Friday, January 30, 2009

A "Been-Had," a "Couldn't-Catch," or a "Never-Will-Be"

I (we?) usually divide washed-up older people into the categories of "has-been," "burn-out," or "never-was." So how does one divy up the young lacking drive or potential, destined for the same fate? A "Been-had," a "Couldn't-catch," or a "Never-will-be."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's your Favorite Thoroughfare?

When I slow up to wind a right at this weather vane of street signs, I know I'm going home.

For Tony, it's taking the New Jersey Turnpike until the exit for Elizabeth, NJ. For me, it's swinging from Napoleon to S. Broad.

Il Posto Cafe

I finally made it to Il Posto, a newish neighborhood cafe at the corner of Dryades and Cadiz. It has that New York appeal that is received as a novelty down here, keeping over-priced businesses like Stein's Deli in business (why not pay 12 bucks for a delicious "Sam" of hot pastrami, swiss, and cole slaw on rye with russian dressing, when it's the only place you can find one?) At Il Posto, they toasted the H&H everything bagel for me, and spread too much cream cheese on it (I've always felt like an ass, wiping a layer off with a napkin); and they stirred the cream and sugar into my coffee (that would always bug me when I visited NY). I don't mean to talk shit, here, but instead offer some cultural perspective. Likewise, I'm sure over-priced New Orleans-themed eateries make a killing in New York.

Il Posto's product is fresh and visible, displayed around the room, from wicker baskets of shallots and beets to the three liter cans of Saica Castelvetrano Sicilian Extra Virgin (oh hi, Rachel Ray, notice I spelled it out so as not to be annoying like you) Olive Oil lining the walls.

A combination of the natural light flooding the room and the lunch-rush chatter of uptown ladies made it difficult for me to see my laptop screen or concentrate to write about them. But I'll say, from memory, that they ranged in age from 29 to 72, well-dressed and affluent, even the younger ones, adding coquetry to the Ann Taylor look with high-heel knee-high leather boots and maybe a retro cloche hat. Some were retired, stay-at-home, or on lunch break from nearby low-stress jobs. Who am I to talk, I basically act like a retired person. There were literally only two men in there, probably above 60, enjoying lunch with their wives. I wanted to see Carm and Ro in there, smiling at pictures from their Paris trip, but instead pictured them picking apart decadent pastries with their done nails, clacking in and out too conspicuous, with bigger hair and puffier peacoats.

Il Posto offers simple paninis, such as one of proscuitto, basil, and mozzarella, and elegant grilled cheeses, like the one with gorgonzola, walnuts, and honey. The cheeses all come from Prytania Street's St. James Cheese Company.

All the while, the cute young owner with a Maggie Gyllenhaal face was busy at work behind the counter, dishing out salads or kneading dough. New Orleans loves a new business. Sometimes I think all I want in life is a nice dog and a new cafe to try.

Going to Canal Place to See a Movie by Yourself

Sneaking shots from 3rd floor of parking garage.

The One-Way Conversation I Have Every Morning

"Are you a cat?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chris Mooney on the Colbert Report

No, I am not using my brother to get more hits. Check it out:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Foodie at Fifteen

Do you think he would be friends with me?

Another 2009 Bloggie nominee, Foodie at Fifteen is way ahead of the rest of us. Well, he's sixteen now, but he already makes duck confit, experiments with some cooking method known as "sous vide," and is a terrific writer to boot! Takes nice pictures of the food, too. Precocious young people are so much cooler than your standard adult. But most of the time, they grow up and get all screwy and self-conscious...what up, J.D. Salinger.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Stuff White People Like" is Funny Again

I remember the first time I was sent the link. I immediately liked the title. I mean, white people love to self-parody because we are self-conscious about our dorkiness and embarrassed of our privilege.
But after reading a few entries, I lost interest. I remember the post about white people liking Mos Def. My response to that post, and most of the others I read, was a small eruption of chuckle that went "uhuhuhhuh" and then cut off. Next. So I stopped reading.
Today, scanning the nominations for "THE BLOGGIES" awards, (y'all. I wasn't nominated.) I came across "Stuff White People Like," in the "Best Humorous Blog" category. So I toured the site once again, and this time experienced it as one of those web sensations you show your friends, mucking up the punch lines because you're already laughing.

