Choice quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Gilles Deleuze:

Overlooking many important nuances, we can say that Deleuze’s basic notion is that in all realms of being intensive morphogenetic processes follow differential virtual multiplicities to produce localized and individuated actual substances with extensive properties. Simply put, the actualization of the virtual proceeds by way of intensive processes.

Say what?

Every now and then I like to read something that’s completely over my head. I used to view such material as evidence of my limited capacity for abstract thought. However, I’ve come to suspect that it’s an effect of jargon — highly specialized technical language. Since I have little schooling in philosophy, I don’t know the jargon, and therefore I can’t follow the argument. Thus my pride of intellect is restored.

Or maybe I’m just deleuzional.

Paws in Water

It’s not often that I see a cat with its paws in the water.


Paws in Water

Maybe it thinks it’s a raccoon?

My boss commented that strays must be desperate for water. The huge downpour last night ended a long dry spell, but I took these pix yesterday morning, well before it rained. This is not a bayou — it’s a large street puddle. How could there be a large street puddle in the midst of a dry spell? I’m not certain, but I imagine it has something to do with our raggedy infrastructure. There’s probably a leaky main under this street.
Continue reading Paws in Water

Become a Greenway Ambassador

Oops, time is getting away from me, but good things are happening. I also posted this on the FOLC site, but frankly my blog gets more traffic. See, we’re planning to do this year’s hike of the Lafitte Corridor in small groups instead of one monolithic horde. To pull that off we need a critical mass of “ambassadors.” So, if you’re local, I hope you’ll consider signing up for this.

Do you care about the Lafitte Corridor?
Become a Greenway Ambassador!

What does a Greenway Ambassador do?

  • Learn about the history of and future plans for the Lafitte Corridor
  • Share this knowledge with the community, including at the Hike on April 16
  • Help keep your community engaged with the greenway project

What’s in it for you?

  • Free Greenway Ambassador t-shirt
  • Learn local history while helping make history as we prepare for the Greenway
  • Meeting neighbors who are as supportive of the Greenway as you are!

Becoming a Greenway Ambassador includes a training on Saturday, April 2 at 10:00 a.m.


If you have any questions, please email Maggie Tishman at mtishman |at| ccano |dot| org.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested. I’ll be posting more about the hike itself soon.

Rites of Spring

dandelion roots 4

Another advantage of sickness — it can be a good excuse to go on a sobriety binge. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m sick my desire to drink alcohol and caffeine diminishes severely. I don’t want anything to make my recovery longer.

Actually, let me make a liar of myself. In the first week of this bronchitis, I continued to enjoy a little coffee in the mornings, maybe a quarter-glass of wine at dinner, and a hot toddy (with a shot of Wild Turkey 101) before bed.

But in the second week I tapered off completely, and now I am stone cold sober and decaffeinated as well.

Cold turkey is fine for Wild Turkey, but for caffeine the gradual approach is best. I should know. This has become something of an annual ritual for me. This is my eight coffee reduction in almost as many years.

Usually I wait ’til May for the coffee reduction, but this year I had the bronchitis as an excuse, and it occurred to me that this could be a sort of purification ritual in preparation for the vernal equinox. That seemed somehow appropriate to the spirit of the season. I often get into the spirit of Lent by giving up alcohol, so why not caffeine at the same time?

Just to be clear, for me it’s not an act of penance. It’s about feeling good. I enjoy coffee and other adult beverages, but I also enjoy laying off for a while.

In fact, all notions of penance aside, I wonder if the common practice of abstinence at this time of year doesn’t resonate in part because of some spirit inherent in the season itself, something about the character of spring.

As I write this I’m drinking a cup of roasted dandelion root tea. It’s supposed to promote healthy liver function, but mainly I bought it just because I like herbal teas that taste sort of (for lack of a better word) medicinal. I drank a lot of elderflower and licorice root tea when I was sick, but now I was ready for something different, and the dandelion root caught my eye at the grocery. The liver detox claim is an added bonus.

