Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
I'm not usually a food glamour shot person but it seemed to make sense to do a log of the most interesting meals we ate in New Orleans... we tried to make our own food tour in terms of hitting most of New Orlean's most well-known specialties.
December 15, 2019
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Coop's Place was recommended by the Maison Dupuy concierge Roy, and the only place we hit twice... this is the "Coop's Taste Plate": A cup of seafood gumbo, shrimp creole, cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, and rabbit & sausage jambalaya
Street corn from the French Market... a little mushy but seasoned so well, loved it.
Grasshopper for the frog. Err, me. Never thought just being able to wander a street with a cup of booze would feel so liberating...
That night from the Court Tavern (I think) - muffuletta for Melissa, alligator sausage on a bun for me... I sort of loved the ingenious detachable handle to let you hold a large cheap plastic cup of cold beer without things collapsing.
Mahoney's was a bit too commercial maybe? Though friendly. I'm an idiot not getting my Po'Boy dressed, and we got onion rings and fried green tomatoes... at some point we realized maybe we were leaning into the friedness a bit much...
Beignet from the New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co in the Garden District...
At the Insectarium - waxworms and crickets to sample... just shows you the power of proper seasoning!
Well, not actually something we sampled, but Moxie at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum...
Dinner at the Red Fish Grill (one of our tour drivers mentioned her son is a chef there, and grilled seem like a nice diversion from all the fried) I got Blackened Catfish (Cajun shrimp rice, shrimp veloute, green tomato chow chow) and Melissa's wood grilled snapper with Canelli beans, collard greens, and a veal sauce
Double Bourbon Pecan Pie.
District Donuts... mine was Hot Chicken & Honey Butter French Toast Biscuit, hers was Croque Madame (Applewood smoked ham, Havarti cheese, dijon, bechamel, sandwiched on a griddled donut topped with a sunny-side-up egg)
Fancying it up at Galatoire's - on my NOLA checklist was Turtle Soup (here "au Sherry"...)
My Shrimp Etouffée..
Melissa's Crabmeat Ravigote (Louisiana jumbo lump crab, green onions, béchamel sauce, hollandaise, and a side of sauteed spinach). For this meal and Red Fish Grill and District Donuts, Melissa's getting annoyed that we're both liking my choices a bit more than hers...
Brunch at Stanley of New Orleans... kind of mundane breakfast for me though I wanted to try authentic grits, Melissa had red beans and rice and fried soft shell crab
That crab again...
For our last night, back to Coop's Place. I finally got a properly dressed Po'boy (fried crawfish to boot)
Melissa met her craving for fried chicken, with their famous rabbit & sausage jambalaya.
December 14, 2019
He was coughing something terrible. And he was splitting blood all over, his whole chest was covered. And I thought to myself, "Jeez. The worst is yet to come." Because see, he's gonna feel lonesome. Because when you die, you die by yourself. No matter what. Now, what can we do to help? So I reached over, and I grasped his hand and I gave it a squeeze to assure him that he was not alone. He acknowledged my presence by squeezing my hand. And then he died.Stan Wolczyk was a platoon leader station on the American island of Attu off the coast of Alaska... I took this quote from a brief video "Comforting the Dead" at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. (He then talks about bracing for his own death after growing cold after being wounded in combat, but he survived.) Also, he originally hailed from Cleveland!
Lots of things wrong with America--but Hitler ain't gonna fix them.
I saw this magnificent man swim out and bring some people off the sinking ship and bring them back in to shore and to me he was the picture of heroic beauty.I think back to "A River Runs Through It" use of beauty... it's a shame about whatever cultural forces make its use in a masculine context stand out so much.
RIP Carol Spinney...
December 13, 2019
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Tuesday evening we went to Red Fish Grill (our driver the day before mentioned her son was a chef there, and seafood besides 'fried' seemed like a good change.) After we hit Preservation Hall - the quick, polished 45 minute set you get (with 3-5 shows a night) is a good little sampler. We sat in the good cheap seats, meaning on the floor on bench cushions right in front of the musicians. No photos permitted during the performance, alas.
