October, I love you.

October is the best month to be in New Orleans. I was reflecting earlier that it was two years ago on October 10th that I quit teaching and entered a three-week period of unemployment before I started my current job. And other than the usual stresses of being unemployed, it was one of the best months ever. After spending a few hours every day job hunting, we would go to the park or head downtown or just relax on the front porch. And the city comes alive again. Houses are decorated for Halloween. Everyone is outside stretching their muscles after hibernating through the summer. While I am desperately happy to have a job this October, I do kind of regret that I’m spending these gorgeous days in my cubicle. Luckily, I still have every other Friday off, so I can bask in the glow of October a little more. To celebrate the end of summer, Amanda and I took the kids to the French Quarter for some beignets.

Apparently it’s not such a secret that October is the best month in New Orleans because the line at Cafe du Monde was about half a mile long. We decided to get our treats to go and took them across the street to Jackson Square. I’m surprised at how patiently Peter waited for me to take his picture when he knew just what awaited him in the big bag. The boy has learned that I always want to take pictures.

The downside of getting beignets to go is that you miss out on the cafe atmosphere. The upside is that you get to shake the beignets in a bag full of powdered sugar so they are perfectly coated.

It doesn’t keep the powdered sugar from coating everything else, though.

This was Penny’s first experience with a beignet.

And it was the day before my hair cut (see last post), so I felt like a final picture was in order.

I should have thought about the clashing greens, though. And the sun making me squint. Oh well… at least my hair looks long-ish.

A muffuletta from Central Grocery completed our return to the French Quarter after the long, hot summer.

Oh October, I can’t believe you’re almost over.

FQ Fest

On Saturday, Jaime and I drove downtown to French Quarter Fest and looked for a parking spot for 45 minutes. I was skeptical whether it would be worth it, but it was! I don’t mean to keep bragging about the weather, but it has seriously been perfect lately. And it’s amazing how much having perfect weather makes everything kind of wonderful. I debated about whether or not to bring my camera because I keep thinking that I will tire of taking pictures in the quarter, but apparently, I never do. You saw some of them yesterday. Here are just a few more:

Of course, you can see those parts of the quarter any day of the week. We were going for the food and music. Roasted duck po’boy with slaw from Jaques Imo’s, anyone? Um… yes! And hazelnut and strawberry crepes? Double-yes!

Some great jazz music on every corner? Totally!

An unofficial quirky puppet show on a back street? Why not!

It’s all in a typical New Orleans Festival.

French Quarter Flower Boxes

This past weekend, I went with some friends to French Quarter Fest. While going through my photos, I noticed a predominant theme of flower boxes, so I figured I would separate them out from the rest. And so I give you the various flower boxes (and in a few cases, windows) of the FQ.

Cristen and the Big Easy, Day 2

st. louis #1 cemetery
(Don’t worry – puh-lenty of cemetery photos ahead!)

I had spent some time researching Sunday jazz brunches in New Orleans. There are lots of them, but I had no idea which was a good one. We eventually narrowed it down to two and decided we’d go to the one we found parking closest to. That happened to be Muriel’s on Jackson Square. It was pretty fancy, but that was the point. Our table faced big windows overlooking Jackson Square and letting in some lovely light.

cristen at muriel's

The lunch included a jazz trio that went from room to room and luckily did not go from table to table.

jazz brunch trio

And I had my first taste of alligator. It was salty, but delicious. After brunch, we decided to try St. Louis #1 cemetery again. As you might have guessed from the first photo, we actually got inside this time even though it was supposed to be closed. I kept worrying that I might get locked inside like I almost did at Pere Lachaise, but there were several other tourists wandering around, so as long as I kept sight of them, I figured we would would be ok. St. Louis is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans and includes the grave of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen. It has a different feel than the Metairie Cemetery, where I usually take visitors. Many of the graves are in a sad state of disrepair. The cemetery is located next to the Iberville Projects, so it has a reputation of being dangerous, too. Of course, that made it all the more intriguing. Here are just a few of the photos I snapped:

St. Louis #1 with Iberville Projects

iron cross

pile of bricks

iron rose and cross

white vaults

rusty fence

colorful vaults, front

colorful vaults, back

one of these things is not like the other

This one may be Marie Laveau’s grave:

marie laveau's resting place (maybe)

Or it might be this one. It wasn’t really clear.

the other possibility

After the cemetery, we went to the New Orleans Museum of Art. You might remember I went there back in August. I was pleased to see they had switched some of the paintings around. Roman Holiday was replaced by Bouguereau’s Whisperings of Love, which I had hoped to see last time.

Whisperings of Love by Bouguereau

I just love Bouguerou’s style. I think I have mentioned before (on the other blog and many years ago, but just in case) that I always look at the hands and eyes on a Bouguereau work. The eyes are always luminous, and the hands are always so delicate.

Whisperings of Love, detail

Whisperings of Love, detail

On this particular painting, I also loved the draping of the dress and the pattern at the bottom. Just so simple and lovely.

Whisperings of Love, detail

I guess you could say this painting is simply lovely HTT, head to toe. (That’s a Tyra reference, for the unfamiliar. She’s so applicable to everything in life.)

The Muenter I had admired last time was replaced by a Kandinsky I had also hoped to see.

Sketch for Several Circles by Kandinsky

And a new modern exhibit where we got to participate by chalking a wall.

chalkboard

Cristen’s drawing pays tribute to Cleveland. Mine paid tribute to Miss Smile With Your Eyes (Smize!) herself, but I forgot to take a picture.

