Life’s Been Good To Me… So Far

16 March 2007

Today started shitty.  I was in a bad mood.  That’s fairly unusual; I’m a pretty even-keeled guy.  Even my eruptions are short-lived, specific, and relatively unthreatening.  Don’t know exactly what it was this morning, but I was overwhelmed and taxed, and I’d put on a few pounds, when I’m trying to lose more than a few.

Anyway, I went through my day, vented to some students (not about my weight, but about a few policy changes in terms of email etiquette, texting, etc), and moved on.  Then I went to a very fine lecture by a classics prof at Brown who talked about perceptions of war in ancient Greece.  Really interesting work.

Then I got to be part of the group who took him to dinner (so I didn’t have to pay) at Dante’s Kitchen, where we had a great conversation and evening, eating good food, drinking good wine, outside (the traffic was a little loud, but it’s worth it), and so on.  We talked about a lot of things, and we told him why we loved New Orleans so much, Leslie told me that she loved La Divina, I offered to buy a friend a drink for his b-day, and then came home to watch some hoops–my only permitted TV this Lent.

So I’ve been logging people’s picks for our tourney and having a drink and listening to Tom Waits’ latest.  Pretty lucky.  I’m not saying that to gloat to people who’re dealing with bigger issues, but to express a little appreciation for my good fortune.  I don’t deserve it, but I’m grateful.

By Invitation Only

14 March 2007

Last night E & I went to the showing of By Invitation Only at Loyola. If you’re not familiar with the film, Rebecca Snedeker made it with Tim Watson. She is a member of one of those old-school big-money families in New Orleans, and she decided that she didn’t want to come out, debut, whatever.

In the movie, she follows a cousin through the process (scepter and curtsy coach, 5 parties/day, mysterious old guys kissing you congratulations, etc), and, because she grew up in school with these folks, they trust her and allow her to film some stuff an interview some of them. Many of the faces are blurred if they didn’t give permission or if their membership is supposed to be a secret.

I have a strange fascination (not admiration or envy, but fascination) with this kind of super-rich person.  The film gives a pretty rare look at those circles and their functions, as well as some nifty historical footage.  I also enjoyed the footage of the city council debates the decision to require diversification.

I was worried that the movie would make me feel guilty about enjoying Mardi Gras, but it doesn’t, mainly because most of what these people do isn’t MG.  Snedeker risked the wrath of her family and friends in exposing much of this, but the film doesn’t really play like an expose, more like a rationale for why she wanted no part of the scene.

Required viewing for anyone interested in the history of the city.

My Letter to Quint

14 March 2007

I am one of those people who truly loves JazzFest.  I get a brass pass every year and go every day, even if it’s late after a final or something.  It’s just one of my favorite things.   Quint gets crap from people for his scheduling, and I certainly have my beefs, but I think they do a hell of a job most of the time.  But here’s the deal:

Cyril Neville has forfeited his choice to play the Fest.  Here’s the letter I wrote (had to be paper; can’t find an email address for him) to Quint Davis, the president of Festival Productions, Inc, and the guy who wields most of the power in scheduling:

Dear Quint et al.,

Cyril Neville should not be allowed to play JazzFest.  You guys put on the greatest musical event in the world, and this guy, who has profited for years from the New Orleans mystique, has turned his back and insulted our city with no remorse.  Please remember this excerpt from an interview (

There’s nothing there. And the situation for musicians was a joke. People thought there was a New Orleans music scene — there wasn’t. You worked two times a year: Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. The only musicians I knew who made a living playing music in New Orleans were Kermit Ruffins and Pete Fountain. Everyone else had to have a day job or go on tour. I have worked more in two months in Austin than I worked in two years in New Orleans.

A lot of things about life in New Orleans were a myth.

This is from another interview (

“New Orleans is dead, man. It’s dead,” the singer-percussionist says, sitting on a red couch in an otherwise drab South Austin apartment complex where he has lived for the last month.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love New Orleans. But the New Orleans I loved was gone long before the storm hit.”

“I like it here in Austin; musicians here look out for each other and people treat us the way we were supposed to be treated in New Orleans but weren’t. The good thing that’s come out of all this is I’m now in a city that actually cares about musicians.”

This member of the Neville Brothers has gravely insulted our city and, by extension, your superb work in the New Orleans music scene.  When people like Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, and Dr. Michael White are still spreading the gospel of New Orleans and its soul, Cyril says the place isn’t worthy of his efforts (at least until now that so many have poured so much into the recovery).  He’s entitled to his opinion, but he sure as hell shouldn’t be invited to play the Fest.

