Archive for July, 2008

Stay in bed

First, there’s a “tropical disturbance” in the Gulf, which has turned the sky a color that falls halfway between “angry” and “Surrender Dorothy”. And now, of course, there’s this:

An alligator that somehow got into the eastbound left lane of Interstate 10 on the Bonne Carre Spillway has been hit by a vehicle and is slowing traffic to a crawl, state police said.

The alligator is still alive and a nuisance officer from St. Charles Parish has been dispatched to try and remove the animal, a Louisiana State Police spokesman said.

Times-Picayune

Helllllooooo, Tuesday!

Introducing The Hub

hub.metblogs

If Metblogs is a city, hub.metblogs is the playground. We kept hearing from people that one of their favorite parts of Metblogs was meeting and interacting with readers and writers from other parts of the world, as well as getting requests for more ways that readers could be involved besides just posting comments. We thought about this for a while and decided that with a network like this, a giant community area where folks from all over the world could hang out, post photos and videos, talk with each other, form groups, play games, send messages, and do about a million other things was probably a pretty fun idea. The Hub is that.

If you have any tech ideas or suggestions join this group and speak up. See you on hub.metblogs!

Of food and floating mammals

The New York Times says that the Times-Picayune is reviewing New Orleans-area restaurants again, for the first time since the storm. Which is something I wouldn’t have ordinarily noticed, since I don’t subscribe to the Picayune and since its online version makes my eyes bleed. Still, you have to wonder: if the paper is going to relaunch its reviews, and if New Orleans has more restaurants now than before Katrina, why the hell would the Picayune wanna review an eatery that’s been around for decades–much less one as dull and snoozy as Mr. B’s? Srsly.

Also: apparently, we have manatees. Watch out.

Shushan Airport: A New Orleans Gem Lives Again

Shushan Airport (39)   Shushan Airport (13)

I was honored to be invited to help a team of local preservation minded people to review properties for the Louisiana Landmarks Society’s New Orlean’s Nine list last year in order to raise public awareness about historical properties in the city which are/were at risk of being lost forever. It was a rocky year for the Louisiana Landmarks Society and all of New Orleans Preservation organizations in the post-Katrina environment and the list never really got the public notice it deserved. The New Orlean’s Nine selection process is long and complicated. It’s a very formal process which, due to staffing, wasn’t able to be properly unveiled at the time. Interestingly,  the list does appear on their website today, though the 2008 list does not. New Orleans Nine 2007.

As is often the case in the world of non-profit/volunteer work, you never know where things will lead. I was so happy to see this lead story tonight in the Times Picayune regarding one of the final Nine properties that made the 2007 list.
Clear for Takeoff. It relays the current work underway to restore the historic New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

I take the consideration of historic properties seriously and am compelled to see them ‘in person’ to really have a solid opinion of their historic value. Thus, I have this great set of Photos of Shushan Airport from my visit to Shushan last year with Karen Gadbois as part of my research for the New Orleans Nine list committee.

It was rather spooky going in there last year and I am so glad Karen was game to accompany me, we marvelled at the murals and art-deco metalwork which is finally getting the recoginition it deserves. 

Many people worked hard to review the 2007 list of 40 properties to narrow them down to only nine. I  learned a lot in the process and even though it was not officially able to be published at the time, I am so glad to see some good news on this one and so glad I went to see it for myself, despite the risk of getting busted for trespassing.

In case you might be interested and because I did it, here is my own rather pedestrian write-up of the property as well:

The Shushan terminal building was designed by the architectural firm of Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth, it compliments their other significant work, the Louisiana State Capitol.  Their design was used as a model for other art deco airport terminals throughout the country between 1934 and 1940. The building is home to significant murals by WPA-era artist Xavier Gonzales.  The Shushan terminal was prominent in several major events in the U.S. and aviation history.  Amelia Earhart spent the night at the terminal’s hotel facility prior to her final global flight.  When it was completed, Shushan Field was the largest airport in the United States, strategically located on a man-made peninsula in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.  New York and Washington, D.C., were in the process of developing similar airfields but New Orleans accomplished this engineering feat first and over 10,000 spectators applauded the feat at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.  It served served nearly one million visitors during the “Golden Age” of air travel.

