and she’s back!

look what i did last weekend!!

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and the best part? i sold all three within a few hours of posting them up on facebook, twitter and/or instagram!

mind you, these were all half-finished projects staring me down in the shed for over a year. it didn’t take all that much to get them finished and ready for sale. but it is movement… out of the rut i’ve been in for the past little while. and so i am celebrating that hopefully i am getting my groove back.

all it took was 3 hours out at jazzfest last friday (thank you alice and jen for making that free ticket happen!), wandering around all the artists’ booths in congo, louisiana folk life, and contemporary areas, seeing all the amazing and beautiful artwork out there. and hearing some awesome music. and eating some yummy food. and hanging out with wonderful friends. and just celebrating and honoring my anniversary with new orleans – since it was jazzfest that basically convinced me that new orleans was the home i had always yearned for but never had before i stepped foot on its shifting, swampy soil. yep, my 24th anniversary with new orleans was this jazzfest (i really don’t count the years i was away due to katrina – my heart was still here) and well, it delivered quite a lovely anniversary present to me: i got a little creative spark back.

so stay tuned. hopefully lots more to come!

bayou boogaloo!

i love the bayou boogaloo. for all the years i was away in kentucky post-federal-flood, i was so sad i could never seem to make it here during memorial day weekend (too soon after jazzfest) so i could partake – either as a vendor or just a mid-citizen – in the boogaloo. i mean, come on – a music festival in my own neighborhood! (well i guess an argument could be made that jazzfest is also a music festival in my own neighborhood, but the boogaloo is more of a community, grassroots event, and even closer to where i live than the fairgrounds.) last year, i was FINALLY able to participate as a vendor, and it was glorious. so much fun, so many sales (thanks everyone!), and so great to see so many of my mid-city neighbors!

this year, i have been looking forward to the boogaloo for months. the new orleans craft mafia is again, like last year, offering a free t-shirt recycling workshop adjacent to the kid’s tent, in the “eco” area of the festival. (see the festival map below.) we’ll be out there both saturday and sunday – saturday from noon til 5pm, and sunday from 1-4pm – teaching people how to make tote bags, halter tops and other fun stuff out of old t-shirts, with a minimal amount of sewing. we have a good stash of donated t-shirts already, but we’re still accepting donations – just bring ’em on out to the fest and throw ’em in our bin. if you don’t have any t-shirts to work with, don’t worry – we got ya covered. oh, and at the end of the weekend, we’ll have a little fashion show at 5pm on sunday for you to strut your stuff with your new creations, too!

so yeah. i’ve been looking forward to it. but at the same time, freaking out… because a) i had a really successful jazzfest show at jen’s and sold a lot of t-shirts and signs – which is good, yay for money and sales, but also has left me with not as many of the signs and t-shirts i would like to have to sell at the boogaloo; and b) i started this census job that has been kicking my ass! it’s been a long time since i had any kind of “real” job (meaning worked a job outside of my own house), and it’s been a hard adjustment getting used to both that aspect as well as the strange start/stop nature of census work. for example, on any given day, i: have a daily meeting at 9am for a half hour; might go out to make rounds on a new block i’ve been assigned in the morning for a couple of hours; come home for lunch; spend an hour or so going over all the paperwork from the morning to make sure i have it all correct; go back out to a different block for 2nd or 3rd or 4th rounds, trying to find folks who weren’t home the first time; come home again to cool off and do paperwork; go back out in the early evening trying to catch folks coming home from work who i’m having a particularly hard time trying to find; come home, eat dinner, and maybe even go back out again after dinner before dark, for the pesky hard-to-find folks. and then spend more time on paperwork when i’m home. (and then collapse!)

and all of that only got me like 6-7 hours of actual on-the-clock work. but i’ve been working since 8:45am! so it’s been a big adjustment, to say the least. and has left me little time to think about things like ordering t-shirts to print (much less finding time to actually print them), cutting/sanding/painting wood for signs, and making clocks. and, to top it all off, though i did well at jazzfest at jen’s, it’s the only good market/sale i’ve had in months, so i’ve been begging/borrowing/stealing to pay my bills and am deeply in debt… and we’ve only gotten one paycheck so far from the census. so i didn’t even have the money to invest in buying t-shirts to print, or paint to make signs, etc. (much less the booth fee for vending at the boogaloo.)