I never miss a day of the Fest, and I’ll be hitting a different stage during his set, to be sure.  But I’m just disturbed that the guy even gets to be there.  I’m inclined to put on some kind of protest to remind people what he really thinks of us, but I don’t want to kill the great positive vibe that the Fest always has.  I hope you’ll think about rescinding his invitation because his presence there will have just that negative effect.

Thanks, and I’m looking forward to another phenomenal festival!

What I Learned from Blogging this Weekend

12 March 2007

If you’re talking to someone who’s starting to blog, and he or she just wants people to find the page, here’s a recommendation: Include some reference (inadvertent or otherwise) to sex or drugs. I wish I could attribute my big spike in hits on either a sudden interest in my posts, or in supporting a good new gelateria, but alas, I fear that the visitation is the result of my inclusion of the word “ecstasy” in the title. Oh well.

I don’t get a lot of business, which is fine, but these stats really cracked me up. Still, go to La Divina!

Update:  I ended up with 281 views that day.  Sheesh.

La Divina Gelateria–Ecstasy with a Purpose

11 March 2007

la-divina-window.jpgAlright, I haven’t done much plugging here, but I’m encouraging you to visit La Divina Gelateria (3005 Magazine, near Washington).

I’ve now tried several of their flavors–all wonderful–and my current favorite is creme brulee (the chunks of burnt sugar really make it). The others I’ve had and loved are stracciatella, mint stracciatella, pistachio, and cookies. We have some pretty good treat selections in town now, but you need to make this place a part of your circuit.

la-divina-owners.jpgThese fine folks on the left are old friends of mine, Carmelo and Katrina Turillo, with their son Nicco. They’re some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet, and I’m thrilled to see them launching their new business in New Orleans. I met them in grad school at Tulane (no Nicco at that point), when they were some of the main forces behind the Mystic Krewe of Spermes. After Carmelo got his PhD, they moved to Madrid where he taught and did a stupendous job hosting us on a visit.

la-divina-katrina-salad.jpgThey missed New Orleans though, and, they returned with the dream of opening a true gelateria. They remained undaunted by the tragic coincidence of Katrina’s name, so these are real boosters of the city. You need to visit for a lot of reasons, and one of the main reasons is that these are good people who love the city and deserve our business; they’re the kind of business owners and citizens we all want here in New Orleans.

la-divina-layout.jpgBut I’m here to tell you that you’re sacrificing nothing in giving them your business. They make everything in the place from scratch, which you can imagine is highly involved and unusual. The gelato is unbelievable, and they have more flavors than you would expect from a new family-owned establishment. Carmelo showed me the guts of the operation and explained the process, which was fascinating. (the machine that heats the mixture is named Purgatorio, the fridge where they age is called Dante, and so on) One thing that makes the place different is that they make each recipe completely differently, rather than from a base, like a lot of places would do. Even their recipes are written in Italian!

la-divina-gelati.jpgThese folks also take their coffee seriously. I’m a tea man myself, and I had a terrific Assam there (lots of other premium teas to try, so maybe something that sounds more Italian would be in order), served with a sand timer to tell me when to plunge & pour. But their espresso looked different from what I’ve seen before, perhaps because of the gorgeous glasses they’re served in. With free wi-fi and some high-level brews, this could be a nice coffee shop hangout for you too.

la-divina-katrina-nicco.jpgLa Divina also has a selection of fresh panini and salads. I had the verdura, which was outstanding, with fresh mozzarella and grilled vegetables with a little basil. On the side was a garbanzo salad that knocked my socks off. They also have sandwiches with LA crawfish, pancetta, tuna, and so on, and they all look great.

In fact, the whole place if beautiful and classy; they’ve gone all out. Yeah, I’m biased and want to support my friends (this is not a sponsored post), but I promise you’ll be impressed with the attention to detail and the tasteful decor.

Again, you’ll be treating yourself and contributing to the revitalization of the city. Give La Divina and the Turillos your support! Grazie!


