Saturday, October 31, 2015

Closer to the Heart in New Orleans

The usual reaction
The innkeeper and the guest, each one shares his or her part and that's the best start, with heart and with art, crafting good memories together, the kind of good memories that last forever.  It takes two to tango.  We are blessed with guests who arrive set to enjoy New Orleans on its own terms rather than only ticking off the high points they read about in the guide books. 

A week or more is a nice amount of time to spend in New Orleans.  You'll never be bored.

Whatever you have read about New Orleans is true, but there is plenty more left unsaid.  There aren't words enough to pin down what New Orleans really is.  If New Orleans is a butterfly, it is the kind that flutters by.  It is not the kind you find dead and dried in a display case.  

This is a city full of surprises.  New Orleans enchants.  New Orleans is magic.  We love New Orleans.  Most people who stay with us love New Orleans, too.  You will.  You won't be able to stop it or help it.  It is what it is, as inevitable as the river that runs through the city's heart.  It's a wonderful rush.

It's about time to offer a tip of my blue fedora to Rich Tuttle.  Who?  You don't need to know who he is.  Your humble narrator knows who he is and he knows who he is.  His wife and children know who he is better than I do.  I haven't seen Rich Tuttle in person for about 30 years, which is a shame in some ways, but in other ways, the best kind of ways, it's all worked out for the best for all concerned.  It is nice to know that somewhere in the world, you have a friend.  Sometimes, most times, it's nice to have your own blog and it's just nice to offer a random shout-out on a heartfelt whim.  Life is rich.

You have a friend in New Orleans.  Our musical interlude:

Tuttle, like Dibble, is a good Yankee name.  Don't snicker.

In New Orleans, good Creole names are Uglisch, Waugespack, Soniat, Marigny, Marengo, Arnaud, Boudreaux and Thibedeaux, Morial, Ternaud, Haley, Driscoll, Terranova, Liuzza, and Mandina, etcetera, etcetera, etc....

You never know what kind of pageantry you're going to encounter in New Orleans.  You never know what you are going to see when you turn a street corner.  We inhabit a magical city.  It's an urban cornucopia overstuffed like a po' boy with overripe fruit and underripe vegetables.  Leave a green banana on the sidewalk and it will blush golden with joy.  The very air is a perfume, if I can quote Walt Whitman, who was talking about Brooklyn when he wrote that. 

New Orleans.  New Orleans.  New Orleans.  New Orleans.  No matter how many times you say the city's name you'll never get it right, but everyone will know exactly where you mean.  There is no place else quite like it.  There is no place else like New Orleans.

When you live in New Orleans, you live close to the heart.  You live close to the bone.  You know what marrow tastes like because this is a snout-to-tail kind of a place.  You live close to other people, cheek-by-jowl.  Good neighbors make a city strong and vibrant.  When you visit New Orleans, you become a part of it.  You become a part of us.  Welcome to New Orleans.  New Orleans loves you.
New Orleans Botanical Gardens
It's a wild ride in New Orleans.  It's a good ride.  You'll see.  You'll love it.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Words about New Orleans.

La belle de l'Avenue d'Esplanade
In the end, it's all words, words words.  In Italian, "Alla fine, si tart di tutti le parole."  It's true.  Ce sera sera.  As the Creole maw-maws say when they're granddaughters come home after a big date telling their grandmothers they're in love, the maw-maws say, "En fin de compte, il best tour les mots."  C'est vrai.    

Thus, today's soundtrack:

Alain Delon could talk, but Dalida... Dalida!  That Dalida, she had quite a set of pipes.

Whatever I say, it's all just gonna be words in the end.  All just words, words, words.  So, what might those words be?

Here's one for you: Prosopagnosia.  An innkeeper with prosopagnosia can get along, but it's going to make his or her job tougher, I can tell you that.  I'm not saying that either your humble narrator nor Frau Schmitt can be described as prosopagnosiac.  We aren't.  At least not as far as I can tell.  Some neuroscientists will tell you that when a person is born with a condition, he or she will compensate for it through other ways---like the belief that blind people have a heightened sense of smell.  I'm not making this up.  We have neuroscientists stay with us when they have a convention in town.  
The Sniffer by Enrique Alférez

New Orleans smells like no place else.  Whether it's the mules in the French Quarter, among other things in the French Quarter, or the smell of a roux cooking up in kitchens in all the downtown neighborhoods, or the whiff of crawfish boil on weekends, no place smells like New Orleans.  No, no place, nowhere, no how.  I guarantee.  