In 1964, Shushan underwent a major renovation.  Gonzales’ “Wonders of Flight” murals were covered by paneling and the airport eventually was renamed the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.  During this renovation, three of the eight original murals were covered or obstructed from public view as the atrium, a signature element of the building, was modified to create office space.  One mural, “Rio de Janeiro” was removed and sent to the Louisiana State Museum where it remains today.

The Shushan Terminal was punished because of the political backlash of its corrupt namesake.  The airport was named after Abe Shushan, the Orleans Levee Board President who oversaw its construction.  After he was convicted on a variety of corruption related charges, the airport was renamed.  However, Abe had attempted to immortalize himself by adorning every possible surface with his name or initial, which renovators felt compelled to remove, sometimes disregarding the larger impact of this superficial problem.

Shushan’s unique artisanship and its Depression Era craftsmanship is an example of elegance and efficiency that modern construction cost can no longer accommodate.  Though the building suffered some damage from hurricane Katrina, the structure was used by National Guard troops immediately after the storm, it is very sound and worthy of restoration as one of our unique modern architectural gems.

Candy Contraband

KinderEgg

Today I stopped in the Uptown Mart at Upperline and Prytania and found a box of Kinder Eggs for sale on the counter! I started stuttering in disbelief, knowing they are not available in the U.S.

The staff behind the counter began their nervous disclaimer, “We only sell these to kids if they are with an adult.” I think they thought I was the candy cops. I let them know that I was truly excited and picked a couple up to show Nick and Josh. Once assured I wasn’t going to call the kinder-cops, the guys behind the counter said that they have a few loyal people who come in and order 30 at a time from them. I think they ran about $1.30 each.

If you know anything at all about these magical confections you’ll share my excitement. Kinder Eggs are illegal in the United States because they contain these wonderfully engineered intricate toys unassembled in tiny pieces inside a delicious chocolate egg which is made by Ferrero, many women will recognize them as the makers of the completely legal, Nutella. The candy and toys are of the highest quality.

Rich, over at La Crepe Nanou, turned me onto these little gems years ago and I have been bringing handfuls of them back whenever I travel in Europe ever since. The toys are so well engineered that they aren’t that hard to put together although they look intimidating at first. Once, together, they are very sophisticated and whimsical toys that have become quite collectible.

Dear Parents of New Orleans, please don’t ruin our good fun by letting your kid shove the tail of some adorable animal up his/her nose. Thanks! They are something to do ensemble! That means together in French. Also known as quality time. They’ll think you’re the coolest . . . for 10 minutes at least.

Kinder Eggs containing toys are not suitable for children under the age of three due to the small parts which may be ingested or inhaled. They are sold all over the world excluding the United States, where the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits embedding “non-nutritive items” in confections. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall on the eggs in 1997. Kinder Egg-like confections are available, but only in a plastic? form filled with small candies and/or stickers. There are some stores in the United States that sell genuine Kinder Eggs, often in conjunction with other imported British or other European sweets, although their importation is technically illegal due to the 1938 law and 1997 recall.[1]

Eight Books

Audubon Zoo and Snaggletooths

My charges in Mid City, Nick and Josh, are exposed to all kinds of homeless people which have been pushed from the Claiborne Overpass to our area because the Victory church on Broad offers food for them. Since we’ve been reading a lot of books, we sort of casually came up with the word “snaggletooths” for these homeless men instead of “bums”.  The kids know they don’t want to be that when they get older for sure! Watching these guys living on the street and drinking beer all day reinforces their focus on reading and doing well in school.

I took Nick and Josh to the Mid City library on Saturday to get their prizes for reading their required eight books for the summer reading program. They got an unexpected bag of loot as a reward! Pizza certificates, free Frosties, and a pass to Audubon Zoo were all included. We thought we’d earn just one of these prizes but we earned all of them. Wow!

Josh chose some more books, among others, he got some from the Arthur series and Captain Underpants and we also sprinkled in some picture books which are funny and have great illustrations and squirrely use of words which make us laugh and teaches them about the elasticity of the english language. We got a bag full of books for the next couple of weeks.