so this all came to a head on saturday night, as fae and i were hanging out at home and i was surfing the internet, trying to find some wholesale outlet that actually had the style/color of t-shirts i wanted to order (all my usual outlets were sold out of at least one size and most of them several sizes) so i could order them in time for them to actually arrive in enough time to be able to print them… and i realized, what am i doing? i don’t even have the money to pay for these. nor do i have the money to pay for my booth. and even if i could scrape that up, there’s no guarantee that i’d make it back… just because i sold a lot of 70119 t-shirts last year at the boogaloo doesn’t mean i will this year. sales at markets has SUCKED overall so far in 2010, so why would the boogaloo be any different?

and, as an aside, i have been wracking my brain trying to come up with an oil disaster related design, which i thought might be the biggest seller due to the timing, but i haven’t even been able to find the time to work on coming up with that. (and even if i did, i’d be donating the proceeds to the gulf restoration network, so it wouldn’t be something i’d be making money off of. which i still really want to do, but, it was just one more piece of the puzzle that wasn’t coming together for me.)

so. all of a sudden, it came to me. i can’t do the boogaloo. i can’t afford it, i don’t have inventory, and i don’t have time to think about it. and the second i started thinking about not doing it, i instantly felt relief. i immediately posted something on my facebook page, and thought i was done with it. i slept better and the next few days i didn’t think anything about it. it was actually really nice. sad, but also stress-relieving.

and then yesterday, my friend rachelle offered to share her booth with me, which was so sweet. i thought about refusing, but then i figured if i don’t really need to spend any time making stuff and i just take what i’ve got and make as much fit as i can in part of rachelle’s booth, around her stuff, then it doesn’t have to be stressful and maybe i’ll still make a little money anyways. and i always have fun hanging out with rachelle at markets – we almost always set up next to each other. so thanks, rachelle.

so now i am once again doing the bayou boogaloo. and of course, i am going to try to make a few signs this week, maybe a few 70119 clocks. but i’ll only have a literal handful of t-shirts, and a weird assortment of clocks and signs and cufflinks… and that’s it. not a big effort. but at least i’ll be there.

hope to see y’all there!

yes, i’m still alive…

just really, really busy. it’s been a crazy week so far.

the first weekend of jazz fest feels like it was a million years ago to me now. my last post was on saturday afternoon, so to recap the rest of my weekend:

i did hang out at porchfest 2010 on saturday night. we lucked into an easy parking spot and camped out for the afternoon/evening on the porch with the other non-festing and then later, festing, revelers. the weather was pretty great and the band was awesome and there was a sizeable crowd. we were pooped by 9:30 or so though, so it wasn’t a late night.

sunday, though i wasn’t feeling all that well, we ended up heading out to the fairgrounds for our one day at jazz fest. the weather couldn’t have been better, and we again lucked into a perfect parking spot at jen and mary ann’s with no hassle. i wasn’t very set on hearing any specific music – though we did catch a lovely few songs at the beginning of theresa andersson’s set at the fais do do stage – so our day was mostly spent wandering around eating. let’s see if i can remember what i ate: i had the fried eggplant with crawfish sauce as my first appetizer, and fae shared her boudain balls with me. next i had some jama jama (sauteed spinach) and fried plantains from benechin over in the congo area (i skipped the chicken on a stick this time). we shared a strawberry lemonade and later an iced tea. there was some glorious downtime in the gospel tent, enjoying the shade and the breeze and the electrifying crownseekers (their lead singer had the most amazing falsetto voice – wow did he hit some high notes!) with deuce and puma. we visited with karen and debra in karen’s booth in the louisiana folk life/marketplace area. at some point i had a snoball (strawberry) from plum street. oh, and fae ate a cochon de lait poboy that she generously shared with me. she also picked up some cracklins for later snackage. as i was finishing my snoball, i couldn’t resist the white chocolate bread pudding, while fae had some strawberry shortcake. and then she grabbed some crawfish monica to walk out with for mary ann (which she had requested), and i decided at the last minute to get some spicy crawfish rolls from ninja to walk out with, which i later enjoyed on the porch back on ponce de leon street.

