A Dog’s Day in New Orleans

People are not the only lovers of the French Quarter and Warehouse District of New Orleans. After a long week of indoor confinement, our dog, Zeus, decides it is time for a “dog day” outside… and that means Deb and me finding some entertainment for the old boy – or else. Woof.We aren’t sure of the dog-friendliness of our neighborhood, or the French Quarter. One thing we do know for sure is that dogs are welcome and loved at the Cotton Mills condominiums.Our building is full of dogs – from small yappy ones to full-blown great danes. A favorite is the shiny black lab, Boo-Ray, who lives across the courtyard and spins in circles with glee when he’s released outside. His owner is friendly, giving us a wave and a smile when we take Zeus out to play, and dozens of other pups populate the halls, stairwells and sidewalks of our cozy co-op.

But out on the town? We decide to give Zeus a special day, and our mission on a beautiful Saturday morning in March is to show the man of the hour a good time. We’ll have to be creative…

We start six blocks away from home with breakfast at Lucy’s, our favorite neighborhood pub. We’ve become “regulars” who can now order “the usual” at Lucy’s, so we think it will be a safe test… will our dog be welcome?

We find a table outside, the cheerful umbrella flapping in the breeze… This seems to scare Zeus. The pigeons strutting on the sidewalk are another distraction. Zeus thinks we should chase them, but then he’s driven back behind our table in fear as a city bus goes by. He is afraid of cars, and definitely afraid of buses. He hates motorcycles, he hates bicycles. Our fun day out has our poor dog reduced to a shivering furball against the wall… his ears are down, and he seems to be asking, “Are we having fun yet?”

 

Things start looking up when the food arrives. Our waitress assures us that Zeus is welcome, we order him his own plate of fries, and he is encouraged by two staff members to feel free to lick our plates when we finish our breakfast.

 

After breakfast, we head toward the French Quarter. We want to share all our favorite pastimes with man’s best friend, so we take Zeus shopping at a great store in the French Market called Pets are People, too. He buys an LSU jersey, a fleur-de-lis collar, and this stunning ruffle around his neck in purple and gold – a real Tiger fan! (I hope no one tells him that tigers are cats).

We show him the wonders of the uneven streets in the Quarter. We encounter all the usual artists and performers; including this sarcastic clown. The clown does not appreciate our zeal for Zeus’ big day out and barely tolerates having his picture taken with “our baby.” We don’t think he’s a native; he’s an imported imposter clown – an angry day-glo multi-colored fake rainbow-haired bastard who won’t acknowledge the doggy groove of this very cool outing.

 

All is well a few moments later when the silver robot mime, our personal favorite, gives him a tender pat on the head. Zeus loves the mechanical space-like whistling sounds and forgets all about rude clowns.

 

Our next stop is to have Zeus’ portrait done. We interview several artists, determined to find the best one to capture our noble beast in all his glory. We finally settle on a charcoal sketcher. Here he snaps a picture of his subject and tells us to come back in an hour for the finished picture.

 

It’s after lunch, so it’s time for a drink. We take Zeus to the most famous watering hole in New Orleans – Pat O’Brien’s. Unfortunately, the bouncers do not agree that three years old in people years equals twenty-one in dog years, but we did snap a picture to commemorate the moment.

 

We meet a leprachaun just around the corner…

 

Zeus stops for a cold Bud Light…

 

… and of course, a world-famous native Lucky Dog…

 

Other than poseur-clown-guy, everyone else toasts the four-legged visitor with enthusiasm. Several tourists snap his picture, many exclaim, “Oh, look at the Doberman. Look at his cute outfit!” And we find a mexican restaurant for lunch with a breezeway entrance with tables. This sort of counts as keeping Zeus “outside,” and we are in luck that the waitress speaks little English. Her frown and “shoo-ing” gesture are lost on us… we assume she’s saying, “Welcome to the restaurant. We are pleased to have you here, and thrilled to have your dog lying in the doorway.”

Zeus gives her his best “sad boy” face, and she grunts something and allows him to stay.

 

Her English is also inconvenient for Deb. She orders a strawberry daquiri – virgin – with her lunch and gets a pretty stiff one… She’s only sixteen so I send it back, angering the waitress even more. “She no say that,” she insists. “She no say ‘no alcohol.'” Apparently virgin means something else where she comes from… Alas, she’s not among our growing number of fans today.

