Archives for May 2013

New Orleans Tourist to New Olreans Tenant: The Voice Part 3, Coffee Caused C.L.A.M.ities


Chris Tusa & I Forgot To Coordinate Hats For The First Reading!

Chris Tusa & I Forgot To Coordinate Hats For The First Reading!

After my pre-Fest networking spree, Jazz Fest itself kept me busy for the next three weeks (as hopefully you’ve already read!) dancing, blogging, eating, and, well, not really drinking—I only imbibed one of my seven days, finding I had more energy and could avoid the long portalet lines. Seven days of Jazz Fest was wonderful but definitely sensory overload, which in turn set off this period of reflection.

Not that that’s a bad thing. During this lull, in addition to a short respite in Florida, I’ve found a fabulous apartment on Decatur Street, caught up on the blog and other writing, explored Uptown like a local, and connected with a group of local writers.


I’ve frequently mentioned my friend, Chris Tusa, who teaches at LSU and has written an excellent debut novel set in New Orleans, Dirty Little [Read more…]

New Orleans Tourist to New Orleans Tenant: The Voice Part 2 (Blind Luck Down A Blind Alley)


Titling A Post 'The Voice' Is A Fine Excuse To Include A Picture Of Shakira!

Titling A Post ‘The Voice’ Is A Fine Excuse To Include A Picture Of Shakira!

This has been my longest blogging break in a while. Although partly due to getting wrapped up in the novel I’m preparing to release on Kindle, Jeremiah’s Scrapbook, (more about that later!) it has more to do with the fact that, during this series of post titled ‘The Voice’ I’m searching for, well, my voice.

I know that sounds crazy for someone who’s already posted over 50 articles and has a unique, sarcastic way with words (see section headings) that can be an obstacle when I do freelance work for magazines that want you to conform to an anonymous, unified voice. I guess, then, what I’m seeking is not ‘a voice’ but ‘which voice.’

This Is Completely Irrelevant; I've Just Been Looking For An Excuse To Use It

This Is Completely Irrelevant; I’ve Just Been Looking For An Excuse To Use It

This blog is at times confessional (such as these last two posts), at times a travelogue, at times food and music reviews, at times an exploration of unique cultural trends such as Mardi Gras Indians or St. Joseph’s Day, and usually a blend of all the above. As I try to build a consistent audience, I’m wondering whether I’m best served with this scattershot, all-inclusive approach or if I should focus more on my difficulties and triumphs adapting to the city (confessional), my adventures in the city (vicarious), the city’s culture and oddities (reporting), or opinions on food, music and festivals (reviews). For now I’ll continue to do all the above but can’t help but wonder if, over time, one won’t stand out as ‘the voice’ I need to adopt to build a readership.


My Guru

My Guru

That readership has grown (thank you, regulars), but has been averaging near forty to sixty daily page hits on average for a while.  I’ve had a few days of over a hundred hits, approaching 150, but haven’t been able to remain there and continue to climb. Hoping to grow, I’ve been out networking at every opportunity; I’ve passed out hundreds of business cards for the blog, attended book salons, reached out to local authors, talked to strangers in bars and at festivals, contacted magazines and one radio station, reached out to other bloggers, and pretty much flung myself in every direction I can think. It will take time to grow, but, as Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”


4.23.13 Old Coffee PotI had one particularly promising day right before Jazz Fest where it seemed the stars were aligning. I hopped on my bike in Uptown and after a stop by the Superdome to buy my tickets, peddled into the French Quarter for a lovely breakfast in The Old Coffee Pot, not realizing that such courtyard breakfasts would be in reach every day since at the time I had no intentions to ever move to the Quarter. Afterwards, I stopped by WWOZ, the local public radio station that is a fierce supporter of local music, regularly inviting local musician on the air. Even though they were busy passing out festival ‘Brass Passes,’ I was greeted enthusiastically, given and tour, and introduced to the operations director as though they had a true interest in my project.

4.23.13 Me at Old Coffee PotNext I stopped by Offbeat. I’d been emailing with follow-up pitches ever since my Krewe of Rocckus article with no response. Fortunately the editor was in and once I had him face-to-face, he easily agreed to some Jazz Fest reviews and a story on a Robin Barnes. He also seemed optimistic the website could link my articles back to my blog. Score!


