Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

South America 2015, Part 10.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015


More Galapagos! First, a cartoon I found that seemed pertinent:


Now, before we delve into the Galapagos pics let me tell you a tale about the roughness of the ocean. I mentioned before that it wasn’t just choppy, it was insane. And I was on epic amounts of seasickness meds so at no point did I get sick. I did, however, bruise myself repeatedly getting thrown around our room. I thought it was cute that there was handicapped railings on every single wall but I grew to depend on them. As soon as we boarded I went to the room and to drop off the luggage. I decided to check out the latrine and as I was crouching to sit down the boat lurched violently and I was hurled face-first into the fiberglass shower wall like a cartoon character. So my fellow travelers and I learned quickly to plan movements when crossing the open plains of the main deck, for example. You would see people standing there holding on to the railing with that expression that Olympic athletes have before they push off on their bobsleds. They would breathe deeply and, when the moment was right, sprint quickly to their destination and grab on to something and hold on. It was living in an obstacle course. We were nowhere near lights so after dinner this elderly Norwegian gentleman named G and I liked to go up to the topmost deck and look at the sky in the hopes of seeing a falling star. (We did on the last night at sea. Very happy.) That means we would be up there when the anchor would get pulled up and we would start our nightly travels. The third night the captain miscalculated and we ended up getting caught in two currents battling it out. Not only was the boat swinging side to side but also front to back. G and I were just pleasantly sitting there when the boat tipped a bit too far and two legs of my lawn chair came off the ground. I grabbed G’s arm in time for the boat to go in the complete opposite direction and both of us to topple to the deck in a heap. I don’t know the last time you had a tall lumberjack of a man completely made of elbows and knees fall on top of you, but it is not the awesome sexy time you might think. My camera skittered away from me like a demon robot spider and G crawled over to grab it right before it fell overboard. You can imagine how often this top deck gets cleaned so we were both covered in grease and layers of seabird crap and who knows what else. I ended up crawling over to the stairwell where The Moomins magically appeared, wide-eyed and panicky, convinced I had been washed away. We struggled back to our room where I went into the bathroom, put the lid down on the toilet and sat down unmoving. The Moomins was like, “You’re covered in disgusting grime. Wash off all of that, get undressed and go to bed.” And I calmly said, “No.” The Moomins was confused. “Seriously, wash off the dirt all over you, take off those filthy clothes and go to bed. ” And responded with a peaceful, “No.” I realized later that I was freaking out but very peacefully if you can understand that. I figured I was going to die and I would like to sit quietly in this nice cool room and not move any part of myself ever again ever. That’s it. I sit in this bathroom now. This is my life. The Moomins gave up and went to bed and eventually I found the inner fortitude to wash my forearms (the part of me that bore the brunt of the deck-grot), get undressed and go to bed. The next morning we met at breakfast where Luis our guide told us he was very sorry for the previous night. I asked him to be honest with me and tell me how bad it really was. He said on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being placid and 10 capsizing, we were at an 8. So if you think I’m exaggerating, I am not. People were thrown out of bed. It was real. The only benefit of this was at the end of the week when we flew on a small plane that needed to land in the Andes and there was excessive turbulence and we missed the runway and had to fly around and try again, normally I would be very unhappy and stressed out by this.  I was like, “Ehhh whatever. I almost joined the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean, this is nothing.”

Okay, pictures! Here we go.

Lava lizards. They’re everywhere. The males are avocado green. The females have a red face.

24-galapagos31 24-galapagos38 24-galapagos27

One of the things I did not realize was the variety of land in the Galapagos. The islands really differ. Some islands are brown sand that has been carved by the wind.

sand-dunes-and-sea-lion 29-galapagos131 24-galapagos274 24-galapagos263

Some have red crumbly soil.

24-galapagos330 29-galapagos166

There were different rock islands.

24-galapagos339 24-galapagos349 24-galapagos305 24-galapagos306 24-galapagos307 24-galapagos308 24-galapagos364 29-galapagos137 29-galapagos148

It was fascinating. The islands I was most excited to see were the ones with lava. I was so psyched to walk on fields of lumpy rippled stone.

24-galapagos292 29-galapagos107 29-galapagos154

That’s not the only type of lava though. There are the islands where the lava hit the ocean water and the ocean water bubbled and boiled and lava hardened and what you’re left with is razor-sharp lava blades. We went there too. I have never been so cautious while walking around in my life. I looked like the Pink Panther. It was scary. The white stuff you’re seeing is not bird poop. It’s a special kind of lichen that only grows on this evil scary lava.

29-galapagos59 29-galapagos63

Peppered between the lava blades were groups of marine iguanas. They look EXACTLY like tiny Godzillas. They swim extremely well. On land it’s hard to tell if they’re dead or alive. They don’t really do anything. Their day seems to consist of predominantly laying around, unmoving and expressionless.

29-galapagos64 29-galapagos67 29-galapagos62 29-galapagos69

The lava lizards are so common, they are like the mosquitoes of the islands. No one seems to notice them.

29-galapagos68 29-galapagos71

Here is a fur sea lion sleeping nearby.


With a lava lizard on it.


Picture of above fur sea lion, a marine iguana and the terrifying lava blades. It’s a complete picture.


I loved this picture. It makes me think of a gang from West Side Story.


And this is Luis explaining to us about the marine iguanas who are laying in a big lump on in front of him.


Here’s a field where, based on that sign, they come to lay their eggs.


Here are a bunch of marine lizards eating algae off of a boat dock.


And here they are lying in the middle of a walkway. I have been assured these guys are alive. I am still undecided.


Coming up next: more beasties.

South America 2015, Part 9.

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Before we get to the Galapagos, a few Quito photos to whet the appetite.

When people first arrived in Quito there was lots of room for you to build your dream castle so people did. And when the city sprung up the castles were nice, so modern buildings were simply built around them. There are castles all over the place.


Some of them were particularly eye-catching (code for “hideous”).


We went to an artsy street with galleries and cafes. Since everything is on a hill, within one cafe you can see many different levels. I thought this picture of an elderly couple have tea was sweet.


Heck, speaking of sweet, we passed an apiary which displayed a paper model of a bee. Hi Miss Bee!


The coolest establishment we visited on this street was a master chocolatier. Most of our chocolate comes from Africa and goes into Hersheys and Mars but the finest chocolate is grown in Ecuador.

23-cocoa-factory1 28-cocoa-factory2

We learned about the whole process in a presentation that contained some of the best Engrish I’ve encountered outside of Japan.

28-cocoa-factory1 28-cocoa-factory5 28-cocoa-factory4

Okay, GALAPAGOS! I went to where Darwin looked at some finches and figured out… something science-y! (I used to think it was evolution but I recently learned it was actually natural selection.) The Galapagos Islands were formed about five million years ago from volcanoes. Considering the earth is about four billion years old, the islands are pretty fresh. Here, a helpful diagram:


So in the history of the planet we live on, not very long. And it shows. Every time I walked on an island I thought, “Should I come back later? You know, when it’s done developing? I can come back later.” If you squinted the pelicans looked like pterodactyls. It was raw. I would find myself singing the theme song from Jurassic Park from time to time.


