April 2019

This picture pretty much sums up New Orleans during French Quarter Fest:

He’s just a guy, walking his pig and his German Shepard, down on Decatur Street, with a zydeco band playing in the background.

The pig is called Sargent Tim. Which is a very fine name for a pig.

2019 was the 36th year of French Quarter Fest, and Year Five for Top Cat and I. This year there were 23 stages set up in the Quarter, from Iberville to Esplanade, and all along the Mississippi River on the levee called the Moon Walk. But there are also plenty of bands that pitch up on random blocks, and throw impromptu parties in the middle of the street:

I remembered seeing this guy (in the blue T-shirt and white beret) last year . . .

. . . because he was wearing the same Je Suis Quebecois outfit last year! I don’t have a French Quarter Fest outfit but I’m working on it. To start me off, I got a new hat:

The Fleur-de-Lis is bejeweled, with real fake diamonds. I bought it to be ironic and then I began to really love it. It’s very shiny. (Be sure to pronounce the final “s” on Fleur-de-lis in both your English and French accent. It’s polite. The Fleur-de-Lis is the symbol of royalty in France and it’s the unofficial but ubiquitous symbol of Louisiana and New Orleans and is featured on the city’s flag and pretty much on every cocktail coaster in the Quarter.)

The Crescent is the other symbol of New Orleans, which calls itself “The Crescent City’, because the city was founded right here on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, on the “high” ground (three feet above sea level) where the Mississippi River curls into a “C” shape. The Crescent is on every police badge and cop car and official communication from NOPD:

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get a good picture of this NOPD sign. . .

. . . because this little girl was dancing in the way. . .

The sequins bejeweling her French Quarter Fest outfit spell

LOVE WHO U ARE

and I need to get me one of those shirts.

New Orleans is an”open carry” city, meaning that you can walk around with a cup of booze as long as it is not in a glass or metal container. (It’s called a Go Cup, in paper or plastic.)

This helps immensely with laissez les bons temps rouler.

Even the pups know how to party in NOLA:

Miss Diva here literally rolls with the good times . . .

. . . , and she packs her own bottle[s] of champagne:

If you want to get a line dance started, all you have to do is, well, start one. This lady in the black dress with cowboy boots (she looked great — effortlessly FQF) eventually had about 20 people doing her line, including people who couldn’t follow the stops at all. Even if you can’t dance, you can dance in New Orleans.

The best part of French Quarter Fest is that any stranger can become a dance partner.

I know for a fact that the lady in the blue T-shirt (below) came here from Switzerland with her husband for FrenchQuarter Fest, and the guy in the green shirt (who is a fantastic dancer) is not her husband.

In fact, they had never met before this happened at the French Market:

Another sequin-ly bejeweled lady in her fabulous FQF outfit, and the guy in the green shirt also had a huge dragon tattoo all over his back that I could not get a good photo of:

But the dragon-backed guy in the green shirt wasn’t the only heart-throb there.

This guy (below) in the light pink T-shirt, is the husband of the lady in the blue T-shirt (above), and he was a very good dancer too, so a lady twice his age invited him for a twirl:

She’s who I want to be when I’m 70-something and if I start now maybe I can be her in ten years.

Having been coming to FQF for five years, Top Cat and I have our favorites performers and favorite stages. This stage is at the old Mint on Esplanade:

This is where the brass bands play. You’re looking at the Treme Brass Band here.

This is the biggest stage of the whole Fest, the Abita Beer stage on the levee:

This is where the headliners play. We were here for The Iguanas and Irma Thomas, Soul Queen of New Orleans.

But we LOVE this stage, the Chevron Stage on the Bienville Triangle, because this is where the zydeco bands play:

Top Cat and I, we do love the zydeco.  So does everyone else at FQF. This is a photo of the stage from the performer’s point of view:

As regulars at FQF, Top Cat and I know how to get up front and personal:

Fun Fact: FQF happens during the last week of Lent. Explains this guy’s Easter bonnet.

New Orleans, like the rest of Louisiana, is very Catholic. But it’s a special kind of Catholic, the kind that mixes Easter bunnies with Mardi Gras beads:

And to let you know, even though attendance at the Fest broke records with 825,000 people from all over the world coming to New Orleans to pack themselves into the 422 acres of the French Quarter, you can take a walk up Dumaine Street and by the time you hit Burgundy, you will find peace and quiet, and a yellow cat . . .

 

. . . eating a garden-fresh salad for lunch:

But all good things come to an end, even French Quarter Fest. Top Cat and I usually like to go to the Voodoo Garden at the House of Blues for the last dance, but this year we did something different. We went to see jazz at the Royal Sonesta Hotel:

The Royal Sonesta is fancy. $25 got us two measly glasses of wine. . .