My boss is also off booze for Lent, so I offered her a bag of the tea. She tried it and absolutely hated it. Couldn’t finish it. I have to admit it is plenty bitter. It’s also plenty dark. As I was drinking this cup I forgot myself for a moment and thought I was drinking coffee. Then it dawned on me — that’s probably why my boss and I reacted so differently. She’s not a coffee drinker. I on the other hand have learned to love the bitter taste.

As I went looking for a photos of dandelion root, I was astonished to stumble across this recipe for dandelion root coffee, made with equal parts roasted dandelion root and roasted chicory, and a little cinnamon. I’m going to have to try that if I can only find the ingredients.

But what really gets me is when Elana, publisher of said recipe, notes:

Dandelion is a fantastic liver cleanser and spring is the perfect season for liver support.

Which bears out my previous ruminations. Maybe there’s something to the idea of spring as a season of purification.

I’m enjoying this hot bitter drink now, but cold bitter drinks are especially refreshing when the weather heats up — which it will soon. Last year our Beltane party confirmed my love of amaro. Might have to do that again.

Dandelion Roots 4 / oceandesetoiles / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Good Things About Being Sick

I started this list on August 25, 2005, just a few days before we evacuated in advance of Katrina. I’ve added to it slowly over the years and finally I have seven items, enough for a respectable list. The reason it took me so long is because, as we all know, being sick sucks. But I always like to look on the bright side. So, here are my “Good Things About Being Sick.”

  1. Staying home from work.
  2. Catching up on some reading.
  3. Not having to get dressed.
  4. Sleeping.
  5. Cold medicine.
  6. Fever dreams.
  7. Enjoying your great job benefits.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Those first and last items in particular give me pause to consider how harsh sickness can be depending on your employment situation. A friend who was over at our house the other day had a cough. I noticed it and asked about it. turns out he’s got bronchitis just like me. Only instead of taking time off and resting, he’s working six days a week. “Doesn’t that make it hard to rest up and get healthy?” It sure does. In fact, it seems pretty certain the atmosphere machine shop is what’s making him sick. He comes down with the same symptoms every year. Now Xy seems to be coming down with it, and when I suggested she take some sick leave she scoffed.

Persephone seems to have picked up the cough again. Pretty sure I got it from her in the first place. As for me I’m almost better. Hope I can seal the deal and get all the way well. It would really suck for all three of to be sick at the same time.

Thirty-Seven Months

Bunny Egg

Dear Persephone,

Thanks for sharing a wonderful Equinox with us yesterday. We decorated eggs and had an egg hunt and watered your tree (which we planted on the last vernal equinox) and went on a nature walk and you even put on some bunny ears (sent in the mail by your grandmother) and hopped around the house saying “boing boing boing” later in the day.

You have long passed the point where I can chronicle all your developments. Nevertheless I will try give little snapshots when I can. And so I present the incident of the grapes and the bowl. This happened a week or two ago.

One day after dinner you were promised some grapes for dessert. You were pretty excited and you covered your eyes in anticipation so you could be surprised when Mama served them. When you opened your eyes you were surprised all right: The grapes were in a bowl. Apparently you’d expected them on a plate. You began to cry and protest. You pleaded to have the grapes on a plate. Of course we could have put the grapes on a plate for you, but you have many capricious whims, and I often feel we are too indulgent already. It seemed to me that there was a learning opportunity here. We explained that grapes are round like balls, and they would roll right off a plate and fall on the floor. You weren’t having it. You were ready to throw the grapes down anyway. I put the bowl out of your reach, and I told you could have the grapes in a bowl, or not have them at all. Still you cried and cried. You clearly wanted the grapes. But that bowl was highly problematic.

After listening to you cry for a while, I finally got out a plate and put it on the table next to the bowl. I plucked a grape from the bowl and put it on the plate. I encouraged you to eat it, which you did, though still quite tearfully. Then I told you to take a grape from the bowl and put it on the plate yourself. You did, and then you ate that grape. Next I told you to get another grape from the bowl and simply touch it to the plate before popping it into your mouth. Your tears were beginning to subside now. The fourth grape went directly from the bowl to your mouth. See how they taste just as good whether from a plate or a bowl? You ate all the grapes in the bowl, followed by a couple more bowls full. On the next night you asked for your grapes in a bowl.