After we got our loot-bag and books, we went to the Wendy’s on St. Charles Ave. to get our free Frosties and the boys said they wanted salads. I thought that idea would be patently ditched once we got to Wendy’s but it wasn’t. Our food took forever and some patrons were really getting pissy. One patron scared the boys in his scant-nasty painter’s outfit. This guy was complaining rudely and loudly about the gay guy behind the counter who was serving food, it seems he wanted to blame the whole entire slow service issue on the gay guy.  He was not aware that he was scaring the kids with his long, wild hair, filthy clothes and his head-to-toe anger, the first in a whole social house-of-horrors unfolding before us.

I was disgusted at the whole situation but I was calm and patient and so were the kids.  The challenge of being cool was pushed to the limit when the second asshole in line also started lashing out verbally at the staff about the slow service in general. 

To his complete credit, the gay guy behind the counter serving people responded to both assholes utterly apologetically and professionally.  

Then, it got worse. We were attacked by a battallion of “snaggletooths”.  We got our Frosties and Nick said he wanted to bring our food home. I knew he was probably right, but I said it would be nice to sit down and eat at a table together, we decided to try it.

To no avail, when the BLT salads they ordered finally arrived the resident Wendy’s bums swooped down on our booth. It was like a Micheal Jackson Thriller video.  One of the female “snaggletooths” approached our table and said something like this, “Can you help me with my “chirrans, insurance??”  Truthfully, I am not quite sure what she was saying but she was scary. . . my patience had run out. I looked her straight in the eye and said very cheerfully, “Absolutley not.”

The kids and I swiftly packed up our food and skidaddled out of there gracefully and enjoyed a very peaceful lunch at home.  The kids were so well behaved, I took them to the Zoo on Sunday. We didn’t let that episode ruin our great weekend.

Audubon Zoo and Snaggletooths (3)

Hey! Wait a minute!

We’re at that time of year in New Orleans when it’s just plain hot — even if it’s not really that hot. We’re feeling like our 92 degrees is 102 (and, when you factor in the humidity, I guess it is). The clouds build up and it looks and feels like rain, but too often it just stays on the very cusp of actual precipitation — meaning it’s just plain uncomfortable out. Kinda like living in Rangoon or some other Third World area that’s beastly hot/humid — but without the yellow fever and dysentery. Gotta love modern medicine.

That said, I see signs of the locals getting out of the summer doldrums and braving things more than they did even a couple of weeks ago. Kinda like everyone woke up at once and decided, “well, it’s gonna be uncomfortable no matter what we do so we might as well go DO something.” Along the lines of Captain Ron’s “if anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen Out There” as opposed to just sitting around the marina. You gotta venture out if anything’s gonna change. I actually went fishing this past week (for the first time in, oh, 15 years or so). It was not only a chance to reconnect with something I used to love, but also a chance to just go and do. I was tired of home/work/home/work/home/work. I think a lot of folks are that way right now.

Summer is supposed to be the dead time — and it indeed is in many ways. I’ve talked about how much things have slowed down at the restaurant. The higher-end places (the ones that haven’t closed for a month) all seem to have summer specials that are, honestly, pretty damn special. Hotel rates have been slashed and all of us are being encouraged to be tourists in our hometown. But, at the same time, the St. Charles streetcar always seems to be jam-full and I know we’re still seeing lots of folks from out of town in our place. Why, just this afternoon I saw some jackleg with an Ohio plate turning the wrong way down Magazine. Wrong way dude! But thanks for being here!

We’ve yet to reach the most dangerous part of hurricane season, of course. But so far, so good. I got into a conversation the other day about how the city’s dynamics have changed when it comes to hurricanes. On the one hand, there are those who were here pre-Katrina. But on the other, there is a tremendous number who were not. How will the different groups react if we’re threatened again? I know the various authorities have come up with all kinds of priority lists about who will be allowed back and when — but won’t that actually encourage more people to stay? All kinds of opinions. An interesting conversation — particularly since no conclusions were drawn.

….just ruminating on things on a chunky-air Sunday night. A car just drove by, with Dr. John wafting out its window. “Down ne road come a junko partner….”

I like that, me.

The Body Betrays Us

Deoderant Discussion (1)

It is a great privilege to learn the intimate concerns of children. The last week’s discussion with the Causey kids has centered around the way our body betrays us in the heat of summer in New Orleans. These kids have enough to worry about; being locked out of the house and no one being home when personal issue flare up, like puffy eyes; passing the LEAP on the second go-’round and, lately, the issue is not smellin’ ‘musty’, as they put it.

