The Final Hours Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Students working with David Young, March 2016.

I’m finally taking a breather. Sitting in Community Coffee drinking my third cafe au lait today. I wonder if this has something to do with my trouble sleeping? I am taking a pause before some serious Mardi Gras Indian activity tonight,  as it St. Joseph’s Day; even though the date is more closely tied to the Sicilians, it is the Indians’ prime night for masking. That will be followed by some music and tomorrow, even a larger gathering of Indians. For now, I’ll enjoy the relative quiet of the coffee house.

About an hour and a half ago, I saw the 19 students and five student leaders cram their luggage, sleeping bags, beads, and themselves into four minivans for the 1600 mile trip back to New Hampshire. They’ll be leaving the warm weather of the past week for possible snow in Virginia and back home in New England. Many were wistful about leaving, but you could almost hear the gears switch from beignets to books and homework.

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Work at Flood Street, March 2016.

Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day, but celebration would have to wait; work assignments remained the same. The Zulus got more involved in construction on expanding David Young’s aquaculture system. On Friday, he took them on a tour of his organization’s gardens, orchards and ponds that are scattered throughout the Lower Ninth Ward. The crew working at the lowernine.org house finished much of the shingling of the damaged portion of the roof. Only the weather on Friday kept them from finishing the task. The Baratarians primarily continued prep work over on the home on Flood, but by the end of the week more of them had the opportunity to do some painting. The same held for the crew on Delery Street

Thursday night brought the Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We gathered at the intersection of Royal and Esplanade to watch this relatively modest, yet spirited parade. Afterwards, most of the students followed the parade into the French Quarter, while most of the leaders stayed in the Marigny. The air was heavy, yet thunder showers failed to chase revelers of fof Bourbon Street. Folks got to bed a bit later than most nights, but then, they had a partial day of work left and it was predominately a wash out.

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Backstreet Cultural Museum, March 2016

As the students crossed the Industrial Canal on Friday afternoon, they left the Lower Ninth, the taco truck, the sandwiches from the Arabi Market, and fine folks at lowernine.org. However, before they kicked around New orleans one last night, I took them to the Backstreet Cultural Museum, a Treme landmark just a couple of blocks from the community center. The museum holds dozens of beautifully crafted Indian suits and second line memorabilia. In addition, our guide had masked as an Indian for several decades and was a wealth of information about both the suits and the tradition.

While many students headed over the the Warehouse District, I met up with former student and leader Theresa Conn and her UNH roommate. We went to Adolfo’s, a highly regarded Creole-Italian restaurant on Frenchmen Street. We began with mussels in a garlic sauce. The entrees were magnificent, literally topped off with the chef’s “ocean sauce,” a peppery creation with a mound of crab meat, plentiful shrimp and crawfish tails.

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Kermit Ruffins, March 2016

After dinner we parted ways and I crossed the street to see trumpet player/vocalist Kermit Ruffins at the Blue Nile.He played a healthy collection of his best-known songs, but as the clock rolled past ten, I knew I had to go back and get some rest. More storms had rolled through so that I had to dodge showers while walking back to the community center.

Because the students had done most of the cleaning of the community center on Friday afternoon, there was little to do Saturday save packing the vans. Everyone went into the Quarter for one final time, mostly to finish shopping for souvenirs and visit the French Market. The Meters got a late start, because as

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The Meters, March 2016

winners of the scavenger hunt, they received a breakfast on me. I picked the Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop on the recommendation of Kyle Murphy. It is a funky place on  the edge of the Bywater at the intersection of Royal and Franklin. The service was a bit slow for a group our size, but I believe the students appreciated both the relaxed time and the resident cats, before getting back in the van for the trip.

I met all four groups back at the community center at noon to see them off. They left on time without a hitch. And now I can begin worrying about their well-being on the return trip. It will be great to see them in class on Thursday, but for the time-being, I’m going to enjoy a couple of days of down time.

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Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop, March 2016.