so that was our day of feasting. i think we did a pretty good job, knowing it was probably going to be our only day out at the fest since we had free tickets. (of course, if anyone has any free tickets they are trying to get rid of for this weekend, please do let me know! there were a few things i wanted to eat that i did not make it around to!) we also worked our way around contemporary crafts to see all the wares for sale, as well as congo and the louisiana marketplace. but we really didn’t listen to all that much music. and by about 5:30-6pm, we were done. with our last food choices in hand, we sauntered back over to ponce where we plopped down on the porch and remained for the rest of the evening, chilling out.

sadly, due to the chaos of jazzfest, our treme viewing party was postponed til monday. and even more sadly, on monday, when we went over to deuce and puma’s house to watch it, we all collectively learned that hbo on demand does not show the current episode of treme until 24 hours AFTER the show is over, which means, 10pm. not 9pm, which is when we showed up. and by 10, we were too tired to stay to watch it, knowing that folks had to get up early the next morning for work. so i did not get to see the 3rd episode and now will not get to see the 4th episode until next tuesday (again due to jazz fest). sad. (but yes, i’ll live.)

speaking of work, on tuesday, fae and i then started our training with the u.s. government’s census bureau. it’s been long days of mostly having a training manual read to us aloud verbatim, which is pretty dull for the most part, but we really love our crew leader and he at least does his best to make the training entertaining. there are 15 people in our training class – we had 5 no-shows the first day. but so far, no one else had dropped out. today was the last day of the verbatim training, and tomorrow we will take our final test and then go out into the field for “live” training – which of course means, we start knocking on doors tomorrow. i will probably take saturday and sunday off so i can enjoy porch fest this weekend, but then monday i will begin full time door-knockin, hopefully in my own neighborhood. i can’t wait for that first paycheck.

so that’s what i’ve been up to. things will calm down a little after jazz fest i guess, but for the next two months i think it’s going to be all-census-all-the-time. i’m basically being forced to take a little break from the crafty life due to that, but don’t worry, i’ll get back to it when the census gig ends in late june. i think it will actually be good for me to take a little break from making and selling stuff, plus i still have my music column to write and there’s that pesky film festival that i need to finish programming and write up for michfest. so i got a lot going on for the next little while.

all of which is to say, i guess i might not be blogging all that much. but i’ll try to pop in every now and then.

earth day recap + jazz fest!

last thursday, the new orleans craft mafia had a fun day of teaching folks how to recycle their old t-shirts into reusable shopping tote bags. whole foods uptown was our host, and our workshop was part of their day-long earth day festivities. so mallory, rebekah and i set up our handmade and eco-friendly/recycled wares under a tent on their patio.

my stuff on the left, miss malaprop on the right

rebekah and her booth

we then we created a cutting and sewing assembly line for the demo. whole foods, rebekah and some others donated a bunch of t-shirts, and we had three tables in row: one for the shirts and a cutting station, and a sewing machine on each of the others. at first, we had slow business, with only a few folks coming through the line – though those that did were really excited and amazed at the simplicity of the project. but around 1pm, we had an entire classroom full of school kids who had walked over from the audubon park area show up, t-shirts in hand. so for the next hour or so, we took them 2-3 at a time, showing them how to cut off the sleeves and around the neck, and then trim the bottom of their shirts, turn them inside out, and then mallory and rebekah sewed up the bottom with their sewing machines. flip them back rightside out and voila – your shopping tote is done!

mallory showing the kids how to cut and sew their shirts into bags

the kids loved it, and even got really creative with all the t-shirt scraps. cut off sleeves became headbands and visors; the trimmed bottom edge became sashes and necklaces. they were hilarious. once one kid decided to do it, they all wanted to. but they loved their bags, too.

adults came through too!

the rest of the afternoon was not quite as hectic but that was ok with us, as 30-something kids in an hour was kind of a lot! but we had many happy recyclers throughout the day, and it felt good teaching people a usable skill for recycling something we all have too many of: t-shirts.

and now it’s jazz fest. i lucked out and scored a free pair of tickets (thanks again, rachelle!) which i think fae and i are going to use tomorrow (sunday). yesterday, we went about our days as usual, fae trying to finish up as much of her end-of-semester stuff and me piddling around the house. but at around 6pm, we headed over to jen and mary ann’s house for the first night of porchfest 2010, which is how we affectionately refer to our annual porch hangout tradition.