Circling back around, we visit Jackson Square park, only to be asked to leave. Dogs are not allowed. Zeus is totally psyched that he’s been thrown out of a New Orleans landmark. Another tall tale to share with Boo-Ray over cocktails in the courtyard tonight.

 

We go pick up Zeus’ portrait… a masterpiece. He is clearly impressed when he sees how perfectly the artist has captured his likeness, complete with all the Mardi Gras beads around his neck.

 

Satisfied and tired, we head for home. Now we’ve got the Dog Scene all scoped out, and we’ll be back to the French Quarter with Zeus soon, enjoying a beautiful day in New Orleans. Maybe next time we’ll check out the dog park on the river…

Nah. Too canine. So last season.

Coming Back to Life – The Sounds of New Orleans




We just watched Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – one of those quickly-forgotten love stories; like cotton candy, melting away before you can really taste it… but a treat. Satisfying in its own way.And while I was caught up in the little drama on the screen, I was also scribbling on a napkin, hoping to retain just this one thing: soldiers singing opera on a beach in Greece, marching to a cadence of joy in the middle of a war.

Interesting, too, to reflect that military battlegrounds are “theaters,” and that the pain of war is portrayed in these musical terms. These thoughts, as I am recently entrenched in so many written accounts of Katrina, New Orleans, death and destruction, and the ways we articulate the individual journeys home from that war.

Each author I’ve read shares one thing with all the others; a deep isolation, trying to reconnect with the other survivors and finding that his path is choked with misconception… he writes it all down, wallows in it… most of these writers simply could not turn their heads away. Call them self-indulgent, but they had to scratch down their impressions, using words like the rythym of drums, calling to each other like an ancient tribe.

And those of us who read them pick up the references between the lines, the unifying factor being the death of the beat, that loss of swing, the notes that fell to silence as the city collapsed beneath the pulse of rising tides and dancing wind.

In Heart Like Water, Joshua Clark speaks of a moment without a single sound. The city is a corpse, not even the hum of flies attending it. The undercurrents of the living city simply ceased.

And this is what, to me, measures the rebirth of New Orleans. I listen to the pulse and the musical score is revealing itself in a different kind of symphony these days.

Wal Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street is as far from the heart of the city as the coastline of Greece in that movie. Just another urban strip mall as far as I’m concerned, but it is here that I hear the music, feel that weak pulse, in a way I can explain for the first time in a long time.

Here, there are no landmarks, just the raw thrust of commerce at its basest level. The worst in our collective character is exposed on the sweat shop produced racks of cheap clothing, the carts jacked all across the parking lot because we’re lousy citizens, too lazy to put them back where they belong.

Looking at these little clues, I know we’re a hopeless case – a lost cause. This tribe of humanity is going down on a slow burn of mass carelessness and cheap thrills. It’s all but over now.

It is mid-afternoon, four o’clock or so, and I’m walking to the car with my daughter, just a little discouraged by the wave of disconcern for the city all around me. As we walk, my four-inch heels click on the pavement, and so do hers.

She grins at me, raises an eyebrow at her silver “space boots,” and she skips a step, matching her beat to mine. We are in sync now, and the longer we walk, the more it becomes a march.

The grocery cart has a click-clacking loose wheel, and this imperfection joins the click of our heels as we add it to our awareness.

There’s equipment in the lot next door; big, skeletal, Jurrassic hunks of steel doing big, earth-moving stuff over there. It has a clang, back-and-forth, up-and-down – BANG. And we let it in, add it to the groove of the afternoon.

Maybe it hasn’t died after all.

We reach the car and our buggy-rolling, heel-clicking jazz-swing thing becomes a rest. It’s not death – just a pause between the notes.

I love that my daughter “gets” this. We load the car, digging the solo by the monster machines over there.

I look at her and frown. It’s a question.

She answers with machine noises and we get into the car, laughing and beating the dashboard with our fingers. That’s her response.

But we might need words, too, to define the moment, put flesh back on the corpse.

“It’s like jazz,” I tell her. “The city IS the song. There’s no plan, it just happens.”