 

 

 

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New Orleans Music Saturday, Mar 1 2014 

It’s that time of year again. I got excited today because the March 1st temperature in New Hampshire climbed above freezing. I eat well, actually too well, on a regular basis, but the food I normally eat is nothing like that found in New Orleans. But the magnetic pull that I feel in the week before I head to the Crescent City is not the warmth or the red beans and rice: it is the music.

John Boutte, d.b.a., March 2011.

John Boutte, d.b.a., March 2011.

This is when I WWOZ’s Livewire daily to see what will playing while I’m there. I look at Nola.com, Gambit, and sites for individual music venues to see what will be happening. Te tragedy is that it will be more than I can take in; but that is the beauty of music of New Orleans. It is an embarrassment of riches.
I hear the drums and tambourines of the Mardi Gras Indians. I hear the funky growls of the brass bands. I see the nonverbal glances that jazz musicians pass to one another as they hand off the next solo. I am swept up in the joy of locals two stepping to zydeco at the Rock n Bowl. I see people twerking on front porches and dancing on roofs. And it makes me want to be there even sooner.

Most visitors to New Orleans miss the real music. They are to busy accepting that the crap on Bourbon Street is what there is to hear. They never experience Frenchmen Street because it is three blocks outside of the French Quarter. They miss out on Rebirth at the Maple Leaf. Kermit at Bullet’s. Big Freedia at Siberia. Or John Boutte at d.b.a.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

As tragic as it is, I will not lose any sleep over their ignorance. I know it that as they are crowding some bar on Bourbon Street, drinking a watered down drink out of a plastic green hand grenade, listening to bad classic rock; I will be somewhere somewhere else. Listening to some of the best live music America has to offer.

Mr. Lewis’ Neighborhood Wednesday, Mar 13 2013 

Putting in walls on Royal Street, March 2013.

Putting in walls on Royal Street, March 2013.

We woke up to a much clearer, albeit chilly morning. We huddled, shivering again in the yard of lowernine.org, but this time with sun on our faces. All three groups were sent to their previous locations. Van 2 to work on Royal Street to work on insulation and sheet rock. Van 3 to reinforce floors, rebuild walls, etc. for a sad shotgun house on Deleray Street. I returned with Van 1 to work on the floors of a home on Gordon Street.

We encountered some bottlenecks in work because we had to lay special board to serve as a foundation for a tile floor throughout the home. The board is like woven concrete, which means we do not to lay cement for the base. But is heavy and needs to be cut to fit in many places. Through the lack to tools, extension cords, goggles, masks, etc., there were some delays, but spirits remained intact. The long-term volunteers working with us provided a certain international air. Liam, the workhorse, from South Korea; James, the heartthrob, from England; and we’ll add the wise and acerbically funny Eileen, from the nation of Nevada.

Installing flooring on Gordon Street, March 2013.

Installing flooring on Gordon Street, March 2013.

To the eye, Van 2 probably made the most headway, as it is easy to follow the progression of installing insulation and walls. And Van 3 clearly had the grimiest work situation as they were working with old rotten and termite chewed wood.

Our group, Sam and Casey’s Van 1 also suffered from the fact that we had to take Van 1 to the shop to get the windshield installed before the trip home. A previous replacement was clearly not properly sealed. And given the realities of post-Katrina New Orleans, the nearest Ford dealership on this side of New Orleans is in Slidell. Casey made the trek across the City to Metairie and I followed to pick him up. And because this is New Orleans, a simple windshield replacement will take a day; well, as it turns out — more.

IMG_0303While I was out getting much needed Ibuprofin, James packed all of the vanless students into the back of a pickup and took them down to where the Industrial Canal flows into the Mississippi for a picnic lunch. The hazard did not escape me; however, the fact that I missed it was quite annoying. They had a memorable lunch, snoozing on the levee, although many returned with distinct pink patches of skin.

At 4:00pm our group walked one block to Ronald Lewis’ House of Dance and Feathers. The rest caught up with us and we spent the next hour being educated and entertained by the unofficial mayor of the Lower Ninth Ward. From a childhood on Deslonde Street to his current home on Tupelo Street, Lewis roots in the Lower Ninth grow deep. From laying streetcar track, to union organizer, to community leader, Ronald’s passion and determination flow throughout Dan Baum’s Nine Lives. Meeting him will make reading the book all the more meaningful.