7 March 2007

I’ve written before about ambivalence about issues such as public housing.  I’m in favor of providing housing to everyone, but I believe that diffused low income housing is better than large public housing developments.  I’m ambivalent about most things really, like the war.  It’s stupid and tragic, but do we get out now, or do we sink more money into trying to rectify things?

starbucks.jpgAround here, I have a lot of ambivalence about commercial stuff.  There are places that I don’t want in my city, but even more, I don’t want them NOT open, if they’re going to exist.  I live 2 blocks from a Starbucks.  I’d never go there for anything, but I was more pissed when they took so damn long to reopen after the storm.  I’d rather their spot be a local business, but if they’re going to be there, then open the hell up and spruce up the block (I’ve had people come visit and say, “Wow, you’re so lucky to live close to a Starbucks”).  But this picture is from August 20-f’in-06.  A year, and the corporate pricks had to wait to see if there would be enough money returning to the city to support store #35834923.  They’re just parasites.

Other businesses are the same to me.  I hate Al Copeland, and I hate his restaurants.  I’ve actually had to ingest that crap when some group or convention made me go there, and it sucks.  I resent that he convinces tourists that he sells New Orleans food, when it’s just garbage.  So I’d like him gone, but if he’s going to be there, then clean up the damn place, Al.  A condition for bankruptcy should be that you clean up your business, but this guy only cares about his own appearance, not the image of New Orleans that made him rich (ahem, Cyril).

Then there’s Walgreens, who’s letting their stores sit and rot but opening new ones.  No one who believes in the city should support those punks.  House of Blues even took their sweet time opening back up.  I hate the place, but if they’re gonna be there, then open up and start getting a little life going on.

I tell my students to vote with their dollars, and way too many people here are not thinking about the consequences of their spending.  I’m not trying to sound self-righteous about it, but at least I feel GUILTY about my transgressions.

I take a lot of pride in reading that in our city Walmart and Starbucks are less successful than in most cities.  At least among people I know, supporting local businesses is a passion.  I wish everyone would do at least a little more about it so that these city-destroying entities, who are all fat on our money, would get the message, clean up their places, and hit the road.

Three random questions

7 March 2007

When’s the pardon?

Would you really call this a “scare“?

Doesn’t this just look silly?

Safe Enough for Mickey, but not T-Mac

6 March 2007

They gave the f-u to homophobes, and now they’re doing the right thing again.  If Kimberly Williamson Butler didn’t like them so much, I just might go there sometime!

Thanks, Disney, for making the smart choice; you’ll have a damn good time.

Saints Thoughts

6 March 2007

First of all:  No No No NO!!!

I’m fine with taking Simmons, I guess, but I don’t see MLB as nearly as big a need as CB.  I guess they’re thinking they’ll take care of the Fred “Sieve” Thomas problem in the draft, but there’s no shame in pursuing that position now and spending real money on a good player.

People are all pissed about losing Horn, but I don’t think the organization did the wrong thing here, either professionally or morally.  We didn’t screw him over, and even though he’s been a stalwart for the team and the city, he’s not necessarily the glue that we need; at least he’s no Fred McAfee.  Y’all, if you have to say you didn’t sleep with a teammates wife, but we lose that (stellar) teammate, there’s at least something going on there.  When management cleans house the year before, including dropping some pretty high-profile players, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt so far.

I’d rather have him than not, and I love the guy, but I gotta be frank, I see this as a guy who thinks he’s still one of the best (ahem, TO), but whose best days are behind him.  The Saints woulda been glad to keep him, but not at those tall dollars.

McGrady & Horn Update

5 March 2007

Just heard from a friend in Houston (NO native, moved for work before the storm, hopes to move back here) that she and her boyfriend have boycotted Rockets games because of their candyass allstar.

Nice link from GD: Not everyone hates us. Shut Up & Play, T-Mac.

I’ve always liked Peter King’s writing, and he’s been a steadfast Saints supporter. Here’s his take on the Horn deal:

i. Nothing personal, Joe Horn. But as nice as it’d be to pay for sentimentality, teams that do that in a cap era are asking for trouble. If you’re paying for a player today, you’ve got to pay for one thing — performance. And Horn was just too beat up the last couple of years for the Saints to go out on a financial limb for him.

As a bonus, here’s what he says about Aaron “Organization-Killing” Brooks:

The Raiders didn’t have the kind of quarterback who could consistently get him the ball. Kerry Collins in ’05 gave way to Aaron Brooks last year, and it was laughable when Oakland people talked about Brooks last summer as though he were some sort of savior instead of the organization-killing kind of guy who just doesn’t like football. (Ask anyone who’s been around Brooks the last couple of years, in New Orleans and Oakland. The guy likes money, not football.)