Here’s an important thing for you to know: at no point on this trip did I touch any animals. Not one. Not a single beastie. I could have touched the crap out of fur sea lions and tortoises and possibly some fish but I didn’t. I would like to be commended for my self-control.

We took two flights to get from Quito to the islands. 97% of the Galapagos are natural reserves but there is an airport and people do live there, about 30,000 people. Because protecting the ecosystem is extremely important the amount of paperwork we had to fill out before we got there was redonk.


Shortly after we landed I walked to baggage claim only to see an airport employee with a disinterested expression on his face carrying two very large land iguanas out of the building so he could release them into the wild. Our Galapagos guide Luis said, “The iguanas probably come into the airport all the time.” As you can imagine I have a new career goal and that is to be an iguana herder at the Galapagos Airport. Luis told us he was going to take us to a cool experience on the same island as the airport and then we would head to the boat that would be our home for the next five days. We drove for a while in a bus which had the second-best Engrish of the journey.


Eventually we got to a farm where we put on knee-high galoshes and walked into a grassy area. And that’s when we saw these guys.

24-galapagos22 24-galapagos5 24-galapagos7 24-galapagos11

If you’d like you can imagine these are videos. Because these guys, not so much with the moving. It’s almost as if they know their long long lives will be all about eating bland bland grass for 150 years. It’s impressive how large they get. All these fellers were varying ages but one of them was quite old and about 750 pounds. We got two watch two males get in a fight. Let me clarify, a tortoise fight is not like a normal fight. Here’s the way it goes down: a gigantic male tortoise ever so slowly lumbers into the space of another gigantic male tortoise. There is now tension between the two of them so they open their mouths and extend their necks as far as they can. The one with the longest neck wins and the lose saunters away. Very intense fight. My niece Drea got some great pics.

24-galapagos15 24-galapagos16 24-galapagos17

This guy was so cute. He was scared of all these people so close to him so he pulled his head into his shell. He was hiding. Awwww.


I got really excited about this picture – a Darwin Finch perched on a Galapagos Tortoise.


The tortoise did not share my excitement.


Something I had no idea about when I got to the Galapagos: each island has its own type of tortoise and they cannot interbreed. So when an island’s specific tortoise is wiped out, that’s the end of that sub-breed, they’re extinct now. That’s what happened to Lonesome George. More about him later.

A bit more information about the Galapagos themselves. The Galapagos is an archipelago of islands, about 13 big islands and then some small ones and finally ones I called “Yorkshire Puddings” (because they looked like Yorkshire puddings) which were a small outcrop of lava with a bird and a tree and that’s it. It covers about 600 square miles so the schedule was visit land during the day using an inflatable raft called a panga, return to big yacht thing at night and then spend the night traveling to the next island. We would travel six or seven hours because the islands are very spread out. If I had to say one thing about the area is I could not believe the color of the water. These are untouched photos. It really looks like this.

24-galapagos24 29-galapagos4 29-galapagos26

Doesn’t it look lovely and smooth sailing? LIES. ALL LIES. At the time of year that I went down there the Humboldt Current is slamming through the area and to say the water is choppy is the understatement of the century. I took some video of the panga when we dropped anchor in a harbor. Again, this is in a harbor. Imagine what it was like in the open sea.


I get motion sickness pretty easily so armed with that knowledge I brought every possible drug and pill and potion to alleviate the symptoms on this trip. I ended up using them all at the same time. I had the patch on my neck, I was swallowing six Dramamine a day, I wore Sea-Bands and to top it off I would occasionally pop a Klonopin to dull the anxiety. If you’re wondering about side effects, I had two. I appeared completely hammered drunk for the whole five days (“Yaaaaaayyyy! Pelicans! Zzzzzzzzzz.”) and I swelled up like a water balloon to the point where I could not make a fist. Totally worth it. Didn’t barf once. Went on every excursion. Total team player. Thank you, Modern Medicine!

Next entry: Some of the islands themselves.

South America 2015, Part 8.

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Sorry about the extreme time between posts. I am attempting to get my kitchen done by Thanksgiving (probably not going to happen but a girl can dream) and it’s the busiest season of the year in advertising so I’ve done about three weeks of work in two weeks. I’m so exhausted I did the creepiest thing ever this past Saturday night. I asked Cricket if when I came over to his house we could have a fire in his fireplace. He obliged, put some logs in there and got a fire going. I proceeded to get two grocery bags filled to the brim with his recyclable mail, sit directly in front of the fireplace on the floor and burn each piece of mail individually over the next THREE HOURS while saying nothing. I was simply decompressing but I imagine it looked like I was hiding the evidence of the murder I had recently committed. Cricket fell asleep on the couch watching me do this stellar performance art and when he woke up he said, “Okay, well, I’m going hiking tomorrow so I’m going to bed. When you’re done doing whatever it is you’re doing let yourself out through the back door. Night night.” About twenty minutes later (that would be 1:30 in the morning) after I had reduced all Cricket’s recyclables to ash I quietly left. My point is that I’m very busy and very stressed and with the first opportunity I got in the last few weeks to relax I decided not to go to a movie or catch up with a friend but to become a character in a Korean horror film. So please cut me some slack. Okay. Back to South America.

Quito! It’s pronounced Kee-toe, not Kwee-toe. It’s a big city, I think about 34 miles long, nestled in a long valley between a whole bunch of mountains.


And it’s got a massive basilica. More on that in a bit. But as you can see it makes an excellent landmark.


Another great landmark is the angel made of aluminum perched on one of the mountains. It was a gift from the French. One thing you can say about the French – they love to give massive metal statues to other nations.


Quito has a few major town squares which are wonderful. Often bands are playing and there are all kinds of food vendors. One food I saw being peddled by quite a few women looked like a pile of frosting in a Tupperware. I found out later that it was called espumilla (which means “foam”) and it’s a meringue of sorts made with guava and egg whites. I did not feel comfortable buying a bunch of uncooked egg from a street vendor who had been carrying it around all day in the bright sunlight but I won’t say I wasn’t tempted.


And there’s a ton of other snacks one could enjoy. And toilet paper (in case you ate the raw egg whites).


Back to the town squares.

26-quito31 21-quito18

Almost all of them have a church in them and we visited two. The first one, the Church of San Francisco, had a pretty nice exterior and even though we weren’t supposed to take pictures inside I surreptitiously snapped a few pics because the ceiling had just been redone due to a fire and the amount of gold was crazy. These are not great pics. It was so shiny and reflective my poor lil camera didn’t have a clue how to calibrate itself but at least you get a vague idea.

