Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mardi Gras Indians, 2009: little man.

Mardi Gras Indians, 2009: Spy Boy. (I regret that I didn't catch the name of the tribe.) The vivid orange feathers and the truly terrifying face-paint were a sight to behold (particularly at nine in the morning).

Come and Gone

Another Mardi Gras has come and gone. Lent, a time for reflection, has begun, so I will reflect on what I like about Mardi Gras.

I like that it brings together so many different kinds of people, both in the crowds—poor, rich, black, white, young, old, local, tourist—and in the parades—business men, high school marching bands, weirdo hipster dance troupes, sissy bounce baton teams, rag-tag jazz bands, yat-ty swamp pop bands, black city cowboys on horses, white country cowboys on horses, sun burnt guys on tractors, and on and on...

I like that even when it goes wrong, it often goes right. We watched Muses at the house of friends, right where it lined up. (The lining up of a parade is nearly as entertaining as the parade itself—all the glittery components that normally stretch out for blocks are all bunched up in one entangled amped-up festive mélange.) Shortly after it started rolling, the whole thing abruptly came to a stop again. (I heard rumored explanations ranging from a broken float-axle to a stubborn horse that laid down in the street.) But the delay simply turned into an opportunity to extend the party. As the minutes turned into hours, the different parading entities blended together (I saw a group of white-gloved high-school dancing girls trading moves with a scooter-Elvis, all having a great time), and the parade blended with the crowd. Eventually, we had members of three or four different dance troupes and marching squads lounging in the living room in their sparkly sequined outfits, chitting, chatting, and drinking beer with the lay folks. They all rushed out the door en masse as the floats began rolling down the street again.

I like that it doesn’t go wrong all that much. Though there are countless minor indecencies and the occasional truly bad thing, Mardi Gras, on the whole, goes remarkably smoothly. We are a city famed for our inefficiencies, but we at least do this one thing really well. (And our pinnacle of efficiency is the post-parade clean-up crews who rake, sweep, and scrub the streets clean, leaving hardly a trace of the festivities mere minutes after the last float has passed. I'm pretty sure they're some sort of Six Sigma "ninjas".)

I like that, when properly done, Mardi Gras makes one glad it's over. Catholic or not, one should be good and ready for a bit of Lenten austerity.

I like the Mardi Gras Indians. Stay tuned for this years crop of photos.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

St. Aug's Marching 100, lining up before Muses. (Most of the other bands were a little more casual in their pre-parade routine, joking and chatting, but St. Aug's was serious-serious, disembarking from the bus with the same disciplined precision they apply to their marching and playing.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Portraits of inanimate objects: calculator. Among my many weird (and/or boring) temp jobs while living in New York in the mid-Nineties, I spent a number of weeks at Woolworth Corporation headquarters (shortly after the closure of their flagship stores). While the the rest of the world had harnessed the digital wizardy of Excel to maintain their financial records, Woolworth still counted money the old-fashioned way: with a calculator and a pencil and green-tinged ledger paper and lots of hand-cramps. I spent days and days clickety-clacking on a machine much like this one, working countless pencils down to a nub.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Big Five

Lil' Miss June turned a big five years old today. My, my.* (She puttered around the house this morning, swathed in birthday-glory, singing a little song to herself: "I'm not four / Anymore. / I'm fi-i-ive....")

* My reaction to these birthdays is always the same: Five? Can it really be? That's so big.

Monday, February 16, 2009

La Famille Brusier, Circle Bar, Friday, Midnight!

Are you carefully mapping out your calendar for the upcoming Mardi Gras weekend? Well, we've got late Friday night (or if you prefer, early Saturday morning) covered. Gorge yourself on the ticky-tacky excess of the parades, then head down to the Circle Bar, jangling cheap trinkets all the way, catch the Jackals at 10-ish-ish, then stick around as we scream, twist, and shout the wee hours away.

Es muy bien!

Note: There will be a $5 cover. (We generally prefer the Up-With-People-Price of $0, but on this occasion, alas, it was beyond our control.)

Obama Drops Plan for 'Car Czar'...

...Dismisses Plan as 'Too Seussian'

Ba-doom-cha! Wait, is that The Onion calling? Hello? Hello?

The Sissy Report

Francince wants details on the Sissy Bounce Sweetheart's Ball, and details she shall get.

