Friday, May 20, 2011

The Mississippi

For those of you who aren't familiar with what is going on in Louisiana at the moment--both the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Morganza Spillway have been opened to try and divert the Mississippi and prevent it from flooding the city.  The Morganza Spillway has not been opened since the flood of 1973 which makes this a very unique situation, especially since many people live in the path of the spillway in the Atchafalya Basin. The Army Corps of Engineers basically had to decide to sacrifice the few for the many in an effort to protect New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I can't imagine how those people feel waiting for their houses and farmlands to be flooded on purpose...

Right now the river is holding at 17 feet, making docking and navigation along the river almost impossible for the usual tugboat routes. The levees protect the city for water levels of up to 20 feet so keep your fingers crossed for us!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mardi Gras Part 1: Krewe of Endymion

Unfortunately, I haven't yet managed to develop the pictures we took on my birthday trip to Chicago or at the Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras parade. Since my camera is sadly out of commission, RJ and I bought a disposable for the trip so we didn't have to rely on my phone alone. I will get around to printing those but in the meantime my next few posts are going to be a little out of order. I still haven't managed to morph into a person who remembers to take pictures everywhere she goes, but I do the best I can.

This was the first Mardi Gras since we moved to Mid-City and I have to say it was nice being away from the St. Charles parade route. Almost every parade in the city takes St. Charles which was convenient for fun but annoying when it came to going anywhere or getting anything done. Plus we had tourists EVERYWHERE: parked in the yard, peeing in the bushes etc. Yuck.

Mid-City is off the beaten Mardi Gras trail, with the giant exception of the Krewe of Endymion Parade. Endymion is the largest parade during Carnival and for the reason it takes a route down Canal St. with it's larger neutral ground (median). It runs on the Saturday before Mardi Gras Day and people often start camping out for spots along the route the night before. Since we live only a couple of blocks away, I started getting hints from friends and family a few weeks beforehand about how convenient it would be if they drop by and use our house/bathroom/beer cooler. So we dug the coolers and BBQ out of the shed and opened the house to all. People started arriving at 1:00 which gave us 5 hours before the start of the parade to secure some spots, get something to eat and get a good Abita beer buzz going :)

So a little history of Endymion for all you Canadians:

Endymion is one of three "super Krewes", called such because they have huge floats and even bigger crowds. Their official motto is "Throw until it hurts". I'm not kidding, it really is. Ironically I don't find their throws all that great--the number of people who end up pushing in front of you generally makes it tough to catch anything but cheap beads. Past Grand Marshals include Dolly Parton, John Goodman, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, David Shwimmer and Emiril Lagasse to name a few. The parade ends with the annual Endymion Extravaganza, held at the Superdome because of the sheer size of Endymion's membership. When you include the invited guests, the event often involves over 14,000 people.

Sadly, I only really took pictures of the crowd assembling and then one single picture of the first float. The problem is, I kept having to shove my phone quickly in my pocket to get ready to catch beads before they came flying at my face from all sides. I quickly forgot the phone.

I like the row of men all lined up with their BBQs. Very New Orleans.

Crowd is slowly getting bigger.

The only float I managed to catch on camera :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Christmas, Canada and the New Orleans SAINTS

*Creeps shamefully back onto blog-sphere*

Hello all,

I realize I have been absent from my blog for a good long while now. All I can say is that my schedule has been intense between the two jobs. Since I've now been inaugurated into the world of mobile-blogging I hope that my pattern of blog-dodging can come to an end.

That being said, lots has happened in New Orleans, and in my life, since the end of last year. I had a brief but wonderful trip home for Christmas, though I didn't have much time to get together with friends. It was nice to see a little bit of snow for the holidays--I sometimes find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit when I'm still putting on flip-flops to walk the dog.

Coming home to Canada is always strange for me. You just wake up one day and realize that somewhere else is also home too. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't allowed to come home for so long, and by the time I had the chance there were things I had forgotten about living there. Anyway, I'm meandering--I wish I could put it in better terms how it feels to be an ex-pat. Some of you must know.

After the trip to Canada, I returned home to the good ol' Who Dat Nation. Saints madness was everywhere in January and February. The store I work at in the French Quarter started making space in our normal selection of local wildlife-oriented art and t-shirts for shelf after shelf of Saints EVERYTHING. You would not believe the things people will buy if it says Who Dat on it. Or has a fleur-de-lis any where. I worked the day before the Superbowl and I honestly thought that someone was going to get trampled--that many drunk and ecstatic fans all trying to grab the last Saints temporary tattoos (which every store ran out of around noon) or Saints-themed hard hat (seriously). We did more business that day than in the two days leading up to Christmas.

