Tag Archives: new orleans

mardi gras in the age of covid

It’s that time of year again to laissez les bons temps rouler, throw off the chains of drudgery and party New Orleans style – only this year there is none of that – no parades, no beads, no partying, no baring of bosoms, no masked balls, no much of anything, at least publicly. But the creative juices continue to flow, and if we can’t have our traditional fun, we at least can have … Yardi Gras. Roughly translated, it means if we can’t have parade floats, we’ll have yard floats instead. All that artistry has to go somewhere.

And there’s plenty of it to go around. Every day since the Mardi Gras season began – January 6 – these yard floats have been popping up in my neighborhood of Broadmoor, and I’ve collected a sampling. Hats off to this year’s krewes …

Birds are popular this year … tis the season of the landed flamingo, among others.

And if you’re going to be staying home anyways, make it fun …

New Orleans inspired …

Not to be outdone, the flora and fauna are here …

There is no last, there is no least, there is only Fat Tuesday …

year in review 2020

When your year starts off in Hawaii, you know the next twelve months are going to have to be pretty spectacular to beat that. Actually, the year was shaping up to be a good one – daughter Bridget’s bachelorette party in New Orleans in March, and her fairytale wedding in Ithaca in July. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to January to the beach in Hawaii.

The Japanese half of the family met up with the American half smack dab in the middle – or as close as we could get if were to meet on land – in the beach town of Kailua on the island of Oahu. We took side trips to the north of the island, famous for its waves, and Honolulu and Waikiki, but most of the time was family time, eating and playing and the usual family fun. You know.

As vacations go, best ever!

Back on the mainland, life returned to normal, and the month ended on a high note, out to see Dave Jordan at the Ogden Museum. Jordan has been playing for years but was under my radar until local radio station WWOZ put his latest album, Burning Sage, in the rotation. I liked what I heard, so I was keen to see him, and was not disappointed. Here’s Tucumcari Tonight from the new album.

February slid in with a Super Bowl party over at my cousins’, and keeping to the “watching TV” theme, the next week was the Oscars. Normally, I wouldn’t watch them – it’s no fun if you haven’t seen any of the movies, which is me to a T. If it’s not on Netflix, I haven’t seen it. But this year was different. In October last year, my girlfriend Celeste came down for the New Orleans Film Festival, and we went for the whole deal – minus the gala dinners and hob-knobbing – so we ended up seeing a lot of movies, and some of them ended up with Oscar nominations. Reflecting on that now, I wonder what the 2022 Oscar ceremony is going to be like … but, hey, that’s for next year’s letter.

Mardi Gras parade season got down to serious business February 16, culminating on Mardi Gras Day, February 25; and in between those two dates, it’s all parades and partying. I have learned to pace myself, and some days that actually works. This year Dennis came to town, and we sent him home with a lot of killer Mardi Gras schwag. The day after Mardi Gras – Ash Wednesday – was a full day of NOLA MUST DO items, starting with church service at the iconic St Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The place was standing room only, everyone come for the ashes and maybe a bit of repentance. As we stood cheek by jowl, no one – well, at least not me – was thinking about COVID-19. Next on the NOLA MUST DO list was $20.20 lunch at Antoine’s. That’s their thing. Next year it will be $20.21. Who says there isn’t inflation?

The next day, we headed up the mighty Mississip to the Whitney Plantation. Unlike most plantations, which focus on the plantation owners’ houses, the Whitney tells the plantation story through the lives of the slaves. February also saw the French Film Festival come to town, so checkmark all over that! And to close out the month, dinner at my favorite restaurant, Jacques Imo’s, followed by what turned out to be my last live show of the year, Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen at the Maple Leaf. A little Jon Cleary, if you please.

March came in with a bang – first my friend Celeste arrived, fresh from Ecuador – and we settled down to some serious foodie activity, starting with another NOLA MUST DO restaurant, Sweet Soul Food. Their bread pudding is to die for. That, as it turns out, is a typical refrain in NOLA. But I’ll save all my gushing over bread pudding for another time. On the heels of Celeste’s arrival, daughter Bridget arrived with the girls in her wedding party, ready for her bachelorette party, New Orleans style. She couldn’t have chosen a better place to hold it. Better yet, I had no responsibilities other than to show up for the food and drink, and I passed that test with flying colors. I got to meet the in-laws for the first time, too, spending quality time with Joyce and Haskel out on the town.

On March 10th, the last of the bachelorette party flew home, and on March 11th, I went into lockdown. And all around me, the city shut down.

For a while there, my major (only) social event of the week was grocery shopping with the seniors at 7 in the morning. But having nothing else to do besides buying food is just what I’ve needed. It’s meant a lot more uninterrupted time to write my book. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past nine months, sitting at my laptop, writing away. I suspect that’s where I’ll be throughout 2021, and 2022, and 20…

Remember when YouTube first showed up and it was the best thing ever? Well, these days, best thing ever is FaceTime and Zoom, for all the quality time I get to spend with family and friends, not to mention violin recitals and weddings (yes, Bridget and Justin had their Zoom wedding in May!). There is so much to be grateful for this year, but like most people, I am definitely looking forward to what next year has in store.