. . . and a fabulous bejeweled courtyard patio where we danced our final waltz:

Then we stepped out of the Royal Sonesta onto the fabled (and rowdy) Bourbon Street. . .

. . . and we started counting the months until French Quarter Fest 2020.

There’s plenty of other stuff we did in between dances at FQF, like shopping on Magazine Street and meeting old friends for lunch in Treme. We went to Mother’s Restaurant one day,  famous for its spaghetti pie (which I had a few years ago and I’m still traumatized; pasta and sauce and green beans are not delicious together) and I had my favorite New Orleans speciality, red beans and rice.

While I was shoveling in the red beans, I watched a southern lady at the table next to us. She ordered a big plate of mashed potatoes, upon which she slabbed a spoonful of butter, and then she stirred in a pile of french fries. Into the buttery mashed potatoes, is what I’m saying. She appeared to have eaten this concoction many, many, many times in the past. (She was not petite, in other words.) And then she ate this Ode to Starch by taking about a thousand tiny, fastidious, dainty bites, as if to break down the calories into their smallest denominator. Bless her heart, as they say. I was fascinated.

This is why I love the South. The south, right here in New Orleans, is where I also saw, one morning, a man order breakfast: a large Coke and a double order of bacon. That was all. Hi-fat protein and liquified sugar. The southern speedball. Bless his heart, he needs divine protection from his diet.

The night after FQF, on our last night in New Orleans, we went to a roof-top bar to watch the sun set. We have never done this before in NOLA, and how onEarth did it take us so long to find this place??

There was a particularly handsome couple at a table nearby, and I took half a dozen shots of them:

He and she seemed to be very much in love and oblivious to everyone else, as you do when you only have eyes for your beloved, so when she went to the ladies room I introduced myself to the guy and said I’d like to send him the pictures (they all came out very well). So he gave me his email, and wrote me the sweetest thank you note a day later when, back in dreary, cold, drizzly, gray, and non-dancing Long Island, I sent them all to him. I think this is something people do these days, in this Instagram era. We take surreptitious pictures of each other and there’s no shame in it any more.

It’s not that New Orleans has the most beautiful sky line (although it does have the SuperDome). . .

. . .it’s more that the bar was surprisingly quiet, and not crowded, and not snotty. . .

. . . and the night was like velvet, bejeweled with a thousand memories of music, dance, romance, and red beans.

Thank you, New Orleans, for being you.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And wherever you are, I hope you’ll do a twirl in the sunset with a Go Cup in your hand and love in your heart.

 

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Back in my younger days, when I was full of ideas and energy, I made the suggestion that we should do a day of miniature golf in the library.  After six months of hard work, in which I have aged ten years and grown to despise myself for ever having been full of energy and ideas, I had a mini-golf event last Saturday (actually, it was last Saturday when I originally wrote this, before my blog crapped out; now it’s two Saturdays ago, on April 6) and it was a huge success. I raised over $15,000 and the kids went crazy for the golf course.

Fidelity was our Title Sponsor for the Bryant Library’s Mini Golf Event. I went to Fidelity myself, the day before the event, to collect their boxes of give-aways (Titleist golf balls, water thingies, and lip balm in those cute green balls) and I am such a stickler for detail that when I saw that their table cloth was bunched up in a ball and was all wrinkled and icky, I put it in my washing machine and then I IRONED it.

Believe me, I did not enjoy that.

The Bryant Library was also very lucky to have Thomas F. Dalton Funeral Homes as one of our Hole Sponsors. . .

. . . and they gave away stuffed bears and cool stamps and little sketch books.

We also had Douglas Elliman Realtors on board:

And the adult living community called Atria on Roslyn Harbor was another of of our outstanding corporate sponsors:

For those of you who are having a hard time picturing mini golf in a library, here’s a shot of the 10th hole:

This tube actually went down TWO flights of stairs (the stairs go down into the basement to the children’s library) and when the golfers saw this, they lost their minds.

This is my favorite hole, with the giraffes as the hazard:

We used all three floors of the library, starting at the top floor, in the large meeting room where kids could take a few practice swings before hitting the course:

Here are more shots of the course:

And, lastly, our youngest golfer, at 21 months:

He doesn’t look thrilled in this pic, but I watched this kid. At 21 months, he had exceptional concentration and he played all 18 holes! He was, as we used to say in the 1970s : into it.

Getting back to the present day, April 18th-ish, this is what I had planned to show you last week, before there was a problem with my Gateway and I had to punt with Taffy. It’s good to be back with my Dear Readers!