She shrugs, then rolls down her window to hear the song again. She corrects me,

“It happens because we MAKE it happen. We had to hear it.”

And so it is. We didn’t need the words after all.

Recycling Bono, Adopting a Drag Queen and Other Tales of Manchester, The Moody Melon

When you have a second home in New Orleans, it’s expected that when guests arrive you will show them a good time. Our guests this weekend didn’t need much help… My sister, Judye, and her daughter, Jennifer, came down to visit us this weekend at our Cotton Mills location, in a quiet peaceful neighborhood, just blocks from the French Quarter.Because of our close proximity to Bourbon Street, Jude wanted to be ready to have some fun when she got here, so she started drinking at 5:00pm – Brazil time, I think. In other words, she arrived at 5:00 pm New Orleans time feeling pretty good already, so we headed straight out for a fun Friday night, no plan whatsoever in the works. I was wondering whether, in our late thirties and early forties, she and I would have as much fun as we did back in high school and college. We had so many things to show our daughters!

Right away, Jude made a scene. Just like old times.

 

We were walking toward the French Quarter when Deb and I noticed that BONO WAS MISSING! The Hard Rock Cafe has a huge (and life-like) Bono poster in the window that is one of our favorite landmarks, so of course, we inquire inside. Can we have it? If they’re not going to use the poster any more, we can think of millions of uses for it. We’re informed that we can’t have it. It’s being “recycled.” Bono? Recycled? What the…?

Jude is on the case, though. She walks in and demands to see the manager. She will rescue Bono from recycling because it’s our duty as fans of Irish drinking songs and Dublin pubs and the fact that we are two of the old folks who remember him before he got fat… like Elvis…

 

Can she do it? Here is the manager, talking it over with her…

 

This manager is an absolute Nazi. He continues to insist that Bono will be “recycled,” and we finally give up, deciding that what is needed here is more alcohol for our spokesperson. We’ll come back to this later.

We proceed to the French Quarter, and we’re just soaking up all the music and the smells (not all of them good), and I’m desperately trying to find coffee. We arrive on Bourbon Street, and I know it’s a lost cause. There will be no coffee for me – but we find a grocery store, and Judye goes in for more hooch.

… And comes out with a most interesting purchase. A MELON.

“What are we supposed to do with that?” I ask. “How are we gonna cut it?” ask the girls. She has no answers. She is dancing and singing an “I’ve got a melon” song, and we figure it’s just easier to join her than argue. We got a melon, and we’re just a few lyrics away from being locked up if you ask me.

What it needs is a mask. This will disguise the produce from being too conspicuous, plus, will make it more legitimate as a party icon, as it is destined to become.

We find the perfect mask, poke a hole for his smoke, and the Party Melon is born. If you can’t eat ’em, party with ’em, right?

 

We keep calling it “The Melon,” and this just isn’t right. If we’re gonna hang out with him, he’s got to have a name. We should be on a first-name basis, right? We ask a friendly biker what we should call him…

The biker, who was at first a little intimidating, now just looks… confused. “Y’all are hanging out with a melon?”

“Yeah.” We think it’s kind of obvious. “So what should we call him?”

 

He scratches his beard. “Um… he looks kinda moody. So… Manchester? Yeah. Manchester the Moody Melon. That’s his name.”

“Thanks a lot!” we shout. He never cracks a smile, but waves at us as we leave and shakes his head. Don’t let him fool you – he’s digging the melon.

Now that he has a name, Manchester takes on a life of his own. He’s a magnet for everyone on the street, and before we know it, everyone on Bourbon Street is demanding to party with the melon.

Manchester the Moody Melon has hours of fun. He meets so many characters it is hard to record them all, but here are a few:

There is Kim, who wants to meet our daughters. We tell him he cannot talk to our daughters, but he can carry the melon. We want to see if he is a responsible young man. I show him how to hold Manchester properly, and he follows us for a few blocks, still trying to get to the daughters.

 

Over the course of the night, Manchester met the following people, not necessarily in this order… a bartender, getting off early for the night.

 

A Lucky Dog vendor…

 

A rapper…

 

A fun guy and his friend, who offered Manchester a ride in his wheelchair…

 

A waitress in a COFFEE SHOP – YES, there are two places to get Coffee on Bourbon Street.