I think it was in our last installment that I featured two sculptures by Enrique Alférez on Poydras Street.  If it wasn't the last installment it was the one after that.  I'm so lackadaisical in my research that I won't go back and read my own blog.  ...and yet, I expect you to.  

Serendipity being something that informs everything that happens in New Orleans, it turns out that there is a new sculpture garden opening up in City Park, in the Botanical Gardens in particular.  This new garden will be full of statues made by our local hero and one of my personal favorite sculptors, Enrique Alférez.  I had no idea until I read it in the newspaper yesterday.  Naturally, I'm tickled pink, which is a phrase I've learned a southern gentleman can say in public without blushing.
New Orleans Botanical Gardens
There is a nice exhibit of sculpture at the New Orleans Museum of Art for the next couple of months.  You can see it here:  I would post the link directly so that you could just click on it, but their server is down so I just get a page that tells me that NOMA's server is down.  That's the way things work in New Orleans sometimes.  You don't do things virtually or plan ahead.  You just show up and make the best of what you find.  It's always better that way.

Sometimes, our guests go someplace, like to the Backstreet Cultural Center, and it will be closed even if their website says they should have been open.  That's usually okay. "We met somebody sitting on the porch three houses down and he told us about it and then his daughter walked us around the neighborhood and she told us to go to L'il Dizzy's for lunch, which we did, and we had the best gumbo and jambalaya."

That's how things work in New Orleans.  Don't overplan.  The city will provide what it wants you to enjoy.

Somebody opened their front shutters on Esplanade Avenue the other morning and somebody else took a picture.
You can't be afraid of color
Jazz in the Park happens tomorrow.  I wonder what we missed last week?

Kermit Ruffins!!!!  Waitaminnit!  That was last season!

I think tomorrow is the last session of Jazz in the Park for this season.  This weekend is Voodoo Fest up in City Park, and, it's also Hallowe'en.  It's gonna be a magical weekend in New Orleans.  What else would it be?  It's been a magical week.  Isn't it always?

I promise, this won't be the last session of this blog.  Jazz.

À votre santé
La Belle Esplanade, a boutique New Orleans bed and breakfast inn.
Where quality is our nature.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Where Quality is Our Nature

Jazz it up with Zatarain's
"We have Zatarain's in our supermarket in Minnetonka," people tell me.  "Is it really from New Orleans?"  Minnetonka is in Minnesota.  It's close to the source of the Mississippi River.  We are close to the Mississippi's mouth.  Mmmmm.... Zatarain's.  Jazz it up!

Zatarain's is from New Orleans.  More properly, nowadays, Zatarain's spices and pre-packaged rice mixes are from Gretna, on the other side of the River, but the company started out in New Orleans.  Nowadays, it's a subsidiary of McCormick & Co., Inc.  You know the company; their products dominate the spice aisle in your local supermarket.  

Has Zatarain's strayed far from it's roots after being bought by a multinational spice company?  Well, here's a link to the Zatarain's website that purportedly teaches you how to speak like a New Orleanian.  Please don't try any of this out while you're here.  You're going to sound like a darned fool just like the lady who does the voiceover in those videos sounds like a darned fool.  Who thought that was clever?  Somebody who has never been to New Orleans, or, if they have been, they have a tin ear.

That Zatarain's mural on the side of the Queen and Crescent Hotel is on the corner of Poydras and Camp Streets.  The more modern skyscraper to the left is some anonymous office tower, but it has two statues in front of it that I like.
The Lute Player
I know what you regular readers are thinking: Our humble narrator likes a statue!?!  It happens.  I'm not dead from the neck up.  For newcomers to this blog, there are several past entries in which I bemoan modern art, public sculpture in particular.  Whatever assemblages of welded scrap metal you want to put on your mantels are none of my business.  Trawl through this blog's archives at your leisure; you can waste a lot of time there.  You can also learn what your humble narrator is like and get a taste of what it's like to stay at our inn.  

For our new readers, I have but one word: Welcome.  

Here are two more:  Stick around.

