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Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Category

This makes me extraordinarily happy.

 

 

She’s Sweet Emma Barrett, she’s old-school New Orleans, and she will make your day.

The real deal.

 

 

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Too far from New Orleans to see the parades in person this year? Never been to Mardi Gras? From someplace where “parade” means a bunch of people walking and waving? Now you can watch the Uptown parades from a nice spot on St. Charles, live on your li’l computer! Yay! Throw me somethin’, mister!

UPDATE:  Oh, and here’s a link to the schedule, which also includes links to other parade cams!  Thanks, Nola.com!  Y’all check it out and pass y’all a good time.

UPDATE #2:  My friend Ricky just pointed out to me that that’s Fat Harry’s!  And wouldn’t you know it, Nola.com has a FAQ page that proves him right!  Click on the pic below!

Fat Harry's Parade Cam!

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News from New Orleans is that an autistic woman has had her “service monkeys” illegally confiscated.  Favorite quote:

You see all kinds of things on Bourbon Street during Carnival, including drag queens in costume, but what you don’t typically see is a woman in a pirate costume with four live monkeys, also dressed in pirate costumes.

“We were dressing up for the Mardi Gras and we dress up as pirates,” said James Poole, caretaker for Newberger.

Click the link.  Read the article.  Watch the video.  No, seriously.  Watch the video.

Did you watch it?

Am I a bad person because this story makes me think of the Bathroom Monkey from SNL?  (Watch that one, too.)

Bathroom Monkey. That funky monkey. Arr, matey.

 

CORRECTED:  Both links were going directly to Ebaumsworld.  Now you can see the actual news item from WWLTV.com, too.  Sorry about that.  Monkey hate proofreading.

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About a week ago, I posted that I would be back on track, fulfilling the promise I made to myself to post every day.  Well, I was a filthy liar.

I'm still cute, though, right?

Unfortunately for the blog, the past week has been a veritable swarm of deadlines for other projects and of obligations that kept me far away from a computer, and I had to do some cruel prioritizing.  Sometimes, when I get really busy, the days melt into each other, and I lose a meaningful sense of time.

Hello, Dali!

Call it what you will: laser focus, single-mindedness, obsession, pathology….whatever.  The good news is that all of the projects are now significantly further along, so yay!  I earned myself the right to post today without impunity.

And it’s appropriate, because today really is melting!  (Well, kind of.)  Up here in NYC, the temperature has reached a positively spring-like 55 degrees, and the mounds of gray snow and hard-pack ice are finally disappearing.  (Well, a little.)  Which is a damn good thing, pardon my French, because let me tell you what happened yesterday.

Well, hello again, Dali.

Cammie had to be to work in armpit of New Jersey (no offense) for about 10:00.  I had to be to work at the High Line for 11:00.  She was taking the car, and since the drive was about an hour, she left the apartment shortly before 9:00.  I stayed in bed while she got ready, so I’d be out of her way, and I got up about 10 minutes before she left.  I was just settling down with a cup of coffee when she calls me:

ME:  Hey, what’d you forget?

HER:  I’m stuck.

ME:  What?

HER:  I’m stuck.  In ice.  I can’t get out.

ME: (Exasperated but helpful sigh)  Where are you?

HER:  Down the block.

I throw on  pants and a sweatshirt, and because I think I’m going to be out there just long enough to drive the car out of the spot, a pair of flip-flops.  Now, we haven’t had snow in a couple of weeks, but the streets haven’t really been cleaned since Christmas.  A week ago, however, NYC reinstated alternate-side parking rules to facilitate the long-overdue cleaning.

The broom in the Ghostbusters symbol suggests cleaning will be done. This is only a suggestion.