Here's a handful of funny stuff I encountered on the site:

1. "Taking a year off." "When someone goes through a stressful experience they usually require some time off to clear their head, regain focus, and recover from the pain and suffering. Of course, in white culture these experiences are most often defined as finishing high school, making it through three years of college, or working for eleven months straight with only two weeks vacation and every statutory holiday ('they don’t count because I had to spend them with family.')"

Thank you, Stuff White People Like, for making fun of this.

2. "Sea Salt." "Regardless of how much a white person cooks or how long they have lived in their current home, they all have a tube of sea salt in their pantry."

3. "Black Music that Black People Don't Listen to Anymore" "All music genres go through a very similar life cycle: birth, growth, mainstream acceptance, decline, and finally obscurity. With black music, however, the final stage is never reached because white people are work tirelessly to keep it alive. Apparently, once a music has lost its relevance with its intended audience, it becomes MORE relevant to white people."

Before I even began to read the text following the title, my friend went, "Yeah, it's true. I mean I've been trying all week to get my hands on a Public Enemy tape." Also, story of my life: cute Jewish boys who "only listen to hip-hop."

4. "Promising to Learn a New Language." "Throughout history, white people have a pretty poor record when it comes to promises (see Americans, Native for examples). Thankfully, modern white people are trying to erase the shame of the past by making promises to themselves that they will never keep. Writing a novel, going vegan, or sending their future kid to public school are just a few of these great breakable promises. But by far the most common self improvement promise is to learn a new language."

5. "Self-Aware Hip-Hop References." "Among the wrong kind of white people, there are few more hated than the wigger or white thug. Though it is very acceptable and common for the right kind of white people to dress and act as though they were Japanese, Chinese, or European, it is completely unacceptable for them to act like rappers.This distaste caused a dilemma for white people who had to show both that they loved hip hop but also that they were aware they were white. The brilliant solution they came up with was to appropriate hip hop words and mannerisms and filter them through a white appropriateness system.For example, white people find it particularly hilarious to take slang and enunciate every word perfectly.
'Homey, that bernaise sauce you made is wack. Do you know what I am saying? For Real.'
'Well, I used a different type of butter. I switched the style up, so let the haters hate and I’ll watch the deliciousness pile up.'"

Oh, I am guilty of this. But, I mean, I'm always just messing around!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Sopranos Episode They Never Wrote

Did you hear?

The mafia is on facebook.

WWTD? (What Would Tony Do?)

The Face Doctor

Wouldn't it be cool if you could hire somebody to explain your face to you? Or rather, if it were a medical practice you could set up an appointment for? Face-reading, face-consultation, face-assessment. Like palm-reading, but rooted in the understanding of bone-structure, muscle behavior, and genetics, instead of some gypsy chart. Wow, that sounded awful.

I can imagine myself at my first appointment, talking too much, all neurotically preemptively diagnosing myself. "So, my face is asymmetrical, right? Like my nose goes a little to the right. And my cheeks are different sizes, see how they fit differently into my mouth/upper-lip region? Is cheek-size dictated by jaw structure as well as the cheek-bones?"

For some people, face-consultation would be the necessary precursor to plastic surgery. Tell me what I'm made of so I can decide what to keep, what to discard. But in most cases, the Face Doctors would be working independently of the plastic-surgeons. The mission of the Face Doctor would be to make you like your face better by eloquently describing its every last idiosyncrasy. Like psychologists rather than psychiatrists, the Face Doctors would talk with you and help you understand your face, sending only the most neurotic and inconsolable on to plastic surgeons and facial reconstructive surgeons, or psychiatrists who could prescribe anti-depressants.

