Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hermes Rising

Or... Bead Mania REALLY Hits!

Friday night was three parades. Hermes (known to the Romans as Mercury and the God of borders, messengers (communicators), doctors, dramatists and runners. Hermes was also the source for all the trickster myths from Coyote and Anansi, all the way down to Brer Rabbit. As such he has been the inspiration for my work and my various companies for going on 30 years. I am particularly fond of Hermes, and Friday night he was in full force at the heart of celebrations that were certainly appropriate to his honor.

In the stands on St. Charles Avenue, where we watched three parades (Krewe d'e tat and Morpheus followed closely behind Hermes) roll in about as many hours, I was joined by a female Hermetic force of bead mania. We are talking the EXPERT at acquiring the much coveted, and nearly worthless, objects. Of course, like any expert, this woman (I'll just call her the bead lady) has a system and a plan and she works them to full effect.

Being the neophyte that I am, I decided to wait, watch and put into practice... and I've got to say, the system worked pretty well!

Now if I can just do that for the REST of my life!

I think I'm going to ask Hermes for help.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Viewses of the Muses

Opus is sitting next to me on the desk draped in a string of blue and silver Mardi Gras beads with MUSES written on the emblem. While it's really not appropriate to keep Mardi Gras beads after Ash Wednesday, I think that Opus is going to be wearing those beads for quite some time. I need him to wear them, for me. I need him to serve as my surrogate Muse. I need that energy; I need that worship of the energy that those nine girls have to give.

As I left Cooter Brown's last night, I knew I was running behind and I was suddenly afraid that I had spent too long on the computer and that the one parade I really wanted to catch was going to be a miss. You see, it's a long way down from Riverbend to Napolean (where the parade turrns onto St. Charles and proceeds toward downtown and I waited passed the time when the buses stop. I had to find a way to make the hour long trek in fifteen minutes or my hopes of Muses would be dashed upon the flotsam and jetsam of the neutral ground, right there between the broken streetcar tracks.

But the Muses – those nine lovely ladies – were with me. A cab that had passed me headed the wrong way and full of people turned around after he dropped off his fare and drove back toward me, honked his horn and didn't even grumble when I asked him if he could take me the rest of the way to Napolean (a cab ride that wasn't going to make him a lot of money and WAS going to cause him a fair amount of trouble in the parade traffic). "No problem," the driver said. He dropped me three blocks from Napolean, I paid him, hopped out and was instantly confronted with the waving, shouting, screaming crowd that packed the corner of Napolean and St. Charles as the giant glowing high heeled shoe that is the star float of MUSES rounded the corner pointing toward my home. I had made it after all.

The only other time I attended the Muses parade was two years ago when I came in right at the beginning of the biggest part of Carnival Celebrations (two weeks before Ash Wednesday). That night, I dropped my bags, dug out my video camera and trudged up to the corner of St. Charles to catch the Muses parade for one reason alone… I had heard that their signature throw was a set of beads featuring a high heeled shoe and I wanted to catch one for my daughter who was then a senior in college. It seemed appropriate to me that Jennifer, just on the verge of entering the "adult world," should have for inspiration a high heeled shoe bead from the only night time marching all women's krewe (there is one other all female krewe, the Krewe of Iris, but they are far more demure and they parade in the light of day). What I was not ready for was the set of gunshots that would ring through the neighborhood just as that big glowing shoe passed by where I was standing.

This year, things were a bit more sedate, though calling any Mardi Gras parade (especially this year) sedate is kind of an oxymoron, and using that term to refer to MUSES actually verges on the comppletely absurd. From the giant shoe, to the riding Elvises, to the Bearded Oyster Dance Troupe (yeah... that's right) to a series of floats based on the tragedy and absurdity of life after Katrina - including a final float with nobody on it dedicated to all the people who were lost - it was far from sedate. What it was was patently obvious WHY Mardi Gras exists.. and why it has existed in so many cultures for so very long.

New Orleans isn't the first, or the last, city and culture to face the devastation it has... not even in the last year! But Carnival says, no matter what.. no matter who... we WILL go on.

You can see ten minutes of the MUSES(distilled from two hours) here... just hang in there and let it load and it will be worth it. If your entire concept of "Mardi Gras" is drunk people on Bourbon Street you OWE it to yourself to see that Mardi Gras is so much more. If you've subscribed (or want to) the Food Fetish podcast on iTunes (just search the Music Store for Food Fetish, or upload this file to your player), you can download it there as well.

