Kind of New Orleanian Interview: Rachael Kansas, New Orleanian (Part 1)

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to launch a brand-new feature that I’ve thought about since I started the blog nearly a year ago. About once a month, I will feature an interview with someone I consider a true “New Orleanian.” In the interviews we’ll discuss their connection to the city, their opinions about local issues and how they think about city identity.

I recognize that the people I select for the interviews will be in a similar demographic, because it is based on people I know. However, that’ll change as the blog grows and I expand my network in the city. Eventually, I’d like to interview people I consider ~ians of other cities. I welcome all feedback and suggestions (unless they are critical, in which case I will spam you) (jokes).

Why I Chose to Interview Rachael
Rachael Kansas is the first person I ever met from New Orleans. We both had a fellowship with Hillel, a Jewish organization that is located at different college campuses across the country. I was placed at Tulane and she was at George Washington University in D.C. We met just after I moved here in 2004, at a conference for all the Fellows. She instantly embraced me and even hand-wrote a list of recommendations for all things New Orleans—not just restaurants and bars, but places to get my hair cut and go to the doctor.  Although she grew up here and has a large network of friends and family, Rachael always invited me out when she came home to visit. She’s a true New Orleanian—both in that she was born and raised here, and that she embodies the warmth, hospitality and charm of the city.

To this day, Rachael is my first call for anything related to New Orleans. She was the first person I thought of when I had the idea for this interview series.


About Rachael
Rachael grew up in New Orleans Parish and went to Ben Franklin High School. After graduating from the University of Texas in Austin, she lived in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. In 2010, she returned to New Orleans to earn her MBA at Tulane. She now works as a realtor with RE/MAX and was recently awarded RE/MAX’s 2011 “Rookie of the Year” award for the state of Louisiana.

How long has your family has been in New Orleans?

My mom’s family came before the Civil War. And my dad’s family came around 1910ish, I think. I don’t know. Both my mom and my dad’s side of the family came from Odessa, which is now Ukraine, and came straight to New Orleans—no stopping elsewhere. Except for my grandmother; I think her parents came from Czechoslovakia. I’m not entirely sure but we’ve been in New Orleans a long time.

After graduating from college you moved to D.C. Did you always know that you’d come back?

A lot of kids that grew up in New Orleans that were older than me had left New Orleans. That was the thing: you grow up and you move away. But I was always very close to my family and was always coming home. Even during college, I came home for Mardi Gras and Jazzfest every year. So, yeah, there’s probably something in me that knew that I’d end up here someday.

It was extremely heightened after Katrina. It was like, “Ohmigod, I can’t believe I’m so far removed from everything my family’s going through.” I also felt a little bit of guilt, but more just sadness for what was going on. At that point I decided I’d move back to New Orleans. The only thing is that I knew all along when I moved to New Orleans it would be my last stop. So, I kind of delayed the move back to here because I knew once I got back I would buy a house and I would stay and that would be the end of it.

My dad wanted me to move back right after college. He thought four years away was enough. He was like, “You know… New Orleans is really where it’s at.”

You’ve lived in DC and San Francisco and in Israel and Texas. Would you say people in New Orleans are different?

New Orleans has this uniqueness about it because we’re not just Southern, we’re not just that stereotype of  Southern hospitality. We have our own thing going on. We’re just big party animals and relax and enjoy life to its fullest.

There was some study done awhile ago that asked which state was the happiest in the nation. I remember talking about it with my brother. I was saying that people here are probably happier because we have so much to celebrate–we have festivals every weekend! There isn’t that competitive rat race. When you go downtown at 6:30, it’s basically dead, versus New York where people are in their office until 12 at night. My brother added that he thinks we’re the happiest because we are so family oriented. And so a lot of people that live here are with multiple generations of their family. We spend so much time together and that also makes our community stronger and happier. There isn’t that stress of having to be away from everybody. There’s people there to help you out and support you. I agree with that, too. My whole family’s here.

Rachael in San Francisco, with her mom, Lee Kansas.

You’ve seen a lot of people move here for business school, not like it and move away.

That’s not true.

Oh really? I thought a lot of your business-school friends moved away.

