell Crab – This is one of the wonders of life….soft shell crab! My mother keeps a stash of these in her freezer….hidden, well hidden. I love them!
89. Som Tam - No, but sounds interesting.
90. Spaetzle - No…..
91. Spam – Of course I’ve had it….really don’t care for it though.
92. Squirrel - Yes…there are cute and delicious!
93. Steak Tartare - Yes, I tried it and my conclusion….we have fire for a reason….
94. Sweet Potato Fries – Yummy! Sweet potatoes are great anyway you cook them!
95. Sweetbreads – What are sweetbreads. It sounds like I’d like it….
96. Tom Yum - Oh, yes, more please!
97. Umeboshi - Don’t know this food….
98. Venison – LOVE it!! Another food in the ‘cute and delicious’ category.
99. Wasabi Peas – Fun to eat!
100. Zucchini Flowers – No….but zucchini is wonderful, and the flowers are pretty…I’d try it!
My Score: Of the 100 foods listed I’ve tried 68. Not a great score! But I’m willing to try the other 32…well, most of them! How did you score?!!
I LOVE…Louis Armstrong! Satchmo….the father of New Orleans jazz, the iconic and unmistakable sound of his trumpet and cornet, his instantly identifiable voice. Hearing him play I can’t help but smile. His complete virtuosity with either instrument, trumpet and cornet, absolutely testifies of someone totally in love with what he’s doing, in love with the music, and in love with which ever song he’s performing. He takes each song and owns it, makes it his. There is a joyousness in his solos, a relaxed easy-going feeling of someone who completely accepts things as they are and is happy with whatever that is. I adore his creatively, his style of always pushing his playing to the edge of his abilities, and his way of presenting standards in his own unmistakable way.
But even more than his horn playing, I love his voice. He sang just as he played, with creativity and improvisation, pushing his vocals to the edge, using his voice as an instrument. There is a warmth in his voice which, to me, feels like a warm cup of rich, sweet coffee on a cold and rainy day. There is a ‘feel’ to his vocal style, just as with his playing, it’s a feel of acceptance. When listening to him, I can almost picture a man determined and happy to be himself, no matter what. A man content to walk down any road and to do so happily. His voice reminds me of the guy who at the end of the day shrugs, throws his jacket over his shoulder, and walks away with a smile on his face knowing….there must be a way.
I LOVE…Hurricane Katrina. Please allow me to clarify such a seemingly awful statement; I’m from New Orleans, lived through it, and I don’t expect anyone except fellow New Orleanians to fully understand. You can judge me if you wish, all I ask is that you read before doing so. For me, Katrina changed everything; the way I think, the things I do, and the way I live.
Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, and New Orleans watched. During hurricane season, New Orleans is always watching. On Friday, August 26, Katrina began her entry into the Gulf of Mexico. The satellite images on the news that night were surreal, beyond imagination. She appeared awesome in her power and intensity, completely beautiful and elegant, yet completely brutal, mindless, and horrifying. My partner at the time was from California and had never experienced a hurricane, Katrina was his first. Watching the news, he asked if we were evacuating. The decision was obvious and the need to act immediate. We were leaving now.
We each loaded up a backpack. Our three cats, who were totally opposed to evacuating, weren’t given a vote. They were unceremoniously placed in carriers and put on the back seat of the car. It was nearly midnight when I called my brother who lives 90 miles north of New Orleans, I told him we were leaving the city, driving to his place. His reply was, ‘Get the hell out of there’.
The weekend of August 27 and 28 was spent watching Katrina consume the Gulf of Mexico. Feeding on the warm waters she doubled in size, and intensified from category 3 to category 5 in 9 hours. We debated whether 90 miles inland was far enough. Should we move up to north Mississippi? Tennessee? We stayed.
She came ashore at 6am Monday, August 29 directly hitting the town of Buras, Louisiana. We lost power around 8am and Katrina’s winds forced us into the storm shelter shortly afterwards. As it turned out, we were not far enough inland, her eye passed 30 miles to our east. 6 people, 5 dogs, and 5 cats in a roughly 10 by 8 underground shelter, all day, with only the sounds and a narrow, ground level window to give us a hint of what happening outside. We left the shelter around 5pm and it was like entering into a post-apocalyptic movie. No electricity, no water, and surrounded by Katrina’s aftermath. It took a day to cut our way through the fallen trees to reach the highway, and we still had to cut our way into the town before our water ran out.
