Mardi Gras 2014: A Rocckus Reunion and (Barely) Eyeing Endymion


Pirate Captain & Krewe

Pirate Captain & Krewe

Since moving to New Orleans I have often had trouble sleeping soundly, but the night after my ride with Krewe of Morpheus I fell into sleep like a stone sinking to the deepest canyons of the Pacific. There I remained until late Saturday morning.

We’d planned on catching the two Uptown parades  that afternoon at my favorite coffee shop, Krewe du Brew, but that required crossing St. Charles before they closed the street off prior to the 11:00 a.m. parade My friends were as exhausted as I was, so by the time we all stirred, showered, and dressed it was past noon. We needed to be at House of Blues by 3:00 for a soundcheck party for the annual Better Than Ezra Mardi Gras show that night so decided to head to the French Quarter for the day.

Mardi Gras Gypsy & Medieval Pirate

Mardi Gras Gypsy & Medieval Pirate In the Masks They’d Found Friday

The day before while I was away with Morpheus, Kyle and Kelly had shopped for fancy Mardi Gras masks, their interest piqued by the simple ones I’d bought them. Kyle is in law school in Jacksonville and had already missed Friday so was planning to drive back Sunday; thus he and Kelly would miss Mardi Gras day when masking is near mandatory. Still, some people choose to dress up for parades and parties throughout Carnival, so I shared my lagniappe pirate gear with Kyle (and some with Aimee on Fat Tuesday; yes, I have enough pirate surplus to dress at least three other people!) while Aimee assembled the costume she’d brought and Kelly reluctantly donned the skimpy sequined gypsy top she’d purchased in her initial Mardi Gras intoxication the day before. We all laughed and encouraged her, assuring her she didn’t have to worry because wearing that she’d soon be covered in beads!


First Line

First Line

By the time we parked up Esplanade and walked into the French Quarter, it was well into the afternoon and we were starved. We decided to try Coop’s Place where Aimee was determined to eat before leaving town. As we reached Royal Street, though, a strange sight interrupted us. During Mardi Gras…hell, anytime in New Orleans…you’re likely to be delayed by [Read more…]

Mardi Gras 2014: Fueling Up For Krewe of Morpheus Parade With A Bag of Donuts


Welcome to Bourbon Street!

Welcome to Bourbon Street!
(No Wonder We Were Moving Slow!)

The night before my big day with Morpheus my friend Aimee had driven from Jacksonville for her first Mardi Gras, bringing nephew Kyle who is in law school there. His girlfriend, Kelly, flew in from San Antonio where they’re all from (though she was born in Baltimore) and it was the couple’s first trip to New Orleans at all. Thus, I’d rushed them to the Muses parade and then took them for their first (and only of the trip) obligatory stroll down Bourbon Street as is legally required of first timers. I wanted their first night in town to be memorable—mission accomplished (more on this in future posts)—but we stayed out much later than was wise before such a monumental day, for I’d been warned that riding on a Mardi Gras float was the longest—though greatest—day ever.

Thus Friday morning we missed the ‘Greasing of the Poles.’ Pole Greasing

For 44 years now the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street has been greasing the poles supporting their balcony to discourage onlookers seeking a better view, and I wanted to take the gang to see this spectacle although I was skeptical before they arrived that we’d actually get moving in time. The Greasing of the Poles began when parades used to roll through the narrow streets of the French Quarter before they grew too big and moved Uptown, yet the ceremonial ‘greasing of the poles’ continues. (And, besides, there’s still plenty to see on Bourbon, per the much publicized flashing that is mostly contained to this area.) New Orleans loves an excuse to party, so the suggestiveness of [Read more…]

Mardi Gras Serendipity: Fried Chicken Grammys, Musical Vegetables, King Cake Krewe Kings, & Jazzy Hoboes


"He Who Pulls The Sword From the King Cake Shall Be King!"

“He Who Pulls The Sword From the King Cake Shall Be King!”