Here are nine:  Visit New Orleans and stay at La Belle Esplanade.

Back to the two statues I like on Poydras Street, they were made by Enrique Alférez, a Mexican-born Louisiana artist.  He has all sorts of statues in the New Orleans Botanical Garden and he made the fountain at New Orleans' Lakefront Airport.   

Here's the statue located at the other side of that building on Poydras Street.  It's David.

You can tell it's David because he's got a sling.  It isn't the kind of sling you'll be wearing if you don't watch your step while walking the crooked and tilting sidewalks of New Orleans.  It's the kind of sling used to kill giants.  

You'll find some tall people in New Orleans and you'll find some snappy dressers, too.  I went to Meyer the Hatter the other day to see if they could clean and block one of my hats.  You'll find at least four generations of hatters at the shop at any given time.  It turned out that they couldn't provide exactly what I wanted (I'm persnickety about this particular hat, my favorite) so I decided to try a home remedy, which is usually a recipe for disappointment.  I like to live and learn through trial and error, much like a hunter gatherer.  "Are you sure you want to try it yourself?" the guy at Meyer the Hatter asked me.  

I'll probably be buying a new hat in the near future.  No surprise there, though.

A hatter is not a haberdasher.  If you are looking for a haberdasher, there is one just two storefronts down from Meyer the Hatter.  There is Rubensteins.

There is a seersucker suit in my future, too.  Guess where I'm going to get measured for it and where I'm going to purchase it and have it tailored.  You've already guessed it, haven't you?  I'm going to go to Rubensteins.  That's where everyone goes.  They've been on Canal Street since 1924.  In the past 91 years, they've learned a thing or two about making men look good in a seersucker suit.

Wanna see a statue by Enrique Alférez that's in the Botanical Gardens?
Rose garden, New Orleans Botanical Garden
We haven't had any video in this installment.  Howzabout another snippet of Justin Wilson in all his Cajun glory?

We hope we'll see you standing tall in New Orleans.

The motto of the City of Minnetonka, Minnesota is; "Where Quality is Our Nature."  I'm going to swipe that motto.  Zatarain's should have done that years ago.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Creole Syria and Other Mistaken Mysteries

Someone recently wrote to me about Creole Syria and he sent me a link about what he was talking about.  It turns out he was confused.   Things currently or anciently in the Middle East are not my forté.  I specialize in Louisiana Creole, which means things that have happened and do happen in New Orleans.

Creole people live in the city of New Orleans and in the surrounding Louisiana civil parishes.  Creoles are people who are descended from people who came before them who lived out their Louisiana lives during the time the royal French or the royal Spanish or the imperial French governments had jurisdiction in our out-of-the way part of the world around the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River.  

What about the Cajuns?  Cajuns are descended from French Canadian settlers who relocated in Louisiana and they are different from Creoles.  The easiest way to put it is that Creoles live in the city and Cajuns live out in the swamp.  As far as I know, and I'm no expert, there is neither a Creole nor Cajun settlement in Syria, though I may be proven wrong as current events shake out in that region.

If there were a Cajun outpost in Russia, Vladimir Putin would be eating chicken gumbo while shirtless.  I guarantee he would.

Now you know what a Cajun sounds like.

If you can't understand Justin Wilson, you aren't alone.  Frau Schmitt can't figure out a thing he's saying.  He was the King of Cajun Comedy as well as a chef on public television.  My father used to love to watch his cooking show, but my father loved just about anything that reminded him of New Orleans.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
"Macaroon" is a fun word to say, isn't it?  We get our macaroons at Sucre on Magazine Street.  We don't have them all the time, so don't expect them.  We have them when we have them, which means that we have them when one of us visits the cigar store across the street.  I'll leave it up to your imagine who that one of us might be: could it be Your Humble Narrator or might it be Frau Schmitt?  

Some people write us to ask if there are jaguars in New Orleans?  A:  Not recently.  The last sighting of a jaguar in southern Louisiana was in June of 1886 in Donaldsonville, which is about an hour's drive away. 

There was a recent sighting of a black panther in southern Louisiana in Iberia Parish.  Anything is possible in Cajun Country no matter how improbable it might seem.

