Here is a conundrum: since fourth grade I’ve been involved in theatre, I have a degree in theatre, and I currently work with a theatre company in New Orleans. Some of the first shows I ever did in the theatre were musicals. And yet: I hate musicals.
“Hate” is a strong word. Let me rephrase that: I don’t hate musicals, I’m just very, very, very wary of them. And in fairness, it’s probably because I’m getting old.
As a kid, the premise of musicals — the literally fantastic idea that entire groups of people would suddenly break into song and dance — didn’t bother me at all. I mean, my parents took me to plenty of Disney movies. What was the difference between a pack of singing mice on screen and a posse of singing cowboys on stage?
With age, however, comes experience. More specifically: bad experiences. I’ve seen more terrible musicals than Rose Kennedy saw funerals. I’ve choked on plot twists more times than Lindsay Lohan has choked on ‘nads. (Then again, she’s surely developed a gag reflex by now.) I have been through some shit, is what I’m saying.
Comic musicals are a little easier to swallow because they don’t usually take things too seriously. Nine times out of ten, they’re more interested in entertaining audiences than getting all wrapped up in “art”. Dramatic musicals, on the other hand? Break out the Klonopin.
I mention this because someone in San Francisco is writing a musical about the fire at the UpStairs Lounge. And I am not entirely sure what to think.
If you’re heading to New Orleans within the next few weeks, there are plenty of ways find Carnival-themed fun.* Gambit’s Best of New Orleans website is a great place to start your research, and if you like the printed word, every Walgreens in town has copies of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide.
I’ve also cobbled together a few Carnival pointers of my own, which should give you a sense of what to expect during your visit.
But beyond the basics, there are other Carnival rules to consider. Well, maybe not “rules” per se — more like “tips” that will make your trip much more pleasant.
Here are nine of my tips for having a successful Carnival. There are plenty more where these came from, so if you still have burning questions when you reach the bottom of the page, feel free to drop me a line.
Let’s get one thing clear: Hurricane Isaac — or, at the moment, Tropical Storm Isaac — is not Hurricane Katrina.
Katrina was a monster, scaling the heights of the Saffir-Simpson scale to become a rare Category 5.
Katrina was also huge. At one point, she covered almost the entire Gulf of Mexico.
Worse, Katrina arrived in the middle of a relentless hurricane season — one that produced so many storms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ran out of names for them and had to start using Greek letters.
In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, our nerves were shot. By the end of August 2005, we felt like we were swimming in a shark tank, with paper cuts etched across our ankles. (Don’t ask me how the cuts got there, just go with the metaphor.)
The New Orleans MetBlog is happy to present a guest post by culinary historian Elizabeth Pearce. She recently attended the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl, which led foodies through a range of French Quarter eateries to sample new dishes.
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One of the great things about food festivals is the opportunity to taste dishes from a variety of chefs. Unfortunately when tucking into a plate at an outdoor event, you miss out on all the other pleasures of dining in a restaurant: the music, the lighting, the flowers, the linen, the china and crystal. You also miss the conviviality of sharing food across a table with friends and family. A chef’s repertoire is also limited at outdoor events, narrowing a guest’s opportunity to experience the full spectrum of a restaurant’s menu.
Enter the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl. Conceived along the lines of a pub crawl, where participants move from one location to another, the Grub Crawl allows guests to sample a restaurant’s signature dishes in their original setting. Originally launched in Brooklyn, with plans to expand to L.A. and other cities, New Orleans played host to the second incarnation last weekend, rolling through the Central Business District Friday night, the French Quarter Saturday, and Uptown on Sunday.
I was lucky to attend one leg of that savory journey in my favorite neighborhood: The French Quarter. Along the way, participants cooled off with some delicious Belvedere Vodka cocktails. (Belevedere reps gave us several recipes for tasty drinks. Click here for those.)
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The Saturday Bon Appetit Grub Crawl snaked through the French Quarter beginning at Domenica, the John Besh restaurant located in the Roosevelt Hotel. We were greeted by Chef Alon Shaya who offered us a stunning array of house-made charcuterie, relishes, pate, cheeses, and a refreshingly bubbly Lambrusco. I quickly appreciated an additional benefit of the Grub Crawl format: face time with each restaurant’s chef, when Chef Alon told us how the prosciutto was made from locally raised hogs and cured in-house.
Wanting to save room for the next stops, I initially shared a plate with my friend and guest Monique Leon. But as we tore through the three-year aged prosciutto and Taleggio, it quickly became apparent that neither of us was in a sharing mood. Of particular note was the pate, so delicious that we contemplated stealing the jar to nosh on at home, but decided transportation would be messy. So we had seconds. And thirds. No kidding. And then came the artisan pizzas and at that point we were just eating on principle because it was all so delicious.
Though our bellies were full, we rallied and headed over to the Napoleon House to sample its signature muffaletta and Pimm’s Cup. We were served by third-generation owner Sal Impastato who regaled us with stories of his family restaurant’s. From there we walked a few blocks to Sylvain. It was a nice contrast to leave the Napoleon House — operated by the Impastato family since 1914 — for Sylvain, which has been open less than a year.