In Park Slope, we’re lucky that we only have alternate-side rules twice a week, as opposed to four times a week, as they do in other parts of the city.  But I digress.  The point is, Cammie was parked in a Thursday zone, which meant that it should have been cleaned the previous Thursday, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  That’s the time for that particular zone; and during that time, no one should be parked on that side, and the CITY SHOULD COME THROUGH AND DO ITS JOB.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.  But that’s not what happened.  They ticketed people for not moving cars that were still snowed or iced in, but then they didn’t clean the streets.  (Honestly, I’ve managed to dig our car out after every storm.  I didn’t expect anyone to do that for us.  But this clearing the snow off the streets is not something the average person can do.)  Maybe Manhattan got cleaned up, but Brooklyn’s still a mess.  So, the snow has been slushing and refreezing in a vicious cycle for weeks now, no one’s doing anything to remove any of it, and thereby hangs the tale.

When Cammie parked the car Saturday night, the area around her spot was still a little slushy.  Now, the weather, as I said earlier, has been nicer the past couple of days, and the ice packs of recent weeks are finally beginning to disintegrate.  But this particular patch must have frozen again overnight, because by Sunday morning, her car was parked on a sheet of futhermuckin’ ice, and there was no going anywhere.

She has to be to work for 10:00 am.  I have to be to work for 11:00 am.  It’s right about 9:00 am.  There is time to save us both.

This is what it was like in my head.

This is what it was like in real life, but in a hoodie and flip-flops.

I jump into the situation in an appropriately male way and attempt the very same thing Cammie’s already been trying for the past ten minutes.  No luck.  The wheels just keep spinning.  Then I rip open a recycling bag in the snowbank on the curb and pull out some newspaper.  I wedge the newspaper around the wheels, thinking that it will provide the much-needed traction to get the car out.  Sadly, it did not provide such traction.  What it provided instead was a wet, pulpy blanket on which the wheels could continue to spin in futility and the car could continue its frozen immobility.

I realize we’re not going anywhere until I break up some of this ice, and I grab the first thing I see in the car that could be remotely useful: a removable headrest from the fold-down backseat.  It looks like this:

Not intended for ice removal.

I figured the prongs would be effective for chipping away at the ice.  Again, I was wrong.  They were, however, incredibly effective at chipping away at my sanity.  Cammie, smartly observing this devolution, offers to go get a hammer from our apartment.  Brilliant.  Yes.  Please.  She goes.  I continue to struggle with a headrest and wet newspaper.

Yes, I'm aware of that. Thank you.

By now, it’s about 9:30.  Cammie’s already late, but if I leave by 10:00, I’m still safe.  I’m convinced I can get the car out in time, and I fall into a little system of chipping ice with the headrest, wedging some newspaper, and hopping behind the wheel of the car to check my progress.  And every time, I’d manage to get the car up the crest of the ice pack, only to feel it slide right back down as I tried to turn the wheel.

Cammie comes back with a hammer and a snow shovel.  I start beating the ice mound with the hammer, and within minutes, I’m covered in a spray of gray ice chips.  But the ice won’t break up.  I’m barely scratching the surface of this thing.

Shut up. Don't mock me.

Another few minutes of this – it’s like 9:45-ish now – and this delivery guy comes over.  He had parked up the street from us at about 9:20, and he was watching the struggle.  He says we have to push it out, and he offers to help us do it.  That takes another 10 minutes or so of us pushing, and Cammie cutting the wheel and applying the brake.  And miraculously, right before the stroke of 10:00, after almost a solid hour of tribulation, the car is freed.  Cammie’s finally on her way, and there’s a slim chance I can still make it to work on time.   I rush home, hop in the shower, get dressed, and I’m out the door in about 15 minutes.  When I get to my subway stop, though, I’m greeted with this:

Can you believe this shit?

Who knows why?  But I have to walk another 11 blocks to the Pacific Street stop, which ensures that I am LAAAAAAAATE.  And the whole time, negotiating piles of alternately crunchy and slippery frozen stuff, I’m fuming, thinking, and sometimes actually muttering, “WHY DO PEOPLE LIVE THIS WAY?”