 

Two girls who wanted to get pictures of Manchester for their MySpace…

 

Some random tourists, who asked us if this (partying with a melon) is a New Orleans thing. We told them yeah, it is.

 

Some locals trying out a Fight Club thing on the street…

 

And Manchester crashed a family dinner, inviting himself to cocktails with some folks from Iowa. They were a little resentful, but he charmed them and stole some flatware.

 

And eventually, Manchester has an inevitable run-in with the NOPD.

 

He’s already calling home to arrange bail, when, luckily, Fight Club goes into action around the corner, and this one leaves to provide reinforcement. Whew.

 

Last, but not least, Manchester bumps into John, a young drag queen who claims to be from Connecticut. John has a very sad story about his plight. He is stuck in New Orleans with (surprise!) no money for bus fare home.

 

We tell John we’ve heard this before. His fresh complexion and sparkling eyes cut through the story of heroin-addicted nightmares on the street. We suspect he’s a student at St. Stanislas, cut off from his trust fund for the weekend. He hangs his head with a guilty smile.

But all is not lost. We figure we’ll help him with the fundraising, so we give him Manchester and we stick around for a while, asking folks to contribute to his fund, while repeating his story, even though we know it’s not true. We make him about twenty bucks in ten minutes. We’d be pretty good at this scam artist thing, don’t you think?

We’ve adopted a drag queen, and it’s time to call it a night. We leave Manchester to help with the fundraiser, and the girls say farewell to their new friend. He seems much happier now, and who wouldn’t be, what with Manchester staying to help?

 

One farewell dance, for the sake of raising money, and we drag the girls home. It’s 2:00 am, and it’s their bed time. Enough with the trust fund drag queen and the party melon already!

 

Funniest Ad for Vacation Rental – Ever!




This was posted on Craigslist this morning, thought you’d enjoy it!

$200 / 1br – Front Row Seats For Gustav! “Sliver By The River” Ride Of Your LIFE! (UPTOWN – GARDEN DISTRICT)

——————————————————————————–

Are you looking for a once in a lifetime out of this world experience? Do you want to feel the full impact of Mother Nature?? Ride this baby out and you will have a story to tell the grandkids! I will even throw in 6 Meals Ready to Eat, or MRE’s, 6 gallons of water, 2 gallons of gas and a disposable camera, enough supplies to sustain 2 people for 3 days. You, of course, may want to bring beer, batteries and anything else that comes to mind. Do you want to document the event? Do you want to be a first responder? Are you curious to experience a force that is not to be understood?

I have pictures, a website, and all the information you could possibly need. I, of course, am not responsible for you getting yourself injured or possibly killed during this event, but I can tell you this: We did not flood during Katrina. We lost 3 ridge caps on our roof during that storm. We had no broken windows. Our building is made of brick and mortar, not wood. We have off street parking available for 1 or more cars. Our condo is fully furnished and located on the second floor. We were the first zip code to be let back into the city following Katrina.

Sound exciting? Dangerous? Please respond if you would like more details.

Serious inquiries only. Documents will need to be signed limiting our liability. I will be staying 2 doors down, so we can have beers together.

Your choice of MRE’s are: Barbeque Pork Rib, Grilled Chicken, Beef Ravioli (my favorite), and Thai Chicken.

$200/night 2 night minimum.

City of Misfits and Dodging the Bullet




The morning after Hurricane Gustav was a huge relief, but also a disappointment. I was all ready to sneak in, flash my press pass, etc. to return to New Orleans, but none of that was necessary. It was too easy to just slide right into the city limits, wonder at the empty overpasses and the silent streets, gloat a bit over the carte blanche parking situation, and open my condo to the same peaceful scene I always see when I get here… the quiet courtyard and my own little tiny place to be when I want to escape. It was as if Gustav had never come. Great news financially, but an emotional downer.I threw my bags on the bed, made a pot of coffee (yes, there was still electricity), and climbed to the wide windowsill, thinking I would enjoy the quiet morning and the empty building, do some soul searching, maybe write a little… That lasted about half an hour, then I was suddenly lonely beyond words, feeling like I was on an island and hadn’t seen other people in twenty years. Hm. Time to put feet on the street, do the thing I do when sadness or loneliness overwhelms me. With no Deborah here, I was stir crazy and just wanted to see some other live humans.