So now at least you know how to serve grapes properly. But did you learn anything about being flexible? It remains to be seen. But we’ve reviewed the incident together. “Do you remember when you wanted the grapes on a plate?” I hope that helps to seal the deal, helps you generalize the lesson. In any case, I thought this story kind of encapsulates where you’re at, and how we relate.

Quake, Flood, Radiation, Moon


It really pains me to write it, but this situation in Japan seems horribly familiar. It’s like the Japanese people are getting hit with a combination of Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans and the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster — all at the same time, and quite clearly worse.

I don’t see a lot of television news these days, and so I’ve only glimpsed a few seconds of video, but that’s been more than enough to horrify and upset me and evoke the inevitable memories. Mostly I read news articles in the paper and online, which are just as alarming though not so visceral. I have had to explain some of the photographs to my three-year-old daughter. Why is that woman crying? What happened to her house. What’s an orthcake? She can now find Japan on the world map that serves as her place mat.

It seems clear this catastrophe will eclipse Katrina in the zeitgeist, so our stint as poster children for catastrophe and recovery may finally be at an end.

I don’t have anything new or profound to say, except to express my profound sadness and compassion, not only for the people of Japan but for the land itself, and the sea, and all the living creatures there.

As for the photo above, it was taken about an hour ago in Japan by a guy named Akira Kawamura. I assume he took this as the moon was at or near perigee, which is coinciding closely with the full moon for the first time in 18 years, creating a much bigger and brighter moon than we normally see — the biggest and brightest we’ll see for a long time.

I was reading about this last night and wondering where that moment would be visible. Turns out, I guess, to be Japan. The moon won’t rise here for several hours, but stumbling upon Akira’s photo reminds me that we’ll be gazing on the same moon here in North America as they are seeing in Japan. It reminds me of the interconnectedness we all share on this huge small planet.

Also, I can’t help but notice it kind of looks like the Japanese flag. It is also the Land of the Rising Moon. And so I hope this rare celestial event might provide a moment of respite and beauty for the people there. I hope the bright rays of this moon now shining on Japan might symbolize a bright future. Though I fear it will be a long hard journey.

Of course this would not be complete without a fundraising link. Doctors Without Borders is a well established and reputable group that does good work. You can donate as part of a collective pagan fundraising effort.

Super Moon / Akira Kawamura / CC BY-SA 2.0

Third Chimpanzee

What with all the bedrest I’ve been catching up on my reading.

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human AnimalThe Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first became aware of Jared Diamond while having lunch in Tampere in the summer of 2001. I was there in Finland for a conference, and one of my lunch companions was raving about Guns, Germs, and Steel. A quick glance at other reviews indicates that’s his most revered book; it seems to be an expansion of a single chapter in The Third Chimpanzee. Indeed many if not all of his subsequent books seem to expand on themes he first addressed here. That says a lot about the scope and ambition of Third Chimpanzee.

I was drawn to this book because of its focus on human origins. This is a subject about which I knew little, and I learned plenty here, which was gratifying. But I was surprised by how much more I found here, everything from ruminations on extraterrestrial life to an examination of genocide.

Diamond takes aim at the biggest questions of human existence, and attempts to explicate them with passion and honesty. Occasionally his reach exceeds his grasp, occasionally he doesn’t seem to deliver the goods he promises — but only very occasionally. And honestly, if he’s half-right about half the issues he takes on, it’s still an impressive effort. I found his outlining of the questions at least as valuable as the answers he provides.

Utterly fascinating.

(Thanks to Brother O’Mara for loaning this one to me.)

Profiles in Bloggage, Part 3

In April, I’ll be making a presentation to a special interest group of the AERA titled “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans.” My plan is to tell five separate stories that have emerged in, around, through or about the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. I thought I would share my notes here as I complete them. So this is the third of the five stories. I welcome any feedback.

No Silence

It’s with some trepidation that I now direct my keyboard to the subject of Ashley Morris. In the interconnected web of the local NOLA blogosphere, Ashley is a revered and iconic figure — I almost said “saint,” but that might be going too far. Or maybe not; Loki called him the “NSFW Patron Saint of New Orleans Bloggers.”

Suffice to say, he looms large.