The New Orleans class and the Lewis family, March 2013.

The New Orleans class and the Lewis family, March 2013.

The House of Dance and Feathers is Ronald’s collection of Mardi Gras Indian and second line paraphernalia from groups in the local nine. Again, it reflects Ronald’s gritty pride in his neighborhood and the distinct African-American culture that it holds. Ronald took half of the class into his museum (although it had climbed into the mid 60s, he had the heat on), while his granddaughters entertained the rest in the backyard. Then we switched. Afterwards we took pictures and said our goodbys until next year.

As I left the yard, I encountered a French-born anthropologist from Brazil. She is studying the relationship between the Indians and similar neighborhood groups in Brazil. I gave her a ride into the City so that she could catch the streetcar to Mid City. I showed her the location of the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, where Sylvester Francis maintains a larger collection reflecting the traditions of his neighborhood. I dropped her off in the Quarter and suspect that we’ll cross paths again on Super Sunday or St. Joseph’s Night.

IMG_0324In the evening, the students feasted on spaghetti and salad and returned to the French Quarter. I joined up with friends Burt Feintuch and Gary Sampson, who are working on an illustrated book of interviews with New Orleans musicians. Appropriately enough, we met at Bullet’s Sport Bar on A.P Tureaud Street in the Seventh Ward, for Kermit Ruffins’ longstanding Tuesday night gig. From Kermit’s showmanship  to some fabulous guest vocalists, to the grill of barbecued meats outside (yes, I did), it did not disappoint. In addition to neighborhood folk and tourists, the audience contained Derek Shezbie, trumpet player for Rebirth, and actor Wendell Pierce, the hapless Antoine Baptiste on HBO’s Treme. Gary, who has never been to New Orleans, was clearly living a photographer’s dream. Hopefully, I will get to talk to him at some point during his visit. As it approached 10:00 pm, we left the Tuesday night revelry and headed our different ways.

IMG_0321Between work during the day and too many options for entertainment at night, one has to pace oneself.

Mardi Gras Redux Wednesday, Feb 13 2013 

In spite of my obsession with New Orleans, I have never made it Mardi Gras. A couple of years ago, I got there four days after the fact, but folks Uptown were still ready for the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s not the drunkenness or debauchery or “Girl’s Gone Wild” atmospherics that I miss; it is the cultural and social affects that I miss. The Zulus, the Mardi Gras Indians, the dogs in the Barkas Parade, and the neighborhood-centric goofiness of the St. Anne’s Parade. These are the things I long to see. And thankfully, nola.com provides me with photos and video to give me a glimpse into what those there are experiencing.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

One of the things I used to put me in the spirit was the Times-Picayune’s JacksonSquareCam. Right now it probably shows people milling about and getting their palms read in the plaza between the Cathedral and Jackson Square, but during Mardi Gras it was abuzz with costumed revelers. And even from the distance of the camera, some appeared threatening and many of the rest, just plain weird and/or scary.

However, many of the photos and videos put on display by the Times-Picayune really capture the history and culture represented by Mardi Gras. And yeah, people are still having fun. Among my favorites, i.e. the ones that help me experience the celebration from afar:

The Skull and Bones Gangs — For some reason, these guys terrify me; however, there is a beautiful photo collection of the Northside Skull & Bone Gang waking up Treme on Mardi Gras day.

The Mardi Gras Indians processing in Treme under the I-10 overpass. I’ve seen it on St. Joseph’s Night, but not during Mardi Gras. One day. Here are photos and a video.

One of the things I’d most want to experience is thew history and tradition of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, 104 years old and going strong.

The Mardi Gras Day reopening of Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge by Kermit Ruffins.

To witness the neighborhood spectacle that is the St. Anne Parade that stumbles through the Marigny.

OK, I have to finally admit it. I have found a krewe that surpasses the 610 Stompers: the Laissez Boys Social and Leisure Club.