For your appointment, you would be asked to bring in pictures of your grandparents on both sides, your mother and father and your siblings at different stages in their lives--at young-adulthood, middle-age, etc.--and the Face Doctor would point out similarities, far beyond the obvious. The Face Doctor would also be able to explain how personality works with the underlying structure to determine facial outcome, following your every expression, roll of the eye, pursing of the lips. In this way, the Face Doctor would be a kind of palm-reader, studying appearances to tell you much more about yourself. And they wouldn't be real MDs, but rather PhDs in some newly-named field that would combine psychology, neuroscience, and anatomy, "Faciology" or "Facial Therapy."

According to the online MediLexicon, the face region is defined as the "topographic subdivisions of face, including nasal, oral, mental, orbital, infraorbital, buccal, parotid, and zygomatic." Synonyms: regio facialis, regions of face. It's times like these I wish I had friends in the medical field so I could bombard them with these kinds of vague, semi-answerable inquiries. "So, how do you go about studying the face in medical school?" (pause, wrinkled brow) "What are you talking about?"

So what do you think? Not quite material for a screenplay, along the lines of Gattaca or Eternal Sunshine, huh. Anyway, it was just a thought I had.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Magic Molly

This girl is good. I'm jealous, but I also want to be friends. Mostly, I want her to let me in on her secret. Is it those pictures she always posts of herself? Was it that ivy league education? Is it some New York shit? What will it take for me to get to where she is??? Oh Magic Molly, if only I could shake you like the 8-ball on my bedside table and know the answer!

Friday, January 16, 2009

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

I think it's more like, "If you can't join 'em, beat 'em." One word: networking. That's how it begins. You pick your field of interest, and try to get attention from the people who are connected in said field. Then you bust your ass doing what you can to get them to invite you in, let you hang out, intern, and eventually, hire you, pay you, respect you?!

If after doing your best at this method, giving it all you got, sacrificing a bit of dignity, and still no cigar?! you probably will grow cynical and think, Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em in the ear; fuck 'em in the other ear. And then, you'll find yourself at "Beat 'Em." I'm going to do my own thing, I don't care what they think, I'm better.

Do not ask, like Ty in Clueless "If I'm better than him, then how come I'm not with him?" Because your social networkers, (Cher and Di) who tried to hook you up and failed, will not know what to tell you. They'll just smile awkwardly and rub your back as you cry.

On Why the Downtrodden Economy Inspires More Game Playing

Not the Jewel kind. Well, maybe; I wouldn't know at this particular stage of my life. If you wanted to really mess me up, you should have gotten to me sooner! (John Cusack in the rain.)

Why we like to play games. Playing games is fun.
Obviously, it's cheap. Your friends all come over. You drink a bunch--or not. Sometimes you sip tea and the little brother is invited. (Not the sexy little brother that you used to text...or pretend we're playing madlibs here..damn that was a little while's an interesting concept, to have "archives"). No, the little brother who doesn't drink or smoke and is damn straight precocious, like before it could ever be confused with "promiscuous."

(aside)Sometimes the plug falls out of the wall...when you're on your macbook in the dark...and you can't see shit. How come that's not an idiom?

Each way has its perks. The problem with drinking while game playing is that you end up playing drinking games instead of game know, just while we're at it, why not a round of Kings, I mean we got the cards, we got the beer. Which is fine, but totally sends the night hurtling in the wrong direction.

My friend once said "games are for college kids with poor social skills." I always agreed with that. It's either alcohol, or games. The drinks take care of the awkwardness. Or the games take care of the awkwardness. You don't really need to combine the two.