Superbowl Sunday was also the Sunday that the Krewe of Barkus Parade happens to fall and instead of canceling it they moved it up the day to make sure people would still come. Krewe of Barkus is the Mardi Gras dog parade and we try to go every year since it's such a hoot. I took quite a few pics this year and so I'm going to give Barkus its own blog post--hopefully I'll have it up in a few days. Also see future blog posts for details of other 2010 Mardi Gras events.

For the big game my brother-in-law, Sean came over, as did my friend Denise. RJ and I had debated staying in the French Quarter for the game, since we were there a couple of hours earlier for Barkus, but in the end we decided that no matter the outcome we wanted to watch the game from the comfort of our couch, rather than behind 200 people crammed into each French Quarter bar. This definitely worked against us later in the evening but we did have a good time.

The game itself was pretty tense for the first quarter--I retreated to the kitchen at one point since RJ and Sean were pretty much swearing at the TV constantly at that point. Just goes to show you should never underestimate a team that wants it as much as the Saints wanted it. We were jumping up and down and screaming and hugging each other before the game was even over.

Once it was a done deal we walked to Canal street to try and catch a street car, only to find a group of about 40 other people who had the same idea, and no streetcar in sight anywhere. We waited there for about half-an-hour, while every car that passed honked like madmen or slowed down to give high fives to everyone waiting at the stop. Canal has three lanes in either direction and a streetcar stop every few blocks, you can imagine what that was like. We'd all been drinking since before Barkus started so driving was out of the question, and though there was some debate about trying to walk to the FQ, the journey was going to take us about an hour each way. In the end we retreated to the house to watch the post-game--sorry to disappoint, readers :)

According to friends of mine that did make it down there, the crowd was so thick that the mounted crowd control police couldn't even move around very much. Fortunately there was only one shooting that I heard of and no one was killed. Considering the numbers that's pretty impressive. The mood of the crowd must have been pretty jovial at that point.

The mood in the city is still very elevated, even a couple of weeks after the fact. It didn't hurt that the Superbowl happened to fall in the middle of the Carnival season. The theme of pretty much every Mardi Gras parade we went to was "Who Dat". There was a giant Saints parade the Tuesday after the game. It took hours for the parade to complete the route since the police had a hard time keeping people from spilling into the street, there were so many. I thought they were going to tear Drew Brees' float apart just to get close enough to touch him--it was almost scary. They also crowned him King of Bacchus a couple of nights later--only in New Orleans would they name a football star a god and actually give him a crown and a chariot :)

It has been amazing being a city like this for an event like this. It's been said before but no one knows how to throw a party like New Orleans!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas and the Saints

I know! I'm a horrible blogger. It has been several months since my last post. In my defense, working 6 days a week is making me lazy in what spare time I get. And now with Christmas approaching I'm starting to feel quite frazzled. But enough excuses... I will try to get back to posting once a week--if all else fails I'll have a nice 10 hours of travel down-time to get some writing done over the holidays.

The weather has been all over the place here for the last two weeks. Yesterday it reached 70 degrees then today we had to get the jackets out again. No snowflakes in sight, of course, but it is damp and chilly.

New Orleans is beautiful at Christmas time--people always go all out with the lights and decorations here. When we lived in Metairie I thought it was overkill but that's not the case in the city. I even think New Orleanians are more laid back about the Christmas Season--less cranky shoppers and stressed out families. Although that care-free attitude could also be the result of my next topic.

The New Orleans Saints, Ladies and Gentlemen! I can't even explain that craziness. People around here don't say "Hi" anymore, hey say "12-0!" It's like a religion--I honestly think that at this point if someone said something derogatory about the football team or Drew Brees they might get tarred and feathered. It's hard not to get excited though, New Orleans really needs this. I'm usually working at the store during the games but we always know exactly when the games end--everyone pours out of the bars on Decatur screaming and chanting. If they make it to the Superbowl this city will be partying for weeks.

It could happen!

Dinner time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama's First Visit to the Crescent City

Wow, two posts in one day. Very impressive on my part, however I'm getting a bit sleepy so this one will be brief.

So Obama came to visit today, for 3 hours and 45 minutes or something like that. I was ensconced in my office for all of that time but RJ tells me it was not fun stuff to drive in.

I will admit I did put myself in the lottery for the Town Hall Meeting--no idea how I would have explained that to my boss, but I thought it was a long shot anyway. RJ was the opposite: rather than crane his neck with everyone else he opted to skip school and avoid "the madness" at the University of New Orleans, his school, and the host of said Town Hall Meeting.