And, finally the ceremonial NOPD sweep of Bourbon Street at midnight after Mardi Gras.

I love it from afar, but one day I will actually experience it.

The Best of the Beat Sunday, Jan 20 2013 

2009 NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL PRESENTED BY SHELL - DAY 1

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

For 25 years, Offbeat magazine has provided some of the best coverage of entertainment, food, and culture in New Orleans. In addition to its monthly rendering of what’s happening in the Crescent City, it provides a very active website that tracks daily information of life performances and up-to-date news. And annually, it sponsors the Best of the Beat Awards to recognize the best music in a city that is synonymous with music.

This year provided few surprises, but it recognized some stellar, unquestionable musical achievements, some of my very favorite artists, and validated a healthy percentage of my voting for the awards. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied.

Dr. Michael White

Dr. Michael White

The Artist of the Year Award went to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. On the heels of two very successful albums, I believe he is on the verge of national recognition. The New Orleans-borne eclecticism that marks his music is likely the main thing holding him back. Andrews was also recognized as best “R&B/Funk” artist and as the best trombonist  And Dr. John, the venerable yet adaptable scion of swamp rock was recognized for Album of the Year, for his remarkable collaboration with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, “Locked Down.”  In addition to this well-received album, Dr. John was recognized as the best “Roots Rock” performer and keyboardist.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry

Clarence “Frogman” Henry

Some of my other favorite reward recipients: Best R&B/Funk Album: “Carnivale Electricos,” Galactic; Best Bounce Artist: Big Freedia; Best Traditional Jazz Artist: Kermit Ruffins; Best Brass Band: Rebirth Brass Band; Best Brass Band Album: “Unlock Your Mind,” The Soul Rebels; Best Drummer: Stanton Moore; Best Female Vocalist: Irma Thomas; Best Male Vocalist: John Boutté; and Best Clarinetist: Dr. Michael White. Some of my heroes receiving lifetime achievement awards were: Al “Carnival Time” Johnson; Clarence “Frogman” Henry; and the Dixie Cups.

To cap off the awards, at least as far as I am concerned, WWOZ was recognized as the best radio station; Basin Street Records as the best recording studio; and the Roots of Music, the wonderful marching band , after-school program, was recognized for non-profit achievement/community music award.

Now, on to the Grammys!

The End of the Week Friday, Mar 16 2012 

Los Islenos and Baratarians in Slidell LA, March 2012

You can take all of the cliches about returning home after spending a week away and boil ’em up in a pot and pretty much get the point of this post. Between Thursday night and Saturday morning, the students here are already preparing for the separation; the trip, the thing they’ve looked forward to since pre-registration is about to be over. No matter how much we talk about their experience in an effort to place this great, yet peculiar City in context; it won’t be enough. And then they’ll get to drive the 26-28 hours back to Durham NH. I think they’ve really begun to understand this place, warts and all. And they understand the small contribution that they’ve made to the lives of the people in this region. They’ve certainly gotten the food. They’ve adapted to the slow pace. And they understand that this place sweats music. And they have already begun ignoring the sunburns, and blisters, and the aching muscles that they never realized that they had.

UNH Students on the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry, March 2012

Thursday night, everyone got up from dinner and a surprise birthday cake from home, and ventured into the City. One group had already gone in to eat at the Praline Connection on Frenchmen. I met the other two groups for a round-trip on the ferry to Algiers Point. I didn’t even get off the boat. The night was balmy, almost summer-like. We’ve enjoyed it immensely, but I’ve heard several locals worry aloud: “if it’s this hot in march, what is it going to be like in July?”

Young Fellaz Brass Band, Frenchmen Street, March 2012

After the ferry ride, the groups went their separate ways, although most ended up listening to some sort of music. I caught the up-and-coming Young Fellaz Brass Band for a short, yet-spirited set at the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen, before ducking into one of the nearby clubs for a set of cafe jazz. I had early morning plans to visit with the group working across the Parish, so I returned before most of the students.