30-quito31 30-quito32 30-quito34

I thought that was as fancy as it got, church-wise. I was incorrect. This is the Church of the Jesuits. It’s down the street.

21-quito13 21-quito14

Look at the level of detail. And the awesome fish that flank the doorway.

26-quito20 26-quito22 26-quito24

I didn’t take any pictures inside because I had to scrape my mouth off the floor, but I found some other people’s pictures. And none of them do it justice. It was overwhelmingly amazing. Like being inside a jewel box.

La_Compania p179541302-5 quito-la-compania-jesuit-church-ecuador-20882688


Interestingly, we were there on a Saturday and every Saturday the President of Ecuador comes out on his balcony and makes a speech and we ended up outside his house about a half-an-hour before speech time. Our guide for the day asked us if we’d like to watch the speech and we were like, sure, we’re here, let’s see this all go down. The speech itself was whatevs but the fancy military men on equally fancy horses were delightful. One horse had a checkerboard shaved into its rump. I liked that a lot.

22-presidente1 27-presidente4 22-presidente4 22-presidente5 22-presidente8

We ended up going to a very posh hotel for lunch were we drank a local drink, basically a tisane of sorts made up of a variety of flavorful herbs and reb quinoa. The red quinoa both imparts a pretty color and makes the drink have protein. Protein water!

drink-herbs1 drink-herbs2

Now the Basilica. The Basilica, compared to the gold churches, was pretty low-key. It’s a big ole cathedral-type building and the inside is very high and lofty and gray stone except for the small chapel off to the side which is polychrome, meaning the stone was painted.

quito-church 26-quito9

The part of the Basilica that makes it awesome is that all the gargoyles are indigenous animals from Ecuador! How many pictures did I take of them? All the pictures. There were iguanas and turtles:

21-quito6 21-quito7 30-quito1

And monkeys and pumas and what I thought were giant crab claws from a distance but when I got closer I realized were anteaters:

26-quito5 30-quito8

Armadillos and crocodiles.

30-quito20 30-quito3

On the exterior of the painted chapel (which I imagine was built later because it’s made out of a different type of stone) there are regular gargoyles.


After walking around the Basilica several times, I noticed that you could go beneath into the catacombs. Hooray, catacombs! Those were amazing. It seems like it was  filled predominantly in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and the design elements on the fronts of the tombs reflect the aesthetic of the time.

30-quito12 30-quito9 30-quito11 30-quito17

Coming up next: The Galapagos. Get pumped because lava and beasties a-comin.’

South America 2015, Part 7.

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

More Peru! But first, a few lone pics.

Llamas don’t poop all over the everything. They pick an area and go there every time. It’s kind of awesome, they toilet-train themselves. In fact, if you put them in a new enclosure and you want them to go in the far right corner, you put llama excrement and tinkle in that corner and they will think a previous llama deemed that the lavatory and make that their permanent spot.


In this photo there is pumpkin ice cream and in the background there is fava beans. Most meals had a small plate of beans as an appetizer. Lotta beans in Peru. Beans and potatoes and corn, oh my.


Okay, silver! It’s a chemical element we wear as shiny awesome decoration. And it is common in Peru. The pre-Inca and the Inca loved anything reflective because the sun god was extremely important to them, so gold and silver were big. Interestingly, when the Spaniards got there they had mirrors and the Incas traded gold and silver for the mirrors because they were far more reflective. We might think the Incas were duped but to them it was an excellent trade. Mirrors were more valuable to the Inca and the Spaniards coveted gold, so everyone won in that exchange. We went to a silver processing and jewelry making place so we could see the whole process.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was the insane-looking flower in the courtyard. I know it looks fake. It is not, I checked.


First Henry showed us what the rock that contains the silver looks like. Hint: pretty much like a rock.


What they used to do before they had fancy machinery was grind the rock into a powder in a bowl.


And then they would put it in a jar with water and shake the jar. The silver was heavier than the matrix so the silver would sink to the bottom and the other stuff would stay at the top. That’s how they would separate the silver from the unwanted dirt.

To make wire a slender bar of silver is put through a press with progressively smaller openings.


At this studio they do a great deal of inlay as well, so we were shown the different kinds of stone found in Peru. I also learned that the mother of pearl pieces you see don’t use the inside portion. They grind away the brown exterior and use that side. I don’t know why, maybe it’s more even-toned but I was fascinating to see.


We had the opportunity to meet a priest and watch him do a typical ceremony. Not a Christian priest. I imagine in Africa he would be called a witch doctor. Henry said that the old religion worked in harmony with the new religion and most people incorporated both in their lives. I had no idea what to expect but it was great to see a ceremony that had been performed for thousands of years.

First, the priest laid out a piece of fabric with a piece of wax paper like you would find at the butcher on top of it. He then sprinkled about twenty different things on this wax paper representing different aspects of life. I loved how he used modern items along with ancient ones. For example, he put in alphabet soup noodles to represent all our names and sequins to be the moon and the stars. Candy for sweetness, llama fat for energy and connection to the gods, seashells for the ocean. There were garbanzo beans and red kidney beans in there as well.


We were each given three coca leaves and told to wish on them and they were also added. The priest then wrapped up the whole package with string and each one of us stood in front of him while he briskly rubbed the package on us and chanted incantations. We then were told to puff three quick breaths on the package to lock in our identity and our wishes. When everyone had done it the priest took the package outside, removed his piece of cloth and burned the package, sending our messages up to the gods in the sky. It felt quite cathartic.

22-priest-healer6 22-priest-healer9 22-priest-healer10

The llama hanging out nearby was underwhelmed.


Post-priest-experience we were driving and Henry told us we were going to pull over. There were groups of people hanging out in what appeared to be abandoned fields. Henry told us something most interesting – at the end of the planting season, the farmers till the soil and big clumps of natural brick are revealed. The city-dwellers come out and use this chunks to build ovens that they have cookouts in. The farmers encourage the people to do that, to hang out in their fields all day because they don’t hurt anything and often they leave ash from their bbqs which acts as a fertilizer. I couldn’t believe it, this mutual respect. I don’t see this flying in the U.S. There would be all kinds of trespassing drama. It was great to see all these families hanging out, playing soccer and talking. I know it’s hokey-sounding, but it seems like a simpler way of life in Peru.

20-farmer-field-bbq1 24-farmer-field-bbq1 24-farmer-field-bbq2 24-farmer-field-bbq3 24-farmer-field-bbq4

On our last day in Peru we got to finally explore the cathedrals and churches of Cusco. I love me some CHARCH. And there were so many churches. Quick recap on the town square. On left: Cathedral. On right: another church. Little building on the far right: older church. Down the street: three more churches. I was thrilled.

