Friday, November 16, 2007

Hard Day's Work in the Big Easy

New Orleans is still a city of commensurate beauty, culture, and feverish fun times that have always been synonymous with the mouth of the Mississippi. However, over the past years there is another, harsher reality that has been brought to bear on this city. We opted to take a scenic route, if you want to call it that, of the service road off of the highway as we entered the city from the northeast. Even now, it seemed every third structure was lacking a roof. Piles of rubble take up literal blocks of what was once inhabited city and strip mall infrastructure lies vacant, eerie with the absence of commerce despite life of some fashion existing all around.
However, for every boarded house, there seemed to be a construction project or refurbishment happening. From the passerby perspective we held, they seemed to be not professional projects of any sort, but neighborhoods gathered with common purpose and goodwill.

Thanks to our host Michele, we were able to spend our first Saturday in NOLA giving at least a little something back to this amazing place. A combination of Loyola University's National Service Day and Step It Up, a nationwide service effort to push Congress to cut carbon emissions, had people of all walks of life gathered with benevolent intentions at locations throughout the city and the nation at large. Our locale was City Park, one of the largest privately funded public spaces in America. Since the storms ravaged that end of the city, several of the trees had died due to the saltwater flooding, and in their wake had been overrun with invasive species, particularly Chinese Tallow. This was compounded with a devastating loss of staff and funding, which had previously been provided by tee fees at the golf course, which now lay in ruin.
So we spent the early portion of the day with hatchets and clippers in hand, showing the Tallow what was what. The energy was abundant and positive, and we quickly took to the work. Hours were spent with many hands laboring, but even this effort barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done to fully renew this space.

The feelings of good intention and forward-looking positivity did not end with our blistered and dirty hands in the park that day, though. We then fought the urge to nap away the afternoon and headed to Art Egg Studios, an old produce warehouse gentrified into an artist's collective. The studio for the day was converted into an area of green education. Seminars on Bio-Diesel, and tours on the effectiveness of fluorescent and natural lighting, proper insulation, solar water heaters, renewable bamboo instead of hardwood flooring were all over the facility. States like New York, Colorado, and now Louisiana actually have lucrative tax breaks for the installation of such green amenities which combine with lowered power bills for a worldly beneficial result. We were then treated to speeches by several civic leaders, with a keynote by presidential candidate, John Edwards (whose hair looks as perfect in real life as it does on tv!)
The day's finale was a Second Line led by Da Truth Brass Band, whom we followed on a closed highway all the way to the Superdome. All involved in their red shirts spelled out NO NEW COAL for a helicopter overhead, and it was all in all a wonderful day in New Orleans that we will remember forever.

But enough blathering prose... its time for pictures!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Tender Lumplings Everywhere, Life's No Fun Without a Good Scare'

Halloween, like many occasions, is a time of year when literally and figuratively you reap what you sow. It was in Washington D.C. that we decided to be Jack and Sally from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. Several small stops along the way including the International Lingerie Department in the aforementioned Unclaimed Baggage Store, an Alabaman craft store (burlap is not easy to come by), and Josette's in Biloxi, Mississippi all fed into what was sure to be a fantastic evening to remember...

We spent the entirety of our first day in New Orleans, save breakfast at a French bakery working on our costumes, and as the following pictures will show, it was well worth it in the end!

I have a feeling that if the original Spartans looked like this, there never would have been a battle to begin with!

I love this pic.

All of these wonderful getups and I can't seem to look past the Couzis!

The really funny thing is that this is easily the best costume I've ever donned for Halloween, but in New Orleans it merely blended into the crowd!

Riding in style to the quarter.

At one point someone said that there was another Jack and Sally making the rounds about Frenchman St., but one look at us and they must have slunk away in shame!

If you think this Kermit and Piggy are sweet, you should have seen the Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker later in the evening!

This Persian obviously didn't know who we were rolling with.


Yeah... I'm smiling here because I haven't figured out that I lost my wallet in the cab home yet.
(I was reunited with it the following week)

More New Orleans in the next few days!

From Bourbon Country to Bourbon Street

Sorry for the long absence, friends. Hope your hearts fondly find the new barrage of pics...sunset somewhere in Tennessee

roadside absolution

outside Scottsboro, Alabama; home of the Unclaimed Baggage Center - a must for any Salvo Junk Junkie

rural roadside, Alabama

the Murano took this one

one side of the car windows outside Mobile

the other.

one of the few picturesque beachfronts left in the wake of Katrina and Rita in Gulfport, MS

the sky burns as we enter the Crescent City

Your essential first stop in the Big Easy for all your funky fresh fashion needs...