As adults, we are keen to the battle of combating the summer heat and staying comfortable and presentable in 89 degree heat. However, I have noticed the kids have been having some issues about feeling clean, this, along with their washer being broke at home, the discussion has been pushed my way.

One of the older boys, Mike, came by this week to explain that he was suddenly ‘sponsored’ to go to an amusement park excursion in Dallas, TX with his church. In order to go, he was desperate to have clean clothes for his trip and begged me the let him use the washer and dryer, I graciously obliged. Always cognizant of the dignity issues surrounding such requests, “wash away!”, I said. No pleading necessary. I am more than willing to fold his clothes too, in order that they put on their best face and push their minimum level of presentability to a higher level.

In addition to this incident, I was making my grocery list this week. I put deoderant on the list and Josh piped up to me that he had some deoderant that he didn’t like and apparently someone made a comment that he smelled ‘musty’.

Today, I took him to Rouse’s to show him how to test smell all the deoderants in the aisle so he could get one that suited his personal needs. He got some Axe he liked. On a subtle level, I have noticed in doing their laundry that there exists a shortage of socks, which in summer can lead to naked feet in shoes, leading to more ‘musty’ issues. I brought it up and they said they need more socks really bad. We talked about the comfort of wearing socks in summer and I set them up with some socks I had set aside from my last package of socks. We sort of did a head-to-toe cleanliness inventory of needs too.

Today, this larger discussion coincided with a long bike ride Nick and I took today on the levee. I gave him a choice. Audubon Park . . .or . . . THE LEVEE. He insisted on THE LEVEE. My goal was to show him he was able to make it to the Huey P. Long Bridge which I told him is 14.5 Klicks (kilometers) which is 9 miles. I warned him that it was going to be really, really. Really HOT. He was scared of the dragonflies but got tough with it. When we finally made it to the Huey P. Bridge, we realized he was extra hot because he was wearing TWO T-shirts! So we undid one layer and he was much more confident that we really would be able to make the ride back after that! 

Nick loves to cook, and has a natural talent for it. However, he tends to eat more than he needs to because he’s often cooking/eating to entertain himself. Having been noticeably pudgy myself at 10 yrs-old, I am encouraging him to exercise at this early age. He complained about how hard it was but we made it there and back. We talked about the importance of hard workouts for good health. He got a lot of confidence for completing the circuit . . .at 12:30 in the afternoon in July in New Orleans, I told him this was really tough work and he should be proud of himself.

When we got back, both boys were concerned about how they ‘smelled’ before going to the night church services at Victory for 5:45 pm. Nick didn’t have the key to his house today and no one was home to let him in. He really wanted to bathe and change clothes before church.

So I set them up with some socks and a clean t-shirts of mine. The one Nick settled on had a scooped neck. He just wanted a white t-shirt with a ‘crew neck’ and he said it was “outrageous” that he was wearing a scooped neck. And, it was. I should have some more crew necks around. But we have all decided in our open talks that cleanliness comes before fashion.

So Nick took a shower at my house, likely, his first shower ever, from what I could tell, because apparently, they only have a bathtub and he was fine with the clean shirt in the end. I had to tell him how to set up the water temperature in the shower and he enjoyed it.

After getting both boys dressed with some fresh T-shirts and socks and they both applied extra loads of their new deoderant so they could feel very good about themselves about going to their evening church service. It was a profoundly simple and successful day. It’s so easy to make a couple inner-city kids happy and confident about themselves and it was a very good lesson in being a personally approachable type of person.

I recall the awkward moments growing up at that age and the shyness about talking about such personal issues as wearing a bra in eighth grade. My mom was little scared to discuss this with me, since I was the oldest of five kids, so I totally forgive her. But I know it made it hard for me, so I was happy to take that personal experience and it helped me know just how to make these young boys feel confident about discussing their hygiene needs so they could really put their best foot forward.

Little do these kids realize, this topic is covered at length by adults who talk about endlessly about the battle of the sweat in summer as well! I have found that it’s simply a slightly broader discussion with kids compared to the same one between adults about how we battle of the sweat drips between our respective ta-tas, etc in summer.

