November 16th, 2012 by Nancy Fournier
We are getting into the pre-holiday spirit around here which of course means more festivals and opportunities to enjoy unbridled creativity and (of course) food. This week end brings two types of festivals in the city, one well know and expanding in popularity and the other a bit more of an insider’s jewel. The big Daddy is the Oak Street Poor Boy Festival which is celebrates the iconic sandwich of New Orleans. The history of the poorboy has everything a history buff needs, social upheaval, revolts, union strikes, politics and citizen ingenuity but in its modern day incantation has come to reflect the diverse culinary tastes of the city. The standards are all there (oyster, ham, shrimp remoulade and roast beef) but there are exotic entries as well including fried Main lobster and Greek Eggplant Salad poorboys. There will be over 30 vendors of poor boys and two music stages featuring Los Poboycitos and a stage hosted by the Tipitina’s Foundation showcasing the talented young generation of the city. Multiple artist booths and of course Abita beer will be flowing. What started as a four block fall festival a few years ago has exploded into a six block event and a VIP wristband option. The Festival is this Sunday November 18th from 11 to 7. Have fun and go hungry!
The Fringe Festival is also underway this week with well over 70 performances occurring in various venues in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods of the city. There are adult puppet shows, comedy, circus, dance and other forms of creative madness. There are venues which are traditional theaters and some, like the firehouse we went to last evening for a multi media puppet show are gathering places which have been altered to mount a production. Acts are put on in some of the Mardi Gras Krewe dens next to their floats, in public gardens or in the large tent that has been erected in the heart of the Bywater. There are free shows and at other non traditional venues (like bars and snow ball stands) and a self guided art tour full of ‘installations’ by neighborhood artists or those who have an artistic bent. It is a bohemian smorgasbord and represents one of the more innovative and colorful aspects of the city. Go curious and enjoy.
October 22nd, 2012 by Nancy Fournier
We are creeping up on Halloween and any true New Orleanian is getting serious about their costume. This is not a city which puts much stock in store bought costumes, although there are quite a few good costume shops throughout the city- for a true New Orleanian the role of these stores is to provide the garnish, accessorize or help you find the size thirteen platform shoe. We take pride in creating our own costumes and any resident worth their salt has at least one costume box, a glue gun and enough wigs to side line as a country western singer!
At this point in the calendar most of us are moving from a conceptual to an implementation phase of costuming in which the lessons learned in shop class come in handy, how do you affix glass to leather? What is the best way to wire LED lights to follow the curve of your leg? Those art classes especially the ones on shadowing come in handy too. There is a lot of activity in New Orleans in October but you can bet at least one night this weekend folks were staying home, one is gluing sequins along the hemline of their costume while other is trying on fangs and mutton chop sideburns in the bathroom and usually it is the women working those sideburns.
Yes there are Halloween parties and some say Voodoo Fest is one big Halloween party, but the action is out in the streets (Bourbon, Frenchman, deep in the Marigny) in which all manner of costumed individual gather to take in the music, the vibe and mainly each other. Much in the manner of Judy Garlan in Easter Parade, the primary activity on Halloween is to walk the avenue and survey the costumes and show off yours. We don’t care much for symbols of affluence but honor a well made, convincing, humorous clever costume which makes us revel in the opportunity to embrace fantasy and be someone or something else for a while.
September 8th, 2012 by Nancy Fournier
This Saturday morning the sun is out and there is a cold front coming which will wipe away all the humidity and make it clear and blue in a way you can only find in Southern Louisiana. The Saints are playing tomorrow in the Superdome and our phone is ringing with folks wanting to come back and enjoy the city now that the coast is clear. There are three art markets this weekend and the Burlesque Festival is happening and two new restaurants to sample. . Our levees held, and once again neighbors looked out after one another and we made it through the slow moving hurricane. This city is really like the grass growing through the concrete. Every reason to celebrate.
Still in the aftermath – if you watch the news and see the fate of those outside the ring of levee protection you do have the sense of living on borrowed time. I never really knew what the expression cheating death meant before we lived here and this notion of making the most of everything because life here is so fragile and dependent upon the graces of the wind and the rain. The resilience and sense that we can and continually do spit in the eye of destruction is exhilarating but it is also exhausting. There is a jewel here, in addition to the culture expressed through the food and the music and the arts- the way the light shines in the late afternoon, the sweetness if the air, there is also an incredible wealth of nature’s riches with its bayous and marshes, it is hard to understand why its protection seems like such a low national priority. So we made it through this last storm, surely there will be another and we will ill likelihood make it through that as well, but you got to wonder- what will it take if Katrina’s wrath did not make it so and the BP oil spill did not cause a national upraising and the pictures of cow stranded in the mud in Plaquemines Parish nor the tears in watermen eyes and they try to patch their life together yet again doesn’t galvanize everyone to demand saving the wetlands a national priority do it is hard to know what will.
So if you have not experienced this rare corner of the world, our advice is to move it up on your list of must dos. We will still stare disaster straight in the eye and offer it a drink but at some point we will have tempted fate too long.Voice of the Wetlands- “poor man’s paradise”
August 8th, 2012 by Nancy Fournier
There is so much creativity in New Orleans it permeates every element of daily life. From electricity pole a block from the inn which someone has wrapped colored Mardi Gras beads all around so it glitters in the afternoon sunlight in a rainbow of colors catching your eyes while you wait for the street car, to the banged up computer desk sitting on the curb waiting for the trashman which someone has painted with a spray can to look like an apartment house complete with window boxes to the Chocolate Bar lounge which has the wildest graffiti along its side in which a cubist dragon appears to be eating the used tire store which is located next door. Art everywhere if you just look around.
Our friend King Charles Barkely (pictured here) is a master hat maker and he fashions his creations out of brown shopping bags, palm fronds, mesh Christmas tree garland and of course feathers and rhinestones. I watched a group of women dance to the Charleston last weekend and they wore home made costumes and head band of white fringe and ostrich feathers. As they danced everything shimmered in this ice cycle blue/white flash it was just amazing and actually had a cooling effect cutting the heat and humidity.
To live in a community where one man’s trash is an others art supplies and they take these pieces and create before y0ur eyes blurs the lines between ‘everyday space’ and art space’ as everything becomes a form of artspace. It allows you look at random objects with an eye towards creativity. As you hear the far off blare of a trombone and look at how the light is captured between the leaves of the trees, glinting off a sparkle which someone has left behind on the sidewalk an organic mosaic begins to form. While I cannot personally make that transformation from everyday object to beautiful art I am grateful almost everyday that I live somewhere where many people can and do make magic on a daily basis.