Thursday, March 30, 2006

What a Mood, Laid Bare For You

You know you love a city when you are hearing love song lyrics meant to be from a man to a woman and you are thinking about your city. by city I mean people, structures, neighborhood vibes, everything.

I am going to lay myself out as perhaps too cheesy, but here you have a moment of my internal landscape and dialogue, illuminated by sound, smell, memory, sorrow and futility. If you now what I'm talking about, give me a sign.

I was on the corner of Simon Bolivar and Washington, in my car at a stop light. The windows were down and the temperature was a bit too warm with a breeze that cancelled out the edge. I smelled fried oysters and saw no place from where the smell wafted from and gave it up to the breeze.

My impulse was to take a picture, but I didn't see the frame, just signs stuck into the narrow, unmowed neutral ground. No one was around except a few teen-aged girls fake-tousling in a parking lot. But this song was playing and I was feeling overwrought for this city and nostalgic for a corner that used to teem with people out and about. Music blaring. Yelling. Baby noise. Moma noise. Hollas and holla backs.

This ever happened to you? A confluence of imagery, smells and music that create a mood beyond the actual environment. It's different from nostalgia because it talks about today and powerlessness, too. To me, and maybe this is trauma, this city is alive like a human. Maybe that's what drew me here to stay. This is not a ghost town, but it isn't a proper town right now, either. It's stagnant and it could rot or be glorious but why are we so stuck?

Friday, March 24, 2006

About That Last House

A reliable source says that beginning March 15, that house was slowly disassembled by it's owner rafter by rafter. The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans is trying to find a way to save it before it collapses. This isn't the first time a house has been exposed to the elements for a natural, therefore legal demolition; the house mentioned below also met it's fate due to natural demolition. People cannot simply demolish historic properties, these buildings can be rehabilitated and brought back an original beauty that contributes to the architectural character of this city.

Another agency that is trying to save houses in Central City (which they are trying to rename Lower St. Charles Corridor) is Felicity Street Redevelopment Center. We bought our house from them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another One Lost

This house is located on Baronne street, close to Felecity street. This house didn't look like this about two weeks ago. The roof and back walls have disappeared since then. How many families could this one hold? Baronne street is two blocks from St. Charles, the main parade route for Mardi Gras and grand thoroughfare for New Orleans. It did not flood; it's in the historic footprint of the city.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Central City, MLK and Claiborne

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My House is Fixed!

When we moved to New Orleans from Brooklyn, my partner and I decided that we would never leave. We were married in a beautiful Treme house garden a year later. Shortly thereafter, we began to look into buying a home. Having been obsessed with houses since I can remember (I was going to be an architect from the age of ? on and would draw up house plans in my spare time -which I still do), I fell in love with the architecture of New Orleans and would drive around every neighborhood in the city, staring at derelict homes waiting to be rescued and dreaming the potential.
My husband was hesitant, to say the least. He was looking for more of a small-job-fixer-upper. So when I came to him with this house, he was, well, not enthused:

Picture by Felicity Street Redevelopment

There was a large hole in it, there was no bottom floor (just dirt and sills), no plumbing, no electricity...on the bright side, some walls were framed up upstairs. Despite all this, I managed to convince him of my vision and we set to work on the huge project. It's amazing how many decisions have to be made, from what kind of door knobs to use to where to place every light fixture. We had to go to Baton Rouge to find doors that fit the proportions of the house, etc. The worst was when we had to move in before there was electricity and water and the dogs were constantly grayed by sheetrock dust, which was everywhere. But that time soon passed.

In the end, we had a beautiful home that matched our needs perfectly. The only way we could have ever lived in such a beautiful house was to resurrect one from the near dead:

Picture by Felicity Street Redevelopment

We are situated on the alluvial plane, as I insisted that we buy a house ten feet above sea level. Having just read Rising Tide, I wasn't feeling trust. Unfortunately, the winds ripped our roof right off and all the ceilings caved in. The entire uptown side of the house had to be gutted due to water damage. The good news is that my studio was the only room that did not cave in...all my artwork, the bass and the amp that my friend had moved into the room (out of his house in the Bywater) for protection survived untouched.