Does that mean there may be black panthers in New Orleans?  It ain't necessarily so.  Certainly not the way you mean.  There are plenty of feral cats in our neighborhood, though.  They aren't around our house, but there are some blocks that are overrun with feral cats.  They help to keep the feral chicken population down.  We have feral chickens in our neighborhood, too.

The sitting room in our Les Pêches Suite
This may come as a surprise to our regular readers, but I'm not the biggest "Weird Al" Yankovic fan.  I can hear a lot of you saying, "You could knock me over with a feather," but, truly, if Weird Al releases a multimedia song parody, odds are I have no idea of what his source material might be.  That said, I got a critique from a Weird Al fan recently.  He sent me a link to a video.

"Dear Mr. King," our correspondent began, which was a very polite and proper way for him to start his correspondence.  I always enjoy being called Mr. King, as the people at the bank where I do my banking (where else would I do it?) well know.  It is one your humble narrator's names, after all.  Wanna know another one?  Another one is, Cutie-Scootie.  You can call me Matthew, which is my first name and it's the name that most people use.  (If you are reading this at the bank, you can keep calling me Mr. King.)

Our correspondent continued, "You may not realize it but your grammar is sometimes less-than-perfect.  You use Oxford commas capriciously and you sometimes omit or include possessive apostrophes without rhyme or reason.  While I am sure your sentence structure, which is usually immaculate and readable, is intended to reflect the way by which you intend to be heard in your readers' heads, your dangling participles leave much to be desired.  Your use of colloquialisms and gerunds sometimes muddies your message."  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....and so on.  The letter went on and on until I nodded off and dreamed I was in New Orleans.  Then I woke up and my dream had come true.

Thanks, Buster.  I'll take your critique under advisement.  Remember, though, I'm living in New Orleans and I've picked up the local lingo and en-FLEX-zee-ohn.  If you want to know what it's like to live in this magical city, you'll stay at La Belle Esplanade.  Mispronounce everything and everyone will know what you're talking about.  Living la vida local is what it's all about in our part of New Orleans.  It's nothing like this:

You won't find (m)any shopping malls in New Orleans.  You have to go to the suburbs for that.  When a brass band plays in New Orleans, people dance like nobody is watching.  If I commit any word crimes, please remember, I live in New Orleans, a Creole city.   I'm not a native.  I'm a convert.  There are worse crimes of mistaken identity that a person can commit.

We hope to meet you soon.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Greetings from Axemoor!

Your humble narrator
Some people accuse your humble narrator of being a colorful character (in the most complimentary sense), to which he responds that in this business that's an asset.  

Speaking of colorful characters, did you know that New Orleans lies within the boundaries of the Barony of Axemoor?  Talk about some colorful characters.   

Welcome to the world of the Society of Creative Anachronism.  As if New Orleans didn't already have enough layers.  My discovery of this explains why I sometimes see people practicing swordplay in the back corners of City Park.

Within the boundaries of the the Barony of Axemoor are included New Orleans; Slidell, LA; and the Bayou Areas, whatever that last bit might mean.  I assume that last bit means Delacroix, Point à la Hache, and maybe Honey Island.  

La Belle Esplanade, a boutique New Orleans bed and breakfast inn, lies within the heart of the Barony of Axemoor.
The Baron of Axemoor has pledged his fealty to the Lord of Gleann Abhann.  New Orleans is not just a part of Louisiana, it's also a part of the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann.  

Should you ever be wanting to give a food gift as an act of homage to the liege of Gleann Abhann, Prince Faelan, please remember that he's anaphylactically allergic to cinnamon and just regularly allergic to avacados and bananas.  Presumably avocados and bananas make his highness break out in hives without constricting his airway.   

Her Royal Highness and Prince Faelan's royal consort, Princess Linnett, lists Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade as one of her favorite beverages.  Aye, 'tis a noble quaff, indeed, milady.

There are other people, though, who think Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade is just okay.  "This is something that, if somebody offers it to you at a party, you drink it to be polite..."

If you would like to know what the world looks like to someone in the Society of Creative Anachronism, we've go that covered:
Kingdoms in the Known World
Something tells me that map's not to scale.  What would that be?  The absence of South America.  This is, however, how many North Americans see the world.

I've got to admit that I don't see a lot of people around New Orleans who are drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade.  The six-packs in the convenience stores are all dusty.  This is a cocktail town and it has been long before craft cocktails were in vogue.  We even have a Museum of the American Cocktail.  