Wednesday morning we set out to District Donuts and a quick jaunt through the garden district. Melissa was stoked when we overheard a segway tour leader pointing out a place Melissa's high school idol Trent Reznor had lived there for a bit. Meanwhile, we laughed at how her chilly weather gear made her look like she was casing the joints.
We spent the afternoon at The National WWII Museum. Yeah, it's a bit too rah-rah, and distinctly the American story - though I give them some credit for confronting the racism and sexism of the time. (Like the Insectarium, they had a "4D movie" but this one was truly grand: physical props flying in, suds as artificial snow for the Battle of the Bulge, good use of light and sound and rumble effects.)
The gift store offered knock-off LEGO ("COBI") sets with reproductions of military stuff. The front display was a diorama representing a beach landing, probably D-Day? I uh... I remembered why it took LEGO so many years to have any kind of weapons in their sets.
That night we dressed up a bit to dine at Galatoire's and then went to Snug Harbor where Doug had promised Delfeayo Marsalis' Uptown Jazz Orchestra was the best jazz in town - that night featuring a second half with Tonya Boyd-Cannon (former Top 20 Finalist on "The Voice"). Our seats were meh, and so no great photos for the evening.
Melissa had been hankering to try Fried Soft Shell Crab and we got some (along with my less photogenic, but tasty, eggs and grits) at Thursday brunch at Restaurant Stanley near the Plaza de Armas. Honestly? Looks weird but if you dig fried clams you'll be fine.
Languorous statue behind the French Market.
There's a small brass squad that seems to play mornings outside the famous Cafe du Monde (Legendary Beignets!) kind of a casual group, the Decatur Street All-Stars
Swamp Tour! We had Captain Eddie of Cajun Encounters.
Captain Eddie had to work hard to get us any glimpse of gator (they'd rather be sleeping), so that's one of the minor drawbacks to December travel to New Orleans, but still we spied 3 or so little guys...
Later he steered us to another part of of the Old Pearl River where there was a crew of racoons about....
Super cute racoons! I realize this group is probably a bit over-acclimated and maybe reliant on the tours...
There was also a grand wild pig who would come up for a hand out...
We went back to Coop's Place to bookend our trip, I finally got a properly dressed po-boy (not sure why I was mayo-shy before), fried crawfish and Melissa had fried chicken and more of their legendary rabbit + sausage jambalaya.
A nice lagniappe - Kenneth Terry outside the Café du Monde
52 Things Tom Whitwell learned in 2019 - great stuff.
December 12, 2019
- I've always loved the Edie Brickell song "Nothing", and how it plays with the concept of nothing as it's own thing and nothing as the lack of anything:
Are you mad at me? Let it show
Don't tell me nothing I don't wanna know
There's nothing I hate more than nothing
Nothing keeps me up at night
I toss and turn over nothing
Nothing could cause a great big fight
Hey what's the matter?
Don't tell me nothing.
- Lately I've been noticing the word "nothingburger". It's a pretty damning put down - tapping into the visceral need for sustenance but then pulling a bait and switch, leaving folks metaphorically chewing on air.
- Growing up with certain kinds of religiosity can cultivate a sense of personal nothingness that can be hard to shake. Ideally, yes, we are precious because of that spark of divinity God graced us each with, but you know, one's own finite nature divided by the infinite nature of God... that's about as close to zero, or nothing, as you can get. And I think that has had a negative synergy with my fixed mindset - it's hard to think of growth and development of nothing, there's no there there!
- Moving to cosmology - so why is there something rather than nothing? ( "And if there were nothing? You'd still be complaining!") My favorite theory scientists have is that nothingness is surprisingly unstable - at the quantum level particles are popping in and out of the nothingness all the time, and it might be they key to understanding the origin of the universe. Nature abhors a vacuum, but a vacuum kind of abhors itself, it turns out.
Dunno if it's weird to have a chip on my shoulder about being part of Generation X...
Doesn't feel like the most rigorous study - but this is why I tuba dance.