jen and mary ann live a few blocks from the fairgrounds, and on one of the heavier trafficked corners for folks exiting the fest, so we’ve made it a tradition, hanging out on their porch as fest lets out, watching all the people go by. (this is the same location as the jazz fest art show i mentioned in previous posts, which, by the way, is still up through the end of the second weekend of jazz fest.) it’s not quite as much fun as being out at fest and hearing all the music and eating all the food, but it’s pretty entertaining, and a good substitute for those of us who can’t afford or just don’t like to deal with jazz fest every day. and with all the folks jen and mary ann know, along with all their neighbors, it can get to be a pretty big gathering. in fact, tonight there will even be a band playing next door, the all-girl blues band 30×90 (which features my friend sticky t, formerly of blues sister).

my stuff at jen's jazz fest art show

so yeah. it was pretty mellow last night, being the first night of fest. but it was still nice to get out of the house and see folks. we’ll be heading over there in just a little while for tonight’s festivities. and then tomorrow, assuming fae gets all her work done and i’m feeling up to it (not been feeling so great today), we’ll use those free tickets to partake in a bit of jazz fest ourselves. of course, porchfest will still be in effect afterwards, until it’s time to go watch treme of course. tomorrow will be a marathon!

but that’s jazz fest. i can’t believe i used to go every single day, all day, from 11am – 7pm and then do porchfest and even sometimes go out afterwards! wow, i used to have a lot of energy! but no more. now i have to pace myself and take it easy, or i pay for it. but i still love jazz fest time in the city. everyone is happy, there’s music everywhere you turn, locals are all having parties at their houses, and almost everyone has houseguests from elsewhere. (somehow we ended up with none this year.)

not sure if we’ll get to do some of the fest next weekend or not, but i hope so. we’ll see how the week goes. but for now, happy jazz fest!

my thoughts on treme

i keep feeling like i should be blogging about the new hbo series treme, like just about every other blogger in new orleans and elsewhere. i did watch the premiere last sunday and then even braved the somewhat triggering thunderstorm that happened last night precisely on my way over to a friend’s house to watch it. (triggering not because of katrina but of our most recent street flooding nightmare back in december, when i drove our car right into several feet of water on our street coming home from the freret market and we had to push the car several blocks through the flood waters to get it on higher ground. i’ve never been so wet in all my life! but such is life in new orleans.)

wendell pierce on set of hbo's "treme"

wendell pierce as antoine batiste on the set of treme, one of the times i was an extra

after last week’s pilot episode, i had many thoughts about the show, many of which i shared one on one with friends. but i had a hard time making myself sit down to write about it because i felt i didn’t have anything to say that everyone else who is writing about it isn’t already saying. i largely agree with the so-far-so-good analysis and the wait-and-see outlook of most locals about the show; it is refreshing and validating to see so many things about our beautiful city and its recovery from the federal floods gotten right. yes.

it is also a little bit hard to watch without letting oneself go back there, to that time and place, regardless of how your individual situation played out – whether you rode the storm and floods out here in the city or evacuated, came back as fast as you could or were displaced near or far away, or remained away for an extended time. regardless of how the events of that time period affected you personally, as a resident of new orleans before august 29, 2005, they definitely affected you deeply, and drudging up those real-life memories by watching a tv show that is based on stories – if not yours, those of your friends, family and neighbors – makes for difficult watching. some folks may be better at blocking their own feelings about the storm and its aftermath and be able to just focus on the tv show on its own merits, but i seem to be struggling with that.

my house, on the right, in october 2005

i am finding that i spend the first half or so of each episode having all kinds of personal memories and emotions brought to the surface which have been buried for a while, triggered by little details in the show. like, in the first episode, the background sound of helicopters flying overhead; i’ll never forget how weird and scary that felt, like we were in some war zone 24/7. and the national guard everywhere, carrying guns, which totally freaked me out. and even little things, like when steve zahn’s character recommends to the do-gooder tourists in the 2nd episode to eat at clover grill for breakfast, i’m reminded of my first visit back to the city in early october and that clover grill was one of the first meals i ate on that trip, with so few restaurants open; i vividly remember the stench of the quarter due to all the refrigerators on the sidewalk and the pervasive flies everywhere, including inside the clover grill. it’s inescapable, the memories, even the few i have being someone who fairly effortlessly evacuated and largely stayed away until things got better. (i was based in louisville, kentucky, post-storm, and drove down every couple of weeks the first few months and then later about once a month until i let my apartment go in late 2006. after that, my return visits were less frequent but i was still in and out of town on a regular basis, mostly to participate in art markets for financial reasons, to stay connected to friends and my community, and to keep my personal hope of returning soon alive.)