I still remember when my boss first pointed me to Ashley’s blog. “Have you heard of this guy?” But I only met Ashley in the flesh a few times. Once at the Mother-in-Law Lounge he complimented me on my Saints baseball cap. And of course I was there at the first Rising Tide, when Ashley slogged through the rain with lunch for everyone — and somehow no one saved one back for Ashley. Trust me, you did not want to get between Ashley and his fried chicken. Especially chicken from Dunbar’s. Truly a moment to remember.

Unlike the bloggers in my previous two profiles, Ashley began blogging before Katrina. It’s instructive to examine his earliest posts.

His very first from January 3rd, 2005, is aptly entitled “The first rant.” It’s about his favorite football team, the Saints, “getting shafted” by the NFL. His second post is an elegy for the late Warren Zevon, one of his favorite musicians. His third post is an angry rant about HBO’s relationship with The Wire, another one of his favorites. It’s here that Ashley drops his first f-bomb. I’m sure many will be impressed by the fact that he made it through the first two posts without cussing.

In his fourth post he recounts how he hasn’t been blogging as much as he’d planned, because his daughter (six months old) was diagnosed with a possible tumor. He reveals an interesting twist of his family history: “I was raised by my grandparents, and the person I was told was my sister was actually my mother.” He tells how he called up his sister/mother and demanded medical records. “I threatened their lives if they did not send these histories. I truly meant it.”

And so a portrait of the man quickly emerges. Unlike Karen Gadbois or Ashe Dambala, Ashley Morris began (and ended) in the classic, personal, confessional mode which I believe to be the most popular style of blogging. (To clarify, it’s the most popular style in terms of what gets written, not in terms of what gets read.) He wrote with his heart on his keyboard and his name right at the top. I mean, the actual title of the blog? Ashley Morris. The web address is It’s not difficult to figure out who this guy is, where he’s coming from, what he cares about, or the particulars of his life. He spells it all out for you, with gusto.

His fifth post is an ode to New Orleans, and to being a Southerner.

And there you have it. He expounded on other matters, but he basically defined the scope of his blogging activities and his online persona at the outset, well before the flooding of New Orleans.

His eighth post came after a six month hiatus, in November of 2005, and it remains his most famous and quintessential utterance to date. I’m speaking, of course, of the immortal “Fuck you, you fucking fucks.” I tried to grab an excerpt, but it’s really not possible. It’s unexcerptable. You really have to read the whole thing. This outpouring of rage and frustration struck a huge chord. It was probably not the first expression of a post-Katrina NOLA-centric patriot fighting spirit, but it was certainly one of the most strident and heartfelt.

In his ninth post he describes how he ended up buying his home in New Orleans after Katrina.

I drove down to eat at K-Paul’s. I told Chef Paul that I was supposed to close on September 6. He said, “I bet you’re glad you didn’t.” I said “Are you kidding, I’m closing tomorrow.”

He started laughing and said “New Orleans needs more people like you.”

He closed the deal November 4.

I could go on, but the point is that, unlike the previous two stories in this series, Ashley didn’t build his rep on investigative journalism. Sure, he did some; for example, he looked into the Musicians Village pretty thoroughly. But that’s not what made Ashley great. Rather it’s the fact that he wrote, and wrote, and wrote, about his real-life experiences on the ground in and around and about New Orleans. In other words, he was engaged in the same chore as many others (such as yours truly). But Ashley wrote with such overwhelming passion that he ultimately accomplished, with greater frequency, what many of us can manage only on occasion: Namely, he got his point across.

As Greg Peters said,

Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion.

(I’m sure this quote is lurking somewhere on Greg’s blog but I’ll be damned if I can find it.)

Unfortunately many of the accolades for Ashley came posthumously. There’s a whole raft of tributes collected at First Draft. It’s an unfortunate truism that we don’t generally recognize our “saints” as such until they are gone.

Because, of course, Ashley is no longer with us. About the circumstances of his death in 2008 I know little, except that he was way too young. He left three young children and a wife behind him.

Ashley has been memorialized and remembered in many different ways here in his adopted home, from t-shirts to websites. Most notable, perhaps, is the creation of the Ashley Morris Award, given annually at the Rising Tide conference. Ashley himself was the first (posthumous) recipient; the subjects of my previous two profiles have also been so honored.

