Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The UpStairs Lounge Tragedy: Now A Musical

From "Remember the UpStairs Lounge" by Skylar Fein

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.

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Hints From A Homo: Things To Remember During Carnival & MardiGras

Fat Tuesday 2010 (photo by Jonno)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.

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The Bon Appetit Grub Crawl: A Tour Of French Quarter Cuisine

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!

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The Benefits Of Getting Drunk: A Manifesto

Carnival officially begins on January 6 (aka Epiphany, aka the 12th Night of Xmas), but most of us in New Orleans don’t really get into the Carnival spirit until much later. For me, the trigger is usually the Krewe du Vieux parade, which happens about two-and-a-half weeks before Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras).

This year, however, I’m late — late like Rizzo in Grease, to use a theatre queen simile. I’m just not in the mood yet. Maybe the balls and parades this weekend will tip the scale.

My friend Elizabeth, however, is full of the Carnival spirit(s), and she’s penned something to commemorate the season: “The Benefits Of Getting Drunk: A Manifesto”. Whether or not you live in New Orleans, whether or not you celebrate Carnival and Lent, whether or not you sip the Devil’s Urine (as my Sunday school teacher used to call it), it’s well worth your time. Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes life is terrible. You get divorced. You get laid off. Your loved one dies. Your heart breaks. Your city floods. When it does, most of us soldier on, waking up to a bleak future, plodding through the day, trying not to cry in public, keeping it together so we don’t lose our jobs/annoy our co-workers/scare our children. Merely being alive exposes  us to failure, fear, regret, and loss. Most of us endure these moments, these weeks and sometimes these years, managing to not kill ourselves, until little by little we make life better or, by the grace of time, it just gets better. But during these terrible times, it is perfectly appropriate to want to get the hell out. To get away from the bad that seems like it will never end. And getting drunk can do that for you. Granted, sometimes the drinking can make problems seem worse than they are, but when they actually cannot get worse, when they are really, really bad, go ahead. Get drunk. Forget where you live, whom you live with, your name (old or new) your job (old or new), someone’s absence, someone’s presence, your own presence. Line them up and knock them back. Don’t flip through the old letters, the old photos. Don’t watch the DVD for the 100th time or listen to your song. Don’t try and do the ugly math that is your bank account. They will all be there tomorrow to remind you to remember. Instead, stare blankly ahead of you, don’t look back, and for now, forget.

“The Benefits of Getting Drunk: A Manifesto” at SouthernFood.org

See y’all on the neutral ground.

Now is not the time to stop buying BP gas

Yes, I hate them just like everyone else in Louisiana. Yes if I could get my hands around their CEO’s neck it would not be a pretty picture. Yes, I am devastated to see Louisiana wildlife and everything that goes with it destroyed beyond what any of us can really believe. But frankly, now is not the time for Americans to stop purchasing BP gasoline and products.

The radio station was asked last week to allow C-SPAN to simulcast one of our 3 hour local shows that has been on top of the disaster since the rig first blew. They stated they really wanted a independent view from a media outlet. Most of the major radio stations in New Orleans are owned by corporate giants that frankly will not allow their on-air host to take on other large corporations. Watching each other’s back kind of thing I think. I understand, I’ve worked for a couple of those media corporations, it’s always about the bottom line. We allow C-SPAN to simulcast us and the response from the American people was really outstanding. The viewers/listeners that called the program, from Alaska to Maine, all seemed to understand the critical development that the Louisiana marshes provide to the entire Gulf of Mexico.

That being said, I was also confused by some and here’s my point. Many many callers stated they have stopped buying BP gasoline and would continue to avoid the company and it’s goods. Yet at the same time they all stated they wanted to help anyway that they could. The main way to help is to continue to buy BP gas. And if you haven’t in the past, start now.