All my best wishes to y’all for the new year!


P.S. If you want to receive my very irregular posts, go ahead and add your email under the Follow Me button up there on the right. I don’t anticipate an onslaught of posts happening, but one never knows.

que ha estado pasando, or how I spent the Donald Trump years

You know, I am generally pretty good about keeping my promises. But apparently not perfect. Just moments ago I read my previous blog post, which dates all the way back to the end of 2016. I made a few promises in there about all these blog posts I’d be writing momentarily, and wouldn’t that be fun!

As we can see, that never happened. What happened instead is I began writing my book. In Earnest. Actually, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Making this story short, on your behalf, at some point very early on, I realized how much work it is to write a book, in this case, a historical novel of saga proportions. I knew that was going to be true going in — I’d learned that lesson when I wrote the Astral Weeks book. But just let’s say I was reminded of that lesson. Only this time, 10 times worse, because this book is big, at least in terms of words. And the very short of it is I adopted my favorite Edna Ferber anecdote, which was, and I paraphrase, she is sitting at her upstairs window, type type typing away at her current script and looks out the window to see these lovely brawny young men working on her landscaping. She thinks she maybe should go down and help them out, being cordial and all. Then Edna, the wise one, says to herself, “If you’re going to be a writer, write. If you want to be a gardener, garden. You can’t do both.” So for every time I came up with a splendid idea to blog about, I’d chastise myself with a “No dilly dallying, sistah, you’ve got a book to write, and no one else is going to do it for you.” At this point, I figure the book is going to take me 10 years to write. I hope it’s less, but I’m inclined to think I might be underestimating. So that’s my excuse for not blogging this time. I’ve had years of experience making excuses, but this one, I gotta say, is my best excuse yet.

Que pasa? Escribiemo un libro. And that’s how I’ve spent the Trump years. I tuned him out the minute he showed up. I had already done the same for Hillary long before, so whoever won was going to go ahead and do whatever big government thing they wanted to do, and they weren’t asking me for my input. So politics doesn’t really interest me anymore. I’ve kind of opted out of all that. Perfect time to write a book!

Based on what I said earlier — the no blogging while writing the book – you’d easily come to the conclusion that if I am blogging now, I must have finished the book, right? You’d be wrong on that.

My book is intended to be in four parts. Last week, I finished writing Part 1. That’s meant a shift in gears … Part 1 is now out with my three readers, who have a gargantuan task ahead of them (but I’ll save that for another day – but remind me, OK, in case I forget?). The main thing for blogging purposes is that I am not writing the book this week, maybe I’ll take a couple of weeks off. So I can blog to my heart’s content. Ensconced in New Orleans during the Trump years – there was nowhere else I’d rather have been, and I’ve got lots to tell you about it. Stay tuned.

2016 comes to an end in New Orleans

I’ve told myself a thousand times that if I’m going to keep a blog, the #1 key thing to do is write said blog. Which is all well and good, and it really is all well and good, but I might as well be talking to a brick wall. My sad excuse for an explanation about my four-month hiatus from blog world is that it’s been busy. Too busy for blogging, at least.

But the good news is that the crazy busy is over. What a couple of months it’s been, and it’s great to be at the other side of it all, ready to carve out a new year with lots of blogging in it, I trust!  Let me catch you up on those four months of zig-zagging …

I last left the blogger me in Ireland near the end of August – having spent three wonderful and industrious months there. Then it was on to Greece for five incredible weeks; it was the perfect getaway, and I promise, there’s a blog post to follow! I just have to cull through the umpteen hundred pictures of Greek sunsets first.

From Greece, I flew back to Boston at the end of September and went up to New Hampshire, and got to spend ten days with son Sean, who had flown in from Japan for his friend’s wedding. New Hampshire had a beautiful fall this year. It was an unusually late year for the leaves; they were just beginning to turn the first week of October. Driving along the back country roads, it was a daily delight to watch a real-life paint-by-numbers scene in action: the beautiful New England countryside, with its canopy of green slowly being filled in with splotches and speckles of oranges and reds and yellows.

In the middle of that beautiful setting, I was busy packing up my stuff, with the only really hard part being the books – ten boxes of books that are have-to-haves, they’re my job. The thing is, if you’re already bringing ten boxes of books, how many more boxes of books can you legitimately bring? I said “one,” and I got by with one and a half. There’s always the library, right? And while I was at it, I got myself a 2004 Toyota Corolla, packed up my stuff, and on October 11, headed south for Louisiana.