City Cycle Works

And, Alas, A Bike Shop Appeared From The East

Next I took a bike ride toward the lake to scout the Fairgrounds for Jazz Fest, though my luck took a seeming turn for the worse when I blew a tire, pulling out my phone to discover the closest bike shop was miles away across the bayou. Steaming, I started the long trek pushing my bike, stopping at a service station to futilely pump the tire and later asking a guy with a truck outside a convenience store for a lift (he wasn’t going my way and didn’t really seem to care.)

Heading down Orleans Avenue through a part of the city that I wasn’t familiar with and that didn’t seem the worst but didn’t seem the best either, a young man stopped to chat. When I told him I had a flat, he pointed down a road to a cluster of industrial buildings and said, “There’s a bike shop back there. Just cross the railroad tracks and go behind that big warehouse.”  I was a little wary. It didn’t like the place where any business would be, let alone a bike shop. Was there someone waiting back there to clock me and take my money? Did he know I was broke?! I cautiously eased down the road as he watched and yelled directions from afar, walking in the middle to leave space between me and anyone lurking around the corner. When I finally rounded to the back of the large, rusty warehouse sure enough there was a little bike shop in an open garage—no frills. I had to wait for the guy to get back from lunch, but he treated me fair, did a good job, and turned out to be an entertaining eccntric, claiming to be the first registered Libertarian in Louisiana.


Ok, It Was Actually At A Garden Party

Ok, It Was Actually At A Garden Party

As he worked on my bike, a guy came in cursing and pushing his street bike, threw it on a rack, and began changing his tire. “You’re quite comfortable here,” I said with a laugh. He smiled and said he used to work there but had recently returned to his previous life as a singer/songwriter. We started talking music, politics, and life in general, swapping business cards to perhaps get together and collaborate. Later I listened to his stuff online and was quite impressed so made a point to stop by one of his regular gigs.

I never heard back from any of my follow-up queries to WWOZ, despite their enthusiams, and Offbeat continues to be difficult to reach, though I do have an article and review coming out this weekend and am interviewing Robin Barnes Monday; for some reason, though, I doubt I’ll ever get those back-links to my blog. Tonight I’m heading over to Vince’s, the bike shop musician, to jam and see if we hit on any worthy ideas. It’s two steps forward and one back, but progress all the same.




New Orleans Tourist to New Orleans Tenant: The Voice Part 1 (Existential Sonar Pings)



Strolling Tropical Streets

Although I’m back in New Orleans, my need to reflect and process continues after months of frantic, unrelenting madness running from Mardi Gras to Jazz Fest, so to clear my head this morning I ambled through quaint back streets of Uptown for a long stroll to Slim Goodies for breakfast with Trombone Shorty on my i-pod. I returned last night in time for this repeat appearance by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at Wednesdays in the Square following their triumphant set closing out Jazz Fest, and I was still buzzing this morning from their bouncing melodies. The summer heat and humidity is just setting in, prompting a light and pleasant sweat, and the air was filled with fragrant blooming flowers I can’t identify but that stir my soul nonetheless. As I wandered along my eyes feasted on the vibrant and historic architecture that these spring blooms enveloped in picturesque tropical frames.

Victorian Gothic

Victorian Gothic

In Bloom

In Bloom


Slim Goodies for Breakfast After 40 Minute Stroll

Slim Goodies for Breakfast After 40 Minute Stroll

I moved here from tropical north Florida yet in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, the richest enclave north of West Palm, the limitless money on display displays no imagination. I have always been disillusioned by the prominent faux-Spanish McMansions that are photo-copied and crowded along the shore as monuments to wealth without vision. To the south, St. Augustine provides a welcome contrast with its tropical gardens, southern Victorian porch-and-column architecture, and artistic quirkiness. Uptown New Orleans is more like the latter if St. Augustine had bred like rabbits and juiced up its weirdness and creativity on ‘roids.