They came here for business school and left, but it wasn’t because they didn’t like it here. They liked it here, it’s just that New Orleans didn’t have MBA jobs for them. There’s a lot of people in my class that if they had been offered the type of salaries and the type of jobs that they wanted in New Orleans they for sure would’ve chosen New Orleans over the other places that they went. There were a number of people that wanted to be on Wall Street or wanted to be in a specific city, so they’re an exception.

There’s actually a lot of people from my class that stayed and tried to make New Orleans work. There are a couple of people that have taken not-so-great jobs just to stay in New Orleans. Or didn’t have a job and stuck it out in New Orleans, but didn’t get a job and had to go somewhere else. I don’t know anyone who moved here and, per se, didn’t like it at all and had to move away.

What can you get from living in the other cities you’ve lived in that you can’t get here?  

The Jewish community thing is a blessing and a curse because it feels like a small town. DC and in San Francisco are both very transient cities and no one is very invested in you. No one really tries to make an effort to keep you there, make you feel welcome and invite you and include you in things. But at the same time, there’s so many other young people that are Jewish and social and out. And so here we have less numbers, so if you want to get involved it’s a lot easier to get involved. People really reach out more and include you more than in the other cities–where they just kind of expect you to leave quickly. Here, the community gets excited for anyone that’s new. They want you to be at every event and invite you to every event. Maybe I just feel that way because I just know a lot of people from growing up.

I agree. I’m also a little bit biased because I worked in the Jewish community before so I’ve reconnected with it since moving back.

But I think when people here hear about a young, new Jewish person in town, they get excited. In other cities that doesn’t happen. People are like, “Oh, you’re just here for two years and you’re out.” So, I think New Orleans is really different in that sense. But that might be just a small-town Jewish community versus a big Jewish community difference. You know, that’s probably going to happen in a lot of other small towns too.

I didn’t realize that San Francisco was so transient.

It’s not as transient as D.C., but it is pretty transient. A lot of people do the “San Francisco thing” for a couple of years and then leave. When I moved there, we had a strong group of girlfriends that were all there and now only two of them are left from our big group. We all were there for about one to three years.

I think the emphasis on food and music is very similar with San Francisco. The liberal (well, for the most-part liberal) mentality in New Orleans and also the festivals and the emphasis on the people that actually live in the city is also similar. I think in DC there’s a lot of focus on the tourism. A lot of events are held at the national mall. The Cherry Blossom parade… things like that aren’t for locals. There isn’t an investment in the local community. It’s more about pride for the nation. New Orleans is like “we’re only proud of ourselves.”  We do things to enjoy ourselves, to please ourselves. I think San Francisco is a little bit like that too.

That being said, I feel San Francisco can sometimes have a slightly pretentious air like, “We’re greener, we’re smarter, we’re better.” And they are greener and smarter! They are very much more educated and more environmentally conscious in many ways. But, it doesn’t have to be talked about every time you go out to a bar. I was over that by the end. I was just like, “Let’s just hang out, have fun, and talk about football and not only about what new green start-up company you work for.”

How does New Orleans seem different to you after Katrina?

I think one of the bigger things is that New Orleans, pre-Katrina, was like a small, very tight social network. If you weren’t from here it was really hard to break in. Everyone cared about where you grew up, where you went to high school.

Now there are so many more people that didn’t grow up here and are in our local community and that are making New Orleans their home. How can you hate on them, how can you not include them? They chose your city, they love your city just as much as you do and they add so much more to it and change people’s outlook on things and bring new perspectives on things. I think that’s a major difference between the old-school New Orleans kind of cliquey-ness and the new New Orleans. Although, it’s not perfect. I know people who have come here and have first had a hard time because they’re not part of this circle of people who all know each other.

I think people are also more civically engaged and more involved. I have so many friends that are politically involved and running for local elections to be on some council, or trying to do this new company or this new idea. I mean, people are more engaged and more involved because we saw that we almost lost our city so we don’t want to just go back to the old ways. We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make it even better, so people are investing and more motivated, I think.

My mom was saying that when my older cousins were growing up–my cousins in their 40s–the norm was that kids from New Orleans would get educated elsewhere and they’d live elsewhere, because New Orleans wasn’t enough for them. They’d move to different cities, like Houston and Atlanta and New York and Philadelphia and wherever they could find a smarter, more modern community. But nowadays, it seems more kids are going away to college and moving back. But that also might be my mom talking about Jewish community, specifically, so I don’t know.