My boss turned up NPR so we could listen to his speech and then RJ and I watched it replayed on TV when I got home from work. I thought it was a great speech and very reassuring to New Orleans. I enjoyed several of the more amusing moments as well, like when the crowd booed Governor Bobby Jindal and Obama sort of had to save the awkward moment.

I know politicians have to act that confident about their plans but it was nice to hear some concrete ideas in areas of concern to the gulf south in terms of recovery, education, housing etc. As usual Obama had a great read on his audience and had just the right touch of down-home charm that a New Orlean's crowd likes.

That's pretty much all the writing I can do tonight but here's a link to the Times-Picayune's main feature article on the visit:

One Book One New Orleans: Dinner at Leah's

Alright. Finally an event to report on. For the month of October, the Youth Leadership Council has been organizing the 5th annual One Book One New Orleans, a sort of month-long literacy festival. Each year the council chooses a single book from a list of books nominated by the community, generally with a local theme or by a local author. The festival consists of about ten separate events, dinners and writer's workshops, during which the book is discussed in various ways.

This year's book is Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen, which I'm ashamed to say I can't tell you all that much about because I haven't read it yet. I know I know... I'm ashamed to call myself a bookworm, but in my defense the author of my favourite historical/adventure series published a new 800 page epic and between 50 hours of work a week and that monster of a hard-cover, I haven't even had time to shop for the festival book.

Still, last night's event, entitled: Chapter 3: Dinner at Leah's had me dying to get my hand on a copy of this culinary-themed homage to New Orleans. Dinner at Leah's was literally dinner at Leah's, referring to the aptly titled "Queen of Creole" cuisine, Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase
Restaurant and a veritable culinary institution in this city. I was such a thrill to get to be in the same room as her and finally get a chance to sit in her wonderful restaurant. The main dining
room is also home to Leah's famous collection of paintings by local artists, framed against the vivid red of the restaurant's walls. The food was tasty and definitely fed a crowd. To give you an idea of just how celebrated Leah Chase is in the city, President Obama's secret service staff picked up a to-go order from Dooky Chase just before his town hall meeting today at the University of New Orleans (See following post). She famously gave Obama a stern lecture on his last visit to the city, on putting hot sauce in true Louisiana Gumbo and for being too skinny. She quite a character at 85 years of age and it was so neat to be able to hear her speak about New Orleans and about her food.

There were three other guest authors at the event who spoke about their own cooking and about Sara's book: Elsa Hahne, author of You Are Where You Eat:Stories and Recipes From the Neighborhoods of New Orleans; Poppy Tooker, author of The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook (which I absolutely have to buy); and Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker, co-author of Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (which I have on hold at work).

What an amazing event for anyone who likes to cook, and for anyone who likes to eat! To that end, there was also plenty of eating done as well. We had a Creole Gumbo to, start of course, then Jambalya, Creole Green Beans, and a wonderful Bread Pudding for dessert. The whole thing was just lovely and I'm so happy that I got to attend. I certainly won't be missing One Book One New Orleans next year!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just a little water...

I know I haven't posted in a while. Between work and... other work, I've barely had two minutes to myself this month. Plus I haven't really been doing much with my weekends in terms of New Orleans stuff worth writing about.

So to wean myself back in, this is going to be a mini-post--a snippet if you will, of sub-tropical fun.

Tonight's adventure started when I went into the kitchen to heat up dinner (leftovers of my pseudo-Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner last night), only to discover that water was coming in at the top of the kitchen window and had, in fact, been leaking for a while all over my kitchen floor. It had previously only dimly registered in the back of my brain that it had been raining all day, not exactly an unusual event in New Orleans. In fact it was still raining at this point and had evolved into a rather strong storm.

Still, the house is newly rebuilt and we've never had so much as a drip before. We shrugged it off, called the landlord and sat down to dinner. We hadn't been eating more than five minutes when our neighbour knocked on the door to say that the water was getting rather high on the street and we should probably think about moving our car.

We looked outside and lo and behold there was water beginning to reach the bottom of the car doors. Crazy stuff. Everyone but a few unfortunate souls manage to move their cars to higher ground but there is a sad white sedan parked in front of a house just one down from ours who's owner is going to have a very unpleasant surprise.

You'd think you'd get used to this kind of stuff below sea level but I'm always really shocked at how fast the water rises. At this point anyone trying to drive in Mid-City has a really good chance of getting stuck and having to bail out.

My neighbours are all currently sitting on their porches right now having a good ol' time watching all the passing motorists floundering through the wading pond that has become our street. On the other hand, you gotta love the fact that most of them are also going door to door in a storm like this to make sure everyone on the block is warned.

There are some parts of Southern culture that I wouldn't change for the world. Hands down, there is no better neighbour than a New Orleans neighbour.