I have to pause for reflection after experiences like that, and I’ve had a lot of experiences like that lately.

Look, maybe it’s residual Katrina bitterness that gets me so worked up because, God knows, I am full of that.  When Cammie and I were in Seattle in October 2007, two years after Katrina, we were small-talking with a woman while waiting for an elevator.  When we told her we were from New Orleans, she was a little incredulous.  “Why,” she asked, “does anybody live there?”  We stepped into the elevator, and we saw one of these:

Frightening.

I simply said to her, “Well, you have an earthquake button in your elevator.  We’ve never seen that before.  Why do you live here?”  We rode to our respective floors in silence.

She was referring, of course, to the fact that New Orleans is below sea level, that we get hit with hurricanes all the time, that we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with natural disaster when it strikes.  I understand that.  I don’t agree – I think Katrina was extraordinary, and we generally cope pretty well – but I understand.

But there are very few places that don’t live with some kind of threat from nature.  In the West, it’s earthquakes.  In the South and Southeast, it’s hurricanes.  In the Plains, it’s tornados.  Or drought.

Fun, huh?

We’ve all got something. (Okay, maybe Wyoming doesn’t.)  And we all have ways of coping with those things, or if not, we get the hell out of the way.

Unless you’re New York, where you get snow all the time and can’t figure out an efficient way to manage it.  Hey, even flood water drains, right?  It was 55 degrees today, and THERE IS STILL SNOW AND ICE ON THE GROUND EVERY-FRIGGIN-WHERE.  How does that happen?  Why is that?  And why does it bother me so much?

The risk of natural disaster is the price we pay for the beauty of the places we choose.  Sure, New Orleans gets hurricanes, but it is a gorgeous place, so green and lush that you can feel yourself growing with it.  It also has Mardi Gras, and I have yet to see anything, anywhere that even comes close to bringing a community together the way Mardi Gras does.

To be fair, New York has a spring that is truly breathtaking.  The temperature is PERFECT, and I almost wept the first time I saw the cherry blossoms bloom in my neighborhood.  (Although they did make me homesick for the azaleas and crepe myrtles of New Orleans.)

Every location has its pluses and minuses, the things you love and the things you loathe.  And if you’re lucky, the good outweighs the bad.  If not, you soldier on until the scale tips back in the other direction.  And so I will.

But I still don’t understand how people deal with this goddamned snow every year.  That is all.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yeah, you right.

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The slogan of a certain famous American fast-food establishment USED to be “Have It Your Way.”

One of the strange things about New York, at least for someone who comes from a very car-dependent suburban lifestyle, is how many accommodations are made for the commuter, the walker, the victim of the user of public transit. It is a city absolutely designed to make a car a luxury, rather than a necessity.

That is, unless your fat ass wants a hamburger after 10:00 at night.

My neighborhood outpost of McDumbass is literally one block from my apartment. It is absolutely walkable. It should not require a car in order to partake of its artery-clogging goodness. Yes, it has a drive-thru, but this is New York, city of the aformentioned accommodations. I mean, hell, even the Rally’s in the ‘hoodiest ‘hoods of New Orleans have friggin’ walk-up windows, and that’s one of the crime capitals of the country. (And I say that with love, y’all.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.)

So I truck my big butt over to the McDumb to get my burger on at 11:15 p.m. The dining area closed at 10:00, but I can see the manager flirting with a little pudge-ball cashier. I knock on the window.

They both mouth “Closed!” at me, ready to get back to their antics.

I yell, “Do I need a car to use the drive-thru?”

They nod. (Mind you, I’m being a teensy bit obstinate here, as our car is parked at the corner of the same intersection where this McD is. But I’m not going to move it and give up a good spot.)

I yell, “There’s no way I can walk up to get something to eat?”

They shake their heads.  (Mind you, there is not one single car in that drive-thru lane.)

I yell, “Are you serious?”