Out the front door of the building, a CNN crew is hanging out looking confused. There is nothing here to report. WTF? They are debating whether to even unload their mobile satellite, and I’m kind of smirking to myself, thinking how gleeful they must have been, anticipating recording all the pain, like before. Sorry fellas, no pain here. Only emptiness.

There’s one place I’m sure there will be people. The French Quarter is the heart of the tourist trade, and surely things will be buzzing there, shop owners cleaning up, chainsaws roaring. I walk the ten or so blocks it takes to get there, amazed at how little evidence there is of the storm. It’s breezy, but warm, and I make it all the way into Jackson Square, finally seeing the street sweeper, who has rakes and a few illegals helping clear the sidewalks of small branches and piles of green, wet leaves.

I look at my watch and realize, it’s only 7:30. Keep walking, snapping a few pictures of a fallen alligator gumbo sign, a broken glass window, a funny board on a window that says, “We don’t run from hurricanes, we drink them.”

I see some National Guard guys, and when they see my camera they puff up their chests and try to look important and busy. I guess they think I work for the paper.

And then I’m at Johnny White’s, which may have been the destination in the back of my mind all along. I never go there. It’s a tiny neighborhood bar between all the fun bars and the gay bars on a lost little block in between. But it’s where Chris Rose and two other Quarterites spent the weeks after Katrina, when the city was a scene from Revelations, and it was the setting for so many unforgettable chapters in Rose’s book that I couldn’t resist going in. I thought I would find stoic locals who rode out the storm. What I found was a bar full of very dirty people who needed to be told that the water was still on – and GO TAKE A BATH.

But because I had come this far, I sat down, ordered coffee, shook hands with the young girl beside me, and deflected a hug from a young punk who smelled like Absinthe and wannabe poets and old attics. I get it. You’re an artist. Now go home and take a BATH. The girl, Amber, tells the bar maid to go ahead and give her a shot now. This girl is wasted, and so is everyone else. Gotta love this town. Alcohol can get you through anything – and so can a bar full of supportive strangers. I just settle in and enjoy the coffee, the newscaster’s voice on TV and the comaraderie of people who have survived – yet another – near miss.

We invent a drink called a Dodge the Bullet. It’s named for Gustav and contains Crown, 151, tonic and two BC powders. The hangover medicine is already in it, so when you wake up, it’s like nothing happened – just like the hurricane.

Amber and I chat a while. She can’t be more than twenty-two or so, but she proudly tells me, lifting her second shot, that she’s a bartender on Bourbon Street. I get her whole life story (all twenty-three years of it), ending with how she came to New Orleans, fell in love with a guy, and the city, and never went home. The guy is long gone, but the city is in her blood now. She’ll die here. I get it. I get it. I’ll die here, too.

And after that, I walk out of the dark bar into bright, hot sun. It’s still only 9 am. Bobby calls and we scream at each other through a bad cell phone connection for a few minutes, give up, and I at least catch the point that he and Michael will be downtown later this afternoon… so I’ve still got some hours to kill.

I walk back to Jackson Square and meet a middle-aged guy on a bike. He starts telling me all about the historic cathedral, and I tell him I know, and thanks, and we go inside, as that’s the only way I can think of to make him quit talking. It’s beautiful and empty and big. I have never seen the place like this, had it all to myself. Just me and God and this chattering person… for a minute, I really do think about coming for mass the next morning. It’s at 7:30 am every day. Hm… it’s a bit too early for me.

So we dodged a bullet. A big fat Category 4 bullet, and this is my city, and these are all the dozen drunk people in it this morning, and I think about something Amber said. She said she never fit anywhere, never felt she could be herself until she got here. “We’re a city of misfits,” she says, and so it is. Everyone I know here is a little whacked, and makes no apologies for it. I don’t apologize, either.

In this place, at this time in my life, I can do this. I can walk empty streets and step over glass. I can walk the distance of the neighborhood back to my little condo, and I am slowed down enough here to realize that what is missing is the music in the air this morning. The saxophones and trumpets are all safely tucked away for now, sitting in old cardboard suitcases and velvet-lined leather instrument boxes, and wherever else the musicians have stashed them until the storm passes.