If you're on a schedule, a budget, a job, or dialup.... you can see the short version featuring all my favorite dancers, here.

I love my Muses... they make me smile!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tin Cup Chalice

Jimmy Buffett has a song in which he proclaims, "Give me oysters & beer for dinner every day of the year and I'll be fine."

Well.. this is one of those kinda days.

The WiFi at my apartment was down (as it seems to be every Thursday, but that isn't by any means a scientific study) today, so I did a bunch of work without internet connection (it's amazing how much more efficient I am when the web isn't distracting me but that's another story) and then headed off uptown to Cooter Browns for some WiFi, some beer, some lunch, a few oysters maybe, and a little look at the Ireland/France Rugby game.

Alas... the oyster shucker shortage in New Orleans (I'm serious about this... it's reaching CRISIS proportions) meant that there were no oysters to be had for lunch, but I had a long haul in fornt of me.

Four hours later, I'm still at Cooter Browns, still working on the computer off in the back bar where I'm mostly alone (but can still watch the rugby match), still got my beer and NOW... I've got oysters. A whole dozen for dinner, before I pack up my stuff and head off for the Muses Parade.

What can I say... When life gives you lemons SOMETIMES you just have to make Margaritas!

Happy Mardi Gras Y'all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rest Up... Believe In Myself... Stay Positive... AND...


The phrase was so incredibly trite and so completely packaged that all I could think of was the scene in Bull Durham when Nuke has his first interview. I actually wanted to find that quote online, but instead I was only able to find Crash's opposite quote, but hey... it's so good, let's just go with the stream of consciousness thing here.

I was out tonight. I planned on watching Arsenal play Real Madrid, but in New Orleans there's really only one bar that runs that kind of sports coverage and while they have the most beers of any bar in America and they have more TVs than any bar I've ever been in, they also happen to be all the way down at Riverbend and I didn't want to go to that much work to watch football (otherwise known as soccer).

Instead, I went to Parasols, a great little uptown Irish bar that I thought MIGHT have soccer on TV, but I was wrong. Instead, I was given the gift of Dorothy (and her husband Colin). Dorothy and Colin escaped Katrina a few hours before I did, and like me they have been considering themselves lucky (as compared to their friends and family) for coming out of the whole thing relatively unscathed. But as Dorothy began talking, it became really obvious that she - like me - is not unscathed at all.

That is the reality of New Orleans, and New Orleanians, six months after Katrina, even the lightweights among us (a group I put myself squarely in the center of) are still suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. For example... when, a week ago, I walked into the Margaritaville Storyville Tavern to hear Jesse Moore singing Anders Osborne's "It's Gonna Be Okay," I felt pretty happy with myself when, for the first time since August I didn't burst into uncontrollable tears. But then the next day, as I was reading an article about rescued dogs, and I thought about how Roxanne rescued ME, I wound up sobbing into my burrito right in the middle of Juan's Flying Burrito.

The point of this post is that when I got home and turned on the TV I caught the last little bit of Sasha Cohen's ice skating program and the little tiny bit I saw was truly incredible. And she was delightful... But then she made that cute but relatively idiotic comment. At least that's what I thought at first.

But then I thought about my conversation with Dorothy, and my unexpected crying jag, and the way things just don't ever seem to come back together the way all of us keep thinking and hoping that they will.

Perhaps Sasha's right... Rest Up... Believe In Yourself... Stay Positive... AND...

Absolutely ANYTHING not only can, but probably WILL happen and what counts is how you handle THAT part.


And... on the news just now they announced that some guy in Florida killed his roomate over an argument about toilet paper. Now I could maybe understand this if the murderer was a woman... I mean I've been in some dangerous arguments about toilet paper with several females, including my daughter... But these were two GUYS!!!!! How metrosexual is that!?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Throw Me Somethin' Mista!

Mardi Gras Comin' At ya starting today... Starting in about thirty minutes actually.

The first "BIG" parades through New Orleans roll this afternoon and evening and I'll be out on St. Charles Avenue with the rest of em, standing in drizling rain and screaming at the top of my lungs, "THROW ME SOMETHIN' MISTA!"

You can see the parades as they roll down St. Charles, but I'll be further down the street trying to stake out my own little piece of Mardi Gras territory.