With the start of parading season, the stretch run to Mardi Gras is underway and the whole town is hopping, making social scheduling nearly impossible as everyone adds last-minute touches to their costumes, picks up throws, and completes contraptions and/or shuffles them around town for repair and delivery.

Wait. That’s me!

Which makes me officially part of the local insanity. And into this maelstrom flew my oldest brother, Jerry who, by the end of his first night in town, was already part of the show!


WMSHJerry landed in New Orleans with a blossoming cold so my plan to rush him to Liuzza’s by the Track for a Barbecue Shrimp Po-Boy before the free NOLA Brewing tour was squashed. Instead, we headed home so he could lie down before heading to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, as comfort food sounded more in order than spicy seafood! Willie Mae’s has been voted [Read more…]

Christmastime In New Orleans: (Frenchmen Swings & Kermit’s King)


A Jazz Combo Celebrates Ruffins' Birthday Inside Kermit's Treme Speakeasy

A Jazz Combo Celebrates Ruffins’ Birthday Inside Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy

The Tuesday before Christmas Eve Tuesday I’d set out like a Hobbit on an unexpected journey to rekindle my holiday cheer and reconnect with New Orleans. I’d originally planned to do this meandering the following day before the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus open build session at the Den of Muses, as written about last week, but having already found my inspiration I didn’t feel the need to arrive downtown early; however, when things wrapped up around 9pm I once again caved to my wanderlust.

One of the joys of my summer in the French Quarter was living two blocks away from Frenchmen Street, though since summer is off-season I wasn’t able to fully take advantage of it. Now I live all the way across town and seldom make it over there. Thus, with the Den of Muses around the corner in Marigny, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit.


2013-12-18 21.42.05As I approached this bustling hub of music clubs destined to someday be recalled with the same legendary reverence as spots like Storyville, it seemed odd arriving from inside Marigny rather than crossing over from the French Quarter. Thus The Spotted Cat is the is the last club I check out, being at the ‘end’ of the street, but tonight it was my first stop. This small club specializes in traditional jazz and roots combos and I rarely if ever have seen a bad band there. If this locale oft featured on Tremé were at the start of the street I likely would have rarely made it further, as nearly proved that case that night.

2013-12-18 21.41.38As I stepped inside, the place was remarkably packed for a Wednesday night a week before Christmas and I almost retreated. The crowd was going wild, though, and the energy radiating from the small stage was immediately palpable. I spotted an abandoned doorman’s stool right beside the stage and settled into the only free spot I could find.

2013-12-18 21.41.56As the small ensemble burned though high-octane trad jazz, I had to lean out the door and read the whiteboard to learn their name: Orleans 6. Although I know nothing about them, they struck me one of those revolving door combos formed to give sidemen in other bands some extra work, though they gelled together remarkably well. The audience was even more impressed than I was, cheering them on as they traded raucous solos. Although every member was an accomplished musician, a gray-haired man in a sports coat puffing a fat cigar that looked a little like Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy fame with a similar devil-may-care demeanor was flying across the keys with a spry and furious ease. It was one of the better pyrotechnic ivory displays I’ve seen in town, and if I see this fleet fingered Ron White on the keys again anytime soon, I’ll most certainly find myself planted on a stool again.


2013-12-18 22.23.56After the Orleans 6 wound up their set I wandered across the road and two doors down to d.b.a. Early on in My Year of Mardi Gras I wrote about a magical ‘typical’ Wednesday I spent on Frenchmen Street, centering on my plan to catch Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington during this standing Wednesday night gig at this soon-to-be-legendary club. As I settled on a stool ten months later, Washington seemed a bit tired and subdued. As he paused to catch his breath, his bandleader explained that he’d recently been under the weather, then went on to relate how he’d recently calculated they were well into the thousands for appearances at this weekly gig. With that kind of consistency, the Roadmasters possess enough chops to weather an ailing frontman, and they carried the show to another fine performance with a little help from their friends sitting in on guitar and vocals. In between, Washington still found it in him to rise to the occasion. So if you’re in town on a Wednesday night, you can’t go wrong waltzing with the Wolfman.