Friday brought the last day of work and the last night in the City. I drove through the morning fog to meet up with the Wild Magnolias, who are putting the finishing touches on a couple of homes outside of Abita Springs. Both are scheduled to close before the end of the month. In the process, they have picked up such skills as pouring cement, building steps, and playing with local canines. They have plans to work through so that they can go to Uptown New Orleans for a Parkway Bakery po’boy. I would be jealous, except for the fact that I have found a couple of very, respectable po’boy shops right here in Slidell (As of this writing: Jocko’s and Kenney’s Seafood. I’m sure if I return in the future, I’ll discover others.).

Wild Magnolias, outside of Abita Springs LA, March 2012

The Los Islenos and Baratarians continue to toil away on Maple and Tupelo Streets,  painting and laying flooring. And they so without the benefit of the shade enjoyed by their cross-Parish classmates.The volunteers next week will be left with a nice platform upon which to erect walls. Yup, students from UNH-ABC did that. Nevertheless, you could feel the energy level drop like the air released from a balloon. And the fact that it was humid and above 80 degrees before 11 a.m. didn’t help. They too, were heading out for po’boys, but I warned them to leave room for dinner (fried catfish, okra jambalaya, salad, etc. And I’m throwing in 10 pounds of boiled crawfish, so that everyone will have a chance to try them).

I don’t think there’s a soul who’ll stay put or retire early tonight. Most plan to meet up at the Blue Nile to see Kermit Ruffins and his band, the Barbecue Swingers (Kermit is know almost as much for his cooking as his effervescent music). I might try to catch Dr. Michael White, who is playing over in the courtyard of the Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street a little before. From the Blue Nile, I suspect they’ll fan out to have cafe au lait, listen to more music, or just enjoy walking the streets on a warm night. And again, even though I don’t have a long drive ahead of me, I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be among the first back in Slidell.

Or, as the old crank in “It’s a Wonderful Life” said: “Youth is wasted on the wrong people!”

“Scruffy,” Abita Springs LA, March 2012

“Root Beer,” Slidell LA, March 2012

Random Facts About New Orleans Sunday, Mar 4 2012 

These facts have been supplied to help my students get a snapshot of New Orleans prior to their spring break, service-learning trip. Some facts may be subject to bias (mine). Those generally appear towards the end of the list. No harm or misinformation is intended by these pronouncements.

St. Louis Cathedral, March 2010.

Distance from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: 1,586 miles

Road hours from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: one day; two hours

Average high temperature on March 10th in Durham NH: 37 degrees

Average high temperature on March 10th in New Orleans LA: 71 degrees

Population of New Orleans LA (2010): 343,829

Population of Durham NH (2010): 14,638

New Orleans founded: 1718 by French explorers and speculators

Durham founded: 1732 by English settlers

Portion of New Orleans below sea level: 49%

Top New Orleans employer: Ochsner Health System, 10,000

Second line parade, March 2010

New Orleans racial composition: African-American 60.2%; white, 33%; Hispanic, 5.3%; Asian 2.9

% of New Orleans population who are Roman Catholic: 35.9%

Rank of New Orleans in murder rate (US): 1st

Rank of New Orleans in bicycle and foot traffic (US): 8th

Best cross-dressing bounce artist: Big Freedia

Best radio station: WWOZ (90.7 FM)

Best seafood po’boy: Domilise’s

Best music club: Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street

Best place for traditional music: Preservation Hall

Me and Kermit Ruffins, Rock and Bowl, March 2011.

Oldest regularly performing jazz artist: Lionel Ferbos (100 years old) at the Palm Court

Coolest senior citizen in America: “Uncle” Lionel Batiste (81 years old) bass drummer for the Treme Brass Band and Frenchmen Street denizen

Best New Orleans brass band: Rebirth Brass Band (OK Stu, I’ve come around)

Mr. New Orleans: Kermit Ruffins

Best city in America: Do we really have to ask?

Things to Do in New Orleans — Part 2 Saturday, Mar 3 2012 

Preservation Hall Stars at Preservation Hall, March 2010.