Since it’s right there, we took a stroll through City Park. There were a lot of people getting professional pictures taken that day. There was a family on one side of a stone bridge and a mother and daughter on the other. But my favorite was a young girl getting some dance pictures taken. Mostly, I loved the fake goldfish bowl they were setting up.

goldfish

It reminded me of one of my favorite Matisse paintings, Woman Before an Aquarium, and I kind of wish I had my own fake goldfish bowl, so I could recreate it myself. That photographer is genius. We had our own little photo shoot (sans fish) instead.

work that tree

And came across some very unimpressed, and I dare say disapproving, lions.

disapproving lion

Saw some birds in a tree:

city park birds

And then went home for some of the best vegetarian gumbo I have ever had. After dinner, we thought we’d check out Magazine Street. Bad idea, though. Everything was closed already, so we pulled up a table at Borders and went through a stack of magazines. Then we decided to try Frenchman Street again. This time, we drove along with our windows rolled down before we committed to parking. There were some good sounds, so we stopped by the Spotted Cat to listen to a ragtime band I later found out were called the Loose Marbles. I looked them up today because I would love to see them again and I found this article from two years ago in the New Yorker. Apparently, they mostly play in the street, so I’ll have to keep a look out. But the article has some youtube videos, which led me to look for more videos. Check them out:

When we saw them they had an amazing pianist. The bar had a mirror over the spot where the band peformed, so I could watch her fingers flying the whole night. I tried to get a picture, but it just doesn’t do it justice.

loose marbles at the spotted cat on Frenchman

It was one of my favorite events of the weekend. I love stumbling across great music like that. Perfect way to end the night.

Cristen and the Big Easy, Day 1

Meet Cristen:

sass

When I first saw Cristen at orientation over four years ago, I knew we would be friends because she had on some awesome green shoes. I was totally right. We quickly became friends, and, along with Erica, spent many weekends grading papers, eating Chinese, and watching our favorite TV shows. She joined me on many of my Indiana adventures, but since graduating over two years ago, we’ve had to settle for phone conversations and instant messaging. That is, until this past weekend.

This was totally an event worth cleaning my room for.

spic and span

i even dusted

Cristen got in around noon and then we went for lunch. In planning for Cristen’s visit, I had asked around and looked up different vegetarian restaurants. Luckily, one of my favorite places here worked out well, until they mixed up my beef shawarma with Cristen’s falafel. We figured it out pretty quickly. After lunch, we dropped off her bags at home and then headed out to the Quarter. I wanted to stop by the St. Louis #1 Cemetery, the oldest one in New Orleans, but it was already closed for the day. So we went to see a different Louis.

grandpa louis

People have often asked me if I’m related to Louis Armstrong, along with Neil and, more recently, Lance. I always say yes. We saw Congo Square, which is not as square as you might think.

congo square

And I finally got my picture taken here:

my name in lights

I’m going to go back some time when the letters are lit up.

We finally made it to the French Quarter in the late afternoon and wandered through the French Market. It was a rainy day and a downpour started just as we got there, but that didn’t stop these people from dancing to a brass band in the streets.

street dancing
(There were lots of swing dancers this weekend.)

Here are a few pictures from around the Quarter:

green door

little green house

Turns out, I start taking fewer and fewer pictures with each visit to the Quarter. One time, I didn’t even take my camera. I guess I’m really turning into a local. We caught a full performance of the street performers. They put on a show several times a day each weekend. I first saw it when Erica and Kevin were visiting last January. (Sidenote: I never got a chance to blog about their visit because my blog wasn’t working back then. Sad.) But we just caught the end of it then. Turns out, it’s the same every time. But still awesome.

After their performance, we went for African food at a place in the Quarter that was recommended by guide books, the Internet, and my iphone’s Urban Spoon app. Now I can officially recommend it because it really was delicious. We met up with some of my friends on Bourbon Street.

bourbon at night

But it wasn’t for the typical Bourbon debauchery, I promise. We actually went to see Opera on Tap at the Inn on Bourbon Street. Look, it was classy.

classy

But the “opera” they were singing from that night was the Phantom of the Opera. When the singers took a break after a couple of songs, we took our departure and went to Cafe du Monde instead. Then we tried to find some less classy music on Frenchman Street, but didn’t have any luck. So we went back to Jackson Square so Cristen could have her fortune told.

mysterious fortune teller

Apparently, it’s going to be a really good year for Cristen. Hopefully some of that luck will rub off on me.

French Quarter in Film

Just over a month ago, I came across an old Pentax ME on Craigslist. It was cheap, and I thought it would be fun to experiment with a manual film camera, so I bought it. It looks like this:

vintage charm

It has a nice heft to it, and you can hear the film wind when you pull the lever. I first took it with me to the Quarter when our friend KK was in town visiting. I took many photos which I’m sure would have been incredible… if I had loaded the film properly. Turns out, I wasn’t really taking any photos. While Mike and Amanda were out of town, I decided to try it again. I found a video on YouTube that taught me how to load 35 mm film (sad that it’s come to this, right?) and felt confident I had it right. And then I walked around the quarter.

beautiful balcony

brass doorknob

burgundy cottage

horsehead

light streak

phychic reading

silver harlequin

silver joker

silver lady

street music

washing well

turquoise shutters

two buildings

It was exciting to pick up my photos on Monday. I couldn’t remember what I pictures I had taken. I had no idea how the lighting worked out. I wasn’t even sure everything was in focus. It reminded me of not that long ago when I would stop by Alberston’s to pick up film from whatever high school (or even some college) activity I had been to and I would sit on the bench right outside the store and eagerly go through the photos, recalling each moment it had captured. I love the ease of digital cameras and the abandon with which I can experiment, but knowing I only had 24 exposures made me think about things a little differently, too. It’s nice to have both.