New Orleans & Jazz Heritage Festival 08

 Entertainment, Events, Music, Travel  Comments Off on New Orleans & Jazz Heritage Festival 08
May 102008

This past weekend several friends from around the nation gathered in the still broken community known as the Big Easy for the NOLA Jazz Festival. To a certain extend only one of the two iterations of this nickname are still true: The French Quarter is still one big open speak-easy, however, its no longer true that it’s easy to find work here.

I landed late on Wed, however, not late enough and endured a long 2 hours wait for some friends to come through. We checked into my corporate staple – the Marriott, on the boarder of FQ and the Central Business District. Without even claiming space we’re already out on the quarter looking for a hole to get some local grub and a few beers.

We make our way down most of the main strip of Bourbon and right past the tourist wonder of Port of Call to Saint Peters and hit Yo-mamas. $4 – 28 oz draft Abita‘s (the local amber brew), and the best 1/2 lb burgers sided with a fully dressed baked potato as big as your foot. Yo-mama’s doesn’t cater to that handgrenade or hurricane slaying crowd, just bar goers that like their drink strong, and their companions with no bull shit. We went back almost every night and ate here twice. Definitely love the Bull Fighter with extra jalapeños (however back at the hotel, the mates didn’t).

The wed night crowd was light but noticeably less douchebaggy or fratty but we still took down the quarter closing out several bars and getting a good feel for what’s going to be a party, what are the jazz spots and where do we go to meet the people wanting to stay on the strip but away from the tourists. We ended our night at the Old Absinthe House bar on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville; built in 1806 this is where Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson planned the victory of the battle of New Orleans on the second floor. No green fairy for us but the spot is great to get away from the frey watch those that do partake (we ended several nights here as well).

Starting late in the morning on Thursday set the tone for the rest of the week. We had some more friends come in later this afternoon so we went down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for some beers on the patio. Lafitte’s is the oldest functioning bar in the US and rumored to be the oldest standing building in the entire Mississippi Valley. Good mix of locals and like minded tourists… until the yuppiest of clans showed up chatting up their latest sailing adventures and next trips to Cape Cod we stayed for a few hours before the tide turned.

We sampled the hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, which when you think of the stumbling tourists around the quarter, it’s hurricane’s their usually clutching to keep their tilt sideways. The drink is synonymous with O’Brien’s, created during World War II and one of the most sought-after tourist souvenir.

We witnessed some film cameras in and around the quarter catching the “reality” of Bourbon St. I found later they were there for a Central City show with Luda and Widespread.

The weather turned out to be perfect during the weekend (far from the T-storms predicted).

One of the primary requirements of any travel is getting good food and lots of it. In no particular order I sampled (around NOLA and at the Festival):

Fried Crab Cake w/ Smoked Tomato & Jalapeño Tartar
Soft shell crab po boy
Dozens of raw oysters
Oyster and Crawfish Po Boy from VertiMarte
Crawfish Etouffe
Pheasant, Quail, and Andouille Gumbo
Half the menu at Emeril’s NOLA
Cajun Jambalaya
Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Hot Sausage Po-Boy
Grits, biscuts, chicken fried steak, gravy and other brunch at Cafe Fleur de Lis
late night gyro at Ali Ba Ba’s
… Fortunately! no lucky dogs

Saturday, we picked up round trip bus tickets from a local hotel, which seems to be the best option getting there and started drinking on the way. The line to purchase tickets wasn’t that bad, and we saved on the ridiculous Ticketmaster over charge which I always recommend. There’s so many artists playing in over 10 tents or stages, you really need to spend at least 2 days at the festival to get the most of the music there. Saturday’s headliners were: Jimmy Buffett, Steel Pulse, The Roots, Bobby McFerrin and Marcia Ball. Jimmy’s stage area was packed and not accessable if you didn’t get there hours before his show. Steel Pulse and the Roots were off the hook. I also caught a few riffs of Kenny Wayne Shepherd but don’t remember any of the other great festival artists I heard.

The weekend before NOLA was hit by thunderstorms, rain and consequently caused serious mud and “fun” for many of the participants. Since we’d been here for 3 days, and mass consumption of alcohol has worn our stamina thin. The cooling mist of the auto tent and shade offered a few hours of relief as did the glorious food options.

That evening we rallied and caught the Parliament show which has been one of my top bands to check out live before they stopped performing. More than expected they were off the hook.

New Orleans is still feeling the effects of Katrina. The pain is hidden in the eyes but the life and spirit still carries on strong in the music, food, people and community. I’ll definitely be back for the festival and more food. Here’s a few more pics from the weekend.

“New Orleans is one of the last places in America where music is truly a fundamental part of everyday life. People get together on the weekends and parade through the streets just playing songs; 12-year-old-kids learn funk on the tuba; everyone dances. Life elsewhere in the world simply isn’t as celebratory. If we allow the culture of New Orleans to die by leaving its musicians marooned around the country, America will have lost one of its great treasures.”

-Damian Kulush of OK Go

Just landed in NOLA

 Travel  Comments Off on Just landed in NOLA
Apr 302008

There’s a cool breeze tickeling my thin shirt in the cylindar style termanal C of the “Satcho” AKA Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’ve just landed and I’m chillin (literally, I thought it was supposed to be hot down ‘er) in cookie cuter stiff airport seats of the “lobby” waiting for a friend to land, and head into the CBD.