Other misuses of game night:
Those nights when the boys wanna play poker so they can smoke like a hundred cigarettes 'til the stubs pile up higher in the ash-tray than the stacks on the table are ever gonna get, affecting dialects to bust balls in between those silent sharp shifty-eyed points-of-no-return, but there's no "No, I thought you said you all right, spida'" to shoot in the foot thereby solidifying the power structure, just a bunch of attention-starved girls scooting up around the table all like, lemme see your hand, let's play teams, before twirling away at the next distraction.

My favorite games: Charades, Apples to Apples, Taboo, Pictionary

Charades is a ball. Challenging, intellectually stimulating, as each player comes up with difficult, multi-interpretable clues. Vary depending on the crowd. When I played with liberal-arts kids my senior year of college, one of the clues was "Justice," and the kid who got it acted out the French electronica group.

Apples to Apples--very cute because you have to get inside the heads of each of the players, thinking, what would he associate with "ridiculous?" "First love," "Bozo the clown," "George W. Bush," or "gorgonzola cheese?"

Taboo--Like charades, with words...and restrictions on which words you can use to describe the word you're trying to get your partner to guess. Say the word is "Stretch Marks;" in describing these, you cannot say "pregnant," "stomach," "baby," "birth," or "scar."

Pictionary--charades with drawing! It's interesting to find out what different minds will configure out of your hasty sketches. A rorsharch test, in a sense.

Have fun, never again struggle to make conversation, and if you like, save more dollars by cutting out alcohol!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Go see Prospect 1 Before it's Too Late

I, too, am guilty of not taking advantage of all the cultural opportunities available to me. On account of not applying myself. Preferring what's comfortable to what's enriching and provoking. Prospect 1 has been free all this time, and still, until today, I never made it out! And worst of all, I'm a blogger! (Wait, please don't take that out of context.) I could have been advertising the city through detailed blog posts, luring the northeasterners down here faster than the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Instead, I behaved just like everybody else, and waited until the last minute when the guilt began to set in, I mean how could I just hang out on facebook when history was being made right before my eyes, what am I gonna tell my grandchildren? "So, like, grandma, the first international biennial art exhibition ever held in the United States happened right in New Orleans, in your town, that you loved and rooted for, and you were too lazy to go check it out? That's some ignorant shit, grandma." What am I going to say back? "Times were different then. We had the internet. We had alcohol." So, I crammed, like English class in college. And every other binge we undertake to redeem all those wasted hours we bumbled around, incapable of making "better lifestyle choices."

So, today! I went to the CAC, the Louisiana Mint, the Colton School, Brad Pitt's Make it Right houses, and K.K. Projects' latest installations. Some of those sites aren't even technically part of Prospect One, but hey, art is art.

I enjoyed some of what I saw. I didn't so much dislike anything as I did shrug it off "well that's kinda dumb" and walk on. But there were a few works that naturally piqued my interest. They don't let you take pictures, but I managed to sneak this one. (Hence its hasty composition.)

At the CAC:  Cuban mixed-media artist Luis Cruz Azaceta put together this installation piece "Museum Plans," consisting of Katrina-inspired vessels assembled on a wooden board. I'm not sure whether the objects were all "found objects" from the storm, but they certainly look so: kitsch hurled from your grandma's basement (if we had basements...) to slime around the stuff of everyday.  Nearly each duct-taped bundle is composite of two or more unrelated items:  a child's badminton racquet stuffed in an empty wine bottle like a flower in a vase; a bicycle wheel balanced on a brick, with an empty plastic water bottle wedged in between the axle and spokes; a birdhouse attached to a liter soda bottle.  A Kentwood water jug with paper stuffed in its neck conjures the idea of a message in a bottle, a cry for help from across a distance of water. Each object functions as a holding space, meaning that remnants can be artifacts of devastation, containing the memory of loss.

I was moved by "Window and Ladder--Too Late for Help," by Argentine artist Leandro Elrich.  You can find it in the Lower 9th Ward on Deslonde Street, in a field next to the new Common Ground Relief center. It's just a block from Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation modern shotguns, and less than a football field away from the Industrial Canal levee, the one that broke a tidal wave through the neighborhood.

