Missing New Orleans

I was offered a place at an artist’s residency called Soaring Gardens for the month of September. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to finance a month of writing without a source of income, so I launched a GoFundMe campaign. While I haven’t yet hit my goal amount, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by the generosity and support of everyone who’s donated and that has made me more determined than ever that this is going to happen.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a list of what I’ll miss about New Orleans while I’m gone for the month. I’ve picked 6 things for the 6 days left of the fundraiser, which wraps up next Wednesday, August 20th.

1. My communities of friends, fellow writers and artists and other tango dancers. All the coffee dates, writing meetings and tango events that I would otherwise attend were I here. This includes one regular Peauxdunque Writers Alliance meeting and a special tango workshop with amazing teachers.

2. Saints games! I’ll miss the first 4 regular season games, unless I can find a local bar and convince them to show the games. The house is very rural, so this could be touch and go. But even if I do manage to watch them while I’m gone, I’ll miss the experience of watching them with friends *here* at places like Pelican Bay.

3. Speaking of Pelican Bay, one of my favorite things to do lately is pick up one of their daiquiris and take it to Indywood Theater (they’re close to each other on Elysian Fields and Indywood is BYOB). I’ve seen so many amazing movies there recently and their August calendar looks great. I’m afraid to even see what I’ll miss in September.

4. While this isn’t technically a New Orleans thing (or in Sept), I’m going to miss the So You Think You Can Dance tour at the Saenger on October 1st. I’ll be driving back from the residency then, unfortunately. Darn!

5. Whenever I’ve left Louisiana in the past, I’ve craved good red beans and rice as soon as I cross the state line. So I’m sure that will happen now. And I’ll miss the roast beef po’boy at Parkway Bakery. I’ll miss a lot of other favorite restaurants/dishes, too many to name, but I know I’ll miss being able to get those red beans and that roast beef po’boy. It’s only a matter of time.

6. I’m not sure what I’ll do without the New Orleans Public Library. While the house has a library, I have been so spoiled by our wonderful library system and librarians. Books, movies, music, all at my fingertips. They just had a wrap party for their summer reading program and had adult summer reading activities all summer as well. But, in any season, the library is my mainstay. I’m going to be very sad when I take all my borrowed books back, and when I suspend all my holds. That will be the moment when I’ll know this dream I’ve been working toward has become a reality.

I know I’ll miss so much more than this (and people will be the biggest part), but I think I’ll be surprised by what I’ll miss once I’m at the residency. Luckily, it’s only a month and I’ll be back for the Louisiana Book Festival and Words & Music and… It will be a lot of fun to enjoy those six things (and everything else) once I’m back, having missed them for a little while. I hope you’ll enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer in the meantime.

There will be a going away party/celebration this coming Sunday the 17th, starting at 2 p.m. at Pelican Bay. If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, send me off or just enjoy brunch and daiquiris, you should swing by.

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St. Joseph Altars, 2012

This year Sun and I headed out just the two of us to view a few St. Joseph altars. We started at St. Joseph’s Church. They had volunteers giving mini tours to explain various aspects of the altars. I opted to send up a petition for my grandmother. I don’t know what comes over my non-religious heart in these settings; but if anyone would appreciate a petition given at the foot of a table lushly set, it’d be Sunshine. It made me smile and frown at the same time. Upon leaving with a goodie bag in hand, Sun asked what was in them. “Cookies,” I answered. “You KNEW that?” She responded, apparently boogled by the thought that I didn’t take more goodie bags. That’s my girl!

Then we visited one I haven’t before: St. Stephen’s. We caught the very tale end of the mass as the school children passed before the altar and received their goodie bags. Those well-behaved children; the sad history of the closing of St. Henry’s to merge with St. Stephen’s; the state of decline of the church; the amazingly detailed items on this altar. I have to admit it got to me. Here’s what has come to be what I see of the Catholic Church at its worst: Poorly executed decisions from up high that impact parishioners in the name of numbers — dollars and parishioners. Then the Church leaders getting their way and STILL not sending money to allow for even as much as fixing the peeling paint in this church. But go down the street to the affluent church and marvel at the loveliness. And here I thought the Church was supposed to be about helping its most needy parishioners.

But I digress.

Onward to St. Francis Xavier. This one was the largest we saw today. They also offer lunch. And they sell a St. Joseph altar cookbook (my weakness!). The sheer number of hours that go into their altar, all the altars, really, is stunning. And it all shows in these altars. You can see, feel, that these cakes and artichokes and breads and fishes, they aren’t just to look good. They are prepared for none other than St. Joseph popping in for a bite. And the altars ARE dismantled and used to feed parishioners; homeless shelters; and what’s not able to be given away or is no longer fit for human consumption, they must dispose of in an appropriate way since the food is blessed. And in New Orleans, that means a trip to dump the unfit food in the Mississippi River. So even our fish benefit.

