Life in New Orleans

See you later, alligator.


Jean LaFitte National Park, in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.


Paul and the kids have been several times before (visits were a favorite outing of Paul’s while I worked on my dissertation), but yesterday’s walk was a compliment Kate’s unparalleled music class, which had been studying the bayou and marsh.


This little guy is along the likes of what you might normally see on a walk through the bayou.  He was one of several of his size we saw.



But THIS guy, this 13-footer, HE was the main attraction.  Not just because of his size…


But because he was eating another alligator.  And doing is RIGHT off the path.


He had killed the little gator the day before.  It’s normal for them to hide the carcasses between meals.  He was pretty irritated with us (hissing, growling, rising out of the water like so) because he wanted to hide his meal… and he couldn’t do it with us watching!


Further down the trail is a floating dock.  Alligators like to sun themselves here… but there weren’t any when we found it.


Canoe and kayaking is not possible in the bayou right now, because of the invasive species of lilly that is in the water (see the green?)  They cut it completely out last summer — and it’s already filled it to choke out boats.


Our friend moved to a more secluded spot.  He was still pretty pissed when we walked by on our way out.


I tried to explain to Will that this was a Mommy alligator eating her 8-year son for not listening, but he wasn’t paying any attention.

Also, the ranger explained that this was a male alligator.  They are pretty territorial.  Females, however, are highly maternal — they protect baby gators for the first three years of life, keeping the bigger males away from the area where they have young.

Jean LaFitte offers several hiking paths through different south Louisiana ecosystems, as well as dedicated and friendly park staff.  A beautiful visitors center, entertaining and informative movie, and detailed educational programs are extra lagniappes for the visitor.  A great place for families!

Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans

Comments (1)


Ideas for Decorating the Holiday Tree.

The decorated trees in our week:

Ones with lighted ornaments.

Ones with garland and homemade ornaments made of pipe-cleaners and beer caps.

And ones draped with cute kids.

What does your tree look like this year?

Life in New Orleans

Comments (3)


No need for missionaries.

Remember that post I wrote a few days ago about giving and getting?  About how the arrogance and superiority of some well-intended folks ends up alienating and insulting the group they are trying to help?


“30 Oregonians with a wealth of compassion, community service experience and technical expertise, will show the nation what the Gulf Coast disaster looks like from inside the Gulf.  We will shine a sustained light on what our neighbors need to survive and what the environment needs to recover.”

Yes, a group of folks from Portland and it’s surrounding universe are headed to New Orleans!  (No offense to beautiful Portland and our friends doing wonderful things out there, this just happens to be where this group is coming from.)  In any case, these folks are coming here to do 6 days of visits to Gulf Coast communities which:

“…will culminate in the production of a graphic travelogue of what we saw, learned and felt.  Our experiences will be represented through the arts of drawing, writing, filming and making music.  The images and voices we capture will be engaging, powerful and influential.  And, most importantly our final documentation will contain a roadmap for individual action to minimize a second occurrence of this type of catastrophe.  The proceeds from the sale of our book, and any other money raised, will be contributed to Gulf Coast and national efforts to educate children about this catastrophe and how we can do the best possible job of cleaning up after ourselves, plus prevent this from ever happening again.

Also, they are trying to raise $60,000.  You can donate on their website.  But no, the money isn’t for the Gulf… it’s to finance their trip.   So that they can come to the Gulf, visit as “caring neighbors arriving to help,” spend 6 days capturing images and voices, and then put them in their book.


I showed this to my graduate students earlier today in class.  In the words of one of the students: “I’m not even from the Gulf Coast and this insults ME.”

Check out their website.  What do you think?

Here are are some lessons that these undoubtedly very nice, wealthy-with-compassion-Oregonians should have considered:

  • The disaster is not about you!  No, really.  I’m not kidding.
  • Please travel to share technical expertise where you are invited to share technical expertise.
  • If you want to “show the nation” what is happening in the Gulf Coast, then work locally to build partnerships with Gulf Coast organizations, and find places within your communities to make those voices heard.  There are plenty of organizations, plenty of stories, plenty experiences — all existing without your collection, reorganization, and authority.
  • We also have artists.  Many artists.  Who have and can continue to creatively express the experiences of this region in a multitude of forms.  We even have spaces to support them.  They are very much able to “shine the light” on these communities, and would probably be interested in collaboration and partnership on projects.
  • Taking other people’s stories to publish in your book takes advantage of people who are suffering in a very unique and powerful catastrophe.  Particularly when mischievously veiled within the scope of a “local gathering to break bread.”
  • Six days to “experience” the Gulf is tourism.  You’re tourists.  Good news — this is a fantastic place to be a tourist.  Enjoy the area, tell your loved ones, friends, your contacts on your social networking sites about your experiences visiting this area.  Just please don’t position yourself in a place of authority based on 6 days of tours.
  • If you want to contribute to Gulf Coast communities through service, then contact organizations and let them find ways to use your skills.

These folks are coming here with an agenda that is their own, focused on their own needs, their own desires.  This does not help a situation, it only makes it more difficult.

(Hat tip to local bloggers, who found and shared the website.)

Life in New Orleans

Comments (13)


Sunshine, waterslide, and blueberries

Pearl River Blues Berry Farm, in Pearl River, Mississippi — the same organic farm that we gave our cast iron tub to years ago when we started renovating the back of the house.  (The tub is in the back.)  Beautiful farm, wide space for running and jumping, friendly people and animals, and lots and lots of blueberry plants.  No chemicals in the growth process — which means that you can eat them fresh off the vine.