My favorite bit of new-to-me language use around NOLA: "it's been a minute"- a kind of rueful recognition of it actually having been a long while. I mentioned that that to our tour guide Butch yesterday, and he came back with "go to make groceries" where most other parts of the country would say "go to buy groceries"
Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citizenship in the country you've made for yourself. You end up just sailing from port to port. Still, there is this sense of missed opportunity. Maybe there is nothing, ever, that can equal the recollection of having been young together. Maybe it's as simple as that. Richard was the person Clarissa loved at her most optimistic moment. [...] It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book. [...] What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.Cultivate an awareness of the moments you might be having even now, people! Even if our once tender hearts are a bit scarred over, and so that we fear Cunningham was right and there 'will be no other', that we won't feel as deeply as we did in our youth- or that in our middle age, after we might not have so many decades to create focal length and see how meaningful a moment that was -- I think there's still time for moments.
(I'd also take the chance in stumbling over this old Cunningham quote to plug my old 24 Hour Comics Day work Of The Moments.)
Took Me Eleven Minutes to do That Thing I've Been Avoiding for Three Months: A Memoir
Melissa and I are about halfway done with our NOLA getaway... here are some photos splitting the difference between "documenting our trip" and "I like the way this photo came out" (so not showing all the food diary shots, I'm better at eating food than photographing it.)
December 10, 2019
Open Photo Gallery
We arrive Sunday afternoon - the hotel concierge (Roy at the Maison on Dupuy) suggests hitting the French Market and then Coop's, local favorite but with a great tourist-friendly "Taste Plate" - Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya is Melissa's favorite NOLA food so far. But this shot expresses how the locals feel about hot sauce...
View from our Balcony at the Maison Dupuy... the hotel restaurant is playing some great jazzy pop but with a Christmas bend, which always feels like a disconnect to witness in a land with palm trees (I'm not sure if it's just the tourist aspect but NOLA seems more into Christmas than Boston.)
Bourbon Street at night - earlier we were walking around the French Market, the Saints were playing the 49ers, and a lot of fans were in the area at night (we nervously split when we saw a Mardi Gras-esque float by the 49ers fans approaching, not sure how it was going to be received...) Before that we grabbed a Muffuletta and a link of Alligator Sausage.
I'm always a sucker for good signage.
Waiting for a tour bus we got a second look at something our cab driver from the airport had pointed out - in October an under-construction building (future Hard Rock Cafe hotel) had partially collapsed.
Our destination was the Whitney and Oak Alley Plantations. Whitney is strongly focused on presenting the perspective of the enslaved people that so much was taken from - including the heroic tragedy of the 1811 German Coast uprising. Oak Alley (as seen in many films including Interview with the Vampire) is also very careful at showing the human cost and not whitewashing the period. Photograph from the balcony of the main house there.
After dinner at Mahoney's we went to Frenchmen Street - The Young Fellaz, a group I knew a bit from HONK! in October, were in full effect on the corner. (After their set I went up and one of the tuba players let me borrow his horn (I had brought my own mouthpiece), and a few of the players briefly jammed over my signature bass line Space Cadet)
Tuesday bright and early we headed out for a city bus tour - you get a local telling you great stories and you cover more geography than on foot... we stopped at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. (The NOLA burial traditions are fascinating.)
After the tour we went to the Audubon Insectarium - once upon a time a fellow student in a photography adult ed class asked me (in her charming irish brogue) "ooo, y'like boogs, doncha?" and I sort of denied it but you know, she wasn't wrong.
The Insectarium even has a cafeteria where you can sample crickets and waxworms in various preparations, like hummus and chocolate-chip-ish cookies, but the Butterfly Garden was more photogenic...
Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.Found this quote I grabbed 16 years ago... it really summarizes an important aspect of my philosophy. There is an objective truth, and you should feel compelled to align yourself with it, but you can never be certain you're there, and an important part of both understanding both probability and empathy is to be respectful of other's view of it, so long as there is a good chance they are being sincere and not obviously cynically manipulated.
Heh, another relevant previously blogged quote form 5 years ago:
The universe of ideas is just as little independent of the nature of our experiences as clothes are of the form of the human body.
ship stretching is a real-life loony tune way of getting better use out of cruise ships...