New Orleans Summer Blues





     I can’t help but get nostalgic for New Orleans when I think about all the lovely outdoor spaces we enjoy so much.  With our mild winters, inspiring springs and tropical fall seasons, sometimes we forget… summer is inevitable.

     One of the things I’ve always loved about New Orleans, and the South in general, is the green, green décor of our natural surroundings.  We embrace what nature gives us, and it helps define the space we live in, emphasized so often in the architecture around town… balconies – courtyards – back porches… it’s hard to say which are my favorite!  How can one choose between the wood planks and columns of a balcony high above the street, ferns and flowering things in pots, ivy crawling up the spindles… a courtyard, with its brick walls and floors, echoes of fountains splashing, dark, secret places behind iron gates and doors… or the downright lazy atmosphere of the back porch (hammock, anyone?)

     And we spend as much time and money on these spaces as we do our interiors, because it’s who we are; this is what we do.  We are busy, very busy, being grateful for the abundance of nature around us, and we are dedicated to the practice of enjoying it in style.

      So why are all the porches, courtyards and balconies deserted right now?  Why the layer of dust on the wicker chairs, why the wilting ferns and abandoned clay pots?

      Well, it’s June.  Late June.  Hurricanes are laying low for now, but there’s a palpable weight on the air, thick with afternoon storm clouds, bustling with evening mosquitoes, driving all of us inside for relief from the harshest season of all… SUMMER.

      Even here in New Orleans, it’s hard to find a parade in June.  Or July.  Or August.   I haven’t seen spontaneous revelry since school let out.  Swimming pools are the only cool relief to the sweltering, humid afternoons.

      You won’t see us again until September.

      We’ll go to work.  We’ll be grateful for air conditioning and the lack of tourists in the streets and we’ll feel sorry for friends with kids who play summer ball… We’ll do what we have to do, and that’s all you can expect of us until fall.  We’re just hot and tired, and bored.

     But don’t worry.  It’s just three little months of misery, then we’ll be all rested up and ready for football season.  You may even see us on our back porches, grilling some delicious things and letting kids play in the water hose… in September.  When the Saints get suited up for pre-season, that’s the marker.  Hot or not, you can feel it in the air when the worst is over, and just like a really bad hangover…

This too shall pass.

*****

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Preparing for Carnival in New Orleans





No matter how long I live here, I just never get tired of Mardi Gras.

Believe it or not, there are many realtors, so disgusted with the congestion and craziness in the city, who throw up their hands, give up on working through the traffic, and just take a cruise during Mardi Gras!

Well, as much as I think that annual cruise would be a blast, I would never consider leaving home and missing all the fun this time of year.

Just thought I’d share a few fun things from our Carnival Season this year. First, see that little king cake and the gorgeous purple, green and gold ice cream? We had that at Emeril’s after an awesome “business dinner” a few weeks ago… Not sure most people would want to eat purple, green and gold ice cream… but if you love New Orleans, those food dyes and already part of your DNA, so slurp it down and enjoy!

And my four-year-old son asked when we were going in the attic to get the Mardi Gras decorations down… yikes. I had left the “Mardi Gras Tree” up so long last year, that I was able to move it into his bedroom and change the decorations – just in time for Christmas! So, I wasn’t even planning on getting it back out of the attic until – maybe never. Then again, when someone is four, everything must be celebrated somehow, so… I made a wreath for the front door, which I think turned out really well. Then, with the leftover ribbon, I decorated his tractor, and “Yard Carnival” began. Yard Carnival means Bryce, and sometimes his three-year-old friend next door, driving their little cars and tractors around, throwing all the stuff they caught at parades out into the yard, over and over and over again. They never tire of it. Even now, with Easter and St. Patrick’s next on the agenda… Mardi Gras is still in full swing each afternoon in our back yard.

So… it’s not over ’till we say it’s over. Keep it coming, New Orleans, let’s just celebrate until after Jazz Fest, then maybe we’ll settle in for summer.