My idea was to drive, no detours, no nothing, just drive. The upside of just driving, no detours, is it makes pre-planning the road trip totally unnecessary – just get in the car and go, bring enough money for tolls. The downside is you don’t make any plans. So it wasn’t until I was sitting in my hotel room outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, 350 miles into my trip, when I realize that I’ll be in Virginia the next day, and hadn’t I always loved the beauty of Virginia the few times I’d driven through it, commenting that I really should come back one day and stop to smell the roses instead of whizzing by on I-81.

This turned out to be the day. I spent it meandering through Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the part of it that’s in Virginia – and what a spectacular day it was for the eyes and the soul. Van does such a soulful rendition of “Shenandoah” for the Ken Burns “Irish in America” documentary, and it touches my heart every time, and today I’ve got it on repeat till my heart is bursting with the serenity and beauty of this special spot. It’s well worth a blog post, but that’s not going to happen; we’ll just have to make do with a few photos …

From Virginia, is was back on the highway, down through Tennessee, a slice of Georgia, then Alabama and Mississippi, and on into Louisiana. A little factoid I did not know but do now … In 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared that the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” would now be plastered on all things tourist-related. The lady at the tourist center located just as you cross into Alabama asked if I wanted a bag for the free map she’d given me. I was about to decline – small carbon footprint, right? – when she pulled out a large white plastic bag with Sweet Home Alabama blazoned across it in blue. I told her I’d take it. It’s a very nice plastic bag, thank you, with a drawstring. First Shenandoah and all that Virginia conjures up about the Civil War, then a bit of Patsy Cline driving through Tennessee, and now my own Lynyrd Skynyrd bag. South, here I come.

First stop in Louisiana is Luling, a little town outside of New Orleans, to visit with cousins and dog-sit Chloe and Wally while the cousins take a trip up to Michigan. My main job, besides dog-sitting, is house hunting. I am the designated scout for our gang of three, let loose upon the rental housing market in New Orleans, to find us the perfect home. The gang is daughter Bridget, friend Steve, and me. Those two would be joining me in New Orleans in two weeks’ time, hopefully at our newfound home.

The last time I went looking to rent a place was in the ’70s, so I’m a bit rusty at this. And picky, it turns out. The short story of those weeks traipsing around New Orleans, minus any angst, is that we’ve got ourselves the quintessential Southern home in a lovely little neighborhood. Yes, it’s got high ceilings, and every room has a ceiling fan, there’s warm hardwood throughout, and there’s a spacious backyard with an orange tree!! (eating one as we speak), but I think what secured the deal for me was the front porch. A porch with a swing – what more could I ask for?

Louisiana may be a southern state, and New Orleans its crown jewel, but New Orleans is no southern American city, no ma’am.  It was founded by the French, later was under Spanish rule, then the French again, until where we are now: a possession of the United States. History will tell us how well that works out in the end, but in the meantime, New Orleans seems undisturbed by whoever it is in charge; it marches to its own drum. To me, it feels like a northern Caribbean outpost that just happens to be in the United States.

Now that I’m here, I’m here. Maybe it’s time to put down some roots. And indeed, if it is time, I couldn’t have found myself a better place.



april in new orleans

fireworks-211Hands down, New Orleans has to be the best city ever. The last (and first) time I came to visit, it was for two weeks, with Bridget, and we couldn’t have had a better time. A week of Mardi Gras followed by a week of Lent, and we were drawn by her charms, taking the bait hook, line and sinker. We knew we were coming back the first chance we got. Continue reading

trains, planes and automobiles

I made it! Sitting by the dock of the bay in San Francisco. There have been times in the past two and a half months that I wondered if I would.

Since leaving Ecuador on March 10, it’s like my feet have never left the ground. It’s been a real whirlwind, so let me fill you in, in the sketchiest of details, on what I’ve been up to. Continue reading

new orleans music

Even without the music, New Orleans is a fascinating city, one that is easy to be in – restaurants, shops, a riverwalk along the Mississippi, art galleries, parks – all within walking distance, all filled with friendly folks who are genuinely pleased with life and glad to be spending a part of their day with you. Its narrow one-way streets demand you get out on foot to explore. It’s the only way to see New Orleans, and while you’re out there gawking at all there is on offer, your senses come alive … especially your auditory sense. New Orleans is many things, but paramount is the music. Live music. I daresay there isn’t a city anywhere else that keeps on giving music the way NOLA does. Continue reading

laissez les bons temps rouler

I know. If you’re going to keep a blog, you’ve got to take time to post. In theory that works out great. It’s the putting it into practice part that I have to work on. But as Bridget said to me last night: “Don’t worry about it. Your followers all get an email alert when you’ve posted something new, and they’re happier if you don’t post, because that’s one less thing they have to read that day; and your friends will know that if you’re not posting, you’re out having fun; and everybody else doesn’t care; so don’t worry, it’s all good.” Good advice. Continue reading