We knew early on that the roof had peeled off due to the satellite images that we could access via internet from an Oxford, MS cafe. Billy and a friend, Wallace, snuck back into the city immediately in order to secure our houses from further water damage (luckily for the city of New Orleans -not so for other states, there was a drought during many of the evacuation months, thereby saving many houses from even further water damage). He wrote a story about it for a periodical. Read it here: Carondelet Street or Bust.

Well, it has been over six months, and we finally have our house back and in full working order, so we have something to celebrate! The last hole in the ceiling was fixed last week and the last coat of paint went on Friday.

We are very lucky. Even though it was like going back to square one, renovating the house, living in it unfinished, it was nothing compared to what Slimbo and his family are going through, who received three feet of water and whose home is in the proposed green space for New Orleans. Nagin said yesterday, "rebuild at your own risk"* to those in New Orleans East and The Lower Ninth Ward. It's been half a year and we still have to sit with our hands tied while leaders running for re-election cover their bottoms. Thank you, thank you. Feeling bitter for my neighbors.

Further, and my last harp, here on the alluvial plane, there are falling down, gorgeous houses and empty lots galore. A block away, two days ago, a house just crumbled in on itself. This leads me to my new series for the week: Houses that could've been (fallen since the storm), lots that stand empty and houses that are in danger of falling any second as people are scratching their heads wondering where to put people in the "new footprint".

The first in the series:

It was a beautiful two story blue house before the storm. Could have housed at least two families.

* "But even as refused to deny any neighborhood the right to rebuild, Nagin warned residents of the Lower 9th Ward and "the lowest-lying areas of New Orleans East" that the Army Corps of Engineers has told him those areas are likely to flood once again if a Katrina-style hurricane hits New Orleans this year or in 2007."

* part 2, from CNN
Earlier in the day, he told "The Times-Picayune," that he wasn't going to sugarcoat it. He warned that residents should are have no illusions. Struggling neighborhoods should not expect police patrols, functioning sewers, or even weekly garbage collection.

CNN's Susan Roesgen was there tonight. She's watching the developing story.

Susan, "The Times-Picayune" headline today was, "Rebuild but at Your Own Risk." Was that the mayor's message as well tonight?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, the message still was rebuild at your own risk, but he didn't talk about some of the other things that the paper had said he was going to talk about tonight.

In fact, he presented a really rosy view of the future of the city of New Orleans -- a smarter, safer, stronger city. This new blueprint, he says, calls for residents to be able to rebuild wherever they want, but the plan comes with a warning.


RAY NAGIN, MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: The Army Corps of Engineers has warned me that some of our most -- our lowest-lying areas of New Orleans East and in the lower Ninth Ward, will have some flooding from levees overtopping if another hurricane travels along the same path as Katrina. Even with the restoration of higher, better fortified levees.

Monday, March 20, 2006

They Be Home in a Hour

Central City

On Sunday, the Mardi Gras Indians came out in a vigil for New Orleans, calling people back with their drums. The neighborhoods are still empty and houses are falling down left and right.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

St. Patricks Day Parade 2006, New Orleans

Never really went out for the parade before. I am

Saturday, March 11, 2006

No More Coliseum Theater

The Coliseum Theater, in the Lower Garden District, burned down recently.

This is the only photo I have, taken by Billy Sothern.

I guess I was hoping that they would fix it up again, as they always have -over and over again, as trucks occasionally backed into the sign or wind damaged it. The whole facade was ripped off during the storm, and they fixed it again.