Its metal ladder is firmly fixed in the ground, apparently rooted by an "underground hidden metal structure." It leads up to a window in a lost puzzle piece of fiberglass brick wall, which appears to be dangling in mid-air, but is somehow held up by the ladder. Like viewers of a play, we are only given the minimum needed to conjure up setting. The piece is so powerful because of its ambivalence. A ladder leading up to an open window can be a symbol of upward mobility, vision, and escape; but the subtitle, "Too Late for Help," takes away that hopefulness and replaces it with regret.

In St. Roch neighborhood, on N. Villere St. between Arts St. and Music St., Kirsha Kaechele's shotguns are decorated anew...since the last time I wandered along the block. There's a house that's been turned into a safe, with a giant combination lock (think Duck Tales) instead of a door, and "fundred dollar bills" lining the walls. Chris Rose recently wrote about it. We decorated our own:

That's Linda the dog, at the top. Likeness sketched by Dave Schlussman.

Prospect 1 ends this Sunday, so get ya asses movin'...

Though Mardi Gras remains the best free show there is...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mardi Gras Jitters

The other night I had a dream that combined the spirit of Mardi Gras with the fitful mood of hurricane time. I was holed up in what seemed like turn-of-the-century immigrant tenement housing, and a family-owned business, a pork store or something--with the cast of the Sopranos. I was myself but also fulfilled Meadow's role in the family--the daughter. The building had two stories, with some kind of balcony overlooking neutral ground that resembles the one on Orleans Avenue in Mid-City, though in the dream we were supposedly located on Esplanade Avenue. There was a storm coming, but everyone's behavior was a weird hybrid of excited carnival-goers and citizens wary of a hurricane. For example, everybody was riding out the storm. They had set up couches and beds and dining room tables on the neutral ground, sort of in the same fashion folks do to wait for Endymion. Some of the family would sleep out on the neutral ground. But throughout the dream, we were very afraid, and made sure we were always together. I always would turn to "Christopher Moltisanti," my cousin, to make sure the door was properly bolted. We had a couple dogs that would escape every now and then and I'd have to chase them down. But we were also afraid of people coming for us--looters, in a way. There was a lot of waiting around ;we'd sit on the balcony and look out over the avenue, waiting for something. There was also a junkie alligator hanging around the corner, shooting up. At one point Christopher stole his stash, but said he wouldn't use it, because what with its former user being an animal, he might catch worms. And there were ghosts of characters who'd died on the show, acting like living people, because they were still alive to certain members, something told me.

I don't see the dream as foreboding, so much as just an anxiety dream. But it's interesting the way my mind fused all these elements of New Orleans together--the nervous anticipation of the chaos of carnival with the fear of the unpredictability of a hurricane; wild creatures loose, personified to be no different from crazy, unhinged humans; and the trapped feeling of a family living in the slums, with no option but to stick together. New Orleans, beneath all its levity, will always have the underlying potential for nightmare scenarios.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

All this Coffee is Making me Drowsy

I've decided these coffee shops are really devised to hide you from the day. Their awnings shield you from streams of sunlight. You can see leaves rusting in the oak trees, and hear buses lugging from stop to street as you would in bed those last early morning hours of sleep. The lamps are always dim, and everyone is silent and alone. (Thank God it's not a social scene, with everybody pretending to be reading in between sneaking looks to see who else might be doing the same. But that must have been another time, of catholic school girls smoking on the back patio, shivering with fall excitement before that night's football game. Really?)

Let me get the context straight: I go on weekdays. That means the 5-11er crowd. No wonder we lack the energy of those who stop in early for an iced coffee and pastry treat before their 8 a.m., smoothing still wet strands of hair, taming wind-tussled coats; or the relief of the afternoon crew, neatly inking in that morning's crossword, chewing on their cigarettes like straws. Time is different to us. We content ourselves with caffeine, the drug that speeds up the insides of the sedentary, inducing an illusion of movement. And then we sit all day, trapped inside our heads, while outside, lights change at a busy intersection, and boys play basketball across the street.