18-cuzco1 18-cuzco7 18-cuzco3 3-cuzco30

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in any of the places of worship and I decided to be tactful and respect their laws so no inside pics. But I can describe them. They is the main altar in the front, but along both sides there are private chapels devoted to one saint or another. They are, to be honest, garish. So much shiny gold and silver. Lots and lots of statues. Complex woven fabrics. Everything clashes. Some people might be overwhelmed but I liked it. The churches wanted all different looks so they went for it. Good for them.

Outside the cathedral were a group of boys performing a dance that represented their heritage as hunters. One kid’s dog didn’t want to leave so he stood by his little man throughout the performance.


Henry wanted us to visit a church with a cool history, the Church of St. Domingo right next to where he grew up. The Spaniards, when they arrived, asked where all the holy sites of the Incas were and promptly build Catholic buildings on top of them. It’s ruthless but an excellent way to eliminate any other religions from being practiced. You can see the ruins at the base in this exterior shot.


Until the 1950s if you went inside there was no inkling of what had been there. Everything was coated in plaster and painted with Baroque murals. But sometime in the 1950s there was an earthquake and much of the plaster cracked off. Lo and behold, a whole Inca structure was revealed.


(BTW, I wasn’t breaking any rules and being disrespectful by taking photos. This is all outside in the courtyard.)

It turns out this was a massive complex where the stars were studied. The archaeologists found stones with strange carvings, tubes and divots, and then they found one intact window. They deduced that at certain times of the year certain stars could be seen through the holes and lined up with the divots and that was how the Incas knew when the different seasons started and ended. Very cool. Here are the stones neatly lined up in a row.


Remember they didn’t have any metal tools, only other pieces of granite and hematite to rub against the stone and wear it down. It’s really impressive what they accomplished.

Here is the semi-intact window.


And here is the courtyard that surrounds all of this, clearly built by the Spanish.


At the same time as the earthquake hit, the massive backyard behind the church was revealed in full as well. There are all kinds of star-mapping paths on it as well. I got a few decent photos even though the sun was setting and it was getting dark.

3-cuzco26 3-cuzco27

Three things from Cusco before we head out to the Galapagos: I liked how the streetlights had little ornamental Inca designs on them.


And instead of pay phones, you look for women wearing green vests. They have cell phones and you can make calls on them and pay by the minute.


Here’s a great shot of Cusco from the place where I ate the pumpkin ice cream.


The next day we left for Equador to begin the next chapter of this neato journey. The part I was most excited about was coming up – the Galapagos. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about nature and beasties, so I was super-psyched.

South America 2015, Part 6.

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

More Machu Picchu pics! Not taken by me whatsoever. I’ll explain. After Day 1 at the site, we were given the option of getting up the next morning at 4:30, lining up for an hour or two at the entrance to the village, and going on one of two long hikes around the area. I opted to stay in the room and meet everyone at lunch. My niece Drea, however, due to her ability to walk very quickly, managed to do both hikes and took pictures. These are her pictures. My pictures would have been of my pillow. Because I was sleeping.

Drea hiked this far away from the place we had been the day before on the first hike. After looking at this picture I feel I made the right decision.


The other hike was to go see the Incan Bridge. I don’t know what your preconceived notion of a bridge is, but this is so creepy-scary.

15-machu-picchu56 15-machu-picchu57

Then they returned to the town we were staying in for lunch and we got ready to head out.


But not before seeing another hairless dog:


And visiting the local flea market.

16-machu-picchu35 16-machu-picchu36

We headed out in the bus and got to visit a local breadmaker.


He is the fourth generation in his family to be a breadmaker and work at this bakery (which his grandfather built). There is a fifteen-foot-in-diameter domed oven fueled by eucalyptus wood and this man slides the loaves into the oven using a super-long pizza paddle, also made from eucalyptus wood. People are encouraged to use eucalyptus wood for anything and everything because it’s an invasive species from Australia and it uses up a lot of the ground water, preventing indigenous species from thriving.


The loaves he is holding? They have ducks on them because that’s his family’s crest. They were soooooo yummers. He pulled them fresh out of the oven and they were warm and fluffy and had a thin crust on top of crystallized suger and anise. Normally I’m not on Team Black Licorice but for some reason I could not stop stuffing what amounted to probably half a loaf of this bread into my mouth. So. Good.

The most interesting thing I saw at the bakery was how he gauged the heat of the oven. On top of the oven is a water tank. Off to the side is a rudimentary faucet that the water tank flows into. This breadmaker turns the faucet on and the quantity of steam that comes out tells him how hot the oven is. Amazing.


He also let us try another bread that had a large air pocket at the top. I think that bread is more about how cool that looks versus how good it tastes. I mean, it was fine but after the magic of Duck Anise Bread all others pale in comparison.

17-bread-factory6 17-bread-factory8

After snorfing ourselves into a bread coma we visited Tipon. Tipon is another terraced ruin but this one is different because this is where they did experiments on their crops, grafting and the like. There are 3,800 types of potatoes in Peru, as well as quinoa and corn and tons of other foods, and this is where they made them less bitter or hardier. The part of Tipon that is most impressive is the canals built to channel the water all around the three-sided amphitheater space.

17-tipon3 17-tipon6 17-tipon7 17-tipon11 17-tipon14 18-tipon1 18-tipon4

Look at how convoluted that is. These are people who did not have a written language, but they figured out the complex engineering needed to pull this off. That is so impressive. The Inca even figured out that if they made the vertical canals thinner on the outer edge it would reduce splashing at the bottom which would reduce waste. That’s pretty ingenious.


We also visited another site called Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman,” really). We walked through a grove of a typical Peruvian tree. I avoids growing lichen by have bark that resembles filo dough pastry.

20-sacsayhuaman1 20-sacsayhuaman3 19-sacsayhuaman1 19-sacsayhuaman10

The reason we were visiting this particular site was the size of the stones the Inca had dragged to this place. They’re the biggest at any site. No one knows how they got them here. This is Drea modelling to show scale.


It’s laid out in a zigzag formation to resemble lightning, something the Incas considered sacred.

20-sacsayhuaman8 20-sacsayhuaman12

And the wind at the top of this hill never stops blowing ever. Therefore there’s some serious erosion on some of these stones.


There were two things I really liked seeing at Sacsayhuaman: one was the rock that looked like it had been pushed through a Play-Doh press (because it was once lava that was squoozed out onto this hilltop):


And the other was the llama waiting outside the gates. Peruvian people will dress up in local costume and pose for pictures outside various sites and I never felt compelled to take pictures with them. Until this llama came into my life. It was the most glamorous llama I had ever seen. Look at those lashes. It is the Marilyn Monroe of llamas.

20-sacsayhuaman13 20-sacsayhuaman14 20-sacsayhuaman15 20-sacsayhuaman16

If I could have bought that llama and brought it home, I would have. My goodness. Apparently The Moomins is holding a lamb in some of these pictures but I can’t see them because my vision is consumed by the majestic llama. I heart this llama. I heart it bad.

We ended the day walking through a natural labyrinth where sacrifices were made.