Which means, a lot (a LOT) of blue-tinted kid poops in your future.

Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

Comments (5)


Strikes and gutters.

One of the great things about New Orleans is how nicely the city has promoted tourism interests to remain neatly tucked away from the rest of the city.  Bourbon Street, as I’ve been told, was created to keep tourists out of the rest of the city and as far as my experience has shown, it’s done a fantastic job.  In general, the frat boys, the wanna-be-frat-boys, the remembering-the-days-of-being-a-frat-boy, and the associated hangers-on stay in a few blocks within the French Quarter and leave the rest of us alone.

But occasionally we get a visitor who wants to get New Orleans.  And man, oh man.  Showing someone from another part of our lives just why we live here?  This is one of our favorite things in the world.  The only thing better than that Reconcile Bananas Foster Bread Pudding is having someone new to share it with.

We were thrilled to share these past five days with a good friend of mine from college — a guy who gave me my most lasting nickname (Hosh), studied with me in Switzerland and Italy, and who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade.  We went out, hung out at the pool, hung out in the park, played with the kids, ate good food, explored random parts of the city, and just generally enjoyed the awesomeness of having someone so open and positive about all the things we love about our home.

On Saturday afternoon, Jeb and I, along with a friend of his who had recently moved to the area, went to Commander’s Palace for the Jazz Brunch.  Commander’s Palace is the long-standing launching pad of culinary royalty; Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are among its dignitaries.  While there, enjoying the music and company and food and all that comes with it, I mentioned the odd fact that every time Paul has eaten at Commander’s, he’s been ill within 24 hours.  No, it is never because of the food… just really bad timing.  Paul enjoys a completely fantastic meal and four hours later it’s floating down the Mississippi.  Bad timing.

Of course I had to tempt the fates by telling Jeb all about it.

The next morning, we didn’t hear from Jeb.  We thought maybe he’d gone jogging in Audubon Park, or perhaps needed some extra sleep to compensate for late night music at Les Bon Temps.  So we went blueberry picking in Mississippi in the morning.  On the way back, we spoke to him for the first time that day: it had been a rough night.

No, it wasn’t the food.  It was just bad timing.

And completely my fault.

Thankfully, he bounced back in the afternoon and enjoyed the rest of the blissful weekend.  Then Sunday night, last night, the fates rolled over to Kate.

She had eaten her body weight in blueberries at the farm so we expected a certain amount of tummy disturbance.  But it wasn’t until 3 am that the disturbances truly made their intentions clear.


The weekend then was like any other time in New Orleans — incredible highs and miserable lows.  We accept both and appreciate the need of each.  It is just that sometimes, we’re surprised at just how they materialize.  And in Kate’s case, the incredible monochromatic palate that results.

In honor of Jeb, quoting NOLA’s beloved John Goodman… Strikes and gutters.  Strikes and gutters.

Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

Comments (2)


Photos from Hwy 90, July 11th

Driving back from Mississippi this afternoon, we decided to take more scenic US 90 into town.

The photos below come from less than a quarter mile southwest of Fort Pike. (The “A” marks Fort Pike.)

Here is the map closer in — the photos come from about where the “90” is on the map, between Lake Saint Catherine and Lake Pontchartrain.

For orientation, the I-10 bridge over the Lake is visible in the background of several of these photos. These were taken over a span of a few hundred feet along US 90.

I’m not an expert in environment, oil, or marshland ecosystems. Nor was I searching for a smoking gun. But this does not look right to me.

This part of the marsh looked a lot different than the rest.

Tell me it’s a normal look.  Tell me that the green isn’t there temporarily (these photos are not photoshopped).  Can someone who knows more about these things tell me that this is a healthy marsh?  I honestly don’t know.

Life in New Orleans

Comments (7)


Dusk in East New Orleans

Art & Photography
Life in New Orleans

Comments (2)


The little things can be heartbreakers.

Shrimp boats, docked near Jean Lafitte.

Life in New Orleans

Comments (4)


Cane Bayou… discovering Louisiana

To provide compassionate, respectful service in a place, I think it’s critically important to form a relationship with the natural environment that supports it.  So, part of understanding New Orleans in a way where you can truly make a difference within its populace means finding appreciation for the unique ecosystems that support and, in many ways, define the city.   With the disaster unfolding, the importance for our Fellows to develop a connection with our local environment was even more critical.  So, as part of their orientation retreat weekend, we went canoeing through Cane Bayou.  A private guide brought us through a mile of natural, undeveloped bayou — protected between a wildlife preserve and State Park.  We paddled out at dusk, ending up parked in the marsh along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain.  We ate boxed lunch dinners watching the sun set over the lake.  Then, as night fell, paddled back with the sounds and sights of the bayou around us.

It was pretty darn awesome.

Here are some pictures.

Arts & Photography
Life in New Orleans

Comments (5)


BP, rethought.

My fellow Louisiana blogger and friend, the lovely Painted Maypole, posted an exchange we had regarding British Petroleum, the oil company that put profits over public safety.  We think BP should stand for something else.

Here are a few of mine.

  • Base Proprietors.
  • Beastly Possessors.
  • Brash Predators.
  • Belligerent Pretentiousness.
  • Bamboozling Punks.

Any suggestions?

Life in New Orleans

Comments (12)