The Museum of the American Cocktail is part of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) which recently reopened on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.  The 91 bus, which stops right in front of our house, also stops right in front of SoFAB's new address.  It's a nice ride.  

Frau Schmitt and I haven't been to the new SoFab location, so we're due.  I'll write about it after we go.  That gives you regular readers something to which you can look forward.  Relevant content?  Whodathunkit?

Now, to wrap up today's installment, I'd like to discuss my accent because someone brought it to my attention the other day.  I said to a guest, "When you call a cab, just tell them you want to go to the Quarter."  

Phonetically transcribed, what I really said was: "When ya call a cab, just tell em ya wanna go da de Quawdah."

I sometimes correspond with guests before they arrive and they tell me that my email voice is the same as the voice I use when I write this blog.  That's true.  Like Popeye, I yam what I yam.

That Popeye cartoon is notable for an unexpected Mahatma Gandhi cameo.  Watch for it.  Gandhi was Indian, after all.

If you want to know how I pronounce some words, here's a link to another map.  That will give you a preview of what to expect before we meet in person.

When we do meet, remember, we will meet in Axemoor.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Presidential New Orleans B&B


A lot of people ask why they should stay in a bed and breakfast when they visit New Orleans instead of in one of the big hotels.  You could always stay in The Cobweb Hotel.

We run a clean place, I can tell you that.

The next time you're in New Orleans, consider staying at La Belle Esplanade.  We'll give a treat instead of "the treatment."

François Hollande
Why do we feature a picture of the current French President at this point?  Only because he looks very presidential in this picture swiped from Wikipedia.  When he was sneaking out of the presidential palace on his motor scooter to meet his mistress, he wasn't looking so presidential then.  Don't believe me?

I take my motor scooter out early every morning before anyone else in the house is awake.  I'm not going to meet my mistress.  I don't have a mistress.  Your humble narrator is married to Frau Schmitt and that's more than enough for me.  As Tammie the Housekeeper likes to tell me, "You're a very lucky man, Mr. King."  Tammie the Housekeeper says it all the time, to which I always reply, "I know, Tammie.  I know it well."  I likewise tell this to Frau Schmitt on a regular basis just so that she knows that I know.
Tammie the Housekeeper
When I'm out scooting about during the wee small hours of the morning, it's to pick up fresh bread and pastry for our guests, hot out of the oven.  Sometimes, when I pick up a po' boy loaf at Aloise Binder, the bread is so hot it burns my hand.  Now that's some fresh bread.  You're not going to get bread that fresh at the Cobweb Hotel.... or macaroons, either, for that matter.

When I was a younger humble narrator, some people used to say that I reminded them of Sting, that is, they meant that Stink (whoops! typo! darned autocorrect!) and I bore a physical resemblance.

People also used to say that I resembled Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.  I'm dating myself.  As I got older, I was often mistaken for Tim Robbins.  He and I shared a similar haircut when The Shawshank Redemption played on cable TV every other day.  When was that?  The late 1990s/early 2000s? Those were some tough times, I'll tell you.  

Nowadays, Sting, Mr. Le Bon, Mr. Robbins and myself have aged differently enough in our own individual ways that I don't think any of us are mistaken for the others.  I still get a Tim Robbins reference from time to time.  I'm nobody famous except around our block.

Wanna know who I was compared to most recently?  Garrison Keillor.  Crimminy!  Talk about a face made for radio.  This had more to do with my rambling way with telling stories around the breakfast table.  I met Garrison Keillor the last time he was in New Orleans.  He graciously autographed a book that is on a shelf in our lobby.

I promise all the celebrities who stay with us that I will not reveal their identities.  I'm not saying Garrison Keillor stayed with us.  He didn't.  I'm just stating our policy for all the celebrities who want to visit New Orleans and get off the beaten path and enjoy the city on its own terms without being bothered.  Heck, Frau Schmitt and I don't know who most celebrities are.  Tammie the Housekeeper has to tell us.  Every guest is a VIP at La Belle Esplanade.

Maybe François Hollande will make a reservation.  We aren't a no-tell motel, but we are discreet.  

If you're looking for a treat rather than "the treatment," you know where you can stay: La Belle Esplanade, where the rest comes easy.