I’ve split the interview into two parts. Tomorrow, read Rachael’s thoughts about her high school, the Saints and what surprises her about New Orleans.

Lagniappe: Miss River Bridge

When I lived here before, in 2004, I kept seeing signs around the city said Miss River Bridge. I assumed the signs indicated the winner of some beauty pageant.

Here she is, Miss River Bridge

Turns out I’m a bit of a dummy. Miss River Bridge refers to the MISSISSIPPI RIVER BRIDGE, otherwise known as the Crescent City Connection— the bridge that takes you from New Orleans to the West Bank.

Silly girl. Although, seeing those signs now makes me smile.

Previously in Lagniappe:
A Monster in Mid City
A Monster in the Warehouse District
Don’t Lick the Busstop
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Swim at Your Own Risk
Eaten Alive
Beeracuda
Mardi Gras Float Storage

Talking to Your Neighbors

A lot of New Orleanians know their neighbors. It’s a stereotype that people are friendlier in the South, but it feels true to me.  Here, it’s rude not to smile and say hello when you walk past people.

I also believe that the city’s architectural style and weather attribute to more people sitting on their porch. Before most houses had air conditioning, many people sat outside to catch the breeze. Additionally, the porches of our pervasive shot-gun houses are aligned in such a way that when you walk out to the front door and look to the left or right, you are staring directly at your neighbor. It’s more awkward not to acknowledge someone.

Inner Conflict Over Neighbor Chats
I live next door to a set of brothers. I’ve spoken at length with two of them. One Saturday, I brought my computer out front to do some work and the youngest brother talked to me for an hour. He was really nice and entertaining, but part of me kept thinking “Dude, I got work to do.” Similarly, a few weeks ago I brought a chair onto my porch. I had an Abita Strawberry in one hand and my cell phone in the other. I was going to call my dad and catch up, but the oldest  brother was outside. And he wanted to talk. Casual conversation ended twisted into an hour-long saga about this man’s nasty divorce, his crazy ex-wife and his concerns about raising his children. Was it interesting? Hell yeah! Did I talk to my dad? Nope.

The view onto other porches, from my porch. Lagniappe: Banks the Cat, who lives two porches down.

Overall, I’m grateful to know my neighbors and it feels genuine to say hi and ask about the day as I enter my house. I love that about the culture here: the warmth and slower pace– the sense that you ain’t got no where to be, let’s just chat. But what if I have to go somewhere?! Or I’m doing something? I have an anxious tendency to overfill my life, so I’m nearly always on my way to do something. Is this me having a “northerner” attitude?  Perhaps this aspect of New Orleans living will help me to embrace new relationships and teach me to the joy of the laissez-faire lifestyle.

Stray thoughts:

  • I do have a little green space in my backyard. I guess I can go back there if I want to be outside, on my own.
  • I’m a little bit shy (which is hard to believe for those who know me.) Although one set of neighbors take care of the talking for me, I keel over in awkward when encountering my other neighbor– and he’s actually my landlord!
  • My chatty neighbors are also really chatty with their neighbor. I can nearly hear everything they say when I’m in my front room. I can’t ask them to be quiet… right?

What about you? Do you know your neighbors? Do you want to know your neighbors?

A Visit to Mardi Gras World

My best friend was in town this past week and because torrential rains thwarted her plan to get a sunburn that would eventually settle into a tan, I suggested we visit Mardi Gras World. Previous I considered MGW a tacky trap, but watching the parades this year left me eager for a behind the scenes look. My friend has never been to Mardi Gras and has always painted and sculpted, so I hoped that the museum would give her a taste of the revelry and artistry of Carnival.

A view of the Crescent City Connection from the east bank warehouse

The tour begins with a 15-minute video that was a decent Mardi Gras crash course and it dispelled the myths that Mardi Gras is a one-day parade and that it’s a boob fest. After the video came my favorite tour touches: our guide treated us to a piece of Gambino’s king cake and invited us to sample CC’s coffee. (Bigger pieces next time, please! Some of us are piggies.)

Theme Submission
MGW builds floats for 40 out of the 52 krewes that parade during Mari Gras.  According to our tour guide, the float structures start around $50,000 and having a float built starts at $10,000. Krewes generally submit their themes for the following the day after Mardi Gras, which surprised me. I knew it had to be ahead of time, and I guess it’s just about sending an email, but I can’t imagine already thinking about next year’s parade when you’re sobering up on Ash Wednesday.