I am drawn to Magazine Perks because of how it is juxtaposed with Ms. Mae's, a sober fox hole in which to wait out the daylight hours before ducking next door at the acceptable hour. A way of life carved out of commercial space. One little piggy went to the coffee shop, one little piggy went to the bar.

When I lived In Spain, some of my favorite bars were operating coffee shops during the day. You'd hang out, enjoy the free wireless with a cappuccino or espresso, and then as the day waned, the vibe would change. A dj would start spinning, a new crowd pack in. This conflation of day and night, the pensive and celebratory, business-as-usual and festive, could only exist in a culture of moderation, in which business-men sip small glasses of beer outside the work place at the break of siesta, and you have to specify "cafe americano" if you want more than a dose of espresso. Here, we could never combine the two. Can you imagine Ms. Mae's as coffee shop, Jim and that other guy (what's his name? the tall disgruntled one?) pouring cups of joe to a crowd of readers and quiet conversationalists? The only joe they got is in the cigarette machine. And Mae'd come by around happy hour to usher in the drinkers, bade the thinkers good evening? Turn on the game and the jukebox.

So here, the coffee shop is wedged in next door to the 24-hour bar, revealing ours as a culture of accepted extremes. Separate, but equal. With a festival nearly every weekend, we are used to bouncing back and forth between the lenton and the carnivalesque.

Though sometimes, it does feel like we're just killing time until the next party. Mardi Gras is 44 days away. (Sounds far, but it isn't.)

A view of Mae's from the day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hornets Beat

Now I know sports journalists like to keep their language as spry and bouncy as Chris Paul's footwork, but I don't think "Hornets Beat" is the right title for's hornet's blog. Yaddida mean? Especially after games like last night's; nobody wants to see a poor performance advertised with such empty-brained enthusiasm the next day! As though that outcome is expected. "Hornets Beat" duhhh, pour me some coffee. Now "Saints Beat" I can, just playing.

A Good Davis

Matt Davis loves when a good "book" falls in his lap.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hot Reads

New Orleans: where there are no celebrities, just your friends.

"You actually read The Odyssey on your own, just for fun?"

Come on, print the picture of the young literate stud!!

Modeling Agencies: for Matt Davis's head-shot, see today's Times-Pic, paper copy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Let's Go to the Coffeeshop--YAH

Rainy Saturday. I feel dizzy, Sumatran dark roast won't fix me. Old men sit outside on the benches and yawn, erudite or bemused? It's impossible to tell.

Ballzack and Odoms watch Youtube videos of themselves on their blackberries, in between free styles a la jay and silent bob. Ur, except double the Jay. Is that what this is? Illusion of a sophisticated hang, because of Amsterdam and the French salon? But really, no different from the stoop or the Quicky Mart. I want to ask them what rhymes with "the girl in the overalls," but hope it's already come to them. Slacker musicians rise late, dabble in notepads. What's with the Ole Miss grad in pink polo loud on the phone trading stocks? Smudged fresco of horses arace, but nobody studies the bill here. Rue de la Course and Fair Grinds get it wrong, though Degas would've painted it so. Boredom looms at the track around the corner, believe me. Internet's down and it's just as well, so insouciant I am with my words.

How do the dogs feel, to measure their lives in coffee spoons?

New Orleans: Where there are no celebrities, just your friends

Ballzack, aka Rami Sharkey, and I now know each other. Yep. From the restaurant and the coffeeshop. Though I'm still too shy to introduce myself to Adam/Odoms.

Sigh. I used to say that these two were the exception to the rule.
Who to look up to, now that the Gods roam the Earth alongside you?