One of the things that I have found both amazing and frustrating over the last week is the incredible mobilization of workers to get things up and going. If they can do that for Mardi Gras, it really does beg the question, why can't they do it all the rest of the time? But that's a question for another day. Like the poet said back in August, BEFORE Katrina took everything apart, there's nothing sad about today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pizza My Heart

this is an audio post - click to play

House Of The Spirits

Sunday morning I went to St. Augustine church for Mass. I went this Sunday specifically, because on Friday the New Orleans Archdiocese announced that the church (or more specifically the parish) would be closed. Anywhere else in the country (maybe the world) most people would not think of this as any big deal, but here in New Orleans, St. Augustine church was at the heart of some of the most interesting and significant juxtapositions of faith and secularism there are, in a city where faith and secularism daily journey hand in hand.

This blend of spiritual and pagan (including the spiritual IN the pagan) is one of the things that makes New Orleans feel to me like it was created from and for my own psyche. Most of the time people who understand my religious side don't really understand my pagan side and those who understand my pagan side (even a little bit) almost NEVER get my religious side. In fact, most of the time, most people are surprised when they learn how deeply I experience either one. In New Orleans, it's like I've found my home country. Here they speak my language. I rarely find it necessary to explain anything about that soul juxtaposition... it's the very thing this place has been based on for nearly three hundred years.

St Augustine's church is the oldest African-American Catholic Congregation (people keep stating that it is the oldest one in the U.S. but it seems to me that saying that is redundant). Every year there is a jazzfest brunch, and every year there is a Satchmo Fest jazz mass. Mardi Gras Indian celebrations, jazz funerals, and numerous second line parades all start a tthe church. People - like myself - who are netiher Catholic nor African-American find a church home, a community, and the opportunity for true celebration in the services led by Father LeDoux. The loss of St. Augustine is a loss for the whole city. Sure, the services will continue, but under the direction of another parish, another priest. The very things that make up what St. Augustine is about will most likely fade away and the church will eventually close. It's a sad reality, and just the latest wound to rise up like a boil on the skin of New Orleans' corporeality.

First Beads... First Groceries...

Yeah yeah yeah... I haven't posted anything in nearly a week, and believe me, I've heard about it, so here ya go.

I went to my first post-Katrina Mardi Gras parade last Saturday, danced in the street with a woman who had blue hair, got a whole new collection of beads, laughed, joked and even cried a little as the craziness of Krewe du Vieux worked to soothe a little bit of the hurt that stilll runs just barely under the surface.

Afterwards I got into trouble with my companion of the evening (NOT the blue woman) when I announced around 11:30 that I really wanted to go home and go to sleep. The first few days back in town were definitely wearing me down. As is so often my reality in New Orleans, I am once again running into my personal reality of not being as young and spry as I used to be. Trying to balance that with the pace of celebration in New Orleans is tough... but one must remember that in the present moment each of us carries a RESPONSIBILITY to PARTY.

This week at home also brought the return of my favorite grocery store, Whole Foods. The Whole Foods Market on Magazine Street was where I went the Saturday before Katrina to buy a few supplies in order to make it through what I expected to be a three day hurricane bivouac. The three days turned 6 months and in that time I have cooked for myself a total of four meals (three of which were Boudin supplied by my friend Mary... thanks Mary).

I seem to perpetually wind up in locations (like my place in San Francisco) where there are groceries, but no way to cook them, or (like New Orleans since August) places where I can cook things but where there are no decent supplies of things I want to cook. Six months is a long time to go without preparing your own meals, especially when you are a person who really LOVES to cook. Heading out to Whole Foods, wandering through the rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats (even Dungenous Crab from San Francisco) was like suddenly falling into the hidden cache of some weird band of metrosexual pirates!

With the reopening of Whole Foods I feel like I can take care of myself again, and it's really an amazing feeling. Simple things count for a lot right now.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just So Damn Good To Be Back

I partied just a little too hearty last night and I'm suffering a little bit for it this morning. Not too bad... and frankly, well worth it.

BUT... I originally intended to go to the Krewe du Vieux Ball tonight, and now I'm thinking that at this point I better pace myself a little better than I am otherwise inclined to do. So my friend's krewe party last night along with a full tilt dose of groveling and clammoring for Mardi Gras throws at their parade tonight are going to have to be my only expeience of the craziness. I'm afraid I'm just not up for an all night party... at least not yet.