The Short Version: Absolutely-A-1-all-in-all.

We knew in advance there would be complications—black sissy rappers performing at a white hipster venue is certain to elicit some goofy crowd shenanigans, but we hoped the show itself would make it all worthwhile, and we were right on both counts:
  1. The show started late, and in the interim, we saw enough Ironic Booty Shaking (IBS) to last us a lifetime.
  2. But it did eventually start. Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby rapped in duo—very energetic, very charismatic. Big Freedia in particular was a powerhouse on the stage, daintily dabbing the sweat from her forehead (it looked hot up there) as she rat-a-tatted through rapid-fire lyrics, then passed it off to Nobby to loop through his dizzying lyrical acrobatics.* Katey Red joined them for a song, looking svelte and elegant, as she rapped about decidedly inelegant activities. (I assume she came back later, but in deference to our—very tolerant—baby-sitter, we finally left at one-whatever.) Thoroughly engaging, thoroughly entertaining, a straight-up hoot. (Or is that a "not-so-straight"-up hoot?)
And then in the wee hours, we walked back through the Quarter, through the light drizzle, to our car, talking and laughing about all we had seen, about all that had passed.

Not a bad way to spend Valentine's evening with your sweetheart.

* I'm a little unsure of my pronouns, here. If I err, forgive me.

Someone Old, Someone New...

...someone borrowed, someone...?

The Times-Picayune has an interesting article on the distribution of newbie and veteran teachers in the city's schools—broadly relevant to our ongoing teacher-ological discourse.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Junie and the po-po—she looks like she's about to get hauled off to central lock-up. Friday, the police reverted to their pre-Katrina uniforms (they'd switched to all-black after the storm), a small but vivid throwback. I asked for a picture. They asked that June be in the picture. She agreed but looked none too happy about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Louise and June, Friday afternoon, McHardy's Chicken. (It was the first big evening of parades and we were picking up a hefty box-full for the festivities. So good—papery light-brown skin with lots of black pepper.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lil Wayne

I was reviewing bar graphs with my 7th grade girls. (This was a while back.) I had them conduct a survey—who was their favorite musician?—and construct a graph of the responses. Lil Wayne, the hometown hero, took it by a landslide.*

I announced the results, "And Little Wayne is the winner!"

One of my cheekier gals called me out, "Ha, he said 'Little Wayne'."

I corrected myself, "Excuse me, Lil Wayne," and added jokingly, "Please forgive my whiteness."

She responded, either quite seriously or in a supremely cheeky deadpan (it was impossible to tell, though I suspect the latter), "You're forgiven."

Much obliged. I'm glad we worked that out.

* Until, after asking, "Are we counting bounce?", they near-unanimously changed their answers to Sissy Nobby. (Do follow that link. Don't do it at work if your boss isn't enthusiastic about particularly lively forms of booty-natin'.) Are we all up to speed on the sissy rap phenomenon? Let's make it so—a refreshing reminder of what a weird and eternally surprising place this world is. (And yes, I am taking my sweetheart to this Valentine's Day's Sissy Bounce Sweetheart's Ball.)

Louise, front yard at night, Poplar Branch Farm, Virginia

Monday, February 09, 2009

Mardi Gras/Jazz Fest-Space

Spring is the season for big parties in New Orleans (we don't require a special season for little parties... or medium parties... or medium-to-large parties...): first Mardi Gras, then Jazz Fest. And every year at this time I ponder the mystery: why do I love Mardi Gras but feel kind of "eh" towards Jazz Fest?* (Sarah has similar reactions.)

Conventional wisdom would, I believe, hold that people generally like/dislike the events in roughly equal proportions: they're both big, crowded spectacles with lots of music and lots of beer. You love them or you hate them, right?

A graph, perhaps? Allow me to define a two-dimensional Mardi Gras/Jazz Fest-space, with the x-axis indicating love of Mardi Gras on a scale of 0 to 10 and the y-axis indicating love of Jazz Fest on a scale of 0 to 10:

Pan-Curmudgeons—those who universally hate loud, crowded, boozy events, who go out of town during Mardi Gras and stay far away from Mid-City during Jazz Fest—reside in the bottom left corner of the graph. Pan-Partiers—those who universally love loud, crowded, boozy events, who put on their crazy hats and bright shirts in February and don't take them off until May—reside in the top right corner of the graph. And more generally, Proportional-Partiers—those who like or dislike the events to a roughly equal degree—plot closely along the central diagonal stretching from the origin (0, 0) to the Party-Peak (10, 10).