21-labyrinth3 21-labyrinth4 21-labyrinth5

We know that the Incas did not carve out the altar area because the rivulets of dried sediment on the walls (they would be stalactites if they were drippier) are over 10,000 years old which is older than the Incas.


They did carve out the altar (in the shape of the Inca cross) and that big square space you see in the back, that was lined with silver or gold to reflect the light onto the altar itself because it was kind of dark down there.


Coming up: A last day in Cusco and then off to Ecuador.

Things I got myself for my birthday.

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

1. A molecule bedspread. Specifically the theobromide molecule, the one in chocolate that makes everything feel sunshiny. I don’t have a nice bedspread so I figured this was a good way to go and I supported an artist in the process! Bonus. Thanks for bringing this guy to my attention, Bex.

IMG_4208 IMG_4467


2. This vitally important t-shirt because I’m down to only seventy or eighty black t-shirts and I feel like I’m running out.



3. Things-could-be-worse mugs. There’s a kickstarter to produce them. I don’t need another damn mug but how can you resist this tagline?

Lost your keys? Lost your job? Look at the bright side. At least you’re not plagued by pterodactyls, pursued by giant robots, or pestered by zombie poodles. Life is good!


4. A ticket to see Weird Al Yankovic at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester. When I was twelve my friend Jem introduced me to Weird Al’s work (she’s still my friend, hi Jem!) and I’ve loved him ever since. This polka mix in particular has made it impossible to hear these songs correctly ever ever again.

A masterpiece. He also writes his own music that is oft overlooked for his parodies but his original stuff is great. Have you heard “Hardware Store”? It’s a pipe dream of mine to be able to do the fast part in the middle, at about 2:30 on the video below. Never gonna happen but a girl can dream.

His live show is supposed to be a hoot with multiple costume changes and special effects and I’ve wanted to see him for so many years now, this is a real dream come true.

New Orleans Part 5 and done.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

I saved my favorite tourist activity from New Orleans for last, and that was Mardi Gras World. Mardi Gras World is a studio that builds and designs all the floats for the parades. I figured they would have a few on display but happily I was incorrect. You could actually tour the workstations where pieces were being created and I totally freaked out. Cricket stopped me from quitting my N.Y. job and applying right then and there. I know all the techniques Mardi Gras World is using! I could have started working immediately! Gimme a tub of glue and I’ll paper-mache that giant raccoon! Cricket, stop dragging me away, it is my destineeeeeeeeeee!

We walked to the studio from the hotel which was not the best decision because we misread the map and it was a million miles away (about three miles really, but it was very hot so it felt longer). As we approached (on foot, in the heat, did I mention that?) you could see the size of the warehouse and appreciate the scale of it. When we walked around the interior the tour guide told us that elsewhere in the state there have fourteen more warehouses full of float-parts and scenery.


This was the permanent installment of the jester pointing to the door. As you can sew, the threat level is Marsec 1. Since this building is on the banks of the Mississippi I assume the threat is the water level rising and not an imminent alien attack or spores that take over your brain and make you punch your neighbor.


You then walk in the front door and are greeted by a cavalcade of nuttiness. Can you think of a thing? Chances are it’s there, next to another random thing. Some of my top collections – the Hieronymus Bosch fish chillin’ behind the vino bottle:


The chili pepper hangin’ with The Cat in the Hat and an ornate column:


Two wee demons looking in a mirror, a big fluorescent fish and a snow monster with stars in its fur:


Really angry anglerfish (an anglyfish), a clock with jewels and a sparkly poison-dart frog on a sparkly mushroom:


Napoleon, a carp bench and a pelican:

mardi-gras-world4 mardi-gras-world7 mardi-gras-world23 mardi-gras-world5

And a nightmare spider from a 1950s movie.


In the gift shop there was a scary chef with the ingredients of gumbo bursting forth from his cooking pot. A bit macabre for my taste, the food items popping out and smiling but to each their own.


Off to one side was a costume that would be worn at Mardi Gras of a Crayfish Queen. I tried to convince Börkke to wear it as a wedding dress (she was getting married in Maine, I tried to convince her that they were lobsters) but she declined. Sigh.

crawfish-dress1 crawfish-dress2

I went on the tour to get a better idea of the work they do at Mardi Gras World. I found out they also make props for places like Universal as shown by this dinosaur we passed. On a related note, has everyone seen the latest Jurassic World? I saw it in 3D and I would recommend that. The raptors come snappy-snappy right at your face. The new big bad dinosaur is creepy and awesome. It’s a jaunty summer film, all fluff but a good time. I’m a bit obsessed with with the giant water demon shown in the trailer, Bitey McChompersons. The one that eats the shark. I would watch a movie with only that guy in it.


Anyway, back to awesome props. Since it was a Sunday no one was at the workstations but they had left the pieces they were constructing out so I could behave creepily and gently caress them like a lunatic. Here’s the general way this works – there are krewes, like clubs, that decide they’re going to have a Mardi Gras parade. A parade must have a theme and consist of no less than fourteen floats. The krewe then collects money throughout the year from various krewe members and then they decide on the theme. “Characters from Books.” “Important Americans Through History.” “Oceans of the World.” That kind of theme. Then they meet with a designer who lays out how the floats will look. They can reuse the substructure of previous floats which is why they are kept in giant warehouses. Did you know there’s no entrance onto the float? You need to climb on or in via a platform and you stay there all day. Therefore many floats have a restroom built into it. When the work by the designer is approved, construction begins. These float items need to be large but also very lightweight so they are made a few different ways. Mostly a welder makes the skeleton which is covered with industrial styrofoam and carved with a hot knife into the rough shape. Then it is sanded and covered with brown kraft paper paper-mache which makes the surface even and receptive to painting (exactly how I made my crab for my ocean costume!). There were some structures that were welded together and only covered with thick pieces of cardboard to give them a light, airy feel. It appears that one of next year’s themes is Chinese in nature.

mardi-gras-world10 mardi-gras-world9 mardi-gras-world16 mardi-gras-world17 mardi-gras-world18

They will also pull older pieces, cut them up, remodel them, paint them and send them back out. For example, this hourglass.


In the back area they have the full floats parked. They’re really big. None of these parades go through the French Quarter because the streets aren’t wide enough and the wires would get in the way. These all go down the main thoroughfares.


And here’s a finished piece sitting in a workstation. I started drooling when I saw all those paints and brushes.

mardi-gras-world21 mardi-gras-world22

And here are some photos that were left behind but are no less important.

Crab escargot. Look, it resembles a demon emerging from the bowels of hell! Dig in, kids! (It was actually delicious.)


Cricket and my boat trip down the Ole Mississip. It was RAINING. Not raining, RAINING. All the rains. I insisted that we sit outside so we got soaked. It was cool nonetheless.

natchez1 natchez2 natchez3

On the boat there was a women’s restroom and it reinforced my comments on how important typeface choices are. I swore it said “Loadies” which is a terrible name for a women’s restroom. Bad. Bad designer. No biscuit.