2013-12-19 16.35.08Thursday my focus was on completing chores before flying out Friday, but as I took a blogging break that morning to check Facebook I noticed that Kermit Ruffins had posted an invitation to his 4:30 birthday party at his Treme Speakeasy. It sounded like the kind of spontaneous adventure I’d moved to town for, but I had mindless errands to run and felt I should try to be productive that evening after two nights of celebration. As I found myself in line at the post office at 4:00, however, my good intentions quickly eroded beneath the holiday crowds. Stamps could wait. I handed a letter for my LA OT licensure to the clerk and hopped in my truck, fighting rush hour traffic to Basin Street on the edge of the now famous Tremé neighborhood.

2013-12-19 16.40.09Four-thirty seemed early for a party, but as I crossed the road from my parking spot a crowd had already formed around a flaming grill where oysters were being offered up raw or chargrilled. Kermit was holding court nearby in a red jacket and colorful golf hat only he could pull off, and I am always amazed at the easygoing swagger of Ruffins. He rules New Orleans like a king while smiling and joking like a jester. He’s so happy and good-natured it would be easy to underestimate him, but the man is an encyclopedia of American music and builder of a local empire. He disarms everyone around him with his humor, thereby recruiting them as loyal subjects.

Nearby, someone was dressed in a giant Louis Armstrong head taking pictures with visitors, and it struck me as the perfect tribute. Kermit is the true heir to King Louis, having figured out how to similarly package staggering genius with a universally loved persona, thus making the complexity of jazz an accessible expression of joy for the people rather than an intellectual exercise for a devoted few.


2013-12-19 16.37.13I soon headed inside to buy a beer at the bar, but the jazz band was still setting up so I headed back outside where I realized the oysters were on the house. Shyly at first, I nabbed a few raw on the half shell—some as big as the palm of my hands—eventually braving the long line for the excellent chargrilled oysters the crowd was jostling for. I felt a little, though, like I was crashing the party, but Kermit had posted the invitation and, besides, I’ve bought most of his CDs and admission to countless shows, so I gradually warmed up to the gracious giving and tipped generously.

2013-12-19 17.11.09By the time I made it back inside, I had no qualms enjoying the mini po-boys being carved from several racks of beef that had been stuffed with garlic and roasted for the occasion. The band had started up as I lingered at the table chatting with Kermit’s mother, and as I subtly danced in the corner my belly was full and conscience clear!


The band was set up in front of the same tree topped with one of Kermit’s red hats where I’d seen him play last Christmas. It was his birthday, though, so he was taking the night off. An excellent band was playing in his stead, though, lead by a swing singer with one of those girlish, twenties-style high-pitched voices ala Squirrel Nut Zippers that I find so enchanting. (They also featured the same trumpet player from The Spotted Cat the night before.) Mixing in holiday standards with old style jazz, they had the crowd swaying and cheering and even coaxed the birthday boy on stage for a couple of duets.

Hanging with Kermit Last Christmas

Hanging with Kermit Last Christmas

As the evening wore on, Kermit changed into a Hugh Heffner worthy robe and danced with his new bride as the elated crowd cheered him on. Pure joy radiated from every corner. Per the local tradition, countless dollar bills were pinned to his shirt and I added to the collection, thanking him for making the coolest city in America even cooler.

2013-12-19 22.33.41Last Christmas I’d visited with a dear friend and we’d spent a magical evening in Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy listening to him play “Christmas Time Is Here” from a Charlie Brown Christmas in front of that tree as we feasted on some of the best red beans, catfish, and fried chicken we’d ever had is perhaps the best Christmas memory I’ve had in a decade, for the holiday had lost most of its luster in my 30’s, and once again, Kermit managed to make this Grinch’s heart grow just a size or two. I had dropped by only for an hour or two  but ended up staying until things wound down. It was approaching 10pm as I drove away and I didn’t want to lose that magic, so stopped the Avenue Pub, found a perch on their balcony overlooking St. Charles Avenue, turned on my computer, and attempted to convert my feelings into words as the streetcars passed below. All the while Louis Armstrong ran through my mind, singing, “It’s Christmastime in New Orleans . . .”