But, as I was driving home down Prytania yesterday, I found this:

I don't know how, but I can still be shocked at the destruction of a building, even after being surrounded by the ravaged or destroyed architecture of the city for months and months. Even after all the trash piles, this is so depressing.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Chuc Mung Sinh Nhat!*


In the languages of our city (those that I can think of early in the morning)

Cumpleaños feliz,
Te deseamos a tí,
Y que cumplas muchos años,
Muchos años feliz.

French (Cajun):
Joyeux anniversaire,
Joyeux anniversaire,
Joyeux anniversaire David O,
Joyeux anniversaire!

La-breithe mhaith agat! or Co` latha breith sona dhut! or Breithla Shona Dhuit!

Efticharismena Gennethlia!

and of course, Vietnamese:
Chuc Mung Sinh Nhat!

Punky Brewster:
Happy B-Day!

*forgot to add that I only speak three of the languages above. Those being a wee little Spanish, a bit more Freanch and a whole lot of Punky. The rest was researched.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

About Those Teddy Bears

Awhile back, I talked about all
the stuffed animals that were and
are strewn about our city.

Just a little something related:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fairy Goth Moth

gouache and cut paper. 2005
Growing up to be someone's Fairy Goth Mother.

Insect: The Bird Moth Species

So I was outside, trying to photograph these Bird Moths I made, but it is really breezy today and they kept flying off. Amazingly, they really glide! Especially the Blue Tip.

Flock of Moths

Owl Moth

Blue Tip Moth

Tiger Moth

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Farm Week!

There has been a bit of back and forth of farm stories between Nola Nikland and Slimbolala Land. It all started with a post on Slimbo involving hacking a snake to bits. Then it moved on to a story of a boy and a nasty rooster. Today, we hear of the stanky pink dog. I have added two stories of my own to keep the ball rolling.

Helen and Scags, Two Poor and Unfortunate Chicken Souls

When I was little, I had never seen a real chicken, and certainly did not connect that alien-looking thing that we ate to what I was introduced to one day when my aunt gave us two chickens, Helen and Scags*.

We kept them in our cellar, where I rollerskated (fat wheels) round and round in circles while the chickens either chased or were chased by me (when you spin in circles, there is no real way of determining the aggressor, really). Helen and Scags were part of the family -you know, pets.

One day, Dad grabbed them and brought them out to where he chopped wood. Well, you know what happened next. My first defining experience with chickens went from pet, to headless runner, to dinner with a few feather-sticks stuck in the skin to really distinguish it from the store bought aliens.

It was really weird to see them running around like that and it definitely jumpstarted my metaphysical thought bubbles. That's how I learned that chickens are real AND we eat the suckers, too. I think this early childhood memory was a force behind my ten year stint as a vegan.

*names have been changed to protect the chicken family's privacy

Perfect Jennifer Le Peu*

My cousin grew up on a farm. I hated her for it (jealous, me!), because all she wanted was to be a ballerina and all I wanted was to jump out off the second floor of the barn and into the hay for the rest of my life. It wasn't fair.

I lived on a mountain; I shouldn't complain. I had caves and streams to discover and big foot and wood witches to banish. BUT, there were no horses, cows sheep or anything (except a few chickens -and you heard what happened to those poor creatures). Jen had it all, but all she wanted was fur coats, lipstick and tutus.

Well, we were hanging out playing some game that was designed so that she could order me and my cousin around (she was a whole year older and therefore the boss of all things; her brother was born twenty days before me). The game involved a whole lot of watching her do cartwheels and pirouettes.

It was all quite boring until she merrily cartwheeled into a cow flap, face first. Yep. She ate shit and I learned that braggarts get their just desserts. Yummy.

*Title borrowed in order to feel closer to Slimbo...heh, heh, hands rub.

Don't Forget New Orleans, Now...

Don't let Mardi Gras fool you, we may have spirit, but we are still a wreck.