I would totally go back. I would like to go for Mardi Gras and watch all the parades. Maybe someday I will have that opportunity.

New Orleans, Part 4.

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Sorry for the super-long delay between posts – much has been happening here at Casa Rothmanpants and I was forced to take my first break ever from blogging in seven years. All good things occurring, but extremely time-consuming. Work is being extra-worky, I’m attempting to finish my backsplash by Thanksgiving and Børrke got married so I went up to Maine for five days. I found Maine to be delightful. I went down to the beach and swam in the Atlantic Ocean which Canada had graciously made a crisp 43 degrees. In addition there was no breaker of rocks so the water came in, slapped you on the rump with extreme vigor and then attempted to suck you out to the briny deep with the same vigor. As I said to many people, I felt like I was getting a rectal scouring from Neptune himself, trident and all*. I might have yelled at the moon at one point for all the gravity. But it ended up being wonderful because when you returned to the beach you were tingly all over. It was like a marvelous massage. I then attempted to be a normal person and sit on the beach quietly and sunbathe but I failed at that. This is an actual photo Cricket took of me “tanning”:


Yep. That’s the real deal right there. The benefit of this technique is you can eavesdrop on everyone else’s conversation all around you. This area is a primo destination for Bostonians so I felt like I was plopped in the middle of The Town and The Fighter. Everyone was named Sean, or Brian, or Doug. The two kids behind me were Margaret and Quinn. The “a”s were flat as pancakes and there were no “r”s to be had. It was great. I ended up having a much-needed relaxing experience in Maine, the fireworks on the 4th were some of the best I’ve ever seen and the wedding was a dream. Only two complaints:

1. Why no pizza slices? Why only whole pies? I feel like this is a weird thing that only New York has. Do people not want to eat pizza the way that they eat hot dogs? And wouldn’t one end up making more money selling per-slice than the whole pie? Maine, get it together (pizza-wise).

2. Okay, those sea roses are beautiful but they are wall-to-wall thorns. They’re not like the roses you can purchase in the store. These are, like, specially bred for maximum thornitude. Stabby stabby stabby. Taking this flaw into account, is it necessary to plant them RIGHT next to walkways that lead to the beach so they curl over the handrail and plunge their owchies right into my palm? Or tug at my pants and shred my calf? Please look into this for the future. Thanks, Maine. Aside from that, great job. Very proud.

maine1 maine2 maine3

Okay back to New Orleans (remember when I went to New Orleans a thousand years ago in May?). Before we get into The French Quarter here are some unrelated images that fit into no category. Wild cards, if you will

Beads in trees left over from Mardi Gras. I took it through a bus window but you still get the idea. It’s festive all year ’round.


The cornstalk fence. Apparently the woman who lived in that house was from Iowa and when she married and moved there, she missed home. So her husband commissioned an ironworks factory in Philadelphia to make a fence with a cornstalk theme. One of her friends liked the pattern so much she had the same fence made for herself and it is somewhere on the other side of town. But this is the famous first fence.


Our hotel was in the French Quarter which is most likely the most famous of the areas. It about four streets by four streets, so not very big. And because the whole area is comprised of original old buildings, living there is a hassle. There’s a homeowner’s group that tells you what you can and cannot alter on the front of your house, what flowers you can display, what color you may paint your door, etc. The benefit of all that is the houses are delicious.

french-quarter1 french-quarter2 french-quarter3 french-quarter4 french-quarter5 french-quarter7

It’s not all peaches and cream. Due to the economy lots of houses have been uninhabited for a long time and it shows.


But I feel like even in its decrepitude it adds character. One of the things I found so charming about New Orleans is how it embraces its flaws, its cracks and wrinkles. Most places would not advertise spirits taking up residence in an apartment, but N’Awlins does. It’s a selling point.


And even though the governor said that gays were not welcome in Louisiana, New Orleans has a great gay community. This is one of the houses in that area. Not surprisingly, it is awesome. According to our tour guide, the gentlemen that live there changes their decorations seasonally. I reiterate: awesome.


On one end of the French Quarter is the St. Louis Cathedral (named after the King of France that was ruling at the time – the state is named after him too). It’s the oldest cathedral in America, originally built as a church in 1718 and made a cathedral in 1793. The building that stands there now is predominantly from the 1850s. It’s big and white and pointy and very elegant.


The inside was also beautiful and white and also painted with bible characters. I figured out who Moses was quickly from his halo which looked like horns. That’s actually how the whole “Jews have horns” story began: Someone mistranslated Moses’ “halo” into “horns” when taking the Old Testament from one language to another and there you have it.

cathedral3 cathedral4 cathedral5

There were also beautiful stained glass windows using an old technique which is really really hard. This woman makes it look crazy easy. Trust me, it is not. You’re basically painting with dust and if you screw up you have to start all over.

The windows feature bible scenes but I of course was fascinated by the frames around the scenes.

cathedral1 cathedral2

Next entry: my favorite thing in New Orleans, Mardi Gras World.

* You like that mental image? That is my gift to you.

New Orleans 2015, Part 2.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Before we delve into cemetery-chat, some random photos I took.

You can walk around with an open container so alcohol can be procured just about anywhere. I went into PJ’s (a local coffee chain) and they had a beer tap situation next to the blenders. Because they can.


I really liked these alligator lights on the side of this building.


The day before the day before the wedding the Warriors were playing. They are some sort of basketball team and Candy, Nessa’s aunt, is OBSESSED with them. She has a tattoo of their logo on her butt. She brought down all her Warrior gear and we all met up at a sports bar to watch the game. (I went to eat appetizers but let’s pretend it was for sports.) Nessa knows of my complete disinterest in all things athletic so she insisted on decking me out in some of the accessories and taking my picture. I hope you can appreciate how excited I am from this photo. Hooooooray sports. Cricket is equally excited.


Cemeteries! Cemeteries are a big part of New Orleans. I cannot name the last time I was in New York City and said, “Hey everyone, let’s go spend an afternoon hanging with really quiet people and their identifying rocks!” But in New Orleans it’s a major tourist destination, so much so that only tour groups are allowed in the primary cemetery (lone people were desecrating the graves and generally being a nuisance). We visited two cemeteries but the important one, St Louis No. 1, is the one I’m going to focus on.


Because the earth is so saturated with water (New Orleans gets between 70 to 100 inches of rain a year) you cannot bury bodies, therefore the graves are above ground and usually contain the remains of an entire family. Every time someone new is added they carve new info on the door plaque.


The body must lay untouched for a year and a day. The reason for that is very smart: the tomb are built of brick, stone or stucco and therefore get very hot, especially in the summer when it can be 90 degrees or above. The bodies dry out and bake until they crumble. After a year and a day all that’s left is bone and dust. The door is pulled off, the remains collected into a satin bag and then placed under the tomb in a substantially smaller area with the other powdery relatives and the tomb is then freed up for new deceased people. It’s a good way to save space.