Merry Christmas Ya’ll!




Christmastime In New Orleans (Do You Know What It Means To Re-Fall In Love With New Orleans?)


2013-12-17 17.41.52

Christmas In Jackson Square

For the past couple of months I’ve been diligently plugging away, trying to remain productive while searching for a way to bear fruit from my labor. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get so obsessed with the harvest that you lose the joy of gardening in the process. As my frustration grew and I doubled down my efforts to get something back from my writing, I started to fear I was losing focus of the reason I moved to New Orleans in the first place—I was missing the forest trying to harvest the fruit trees. Between my holiday travels I was only in town for two weeks (and one weekend), but it started to dawn on me that I needed to step away from the keyboard and reconnect with all the reasons I began this adventure, searching to revive a bit of my dormant Christmas spirit in the process. [Read more…]

Halloween in New Orleans, The NOLA Social Ride, & All Hallows Happenstance


This Painting Is Currently Up For Bidding In A Silent Auction . . .

This Painting Is Currently Up For Bidding In A Silent Auction . . .

My last post (excepting the book review) detailed my experience with local bicycle club the Crescent City Cruzers, and the first Thursday I had planned to meet up with CCC (before being discouraged by the weather) they were doing a joint ride with the NOLA Social Ride’s ‘Happy Thursday Ride.’ Yes, there are two groups of bikers that dress in theme and hit the streets on Thursday nights yelling “Happy Thursday!” though I would later learn, not surprisingly, they started as one. For the sake of comparison and contrast, I had vaguely planned on joining the NOLA Social Ride sometime, but it turns out planning wasn’t necessary for Halloween night I ended up riding with them completely by accident!


As my first Halloween in New Orleans dawned I so excited that I shaved my head.

Breaking Bad!

Breaking Bad!


For the Halloween weekend I’d updated my pirate costume after stumbling into a cool costume shop in the Quarter, but had previously ordered a pork pie hat intending to go as [Read more…]

Halloween Weekend in New Orleans, Part 2: An Epic Krewe de Boo-Boo


2013-10-26 17.26.10Growing up, I often remember my parents saying: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times . . .” before reiterating some life lesson. Well, New Orleans might as well just come out and say, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, you can’t plan things in this city, you just have to let the magic come to you.”

And Friday had been a magical day with Camellia Grill being an experience my 13-year-old guest will long remember, later followed by an unexpected to bloodletting to add a little real life fright to our night. The day had been more sublime than I could have hoped to engineer, but Saturday I wasn’t leaving things to chance. I had our night at the big Krewe of Boo parade planned out perfectly.

I should have known I was screwed. [Read more…]

Halloween Weekend In New Orleans, Part 1: New Eyes & Old Fears


2013-10-26 22.16.12

A Nightmare on Magazine Street

Halloween has long been my favorite holiday, challenged only when I first came to New Orleans just prior to the turn of the millennium to become a Mardi Gras maniac. Christmas is the sentimental standard-bearer in most of American culture, but I’ve always said that Christmas is for kids, whereas Halloween is for adults to act like kids. Since I don’t have children to help keep my Christmas spirit alive, Halloween wins in a landslide. Still, as I wrote in my last post about the Audubon Aquarium, as much as I nurture my inner child and fight becoming curmudgeon, it’s difficult not to lose some to the wonder of the seasonal celebrations that hold so much meaning in my life. Perhaps that’s why I hold on so fiercely, afraid that if I lose my attachment to that seasonal rhythm that I’ll fade into yet another uninspired drone drifting towards death.