The French Quarter is usually viewed as the most traditional neighborhood in New Orleans, but there is plenty of room to start something new here, as we learned when owner Sean McCusker recounted his professional arc from New York writer to New Orleans restaurateur. We savored a tasty portion of crispy pork shoulder served with tangy greens and creamy Coosa Valley grits. Chef Alex Harrell not only told us how he made his dishes, but also where to get his grits (sourced from near his home in central Alabama). But my favorite bite at Sylvain was of perfectly pickled okra. Unlike its soggier, commercially-made cousins, this okra remained crisp, and though pleasantly sour, it wasn’t aggressively pickled. All I could think about was how delicious it would be in a gin martini. But we had more drinking and eating to. Onward!
…because it’s pretty depressing. I can’t imagine that Louisiana’s is much better, but at least our creepy, backwards-looking, misogynist, white supremacists have been quieter about it. (And lazier: they haven’t posted an update to their obnoxious 2008 platform.)
Anyway, here are some of the high low points. There’s a lot more here. Not recommended on an empty stomach. Or any stomach.
Homosexuality – We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples”.
Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.
Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
Rights Versus Products ― We oppose calling welfare and other income and product redistribution schemes “rights” or “entitlements”. We know that fundamental human rights are inherent to individuals and are granted by God and are protected by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. They are not products of others labor.Unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property rights, free speech, religious freedom, self-defense, etc. do not impose on others rights whereas income and product redistribution invariably do so.
Supporting Motherhood ― We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.
American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.
Party like it’s 1899, y’all.
Just a reminder that tonight is the Louisiana SPCA’s annual “Pause4Dinner” event. If you want to give the organization a leg (or a paw) up in helping strays and other animals in need, all you have to do is grab a bite tonight at any of these participating restaurants. Each and every one of them will donate 20% of dinner proceeds to the Louisiana SPCA.
See you tonight!
At last week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors, nearly 80 of those in attendance voiced their support for marriage equality. In that number: mayors of places like Lima, Ohio and Hallandale Beach, Florida. New Orleans didn’t make the cut.
Now, I like Mitch Landrieu. I like him a lot. He’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever met, and in less than two years, New Orleans has seen more improvement than it did in its eight-year-long love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship with He Who Shall Not Be Named. But given the size of New Orleans’ LGBT population, you’d think Landrieu might be able to come out in support of marriage equality.
New Orleans has a huge gay base, and we’re surrounded by a warm and welcoming straight community (so long as you don’t count parts of Kenner). As a matter of fact, in a recent poll of travelers taken by American Airlines, New Orleans was named one of the world’s top 10 gay destinations, alongside London, New York, Tel Aviv, and Toronto.
Of course, I know Landrieu didn’t ride into office on a platform of LGBT rights. New Orleans’ queer community is so old and entrenched that gay rights might seem like a non-issue. But we’re here, we’re queer, and we would like some support, please. And let’s not make excuses about Louisiana’s state law forbidding gay marriage: mayors from Texas and Alaska and Michigan and Minnesota were on that list, and they’re in the same boat.
So I ask: Mayor Landrieu, where is the gay love?
Many of us bitch and moan about the commenters on NOLA.com. To the site’s credit, it’s doing a better job of moderating these days, but it’s still pretty easy to find racist, homophobic, inflammatory remarks lurking below the fold. I mean, I’m not asking anyone to curtail her right to free speech — if you want to expose yourself as a bigoted asshat, that’s your prerogative — but for Pete’s sake, STAY ON TOPIC.
More troubling than the folks at NOLA.com, though, are the people who comment on New Orleans stories found elsewhere on the web. This piece on CNN.com about the marsh fires generated some fairly representative remarks. For example:
That’s not to say that everything’s as it was. That’s not to say that everyone has come home. And that’s certainly not to say that people, communities, and the city we call home haven’t been deeply, deeply scarred by a particularly forceful force of nature.
And yet, we don’t want to talk about it. I certainly don’t. None of my friends talk about it. My family doesn’t. In fact, the only time it comes up in conversation is when I’m out of town, and someone finds out that I’m from New Orleans — as happened while I was paying a visit to my birth mother, Callie, this past weekend.
Since New Orleans isn’t directly in the path of Hurricane Irene, I haven’t heard as much discussion about the storm and all that she threatens to disrupt as I normally would. But of course, Irene is likely to cause a lot of damage, and at the very least, she’ll put a serious damper on people’s weekend plans along the East Coast.
One of the biggest disruptions is undoubtedly the official dedication of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday at 11am — almost exactly the time at which Irene will be giving D.C. her most powerful stink-eye. It looks as if the storm will be downgraded to a category 2 by then, but that’s more than enough to flood roadways, knock out power, and force cancellation of all outdoor events.