Just like us, all this humanity floating around, emerging in the morning after a storm, the sounds of the endless party will return. I heard them last night at Preservation Hall. I saw a light in my daughter’s eyes as she tapped her foot beneath the table, letting the horns and the tempo of Misfit City get into her bones. We dodged a bullet. We’re here among the misfits. And we’re going to be just fine.

Voodoo Fest – Louisiana’s Own Woodstock!




You Had to Be There… No, I Mean – RIGHT THERE.After Jazz Fest this past spring, what could be cooler than yet ANOTHER musical free-for-all in New Orleans, at Halloween! We just had to check out Voodoo Fest this year, and I’m sure glad we didn’t miss it.

We really didn’t care about the festival. It was all about R.E.M. to Deb and me, but we went down to City Park in the early afternoon. The Saints were winning at half-time, the weather was drop-dead perfect, and Michael and Spencer were able to stay out a bit late on a school night, so why not enjoy the day?

In all honesty, Voodoo Fest was cool, but not so much like Jazz Fest – it lacked that intense excitement all over the place, and was much like any other festival. I hated that there wasn’t much going on for the boys to enjoy; definitely not their kind of music. But when the sun went down… everything changed.

Within half an hour, our new hippie-cool peace sign blanket was damp from dew on the grass. We were awaiting R.E.M.’s opening songs, and Bobby pointed out something I had missed – as always. I can never remember to look at EVERYTHING. The sky had been crossed all evening with random lights that make lines, I supposed pointing to the park entrance or something. You know how they put those spotlights on events so that everyone can find them.

Well, these were not random markers at all. If you tipped your head back like a good hippie, just looking for the stars or enjoying your own little trip… those lights made a peace sign in the sky. The lines converged on City Park, over the little group of happy people on the ground, just a little sign from the heavens… Good freakin’ idea. Woodstock in New Orleans. Hell yes.

So, there it was. Peace in the night sky, R.E.M. onstage… Bobby B and the boys had to go… so it was just down to me and my own kids. Within the hour, Deb and I lost our minds. They were singing every single song we love, we were screaming ourselves hoarse, dancing, and NOW my little girl has been to a REAL concert, complete with the sweating and pushing and the hazy smell of tobacco and other substances floating on the night breeze. This is what it’s all about. This is one of those “here and now” times I’ve been trying to remember to live in.

Two miles back to the car. We’re exhausted, Bobby P is already hung over in advance for tomorrow morning. Jen is stealing Voodoo signs off the telephone poles, and we’re pretty damned happy to be together, enjoying this. And this. And this.

When all was said and done, Bobby B told us that you couldn’t see the peace sign from anywhere but our spot on the grass, in front of the stage. They tried to find it on their walk to the car, and it just wasn’t there any more. You had to be there – right there – to see what the lines in the sky really meant. Just like I keep reminding myself… right here, right now. It’s invisible when you try to make sense of it from anywhere else.

Peace,

Anne (Eye on the ground from Woodstock, Louisiana)

Conversations in Elevators About Frozen Heads




Conversations in Elevators About Frozen Heads…

Thank God I made notes. I swear to you, every single day something unusual happens in New Orleans, and I find myself unable to remember most of them when I want to write a blog. Got three pages of craziness on my desk right now, scribbled on journal sheets and (hopefully) in “note-to-self” code that no one else can make sense of. Hopefully.Anyway, while I was really, really pregnant I was going to the doctor three times a week – enough to make me go into labor just from the parking nightmares. I resented it for so many reasons, mostly because Bryce was perfectly healthy and I hated leaving the Quarter at all during that time… and plus, Uptown is boring.

So, there I am one day, taking the elevator in Touro hospital up to the doctor’s office. A black lady pressed number two for me and informed me I was having a boy. (“You carryin’ him high and round, no doubt, that’s a boy.”) Thanks, I know.

Next, this guy comes into the elevator dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit with a company logo on it. He’s wheeling a tank that looks like R2D2 onto the elevator, and I notice that the company logo, also on the tank, is for a cryogenics lab. The black lady notices, too.He presses the fourth floor button and stares at the ceiling. A janitor and a police lady step in and press buttons. The door closes and I ask the man,

“Cryogenics? Isn’t that like when they freeze those peoples’ heads to bring them back to life later? I saw a movie about that.”