Last week I was also going to tell you about a dream I had the day after the mini golf event and, I know I know, dreams are boring, but humor me please.

I dreamt that I was in a crowd of people. It wasn’t a party, because I didn’t feel any anxiety about having to mingle; it wasn’t a waiting room, because I was not about to explode with impatience. It was just a crowd, and it was somewhat pleasant to be amongst people.

A man appears, and takes me by the arm. Two or three other figures join him as they isolate me away from the crowd. The first man pulls out a gun and points it at my head.

“But I thought you were friends!” I say, more in confusion than in fear.

The man pulls the trigger and I turn my head so I can see bits of my brain and blood splatter in the air as the bullet hits my skull.

Then I wake up and I mediately understand the dream.

It wasn’t a nightmare. I did not experience any panic or terror. This was a very kind, and insightful, dream, a dream that explained my vaguely negative feelings about working so hard on the mini golf event and why I did not take any pleasure or sense of accomplishment from its success. This dream explains an intuition I had, just below the level of consciousness. . . that the organization who benefited from my efforts, The Friends of Bryant Library, are the kind of people who would shoot me in the head. Or maybe I should shoot myself in the head before I ever think of doing something like this again.

After attending board meetings for over a year and after working so hard to raise a shit load of money for The Friends of Bryant Library, I have come to really dislike The Friends of Bryant Library, each and every one of them, some more than others; oh yes, much, much more. I don’t work well with committees, let’s just leave it at that for now. For now.

Last week I did not work in the used book store that I co-manage for the local library because I was gallivanting. I was in another city, dancing in the streets (that story will come next week) and staying out too late and over-indulging in the best ways possible.

But one afternoon I did long for restorative cup of tea with a good book — a still point in a spinning world — so I dragged my weary butt into a quaint book store and stood, slack-jawed, in front of a table piled high with all manner of literature, travel, biography, memoir, local history, etc.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?” the kindly book seller asked.

I could barely speak, nearly out of my mind with fatigue, but I did manage to say, “I’m looking for something to read.”

The book seller looked at me with pity and I could read her mind. No Shit, Genius, she was thinking; YOU’RE IN A BOOK STORE.

It took me several long, agonizing minutes before I came across Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and knew it was just the thing. Then I asked where a tourist could go to get a quiet cup of tea and the bookseller directed me to a hidden cafe that only the locals know about.

And it was quiet, and the tea was good, and I read the first chapter, and all was well.

If you are ever in New Orleans and need a minute to yourself in calm surroundings with a nice cup of Assam, go to the CCs Coffee House on the corner of Royal and Saint Phillip in the French Quarter.

The rest — the loud stuff — I will tell you about next week.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

I could insert a Dump the Trump meme here, but let’s be happy. This could have been me last week y’all because I went to New Orleans!

And if Jesus was inside Notre Dame when it was burning, why didn’t He just put the damn fire out?

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I wanted you to see the contemplative side of Taffy so here he is, imaging how cool he would be if he owned a Vespa.

I tried. Lordy, I tried, But I cannot get my regularly scheduled blog post to show up today.

I will be on the phone with my internet provider and the tech support at my domaine host today so I can bring you all the news from the backyard next week.

Arrrgh. I had such a good story to tell you!

I’ll be back.

As soon as I figure out what a 502 Bad Gateway is.

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Something’s rotten in the state of language today.

But I know you don’t come here for the commentary; you come here for the Taffy. So here he is:

Nothing’s rotten about Taffy. He’s fine.

There is a decay of the euphony and precision of language.

Please don’t wake me No don’t shake me, Leave me where I am. I’m only sleeping.

A blight.

Creative napping. The best part is the three Blue Jays looking in, wondering, Is that cat dead? Because we Blue Jays are carnivores and that cat looks mighty tasty.

There is a plague of mealy-mouth dithering, across the land, and it’s all because of two ubiquitous words.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Last Thursday, on NPR (National Public Radio, the hi-brow talk radio of progressive politics and culture),  I heard a pundit explain to an morning news show host: There’s sort of a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy. (1)

On Friday, on NPR’s evening news program All Things Considered, an economist discussed on-line markets as opposed to real world economies: They [on-line stores] don’t sort of have a place consumers can go to. (2)

Reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the gold standard of long form journalism. . .

Cover of New York Times Magazine for March 31, 2019, the headline “Can a Woman Play Shakespeare’s Lear?” Ew. I cannot tell you how much I do not care whether Glenda Jackson can play King Lear or not.