Anne Beck
New Orleans Realtor, Reveler, Etc.

Condo Leasing During Mardi Gras… Or Not.





I get tired of explaining that leasing condos “short-term” here in New Orleans does not include vacation rentals. Our real estate office is focused on leases of a few months or more, catering to those who are here to work or enjoy an extended stay. The week of Mardi Gras, everyone assumed we were “full,” and the week after, the phones rang off the hook. Still… even though we avoid vacation rentals, it does affect everything we do during the Carnival Season!

While parade schedules made it impossible to get much work done, we still had a great time, and so did many of our owners and tenants.

From the office, we are just a walk through the breeze-way away from all the action of the parades on St. Charles Avenue. For the last few years, we’ve done a Friday night party at the office on the weekend of Mardi Gras, just because it’s a fun way of sharing the comforts of the office with friends and family, and tenants and owners, who want to enjoy the parades with a base nearby for those two essential Carnival needs: Bathroom, and Beer storage. We’ve got all that, and this year was the best ever.

My husband, Bobby, and son, Bryce, were the first on the parade route, practicing the art of keeping Bryce’s hands up and shouting, “FOOTBALL!” to request the throws he likes best. Some of our favorite tenants walked over from their condos in the Warehouse District to enjoy the night, neighbors from Destrehan braved the Downtown parades from our cozy spot, and even my Mom, notorious “Parade Pooper,” got right in the middle of it all, trying to get videos of the Marine Corps band and the beautiful costumes that strutted in front of our spot at the Intercontinental Hotel.

We spent Sunday in an equally wonderful, work-related venue. Our gracious hosts, the owners of 1722 Jackson Ave B, invited everyone to experience Bacchus from the parking lot and front porch of the lovely condo. Once again, we landed in the perfect place for a beautiful day of parades, walking just a half block away to parades, and having the magic Bathroom and Beer storage spot at Ginny and Annette’s place.

Trying to meet a client on Julia Street Saturday morning took 3 hours to move less than half a mile… but that’s okay – I wouldn’t trade our “job” for anything. It’s great to be so spoiled with the perfect set-ups for enjoying the city, and being able to offer those same comforts to those we serve. Just awesome. Just way too fun to stay home and complain that New Orleans is inconvenient to work in during the season.

If you call this work…

Anne Beck
New Orleans Realtor, specializing in not much of anything the last few weeks!

Hollywood South… The Glamorous Life of Two New Orleans Realtors

We have a new agent in the office who laughs when I tell him I should be at the office “around 11.”  My mother brags about our contact with behind-the-scenes film crew members, and Jennifer has recently spent some time watching the filming of American Horror Story.  In truth, working with corporate housing does have its perks… we enjoy weeks where all of our furnished condos are full, our tenants are content, our owners are satisfied with the income we produce, and work is just generally interesting and filled with people who appreciate our services.  Don’t hate us… that’s not the whole story!

Our beautiful office on Camp Street is another perk.  We rented a space that was a “fixer-upper” last summer, adding some new flooring, fresh paint, and new décor.  Now it’s a cozy and attractive three-suite office with an enviable address, downtown between Poydras and Canal, in the heart of the business district.   Since Jen and I both spend a lot of time thinking about our wardrobes, it gives us an excuse to dress up for work, eat in all those great nooks and crannies around the CBD and become familiar (i.e. “research”) all the interesting places our clients want to know about when they arrive in New Orleans.





When I describe my job, it sounds like a dream… and it kind of is.  Our condo leasing company specializes in fully furnished corporate rentals, so we usually work with tenants who are coming into town to do something interesting… an internship at a hospital, a stay at the military base on a short-term assignment, making a movie, moving to New Orleans and looking for a permanent home, and some of our clients are artists, writers, etc. who come here to “find the Muse.”  It’s rarely boring, and when you combine that with about 34 equally interesting owners of the condos we lease… that’s about sixty-eight fascinating people in our lives at any given time.  What’s not to love?