Why the lobby? Nothing is open. After 9 apparently everything in this terminal shuts down. Good to know on the next time around. I’m looking at a row of stores with books begging to be thumbed through, PJ’s coffee waiting for that percalation and across from the Jazz alley lounge where I thought I would be sipping down my first brew of the weekned in New Orleans…

I’m here for the 2nd weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and to tear it up for the first time with some friends from the east. There’s not much planned but a spot to sleep and the festival headlined by Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffett, The Roots, Santana, Steel Pulse and hundreds of other superbly tallented jazz musicians.

Here’s to po boys and dirty girls, schucked oysters and hot river boat casinos…

Volunteering to Help Those Dirty Animals from the Katrina Hurricane

 Science & Nature, Society  Comments Off on Volunteering to Help Those Dirty Animals from the Katrina Hurricane
Sep 152005

No I’m not talking about the residents of the Dirty South…. There’s not much anyone can do sitting on their ass except write a check and of course it seems to be the “in” thing to do regardless of you’re natural inclination to help out your fellow man (or black man as the media would like to project to you)… But today I spent some time at an organization in Port Washington, NY – The North Shore Animal League of America to assist in my own way the relief effort.

There has been an over flow of animal rescues from the area, where homes have been destroyed and the pets of the family that have lost their homes, or even financial ability to care for their pets is gone. The animals that are being rescued from the area of the Golf Coast disaster and being transported to local shelters, however, the major problem is these shelters can not accommodate the over flow of animals above what they already take in on a daily basis.

North Shore is running caravan trips down to the south to these shelters to rescue animals from the over flow (and certain extinction). They are transporting them up to their shelters here in New York.

I spent half a day with them manning the phones, answering questions and taking in donations to accommodate the rescue relief effort. They are also taking applications for adoption of these animals. If you have the capacity, or are at least curious take a look at their site and review more information about the relief effort, their daily blogs on the road or availability of animals for adoption.

North Shore Animal League of America website

Hurricane Katrina Personal Experiences of the Catastrophe (after the storm)

 Politics & Government, Science & Nature  Comments Off on Hurricane Katrina Personal Experiences of the Catastrophe (after the storm)
Sep 072005

Posted on 09/06/2005 8:02:07 PM PDT by kingu on EMS News Network

EMS & Hurricane Katrina – Our Experiences

By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Sep 6, 2005, 11:59

Note: Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics form California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.[California]

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen’s store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen’s windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen’s gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen’s in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with “hero” images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the “victims” of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New

Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, “stealing” boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of

New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the “imminent” arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the “officials” told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City’s primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City’s only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, “If we can’t go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile “law enforcement”.

We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “I swear to you that the buses are there.”

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O’Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let’s hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us” had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be “medically screened” to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be.

Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Katrina has layed waste to the Gulf Coast ~ Bush plays guitar

 7 Deadly Sins, Events, Politics & Government, Society  Comments Off on Katrina has layed waste to the Gulf Coast ~ Bush plays guitar
Aug 302005

Katrina hit land almost 2 days ago. While millions of Americans have lost their homes or lives in the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina, Bush not only goes about business as usual, he plays the guitar. This is just another gilmer into the man who’s polocies and politics allow the increase of American poverty levels, increase in the number of Americans without medical insurance (over 45 million now), and the dying of the young men and women in Iraq for a “war” started on emotion and ultimately driven by a monitarily cause.

Party up Bush… why don’t ya sing us a song on how you’re vacation is going…

Just so you know as well: Bush has show his support for Louisiana, Alabama and Misouri by cutting the funding for flood control, and hurricane support and this spring, the Bush administration proposed ‘the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history.'”

There’s a story making the rounds in the blogosphere about the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. The most comprehensive information comes from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Policies have consequences. Bad policies have bad consequences.

No one’s blaming George Bush or the Republicans for the hurricane; that’s a force of nature. But the Bush Administration chose to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy and to start a war in Iraq. They chose to cut funding for infrastructure projects and disaster relief, and to move materiel and people that might have helped mitigate this disaster halfway around the world. The policies they chose have made the situation on the Gulf Coast worse. The dots aren’t that hard to connect.

Will Hurricane Katrina get the attention of red state Bush supporters and wake them up to Rep policies and politics? I have a feeling you’re going to see the Bush Administration push rather hard on the media to slow the publishing of hardship reporting in the gulf and you’ll soon see a rise in stories of heroism and saving grace.. oh and maybe god too…


 Events, Science & Nature  Comments Off on Katrina!!!
Aug 282005

Oh I have a feeling we’re going to hear about this one for a while… just a hunch. FEMA and Bush have already declared this one a disaster and it just hit land today (Press Release on Emergency Aid Authorized)

Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.
~Kin Hubbard

Burning Man Festival

 Culture, Music, Nightlife  Comments Off on Burning Man Festival
Aug 162001

I really don’t have any reason to back this but from what I understand this is America’s best festival today. It’s hard enough to explain the Black Rock Desert Festival when you’ve been there, let alone when you haven’t. If I didn’t have the corporate obligations I have today, this is the first place I would go on August 27th. Check the link about for the Burning Man Festival and GO! if you can…while it’s still here and America has not deemed this type of expression a sin, like the Bay Area has about allowing late night permits for dance clubs (Learn about SF Club permits – yeah it’s old but it’s still got some good info). At least they dropped the case in the New Orleans Rave bust, but I don’t see this as being the only time the “authorities” will try to bring down a human right….