The pudge-ball comes around the counter a little bit, and she yells, “You have to driiiiiiive,” like I’m an idiot. Then, to seal the deal, she puts her hands out in front of her and moves them back-and-forth, like she’s acting out steering wheel in a game of Charades.

I look to the manager, and he does the same steering wheel gesture, like they’re on some kind of team and they want to WIN.

I wanted to hurt them.

Granted, I was not terribly inconvenienced, but really, what a stupid rule. Sure, someone could hold up your drive-thru window on foot, but THEY COULD DO THE SAME THING IN A CAR AND MAKE A FASTER GETAWAY. Seriously, have they not considered that possibility?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Fine. Have it your way. Morons.

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Before Hurricane Katrina, I used to go to Walmart with embarrassing frequency. My suburban sensibilities are comforted by stores that are open twenty-four hours a day, and pre-K Greater New Orleans had two or three Super Walmarts where you could get your shop on whenever you felt like it.

Of course, after the storm, and for a long time after the storm, you were lucky to find a gas station open all night, and Walmart was no exception.  In fact, five years on, there still isn’t a New Orleans Walmart that’s open past 11:59 p.m.

Truth in advertising, New Orleans edition.

I didn’t realize when I made an emergency Walmart toiletries run during part of our evacuation in Lafayette, Louisiana, that that trip would be my last for a long time. Sure, over time, the reduced hours in NOLA had something to do with it, but I also had a growing awareness of lousy business practices, and an urge to buy locally, and of course, a desperate aversion to acquiring more cheap crap that we didn’t need. So, I stopped going. I went about five years without so much as setting a foot in a Walmart. And I was cocky about it, too, and in that very self-righteous/other-contemptuous way that’s so popular nowadays.

It was really easy to do that once we moved to New York, because there are no Walmarts here.  Out of sight, out of mind.  This summer, though, I was in New Orleans for a few months, and I started seeing Walmart again.

At first, it was just random drive-bys, here and there, going from this place to that:  “Oh, look, Walmart. I haven’t seen her in a while.  She looks the same.”

Then, she was surprisingly near wherever I happened to be staying: “Wow, she’s really close by. Huh. That’s convenient.”

I’d have to drive past her on my way to rehearsal: “Isn’t it funny, Walmart?  I went years without thinking about you, and now I see you everyday.”

It happened like this. Tchoupitoulas Street. I'm just innocently driving along. See how she's taunting me, calling me like the Sirens called Odysseus? Do you see? Now imagine that EVERY DAY.

And then, one day, I got out of a rehearsal late, and I was hungry and tired, and I guess, weak, and well, she was RIGHT THERE.  It was almost midnight, and I knew she’d be closing soon (I still hated her for that, but I respected her tenacity all the same), and I pulled into the parking lot. I told myself that I would run in for a second, say hi, get something to eat, some deodorant (so I’d look like I had a purpose), and maybe some gum (so I’d look casual and carefree).  And I went in.

And Walmart?  Well, Walmart just acted nonchalant, barely even registering my presence.  I say “acted,” because Walmart totally knew I was there, let’s not pretend otherwise.  She’s got cameras everywhere, right?  No matter how you feel about her, I think we can all agree she’s just a leetle obsessive. I mean, greeters? Receipt checks? What’s next? Going through my texts and hacking my Facebook page? But I digress. I got what I needed, went to the register, paid, and left.  It took maybe eight or ten minutes.  No drama.

But I swear I heard her whisper, just as I was leaving, “I knew you’d come back.”

The rest of the time I was in New Orleans, I’d stop in and visit her a couple of times a week (sometimes more) and always secretly. Always alone. It always ended the same way, with me getting something — anything — and paying for it with my dignity. By the end of it, I was so ready to come back to New York, where I knew I’d never run into her at all, much less accidentally. Back to New York, where my wife was. New York, where a different kind of convenience holds sway. New York, where I could go to the Associated, or the Key Foods (two locations in walking distance), or the C-Town, or the Pathmark, or any number of places that wouldn’t make me feel as dirty as you-know-who. I’d even be able to hit her classier cousin Target (or Tar-JAY), although we all know it’s not the same. Target can be pretend she’s better, but it’s so obvious what she’s trying to do, who she’s trying to be, and it’s a little sad.