À votre santé, Président Hollande,
de vos amis au La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

LSU's Permanent Medical Center

Our motto

We're still living the "suite" life here at La Belle Esplanade.  The rest comes easy.  Read that last statement a couple of times.  Roll it around in your thalamus.  The rest comes easy.  Yo.

We have a new hospital in our neighborhood.  How many people can say that?  It's about twelve blocks behind our house on Canal Street.  The state tore down a whole working neighborhood to build it.  Some people call that progress.  Other people call it a crime.  Whatever you call it, it's eminent domain.

I thought this tune would make for a nice soundtrack for today's entry.  I haven't watched the video.  It's playing in another window as I type merrily along.

I'll check on the video periodically as we go.  If I espy anything I find objectionable, then I'll have to start all over again.  [Update:  I'm alright with it, obviously.]

So, we went to the new (Louisiana State) University Medical Center New Orleans.  That name is as much bureaucratic poetic as it is accurately descriptive, I suppose.  I'd call it something else.  At least the name is better than the LSU Interim Medical Center that the new UMCNO is replacing.  For better or for worse, the new one is permanent.  Your humble narrator, along with many, many other people more familiar with the matter, was content with the old Charity Hospital.  "I was born at Charity Hospital," sounds much better than, "I was born at UMCNO."  

Some people have taken to pronouncing UMCNO phonetically.  I'm tending in that direction since it's a pain in the neck to always say U-M-C-N-O, and really its just the LSU Medical Center, which is also long to say on a regular basis.  Everybody knows this is a big advertisement for the LSU Medical School.  Thanks for tearing down that neighborhood, LSU.  ;)  

The new UMCNO has a few design elements that pay homage to the old Charity Hospital building, but I'm not going to detail them here.  They are marginal in the larger scheme of the thing and I might want to use that material at a later date.  You have no idea how many archived photos I have on tap if I ever get lazy.

I'm just going to share some photos I took in the UMCNO lobby.  Maybe you're a medical tourist who's visiting our fair city to take advantage of the state-of-the-art healthcare offered in Louisiana.  More power to you.  I recommend India for that.  It's just as colorful in India, and the food is just as exotic, and it's cheaper, even after factoring in airfare.
Lobby of UMCNO
When you first walk into the UMCNO lobby, which goes up to the ceiling, and the ceiling is the roof, you see a sculpture composed of panels of glass hung parallel to the floor, and parallel to the ceiling, for that matter.  That's no mean feat in Louisiana; it's a sign of quality construction.

If you are familiar with a map of New Orleans, you'll soon realize that the various glass panels are sections of a map of, you guessed it, New Orleans.  I'm not going to say various neighborhoods are depicted in different colors, but I'm pretty sure that's the intent.  It's pretty.
Is it New Orleans?
There's a sweet spot next to the information desk where, if you stand right there, the whole map comes together and makes sense.  I know this because I read the artist's statement laminated onto the desk in the sweet spot.  One of the security guards noticed I was staring up at the ceiling for a long time and that I was taking pictures.  He pulled me aside.  "The sweet spot is right there," he pointed.

View of New Orleans
I couldn't get it to work right.  It's like one of those Magic Eye posters.  I kept leaning this way and that with my head looking up while I was developing a crick in my neck trying to bring the artist's intent into focus.  Happily, the artist has left a written statement of what he or she intended and it's conveniently mounted in front of the sweet spot vantage point at which everything will converge and his or her genius will hit you like a ton of stained glass and metal framing if the wind is just right.

The photo above was the best I could manage.  People were waiting in line to stand in the sweet spot and they were getting impatient.  "C'mon, man!  Can't you see Hollygrove yet from where you're at?"  one man shouted impatiently.  "Do you see my house in the Irish Channel?" a little girl implored while I was gazing upwards trying to make the overlapping street grids align.  I finally stepped aside when a lady in a gurney said, "Hurry up!  I'm late for my appendectomy!"

Aah, the heck with it.  

I went back home and sat in our lobby and stared at this print we have hanging over the fireplace:
It's the orange house with blue shutters
And so, let us take our leave of Umkno for awhile and think of happier things.  If you want to learn the story of how UMCNO replaced Charity Hospital, there's been a documentary made about it called Big Charity.  Watch the trailer on the Big Charity Film website.  Frau Schmitt and I watched it at the Joy Theater.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house that night.  

