Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let there be lights!

We love La Freniere Park, the 55-acre spread a few blocks north of our house, with paths and a bird sanctuary and a small lake, a dog area and a carousel and – at this time of year – thousands and thousands of Christmas lights.

There was a lot to celebrate at the holidays on St. Croix, and we loved the traditions. But there was nothing like this. Mostly not a lot of Christmas lights on the island, except for the Christmas boat parade.

A week ago we drove and walked through the La Freniere display ($3 a carload) and loved it. Here are a bunch of pictures, mostly taken by Kate hanging out the front window of the Beast.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Textbook Definition of Irony

Earlier this week I saw something small crawling on the wall. With catlike reflexes I snatched up the book at hand and swatted it, and got it.

I had killed a small spider with a copy of Neal Gaiman's "Anansi Boys."

For those not familiar with it, "Anansi Boys" is Gaiman's extremely entertaining novel about two young men in modern-day London dealing with the fact that they are the sons of Anansi, the trickster spider god of so many ancient myths. One of the two characters is named Spider.

I'll probably be in some kind of trouble for that, karma-wise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Catching Up

 So, let me catch up on some of the things that took place while I was busy not blogging. I mentioned them in passing here and I do want to revisit and comment on a couple.

Halloween – It was a successful day for the kids, less so for me and Tori. Understand first that Halloween on St. Croix was very different. There wasn't a lot of trick or treating in the neighborhoods, first of all because virtually every house is fenced, and Crucians just don't walk past the gate without an invitation. They will stand at the gate, even if it's open (and people were always telling me what a bad idea it was to leave my gate open) and shout from the street. In four years someone knocked on my door once, and that was last summer when my neighbor's mother was visiting from Minnesota and needed some help. I was so surprised I didn't know what to do. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses! Really! And the FedEx truck. A plumber you had called. Anyone. A Crucian would no more walk up to your door and knock than he would flap his arms and fly to the moon. But they wouldn't go away. They'd just stand there and shout until you came out and acknowledged them. 

And frankly, many of the neighborhoods you wouldn't want your kids walking up to strangers' doors, even on Halloween.

The one place for a traditional Halloween was Estate Cottage, one of the Hovensa employee housing communities. Inside the security fence they maintained a community of a hundred or so homes for the upper level workers, it looked rather like a lot of western U.S. developments. And on Halloween they'd have a traditional Halloween, kids running up and down the streets, knocking on doors. all the houses decked out with pumpkins and decorations. It was fun. But Hovensa is gone, and the housing complexes are shuttered and vacant. It was sad thinking about those empty streets this Halloween.

Our neighborhood here in Metairie was all lit up and Kate and Max were excited. We had carved our pumpkins and put up some decorations that no one was likely to understand – Slender Man anyone? But the kids loved it. And they set out, returning some hours later with more candy than they had ever scored on a Halloween.

We didn't know what kind of turnout we'd get, so we bought a LOT of candy. Which mostly I ate. Because we had only four kids come to the door. If one more had come I was just going to dump the bucket in his bag, but no luck. Our house is towards the end of the block, and there are two vacant houses to the left, and the neighbors across the street were dark, so kids didn't see the point in coming down. Too bad. I was prepared to be VERY generous.

Learning to Fly. Yes, I did, but not like, in an airplane or anything. I was flying kids in the theater at the local school.

Max Baur IS Captain Hook!
Max was Captain Hook in the school district production of "Peter Pan" and I was dragooned to work on the flight crew backstage, pulling the ropes that made Peter and Wendy and Michael and John fly. My schedule is flexible and I like helping out, especially in theater where my background is useful. I was "flight captain," in charge of the flying, but it had less to do with my actual rope-pulling ability than my gray hair. The rest of the crew were high school kids and one dad who could only make half the shows.

It was fun, but my high school kids seemed to enjoy showing up at the last possible moment, as I frantically made plans for what we'd do when this person or that person wasn't there. They always were there, all 14 performances. They just enjoyed watching me sweat.

Sharing the backstage area with 70 to 80 kids from first grade to 12th, but mostly clustered in the middle school range – it was a BIG show, my hat is off to the production team – was not always easy and I was the one who had to chase kids out of the wings or keep them from playing with props, and occasionally grabbing a drill and repairing some set piece a kid had sat on and broken but which had to go on right now. But they were good kids for the most part, and they had fun. I pretended to be the grumpy old man, but I admit it. I had fun too. And I think the kids learned a little about how to behave backstage.

