More Jazz Fest; the Chutzpah of Children, and Uninvited Guests.

My original plan was to go to the festival on Saturday and see Cage the Elephant play the last set of the day, but I got distracted by doing really not much at all and before I knew it, it was 2pm and then, when I finally set off for the festival it started pissing down with rain and I happened to be passing a grocery store at the time soooooo… I ended up back at home swaddled in a blanket on the sofa, binge watching Supernatural, and the second series of Dear White People, whilst eating a plate of amazing pre-type 2 diabetes deliciousness from Betty Crocker known as Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies. (It’s evil genius: brownie batter poured on to the tray as usual, teaspoons of raw cookie dough spread about an inch apart from one another directly on top of the brownie batter, bake for 40 minutes and then you’ve got an incredible warm, fudgy tray of addiction.)

But on Sunday I threw the hard crusts of the cookie brownies into the trash, and peddled over to the race grounds for the last day of the festival. When you get about half a mile from the race grounds you start seeing the lemonade stalls, the beer chests and the BBQs popping up on the sidewalk and in people’s front yards. I love this about New Orleans, any event that attracts a big crowd draws out the entrepreneurial spirit of the New Orleans residents. You can get a beer for three bucks, water for fifty cents, corn on the cob for whatever anyone feels like at the time and – yesterday’s stellar find – two jello shots for a dollar.

On the topic of entrepreneurial spirit, a kid was walking up and down my street the other day all chatty and super smiley, offering to sell a potted plant for $10. My plant knowledge is pretty limited because, let’s be honest, gardening takes commitment, but I took a close up look at the plant he was trying to sell. Bergamot was out on the porch at the time so I cast a quizzical eye in his direction, he confirmed my suspicions with a raised brow and a knowing nod of the head. This gutsy kid, had pulled up a couple of dandelions and some grass from the side of the road and was trying to make $10 off it.

I admire this chutzpah in children (unfortunately I wasn’t that kind of kid, I found my  niche of wasted mediocre potential pretty early) but I always wonder what kind of adults they’ll turn into. Will they peak early, descending into jaded and cynical beings? Will they become overly arrogant and leave other people feeling used and scummy around them. Or will they use their powers for good? Or final option, a mixture of all three like Alexander the Great? I always hope they’ll hold onto some childhood morals and ethics which -although dubious at times: Stuart WHY? Why did you think it would be funny to blindfold him and push asparagus spears up his nose? – tend to be purer, and more community minded than the adult versions.

I digress, back to Jazz Fest.

It’s a different experience as the decades go by. The festival has remained the same but I have changed the way I experience it. The big main stages don’t hold the same appeal as before, these days I’m a lot more keen to hang out in the tents that have seats and misters. I read all the historical displays now with great interest, and I examine every item in the crafting tents, enquiring about technique, materials, inspiration and genuinely wanting to know the answers. I even collect the flyers and business cards so I can look up the artist in a spare moment. Yes, times have changed from the era when I’d stake my claim on piece of grass and not leave unless it was to let liquid out of my body or put more in.

The liquid intake is still pretty much the same, just a bit more water to wash down the margaritas.

I saw some amazing bands… but sadly I forgot to take any pictures.  I did however take this stunner of a photo when I came home. This is the time of year in New Orleans when the winged termites are swarming. The sun goes down, the balmy heat of the night draws them out and they fly around looking for a suitable place to have some termite nookie and make wood chewing babies. They are drawn to bright lights, so people make sure to switch off their lights when they leave the house.  Sadly on this occasion I am not included in the ‘people’ category, so I came home to uninvited guests using the bathroom sink as a paddling pool.20180506_204240.jpg

They are like stealthy ninjas.  You have no idea how they’re getting in, but suddenly they started dropping out of the air and they are EVERYWHERE.

Advertisements

Jazz Fest Part 1

On Thursday I rode down to the Smoothie King Box Office to buy my tickets for Jazz Fest, the journey took me past the super dome. Not being a huge sports fan, the only knowledge I have of the dome is from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina so I find it rather intimidating to look at it, because I associate it with all the bad stuff that went down when it became a shelter of last resort.

Generally though I’m a bit wary of overly large buildings. There’s got to be a technical name for that, feel free to enlighten me, I’m sure you’re all better at the Sunday crossword than I am.

Anyway, armed with my general admission ticket I strolled along on Sunday, a little later than planned, but are we really surprised? At least this time I actually made it with five hours to spare rather than turning up for the last 30 minutes.

Yeah I decided to walk to the festival and back. On the one hand, great idea – you can drink as much as you want, and I also like to sample as much festival food as I can because there is no other time that I would ever order either a deep fried alligator pie, or a bacon and maple syrup streudel. Shockingly enough, I don’t believe everything tastes better with bacon. Sacrilege I know, I don’t mention it in company. Sooooo yaars, a six mile round trip to the festival does sound like a potentially wise move, but then you throw in the other three miles you do at the festival itself, dancing, plus the heat, and the fact that you’re wearing flip flops, and what was that other thing… oh yeah, beer and margaritas.