I understand peoples anger and desire to make BP pay. We down here in this part of the world agree with you One Hundred-Fifty percent. But that is our point. We MUST make them pay. As in pay for everything needed right now and to continue to pay for whatever it takes to get this area stable again in the next twenty years. Frankly Louisiana and the United States of America need this company around for the long haul. Not to mention Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. They will need BP’s financial assistance for years to come to stop/clean/replenish the Gulf Coast region. We all need them to stay afloat, to have revenues coming in so we can take them right back to fix this disaster. Not too mention that gas stations themselves are generally independently owned and operated by other hard working  Americans just like me and you. Don’t make them lose their livelihood because they have the above logo on their sign. They need your business, they have families and bills to pay. Those owners didn’t ask BP to royally f**k up as they have.

We appreciate the American people and the way they are feeling our pain down this way. We accept that you and yours hate BP just as much as we do. We also accept that this is going to take years if not decades to recover from and that the United States of America needs them around to be responsible, emotionally and fiscally.

Festival weekend

The French Quarter Festival is this weekend, starting Friday and blowing it out through Sunday. Having been based in the Quarter since Katrina, and right up the street from the quarter for two years before, the FQF has always been a favorite and I’ve been lucky to be around the last six festivals. The FQF is now the largest free music festival in the South and from experience, I can say it has done nothing but grow in the last few years.
Friday was always somewhat of a “so-so” day for the FQF. It’s always been more of a local festival than say Jazz Fest obviously, but I think that is changing. I have done my tour of the Quarter today and I know I have never seen this many people out and about on the Friday of FQF. It was always the slow day of the festival but not anymore. People are everywhere in the Quarter already, food cooking, people dancing and music playing. It feels like a Saturday already.

This is what people who don’t live here have a hard time understanding. The FQF is a perfect example of why New Orleans is one of a kind. When Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Bonerama, Rebirth, The Radiators, Rockin Dopsie plus jazz and brass bands from around the world come to town and play for free well it’s something special. The list of performers is rather long, not to mention the food/drink vendors. I have already chowed down on a BBQ Brisket sandwich and some baked beans from The Joint. I highly recommend it, very tasty!! Did I mention that this festival goes from one end of the quarter to the other? Start at the Old Mint on Decatur and work your way to Woldenberg Park on the river, making sure not to miss all the stages in-between. Do I need to mention again that it’s free? No ticket to get in, just find somewhere to park (legally of course) and do your thing. This is the reason we stay here. Get out and enjoy!!!

What it really means to New Orleans

The victory by the New Orleans Saints, 31-17 over the Colts of Indiana in the 44th Super Bowl in NFL history, was frankly a sight to behold both in Miami and in New Orleans. Eruptions of joy and euphoria of the highest degree has overtaken New Orleans for the last three days. With Mardi Gras rolling along, the Super Bowl victory party and Mardi Gras have melded into one big We Love New Orleans Festival. There is certainly nothing wrong with that and I think many locals would give you a look and say…we deserve this one. Can’t really disagree with that. Anyone who has ever rooted for the hapless Saints deserves this one. And we never want it to end.

As the seconds clicked down on the Saints dominating, invigorating, full of heart and guts comeback victory, it’s funny the things that come to mind. For some reason I thought of the first time the Saints had a chance just to make the playoffs in 1983. I was in my older brothers car, he was driving me somewhere, and we were listening to the end of the Saints-Rams game. Saints win, they make the playoffs for the first time ever. Of course the Saints lose on a last second field goal. Of course they had given up TWO interception returns for touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown to get to the point of losing at the last second. That’s what Saints fans expected. Find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. My other thought drifted to September 25th, 2006. The return to the dome. I was there for that one too and that victory over Atlanta was the starting point for this Saints team bringing New Orleans it’s first professional world championship.

What does it all really mean though? Can a world championship in a professional sport change New Orleans for the better? Can it fill the pot-holes and rebuild the houses and parks and businesses that all are in need of rebuilding? Can it turn inept politicians into politicians who lead by example? Does a world championship end the years of frustration from the citizens when it comes to a racial divide?

