Thursday, April 23, 2009

And All That Jazz

Well, we leave tomorrow for a much needed dose of New Orleans. Aside from Mardi Gras, Jazzfest is my favorite time of the year in NOLA. I have tried to decide what my favorite part of the fest is, and I have to say that annually the thing I look forward to the most is the walk from Cabrini down Esplande on the first day. You're not yet sunburned, you're ready to eat yummy food, and you can hear the sound of a horn playing off in the distance. It's like their playing just for you - welcoming you into their world of music, tradition, food, art, and history. And when you walk through the line surrounded by a sea of people as excited as you, there is nothing like it. But then once your inside you have some tough decisions to make - who do you see and what do you eat? Here's some things I plan on eating and some bands I plan on hearing over the course of this three day celebration of everything that is New Orleans -

1. Cochon de lait po-boy (wouldn't leave without one)
2. Crawfish Beignets (Mmmmmm...)
3. Spicy Natchitoches Meat Pie (these are the best, but man they're spicy)
4. Pheasant, Quail & Andouille Gumbo (had it last year for the first time and it was delish)
5. Crawfish Strudel (this will be a new item for me, but it just sounds so yummy)
6. Crawfish Monica (you can't leave Jazzfest without at least one bowl)
7. Fried Plaintains (
8. Strawberry Lemonade (So refreshing)
9. Fry Bread, Indian Tacos (From the United Houma Nation)
10. Crawfish Bread (the dish that people always come back to Jazzfest for)

1. Terrance Blachard - this man can play!
2. Trombone Shorty and the Orleans Avenue - Troy Andrews is as humble as he is talented.
3. MyNameisJohnMichael - a Loyola kid like me
4. Wynton Maralis & the Lincoln CEnter Orchestra
5. Storyville Stompers Brass Band
6. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
7. Better than Ezra and Dave Matthews (but not sure if I want to commit to the Acura stage all day and fight the massive crowds...)
8. Joe Cocker
9. Earth, Wind, and Fire (conflict with Dave, but they'd be cool to see!)
10. Jake Smith Band (they opened for BTE over Mardi Gras and were really good)

The thing I've learned about Jazzfest, is that more often than not the best performace is not the one at the main stage or the one you even planned to see, its the one from the band you've never heard of on a stage tucked away that makes you realize how special Jazzfest really is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

So I’ve been mentally preparing for our trip this weekend to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. And while I have been excited, I found myself also kind of frustrated because there is so much going on this weekend that I fear we’ll never have a minute to just relax and see the city as you do when you live there. Between the NFL draft and the Saints draft day extravaganza, the Hornets playoff game, the Zurich Classic, and Jazzfest, how do you decide what to go to and when to take a break and just take in the city with your family? And then I realized something, three and a half years ago, on August 30th, 2005, I sat on a bed in a studio apartment my friend’s uncle let my family live in during the days following Katrina, and cried and asked my dad “will I ever eat red beans on Monday again, will I ever see another parade, will I ever watch the Saints play in the Dome, will I ever hear the sweet sound a brass band makes on the Heritage stage at Jazzfest?” And all I wanted to hear was “yes,” but like everyone else, he just didn’t know. And although I worry sometimes that I have allowed my life to be split in two – a before Katrina and post Katrina world – I think that sometimes that dichotomy forces you to appreciate every “normal” thing that happens today in New Orleans. Because the answer is yes! This weekend we will be in the greatest city in the world eating red beans, listening to the most beautiful original music in the very place the sound was born, overhearing Jazzfesters talk about who the Saints drafted with their first pick, getting text updates about how the Hornets are doing and whether Chris Paul has fought for a victory, and we might even be able to squeeze in a little golf too. And while Mardi Gras has passed us by, we will certainly see a parade – it will be the Mardi Gras Indians and the Social Aide and Pleasure Clubs with costumes as colorful as their personalities that lead the Second Line though the grounds. And we will fall in line and dance to the beat they create without thinking because in New Orleans it’s just in you. It’s almost like the music, and the dancing, and the celebration of life that is Jazzfest is our way of thanking New Orleans for still being here- for giving us a place where the unusual is really just normal. So when I start feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices we will have to make about what to do, I guess instead of being frustrated, I will be grateful. So in homage to the great Jazzfest veteran Jimmy Buffet, with my change in latitude will be a change in attitude.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New York, New York

So I just got back from a post-April 15th/30th bday trip to NYC with four of my friends. It was fabulous. Here are my top ten things I loved about our trip -

10. Food Carts - We didn't stop to eat at one, but aren't food carts amazing? They are perfect - cheap, quick, and delicious. On every street corner you smell something yummy and delicious. And they are as representative of the diverity of the city as anything else. From roasted chestnuts (smell better than they look) to gyros to pretzels - how can you go wrong!

9. The Subway - I love taking the subway and not getting lost! It makes me feel like a real New Yorker. I love that you can reach so many parts of the city so efficiently too. I told the girls on our trip that the first time I went to NYC, I thought there would be a subway stop on every corner. That you could just blink or wiggle your nose and you'd be standing in front of an entrance to this crazy underground world that takes you whereever you need to go. Wouldn't that be nice!