Tropical Sidewalks In Bloom

Tropical Sidewalks In Bloom

Who Wouldn't Want To Live In This House With These Street Corner Names?

Who Wouldn’t Want To Live In This House With These Street Corner Names?






Candy Land!

Candy Land!

The Garden District is the most famous iteration of Victorian southern architecture in New Orleans with it’s mansions of towering columns, wrapping wooden porches, massive shuttered windows revealing peeks into elegant parlors, and lush gardens; yet all of Uptown reflects this aesthetic if to a smaller, quainter scale.

20130523_112347Granted, current denizens can’t take credit for the historic architecture, but they have embraced the spirit. There is no cookie-cutter conformity in this city where it’s a virtue to stand out and march to a different drum. Each house is unique, as is every street, and every resident seeks to add their own touch. As I perused this individuality on display one house caught my attention and I had to stop for a photograph. The rocking chairs and tropical vegetation brought to mind Key West while the beads hanging from the Medieval porch ornament and colorful wreath by the door were pure New Orleans (as was the decorative iron fence). Yet that rusty suit of armor provided a pleasant thematic non sequitur perhaps hinting at some unknown predilection by the owner. Such tiny but captivating details are the fuel that fire a writer’s imagination. There may be a short story hiding on that front porch just waiting for my discovery.


20130522_183247In much of the world creativity is the domain of youth but in this city age is no excuse for a fading imagination. During Jazz Fest I was thrilled to see twenty-somethings sing along to Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mac. In contrast, last night as Trombone Shorty turbo-charged his jazz with hard rock, driving funk, hip-hop rhythms, and rap-inflected lyrics, there were locals in their fifties and sixties dancing joyously along; seventy-five year old legend Allen Toussaint even came on stage to lead a call-and-response rap.

20130522_190603I’ve always felt that if you only listen to the music of your generation then you don’t love music—you love fitting in. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this city where past and future collide on a daily basis. I’ve said it time and time again—people who think New Orleans is stuck in the past are fools. This is a city mines the beauty and wisdom of the past as it thoughtfully wades into the future as opposed to rushing forward without direction.


610 Stompers On Parade

610 Stompers On Parade

As for the need to stand out, there can be few better examples of the 610 Stompers who took the stage before Trombone Shorty. Mardi Gras parade staples, this group of young to middle-aged men wear knee socks, head bands, nylon short shorts, and seventies color-contrast t-shirts, executing dance routines filled with hip thrusts that accentuate bulging waists and bursting back inseams, leg kicks of unathletic grace and height, and jazz hands where jazz hands shouldn’t be. Composed mostly of professionals, these men certainly aren’t making money but are becoming parade favorites. This city rewards weirdness and these guys have found a way to be of New Orleans even while working very American corporate day jobs.

610 Stompers On Stage

610 Stompers On Stage

I have always beaten a unique path, so this celebration of weirdness drew me here as much as the embrace of deeper culture, and this melding of high art and lowball self-expression unfolded in perfect metaphor as the 610 Stompers ceded the stage to perhaps the city’s most talented and promising young musician. While he’s clearly an entertainer with his brash, engaging, and—I’ll just say it—badass swagger, at twenty-seven Trombone Shorty also displays the musical depth and genius of a legend in the making. It was a transcendent moment and just another night in New Orleans.


Iowa Gumbo? Another Competing Voice

Iowa Gumbo?
Another Competing Voice

Thus I’m basking in the moment, living in a city where every walk is a visual feast; every bar a sonic awakening; every meal a gustatory temptation; and every day an infinite promise of the strange and unanticipated. Yet living in the presence of such brilliance can also inspire existential sonar pings, bouncing your self-doubt off unseen shadows in the future’s murky depths. Some days I feel quietly confident while others I fear I’m just mildly delusional as I actively and aggressively seeking to connect with the local creative scene, sniffing whiffs of imminent triumph that are always followed by reminders of ‘two steps forward, one step back.’ Thus as I walk I reflect and wonder if I can find The Voice in this chaotic chorus of competing counter melodies to forge these writings into something more than just a personal indulgence.