Here’s a photo I took of the most recent recipient, Clifton Harris, accepting the award.


But Ashley’s been recognized far beyond the local blogosphere, most notably in the first season of HBO’s Treme. The character of Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman, was based in part on Ashley Morris. There is a fascinating interview with Ashley’s widow Hana on TV Squad that gets into some of the details of this.

I can’t imagine what he would do if he could see this (laughs), but one of the big reasons I’m happy this is happening, he died when my kids were really little. My son was just barely 2 years old. He really does not have much of a concept of what having a dad means, and he does not remember him at all. It will be really nice when they grow up one day and I can show them the show and tell them this is what it was like after the storm and this is what your dad was saying and this is kind of how he was.

In Treme, Bernette is not a blogger, exactly. Instead, he posts videos on YouTube. Videos are more conducive the televisual medium than blogging. After all, the act of blogging is nothing more than the act of writing, sitting at a keyboard and typing — not too interesting to watch. YouTube launched in early 2005, and was just hitting big at the time of Katrina, so it’s a plausible substitution.

Personally I found the portrayal a fitting homage to the man. Given the fact that Ashley was a hugely vocal fan of David Simon’s work, I could only think he would have been pleased.

Ultimately Hana seemed to agree:

So I am watching the interview with David Simon about Treme. And watching the bit with John Goodman. Listening to him saying Ashley’s words.

And all I can think of is How fucked up this is. Thinking how much insecure Ash was, how he thought nobody took him seriously. Always doubting himself. Always trying to be better, smarter, more informed. Always thinking that his work does not really mean much to anybody.

And now he is a character in a movie! Movie by David Simon whom he admired tremendously.
Now the whole US will finally hear him. They will hear what he was saying 4 years ago. His work will finally have a meaning. To hundreds, maybe thousands.

And how fucked up is it that this happened after his death. I don’t know what he would do if he saw this. Being portrait by John Goodman. Him, a poor boy from Pensacola. A son of a used-cars salesman. I wonder if he would finally believe that he meant a lot to a lot of people. That he changed this world without knowing it.

But regardless of the amplifications of Treme, Ashley’s work would still have meaning, would still be remembered and revered by those many whose lives he touched. The reason I list Ashley as one of the top stories to emerge from the post-K NOLA blogosphere is that he showed how a person can make an indelible impression in a community through sheer force of passion.

By pouring his heart out into this medium he did what many of us are still trying to do every day. I count myself in that number. Ashley remains an inspiration to us all.

I believe the Ashley Morris Fund is still accepting donations.

Photo credit: “No Silence” by Alexis Stahl, copyright 2007. Used by permission.

Strictly Narcissistic

Strictly for archival purposes: Here’s a snapshot of how my blog looks on the morning of March 14, 2010. This is the main page, showing the twenty (I think) most recent posts.


Of course, this is an absurdly tall and skinny image, 762 pixels wide by 22,721 pixels tall. If you want to see any detail you’ll have to look at the full size.

Footnote: The last time I posted a tall ‘n’ skinny pic was in celebration of hitting 666 friends on Facebook. Today’s post just so happens to be ID #6666. Spooky eh what?

Midnight Robber

Midnight RobberMidnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like science fiction. I like Caribbean cultures. But I’ve never looked for the intersection of the two. Actually, now I think about it, I have encountered lots of science fictional themes in reggae lyrics. But certainly I never thought to look for a science fiction novel written from a Caribbean perspective.

So that was the first thing I liked about Midnight Robber. It begins on the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint during Carnival. We read this for my book club here in New Orleans just as our own Carnival season was coming to a climax — so I was immediately hooked by the setting and the voice.

The entire novel is written in what I guess might be described as creolized English. It was certainly easy for me to understand once I got the hang of it, so I’m guessing it’s a blend of English and perhaps several true creole languages. (As an aside, I love it when two books I’m reading at the same time illuminate each another in unexpected ways, and that happened here when I got to Jared Diamond‘s section on pidgins and creoles in The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal — which also helped me understand why so many people in New Orleans ask questions like, “What that is?” That’s creole word order.) In any event, the “patwa” definitely gave the book a unique flavor that I enjoyed hugely. In my mind I kept hearing the voice of my favorite Dominican poet, Billy Jno Hope.