Then sometimes I burst out laughing, seeing the underside of it all, which is not so glamorous, and thinking, “New Orleans is like my life; all fun and games on the outside, with some gritty infrastructure that’s kind of… out there.”

For instance… I come into the office around 11am each day, not because I’m asleep with my satin eye mask on, recovering from a night out.  It’s because I have a four-year-old who can’t be dropped off at school until 8:30, then I go to the gym to meet my trainer.  Aha!  There’s the glamour… except that my trainer just texted me a picture of how she spent her weekend:

Baby alligators!

 

Yes, that’s a baby alligator.  Kristine’s husband owns an alligator farm, so she spent the weekend hatching baby alligators and drinking to the good health of each new hatchling.  She was a little under the weather Monday morning… so we pumped a little iron and discussed how busy we are at work.

Thanks goodness for weekends!

I, on the other hand, spent my weekend in Destrehan, which is where my “real life” is these days, and didn’t do anything very exciting at all.  My husband’s boss’s daughter was in town, stayed in our condo in the city, and, as usual, enjoyed our glamorous life more than we did.  Then again, she didn’t say much when my husband opened the first Bud Light at lunch time at the Ugly Dog Saloon.  She seemed relieved to be “working” in New Orleans and doing things the way the locals do.  Goodness knows, Bobby is good at orientation.

And lately at the office… the glamour has worn thin and we’ve stopped wearing pretty shoes – ever.  And I’ve pretty much decided that my next car will not be a Mercedes, but a John Deere Gator.  Yes, I mean it.  It has become positively dangerous around the office.

Never mind the daily fear of being towed, booted, or ticketed.  Never mind what you’ve heard about violence in the streets.  Never mind the general dangers of driving in a city where we ALL love to pretend we work at NASCAR.  The problem is actually under the city.  I think in Florida they are calling them sinkholes.  Here we call them pot holes… They seem much the same to me.

Call it what you want, our building is sinking.  Our whole block is sinking.  My car will eventually be swallowed up while I’m at work one day, and I just pray that the license tag number (and all the tickets associated therewith) will just disappear along with it.  That would be nice.

No one believes me, in spite of the fact that cat-sized RATS have started jumping into and out of each new hole in the street, and the corners that frame the sidewalks have become so sloped I can hardly drive my car in the high-ground middle of Natchez street any more.  So… I’ve been conducting an experiment.  In early spring, this hole opened up wide enough to hold an upside-down vodka bottle.  The bottle filled the hole nicely and I thought was a good solution to sinking asphalt in New Orleans.  An appropriate fix:

sinkholes in new orleans

Sinkholes in New Orleans

Now, I can’t even take another picture to demonstrate what has happened.  The surface hole is the same.  The vodka bottle is no longer showing.  That’s because the layer below the street has fallen down about three feet.  This is true.  If you look into that hole, you can now see the bottle, three feet down.  And further scientific evidence is that there’s been a bubbling hole across the street from it, full of water that is clearly active.  So.  No more pretty shoes.  No more Mercedes.  Alligators being texted by my trainer… what next?

 

Oh!  I know… farm animals in the office.

 

Wait.  We’ve got that, too.

 

 

 

 

Jen's Office Rabbit, Pipp

The REAL New Orleans

StreetMusic    I love that the photos we used on the home page of the website are actual photos of things we’ve seen and condos we manage here in New Orleans.  No need for stock photography here… our city is a hot-bed of opportunities to catch beautiful things on film.  That’s probably why we’re such a popular spot for film industry professionals…

But for those of us who just live it and work in it, New Orleans is a personality.  It’s like a batty old aunt – some people just can’t stand her, and others can’t get enough.  It’s because she’s such a character.