If you've been staring at the above last illustration of the orange house with blue shutters for the past hour straining to see what the picture is that is hidden in that random dot autostereogram, here's the 2-dimensional version:
Keep staring at it.

We look forward to meeting you and to introducing you to this kaleidoscopic city we call home.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Orleans Bounce Music

Our house
Just like the song of the same name, our house really is in the middle of our street.  2216 is the midpoint address, or fulcrum, if you will, of Esplanade Avenue.  It is the same distance from our house to one end of our street as it is to the other.  

I always find this interesting when I muse about it but, in the scheme of things, I suppose it doesn't matter much.  It does, however, mean that you can walk to the French Quarter or City Park in the same amount of time.  I guess we're in a pretty sweet location, after all.

I knew that anyway, of course, because I love our neighborhood and I find our neighborhood endlessly fascinating.  It's as good a part of New Orleans to call home as it is to call it home base.  This is our headquarters and it can be yours, too, for a spell.

Contrary to my usual modus operandi, I am not going to post the video that accompanied the release of the 1982 hit, 'Our House,' by the UK ska band, Madness.  I've never been particularly fond of the song and we already have a lot of difficult listening to plow through in this installment.

Let's start with Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of New Orleans Bounce.  You can watch the first 45 seconds of the following for the serious side of Big Freedia.  You don't need to watch more than that.  We've got a lot more coming:

You watched the whole thing, didn't you?  The scenery is all New Orleans and that, really is why I like to watch these videos.  Bounce music is tied to New Orleans, as Wikipedia dryly and dispassionately dissects it in the link provided.

What follows next is a video featuring Big Freedia with the Big Easy Roller Girls.  Women's roller derby (the best kind) happens at the UNO (University of New Orleans) Human Performance Center.

If you are wondering what a human performance center is (I was), it's a 1760-seat multi-purpose arena.  One of the purposes to which it is put is roller derby matches.  Who says you can't get a quality education in Louisiana?

You can watch the 'Dangerous' video in full.  Doing research for this post, I've watched a lot of bounce videos.  I'm familiar with some of the songs, but this isn't really music I listen to on a regular basis.  I know that tidbit surprised you.  To me, every song sounds pretty much the same.

I'm not speaking disparagingly about bounce music when I say it all sounds the same to me.  I say the same thing about Cajun zydeco.  After a while of listening to either, I feel like I'm going insane.

Now, I'm going to take you along for the ride, featuring some of what I think are the best examples of the bounce genre.

While I'm not a fan of the music, nor of the dance moves that usually (always) go along with it, I do like the scenery chosen for the videos.  Let's take a look at 5th Ward Weebie's 'Let Me Find Out':

I admit that whole talk show intro is a bit dull, but I love the shots in front of the Manchu Chicken Store.  That store is on the corner of Esplanade Avenue and N. Clairborne Ave.  You'll see it when you're walking to or from the French Quarter from or to our house.  A lot of people tell us you can find the best fried chicken wings in the city at Manchu.  They also sell Chinese food, among other things.  I got an order of egg rolls there once.  They were fine.

That side of Esplanade Avenue is in the 7th Ward.  I find it interesting that 5th Ward Weebie chose to shoot his video in the 7th Ward.  A lot of bounce videos, and a lot of New Orleans videos, period, really, feature scenery found on N. Claiborne Avenue.  

The I-10 overpass runs over the N. Claiborne neutral ground.  The acoustics down there are incredible.  The N. Claiborne Ave. neutral ground is also a place where everyone goes at one time or another.  There is no avoiding it.  A lot happens there.

Now, a view of Deslonde Street in the Lower 9th Ward by Flawless:

This is in the neighborhood being rebuilt by Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation. You can see some of the foundation's houses in the background of the footage above.  A bit farther in the background than the houses in the middle ground.  

How about one more?  This is 9th Ward Judy's 'Honeybee' in which she encourages the listener to wiggle like a honeybee.  It's a much cleaner song than 'Make It Clap,' which I thought was a more interesting video production, but we try to keep things rated the most milquetoast grade of PG here.

So, if you didn't know what bounce music was at the beginning of today's installment, you do now.  

