Archive for June, 2015

TV I’ve been watching lately.

Monday, June 29th, 2015

As most people who have met me know I consume an excessive – nay, I would say upsetting – amount of television. I am often surprised that my bones and muscles still work and I haven’t atrophied into a dried-out husk with a functional mouth (for snacks ‘n’ chats). The truth is I make things a great deal and it’s nice to have something on in the background. I’ve recently seen a lot of fake-y old-y-time-y historical television, not out any particularly conscious choice but because that is how the good-television cookie crumbled. First show is Peaky Blinders. Have you seen Peaky Blinders? Oh, you should. You really should. I’m watching it again for the second time. The story is compelling, based on a real gang from Birmingham England in the 1920s. The gang is lead by three brothers, the Shelbys, and their gang is called the Peaky Blinders because they have sewn razors into the brims of their caps so if they’re fighting they can quickly slash their opponents across the face (which doesn’t happen often but it’s an effective deterrent to know it’s there). It’s been highly fictionalized but still so interesting. Heck, watch it with the sound off and look at the amazing set it’s filmed on, with the belching coal and the horses and the extras. Sadly, if you watch it with the sound off you’ll miss all of Aunt Polly’s lines. Aunt Pol is the three brothers’ aunt and she is so great. The actress is amazing. All the Emmys to Aunt Pol.


Anyway, it’s streaming on Netflix. I believe it’s twelve one-hour episodes right now (the British tend to structure their stuff like miniseries more often than we Yankees). If you need more info, Buzzfeed had a good article on Peaky Blinders.

While I was making Nessa’s parasol for her wedding I got sucked into the first two seasons of Vikings. That is such a perfect crafting show. You needn’t pay all that much attention, just an occasional glance up every now and again. I don’t really have all that much to say about it because it’s a soap opera where everyone wears dead beastie furs and there’s a disproportionate amount of Aryans, but that’s no surprise. Good show. Gained some slight actual knowledge about Vikings (it’s on the History Channel, so I imagine they felt guilty and needed to throw some actual, you know. history in there).

Outlander! If you had asked me two months ago what this show is about I would have said the sweeping Scottish highlands and romance and beautiful people in plaid having crazy-hot sex and swashbuckling adventures but now I say it’s about RAPE. RAAAAAAAAAAAA =pause for breath= AAAAAAAAAAPE. They made a hard-right turn out of time-travel vaguely-historical drama directly into NightmareTown. In the final two hour-long episodes one of the lead characters gets violated. Repeatedly. And the rest of those episodes are the other characters dealing with the aforementioned atrocity. Including flashbacks. There’s no escaping it. I mean don’t get me wrong, there’s some gross unpleasantness that occurs in the earlier episodes (a flogging scene that I had to look away from comes to mind, blarf), but in the first fourteen episodes it’s predominantly about romance and smooching and secret-keeping and horse-riding and healing with herbs and really kick-butt knitted shawls. Seriously, look at the lead’s shawls. There are several Pinterest boards devoted only to the knitwear.

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Okay, lemme start over. I’m still hurtin’ from those final episodes and I’m not doing this show right. Outlander is cool show based on a romance/time-travel/historical series of novels by Diane Gabaldon and fourteen of the sixteen episodes are a jolly fun ride with the delightful characteristic of being really feminist which is great. Awesome. Awesome stuff. If you, armed with the knowledge I have just provided, choose to watch the last two episodes of Season 1, good for you but don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you like inhumanly attractive people with accents gettin’ it on in drafty stone castles then this is the show for you. It’s on Starz but maybe in the near future it will be streaming on Netflix.

In addition to the above shows I also watched the first season of Turn which is a show about spies during the Revolutionary War here in ‘Merka and that’s a good show, I’d recommend it. I’m also done with the fifth season of Game of Thrones but ain’t nuthin’ new on that show. Same old. I’ll let this video do all the work for me.

New Orleans 2015, Part 3.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Pre-alligator pics:

1. We went to a fantastic café called Mister Gregory’s near the entrance of Armstrong Park. Cricket wanted to try the brie mac and cheese and I wanted to try the pain perdu which is stale bread dipped in cream and sugar and then baked so it becomes crispy on the edges. Very similar to french toast. I also had the cold brewed coffee with homemade pecan milk because when in Rome blabbity blah blah etc.

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I loved it. The food was delicious, the staff was super-nice, the interior is decorated with reclaimed trash like oil drums for seats and they played French 60s music. I could have stayed there all day. Highly recommended.

2. I could only find one store selling things made with nutria fur. They were selling nutria bras but they were very small so I didn’t get one.

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Fear not, they also sold nutria slap bracelets. I picked one made out of the left side of a nutria’s face with clearly discernible eyeball hole and a nose. I own that now. The fighting over who gets it in the will may commence now.

3. A tricycle on Bourbon Street decked in blinky lights and religious sayings. I called it the Bible-Bike because I like alliteration.


4. A sunset over the Mississippi. I don’t know if it’s because I was on vacation but I thought the sunsets in Louisiana were better than they are at home.


Okay, alligators. They live in the swamps of Louisiana and they are very similar to crocodiles in that they just sort of lay there and resemble logs. And they are spiky. And I wish to pet them. Nessa organized an outing for all of us to go see the alligators doing their best feigning of logs. We learned that alligator farmers come in and collect all the eggs they can find on the condition that of every 100 eggs that hatch 17 teenage alligators are returned to the swamp. Science has figured out that about 17 out of every 100 alligators make it to adulthood so that’s how many are returned to the wild. Good on you, sustainable farming.

First thing I saw at the farm was in the gift shop. It seems to me very rude to take the remains of one animal and wrap it in the remains of another. A little “rubbing it in the faces of the losers” kind of thing. But whatever, I wasn’t going to start a coup or anything.


There was a big display in the corner of the gift shop talking about the cats that live on the property. I wondered if that famous video I had seen ages ago of the cat scaring the alligator back into the water happened at this particular swamp and it turns out, yes it did. I asked. Here’s the video in case you’re unacquainted:

We saw a bunch of gators of varying ages and sizes both basking and swimming.


One even came up to the boat for a snack of chicken necks.


Intensely amusing was when we saw some raccoons. Everyone ran over to the side of the boat to take pictures. You would think none of these people had ever seen a raccoon. OMG, raccoons! But these are different, these are swamp raccoons! Not the fat bastards that rummage through your trash and are a general nuisance, no no! These are fancy exotic raccoons! They were very cute and kind of shy.

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The best thing is when a little bebbeh alligator was passed around for us to hold. I have rarely been so delighted. He was so soft and smooth and plastic-y. I loved him. I could have held him forever, peppered with occasional breaks for us both to bathe and eat.


In the next installation: the French Quarter.

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:

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Here’s some jackhole doing the pose:

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.