Following theme submissions, MGW artists work with the krewes to create a sketch of the floats in their parade. As we walked past the work stations we could see the pictures of the floats, but the names of the krewe and themes were redacted. The Tchoupitoulas-adjacent site largely houses Bacchus and Orpheus floats, so all the Nancy Drews and Encyclopedia Browns out there already have some clues for their sleuthing.

Prop Materials

Orpheus flowers made of cardboard and wire

Our tour guide referred to all the objects on the floats as “props.” MGW makes said props from fiberglass or styrofoam and paper mache. The styrofoam props are cheaper and easier to repurpose. Our tour guide showed us a Marilyn Monroe that once was a baseball player. “Look at how her hands hold up her skirt. That used to be a baseball player gripping a bat,” he explained. My best friend commented on the size of Marilyn’s arms. There’s a Mardi Gras World location on the West Bank that handles the construction of the fiberglass accessories. There were some fiberglass props around the facility and our tour guide hinted that you could tell a prop was made from fiberglass because it was affixed to a metal stand. (Or you could tap it and feel it was really hard.)

To form the shape of the props, MGW artists cut slices of styrofoam and assemble them like a sandwich. These assemblages are then paper mached, painted white and then painted to resemble anything from a bee to Tina Turner.
Bathrooms
Something I didn’t realize is that the floats are equipped with bathrooms– port a potties tucked away inside the float. “Of course!” I thought. Riders need to go to the bathroom! However, when I relayed this to my boyfriend he said mentioned that he had Krewe members get off the float and use the bathroom. The tour guide also showed us a seat belt contraption that riders can hook into so they don’t fall off the float. I’m not sure how effective it is– can anyone comment?

Squint and you'll see the port a potty.

A Mardi Gras leash

The Chick Fil A Cows
Mardi Gras World gets about 20 percent of their business from creating props for other parades and businesses– LIKE CHICK FIL A. THEY MAKE THE COWS FOR CHICK FIL A.

I LOVE CHICK FIL A.

Verdict: Add it to your itinerary for visitors

It was a really delightful and interesting trip– one of those really touristy places you wouldn’t visit unless you had a friend in town. The price is a bit above my pay grade– $19 for an adults– so maybe next time I’ll ask for a bigger piece of king cake.

Living in a Tourist City

A scene from the basketball obstacle course. I went through it once. I was horrible.

Last week, I volunteered with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation during the SEC basketball tournament. The volunteers were stationed in an open area outside the Superdome,called Champions Square. There, amidst games and activities hosted by several different organizations and sponsors, the GNOSF volunteers helped facilitate what were deemed “interactives,” — a marketing word for basketball activities: free throw contests, dunking contest, etc. I co-ran a little obstacle course, in which participants tipped the ball out of some sort of basketball-holding-contraption, dribbled a basketball around some poles, threw the ball off a taught net and then took a lay up. The woman co-running the obstacle course with me was a chatty, bright spot on a cloudy day. I was also eager to be very accommodating to the families, making conversation with moms and dads as their kids were occupied. “Where are you staying? Need any recommendations?”

Kentucky fans spill out of the Dome, after beating LSU.

Most of the people we encountered were Kentucky fans. In fact, all last week blue shirts clogged up downtown.  I heard a few people complain about their presence, mostly about traffic they caused, but I  surprised myself with how much I wanted to play a good host. (A rival SEC fan base!) I kept thinking, “OHH I hope they have a good time, spend money and come back.”

My volunteering experience got me thinking about what’s it’s like to live in a city that attracts tourists regularly. Tourists in D.C. annoyed me constantly. I encountered them on the metro where they disrupted Washingtonian metro protocol: stand on the right of the escalator; walk on the left. MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE METRO CAR. Peace be with you if you are stuck behind someone attempting to feed their paper metro cards into the machine.

My beloved Gators, pulling out a close one over Alabama. (Not pictured: losing to Kentucky the next day.)

Still, these tourists brought money and attention to the capital city. Why did they annoy me more than tourists to the Crescent City? Is it because tourism is the number 1 source of income to the New Orleans economy and GNOSF’s mission is “to attract and manage sporting events that have a positive economic impact on the Greater New Orleans area.” They make it clear that attracting sporting events to the city creates a windfall of financial beneficiaries. The complaints I’ve heard (thus far) about tourists in New Orleans is that they cause traffic and that they make drunken spectacles. (However, it’s hard to argue that New Orleanians themselves don’t do the latter.) Am I a victim of southern hospitality, or am I just grateful for the cash these people bring in?

What about you? Do you live in a city that receives thousands of tourists? Do you welcome them?

Tshirts: K&B Drugstores in New Orleans Culture

Since Katrina, a cottage industry of New Orleans-inspired goods and tshirts has sprouted. These are not the “I Got Bourbon-Faced on Shit Street” shirts that you see in the French Quarter. Rather, these are a collection of inside jokes and local references that make New Orleanians smile. Explaining these jokes to out of towners is a reminder of how much in speak  and shared knowledge there is in this city.

Since this blog tries to explain what it’s like to live in New Orleans and acclimate those new to the city, I’m kicking off an occasional series of posts that explains the stories behind the shirts. I’ve already written about the The Trinity shirt at Dirty Coast. Today, we’re going to talk about K&B Drugstores.

“More than just a just a drugstore”
K&B was a drugstore chain that opened its first store in the late 1890s. The drugstores inspired fierce customer loyalty, as detailed in this article on NOLA.com. By the 1990s the Katz & Besthoff company had 50 stores in NOLA, and nearly 200 stores in six states. K&B was known for its house brands, including ice cream, beer and vodka!

K&B vodka

K&B ice cream

The company was sold to Rite Aid in 1997. K&B was headquartered in Lee Circle, and you can see KB written on the side of the building to this day.

K&B Plaza Near Lee Circle

K&B on 732 Canal Street.

K&B on Carrollton and Oak. It is now a Rite Aid.

K&B Purple

Storyville's K&B shirt, in K&B Purple

Anytime I’ve spoken with New Orleanians about K&B they always mention “K&B purple,”  which was the signature color of the company. This great post about K&B from GoNola.com details the back story. “A local paper products company had a cancelled order from a different store, leaving them stuck with several rolls of purple wrapping paper. K and B bought that paper at a discount, and the color caught on! Soon it became the main color of the drugstore’s “double-check” logo.”

Now you can buy K&B shirts from both Fleurty Girl and Storyville, in K&B Purple.

The K&B Jingle:

Look at almost every corner
And what do you see
A big purple sign that says
Friendly K&B
Variety, value and reliability
That’s what you get at your friendly K&B
K&B Drugstores

Fleurty Girl's K&B tshirt

K&B in Art

Nights of Drunk Driving in the Days of K&B, by Jimmy Descant

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (where I’m a docent) has an exhibition of the work of Jimmy Descant, a self-taught assemblage artist who glues, staples and nails all sorts of found objects to wood to create his artistic statements. I urge everyone to go view the exhibition before it closes on April 8. One of pieces I really responded to is called “Nights of Drunk Driving in the Days of K&B.” The piece resembles a cross-section of an automobile, with cans of K&B beer strewn about the sides, as if they came flying out in a crash (there are even K&B pencils inside the car.) Unlike most of the K&B nostalgia I’ve seen that idealizes a simpler time, this ode to the past is filled with regret for reckless behavior.

Sweet Oranges, Bro

The Mid-City Farmers market, in front of The American Can building on Orleans Ave.

I’ve been visiting the Mid-City Farmer’s Market most Thursdays for a few months. In the past, I’ve not been good about knowing when fruit is in season.* In DC I was an on/off member of Arganica, a home-delivery, local-source food club that I’d recommend to any Washingtonians. I was slowly learning the time of year that produce was available  when I moved down here.

Example: I had to ask my boyfriend why I never see apples at the farmers markets in New Orleans. After all, there were a number of varieties at all the markets in D.C. “Apples grow well in colder climates,” he explained.

I felt really dumb after he told me this. (My boyfriend is from California and as a teenager his mom had a job packaging plums, so I believe he is a produce expert.)

So my seasons ignorance set me up for a nasty surprise today. I’ve been buying a particular orange from the orange guy at the Mid-City market. They’re called Sweet Oranges cos they are very, very sweet. (Or at least he calls them that.) They are the most awesome oranges I’ve ever had– and I’m from Florida, famous for its oranges! (Although don’t ask me when they are in season.)

The orange man. (Not to be confused with someone who went to the Syracuse-- zing!)

These sweet oranges have been a lifesaver. I’ve gained a lot of weight living in NOLA (more on that in an upcoming post) and I have found it at least somewhat easy to opt out of dessert at home with these oranges around. Well, the orange man told me today that this is the last week he’ll have them.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooOOOoooOoooooOOOOOOOOooooo

He corrected himself and said that his wife will have the last round of oranges this Saturday, at the farmer’s market at in the Warehouse District. Well, I don’t get up early enough for that, but perhaps one of you dear readers will take advantage of this opportunity.

This is the day some sweet oranges broke my heart.

(And that was going to be the title of this blog post until my boyfriend suggested the title above.)

(Two boyfriend references! I judge myself.)

To remember for all eternity:

SWEET ORANGES ARE AVAILABLE DECEMBER-BEGINNING OF MARCH IN NEW ORLEANS

Until next year, my sweet sweet orange.

*(if this was a more different blog I’d write about how our America is so removed from its agrarian roots that people don’t know when fruits/vegetables are fresh. Or I could write about any number of environmental movements. I would probably sound more self-righteous than I do normally, so I’m glad that’s not my baileywick.)

UPDATE 3/8/2012, about 20 minutes after original post
A commenter who may-or-may-not be someone I date posted that my apple information was incorrect. According to Apple Facts from the University of Illinois, apples are grown in all 50 states.

Home-Cooked Red Beans and Rice (with caveats)

Caveats:

– I didn’t cook the red beans and rice, my boyfriend did.
– It was vegetarian
– My boyfriend did not make it on a Monday night.

He used a recipe from the cookbook Cooking up a Storm. From the Amazon book description:

“After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, thousands of people lost their keepsakes and family treasures forever. As residents started to rebuild their lives, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans became a post-hurricane swapping place for old recipes that were washed away in the storm. The newspaper has compiled 250 of these delicious, authentic recipes along with the stories about how they came to be and who created them. Cooking Up a Storm includes the very best of classic and contemporary New Orleans cuisine, from seafood and meat to desserts and cocktails. But it also tells the story, recipe by recipe, of one of the great food cities in the world, and the determination of its citizens to preserve and safeguard their culinary legacy.”

Some Red Beans and Rice History

Red beans and rice is an inexpensive meal and red beans grow very well in the Louisiana swamps. Back in “the day” (unspecified time before now) Monday was the traditional washing and cleaning day, so women would leave the pot of red beans boiling while they tended to their chores. Louis Armstrong loved red beans and rice and used to sign his name “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong.” (I’ve seen some people do this down here with their email signatures.)

Bars that Serve Red Beans and Rice (and not always on Mondays!)
– Pals (Monday)
– Micks (Monday)
– Candlelight Lounge (Wednesday)

– Vaughns (Thursday)

The Trinity
Red beans and rice calls for what is known as “the holy trinity”: onions, bell peppers and celery. These three ingredients are a staple of so many Louisianan recipes and the name pokes fun of the Catholic influence of the region.

Dirty Coast, one of the many tshirt shops that has popped up since Katrina, sells a design (available as a tshirt, a poster or bag) celebrating the trinity in Louisiana culture.
What do you put on your Red Beans and Rice?
I just found out today that my friend adds relish to hers. “Is that weird?” she asked. I didn’t know. What does everyone add to theirs?

My friend is in the Krewe of Nyx and made this red beans and rice decorated purse.

Update, 3/8/2012
The same friend who adds relish to her red beans and rice pointed me to Fleurty Girl‘s facebook page. Fleurty Girl will soon sell a locally made red beans and rice ring!

And who is Fleurty Girl? She is one of the many purveyors of NOLA-inspired tshirts and goods that has opened since Katrina. Soon I’m going to begin a series where I’ll break down some of the inside jokes featured on these shirts (just as I did with the Dirty Coast Trinity shirt above.)

Additionally, my dear friend asked an important question in the comments section of this post: “How did the food taste?” It was SO good! I think it got better after a night in the refrigerator. (It should be noted that this friend is an amazing chef. It should also be noted that I’m a bad New Orleanian for not thinking to comment on the food earlier!)

Lagniappe: A Monster in Mid-City

(or Bayou St. John, if you prefer. I prefer alliteration.)

Look who I saw on the bridge that leads to City Park!
As we learned in the post A Monster in the Warehouse District, this Monster is the work of Parse Gallery‘s Ricardo Barba. If you wade through the slideshow here, you can you can see IKIL in better days. It seems that the Monster is digesting a lot of trash. I blame Mardi Gras, but who knows, really?

The Monster from behind, at the corner of Carrollton and Esplanade.

The Monster is locked up good and tight!

Previously in Lagniappe:

Don’t Lick the Busstop
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Swim at Your Own Risk
Eaten Alive
Beeracuda
Mardi Gras Float Storage

Is there a Jazzfest “Season?”

On my bike the other morning I noticed a house with a Jazzfast flag flying. Behind Rouses, a Miller Lite truck proclaimed itself “The Official Drink of Jazzfest.” (Granted, that sign could’ve been on the truck all year) With Carnival Season parading off into storage units does that mean we’re in Jazzfest season? And is there such a thing? Carnival Season involves costumes, king cakes, parties and parades. In the months leading up to Jazzfest are there related celebrations? (I should note that some years Mardi Gras Day is later in the calendar, so the time between Mardi Gras and Jazzfest is truncated.)

The Seasons of New Orleans
I’ve written about how I miss the changing weather of D.C. Growing up, I found the eternal spring-summer cycle in my hometown of Miami dulling. However, New Orleans makes a slightly more differentiated spring-summer cycle by creating seasons of its own, marked by festivals and extended holiday celebrations. My blog-post hypothesis is that these festivals and celebrations create a rhythm to the year and mark time in a way that the city’s slightly colder winter and brutal summers do not.

Fall through start of Winter: Football and Christmas
September in New Orleans reminds me of living in a college town in that the whole city is galvanized by a sporting event. People here are nuts about LSU and the SEC. As a Gator I am always ruffled by LSU-ness of the celebration around here, but am grateful to be around a community that enjoys college football (and the SEC!). It’s a welcome reprise from living in D.C., which is more of a pro-sports town.

I’ve written about the Saints excitement many, many, many, many, many, many times. But this year marked the first time I watched a LOT of the NFL. It feels like you have to here, or you’re left out of cultural conversation and references. I used to only spend Saturdays at the bar to catch my college team. Now it’s all bar, all weekend… and I guess that’s New Orleans in a microcosm.

New Orleans also does a great job creating a festive Christmas atmosphere. The French Quarter Festival and The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation organize Christmas New Orleans Style, an annual citywide celebration of New Orleans holiday activities. The festival started 27 years ago, as way to attract visitors to the city at a time when tourism traditionally dips. Throughout the month there are events around the city that remind you of the season. And even though we have had a mild winter, walking through the French Quarter in December felt like Christmas.

January-February/March
Carnival Season

March-May
March is marked by St. Patrick’s Day, April by the French Quarter Festival and then Jazzfest in April/May. That’s more than enough, but I point you back to my hypothesis: Is there something that unites the season?

Summer
Now that I’ve nearly lived here a year, I recognize summer as the city’s downtime. The summer, like the spring,  is punctuated by festivals and regular events, some of which I’ve blogged about here: 610 Stompers, Satchmo Fest and White Linen Night, but there doesn’t seem to be one element that captures the city’s excitement.

Update: Seasonal Beers 3/1/12
Upon relaying this post’s topic to my boyfriend, he reminded me of seasonal beers. We are lucky to have a number of great local breweries, including LA 31, Covington Brewhouse, Tin Roof and Lazy Magnolia. However, Abita is the line I’m really familiar with, and the release of their seasonal brews always mark the season for me.

January-March: Mardi Gras Bock
Spring: Strawberry Harvest
March-May: Red Ale
May-September: Wheat
Summer: Satsuma Harvest Wit
Fall: Pecan Harvest
September-November: Fall Fest
November-December: Christmas Ale

When my boyfriend and I moved into our Uptown sublet in June, our summer landlord was kind enough to leave us some Strawberry ale in the fridge. When we moved out we bought a pack of Satsuma ale for her– a remnant of the New Orleans summer she had missed.

NOLA Brewery also releases seasonal beer, but I’m not as certain about the seasons they’re out because they’re a relatively new brewery. As far as I can tell:

Fall: Smoky Mary
Winter: Irish Channel Stout
January-March: Flambeau Red Ale (for Mardi Gras)
Spring: Hurricane Saison