Tuesday, March 13th will be our first day on the job. Expect to be on the road and ready to report for work before 7:00am. Breakfast and lunch makings will be provided at the Peace Mission Center. Remember: close toed shoes are required. At the end of the day, we’ll return to the Center to clean-up and have dinner. For that evening, I would suggest a trip to Preservation Hall, where Shannon Powell and the Preservation All Stars will be playing. It’ll require $10.00 and a substantial wait in line. And if that is not your cup of tea, Frenchmen Street is a musical smorgasbord where you can wander from door to door to hear what’s playing. And I suspect a few will end up at Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets.

Dr. Michael White

After work on Wednesday, we’ll be heading out to Xavier University to hear Dr. Michael White and his quartet, drawn from his Original Liberty Jazz Band. White holds the Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities of New Orleans Music and Culture, but he is best known for his clarinet and musical compositions in the traditional style. This will be the fifth year we’ve had the pleasure of working with him to learn more about the origins of New Orleans jazz. (Thanks to the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Jazz for sponsoring this event.)

Thursday offers diverse choices. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Mark Braud on trumpet is downtown, while Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie are Uptown at Rock and Bowl off of Carrollton Avenue. A trip to Rock and Bowl is a must and zydeco is a great way to get your feet moving.

Friday will be our last day on the job and our last night in Louisiana. And it offers some great choices for entertainment.If you’d like to hear multiple trombones playing covers of Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers tunes, then Bonerama at the Rock and Bowl is a must. They are unique, to say the least. If you’d rather stay downtown, I’d suggest Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. Kermit, one of the founders of the Rebirth Brass Band, is a regular on the HBO series Tremehe is a party waiting to happen. Kermit will be at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen. And of course there are the usual attractions in and around the French Quarter.

Sylvester Francis at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, June 2011.

On Saturday morning we’ll return to New Orleans to visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Curator Sylvester Francis has accumulated an incredible collection of Mardi Gras Indian suits and second line memorabilia. He is a walking encyclopedia of those traditions. (Thanks to the UNH Discovery Program for sponsoring this visit.) It will also give you a chance to visit Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States. For your remaining hours in New Orleans, I’d suggest a visit to the French Market near the river and a walk down Royal Street. The former is a great place to by gifts and souvenirs. And on Royal Street, late Saturday morning brings street performers and musicians. And be sure to grab a po’ boy or muffalletta before you hit the interstate

Mardi Gras Miscellany Wednesday, Feb 15 2012 

OK, I’ll be arriving in New Orleans three weeks, one day and 21 hours from now, not that anyone is counting. In the meantime, there is a lot going on in the Crescent City. A few days after the Grammy Awards, a few days before Mardi Gras; well, things are popping and in a blaze of randomness, I’ll try to capture it, in keeping with the season, without adding any unnecessary structure.

  • Rebirth Brass Band returns from the Grammy Awards — After nearly thirty years of producing great music, Rebirth scored their first Grammy for best regional roots album. Kermit Ruffins, one of the band’s founders, the Baby Boyz Brass Band, and other friends and musicians, greeted the band as they arrived at the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Here’s the video.

    Rebirth Brass Band receiving the Grammy Award.

  • King Cake Crown awarded — for the last few weeks, Judy Walker, food editor for the Times-Picayune has led a team of king cake tasters throughout the New Orleans region to find the finest Carnival-season confection. The judges visited six bakeries that were picked from over 20,000 reader votes. nola.com provided videos from visits to the six bakeries, including: Gambino’s; Haydel’s; Manny Randazzo’s; Nonna Randazzo’s; Randazzo’s Camellia City; and Sucre. All bakeries put forward three King Cakes except for Sucre, which makes only one. The six top cakes were pitted against one another and the top three were separated by but 1.5 points. The winner, announced today was Manny Randazzo’s pecan praline king cake. A celebration ensued at the bakery.
  • New Galactic album — Galactic, the great New Orleans funk/rock band has a new album, Carnivale Electricos, coming out on Mardi Gras Day. Since the whole concept is a reworking of classic Mardi Gras tunes, it seems cruel to make us wait until the season is over. I have heard snippets, but not the whole album. Thankfully, Conan O’Brien and Team Coco are providing a full album stream for the album. For a listen, go here.
  • New Orleans City Councilwoman Dorothy Mae Taylor, 1992