Two years ago — nearly two years ago to the day — a certain cueball-headed mayor of New Orleans announced that Jazzland/Six Flags was coming back. The theme park where so many of my friends had worked before the storm, performing to crowds of dozens (on a good day), has done nothing but gather mold since Hurricane Katrina swamped it. Which wasn’t hard to do, since the whole thing was built on a swamp anyway.
But I digress.
On August 19, 2009, Nagin stood for a photo op with Spongebob Squarepants and announced that Nickelodeon would be redeveloping Six Flags. But like a good souffle, the deal didn’t keep, and now the city is looking for a new partner to rescue the property. If you’re the sort of person with a dream in your pocket and several million dollars in a Swiss bank account, you have until October 10 to submit your proposal.
My personal take? There are certain parts of New Orleans that are perfectly fine for habitation and others that should return to their natural state. There were some contentious discussions about which neighborhoods fit into those two categories after the storm, but I don’t think anyone would complain if Mitch Landrieu ripped Jazzland off the map and signed the deed over to Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
At the moment, Louisiana is run by Republicans: we have a Republican governor (a terrible one, IMHO) and the party holds a majority in both the House and the Senate. As elsewhere, many of these GOP legislators are first-timers, and they’re pissing off the elders with their arrogance, their Tea Party-naivete, and their frequent ineptitude*.
And yet, there were some good things to come out of the 2011 legislative session that wrapped up in June. I’ll start with the bad, though:
- As of today, there are more obstacles standing between women and safe, legal abortion: “Abortion clinics must give more information to women before they can terminate a pregnancy, including new signs telling pregnant women that they cannot be coerced into abortion, that fathers are liable for child support and that adoptive parents may pay for prenatal care and birth expenses.” [AP]
- New Louisiana residents used to be required to wait six months before receiving a concealed handgun permit. Not anymore.
- And of course, Representative Austin Badon’s anti-bullying bill was defeated on the House floor, which tickled the backward-looking Louisiana Family Forum pink (a very butch pink, I assume).
And on the plus-side:
Four storms in the Atlantic? When did this happen? Ack.
Also: for those keeping track at home, we’re just four weeks away from the peak of the North Atlantic hurricane season, which is generally considered to be September 10. Fingers crossed, bags packed….
Just head to dinner at one of the many participating restaurants. There’s a range of spots on the list — from the very affordable to the slightly swanky — and a percentage of every sale will go toward the LASPCA’s noble efforts. Plus, it’s a nice break from the daily routine of coming home, playing partypoker cz, and heating up some Soup for One.
No time for a full meal? No problem: even Pinkberry is participating. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to pop in for some yogurt on a scorching hot day like this.
On the off-chance that you’re reading this from afar, though, you can always make a contribution to the LASPCA on the web. Not that we’re pushy or anything, but consider that a hint. Need more info? Visit the LASCPA website.
See you at 8. (Dinner’s always at 8, kids.)
High school classmate. Wallflower type. Barely heard from before graduation, never heard from after.
Although it would be funny.
Which would also be funny.
Which would be hilarious.
Though Ms. Welty was pretty feisty in her own right.
The name of an in-law and a favorite (name and in-law), but perhaps not WASPy enough.
Probably a shade too literate.
No one could live with themselves, knowing that their community had been devastated by a character from Magnum P.I.
Naming a storm after the Japanese art of flower arrangement seems poetic, but highbrow.
Though the headlines would be pretty good.
Because “kiki” is a slang term — in both French and Tagalog, I think — for “tiny penis”. Don’t ask how I know such things, just go with it.
Seriously: back in the day, I knew a girl who adopted this as her name. She wore a lot of black, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Though a very good friend has named his house that. I’ve a very good mind to name ours Mrs. Danvers.
Because hurricanes are hot, not icy.
Speaking of highbrow, right?
Though the idea of the broadcasters trying to get that one out of their mouths makes me smile. “Hurricane Panda…Pantera…Plantagenet…oh hell: storm’s a-comin’!”
Because in the entire history of Western Civilization, I don’t think anyone has named a child “Quelea” — even though it’s my favorite bird and the most abundant on Planet Earth (though in flocks of over a billion, they can destroy crops very quickly). If you’ve never seen them in action, behold.
Because it’s a brilliant Cocteau Twins song, and who would want to ruin that memory?
Even the World Meteorological Organization has a taste level.
Again with the literate references. Also the humorless Family Research Council would probably whine.
Because she can’t be bothered to leave Space Channel 5.
Although it would be badass. And Margaret Orr could draw a little mustache on the hurricane map.
Because enough is e-freaking-nough.
Because the Xtians would start whining again, and we just got them quieted down after the whole “Titania” debacle.
A fictional character from some very early Varla Jean Merman videos. Hilarious, but fictional nonetheless. (And so “very early Varla” that they haven’t yet made the transition from wax cylinder to YouTube.)
Because, as Mr. Willis once said, Zed’s dead.
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And in case you’re wondering about this year’s official names, they are: