Recycling in NOLA Update: Abita Cans Arrive this Weekend

Updates
I’ve got more information about topics I’ve written about here on the blog

Back in July I wrote about the state of recycling in NOLA. In the post, I mentioned that Abita, the most well-known local beer, only come in glass bottles, which you cannot recycle in New Orleans. That’s all in the past, now! This Saturday, Abita is hosting a bar crawl in celebration of the release of cans of Amber, Purple Haze and Jockamo IPA– just in time for Mardi Gras!

NOLA Brewery, which I toured last XX, released cans of its awesome NOLA Blond last October. On February 15, their Brown Ale will debut in can form.

Baton Rouge’s Tin Roof beer is also available in cans.

NOLA Blonde in cans, purchased for research purposes only.

The plastic rings are also recyclable!

The Krewe of Muses M Flags


You may have seen this flag, which represents the Krewe of Muses. My New Orleanian was a little rusty when Carnival season began and for a moment I wondered if the M stood for Mardi Gras.

There are so many M flags flying–I’ve seen about six on neighboring streets–but wiki says Muses has 2,000 members. Are all of these flag fliers members of the Krewe? Or are they simply fans of the parade? I don’t think I’d feel comfortable flying a Muses flag unless I was involved– but that’s just me. What is the customary around here?

UPDATE, 2/2/12: The M flag represents the home of a Muse. However, as you’ll see in the comments of this post, not all Krewe members actually participate in the parade.

Mardi Gras Terms

What is a Krewe?
A Krewe is an organization that puts on a Mardi Gras parade, walks in a parade and/or organizes a ball. Some of the groups do all three and some just hold a ball.

How do you join a Krewe?
Some are invite only. Some krewes allow you to join if you just pay the dues. The dues cover parade costs, float-building costs, and the costs of throws. Apparently, Muses is not accepting new members.

What is Muses?
Muses is an all-female Krewe that started in 2001. Their parade is always the Thursday before Mardi Gras Day. Muses is known for their signature throw– an elaborately hand-decorated high heeled shoes, often covered in glitter.

Here is a blog post where a Muses rider answers  more questions about the krewe.

What is a throw?
A “throw” is a slang for the trinkets thrown to the crowds during during Mardi  Gras parade. I believe the only krewe that does not actually throw their hand outs is Zulu, because they hand out coconuts and some dumb dumb got hit in the head with a coconut and sued.

From Go NOLA.com: The Top 5 Mardi Gras Throws

Lagniappe: A Monster in the Warehouse District

I spotted this guy on outside the Contemporary Arts Center a few weeks ago:

I initially decided that he was a baby-eating monster, but upon further reflection he might be a regular monster, eating regular things–  we’re just privy to his digestion process. I empathize with him. Like all of us, this monster gets messy when he eats. (Or is that just me?)

He seems like he is made out an old newspaper rack. I’ve read about artists co opting these racks, but this is the first time I’ve seen one. Does anyone know anything about this?

I checked in with him today, after docent training at the Ogden. He’s still there, but it seems like someone had some fun with him. Or perhaps he is just tired from baby eating, and needed a lean?

UPDATE, 2/2/12: According to the CAC’s Associate Director, the robot appeared around the openings of Prospect.2, the citywide art showcase, and the CAC’s NOLA Now Part I exhibition. Eventually, Ricardo Barba from the Parse Gallery’s collective revealed himself to the CAC’s curator. On Parse’s website you can see pictures of Barba’s other newspaper-box sculptures, including one that looks eerily similar to our monster man (in his better days.)

The Parse Gallery (previously unknown to me) (which doesn’t mean anything) is dedicated to building a progressive and playful art community. They’re located on 134 Carondalet street.

Previously in Lagniappe:

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

Tips for tourists and New New Orleanians: Bring Cash

The other day I ate two slices of delicious pizza at Pizzacare* on Tulane Ave, in Mid City. The employee paused with confusionwhen I asked if they accepted credit cards. “Yeah,” she said, cocking her head. “We do.”

I was a little offended. This is New Orleans! It’s always best to have cash on hand! When I first lived here eight years ago a lot of businesses didn’t take credit or debit cards. Things have changed, but it’s still common to have a barista refuse my plastic and gesture to a gray ATM in a darkened corner that charges a $2 fee. It’s no secret that NOLA is slow to adapt and this service-industry is full of bars and restaurants wary of credit-card surcharges. Although the exchange at Pizzacare means I could put another notch on my New Orleanian bedpost because I am becoming more accustomed to the city, I did make me realize that I needed to blog about cash carrying for all my New New Orleanians!

Businesses that Only Take Cash
(not an exhaustive list! Please comment if you have any additions or corrections!) 

Bars
BJ’s Lounge (Bywater)
Bullet Bar (St. Roch)
Henry’s Bar (Uptown)
Hi Ho Lounge (Marigny)
Iggys (Marigny)
Spotted Cat (Marigny)

Restaurants
Boo Koo BBQ at Finn McCools (Mid City): However, if you order drinks from the bar you can ask for cash back.
Guy’s Po Boys (Uptown)
Johnny’s Po Boys (French Quarter)
Slim Goodies (Garden District)
Surreys (Garden District and Uptown)

Coffee Shops
Byrdie’s (Bywater)
Mojo coffee (Garden District)
Neutral Ground Coffee House (Uptown)
Rue de la Course (Carollton)
Still Perkin (Garden District): They require a $5 minimum and are very strict about it. Recently, I bought an underwhelming, over priced cookie to make $5. I almost returned it, but I didn’t have the guts.
Zotz (Carollton)

Sweets
Creole Creamery (Uptown)
Hansen’s Snoballs (Uptown)
Plum St Snoballs (Carollton/University)
Cafe du Monde (French Quarter)
Laurel Street Bakery (Uptown)

Just Started Taking Cards
Camilia Grill (Carollton/French Quarter): I think this happened a few years ago, but I’ll consider it recent, since this is such a long-standing establishment.
Fair Grinds (Bayou St. John): $5 minimum

Tips

  • Fancy restaurants take cards. They want your money. This includes most places in the French Quarter.
  • Cash is also useful for the few places that charge covers. I’m specifically thinking of DBA, in the Marigny.
  • The Crescent City Farmers Markets take cards. However, you have to visit a special booth and use your card to purchase special tokens to give the vendors. It’s a $1 surcharge for this service.
  • Many places have a credit card minimum. Some are jerks about it. Some are not.

*Note: apparently it’s pronounced Pizza-car-eh, which I learned last week.

Carnival Misunderstandings

“It’s Carnival,” said one of the men sitting outside Fair Grinds coffee house a few weeks ago. (See my post on eavesdropping.)

Carnival is the season that leads up to Mardi Gras day. I’m clarifying this because it wasn’t clear to me when I lived here in 2004. I thought Carnival was an alternate name for the actual day of Mardi Gras, not a sanctioned season. I assumed that Mardi Gras decoration and king cakes appeared at the start of January because commercialization had lured vendors to start the party early, I assumed the influence of commercialization extended the celebration, in much the same way that Christmas now seems to begin on November 1.

King Cake Creep
Turns out I was half right. January 6th is known as Twelfth Night, the day that the three wise men brought gifts to Jesus. It marks the end of the Christmas season and the official beginning of Mardi Gras season–Carnival, as the man outside Fair Grinds said. I didn’t realize the connection to the Christian holidays–we’ll just my Semitic heritage. And the January 6 date explains the new year’s arrival of those king cakes.

Well wishers see off the Phellows

Twelfth Night is also when the Phunny Phorty Phellows krewe packs into a streetcar and rides down St. Charles Avenue to announce Carnival’s arrival. It  to be a true New Orleanian, one must wait to consume king cake until the Phunny Phorty Phellows have made their round trip through the Garden District. Eating the cake beforehand is called king cake creep. As the Phellows’ Captain told Nola Defender, “We consider ourselves the heralds of Carnival. We’re announcing that the Carnival season has begun, and now it’s officially okay to eat king cake.”

Seeing Off the Phunny Phorty Phellows
My boyfriend and I went with hundreds of others to watch the Phunny Phorty Phellows depart from the Willow Street car barn. The scene was packed costumes and colors. I should know by now that every occasion in NOLA requires a costume, but the costumes on this night didn’t seem to have a point– just a raid on the costume box.

The scene was scattered, but joyful. People greeted old friends and danced to a brass band as we waited for the streetcar to depart and pull the Carnival trigger. As the streetcar left the station the crowd slowly parted. My boyfriend and I stood to one side, unsure if the Phunny Phellows threw beads (they did. we didn’t get any.) The krewe whizzed by, abuzz in beer and revelry and  the crowd dispersed immediately afterward, as if nothing had happened. It was anticlimatic, in a way.

I assumed there were crowds of people waiting on St. Charles, just as there are during the big Mardi Gras parades. But the streets were inactive. My friend saw the Phellows on their way back to the streetcar barn, and she told me they were no longer cheering out the window. I guess the Phunny Phorty Phellows start off Carnival with the quick burst of a firecracker… which might be a good idea, because we’ve got a long season ahead of us.

Docent Training at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The view from of the Warehouse District, from the Ogden's second story windows.

Last Tuesday, I began training to become a docent at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. (A docent leads museum tours.) The Ogden focuses on the visual arts and culture of the American South, which they consider to be the 16 states that run west to Oklahoma and Texas; north to D.C., Maryland and Virginia; and east to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the country’s first museum exclusively devoted to Southern art, with the idea being if if there’s such a thing as Southern music and Southern food, how we all don’t know of something called Southern art?  And how do you define Southern art? Well, according to the Ogden, Southern art brings together the diverse expressions of Southern culture that emote the spirit of the region.

This raises the question: How do you define what makes something “Southern?” 

Theorra Hamblett (1895-1977) A Hayride and a Tragedy, 1965, oil on canvas. Collection of the University Museum, University of Mississippi. Bequest of Theora Hamblett. (I took this photo on a visit to the Ogden this summer)

This question was the jumping off point in last week’s training.  How do we define the South and what we thought it means to live here? Through our discussions and a movie called The South as a Sense of Place, that was made specifically for the Ogden (and narrated by Morgan Freeman!) our group filled in some of the blanks. Here are notes from my notes:

What Does the Term “The South” Mean?  What Separates It From the Rest of the Country?

  • The South is as much an idea of place as a place of itself. Calling this large area the South and unifying it under one umbrella smooths over its contradictions and contrasts.
  • The idea of the South is also a political idea, formed by an actual or perceived notion of shared beliefs, values and attitudes.
  • This region has known a different past than the rest of the country and endured different political and social struggles.
  • Southerners derive their identity from their roots, rather from their possessions. It’s an attitude.

What are Characteristics of the South?

  • History: Family life is the center of personal experience
  • Community
  • Hospitality
  • Celebrations
  • Sense of identity, sense of place: It feels different than the rest of the country
  • Connection to a past that in some cases is divisive
  • It’s slow to change
  • There is a lure of decadence
  • Tradition
  • Revelry
  • The fashion is different, often due to the weather
  • Accents
  • Slower pace
  • Religion is much more a part of daily life
  • Region-specific food, music and literature
  • Sports are very important in the south

Archie Bongé (1900-1936) Country Church, 1932, oil on canvas. Gift of the Dusti Bongé Foundation. (I took this photo on a visit to the Ogden this summer)

I took a ton of notes that will definitely serve as a jumping-off point for upcoming blog posts. In the conversations last week we also talked about what makes New Orleans slightly different than the South, but that’s definitely an idea worth exploring.

What do you all (erm, y’all) think? What are other characteristics of the South? Also, what would a museum of Northern art look like? Or a museum of Midwestern art?

Nothing is Too Overboard for The Saints

In a few hours the Saints challenge the Detroit Lions, in the Saints first playoff game this year. I’ve written before about how much this city loves the Saints, but sometimes I’m still surprised with the lengths people go to to express their devotion. Just before the holidays I bought some gifts at Fleurty Girl, a shop that sells New Orleans-inspired t-shirts and accessories, and I saw these fake tattoos, inspired by the famous birthmark on the face of beloved Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.

I laughed and asked if I could take a photo. The salesperson immediately asked if I wanted to buy one.

“Nothing is too overboard for the Saints,” she reminded me.

Memories of my Harrowing and Upsetting Amtrak Trip

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A series of posts from my four-day trip back to D.C., where I lived for six years…

When flying to and from Washington D.C. my preferred airport was always the metro-accessible Reagan National airport (more on that in a post to come). However, on this sojourn back to D.C. I flew into Baltimore. It’s a lot of travel to get from BWI to DC. You must find and wait for the ten-minute shuttle from the airport to the train station; wait for the train; ride 35 minutes south; and take the DC to metro to your final destination.

Friday’s journey from plane to city was lovely and uneventful. But as I stepped off the BWI shuttle into the winter air, I recalled the most harrowing and upsetting experience I had returning from NOLA to DC.