“Somebody HEAD in there?” the black woman asks.

The guy stares at the ceiling.

“Whose head in there?” the cop wants to know.

Jumpsuit head-carrying guy rolls his eyes at me. Look what I started. Superstitious New Orleanians in an elevator, convinced there’s a head in his tank. He shakes his head, and now it’s time for me to get off.

The doors open. I get off, hearing the janitor ask,

“Seriously, man. Whose head is in there?”

Well, who knows what frozen part of what person was in that tank. Maybe it was just a goldfish they are studying. Or something. Fourth floor is the lab. Maybe Richard is right about the Zombies.

Maybe it was Al Copeland’s head. Wow. How cool would that be?

Maybe they are planning to behead Mayor Nagin and store his head to study and prevent future episodes of bad mayorship.

Maybe Edwin Edwards died in jail and they are secretly trying to bring him back before anyone hears about it.

Maybe I was just crazy-pregnant with a wild imagination – but whatever was in that tank… you can bet the truth was stranger than fiction. It’s New Orleans. I wish we had held that guy hostage until he told us.

I love this town.

Notes from our year in the French Quarter




The Bitch at the Grill, The Grouch at the Emporium

What you probably don’t realize about the French Quarter is how easy it is to live here. If you come for a visit, you’ll never even know that it’s a geniune neighborhood.Within these twenty blocks, there are hundreds of actual residences, hidden behind closed shutters, garage doors, iron gates and other forms of distraction, real people live here – not just Brad Pitt and What’s-Her-Name and other millionaires and writers and artists.

(On Kindle: Life, Love and Art in the French Quarter)

The French Quarter is for the outcast, the misfit… and dreamers like us who just want some time off from reality.But my point is, there is regular stuff here. Just within the four blocks that surround our split double on Dumaine Street we have a post office (The Postal Emporium, which sounds better), a grocery store (family-owned Matassa’s, they deliver free), a dry cleaners and laundry, a pet groomer, a vet that makes house calls, a hair salon, a drug store and a florist. Never mind the Bourbon Street bars, just a block away. The last time we walked down Bourbon Street was in May when we had guests… it just isn’t part of what we do and see every day now. Life is rich… who needs tinsel?

It’s like anywhere else. You meet the people who own the stores and the services you use every day. You know the cops. You have your favorite neighbors. You become a “regular” and have “the usual” when you walk into the local diner for breakfast.

So it’s home for us this year, and we embrace it as if we were born and raised in this way. It’s a good and interesting way to live. We are surrounded by friends, and this leads us to a new game: everyone has to like us. We are determined to know and enjoy every neighbor, so any time we are ignored or dismissed or brushed off by anyone, it becomes a test of wills (us against them) in which we will not relent until the person smiles at us and treats us like they like us.

Still on the list of those to conquer… Cat Lady. Won’t speak, ducks out of her third-story window into the house when we look up and wave. Her car (another story!) always has a low front tire, so Bobby even brought an air pump, hell-bent on taking it to her to make her talk to him. So far, no luck.

Also on the list… Old Boy Scout. We’ll write more on him another time, but he’s an interesting figure, always dressed in camo pants, red shirt, red beret and a backpack. He strides by with quick, military precision each night, always in the middle of the street, back erect and facing straight forward. IF you can get him to look your way, he will raise one arm in an odd two-fingered salute (really a heil-Hitler kind of action) and won’t even break his stride. He never smiles. A big reaction is that he forms his lips as if he’s going to whistle. He doesn’t whistle, but maybe this is his version of a smile? We still don’t know, and he ALMOST smiled at me once. He did nod, but he won’t do this if Bobby is on the stoop with me. Could he be flirting? Wow. If so, someone needs to explain how it works to him.

Now, about the Bitch and the Grouch.

BRYCE gets ten points each in this particular game, because in both cases, he made ’em welcome him to the neighborhood.

The Bitch works at Clover Grill. We are such regulars at Clover Grill we even know the employees shifts. We know what to order when and who cooks it best… and we know what NOT to order when the little Bitch is working. Bitch is a pretty mullato boy, around twenty years old, very feminine, and certainly the bitchiest queen ever to work on this street.