I always have this experience when I hit town. I think it's a combination of being dizzy happy that I'm home and a still lingering feeling that I'm only visiting. It always takes me a couple of days to figure out... "Oh yeah... I have to WORK too!" This time, I was working while I was still in the cab from the airport.

Work - Party - Work - Party - Work - Party... What's a fellow to do?

Friday, February 10, 2006

No Place Like Home - Again

Along the same line as my last post from Californnia, I had a great conversation with Chef Donald Mutin from Morton's Steakhouse last night. Our conversation played out some of the things we had talked about a couple of weeks earlier when I interviewed Donald for the FoodFetish podcast.

Donald's house in Lakeview was completely destroyed when the flood wall right behind his house broke and the storm waters washed it away. After that he wound up working in Burbank for a while before moving with his family to Houston. Now he commutes between NOLA and Houston every week or two in order to be with his wife and kids. What he most wants is to get everything back up and running (something that won't be happening for some time) so his family can all be together again in New Orleans.

For Donald, as well as pretty much everyone else at the party, the Crescent City is the only place to be, and everyone has a story about friends, family and helpful strangers who can't imagine why they would want to come back. Tonight I'll be at my friend Tom Morgan's house where a whole group from Krewe du Vieux will be there celebrating their own sense of home sweet home.

That's the pull of this place. It gets in your blood just like the humidity gets into your bones. Once your connected, it's almost impossible to disconnect. After a number of conversations about this emotional phenomenon, I've been trying to figure out where it comes from for me and what it ultimately means, but I'm still not sure. Armistead Maupin describes this feeling in the first novel of his Tales of the City series. In that book he describes the feeling of San Francisco reaching out to welcome you home as you fly into SFO. It is a feeling I recognized the first time I read the ilne over 25 years ago and it is a feeling I have never felt for any place other than San Francisco; not until about two years ago flying into New Orleans. The moment I felt that feeling, as the plane cruised low over the river, I knew that I would have to move here in order to explore that feeling, and what it meant for me, in more depth.

Last night, as Donald and I talked, we discussed how deeply people feel about this city and how it's really something you either get or you don't.

Right now I think it's important for anyone and everyone who loves this place to work to communicate "what it means to miss New Orleans" to as many people as possible, because OTHER people getting it is vital to the survival of this precious jewel of American cities.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Year of Leaving Dangerously

By the rivers of Babylon
There we sat down and wept
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the Willows
In the midst of it
We hung up our harps.

-Psalm 137:1-2

One year ago this morning, I lay in bed with Marsha in the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. It was the day before Mardi Gras (Lundy Gras) and I had come in from Petaluma, she from Hattiesburg, to have a reunion, and party, and (at least for me) to even do a little work. Our pleasant time together didn't last very long as we got into a row pretty early in the day over whether or not to go to the Court of Two Sisters for their magnificently decadent $25 brunch (I was of a mind to go, Marsha was not). Later that day we watched the Proteus Parade on Canal Street and on Mardi Gras Day we joined a second line with the Indians through the Treme. For me, the experience made it clear that I was home in this city of music and food and culture in a way that I had not been at home anywhere in a very long time. We ate hamburgers at Port of Call (at the window table on the corner of Dauphine and Esplanade) and I sat at the table and wept with a deep sense of relief that I had found my place on the planet again.

It was on this trip that I made the final decision to take the plunge and move to New Orleans. I returned to Petaluma, and by the end of February last year had resolved to finally end my 16 year exile in Sonoma County by heading out for the Crescent City. I determined that it would take six months to make the move, but due to various other issues and exigencies I wound up in New Orleans a month earlier than planned, a month (as pretty much everybody knows by now) before Katrina.

At the time, this was a great inconvenience and the plans I had laid for an orderly move washed up on the shore of my good intentions like so much Katrina flotsam and jetsam. What actually grew out of this chaos is the life I have now. It is pretty likely that had my plans gone the way I had expected I would never have made it to New Orleans at all. The fact that I was a resident of the Crescent City before Katrina is the only thing that has given me the foothold to remain a resident of the Crescent City after the storm.

This Mardi Gras (three weeks from today) will mark the one year anniversary of my resolution to make the move. I am grateful for the forces that came together to make that move happen inside the obscure and frustrating processes of nature and the godhead. I am also grateful that the strange circumstances have served to give me back San Francisco as well.