But as I read on I discovered a lot more than that initial hook to keep me interested and involved. The father-daughter relationship which is a key element of this story resonated with me, but I did not anticipate the direction it would ultimately take. To say more would be to risk spoiling, so I’ll shut up. The daughter emerges as the protagonist in the story. It’s a coming-of-age tale. I’ve read plenty of those from the male perspective, so it’s refreshing to get one from the female side.

Indeed, the perspective of this book is profoundly and vitally female. I would not hesitate to call it feminist, except that label might scare away people who have certain preconceived notions about the f-word. Forget all that. This is first and foremost a book about being human. But it’s hard to imagine it being written by anyone other than a woman of color. I suppose comparisons to Octavia Butler are inevitable, not just because of the identity of the author but also because of the themes addressed. I was also reminded of Marge Piercy‘s far more strident Woman on the Edge of Time.

I found the whole story deeply involving and stimulating to my imagination. Did I fail to mention this is unapologetic science fiction as well? In addition high technology we also have alien creatures. Blending these elements with Afro-Caribbean folklore is a powerful combination that really worked for me.

I’d knock off half a star for the ending which felt a trifle rushed and a little too “easy” for me. But endings are hard and I can’t begrudge the last few pages when the rest of the book is so accomplished.

Mardi Maigre

Or would that be Mardi Mince?

I never completely recovered from the cold I caught in late January. I only missed one day of work, and I felt well enough that my general routine was not disrupted, but I could not quite kick that last stage. I kept coughing up little bits of phlegm, but it seemed pretty minor.

Last Friday morning, I felt a little hoarse and a little off my game. I thought it was just the aftereffects of Thursday night’s parade-going, but come Saturday I could tell something was happening in my chest. I was coughing quite a bit, and the coughs were getting more productive.

That didn’t stop me from riding way way uptown Sunday morning to take Persephone to see some more parades: Okeanos, Mid-City and Thoth. But on Lundi Gras I played it cool and stayed home while Xy took the girl out for a day of fun and more parades. I whipped up a big batch of white beans and brown rice. I drank lots of tea. I still held out hope that I might recover before the big day.

But when I woke up Mardi Gras morning, I was feeling worse than ever. Damn, I thought, we’ll just have to stay home today. But once I had a little breakfast I started feeling better. Meanwhile Xy was dealing with her own issues (don’t ask) and so it looked like maybe Persephone and I would head out by ourselves. Actually we got on the bike and made it one block before we decided to come back. We demanded Xy get ready and come with us.

So we all three rode our bikes down Esplanade to the Marigny/French Quarter, and we spent maybe an hour at the most just wandering about in the vicinity of the R Bar, gawking at the many spectacular costumes. My favorite had to be the Voyeurinal. Alas, I have no photo; I was going to snap a picture when Xy ran into a long-lost co-worker and the moment of opportunity passed. So just let your imagination run wild on the Voyeurinal.

Oh wait, I see that Wendy got a photo.


And speaking of photos, here’s the proof we actually did make it out of the house.

Royal Ghost Family

We reprised our ghost royalty costumes. If we’d been feeling better, if we’d really done it up, we would have taken a wagon and featured our original Brewster watercolor, which would have added a whole ‘nother dimension. But alas it was not to be.

Persephone was plenty tired, and neither Xy nor I were in top form, and it seemed like it might rain, so we decided to head back before the Societé de Sainte Anne arrived. Didn’t even have a drop of alcohol! That has to be a first for me.

So yeah, it kinda sucks to curtail the fun on the most transcendentally festive day of the year. But it’s far far better to get a little flavor than none at all. When we got back home, my situation deteriorated rapidly. It was almost as if my body had been holding out for me as long as it could. I’m pretty sure I’ve got bronchitis. If it’s viral (as most bronchitis is) the main treatment is bedrest. Oops. Not exactly consonant with an eight-mile roundtrip bike ride.

So I spent Ash Wednesday in bed, and I’m trying to do the same today.