Farmer’s Market – Uptown

We went to a farmer’s market for the first time last Tuesday. Ok it was not the first time ever but it was the first time since we have both been adults able to make our own decision about getting in the car and driving to the Farmer’s Market and then purchasing something. So I guess it is the first time that we have been to a Farmer’s Market when it really counts.
Anyway, we went to the Crescent City Farmer’s Market in uptown. It was smaller than I was expecting for some reason but it turns out they were celebrating their independence. Marketumbrella.org is moving out from under the umbrella of Loyola University New Orleans and is spinning-off to independent status. marketumbrella.org, is the organization that brings the Crescent City Farmers Market to our community. Shopping at a farmer’s market is a bit different from your regular grocery store. The main thing that stuck out to me as we walked through the booths that had been set up in the corner of a Tulane medical building parking lot was the feeling that lives hang in the balance here.
When I enter a booth the man or woman (or both) who grew, cut, prepared etc. the items I am looking at are in turn looking at me and wondering if I will buy. The farmers market does not provide the anonymity of the large florescent lit aisle found in chain grocery stores. Sure, livelihoods are made in a Winn-Dixie too but you do not feel it as prominently as when you are standing in front of a folding table covered with baskets full of tomatoes, eggplant and green peppers a hand printed sign taped to the front reading “.75 Cents.”
I am embarrassed to say it was a hard experience for me, instead of feeling connected to the community I felt pressure to make a decision between the tomatoes at this tent of the one just a little farther down. With Scott’s help I concurred that feeling a we purchased an eggplant and two green peppers which with a few other ingredients made a very tasty concoction over pasta. I did not plan to feel overwhelmed by the farmer’s market experience but after we got back in the car to drive back home, I felt a little better, I felt like by buying the items I would buy at a grocery store anyway I was doing more to help the community. We plan to go back this week and I think it will be easier this time around and then the next time it will be even easier until we are old pros.

Sully’s Story

Sullivan (1)   

Anyone who has taken on the duty of house-sitting for a neighbor over summer vacation in New Orleans has received the instructions to feed the inside animals and the outside animals. It’s part of our ‘culture’ here that makes us rather Third World. It can make living here extra difficult since there are more animals in our environment than most cities.

Sullivan is a yard kitten who needed some help. He told me he needed to go to the vet. So I took him. He appeared one day with 3 other kittens, seemingly out of nowhere. I was able to start touching Sullivan because he and his brindled sister had these bad weepy eyes and were rather blind. I grabbed them and started wiping their eyes every couple of days so they could see their food. Soon, Sullivan realized that I wasn’t going to hurt him and he was very vocal and kept coming to me. He’s very sweet and affectionate. Perhaps it appears to readers that I am constantly doing good deeds but I am not at all coyly philanthropic. I like sleeping and am rather introverted overall. However, it seems I am constantly confronted with problems in New Orleans and I am mostly tired of them. However, if I can do anything to relieve some suffering, I am simply unable to ignore it.

So I took Sullivan and his brindled sister to the vet because he was crying to me daily and she was getting lethargic and my friends Emily and Brian have set a good example for me about going the extra inch for animals, so I had to do the right thing for these kittens.

Sullivan made it through the vet’s examination with a clean bill of health but his sister, sadly, did not. Since I spent a bunch of money I do not have on these animals, Sullivan was named and soon after I began putting Sullivan’s photos up on Flickr.

One day, my friend Randall, whom I met through Karen at Squandered Heritage said he’d like to adopt Sullivan. I was shocked at this good news. I thought I had finally gotten in over my head on good deeds. But Randall came to the rescue!

Sullivan Goes to His New Home

Randall is a kitty hero! I named Sullivan after Louis Sullivan, one of my most favorite Chicago architects.

Sullivan’s story has a happy ending, he’s doing great over at Randall’s and he’s going to come back and stay with us while his family goes on vacation.

This story has a happy ending but the stray animal population is exploding in New Orleans again and we must do something about it. I contacted theSouthern Animal Foundation to take Sullivan there but they were booked. You can trap the wild cats in our yard and rent the traps for a refundable $50 fee and they offer very cheap spay and neutering services on certain days of the week.

I want to thank Dr. Amy and her staff at Magazine Street Animal Clinic for taking Sullivan and keeping him overnight on short notice so that he could get healthy again.

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