Yesterday, I filled up my little car one more time and moved all of my remaining possessions out of Petaluma. For the first time since May 1, 1989 I am no longer a resident of Sonoma County, California. For nearly 17 years the major part of my existence has been in exile in this wine country where I tried and tried to "remember Zion" with work, and love, and intention, and song. It was never a good fit and at some point in the process (fairly early on actually) I hung up my harp and learned to exist as an alien. For a long period of time I was sure that I would never find a way out of the exile I had come to exist within. Like many exiles, I made friends with and in the new land, but my loyalties were never there, my heart never gave itself fully to this strange land... I never felt at home.

As I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge last night, I breathed easily for the first time in nearly 20 years. I was going home... first to my City by the Bay and soon (on Thursday to be precise) to my City by the River. Once - a very long time ago - Marsha told me, as we drove the same stretch of road, that if I ever left the City I would die. She was more right than I think she knew at the time. She was certainly more right than I knew.

I may indeed be a resident of two lands now, but for the first time in 17 years, I am HOME.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Just One More Thing To Save

Last night I got a call from my friend Mary in New Orleans. She was calling to tell me that The Coliseum Theater had burned down yesterday.

I spoke about The Coliseum Theater on this blog the night before I left New Orleans, just over a week ago,as I walked down Coliseum Street on my accidental tourist day. I've been watching people working on bringing it back from Katrina for the last two months. Now it seems like a melancholy opportunity to have seen that lovely building one more time before it's demise.

The report I saw said that fire crews responded to the blaze, but couldn't get enough water pressure from the lines (a problem that led to the fire devastation all the way back in San Francisco's 1906 earthquake) so helicopter crews had to fly in water from the river. That's a pretty good example of the way things ARE NOT working in New Orleans yet.

David Torkanowski, keyboard player extraordinaire, and pianist for Astral Project (and many others) had recently "almost" bought the building for a scoring studio. In fact, I had read that he had purchased it the week before Katrina (there are sure a lot of THOSE kind of stories floating around). In a news clip from WDSU, David says that he wants to bring it back.

I hope so... it was a great building, one of those places that always made me smile.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Food Fetish... Finally!

Depending on your perspective (see the dualing comments of the last post) it's taken me five months, two weeks, or all day today to finally get the newest Food Fetish Podcast up and running. You can find it at that link or right on the website.

It's a fun show, mostly taken from a long interview and tasting I had the great opportunity to participate in at Morton's Steakhouse in New Orleans. It was a long producing haul, but a fun show to do.

I hope you like it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day!

Well, Punxatawny Phil evidently saw his shadow this morning, and they made the big announcement that we'll have six more weeks of winter.

Frankly, I think that we should be using Northern California Groundhogs this morning because they sure aren't seein' their shadow outside MY window on Folsom Street.

Besides... what do we need with more winter anyway? After the last six months of incessant rain, I'm ready for a steady stream of sunshine in my life. Of course, winter ALWAYS lasts six weeks past Groundhog Day because it ends at the Spring Equinox on March 20th/21st, a day that falls in the middle of a week of transitions in my life (yes possums, it IS all about me... It's MY blog).

This March 20th marks the 30th anniversary of my wedding to my first (and only) wife, the mother of my dearest darling daughter. It also comes three days after St. Patrick's Day when, 18 years ago I first went out with my partner of 17 years; the woman I am no longer with, but who pops up in my dreams on a regular basis. The week marks the birthday of another lover in my life and seems to always roll around to something strange, and interesting, and not just a little bit terrifying.

Like Shakespeare's soothsayer told Caesar... Beware the Ides of March!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Up... Down... Up... Down

It has been dribbling rain all day long and I've been playing the studio rat most of the day, trying to finish several shows that need to get done and which (as usual) are taking significantly longer than I want them to.

As I look out my window onto Folsom Street I don't see anything but rainy streets and passing cars, so I prefer to look at Opus (sitting in front of me decked out in full Mardi Gras regalia) and listen to New Orleans people like John Boute' and John Gros sing about what rain is like in the Crescent City. This incessant Northern California drizzle is just making me crazy!

And I'm serious here... Just for relief I decided to download one of the best raining songs of the 80s just to make myself laugh. It's a song, it just so happens, that I heard for the first time in years in a bar I visited in New Orleans a couple of nights before I left.

This led, in that wonderful synchronicity of the internets,
to a delightful discovery... A version of "It's Raining Men" from The Golden State's Golden Governator.

Maybe the rain's not so bad after all...

Okay okay... time to go back to work.... Up Down Up Down...