Archive for July, 2008

Napoleon complex

My son Matt and I went over to the Old US mint today and took in the “Treasures of Napoleon” exhibit that’s on the second floor until early August. It’s well worth the $6 admission and it’s a good way to culture yourself for an hour or so before you face the hipsters on Frenchmen or go back into the Quarter to dodge the Segways and the stumblers. We then adjourned to Lucy’s for a couple of margaritas (sitting on the sidewalk because the just-off-work-it’s-a-three-day-weekend-woo-hoo crowd was in full swing at the bar) and some food before heading back towards home.

I’d post a link to pics of what’s in the exhibit, but there apparently isn’t such a site. I mean, there are some promotional things, but you kinda have to actually go into the museum to get a sense of what it’s all about. One of Napoleon’s hats. Many of his personal possessions. One of his camp beds. Even one of his Jesus-Eisenhower-Christ-I’m-bored pencil doodles. Anyway, check it out if you’ve got the time — but they stop letting folks in at 4pm. The place doesn’t close until 5, but closing the huge old building takes a while and they don’t want folks showing up at 4:52 to get started. It means they want you OUT at 5pm.

…but I doubt this is the weekend to simply amble into Da Quawtah for a leisurely stroll. It’s Essence Fest — and I gotta say the best thing about it has to be the fashion that will be strutting itself big-time along Canal and elsewhere in the city’s center throughout the weekend. And that’s just the cars. The clothing will also be variated, coordinated, colorated and definitely appreciated by those who are motivated to go. Just this afternoon, I watched a woman crossing Tchoupitoulas in the CBD wearing gold earrings with a diameter as big as a headlight on a Jeep Liberty. Seriousass earrings — and the gold straps on her flipflops were a perfect match. It’s quite a change from the “whatever falls out of the dryer” look of JazzFest.

This being the Fourth of July weekend, a lot of places that are normally open will be closed. It’s the time of year (as mentioned in an earlier post) when many of the locals simply hang out the “gone fishin'” sign and, oftentimes, go fishing. Given current gasoline prices, however, more will be fishing The Rigolets than heading to Destin or wherever. But there are benefits to the gas crunch — as I discovered on my brief foray to the Westbank early this morning. If it’s rush hour, I usually prefer the leisurely pace of the Gretna ferry rather than sit in long tollbooth lines on the Crescent City Connection. But this morning at 7:30, I whizzed right over the bridge after only a brief stop. I’m not sure if the short lines resulted from it being an approaching holiday or because fewer people are driving. Maybe both — but I’ve noticed traffic is definitely a bit less hectic these days.

Last summer, TBK and I nailed down a room at the Hilton Riverside for a couple of nights because we were in desperate need of a swimming pool. Sure, the water was bathtub warm — but the room rates were dirt cheap it was fun being a tourist in our hometown. I look for more folks to be doing that this summer.

…and that Napoleon exhibit is a pretty neat place to start.

Ian McNulty’s "Season of Night" Book Release

Ian McNulty

I haven’t been able to read anymore books about Post Katrina New Orleans. Period. As much as I want to. One symptom of Post Traumatic Stress disorder is continually reliving the traumatic experience and I have done enough of that just working with Karen on Squandered Heritage and my continual work on the Neighborhood Conservation District Committeee brings it all back without any artistic flourish. However, Ian McNulty is one of the city’s finest writers.

I have pestered Ian more than once about relegating his talent to the not-at-all challenging work of restaurant reviews, where his adjectives seem to go to waste.  I was so happy to see he’s actually completed a book that will zero in on a new feeling about our experience.  Why do I think this?  Because a few months ago I posted my recommended “One Dead in Attic” through Good Reads and my youngest sister Kate picked it up and read it.

We discovered that her reading it helped her understand the magnitude of what I/we’ve gone through and are still going through here in New Orleans. She was very understanding when I explained why I have to bring my cats to Illinois when I visit her while on vacation next month. It made sense to her and made her miss New Orleans more. Since she’s visited me here, we have had a great amount to talk about as a result. 

“Season of Night”, promises to bring a new perspective to our lives post-Katrina. I am sure it will pack more bravado than all other books on New Orleans lately.  I am sure Kate and I will read it and compare notes. 

Ian is a very charming man and I love so much of what he does even beyond his writing. He encompasses that superior sense of whimsy that is New Orleans. Ian doesn’t need to ‘sell it’. He’s the opposite of Chris Rose, he’s not a-social at all. For example, I love his Tour de Pants event, a bike ride / pub crawl through the neighborhoods of New Orleans which is hosted in conjunction with the final day of the Tour de France.   Ian’s Coolers and Candlight Party also speaks to his higher level of connectedness and ability to discuss this whole big experience in a its real context. Ian has a larger-than-life wit that I am sure will make reading about Katrina related events and emotions adventurous again and breath new perspective into our healing. I know that Ian can deliver us from darkness.

You can come see Ian at The Garden District Bookshop in The Rink at Prytania and Washington on Thursday, July 10th from 5:30-7:30. Having been in the bookselling business for many years, I must say that hearing an author talk about his work is always very enlightening! Hearing Ian speak will be a great treat.

Just in case you miss it elsewhere, here is the official publisher write up on the book:
In A Season of Night: New Orleans Life after Katrina, author and New Orleans journalist Ian McNulty offers an intimate account of that homecoming and the battle between hope and despair in a surreal landscape.
McNulty moved back to his wrecked New Orleans house soon after the floodwaters drained, living on the second floor and writing this book on a laptop by candlelight.
By turns haunting, inspiring, and darkly comic, this memoir offers a behind-the-headlines story of resilience and renewal for a neighborhood and a city. From bittersweet camaraderie in the ruined streets to the first flickers of cultural revival and the explosive joy of a post-Katrina Mardi Gras, A Season of Night delivers an unprecedented tale from the wounded but always enthralling Crescent City.

ps: Being a literary dork, this title reminds me of Celine’s “Journey To The End of the Night”. But that’s pretty French.

pps: Ian, I am really fucking proud of you! Thanks !  


N BYNUM-132-2

Over the past few months my friend, Rob and I have been helping, Naydja Bynum, the president of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association, to create a web presence for her cottage craft endeavor. She’s a very talented seamstress and an all-around amazing lady. Naydja is involved in many aspects of the community and one would think that would keep her busy enough.

In the middle of this project, she was offered a slot as a craft vendor for the upcoming Essence Festival. Naydja’s been sewing her heart out from the moment she wakes up until she falls down in the bed so that she’ll have enough inventory for the big event.

Today she is featured on the cover of City Business. Nayda and her team have been making Fleur de Lis purses and a variety of bowties to sell at the festival. You can see some of her work on her website: Naydja’s Designs. Naydja’s neighbor, E.J. has been taking the photos and I have been getting them up on the web, it’s been a real group effort.

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