Of course, a championship does not solve any of those issues. Trophy’s don’t hammer nails or magically turn a bigot into a diverse human being. But New Orleans and frankly America in general would be wrong to just dismiss this as another sports team winning a championship and moving on to the next big story. What these Saints showed is that a commitment by everyone, putting your own personal needs to the side maybe, to accomplish something bigger than themselves can be done. When everyone is on the same page, focused on the same goal, this Saints victory shows that nothing is impossible.

The Saints have done their part. They showed the path to greatness. Teamwork, accountability, passion, faith and trust in each other. Now it’s time for the citizens of this great city to come together and carry the banner from here. The Saints did their part, now it’s time for us to make it really matter.

What a party

Mardi Gras or Football? Was it Mardi Gras? Did I miss all the parades that come before Fat Tuesday? Or was all of the excitement last night for a little sports contest that was held in the Louisiana Superdome yesterday? I have been around this city for many events and I have never seen a reaction like the city of New Orleans had last night. When Garrett Hartley’s 40 yard field goal was halfway thru the uprights for the game winning points in the 2009 NFC Championship game, the streets of New Orleans erupted. People poured out of restaurants, bars, strip clubs, trinket shops and all points in between like they had just won the lottery. And in a sense, they had won the lottery. For a city that has been under-appreciated for it’s loyalty to below average sports franchises, Sunday night was a event that was beyond comprehension. Everyone can and will focus on what this team/franchise has meant to the citizens of New Orleans for the last five years. How the Saints were the one thing that we could all embrace and root for and at times kept us sane during a insane period in New Orleans history. The pure joy that was felt and seen on the streets of the French Quarter last night and into this morning, late this morning by the way, is something that just does not happen in other American cities. No other city identifies with it’s football team like New Orleans does and of course no other city knows how to show it like the great city of New Orleans. Who dat!

Mr. Okra the movie.

Today a friend sent me a link to this video (click link below) and I am so glad he did. T.G. Herrington wrote and directed this wonderful short which is an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival happening right now in Utah. Watch it now: Mr. Okra

Laureen Lentz wrote a little something about him a while back right her on nola metblogs, check it out.

Garland Robinette: “you don’t want gay marriage, because you don’t like gays”

Garland Robinette

If you don’t live in New Orleans, the name Garland Robinette may not mean much to you. But here, he’s a fixture: a media veteran, a BMOC, a bigmouth. Although he’s anchored TV newscasts and was once married to New Orleans’ legendary Angela Hill, he now spends his time lording over local talk radio.

Now, talk radio is not exactly the most liberal planet in the modern media universe, but Garland is smarter than many on the airwaves, and his approach is compassionate and common-sensible. (Yes, I am aware that Limbaugh and Palin also fly the common sense flag whenever possible, but I think they’re being ironic.) Today, Garland published a piece on gay marriage, and apart from the fact that his keyboard seems a little sticky (minds out of the gutter, people), I’m pretty impressed.

I have one opinion on the gay rights controversy, and I know my opinion is correct, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Those of you actively fighting against gay marriage have waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on your hands.

I don’t believe your real reason for fighting gay marriage is because you are sooooooooooooooo concerned about the threat to the institute of marriage. If you were, you’d be protesting people like me. I have been married three times. Elizabeth Taylor and me are the biggest threats ever faced by the sacred institute of marriage.

Let’s not be a hypocrite…you don’t want gay marriage, because you don’t like gays. It’s that simple. You’re frightened by those icky things they do with their sexual parts. But, here’s another hypocritical part…have you ever seen what them-thar “heterosexuals” do with their private parts? Whoa, talk about icky!!!!!

[more at WWL]

Have those same arguments been made by other straight guys? Sure, but on talk radio? In New Orleans, Louisiana? Hmmm. Maybe not.

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