The Most Harrowing and Upsetting Experience I Had Returning from NOLA to DC
Two years ago I flying back from a New Years vacation in New Orleans in an emotionally fragile state. Things weren’t going so well in my personal life and I was eager to get home,

On a layover I switched to the smallest plane I had ever been on. I am not afraid of flying, but I am afraid of heights and the shaky plane accentuated our distance from the ground. It made such loud sounds that I couldn’t hear my iPod. I was also physically uncomfortable because I was seated next to a woman who requested a seatbelt extendor to fit her body, and my poor decision to wear a not-long skirt and tall boots left me cold with aching feet.

When traveling I opt for comfort over style, but on this trip I wore a not-long wool skirt and tall boots because sometimes I like to imagine I like to I’m the kind of girl who dresses up for flying. My feet ached from running through the airports and I was cold. Tears rolled down my face as I pressed up against the window to give myself space from my neighbor. I wanted to be in my bed, cuddling my cat.

BWI was quiet when we touched down. I didn’t know when the trains to DC departed and there was no one around to ask. The ticketing office was closed when I got to the MARC station and a display said that the next train wouldn’t come for 30 minutes. A few cab drivers offered to drive those of us waiting back to DC, but it was expensive and I refused.

A group of about ten people huddled in an enclosed walkway that connected the train platforms to wait for the train. Someone checked their phone and it was 19 degrees. We watched the electronic train schedule as it counted down and all of a sudden the next train’s arrival time disappeared. Another train appeared on the schedule, one that was to arrive in 50 minutes.

To keep warm I alternated between pacing the coved overpass and sitting in a seat, bent over towards my toes, all the while cursing my outfit. I wondered if the train would ever come. I was lonely and it was late so I couldn’t call or text anyone. (This was before I had a smart phone, so I couldn’t search the Internet, send an email or social media– small measures that make the world feel smaller.) My only company was the assortment of shivering strangers and the lone podcast on my iPod I had not yet heard– a conversation about an ESPN documentary with sportswriter Dan LeBetard.

The next scheduled train never came. One of my companions called Amtrak and relayed the message that a train was on the way…soon. Someone lent me their jacket (damn outfit!) and we continued to wait.

When the train finally arrived I curled into the corner of a seat and defrosted, shuddering each time we reached a new stop to pick up passengers, who themselves all greeted the train with boundless joy.

This memory seemed so far away in the pleasant and accomodating light of late Friday. The train arrived on time, and travel went off without a hitch.

But I didn’t forget.

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New Orleans’ Winter Makes Me Miss DC

Keeping Track of the Weather
After a brutal summer, it’s finally cold. I still remember the week at the end of August when the heat first snapped, only to return again a week later. It amuses me that I retained this information, but I think that’s because it’s my first year back in New Orleans. It took me a few years of living in D.C. to predict the weather’s moods. I still recall how late I wore my winter jackets in my first year there (last week of March, 2006).

The last week of March, 2006. From top to bottom: Cherry blossoms, me.

For the purpose of next year, and those new to the city, here is my weather calendar thus far:
June-August: Unbearably hot (Sun sets at 7:45)
September: Warm, but okay. A few cold snaps. (Sun sets at 7)
October: Beautiful (Sun sets at 6:15)
November: Beautiful most days, sometimes a bit uncomfortably chilly (Sun sets by 5:15)

Questions for New Orleanians:
– How accurate is my calendar?
– This week, and a few weeks during November, we jumped from days where the mercury read 75 degrees to days like today, when my phone says 38. Is this typical?

Missing DC
I grew up in Miami, and Washington was the first place I ever lived with four, full seasons. I loved the way the seasons marked. Unlike areas further north and south, DC seasons generally last three months. I knew I’d miss the seasons when I moved down here, and I’ve felt the pangs as the weather has turned cold. I miss snow. Sure, it’s a pain, but I always got excited when the snow fell, which happened 3-4 times a year. We even had a few snowstorms, but I thought it was fun. I didn’t own property or drive a car, so it just meant time off work.

Winter on Connecticut Ave., Cleveland Park

I loved the way the trees told time. In the winter when the leaves fell I could see up the street for miles. The view from the Taft Bridge let me to see deep into Rock Creek Park. By summer the trees get so full that I couldn’t see the road. I miss that.

Fall in Cleveland Park

Fall on Connecticut Ave., Cleveland Park

The full look of summer.

This Friday I am going on a mini vacation to D.C. It’ll be the first time back since I packed up my apartment over the summer, which was no vacation, lemme tell ya! More on this in the upcoming week. I’m very excited.