In other “music cities,” you can hear amazing bands and acts, enjoy a certain atmosphere, and appreciate the unique quality of life that evolves around the art of sound and vision; but in New Orleans, you don’t need tickets.  I love Chicago, but a good blues club has a cover charge and the good stuff happens behind closed doors.  You have to get in…   Same thing in New York.  She’s got Broadway and music and class and culture… but seeing R.E.M. at Madison Square Garden is an organized event.  Assigned seats.  Yuck.  Seeing R.E.M. at Voodoo Fest – it’s bare feet in the grass, ant bites, sweating in the evening heat, bumping into the neighbor on the blanket next to you in the park… It’s raw and pulsing in the night.  Even the poorest citizen can stand on the sidewalk outside and enjoy the immediate-ness of the outdoor concert.  And here, Michael Stipe will walk into the audience like an old friend and sing something he wrote when he was a teenage punk, staying on the streets in New Orleans, writing it all down.

So it is with everything here.

Stand outside the door of any bar on Bourbon Street and get an icy blast on the July street from the open doorway.  Canned or live, the music is yours, and it’s free.  Go inside or don’t.  It belongs to the streets and the people…

That’s the difference, for me, between New Orleans and any other place that claims to love the arts.  Ours are on the sidewalk, under the bridge, in the park, through the open doorways.  There is rarely a door or a ticket closing anyone off from the source… it just floats.  And we breathe the thick air like creatures who live under water, and those who visit learn to breathe like that, too.  Inhale trumpets, exhale sax.

Some like it, and some don’t.  Some evolve and learn to swim in the sticky air we call home.  Others don’t.

We’re okay with that.

Gossip in the Salon…

Two days a week my three-year-old, Bryce, goes to day care. He spends the other days with us at the office, but those two days are my window for doing things like… getting a hair cut.

Still, it’s during the work week, so it’s great that I found a salon right across the street from the office. I popped over this morning for a trim, and realized that even beauty salon gossip is better in New Orleans.

Sadie fit me in while coloring a beautiful little redhead. Last time I was there, wine was flowing freely at 11 am and an Elvis impersonator held my small son in his lap and had his photographer practice some tricks with the camera while the girls worked on his hair – and drank wine. It was Mardi Gras, so none of it was surprising at all. Just another day at the office.

Today, though, was very cool. While the redhead sat to the side, waiting for her new, brighter red to take hold, I was in Sadie’s chair, describing how my hair should be cut and highlighted to make me look ten years younger. Since she and the redhead are in their early twenties, she had no idea what I meant and did the same layers and highlights she always does.

Now the redhead was in a chair beside us, hunched over a black journal, reading intently. Sadie asked, “What’s that? You’re keeping a journal?”

“No,” she answered. “I found this journal on the streetcar.”

We all gasped and turned toward her. A secret diary?

“Read it!” we all shouted. Everyone in the salon was dying to know the private thoughts of the journalist who left her journal on the streetcar. Wine anyone?

“It’s a HE,” she told us, and proceeded to read aloud, as if from a text in one of her college courses.

The content of the actual journal was a bust. He was a guy on a diet, journaling each meal and every exercise, just like a girl. Then there was a tiny bit of “smut” about a girl he was going on a second date with… he felt he should make a move.

Sadie said, “Yeah, he has to get to a “base,” I guess.” We all agreed that he should get to a base, and Red kept reading.

To make a long journal short, he didn’t kiss her, then regretted it, then texted her to come back out of the house, then did kiss her, then regretted it.

And that was the end. Our journalist lost his notes on the streetcar, and women in a salon read it and got inspired.

Left with not much content to chew on, we decided it would be fun to start a journal. The redhead wanted to start a journal, then leave it somewhere on purpose; perhaps after plotting a killing or having a great affair with a politician within its pages. It would be read by some unknown person, like us, and perhaps shared. Then what?

We decided it would only continue to be interesting if the person who found it continued to write it, then also “lost” it somewhere. So we debated where she should leave it so it could be “found” by the right creative mind. It was decided that the cafe in Pirate’s Alley may be a good choice… but how to convey to the finder that he was to play a role in our game…

It fell apart from there, since we really didn’t know how to play this game without telling people it was a game. Besides, how would we know the outcome?