Finally, we rounded off the tour with a visit to Angelo Brocato’s. Their Sicilian roots show in their own small altar. It had my favorite lamb cake I’ve ever seen. Then a woman came in that a clerk knew. “Oh, Julie, you married yet?” she asked. “No,” Julie answered, “working on it!” “Girl, you need to go get altar lemons! You KNOW dem altar lemons mean that the girl that gets one will be the next one married, right?” “No; let me go get one!” Julie exclaimed. The clerk was sure to point out that the girl “has to be ready” to be married or the lemons won’t work. “Oh, I’m ready!” Julie quickly added.

And then I was just happy Sun had to bring LIMES for her school’s altar and didn’t DARE ask what the clerk knew of THEIR meaning.

 

This post was originally published on http://www.nolanotes.com on March 19, 2012.

Black and Gold…and PINK in the Streets Sunday

It seems that I am the writer of fun these days, such a nice change…

The Camel Toe Lady Steppers and The Pussyfooter swill be hitting the streets in two separate second line-type of gigs Sunday, warming up for the Super Bowl. It looks like both troupes will be adding the Black and Gold to their costumes, of course.

The Camel Toe Lady Steppers will begin their gallivanting at Louisiana and Annunciation to will finish up at Washington and Camp, from 11am-noon.

The Pussyfooters will be lining up in front of the King Pin for noon and will be, as they are annually, a part of the Lyons Club march. The band and krewe will be marching along from the King Pin to Grits via Ms. Mae’s over on Napoleon, hitting a few joints along the way like the Milan Lounge.

Crash the parties!

Also look for the Pussyfooters in the SUPER BOWL PARADE!

I Love My New Orleans Saints

The Black and Gold. The Boys of the Dome. The UNDEFEATED New Orleans Saints. No matter your preferred reference, these are our boys, New Orleans – our older brothers and our sons fighting like warriors every week, making us proud, giving us hope – standing as a symbol of the resilience that has become synonymous with the people of New Orleans. Drew Brees is not kidding when he shouts, “WE ARE NEW ORLEANS!” as he pumps the  boys up, preparing them to give to us the gift of their best for those few hours on  the field each week. And although I may occasionally joke with my friends about wanting to practice having babies with Jeremy Shockey (a feat impossible as I can no longer have children, meaning there would need to be A LOT of practice) when out of ear shot of my wonderful husband (Love you, Honey!) this deep love for the New Orleans Saints –  the kind of love that comes from the tip of your toes and leaves you with butterflies in your tummy and every time you look at the object of your affection you cannot help but smile your biggest smile – represents so much more. What they represent is different for each of us, they truly being an extension of our identity here in New Orleans.

The Saints remind me of that innocent enthusiasm we had as children, impatiently waiting for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus. As game time approaches, my friends and I become a choir of “Who Dats!” and “Let’s go boys!” while posting anthems found on you-tube: we are an electronic tailgate. For a few hours we get back that excitement we held as children, the same one that leaves us as we grow into adults forced into the real world of responsibility. We create silly slogans mocking the team we are facing that week, talk a little bit of trash with our friends who favor other teams (especially those damn Viking fans!) and counting down until we see Drew Brees and Boys huddled up, screaming, declaring that they are us. And we are them.

I come from Wisconsin, a state where fans recently burnt Brett Favre jerseys when it was announced he was going to be playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Packer fans love their football and are loyal to a fault, but they aren’t Saints fans.

There ain’t any fan like a Saint fan.

My love for our New Orleans Saints stems far deeper than the pride I feel being apart of this wonderful city and the people who have now become my family. The New Orleans Saints are my prozac.

It’s been a year mixed with heartaches, loss and blessings at  Casa de Mueller. My father, bless him, passed away in May, joining my mother to whichever drive-in up in the sky they could agree to. My father had lived a long life, full of adventure and stories – but I really wasn’t prepared for how his death would affect me, particularly since it marked celebrating my thirty-third birthday without parents. I felt like an orphan, alone, and not in the cool Oliver Twist sort of way, causing a whole year of firsts without them.  As pre-season began, the road to sadness was particularly dark. It was those pre-season games, those interviews with Brees and the boys, that gave me something to look forward to – even if just for a few hours of the week. I had withdrawn from everything else but our boys.

As the season progressed, I withdrew a little less, began my ‘Who Dat!’ chat, and connected with a lot of really wonderful people over a team that represents hard work, skill, talent and determination. A team that represents strength. A team that represents each of us here, struggling to find our balance, needing just a little bit of distraction to help us appreciate what we have instead of what has been lost. As our boys sit 10 -0, I feel like I owe them thousands in therapy and a thank you for giving me that glint back into my eye.

To some, this may sound silly, using a football team to get me out of a dark period of my life.

You know what,though?

This isn’t any ordinary football team, baby. This is the Saints.

This ain’t no ordinary city. This is New Orleans.

This isn’t just a game. It is apart of who we are.

As the holidays approach, I tip my Saints Santa hat to the boys in the Black and Gold, in appreciation for the togetherness, the glue that helps us stand call and shout:

WE ARE THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS.

Bless you boys, the happiest of holidays — Jeremy, call me.