I can’t help but note that this was my twelfth Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I also was somewhat under the weather for my first Mardi Gras back in 2000. Our cat Bilal died on Mardi Gras 2002. We missed Mardi Gras in 2004 out of sheer lethargy, and also in 2008 because of a sprained ankle and advanced pregnancy. Mardi Gras 2009 was compromised when Persephone came down with a fever. Not a great batting average so far.

Next year the pressure will really be on, because Mardi Gras falls on a certain someone’s fourth birthday. I welcome any and all suggestions on how best to celebrate.

Happy Mardi Gras

I imagine anyone reading this post today will be from outside New Orleans. Here it’s Mardi Gras, and people have other things to do. So for all those people in the rest of America, where it’s just another Tuesday, I offer the following mix for your amusement.

My boss challenged me to whip up an “unlikely” Carnival mix, and this is the result. If you listen all the way through you’ll even hear Persephone wishing you a happy Mardi Gras. That was recorded in 2010 just before her second birthday.

And while I’m tossing out the digital throws, here’s a photo which is the best I snapped this season.


A special shout out to Levees Not War where you’ll see this photo featured. Update: Also featured on

Happy Mardi Gras!

Some Good News

Since I spent so much time bellyaching here about our cashflow problems, I thought I should at least report some recent tidbits of good news.

  • We did not run out of money at the end of February. Granted, it’s a short month, but I think our austerity measures are paying off.
  • I did our taxes yesterday, and despite my fears we are indeed getting a substantial refund.
  • My online tax prep service (TurboTax) turned me onto I’d Iooked at Mint before but for some reason it never clicked. Now I see the appeal, and perhaps it will be helpful in the long term. In the short term it’s already yielded confirmation that we’ve reduced our grocery bill. It’s much easier than tabulating manually, and with nifty graphics too boot.

Grocery Comparison

Samedi Blues Redux

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs) sold

Misery loves company, and this year I’ve got plenty.

To recap ever-so-briefly: Over the last few decades, all the big parades have been consolidated onto what’s now known as the “traditional uptown route” — except one, the biggest of ’em all, the gaudy spectacle known as Endymion. It’s the one time the festive spirit of Carnival comes to Mid-City, and I love that. Back in our old house we threw some really fun parties on Samedi Gras, which is the day Endymion rolls. Now we live too far from the route to justify having a party, and yet paradoxically we’re now closer to the really crazy crowds which I personally don’t want to deal with, and besides I’m not really a fan of the parade itself. So last year I was singing the blues, and this year I was fixing to do the same. In fact I figured I’d just stay at home today and do my taxes. Seriously.

Friday I was surprised to learn Persephone’s daycare was closed, just in anticipation of the Endymion madness. Oops. I ended up having to take her to work with me, which was actually a lot of fun, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is Endymion is a big deal to folks ’round here. How big? About a million people show up to see the parade. Yes, that’s right — a million people. Friday morning the earliest arrivals were camped out on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground, in the rain. Some had tents, some had umbrellas, some were just exposed to the elements. Yet Endymion doesn’t roll until Saturday afternoon.

Only it turns out this year Endymion won’t roll on Saturday — or in Mid-City. This rumor had been circulating for a couple days, but the official announcement came last night.

A few minutes ago, and with great regret, Endymion founder and Captain, Ed Muniz, announced that Endymion will parade Sunday night behind Bacchus. This decision comes after many hours of discussion with the NOPD and every weather person and service available.

The bottom line, gang, is that there is an 80% chance of heavy rain and storms, especially right at 4:00 PM. It’s just not safe, nor will it be comfortable, to go.

The good news is that we have secured marching bands and will have a great parade and fantastic weather for Sunday night. We are and will be working on details through the night so check your email often.

Though it will be smaller, the Extravaganza WILL have a parade! Train, Kelly Ripa, Anderson Cooper and Mark Consuelos will ride as Grand Marshalls and The Wise Guys, Train, Pat Benatar and Party on the Moon will perform as scheduled.

It breaks our hearts to make this decision, but based on the information that we have, we feel it is the only decision we can make.

It gives new meaning to Hail, Endymion!