So what's to explain the outliers, those of us who reside in the bottom right or (particularly baffling to me) the top left quadrants? And are we so rare? Is Party-Proportionality truly the norm? Or is the human animal far more complex, the actual scatter-plot far more varied and unpredictable (forming, perhaps, the outline of a wacky jester's cap)?

Slimbologists, bring me data!

* I get positively giddy as Mardi Gras approaches—the sound of
practicing marching bands , the clusters of police barricades blossoming on the neutral grounds—I can't get enough. I like Jazz Fest well enough, for a few hours, maybe on a Thursday, but beyond that I start to get the jitters and feel like I need to go hide in a dark closet with a large glass of ice water.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

New York City, 16th Street


You know what word I'm liking?
A fine and evocative word in its own right, and it has excellent synonyms: fracas, rumpus...

What are you liking?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Farm machinery, Poplar Branch Farm, Virginia. "Pasture Pleaser"? "Pasture Pleaser"? Do I even need to bother making a joke? I mean come on!

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I would like to identify a category of things: Things That Are Extremely Fun For The Person Doing Them But Profoundly Annoying For Anyone Around Them, or TTAEFFTPDTBPAFAAT for short. For example:
the BeatMaker app on my beloved iPhone*
It truly is a wondrous thing, a full-featured drum machine that fits in my pocket (and rings when somebody's calling me), allowing me, with a kick, snare, kicks and high hat, to become skilled in the trade of that old boom bap.

But apparently it's not quite so enchanting to anyone forced to listen to my beat-noodling—namely my wife and daughters. (I can't imagine what would be annoying about listening to someone else's half-baked beats looping ad infinitum...)

Let's get Venn-y with it:
Throw something in the circle. What do you have/do that is extremely fun for you but profoundly annoying for anyone around you?

* I have more than a few hobbies and habits that fall into this category, part of my Beat-Dead-Horse-itis.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


We entombed my great-aunt Doucette today.* She was, as they say, a "firecracker", a vibrant woman who made vigorous use of her ninety-plus years of life, equally at ease inspiring uproarious laughter at family gatherings or teaching inmates on Angola's death row. She told countless hilarious anecdotes and was herself the subject of more than a few—including her famous quip at my grandmother's funeral, "When I die... just put my casket by the side of the highway. Then everyone can drive by and say, 'My, don't Dou look natural.'"

She'll be missed. But as Annou pointed out, they must be having a grand old time in Purgatory right now. (Doucette isn't the sort to rush straight off to Heaven. She often insisted, everyone needs to be a little bad.)

And I'll go ahead and say it, she did look natural.

* The service was conducted by no less than nine priests. A free-thinker to her bones, Doucette was also a devout Catholic and a force-to-be-reckoned-with in her diocese.

Monday, February 02, 2009

If I Had a Mug*

For whatever reason, I prefer to take a mug of coffee with me in the car, not a travel cup. (A sturdy, brightly colored Fiestaware mug—they're just so pretty and solid. Doesn't life already have enough ticky-tacky?) There are undeniable drawbacks: an abrupt swerve or sudden stop results in a dashboard (or worse, a lap) splattered with coffee. But there are upsides too: I'm pretty sure it makes me a better driver. I gently accelerate, gracefully brake, steer wide of potholes and other disruptions—easy like Sunday morning.

What if everybody drove like they had a mug of coffee? Imagine what smooth and genteel (if highly caffeinated) places the roads would be. One can dream.**

* I'd mug it in the mo-or-ning. I'd mug it in the eeeve-ning... Wait, that doesn't work.

** And in this new Obama dawn, isn't anything possible? Maybe we can get a car/mug provision worked into the stimulus package. (Is anyone else making jokes about Obama's "stimulus package"? It's a hot topic of discussion amongt the ladies I know.)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

"No! loitering. No! trespassing." Apparently Cat-in-the-Hat didn't listen.

On the Cat Walk, Part Deux*

There's a lady who "walks" her cat down our street in a stroller.* What's up with that?

* You may recall "Part Un".

** A special cat stroller. I didn't know such things existed. What's up with that?