8. The Diversity - I love feeling surrounded by people who are so unique and so different. I just feel like NYC is one of those places where you can feel like you have traveled the world in just a few short blocks. It's like being in Epcot! And it's nice to be reminded sometimes that "normal" isn't the only way to go through life. That you can have pink hair or some crazy tattoo or wear some ridiculous fashion trend and just be.

7. The Village - By far my favorite part of the city, I love walking through the Village. It has an energy that seems so authentic. Less touristy than Times Square and less conjested than Midtown, I always feel so peaceful there. I was a bit disappointed though that we didn't have any Sarah Jessica Parker sightings. A girl can dream, right?

6. Central Park - Although they wouldn't squeeze five of us onto a carriage, our stroll through the park was wonderful. It's so amazing that in the middle of all of the concrete and commotion is this beautiful place that you an go to escape. I'm sure it would be odd not to grow up without a traditional back yard, but can you imagine growing up with Central Park as your local playground?

5. The Waldorf - I always feel so special staying there. My friend Marie hooked us up with a great friends and family rate which made the whole thing possible. Luxury doesn't come cheap, let me tell you. It is such a glamourous place to be. And every time I get in the elevator, I think of the movie Serendity and how in NYC anything is possible.

4. The food - Like any good New Olreanian, I plan my trips around what else - the food. I couldn't possibly begin to describe my favorite food finds b/c they were all so different. The Croque Monsieur at Le Bateau Ivre, the lobster potsticker and short ribs at Asia de Cuba, the chocolate ganache and roasted pear tart and the mojitos on our food tour, the fois gras and carpaccio at Townhouse, and the duck confit ravioli in a balsamic brown butter at Cesca. Mmmmm... And how can I forget our bday cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.

3. The show - Wicked!!!!!!! It was super with a capital S. The staging was incredible and the actors were perfect. More than anything I loved the story. Although it might have a little scary for small kids, I thought the lesson is one they should all learn. It's easier to just believe what you have heard about someone than it is to learn about who they really are. But if you take the time to walk in their shoes for a minute, you just might learn that they aren't really wicked at all.

2. The SHOPPING! - I didn't make any huge purchases on this trip, although there is this turquoise Gucci bag named "Lucy" that I have not stopped thinking about. It has a cute little tassle that I just L-O-V-E! I love walking in the shops and seeing all of these beautiful things in person and not just on the pages of a magazine. It's like they come alive! I'm sure this sounds incredible superficial, and I guess it is, but I can't help it. Retail makes me melt!

1. The friends! - Some of my favorite college buddies and my sisters in law live in NYC and I just love visiting them. No matter how long it has been since the last time we've been together, it seems like we just pick up right where we leave off. And to have them meet my Beaufort friends was such a treat! Ahhh - my Beaufort friends. The whole reason for our NYC celebration. When I finished college, I never thought I'd make friends like the ones I had discovered at Loyola. And then I moved to Beaufort. I met these amazing women who welcomed Mark and me into their lives without question. You don't have to spend a weekend in NYC with them to see that their is a special kind of friendship that is shared. It's the kind of friendship where you realize that these girls have gone from being your friends to being your family. They are the kind of friends you travel to new places with , that you bunk five in one room with , and that you celebrate life milestones with. They are the kind of friends you never thought you'd have again, and who make every day in Beaufort worth it.

Happy birthday Christie, Meg and Margaret! You're worth celebrating all year!!!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Laissez bon temps roullez!

If your blog title is Nola Girl, I think you're bound by New Orleans code to title your first post Laissez bon temps roullez! In a short introduction, I am a girl from New Orleans living in wonderful Beaufort while we finish the last 18 months of the most amazing experience in the US Navy. While it has taken us away from the very place I thought I'd never leave, it has brought us so many things in return. Of all of the things Beaufort has given us, the thing I am most grateful for is of course our friends, who are really our second family.

But while our life here is filled with all the happiness we could ever ask for, it's hard not to miss New Orleans. With all of its faults, it is the place I long to be. Oak tree lined avenues, trumpets playing on a street corner, boiled crawfish spread on a table, family all around you - there is simply no place like it in the world. Without spending time there, I can't imagine how odd it must seem to meet a girl like me who considers this place so much of my identity. But I swear I'm not the only one! There really is no better description of the people from New Orleans than the one Chris Rose gave immediately following Katrina. It sums us up perfectly and completely - so with that, I'll leave it to Mr. Rose to introduce every girl who considers herself a Nola Girl -

From columnist Chris Rose of The Times-Picayune
Dear America,
I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We’re South Louisiana.
We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We’re not much on formalities like that.
And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn’t ask for this and neither did we, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it.
First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.
We’re a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don’t cotton much to outside interference, but we’re not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.
Just don’t get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don’t try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.
We’re not going to listen. We’re stubborn that way.
You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you’d probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.
We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.
But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.
Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.
Often we don’t make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God’s name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?
We can’t really explain that. It is what it is.
You’ve probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.
The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.
We are what made this place a national treasure. We’re good people. And don’t be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.
When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.
But don’t pity us. We’re gonna make it. We’re resilient. After all, we’ve been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That’s got to count for something.
OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.
But what the hell.
And one more thing: In our part of the country, we’re used to having visitors. It’s our way of life.
So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.
That is our promise. That is our faith


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