Far be it from me to second-guess this decision. I’ve never even ridden in a parade, much less organized anything as big as a superkrewe. Nevertheless I have to point out that of the last nine years, Endymion has been shifted to the “traditional uptown route” four times. This situation makes no one happy, except perhaps law enforcement. Uptowners don’t want Endymion, and Mid-Citizens feel cheated.

Here’s a couple quotes from my neighborhood discussion group.

Why are the uptown parades not moved to mid city for Sunday instead? Given its the only one that rolls through mid city?

As long as this is NOT the start of the slippery slope toward a permanent move to the uptown route!

And some more choice quotes from

BS!!! I will be boycotting endymion. It is completely unfair that uptown gets all the parades. It is a cash cow for all the businesses uptown and no others get to benefit from the parades. Spread the wealth.

we are just disappointed and are really logical people, however this is the only parade that rolls outside of uptown. If we had others we probably wouldn’t be to upset.

To our boys in Endymion: How very sad that instead of moving your parade later into the evening Saturday, when the weather may be better, you sold us out and moved Uptown. We are your faithful fans, who came back in 2006 to see you behind Bacchus, and rejoiced when you returned to your Mid-City home and hundreds of thousands of us. Our Mid-City businesses, the mom and pop businesses, the schools who sell food and bathroom passes, all of us willing to endure the worst that Mother Nature throws at us, counted on you to hang tough. Do right by us. And you didn’t. You have no idea the pain this causes, to our wallets, our still-struggling Mid-City. We would have sat through the deluge for you. 7. 8. 9 p.m. We would have waited. This is as hurtful than so many of us losing everything after Katrina. We had faith in you, boys. My God, you threw us under the floats…for an uptown ride. How sad, our boys of Endymion.

I’m not saying these people are right or wrong, but such comments indicate the level of passion some of my neighbors have. Me, I was planning to pull a “bah humbug” anyhow, so now I’m just glad for the company.

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs) sold / cecily devil / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pervasive Spirit

610 Stompers [crop]

The Thursday before Mardi Gras is one of my favorite times to catch some parades. This year we had a multiplicity of invitations Thursday from a variety of friends who live in the vicinity of the uptown parade route. With so much hospitality on offer it was a tough call, but we eventually made our way to hang with the infamous G-Bitch and DSB NOLA and their lovely daughter. It took just over half an hour to drive to their place from our home in Mid-City, and we were mighty surprised to we learn one of their other guests lives right around the corner from us.

In short order we were on St. Charles watching no fewer than three parades in rapid succession: Babylon, Chaos and Muses. For the next three hours we were entertained by a total of sixty floats, perhaps fifty marching bands, and I’m guessing twenty-five dancing/walking/marching/scootering clubs, to say nothing of the mobile jazz and rock bands, the flambeux bearers, and the horses. The whole show was free, and not only that, we walked away with enough dolls, toys, beads, and other assorted “throws” to stock a small boutique. This morning, Persephone played with her magnetic Muses dress-up doll while I played with my light-up Muses yo-yo. Hard to say who was having more fun.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Carnival has a dark side.

For example: I caught a small white box from one of the first floats in Muses. When I opened it, I found it contained one of the Muses balls which I’d seen on the front page of the paper. It appeared to require a minor amount of assembly, which a crafty young boy next to me offered to perform. I foolishly allowed him to do it. In short order he had the ball glowing and cycling through all the colors of the rainbow. Of course, he kept the damn thing for himself.

Also: A horse bladder can hold a truly astonishing volume of urine. We got a visceral reminder of this fact when one of our equine friends let it rip on the street directly in front of us. The subsequent riparian deluge of urea headed down the sloping asphalt right toward us, and we enjoyed the aroma for the remainder of the evening.

On a more serious note, anyone deluded enough to think our school systems are desegregated need only observe the racial makeup of the fifty-odd high school marching bands that passed by us last night. They tended to be either all-white or all-black, and any exceptions to this rule were minor enough to be missed completely.

Nevertheless I think of Carnival as a time when New Orleanians of all races come together to celebrate. Even though I’m not the most ardent parade-goer, I do love the idea and the pervasive spirit of festivity.

Or maybe the fumes from that horse urine have addled my brains.

610 Stompers / skooksie / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 see also: video