This year in particular, though, is my chance to rekindle the wonder since New Orleans is not only Mardi Gras central but a top worldwide Halloween destination with a history steeped in voodoo and haunts. The weekend before Halloween is as big as the holiday itself, and I had the chance to not only see the holiday but the city itself anew through the eyes of a child . . . err, teenage; after all, what can be more frightening than [Read more…]

My Krewe Debut: Mor-pheus Fun, Less Drama


All Hail The King! (And Happy Birthday!!!)

All Hail The King!
(And Happy Birthday!!!)

After months of searching, querying, and inquiring like Desperately Seeking Krewes-man, Friday night I finally met members of my new home in Krewe of Morpheus. In addition to the monthly meetings that started in August, Morpheus holds two majors social event: The Captain’s Crawl in the French Quarter every spring and this night of booze, buffet, and bowling at Rock-n-Bowl.

The event was scheduled from 7:00-9:30 and I arrived at a quarter after, somehow missing this landmark near my home that I’ve passed a hundred times. Paul Leman, the Morpheus president (I wonder if he has brothers in banking?!), was taking names at the door as I arrived. He asked what float I was on and I shrugged. “Kim . . . something.” I then added that I’d been emailing with Connie Hibben, the membership director who recently gave me the green light to use names, and explained how I joined to blog my experience. He introduced himself and pointed out the lanes reserved for the Krewe and our buffet table, promising to come over and make introductions once he was settled.


The Krewe Congregates

The Krewe Congregates

I spent a few minutes weaving through groups gathered to bowl or just chat, but was a little reticent about making an approach. “Hello, I’m Eric and I just joined out of the blue not knowing a dang soul!” I might as well tattoo NEWBIE on my forehead. I did attempt a few stunted introductions before realizing my admission covered beer and wine, so I fled to the bar and then started mowing through shrimp crostini, mini-pizza’s, chicken wings, and jambalaya. Once again, New Orleans 1, Restraint & Healthy Eating 0!

Fortunately Paul soon wandered over and introduced me to the Krewe Captain, John Beninate who is so Mardi Gras that if he were in an accident, EMTs would have to hang three different blood bags: purple, green, and gold.

John & Judy

John & Judy

John reminded me of [Read more…]

From Sudden Super Heroes to Ubiquitous Saints & Bearded Legends: Weirdness & Wonder in New Orleans


2013-10-05 17.00.30It’s been a busy three weeks since my birthday though not much of this wonder and weirdness has coalesced into blog posts. Tonight, though, I finally met my Morpheus mates at Rock-n-Bowl and I’m excited for the true kick off to My Year of Mardi Gras (though that’s how I felt about the Chewbacchus kickoff that turned out to be somewhat of a dud). In between turning 20 for the third time and tonight’s Mardi Gras meet-up, I did have a weekend that seemed to encompass all the wonder and weirdness that makes New Orleans such a unique city all in one compact weekend. In fact, if this sensuous city had a an alter ego, it’s be Wonder & Weirdness Woman.


It’s always more natural to shirk productivity and explore your own town when you have a visitor. This was the case the weekend before last when my college friend Mike drove in from Pensacola. We have roots deeper than a bayou Cypress so when he apologized about our miscommunication during my pre-birthday stop in Pensacola I just laughed it off. It was just a catalyst for an unanticipated adventure, and I’ll always associate that all night drive to an obscured beach sunrise with this landmark birthday.

camelliagrill3Mike arrived too late Friday night for two old farts to head out, so we stayed up late chatting.  Saturday, after a late start and amazing breakfast at the famous Camellia Grill, one of the best ‘greasy spoons’ in the nation where the fast talking waiters are as much a draw as the canoe-sized omelets, we set off on a frantic mission. My writer and LSU professor friend Chris had for years shared pictures of the annual Super Hero Bar Crawl that one of his best friends hosts on his birthday, and now that I’m in town had sent me an evite which I managed to not read until Thursday night. A Super Hero Bar Crawl is [Read more…]