There is more than just jazz and brass band music in New Orleans.  It a big kaleidoscopic city when you get outside the French Quarter.  It's a good city full of a home grown culture that reinvigorates itself in new ways every day.  If you are bored in New Orleans, it isn't the city's fault.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Dreamed I was in New Orleans

Maiden form bra ad
I dreamed I was in New Orleans in my Maidenform bra.  And so, on that promising note, we begin... 

Much like the bartenders who sling drinks at Maison Bourbon, after people live in New Orleans long enough they tend to get a little tired of hearing 'When the Saints Go Marching In.'  Wherever you live, you probably don't here this song as often as New Orleanians do.  

I'm not saying it's a bad song.  It's a great song.  That's why everyone who comes to New Orleans wants to hear it.  It's just that, after awhile, some people, after day after day of listening to 'When the Saints Go Marching In,'  just throw up their hands and say, "Enough already!"  

And then again, there's the Louis Armstrong & Danny Kaye version.  It's hard to get tired of that version.

I, too, dig Rachmaninoff on and off.

She did drive them wild
What got me thinking about the old Maidenform ad campaign (which ran for 20 years) was that I was walking our dog in the French Quarter the other day, and I was looking up at the balconies while the dog was sniffing the ground, which is how our walks together usually tend to proceed.  Looking up at a balcony on St. Ann Street, what to my wandering eyes should appear but a shirtless man drinking coffee while wearing a bra. 

Maybe he dreamed he was a knockout.  I don't know.  I'm the type who likes to mind his own business, so I quickly looked in the other direction and tried to forget the whole thing.  Naturally, I haven't forgotten it.
Now that's a knockout
All this thinking about brassieres got me to thinking about Dagmar, which, I admit, is something I sometimes do more than I should.  I've provided a link to Dagmar's biography because I know you have no idea who I'm talking about.  

Besides being an early television star, Dagmar starred in a long-running Broadway show called Burlesque.  Her co-star was Burt Lahr, who you know better as the Cowardly Lion.  They were both very good in it, each complimenting the other's talents.

Which leads us to the subject of burlesque in New Orleans, something which I rarely discuss in this format or any other.  New Orleans has a long history of burlesque culture.  It's a culture that is still alive today.  So why don't I ever address this in our blog?  A:  Because it doesn't really interest me and you're captive to the caprices of your humble narrator.  Now, thanks to a guy sitting on a balcony while wearing a bra, I'm going to write a bit about burlesque in New Orleans.
This one's my favorite
Actually, I'm not.  Sorry, it's the old bait-and-switch again.  At least I'm not turning the conversation to travelers' constipation this time.

I'll give you a link to the "official" list of burlesque clubs in the city.  This is it.  Click this text.  I can't make it any clearer: HERE.  

Why am I punting this topic over to  It's because just thinking about these places depresses me and saps out my will to write about any of them.  Given the choice, I would go to see Chris Owens.  And, truth be told, Frau Schmitt and I should go see Chris Owens.  She sponsors an Easter parade every year and Frau Schmitt and I met her once.  She is lovely, inside and out, and she is the embodiment of one facet of what makes New Orleans a great city.  

My second choice, The Swizzle Stick, isn't even listed, and I'm not even that keen on The Swizzle Stick.  It's just that if someone asks me where to see burlesque, the first thing that pops into my mind is The Swizzle Stick.  They occasionally have shows around about midnight.  At least they used to.

I can talk about the other places on the list.  We've been to them and so have our guests, but I'd rather not commit my opinions, or what our guests tell us, to print.  I'll tell you over breakfast if you're interested, though, to tell the truth, nobody has ever asked about New Orleans' burlesque culture.  I'm fine with that.  

Now, for those of you who were too lazy to click on the link to learn who Dagmar was.  Here's a picture:
I find it surprising that no burlesque performer goes by the name of "Dagmar Bumpers."  More probably, someone does and it's only that I don't know about it.  As I say, I'm not really hip to the burlesque "scene."  (See how I used those quotation marks?)  Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who is hip to the burlesque scene that I can ask.  Rest assured, Frau Schmitt and I are real hepcats, but we aren't big fans of fan-dancing or bump-and-grind acts. 

We can tell you about a lot of other things, though.  A lot of other things.

And so it goes
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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