Ooh speaking of festival beer. Genius idea at Jazz fest, they have – as well as the ubiquitous beer tent – volunteers wandering around with coolers full of cans but only one or two brands. So no massive lines, but an immediate answer to your pressing beer needs.

I don’t really know how to describe the festival and do it justice. It’s just wicked lush.. innit.

Okay, I’ll give it a go. There are 10 stages playing different genres of music, and about 60 acts every day. The stages range from bloody massive to bijou, some are out in the sun, others are in tents, a couple in shady pavilions. Basically you can sample every type of atmosphere. They have a fantastic kids area that honestly holds a lot of appeal for adults. There are masses of food stalls and, maybe the day I went wasn’t that busy, but I never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get something. Mostly there were no more than two or three people in front of me. The whole thing is very well thought out, ATMS and bathrooms everywhere. Something I really liked is that there’s enough alternative activities going on that you can easily spend all day there without getting festival burn out. There was a contemporary arts village; an African culture section; a traditional artisanal crafts quarter; demonstrations ranging from circus skills to Irish dancing to blacksmithing; and in the basement of the permanent race course building there is an exhibition all about the tri-centennial and New Orleans culture. That last one might not sound exciting but picture this: you’re hot, sweaty, feeling dizzy from all the dancing and the Coors, you just need a little bit of a breather… what’s this? Air conditioning? Dim lighting? Benches? Entertaining bit of history on headphones I can peacefully tune out to and look like I’m doing something? Pretty pictures to look at? Toilets with plumbing????

See? Very, very appealing.

Anyway, I’ve recently been enjoying a considerably quieter couple of days …  girding myself for Jazz Fest part 2 this coming weekend!

Ooh wait! I took pictures.

20180429_135718.jpg
Feeling inspired for this year’s Halloween costume.
20180429_150706.jpg
Dr. Michael White… we know not of what he is a doctor.
20180429_185731.jpg
So if you can be anyone, Superman seems like a good bet.
20180429_185710.jpg
Even Superman gets days off.

Crawfish and Country Clubs, that Aren’t Anywhere Near the Country.

Friday evening, the work day was done, and beer o’clock had struck. I sat on the porch with Mulberry, icey lager in hand and extolling the virtues of New Orleans, and in particular how there is always something to do here on any day of week.

Mulberry suddenly had a light bulb moment, “What are you doing tonight? Do you want to come to a crawfish boil up?”

YES! YES I DO.

A crawfish boil up is a magical thing.  For those of you who’ve never had one, it goes like this:

  1. Put water in a pot.
  2. Add in all sorts of things: potatoes, yams, citrus fruit, corn, andouille sausage, garlic, onions, spices.  All of this is collectively known as seasoning.
  3. Dump in pounds and pounds and pounds of crawfish in the pot.
  4. Boil for 45 minutes stirring occasionally with a big paddle.
  5. Switch off the heat and let it all sit in the ultra hot water for another 45 minutes.
  6. Drain off the water and pour all the crawfish and seasonings onto a table.
  7. Attack like rabid wolves.

So I’ve had crawfish boil-up before in a side alley restaurant, at festivals and the like but the crawfish have always been served to me on a platter or in a small pile on the table, this was different, this was a boil-up as it’s meant to be in all its glorious carnage.  I only took one grainy picture because as you can see from the frenzied arm action below, a boil-up is a fierce contact sport.  You snooze, you starve.20180427_223649.jpg

All the people there were wonderfully kind and showed me a bunch of different techniques for eating crawfish. They are many and varied, ranging from take off the top segment and pinch the tail, to slide your thumb under and wiggle it.  Some remove the feces filled intestines or the ‘poop tunnel’ as it was told to me, some have no fear and eat it right along with the rest of the tail. But they all agree on one thing: if you’re going to do it right, you have to suck the juice out the head. I, by the way, and firmly in the poop tunnel removal camp.

The following day I was invited to an afternoon at the Country Club which is a hop skip and a jump away from where I am staying. This came as a surprise to me.  Admittedly my experience with country clubs is limited, but I tend to think of them as being huge sprawling estates with golf courses, and countryside. Not a pleasant looking house in the middle of a not overly expensive residential neighbourhood in the middle of the city.

Turns out this is an awesome secret that everyone knows about!

The club is a pretty yellow house which marks itself out as being something slightly different by having two bike racks outside it. AHA!

When you step in through the door you are blasted by summer party tunes.  There’s an elegant dining room to one side (volume turned down ever so slightly in there), a hipster, safari feel bar and then the door into the garden where there’s a raging pool party going on.  From the outside bar you can see this place is massive , but from the front … nope, can’t tell a thing.  It’s the tardis in buttercup yellow.