We are all rearranged,

our guts are exposed,

and our smiles are altered.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


After ripping through the Saint Anne parade, I ran (and I mean RAN -which means blurry pictures!) along to Basin street to meet up with the Zulu secondline that spun off the parade. Everyone was hanging out, dancing, laughing and making merry. I was reminded of an incident that occured the night we watched the Muses parade under the I-10 bridge. Will, of our evacution host family, approached a tractor driver who was pulling a float. I told him that we should be thankful for drivers as we had a shortage this year. Will chatted him up as the parade sat idle and the first thing the guy said was, "That nigger Nagin said this is a chocolate city -I ain't seen nothin' but white faces all the way down here." Strangely, we were the only white faces there under the bridge....which Will pointed out to the man before backing off from him in dismay.

As I trotted along the Zulu secondline route, I thought that though it is true that along the uptown route faces are very white, as you head further downtown into different neighborhoods, you hit a mix and patches of people from other cultures who are standing in places they have chosen to stand at for years.

On Mardi Gras day, there are different places to stand for people with differnet interests. If you love huge, over the top floats and throws, you go to Rex. If you love costumes (me!) you head over to Saint Anne. If you want to catch the Zulu parade -one that was created as a response to the exclusive Krewes of Carnivale, then you head over to another part of town. But there are plenty of folks who grab bikes, park and dart between all the events, as I do -or maybe mean to do, but get caught up in one event and find themselves swept away in (like my friend Hilary, who stayed with Zulu and the Indians all day, having meant to go to Saint Anne, too).

The culture of New Orleans is rich, full of haters, yes, but the cultures rise above such sentiments in displays of beauty you won't ever find in one place, anywhere, on one day.

That's why I want to die here. Spread my ashes in this city of mine, Where les fleurs du mal do and will always rise.

"In 1912 a group of women, said by some to be prostitutes from uptown began to wear Satin dress with big bow on their skirts and dresses as they paraded. They were called the Baby Dolls. Soon other women began to join them. Eventually men began to wear the baby doll style and march with the women!" From (wbgh blog)

Ms. Antoinette K-Doe has resurrected the tradition of the baby dolls. Many were worried that she wouldn't be out this year, but there she is on the left! These are the K-Doe Baby Dolls.

Oh, how lovely:





Winding Down

Tomorrow will be the last of costume week. I will be ending my presentation of Mardi Gras 2006 with a few pictures from the Zulu secondline. But first, a few good snaps:

Yes, that's Anderson Cooper -but what you dont see is the fact that the lil' miss he's talking to is wearing a playboy bunny suit...cottontail and everything. The tongue says it all.

I didn't realize it at the time, but that's John's hat poking out the middle of that group of maggots.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Group Costumes

I love group costumes!!! This was a group of kitties coming through the parade. Everyone obviously put a bunch of time and effort into these costumes. Crafty, crafty.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Friends First



John. He went to Shreveport and his talented grandma sewed him up a FEMA suit. Proper hems and everything.

He made the roof-hat

Denise (Lemieux Gallery) and Steve (Mat-n-Naddies*)

Zack the King Cake Baby

Dedication: 75 degrees and he wore a onesie bodysuit and the baldy skin.

Ana the Shooting Star

Alex McMurray the Canada and his friend...the crab(?)

Brokeback Joren (sp? never seen his name in print)

Brokeback Robby

Pretty Little Sumpin's Kate and Katherine

Mary T

It was great to see all our friends who ame back in from their new places for the party.
Until Jazzfest!

Bill and Nik A
Photo by Sarah Roahen

Bill and I, as usual, waited until the last minute to make our costumes. I was supposed to be a litter bug but only got as far as making the dress and saran wrap wings with a few bugs stuck in them. Billy was a Hazmat-Fez-70s-Tennis-Shorts-Wearing-Super-Hero:

Billy and Nikki B
photo by Dickie Bourke

*Denise and Steve were our across the street neighbors when we lived in the Treme. Matt & Naddie's catered our wedding. Sadly, a huge tree smushed the restaurant during Katrina.

Matt & Naddie's

Menu made by Hilary Howell