 

. . . from a story about the hot shot agents who are representing the best selling Tell All authors from Trump’s administration, this quote: The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of an outlet to unburden themselves o the baggage that comes with the job. (3)

Monday night, I’m reading my new favorite book, How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. On page 402, Mr. Pollan quotes a psychiatrist who hopes that in the future, sick and well people will have access to therapeutic psychedelic drugs in a place that is safe and supportive, a place that is Sort of like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym. (4)

On Tuesday afternoon, I am listening to my local NPR affiliate, to an interview of a curator of a new show at the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art; the curator is explaining why she chose to exhibit racist art: If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of be missing a teaching opportunity. (5)

I could go on and on, but let’s let these five examples suffice.

What do all of these citations have in common?

Two little words.

Sort Of.

Synonyms for sort of: slightly, faintly, remotely, vaguely; kind of, somewhat, moderately, to a limited extent.

So, then:

(1)  There’s sort of  slightly a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy as such.

(2) They don’t sort of faintly have a place consumers can go to.

(3) The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of  remotely an outlet to unburden themselves of the baggage that comes with the job.

(4) Sort of Vaguely like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym.

(5) If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of kind of, moderately, to a limited extent be missing a teaching opportunity. 

Really? Have we become a people that can’t spit out an unqualified thought, opinion, or factoid?

I think that we are so used to hearing “sort of” in conversation that we don’t even recognize it as something that is rotting out any kind of accuracy, or coherence, or credibility in the language.

Sort of is annoyingly passive. It’s dickishly timid. Sort of are mincing filler words that seem to spew randomly from the mouths of people with no back bone, no real gumption, no true point of view. Sort of is for wimps. Sort of is trying to be cute, as if talking like a high school stoner will make you look younger. Sort of is flabby, and coy. It makes you sound stupid. So stop it.

Thank you.

As long as I’ve got you here, can I also request that you stop using the word lyrical to describe a painting, a design, dance, or screen/book writing? It doesn’t make you sound more poetic and deep; for christ sake just say pretty.

And stop using half a decade as an imposing length of time. You can’t inflate the importance, seriousness, weight, or  awesomeness that is half a decade. It’s still just five lousy years. FIVE. Top Cat has shirts that he bought five years ago that he hasn’t gotten around to wearing yet so half a decade is, like, six months in experiential time when you’re a grown up.

Also, when I have to rev up the Toyota hybrid to accomplish a long To Do List in an afternoon, would you all please stay off the roads? I don’t want to have to deal with your absent-minded turn-signaling, your day-dreaming when the light turns green,  and your hogging of the left lane at exactly the speed limit.

That is all. For now.

Last week, Dear Reader Meghan (Yes, that Meghan, the Duchess of Melbourne), came to the rescue when I asked about a mysterious book shop that comes and goes in London. Here it is, my Dear Ones:

This is the Lost Lending Library by Punchdrunk  Enrichment with lists its offices in The Canon Factory in London. They visit schools (they have even been in our own Meghan’s neck of the woods) to install secret lending libraries. The kids visit it and, inspired, they write their own stories, which are then added to the collection of the Lost Lending Library.

Neat.

I have plans for the used book store that I co-manage and I want to steal the esthetic of the Lost Lending Library. The source of my inspiration is a book that we got in as a donation a few months ago. . . and I will tell you more about it next week (I can hear Top Cat in my head complaint that this blog post is already too damn long).

But I know that as much as you all love the Taffy content here in this humble blog, you also love to hear the latest updates on the little used book store that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island. Here’s a typical donation:

At least once a week somebody drops off a pile of books on the doorstep of the used book store. I thought this doorstep deposit was above average because it’s cantilevered. There’s also a big coffee table book about Colonial Williamsburg. What is it about Colonial Williamsburg? We get a lot of books about Colonial Williamsburg, usually in the kinds of donations that happen when there’s been the death of an elder in the family. I guess at one time, Colonial Williamsburg was the hottest thing in American culture but jeez…do people not know that Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation, and it’s totally fake from top to bottom?

The old Colonial Williamsburg books never sell, but I always give the latest one a chance — I put it on the shelf and leave it there until we need the room for something that the people who buy used books actually want, such as picture books about dogs.

And then this fell out from a 2001 Frommer’s travel guide to Italy:

And that’s the news from my corner of the universe, that corner of Reality in which we do not Sort Of, in which five years is a blink of an eye, in which we dream up ways to make a lowly used book store feel more ensorcelled, and in which we do not jump for joy when we find a dead Blue Jay on the street because songbirds are protected species and it’s wrong to put them in your freezer and then desiccate them like the Native Americans do to collect their feathers, no, we don’t do that.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Taffy hopes that you all get a good tummy rub and a chin scritch to give you sweet dreams at nap time.

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