New Orleans Tourist to New Orleans Tenant: Red Beans On Monday


My First Pot Of Red Beans On Monday In New Orleans

My First Pot Of Red Beans On Monday In New Orleans

In my last post I mentioned how the New Orleans ‘Red Beans on Monday’ tradition was both a conduit for my transition from New Orleans Tourist to New Orleans Tenant as well as a metaphor and illustration of the peculiar challenges that unique to this peculiar place. Let’s face it, while people who grew up here tend to be hopefully devoted to New Orleans and others like me fall in love and flock here, this city has its share of infuriating and frustrating quirks to go along with its inviting and captivating quirkiness.

One of the best editorials I read regarding post-Katrina ineptitude (I could kick myself for not clipping it) was, I believe, in the New York Times. It was about a year or two out and the public outrage was growing as corruption and blunders came to light regarding the distribution of relief and rebuilding funds. Yet the author pointed out that dysfunction and corruption have always been present in the city. Its untamed spirit and unpredictability is what draws scores of fascinated visitors, many of whom choose to stay and embrace the madness. He wasn’t arguing that improvements and reforms shouldn’t be made, but just that you can’t expect to entirely tame New Orleans, especially when it’s that rebel, lusty nature that draws you in the first place. If you want neat and orderly, he concluded, [Read more…]

New Orleans Tourist to New Orleans Tenant: The Hillbilly Hemingway Finds A Room With A View


Rooftops WindowGood news! I found a place to live after months of dead ends and frustration. And it’s in, of all places, the French Quarter. I never thought I’d ever actually move there, largely searching in more residential neighborhoods like Irish Channel and Lower Garden District, but responded to an ad on a whim. The rent was reasonable and the roommate was going to be mostly absent, staying with her daughter, so when she responded with pictures that included this view I had to check it out.

Although skeptical as a lady dropped me the key from the third floor balcony, allowing me to let myself into the narrow wire and pipe ridded service ally, I was instantly seduced by the Hemingway-esque panorama when I topped the stairs out back. The bedroom for rent would look out to this view as does the bath, and most of those rooftops are part of [Read more…]

Top Ten New Orleans Jazz Fest Foods

Jazzfest2013 Me at WidespreadThe food at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is as much a draw as the music, especially for locals for whom much of the music is ubiquitous while this culinary collection is unique to Jazz Fest. In fact, Jazz Fest is the best restaurant in New Orleans. Standards such as the gumbo and jambalaya on this list are amongst the best I’ve had while favorites such as Crawfish MonicaCrawfish Bread, and Crawfish Sacks are rarely if ever seen elsewhere. Thus, I had a blast spending seven days trying new offerings, giving in to temptation to return for seconds only 3 times. Not coincidentally, these three items top my list.

I don’t claim to have eaten everything at Jazz Fest–there are hundreds of options–but I kept a keen eye on what was popular with attendees, read other food blogs and articles to learn consensus favorites, and made sure I tried every uber-unique concoction as well as timeless staple. Ethnic foods such as many Asian and Caribbean options didn’t hit my radar. You don’t hold a clam bake on a mountain ridge or stew venison on the beach. When in Rome…. Being unique to Jazz Fest earns additional bonus points, though quality is equally important. Value, while a minor consideration, still factors in. For example, the Fried Soft-Shell Crab P0-Boy isn’t outrageous at $9, but the crabs can be small and I’ve had better so it barely missed the list (#11?!). At $4, though, the Stuffed Artichoke will stuff you! It’s a steal, leap-frogging the crab even though soft-shells are one of my favorite foods.  So whether you’re a newbie looking for a place to start or a veteran looking to debate, here’s my Top Ten Foods of Jazz Fest:  [Read more…]

Jazz Fest 2013, Day 7: Black Keys Add Little Color, Irma Thomas Still Soul Queen, & Trombone Shorty Crowned King


Jazzfest2013 Trombone Shorty 2For over twenty years The Neville Brothers have closed out the main Acura Stage at Jazz Fest with a slight post-Katrina disruption. Per organizers, this has at times spawned awkward conversations, informing superstars like Santana, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Foo Fighters, and Kid Rock that they would be opening up for these local legends rather than vice versa. Local jam band The Radiators traditionally closed the Gentilly Stage on the opposite end of the fairgrounds but times they are a changing.