I don’t know if he cross-dresses, but he wears his hair in many braids, then piles them up in a fancy twist. He is delicate. He is beautiful. And he’s a bitch. No matter what you order, he will undercook it to the point I would like to nick-name him Sal (short for Salmonella). He cannot cook an egg to save his life. I would love to know how he got (and keeps) his job as a cook in a diner that brags about 24 hour breakfast. Worst of all, he makes a point of throwing little public fits and acting put upon the minute you order anything.

For the last six months, Bobby and I have tried in vain to conquer the Bitch.

Anyone who knows us knows that we are the most charming couple within ten miles. No one can resist us. Seriously. We are loved. If one or both of us decide to charm someone, they are a deer in the headlights. We will not stop smothering them with attention until they invite us to dinner or pledge their first born to us. It’s part of our game, and we’re damn good at it.

But no matter what we tried… the Bitch continued to give us the cold shoulder. He has glared at us each and every time we sat down at our favorite table, and he has thrown his prissy little hips out of whack doing his little stomp-fit when we continue to insist we want our eggs COOKED.

We’ve smiled, waved, offered small talk… we’ve sat at the counter; an in-your-face kind of stalker move that would force him to look us in the eye. No luck.

Two weeks ago, we walked in and – WOW. We looked at each other, disappointed that he was working since we really wanted breakfast, and then heard a squeal.

“Oh my GOD…. look at the BABY,” he cried. He threws his hands up, wrists limp and a simpering delight was all over his face. “He’s ADORABLE. Oh my GAWD!”

Yes. We had brought in the secret weapon without even knowing it.

We placed Bryce’s seat on a diner chair and marveled at our accidental victory. Bryce cooed peacefully, the Bitch cooked our eggs to perfection, and we chalk up one more friendly neighbor on our imaginary score board – at last.

(On Kindle: Life, Love and Art in the French Quarter)

New Orleans Condo Renovation – Cotton Mill in the Warehouse District




New Orleans Condo Renovation – Cotton Mill in the Warehouse District

For those interested in the possibilities of remodeling, I thought I’d show the before-during-after pictures of our condo at Cotton Mills.

I purchased the condo two weeks ago. We’re giving it a total makeover, and I thought it would be fun to show the progress as we go along.

When complete, this will be a rental condo, a great New Orleans location in the Warehouse District, perfect for medical students, a vacation rental, or as an executive rental for those visiting New Orleans to work for a while.

This is unit #150. It is a one-bedroom unit, about 600 square feet, and included a “loft area,” but not a finished loft. Here is a picture of the first part of our project: the loft.

 

The picture above is the “loft area,” which may or may not have been intended for a loft. The left side is over the bathroom, which had an 8′ ceiling and no finished floor above, in the loft area. The right side is over the closet. There was no ceiling in the closet, just a gaping hole all the way to the 18′ ceiling above. The wall between them was solid, and seemed to have no function at all. We weren’t sure what we’d run into trying to unite the two sides of the loft, but that was our plan – to cut a doorway, build a closet ceiling/loft floor on the right…

So… the floor came first…

 

Then, we cut the doorway. It turns out there were metal 2x4s in the wall, but no plumbing or electrical wiring. We did bring an electrical outlet up from the bedroom wall during this step.

 

You can see in this picture the finished result of the snap-in bamboo flooring. It was rather easy to lay, and made a finished floor that is very inviting if this loft is used for sleeping.

Last, we added some iron railing. This is for safety, and also looks great from the bedroom below. It gives a sense of having a balcony in a courtyard, in keeping with our overall plan to “bring the outdoors in.”

 

And the finished railing project view from the bedroom below:

 

Curtains will be hung on the rods above the railing for privacy and to hide items in storage. We plan to use the loft as my daughter’s sleeping area when we visit, but the area would also be great for storage for someone renting the condo.

And last, but not least, here is the view from upstairs, inside the loft. It needs furniture, but the colors are great, the trim is complete, and we’re off to a great start.

 

Right now, the condo is being painted, and a major floor demolition is under way. We’re going down this weekend to inspect the progress so far, and will add a new blog about the next steps in our renovation of this New Orleans Warehouse District condo… soon available for rent.

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