We gave up on it after all, little redhead girl got shampooed and blown out and went away looking twenty-something and carelessly beautiful and bohemian. Sadie made an appointment for my Bryce for Thursday, and we all went about our day.

Because that’s what we do here. We meet strangers, share these quick little moments of intimacy (even if they are someone else’s) and we move on, a little inspired and knowing that we have small conspiracies around us at all times.  I go back out into the bright sun, looking exactly the same age – but feeling lighter.

Progress on the Infrastructure…





All of us in New Orleans were amazed this year by the expedient manner in which the city readied itself for the onslaught of Super Bowl visitors. I understand that consultants from Disney were sent in to teach us how to host this event, but I don’t think we needed them.

I will acknowledge that things happened very quickly. The street car line was re-routed and all of downtown detoured around the “progress” for about a year… but still, it was fast and efficient, and completed in time for the big day.

The same can be said of the magical disappearance of homeless persons and grafitti beneath the overpasses. Don’t get me wrong… now that Super Bowl has come and gone, our friends with signs have returned as if nothing happened; but any visitor passing through a few weeks ago would have asked, “What homeless problem?” if anyone had mentioned such a thing. Of course, having been trained by Disney, I don’t think anyone did.

I kind of missed them.

But still, now that the spotlight has turned away from the Big Easy… what is being done about the problems that remain below the surface? We still need improvements, and what will motivate the Powers That Be to continue with this agenda of civic improvement?

A friend who is in town working on the last season of Treme told me an inspiring story. In the Uptown area, neighbors were fed up with a monster pothole that threatened the alignment of their cars and swallowed small dogs on a daily basis. To no avail, they cried out for help and repairs to the street, only to be ignored. A pothole Uptown is not really newsworthy… so these savvy residents did what any resourceful New Orleanian would do. They used the materials at their disposal and fixed the pothole themselves. How? they filled it with Mardi Gras beads.

Apparently it worked very well. The plastic beads, readily available in any New Orleans home by the ton, created a solid and lasting solution – and a flat surface – and cars packed them down until this sparkling patch melted down a bit and became a permanent part of the road.

This is a true story. And now I’m told it will also appear in an upcoming episode of Treme… real life providing inspiration once again.

Behind our office in the “Alley of Sighs,” I was encouraged to see that our citizens are taking responsibility for the ongoing progress on the infrastructure by taking matters into their own hands as well. A disturbing little sinkhole appeared in the alley about a month ago. The surface opening is about six inches in diameter, but it appears to go WAY down. It’s kind of creepy. I park my car next to it every day in hopes that it may swallow it whole and I will get a free new car.

But no. Someone has fixed it. Not the city. Someone who cares enough to recycle and repair the roads in the best interest of the city. And also, finding a way to finish off a bottle of booze in an alley and call it “taking responsibility” for civic improvement. I’m proud to see it, and glad to see that our neighbors and friends are not waiting around for officials to solve the problem. Kudos, New Orleans.

Accidental New Orleanians – Buying Condos on a Whim






It may sound irresponsible, but there is a definite trend in New Orleans to just “up and buy” a condo after a great visit to the city.

For me, it happened after spending New Year’s Eve here in 2008. It had been twenty years since I spent any time in the city, and I fell back in love with it immediately. With my daughter and my best friend’s daughter in tow, we enjoyed the fireworks and celebration in Jackson Square; then, no one was ready to go back to the hotel. Since the girls were only 16, we spent the next few hours riding the street car all the way across town and back…

After one day back home in north Louisiana, I called a realtor. I knew I was going to need a place to stay, because I wanted nothing more than to call New Orleans my second home. Within three weeks, I was the proud and excited owner of a tiny unit in the Warehouse District, Cotton Mill #150. It became my little haven, a thrilling renovation project, and eventually, when I really got the bug and moved here full time… a corporate rental.