Yeah, you can dial down the cuteness, because we know what you're doing, and it won't work. Well, not all the time, anyway.

When I got back to New York, I confessed to Cammie what I had done.  She knows Walmart all too well in her own right.  (Walmart doesn’t discriminate, and we like to think we’re progressive.) Cammie didn’t shame me, as I half-expected her to do. No, instead, she said something like, “I miss her, too. I’ve been wanting to see her again. You know, she’s got a place in Jersey now. We should go.”

So now, Cammie and I drive over to Jersey every couple of weeks and do our thing. We don’t make a big deal out of it. Sure, we still go out in the neighborhood. Associated is so close, Key Foods has variety, and C-Town is low-class but a pleaser. Pathmark is a hot urban mess, but she does some stuff the other ones don’t do, and sometimes you need that. But they all pale compared to WM. She does everything they do, and a whole lot more. Hey, Associated, will you do a little TV and video?  No.  Key Foods, how about a bed, a couch, or a kitchen table? Not a chance. C-Town, how about some garden stuff, like outside, where people might see? Nope, sorry, that little rack of greenery by the front door’s not gonna cut it. And Pathmark, you don’t do any of that either, so quit the huffing and puffing, and besides, I already told you, the little selection of scrubs and socks you have does NOT count as clothes, so don’t even try to pull that crap again, okay? Oh, and ALL OF Y’ALL ARE CLOSED BY MIDNIGHT, while Wally World is open two-four-seven. I can hit her up whenever I want, whenever I need to. (Yes, she may not do it in NOLA anymore, but she still does it in Jersey, and I am not complaining.)

Oh, let me count the ways...

Now, look. I know she’s a problem for a lot of people. She doesn’t treat everybody as well as she could, I admit that. She’s unfair and nowhere near as civically, socially, or ecologically responsible as she could be. But I like to think she’s working on it. I could be deluding myself, though. There are lies we tell ourselves just to make it through the day, and this could be one of them. That’s okay. I have to do something to assuage this self-loathing.

And let’s face it, sometimes, she’s just unforgivably ugly.

She does this on purpose.

Now she wants to come to New York, and everyone’s up in arms about it. Some people object just on principle. They’ve heard about her, they know what she’s like, and they are not cool with it. Some are curious. They’ve heard about her, too, and they want to see if she lives up to her reputation. And then there are those of us who know her. We know that she might take advantage of us, teasing us with ample size and low price, offering us so many things we never even thought we wanted or liked. We may walk out of there with more than we intended, but damn, if it wasn’t a bargain.  (And besides, it’s not like New York hasn’t embraced IKEA and Whole Foods; it’s just that those brands are cool.)

The New York Post has a piece today about a price comparison between Walmart and Key Foods. The New York Times has done a few pieces recently, one about her plans to put down roots here, one about her skipping a public hearing about her community worthiness, and one about a healthy makeover she’s trying to get people to think better of her.  She’s even started her own website specifically targeted (no pun intended) to New Yorkers.

I think it’s just a matter of time before she’s here, and that could be a good thing. I don’t mind trekking from Brooklyn to Jersey, and I love that we can go any hour of the day or night.   It saves us money, even enough to cover the $8.00 toll on the George Washington bridge and the Holland Tunnel. But I hate the toll on principle, and if she were close enough that I could walk to her, well, that could be a game-changer.

I see you.

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Exhausting day. Double shift at work, finished a draft, and got some bad news about a friend back home.

This has been in my head today:

 

And I think of it because we did a version of it in this show:

BITTER/SWEET, 2007. Good show.

 

And in a show of favorite moments, it was one of the best. To end on a lighter note, here are two more.  It was delightful.

 

 

 

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