For 3 weeks we were without electricity, and water became something which one had to think about daily. Showers? No way. Our only news of what was happening in the city came from a small crank-operated radio. The broadcasts were chaotic and impossible to comprehend. We weren’t seeing the images being viewed by the rest of the world. The only thing we knew is that our world, and life as we had known it, had ceased to exist. Army helicopters flew overhead, MREs became currency, and governments, local and national, were fighting over blame. There were radio messages to contact FEMA, but phones were useless, landlines were down and cell phones weren’t receiving signals. After a few weeks I was able to get a call through. The person I spoke with was very helpful, very empathic. He asked about my ‘loses’. I told him I had no idea. He then asked for my address in the city. I told him and he put me on hold. He then came back and said… ‘Lets assume you’ve lost everything.’.
Those words; lets assume you’ve lost everything, changed my life completely. I looked at my backpack with the thought that this was everything I now ‘own’. Everything. I grew strangely ‘ok’ with that.
It was 5 weeks before we were allowed back into the city, and the drive back down was like surrealism on acid. At this point, we still had no real idea of what to expect. We knew we only would have a few hours in the city before we’d have to leave again…Hurricane Rita was heading in and she was bigger and badder than Katrina. We arrived at our 3rd floor apartment to find everything exactly as we left it …exactly as we left it. The emotions, the actual guilt, of that was almost overwhelming considering what we had just driven through. We drove back up to my brother’s to ride out Rita. Afterwards we returned to New Orleans, but nothing was the same. How could it?
There was never a conscious decision on my part to rid myself of my possessions. It happened gradually. People around me had lost everything. The microwave was the first to go, given to people who needed it. The television was next, and I didn’t stop…everything went…dishes, pots, towels, sheets, clothes, furniture, everything. We left the city a few months after. I’ve returned for visits, but I’ve yet to return to New Orleans to stay. But I’m proud of my city in her ability to bounce back, to never quit, and to laugh at herself.
I’ve also yet to replace any of the items I gave away, 6 years later I still live out of that backpack. I’ve traveled, seen parts of the world I never would have, and lived in places I didn’t know existed before Katrina.
So why do I love Katrina? It’s pretty obvious. She changed everything. I now know that all ‘things’ and all ‘conditions’ are temporary and meaningless. The only thing which matters is love and the people you share it with. She showed me the best of humanity and the very worse. She showed me the difference between want and need, and to never take more than I need…and never accept less than I want. She was a wake up call. She made me strong, confident and resourceful. She told me to stop whining and realize that I’m in complete control over every decision I make. She gave me my life and reminded me to appreciate every second of it. She gave me freedom.
A couple of years afterwards, while on the deck of a boat out in the Coral Sea, a world away from New Orleans, a world away from home, a realization came to me. I realized that yes, a lot of people had lost everything they owned in Katrina, but I was lucky…I lost everything which owned me.
Written with love, respect, and compassion for all those along the US Gulf of Mexico coast who lost loved ones on 8-29-05 and during the days and weeks which followed.
I LOVE…Zombies! Well, yeah! I mean, who doesn’t?!
I could say being from New Orleans and loving zombies go hand in hand. But, really…zombies are one of those ‘universal loves’. Everybody loves zombies!
Growing up, as a swamp person, I first learned about voodoo type zombies. Those are cool because well, you can control them and get them to do your bidding. Laundry, errands, breaking up with a boyfriend, just about anything you’ve no time for, a personal zombie will handle….it just may take a while. (It should be noted that the word ‘bidding’, when not used as a gambling or auctioning term, solely applies to zombies. There are other creatures which can be controlled, however none will do your bidding quite like a zombie.)
Later I learned about the ‘other’ zombies, the really fun zombies! CAUTION: These zombies WILL NOT do your bidding. These are the brain-craving, flesh-eating, contagious zombies. They’re not summoned from beyond the grave by a voodoo priestess or your well-meaning aunt Nora, no…these undead are usually the result of some grand scale pandemic, and that’s just the start of the fun! These guys are hungry, relentless, and hang out in very large numbers! These zombies can easily be identified by the three universally known Zombie Recognition Signs (ZRS)….which are as follows….
1 – Brian eating.
2 – A lack of personal hygiene surpassing that of a college freshmen.
3 – Really freaking poor conversationalist.
The primary reason we all love these zombies is because once they show up all the rules of society get chucked right out the window. Governments collapse, the military has a complete melt-down, and we no longer care whether the batteries in our smoke detectors are fresh. And we all have a no-fail plan for dealing with the Zombie Apocalypse. Yes, admit it, even you. We all know what we’ll do, and how we’ll do it…and we can’t wait! Zombies are the one thing which we can shoot, decapitate, or bash to a pulp indiscriminately, and no one will think a bit less of us, not even PETA. In fact, the more you kill, the more attractive you are.There is no ‘limit’ on zombie killing, no permits necessary, no catch and release programs, and it’s not required that you clean up after yourself. Zombies = life simplified!