The same thing happened to my friends, the Bordens. I took on leasing out their condo for them last year, and she told me the story of how they bought it. It sounded familiar… a vacation, a whim, and a throw-caution-to-the-wind purchase at The Bakery… and when they recently sold it… she cried. And her husband wouldn’t even go with us for the final inspection. He was too nostalgic and afraid he might want to call off the sale!

Last week we took on the beautiful one bedroom at the Barker House Condos on Chartres St. I spoke to the new owner, and she advised me that they will be using it for the many events coming up this spring… then we can lease it. She emailed me saying, “We just bought it without thinking about it at all. Can you believe that?” Of course I can.

So what happens?

My theory is that New Orleans is like one of those “power points” on the map… like Stonehenge. There is something in the rhythym of the city that absolutely repels some people. Some people just don’t “sync” with New Orleans.

Others are drawn to it in a way that’s almost mystical. It was always that way for me. The music in the streets, the open, welcome smiles on people’s faces, the energy – pure adrenaline – that courses through the cells of everything that lives and breathes in New Orleans. It’s a buzz. It’s a natural high… we gotta have more of THAT.

So we visit, we fall in love, and then we figure out how to make it our own… and by calling it home at least some of the time, we become “accidental New Orleanians,” and we’re still not sure why – but we’re here to stay.

Garbage City





This blog may entertain you.  It may make you laugh.  It may make you wonder if you’ve landed on a strange planet…

But the “Enjoy New Orleans” category of our blog is just that – a place to make note of the things that make our city so unique.  A simple walk outside your door will confirm it… there is rarely an hour that passes without some strange sight, some quirky advertisement, or some interesting character interrupting our complacency.

A quick example… it’s just a Monday.  It’s President’s Day, which (gasp!) does not even warrant a parade in New Orleans.  I am working from home today, in hopes of catching up on some tax preparation, but even here in our quiet neighborhood, I am still clearing away the rubble from Mardi Gras.  This will take approximately three months to accomplish.  Every resident of New Orleans knows exactly what I mean.

In our fine city, we measure the success of each Mardi Gras by weighing the trash.  For real.  On Ash Wednesday, the day after all the celebrations are over, garbage and clutter in the streets is quickly raked, swept, scooped and loaded.  Then it is weighed.   If we have more tons of trash than last year – it was a success.  I think 2013 is probably the all-time winner, but I haven’t heard the official numbers.

Here are the official numbers from my house – mine are based on left-overs.

1.  Half a king cake, two boxes of beautiful, dying truffles from Sucre.

2.  Four full bottles of wine.

3.  A soggy ice chest full of water with two Bud Lights, apple juice and another bottle of wine still in it.  This is at the office.

4.  Two large wicker baskets full of Mardi Gras throws.  Sixteen no-longer-working Hermes light up necklaces.  Four scepters (which also no longer light up).  Approximately 500 strings of beads, eighteen stuffed animals and characters, and miscellaneous logo panties, paper flowers and plastic balls.  This stuff will be around for a long time because our three-year-old, Bryce, will not part with it.

5.  Same things as #4, but duplicated at the office from our open house the Friday before Mardi Gras.  Also three mini umbrellas with purple, green and gold fringe.

It takes a long time to get rid of all this stuff, because in this first week or so after the parades, the excitement is still living in it.  It sparkles and shines with recent memory of lighted floats and drum beats and spangled costumes and friendship and laughter and hoarse throats.  It seems too valuable to be discarded… but give us some time.  By the third week of Lent we’ll be sufficiently sobered to realize that some of it can be weighed, then thrown away, measured and recorded as another fabulous season, gone for now.

So for today, I’m finally going to dump the cakes.  Mold was spotted on a raspberry.  I may even empty the ice chest of the water… and consider what to do with perfectly good hooch that will probably not re-chill.  Be patient with me.  Tomorrow I’ll take care of the half mason jar of moonshine the kids made… and so it goes.

Happy 2013 everyone!  Enjoy New Orleans…

Anne