The Black Keys: Opening for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

The Black Keys:
Opening for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

When Aaron Neville recently parted with his brothers it demoted The Nevilles to opening for Dave Matthew and him to closing out Jazz Fest 2013 at the Gentilly Stage. The Radiators also split after decades together, though most members were represented elsewhere. Thus it was a little surprising to learn the replacement for The Nevilles would be rising star Trombone Shorty with his band Orleans Avenue. His national appeal has grown surprisingly over the past few years, especially considering he is rocking out on trombone–A STAR TROMBONE PLAYER– yet in his introduction the MC and festival organizer declared him ‘the future.’ The crowd had thinned somewhat after the Black Keys but there still had to be a good 80,ooo people watching to see if Shorty could fill some mighty big shoes–8 to be exact.

I Went To See Trombone Shorty And A Rusted Root Concert Broke Out!

I Went To See Trombone Shorty And A Rusted Root Concert Broke Out!

Part of Trombone Shorty‘s appeal, though, is [Read more…]

Jazz Fest 2013, Day 6: Fleetwood Mac Daddy (& Mommy), Little Big Time, Cowboy (Closed) Mouth, & Revivalists Redux


ABOVE: Fleetwood Mac closes Jazz Fest Saturday with ageless anthem “Don’t Stop”

Jazzfest2013 Fleetwood Mac TrioWhen Fleetwood Mac ended their spirited, age-defying set on the Acura Stage Saturday night with “Don’t Stop” it was the only Christine McVie penned tune (not counting collaborations) they performed. Despite the departure of one of their three singer/songwriters they couldn’t avoid granting a rabid crowd the chance to sing along with their most anthemic and enduring tune. McVie‘s departure, pairing them down to a quartet, is far from the first turmoil in this band’s history. Fleetwood Mac is legendary for [Read more…]

Jazz Fest 2013, Day 5: Funday Muddy Funday


Jazzfest2013 Funday Muddy FundayThe second Friday of Jazz Fest 2013 was a day unlike any other. Although this is only my 7th or 8th, local performers who had been appearing for decades scratched their heads at the rain, mud, and cold. “It’s the second weekend of Jazz Fest and I haven’t even sweated yet,” declared one WWOZ host. The first Saturday had gotten a little toasty but hadn’t quite topped 80–it just felt warm in contrast to the unseasonable cool. Then the rain had started Sunday for Dave Matthews, thinning the crowds and keeping the weather cool. It rained on off during the three-day break and by Widespread Panic’s set on Thursday it was pouring. Thus by Friday herds of galloping music fans had turned this municipal horse track into a giant mud bog spiked with the pungent smell of horse shit! On top of the mud, the weather turned from cool to downright cold, the wind cutting sharply through my light windbreaker. Worse, with the pop outfit Maroon 5 headlining–not my cup of voodoo juice–and no one strong anchoring the early line up, the music had cooled down as well. That is until [Read more…]

Jazz Fest 2013, Day 4: Widespread Panic Makes Rain For LA, The Dozen Gets Dirty, & Johnny Sketch Hits a Dirty Note


Jazzfest2013 Dirty Dozen in the Rain

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Before Widespread Panic During One Of Many Rain Showers

The Thursday opening to Jazz Fest’s second weekend is considered ‘locals day’ and tends to be a more laid back affair. The rain that had started Sunday, however, was still lingering and on and off showers that morning and afternoon kept the crowds even thinner than usual for the only Thursday of the festival. By the time perennial favorite Widespread Panic hit the stage, though, the fairgrounds were full. Their faithful wouldn’t be denied and this top-tier jam band delivered a solid show of jazz and funk inflected southern rock, stretching out leads like taffy on a weaving loom.

ABOVE: Widespread Panic opens their Jazz Fest set with “Climb to Safety”

Jazzfest2013 Me at Widespread

A Little Rain Wouldn’t Spoil My Night Of Joy!

Widespread Panic once released a live album called Night of Joy whose title is a shout out to [Read more…]