There are a bunch of famous people buried in St. Louis. First one we encountered is Paul Morphy. Paul Morphy was a brilliant chess player.


Supposedly he was blindfolded and had twelve chessboards set up in front of him with master players on the other side. So phenomenal was his ability to visualize the board, Morphy would walk past each board blindfolded, have someone describe the layout of the pieces and then make the next move. He won all twelve games. Like a BAWSS.

The most famous person entombed there is Marie Laveau. She is considered the Queen of Voodoo, a religion or belief-system brought from West Africa by both slaves and free people of color. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about her:

Among the fifteen “voodoo queens” in neighborhoods scattered around 19th-century New Orleans, Marie Laveau was known as “the” Voodoo Queen, the most eminent and powerful of them all. Her religious rite on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain on St. John’s Eve in 1874 attracted some 12,000 black and white New Orleanians.It was said that politicians, lawyers, businessman, wealthy planters – all came to her to consult before making an important financial or business-related decision. She also saw the poor and enslaved. Although her help seemed non-discriminatory, she may have favored the enslaved servants of her “influential, affluent customers”, as many “runaway slaves…credited their successful escapes to Laveaux’s powerful charms.”Once the news of her powers spread, she dominated the other Voodoo leaders of New Orleans. Also a Catholic, Laveau encouraged her followers to attend Catholic Mass as a strategic way to protect their true beliefs. Her influence contributed to the adoption of Catholic practices into the Voodoo belief system.Marie Laveau is remembered for her skill and compassion for the less fortunate.

Laveau also gained influence over her clientele by her work as a hairdresser, which gave her intimate knowledge of the gossip in town. Her customers also came to her to buy voodoo dolls, potions, gris-gris bags, and the like.Her influence continues in the city. In the 21st century, her gravesite in the oldest cemetery is a major tourist attraction; believers of Voodoo offer gifts here and pray to her spirit. Across the street from the cemetery where Laveau is buried, offerings of pound cake are left to the statue of Saint Expedite; these offerings are believed to expedite the favors asked of the Voodoo queen. Saint Expedite represents the spirit standing between life and death. The chapel where the statue stands was once used only for holding funerals.Marie Laveau continues to be a central figure of Louisiana Voodoo and of New Orleans culture. Gamblers shout her name when throwing dice, and multiple tales of sightings of the Voodoo queen have been told.

Here is the outside of her family tomb.


You will notice it is clean and white and that is because there is a not-for-proft group in New Orleans called Save Our Cemeteries that takes care of as many tombs as they can. When this cemetery was open to whomever wanted to wander in people would write XXX all over Marie Laveau’s tomb and chip bits off as souvenirs, it was a mess. That’s one of the reasons only tours are allowed in. This one of the nearby tombs still covered with graffiti and chipped to all hell.


I asked what the significance of the XXX was, and the thing is to draw the Xs. knock three times on the tomb and then ask Marie Laveau to grant you a wish, often pertaining to love.

Right behind Miss Laveau’s tomb is a pyramid. No one is in it. Yet. Because it is Nicholas Cage’s forever home. It’s sitting there uninhabited until Cage bites it. Good idea, always plan ahead. Nicholas Cage is a character, I wouldn’t be surprised if he insisted on being embalmed and having his cats join him in the afterlife. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.


There are also group tombs (called “condominios” in Spain, that never stops being funny to me) for various groups. For example there was a massive nunnery and the nuns are laid to rest in one of those. In this picture the one on the left is for Portuguese people and the one on the right is for the Italians.


The round mass tomb on the right is famous because of the movie Easy Rider. There’s a scene where Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and two lovely young ladies come to this cemetery, take LSD and go on a mental journey. Fun Fact: the actors really did take LSD. It’s (not surprisingly) a very trippy scene in the film. They’re climbing all over the sculptures, the lovely young ladies are naked and frolicking, copious amounts of alcohol are being consumed. Apparently after the mayor of New Orleans saw the movie he decided no one could film movies any more in the cemetery, booooo. But the damage was already done. The main sculpture (I think it’s Athena) nestled in an alcove on the tomb has no head and no hands because bikers came for years to sit in her lap and have their picture taken a là Peter Fonda’s character. So her head fell off. Here’s the shot from the film:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.02.15 AM

Here’s some jackhole doing the pose:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.07.10 AM

This condominio is for war heroes. Note the bombs as corner pieces for the decorative chain. That’s baller, having explosive devices flanking your tomb.


Another famous person who is laid to rest there is Bernard deMarigny. He’s got a hell of a tale. He was born with not a silver spoon in his mouth, but a gold one. Legend has it that when the King of France and his two brothers came to visit, the deMarignys served them on specially-made gold plates. After the meal all the plates were thrown in the river because no one would be worthy of using them again. Yeah. Gold plates. Here’s what Wikipedia says about him:

The visit of the French royals apparently had a big impact on Marigny, as it is reported as an example of the spoiled life in which he was reared. When he was 15 years old, his father died and Bernard inherited his father’s plantation just outside the city gates, east of New Orleans’ Vieux Carré. According to historians, “His every whim [was] indulged while his father was alive, he became as wild and headstrong after his death as an unbacked [wild] mustang, and his guardian, abandoning all idea of control, finally shipped him to England, hoping that life abroad might mend his manners; but in London Bernard’s dissipations became only more pyrotechnic, and he spent most of his time at Almack’s and other famous gambling places.” One of the things Marigny brought back to New Orleans from England was the dice game Hazardwhich became popular in a simplified form, known in local dialect as “Crapaud”.

cemetery7 cemetery8

This guy and his family owned so much land that when it was developed and turned into city streets, he got to name them. There was Love Street, Poets Street, Music Street, Abundance Street, Treasure Street and even Craps Street until the three churches that sprouted up on that street petitioned to have the name changed. Marigny eventually gambled his fortune away and died relatively penniless but he left an impression on the city.

The entire cemetery is Catholic but there’s a small section off in the back where Protestants can be buried. Note I used the word “buried.” Big mistake, Protestants. In this photo you’ll see several level-with-the-ground graves. They have recently been surrounded with cement. What you can’t see under all that grass are all the other graves that sunk into the earth because no cement. This area was wall-to-wall graves. You can really stub your toe on a corner of tombstone pokin’ out of the loam.


That’s it for cemeteries. Coming up: alligators.

New Orleans 2015, Part 1.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

N’Awlins! As a person who really is not into drinking, one might think I would haaaaaaate New Orleans but much to my delight I had a terrific time. If I could no longer live in New York for whatever reason I would seriously consider moving to New Orleans. A few reasons:

1. No snow. Yeah, rain all the damn time but no snow. I hate the snow. The ice, specifically. Ain’t no one slippin’ and fallin’ in the rain, and it washes away the sins of the previous night on Bourbon Street.