The clientele is …very different from the pool bars in Los Angeles.  It doesn’t feel like you have to be flawlessly beautiful to be there, just ready to drink and not too bothered by oily, slightly cloudy pool water. The overall vibe is Palm Springs speakeasy.

And that, was Friday and Saturday.

 

Lafayette Wednesday Concerts.

Yesterday zoomed past, each of the days here do. I wake up every mid-morning swearing I’m going to get an early night, then I look at the clock and it’s 1am.

Wednesdays in the Spring heralds a free concert series in Lafayette Square (also a farmers’ market at the French Market, but do you think I was speedy enough to get to both, even though they were located no more than half a mile apart, and one finished as the other was starting? Sigh.) so I biked down last night to enjoy the bands and check out the park.

Lafayette Square is a central city park, the second oldest in the city apparently, ooh, and named after Gilbert de Motier, the ubiquitous French general, better known by his aristocratic title the Marquis de Lafayette. For those of you not in the know, he’s frightfully popular over here because he fought against the British meanies during the American Revolutionary War.  Sometimes it is a teensy bit awkward that your homeland’s biggest talent lay in empire building through force, taxation, slavery, some POW camps thrown in  for good measure, and of course introducing foreign flora and fauna that would devastate the native species.. like bringing that one douchey guest to the party who will not leave or shut up, offends everyone, and then turns out to be a psychopath with an arsenal of tortuous games to play. We’ve all been there.

The park is a small square with meandering paths, enormous trees, and a couple of 18th century statues mixed in with contemporary sculpture. A single sculpture I think, it was difficult to tell with several hundred people in the park. Weaved in amongst the trees, the people and the bronze work, were food stalls, beer stands and an art market. My usual gazelle-like grace was in play as I flipped my half drunk beer cup upside down on a lovely clothes designer’s table cloth…fortunately not on her merchandise, that would have been a really expensive ‘oops’. These artisans have got to live, their stuff doesn’t come cheap. I groveled profusely and my accent got extra British, which has become my defense mechanism in pretty much any situation where I have been at home to Mister Cock-up. You can tell I felt really awful, I sounded just like Mary Poppins.

Speaking of which, reboot of Mary Poppins – very excited! Please let it be magical, and include jumping into animated chalk paintings, and people laughing until they float up to the ceiling, and flying with umbrellas (I spent years of leaping off sofas with open umbrellas, and even now… truthfully I still think I might be able to defy the laws of gravity armed with the right brollie, and a can-do attitude). And please don’t let Emily Blunt be crap.

Meryl’s in it, it’s got to be good, right?

So back to Lafayette Square. They had some interesting things going on such as a bike valet, and a tickets system instead of paying for things with cash (which I would guess either gets you around licensing laws, or encourages you to buy more tickets than you’ll actually need, so you spend more money). The band was good, the food stalls were plentiful (god you can get so fat and so broke here, so quickly), people lolled about on blankets and lawn chairs. Initially I was surprised to see that it was overwhelmingly white, because New Orleans biggest population demographic (according to the 2016 census) is black, buuuuut the square is in the middle of a white neighbourhood. It nestles in under the shadows of some very big, very fancy hotels, the non-commercial real estate in the surrounding CBD and French Quarter areas are the most expensive in the city so the people who live close by have got to be well off, and the median salary for black people in New Orleans is close to being three times lower than that of white people.  These festivals are expensive, bucks for beers and food stalls mount up pretty quick. I’ve definitely been rethinking what I said about gentrification last week, I don’t know if it really is that well integrated, or ever can be, with this massive income gap. Moving expensive businesses and events into a poor district ultimately pushes up prices on everything.  I don’t know if there’s a fair way to do it.

Changing direction, the tall ships (that I so nearly got to go on board) moved out today, and headed down the gulf.20180422_164256.jpg

Quick tip of the day

Quick tip of the day, if you happen to be cycling East in Crescent Park on a lovely sunny day, and you get all the way to very end where your only options are to turn around, or cross the tracks and see what happens if you follow the chain link fence… turn around.  The alternative involves getting yelled at quite sternly by security.

 

The weekend of ‘I almost made it’.

If last weekend was the weekend of being in the right place at the right time, this weekend has been the weekend of “I almost made it”. I almost made it to Crawfest yesterday, and today I almost made it to the International Jazz Day concert (just to confuse you, International Jazz Day is actually next weekend on April 30th, look out for stuff to do in your hometown) but alas the change in venue due to rain meant that it was a much longer walk than I had reckoned… and the theatre closed its doors to latecomers, unlike the park which is always open. After that I figured I’d go see the tall ships that are in the harbor as part of the Naval week.  Well I saw the ships.. from behind a fence.  Unfortunately the event had gotten so full that they stopped letting people in… so I almost got to see the tall ships up close.