    An Integrated Mardi Gras — And to all of this frivolity, let’s add a bit of history. Twenty years ago, City Councilor Dorothy Mae Taylor had the audacity to force old-time Mardi Krewes to abandon the racism and sexism that they represented. And while jail time was dropped as part of the ordinance, the new regulations  forced old-time krewes Comus and Momus off the streets. Rex and Proteus agreed to the new regulations and continue to parade. According to columnist James Gill, Taylor should receive credit for making Mardi Gras krewes more color-blind and the season as a whole, an all embracing celebration. It is good not to forget such achievements.

Last Day on the Job Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

I headed out to my Marrero office (McDonald’s) to check my e-mail and blog while 36 students awakened, got ready, and prepared lunches. All of this likely takes place in the span of 15 minutes.  It’s like making sausage – you enjoy the finished product, but it’s only possible because you don’t witness the process.

As I drove across the bridge, it was foggy and humid. Downtown New Orleans looked like San Francisco in June. I knew it was going to be a hot and sticky one. But we couldn’t complain. The weather has been spectacular this week. And humidity and New Orleans go together like beans and rice.

Last day on Hickory Street, March 2011.

We did hit a speed bump as our brushes ended up at another site, so Molly and I went back to St. Raymond’s for some others. When we got back, the painting at both homes was in full swing. After waiting all week, I got to break into the trim paint.  It was great for the students to see the result, as the trim really enhances the color of the siding. And even though we were only able to complete the first coat, they had a chance to get an idea of what the finished home would look like. And the wooden, often hand-carved embellishments on many of these old homes make the job even more fun.

Painting trim, March 2011.

As has become customary, we planned to work through lunch and break off an hour or so early, so that we could go for sandwiches and/or snowballs to celebrate a good week’s work. And by the time we finished at 2:00pm, students and owners alike could appreciate our accomplishments. The couple who owned our home came out to admire our work. The wife, who I assume is the captain of this ship, was thrilled at how the colors looked. Her husband took one look at the yellow and fern green and quietly opined: “this is going to take some getting used to.”

We designated a couple of groups to head over to St. Ray’s to wash brushes, but prior to that we went over to the Parkway Bakery and Tavern for some of the best po-boys in New Orleans. Most of us walked a block to Bayou St. John where we enjoyed them and a Barq’s root beer – again, I have to use the beans and rice analogy. We savored everything from hotdog and a lovely Caprese po-boy to the the more traditional roast beef and fried seafood varieties.

Po-boys on Bayou St. John, March 2011.

After our late lunch we went our separate ways. Some to finish cleaning brushes, others to find a much ballyhooed thrift shop, and others to a snowball stand. I took the opportunity to head back to Marrero for the first shower of the evening.

Afterwards, I went over to Frenchmen Street to catch the first set from the Washboard Chaz Trio, a traditional favorite of mine. I met a young couple from Boston who were down to sample some of the music and sites that they had enjoyed on the HBO series “Treme.” They were headed out to the Rock and Bowl to see Kermit Ruffins, where I was to meet the three groups from my class. So the three of us headed Uptown for an evening of good, decidedly New Orleans entertainment. I had not made to the new Rock and Bowl before (I was a big fan of the original) and didn’t know what to expect, but I was not disappointed.

Nikki and Sam with Kermit, March 2011.

The space was much bigger than before, but without losing any of the atmosphere. The food was much improved. And Kermit was, well Kermit. The students ate and danced and soaked up the sounds of their last night in New Orleans. The girls were invited to dance on stage, get their pictures taken with Kermit. All in all, I think everyone had a fun and memorable time. A couple of groups left there to go back into the City. Although I didn’t have a 25+ hour drive back to New Hampshire facing me, I’m old and  I went back to Madonna Manor to get at least a few hours of sleep. And after a week of working in the sun, I wasn’t aware when the others wandered in from their last night out. But…I know it was late.

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