2. The cuisine is super-yummy. I like spicy food and rice is my favorite carb, so I was totally on board. I went through beignet-withdrawal when I came back.

3. A thriving creative community. A ton of artists, good one too, and musicians. Since the tourist industry is their biggest source of income tons of people visit the galleries so the art actually sells which is great.

4. People are ugly and weird and it’s okay. Let me clarify. In New York, being a major fashion capital people are extremely concerned with physical appearances. In New Orleans they seem to get a kick out of people who are odd and off-center far more. While I saw plenty of pretty people it seems it’s okay if you’re missing a tooth, or have odd fashion choices, or are shaped like a cube. There are people who dig that as long as you’re interesting or smart. I’m a good fit in those circles.

I went on a three-hour tour (sing the Gilligan’s Island theme if you must) around the town and got a great overview of the city. Our tour guide was amazing / a nightmare. He was 75 and had the exact same speaking style as Cleveland from Family Guy. Here is a sample of Cleveland:

Imagine an older gentleman talking nonstop like that for three hours. And repeating himself several times. I loved it (“No, Grandpa, tell the story again!”) but Cricket was ready to shoot himself in the face. Here are some cool things I learned on my tour.

  •  Acadians were the first European settlers. Acadians are French Canadians. And the Native Americans already living there could not say “Acadian,” they called them “Cajun.”
  • Only five buildings from the original French rule remain (the area was French, then Spanish, then French again) due to two massive fires during the Spanish rule.
  • 64 different nationalities came to New Orleans to make their fortune with sugar cane or oil or cotton nearby. For example the Croatians are predominantly in charge of the oyster business. Who knew, Croatians? And oysters?
  • When buildings were built there were weird rules in place. You were charged a tax for each closet, so very few houses have closets. Everyone uses bureaus and armoires. And you were charged a tax for each window which is why the windows look like doors.

windows-as-doors1 windows-as-doors2

First, we’ll cover the wedding since that was the point of the trip. Nessa, my former co-worker who left the East Coast to fulfill herself (whatevs) by becoming a police officer in San Francisco decided to have a destination wedding in her favorite party city. I hadn’t seen her family since Nessa’s graduation from police academy so it was delightful to catch up with them again. The guests were instructed to meet in front of one of the hotels at 4:00 and we would be bussed to a plantation about a half-hour outside of town, the Tchoupitoulas Plantation. Nessa had decided on a purple and burgundy-themed wedding (I chose those colors, you’re welcome). That’s how I knew what color to make my nutria hat, more on that in a moment. First we were seated in a very elegant room. What you can’t see off to the side are fish bowls filled with treats for later – single packs of Advil, Tums, Pepto, earplugs, etc. Smart girl, Nessa is.


Then the ceremony started and I couldn’t believe how good Nessa looked. The girl sitting next to me said, “Holy crap, she looks just like Beyoncé.” These pictures taken with my iPhone do not do her justice. She glowed.

wedding-1 wedding-2

I think they hired a justice of the peace because at no point did he mention God or any specific religion, just love and family and togetherness. It took ten minutes. “You take her? And she takes you? Great, we’re done here.” Then we moved out of this room into the actual main building and I sat myself where I always seat myself at weddings – as close to the kitchen door as possible. That way you get first crack at the hors d’oeuvres. My other former co-worker Esteban and his girlfriend were there as well so we had a great time chattin’ it up and snorfing down treats on sticks. Yes, I would love a fried oyster and a crab cake and a jalapeño popper, thank you. They had a buffet set up in the other room with gumbo (which I now need at every meal seriously omg where has gumbo been all my life) and Nessa hooked up her iPod to the speakers and that was it. We danced and ate and there was open bar for hours, it was a blast. On the invitation you could put a song request. I put a favorite of mine, “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe, a masterpiece. The second it came on I was out there and this other guest took an opportunity to dance WAY TOO CLOSE to me but I let it slide because ain’t no one harshing my vibe during “Poison.” One of the best dances ever to that song is Turk from Scrubs in case you need a reminder of the dopeness both of Turk and the song.

And here is a picture Esteban took of me gettin’ humped on the dance floor.


The men at the wedding took the dancing incredibly seriously. There were numerous moments when men were booty-popping on the dance floor. Booty-popping, in case you don’t know, is very similar to twerking but you make each gluteus maximus move individually. If done correctly it looks like your butt is possessed. The gentlemen-folk were throwing hinder-cheek action down with total disregard to accepted social rules and it was delightful. Here is the groom and the best man giving it their best shot.


I was the only one wearing a hat / fascinator and I think that was an egregious error on the part of everyone else. Dude, we’re in the South. At a wedding. With fun people. Let loose a little bit. Maybe not to the point where you’re wearing a hat with a felted rodent on it, you don’t have to go that far, but a bit. I looked awesome in my hat I must say.

wedding-7 wedding-8

Cricket wanted to explore the grounds around the main house so before the sun set we went for a walk. The trees were beautiful, very old and very large.


And we realized we were right up against the Mississippi River.


Check this picture out: I’m standing on a levee next to the Mississippi River adjacent to a plantation wearing a church hat with a nutria on it. It’s the ultimate Lousiana selfie.


Remember the parasol I made for Nessa to carry during her street parade? This one? She used it as a display item behind her cake along with the parasol she made for her fiance. It framed the space beautifully.

parasol1 parasol2

After much delicious food and drink was consumed (I love you jambalaya and bread pudding, never leave my side) we all boarded the buses again and headed to the center of town for the Second Line (what the New Orleaners call a spontaneous-style parade with a band). I had heard the comedian Hannibal Buress talk about being part of a Second Line and he was spot-on. It starts about two minutes in.

We got off the buses and there was the band waiting. And two cops on motorcycles. And a cop in a car. It was nuts. We destroyed traffic going in both directions on a major thoroughfare for a solid ten minutes. We all sang and yelled and cheered, strangers joined in, it was fantastic.

second-line1 second-line2 parade-1 parade-2 parade-3

After that everyone went to Bourbon Street to drink and dance some more. Cricket and I decided that eight hours of revelry was all we could manage at our ripe old age of almost forty so we went back to the room and retired for the evening. The next day we met up with other members of the bridal party and learned they had stayed out until about 4:00am so I think we made the right choice.

It was one of the funnest weddings I’ve ever been to. Nessa said we’re going to have a reunion next year back in NOLA and I’m all for it.


Next post: cemeteries.

Addendum: I forgot two pictures I wanted to include:

I loved that because Nessa and her man were walking around the room talking to everyone they didn’t get a chance to sample all the deliciousness being passed around so someone very kindly gave them one of everything. This was their table.


And I thought it was cute that the bouquets were repurposed as decorations in the bar area. Waste not want not.