And it goes without saying, Max was great as Captain Hook! Hilarious. The ultimate accolade was when he got booed! And there was a school performance when the house was full of kindergartners, first and second graders. As Hook snuck on stage to poison Peter, the kids were shouting "Look out Peter! There's a pirate behind you! Wake up!" You had to love it. For that audience, the show was working!
Captain Hook scolds Smee. By the way, the captain is wearing MY boots! The boy keeps growing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Takin' It to the Street

This was about a week ago, Friday Nov. 30, I think.

We were walking in downtown NOLA, end of a long afternoon, ready to head back to the car which was much too far away. And we sat down on a bench to wait while our friend Robyn checked out a local art gallery.

 There was a busker playing blues guitar, and a woman with him playing washboard. We started chatting – Tori will talk to anyone, which is what makes life so interesting. We mentioned that a big part of why we chose New Orleans was the music. Max is interested in music, plays guitar, clarinet, drums and has picked up and noodled with a couple of other instruments.

Anyway, the guy asks Max is he wants to play. Max says sure – Max doesn't hesitate about things like that. So he starts strumming – it's tuned differently than he's used to, because the guiy plays slide. But with a little help from the woman, Lisa, he gets it figured out.

So we're chatting, and it turns out the guy's name is Dooley. He gave himself the name in honor of Dooley Wilson, Sam's piano player in "Casablanca" – the best movie ever. And that's when it starts getting eerie. Because when Tori was expecting, I had suggested naming him Dooley for the very same reason.

I shot some video of it, which you can see here.

Meanwhile Lisa has joined Max, strumming her washboard. She's good. Then she convinces Max to sing the song he wrote. It's called "Fish Orgy."

See, about six, seven months ago, we were strolling down the Frederiksted pier on the island and looking out into the water, we can see fish roiling around in some kind of biological ecstacy. Tori says, "It's a fish orgy! Hey, that would make a good name for a song." And Max says, "Challenge accepted!"

So anyway, Max played, Lisa and Tori chatted while Dooley watched the show, and the drunk guy drank and offered Max lots of advice about ... well, we never figured out exactly what. We exchanged phone numbers, Lisa made Max sing his song again, over the phone to her daughter. Some con guy polished my shoes over my objections and then demanded twenty bucks for the shine, Joke was on him – I had literally no cash on me.

So NOLA definitely earned points that day. It's the kind of city where a kid can go out with his parents, do a little busking under their eyes, then be home in time for pizza.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Orleans in Metal and Stone

Last week we spent more time as tourists in our new home than we have since we moved here. We had a guest, and Robyn wanted to see the town. So see it we did.

A lot of the pix will show up here in the next week, but there were far too many to show all at once. Today I'm going to post some shots of the statuary.

Albany, where we lived for so many years, had two bits of public art that I can recall – and one of them sucked. Three, if you count the man made out of muffler parts that stood in front of a mechanic's shop. There were a few good pieces of public art on St. Croix.

In New Orleans, you can't swing a cat without hitting another piece of statuary. Some are pretty plebian. Some catch your eye and won't let go.

This is a statue of Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans, that sits in traffic down near the French Quarter.    

Joan again, this time in the cathedral.

In Louis Armstrong Park there's a lot of statues, dominated by this one of Satchmo himself. Here I'm exchanging a few words with him, or maybe it looks more like I'm asking for directions.

 Tori joins the dance in a statue commemorating Congo Square, a public space now within the park, where in the 18th century slaes were allowed to congregate on Sundays. It became an open air market, where the slaves would sing and dance, creating the environment that infused the city's culture with life and music.

This statue is a tribute to jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden. All three faces in the statue are Bolden, whose coronet helped create the rag time sound that became New Orleans jazz. From 1900 to 1907 his band was the biggest draw in the city. Then he was stricken by dementia, probably brought on by alcohol, and spent the last 26 years of his life institutionalized. He was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, but his music lives on.

Tori gets up close and personal to a statue at the gate of the park celebrating New Orleans jazz bands.

I share a joke with Jacques the Butcher, outside the Dutch Alley Artists Co-Op.

Not a statue per se, but interesting. Max and Kate stand in front of a tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. The pyramid behind them belongs to Nicolas Cage, the actor, and no, he's not technically dead yet. According to various tour guides we eavesdropped on, Cage lost a couple of properties in the city (and they sort of agreed it was Katrina, although one of the guides blamed back taxes) so he bought and built this tomb (for what the guides agreed was $1.3 million) so that he'll always have a place in New Orleans. Who knows, it could even be true.

This angel atop a large cemetery monument caught our eye because we're Doctor Who fans. Fellow Whovians will understand the weeping angels reference, and the word 'Silence' at the base adds on ominous note.