But there’s always an upside,  On my walk home (which felt very long and achy by the way, clearly my lack of exercise since Thanksgiving has taken its toll) I discovered Mags 940, a bar that offers $1 shots of the day, $5 mojitos, and a bartender named Casey who’s really good at getting to you to have just one more.

From Mags, I pootled on over to the Allways Lounge which was having a Barber Shop Quartet variety show.  After watching everything from acapella to hula hooping to singing with a strap-on (true story… surprised everyone in the audience), I found myself in the middle of a swing dancing lesson. One very pleasant hour and half later of bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet, I trotted/limped home. As I turned into my street I could hear shouting but as I got closer to home it all seemed to be okay, a couple stood in the middle of the street having an intense holding-on-for-dear-life hug. At this point a neighbor who I hadn’t yet met approaches me  and says, “Hi, I know this is weird but I’m not sure what to do – these two were yelling at each other and I don’t know if she’s in trouble or not.” We decided upon the very civilized solution of sitting on the porch and enjoying a beer whilst doing a bit of neighbourhood watch. Love this city.

Our love/hate birds by the way, exhausted by their fight (it was a doozy, “Come back! Get back here! I fucking love you, you stupid bitch.“) peacefully zigzagged homewards.

More evidence that I don’t do anything quickly.

It being Saturday I decided that I should go out and enjoy the city. At first I was going to see the tall ships that are in town this week, but then wouldn’t you know it I got into a really good long catch up phone call, and suddenly they had closed for the day. Not to be deterred I thought, “Aha! I shall ride over to Tulane University and go to their annual Crawfest.”

The chap who is doing up the house next door, not Bergamot but a friend of his whom henceforth shall be known as Mulberry, cast a wary eye at the big dark clouds in the sky, “Are you sure about that? It’s quite a long way.”

Oh it’ll be fine! Maps says it only 38 minutes by bike, and if it rains.. well I’ll dry out.”  A cavalier attitude will take you a long way in life, occasionally to the ER but those journeys make for very good stories.

So, I’m not calling Maps a fibber.. but the round trip took me 3 hours, and I only stopped for about 30 minutes, and had a brief 10 minute side track down Richmond Place – the richest street I’ve seen in New Orleans, every house is a tasteful McMansion and the enormous trees that line the road, giving it the magical appearance from one end of walking into an enchanted grotto, I think are probably older than city which is celebrating its tri-centennial this year.

Obviously by the time I got to Tulane, the festival was pretty much over, the music was still going but the grounds were mostly empty and the vendors had all packed up. On the bright side, I didn’t have to pay an entry fee to have a wander round. Tulane by the way is gorgeous, a very traditional red-brick university, the surrounding streets packed with fraternity and sorority houses exactly like you see in the movies. One place was having the mother of all pool parties in their back yard.  Classic party track Hey Ya was blasting out as I passed by and regretfully acknowledged that the days of me being able to nonchalantly gate crash a college party and fit right in came to an end ooh… about thirteen years ago and they really should have ended several years sooner.

It is fascinating to witness the change in architecture and vibe on that long, rather genteel bike ride (I suspect you probably can do it in 38 minutes if you’re actually putting some effort into pedaling, it’s not uncommon for me to be overtaken by joggers). Going from the quintessential bright and colorful shotgun styles of my neighbourhood through the almost Disney quaintness of the French Quarter (which just goes to show they did a fabulous job of their New Orleans section in Disneyland) then through the shiny tallness of the CBD.  Compared to other cities, New Orleans’ CBD is really quite at home. It’s sleek, stylish and still has the old world elements mixed in here and there. But all that style is completely lost on the average visitor because it’s a shock and a brutal slap in the face to go from old world charm into AGH CONTEMPORARY! You automatically judge it rather harshly…well, I do. Moving on, if you veer off on the side streets West of the CBD there’s an abrupt to change to very dilapidated shotgun styles mixed in with 1960s apartments, which as the area gets closer to the university transforms into cookie cutter two story houses that I would assume were all built by one property developer. Those gradually give way to sophisticated New England weather board houses and a trendy district that all looks very pretty but lacks the sass and vibrancy of the in-your-face color schemes found a few miles away.  Lastly into the Tulane area where the old money and the new money scream at you, “We’ve got five bathrooms and a powder room!!”

Other news, I managed to slice my finger with a bread knife – go me. Favourite discussion topic of the day was the tedium of burlesque shows.. once you’ve seen one sets of tassles twirling you’ve seen ’em all. Random event of the day, someone started screaming in the grocery store – cause unknown. If the rain holds off tomorrow there is the International Jazz Day festival at Congo Square to enjoy, and if not, there is a variety show at a drag club down the road featuring an Oompah band.