at least during these first two episodes, by about halfway through, my brain finally lets go and focuses on the characters and their stories. i wish i had hbo at home and could rewatch each episode, as i feel like i’m missing a lot of what goes on in the first half of the show, so caught up in my own head. however, i do feel like i can say a few things with some certainty about treme:

i think the cinematography is beautiful. it is shot with such attention to detail and in a way that accurately captures the beauty of even the ruin of the city. the lighting, the composition of the shots, the colors – the scene from the pilot of the mardi gras indian chief in full regalia on the pitch-dark street lit like an angel sticks in my mind – everything is very saturated and vivid and, well, real. that’s what life is like here in new orleans. the whole show is just gorgeous to watch from a purely visual point of view. even the opening credits are an amazing visual, all those shots of water lines and mold. (including one by my friend chris kirsch!)

the actors are doing a good job, and i love that so many locals are being used both in speaking and non-speaking roles. wendell pierce being from new orleans (pontchartrain park, specifically) really helps his character. he looks like he’s from here, he talks like he’s from here, because he is from here – even if not from the part of town his character is supposed to be from. khandi alexander is also very impressive so far, as ladonna batiste-williams. and of course i love john goodman’s character. i didn’t know ashley morris or even read him during my post-k time in kentucky, but i’ve become aware of him through others since then and have read his words and can really appreciate what he and his anger and eloquence meant to so many. and i’m grateful for melissa leo’s character, toni burnette, the lawyer working tirelessly to help ladonna find her brother. it’s a very real storyline, and leo plays the role (inspired by real-life civil rights lawyer hero mary howell) well. i think, in general, the casting for this show is spot-on.

the music, of course, rocks! i love that so much music is woven into the episodes, and not just in the background – it is truly focused on. i will hope for a little more diversity of music as the show goes on, but being able to expose more people to traditional new orleans brass bands and jazz is wonderful. i loved the 2nd line scene that opened the pilot, kermit at vaughn’s, the mardi gras indians chanting at the end of the 2nd episode and even crazy coco robicheaux and his chicken. but i would like america to know: there is no strip club on bourbon street that has a live brass band playing in it while skinny naked girls writhe on poles – though who knows, now that it’s aired, one of them is likely to try it! in all seriousness, though, i’m thrilled so many local musicians are getting to act and play their music in the show (and get paid!) – what a boon to the local cultural economy this show is.

i feel like one of the best scenes of the first two episodes so far was at the beginning of last night’s show, when janette desautel (the restauranteur, based on susan spicer) is making eggs on a hot plate, walking from her gutted-to-the-studs downstairs of her home to the largely untouched upstairs, and is on the phone talking about entergy needing to clear the gas lines… and she overcooks her eggs and has a meltdown. that scene was so very poignant and so very real, that the littlest things could touch off a complete sobbing breakdown in the midst of so much that was so overwhelming about life in that time period in the city. it made me cry watching it, and it made me remember how many times that happened to me and to those around me, my friends, as they worked so hard to pick up the pieces of their lives and put it all back together again. that scene alone has been the truest moment thus far for me, and points to how well david simon and company have gotten “it.”

i’m sure i will have more thoughts as the series moves along, and will share them. but in the mean time, i’ll be reading my favorite treme blog, back of town, which features many of the new orleans bloggers i started reading right after the storm and who kept me sane in the ensuing months and years – some of whom are even now my friends. and for you out-of-towners or recent transplants, dave walker’s weekly treme explained posts delve into all the local references that aren’t fleshed out on the show, offering great links and background for watching the series.

(below is the 14+ minute “making treme” behind-the-scenes featurette hbo produced about the show, for those who haven’t seen it yet.)

theresa andersson is awesome

i know this isn’t usually a music blog, but i did vow to shake up the content of my blog when i switched over to wordpress… so every now and then when i’m excited by something, i’ll be sharing it here.

this music video showed up in my inbox this morning via theresa andersson‘s publicist, and i thought you might like it too. it’s from her forthcoming live dvd theresa andersson: live at le petit, shot here in new orleans at le petit theatre in the french quarter.

i fell in love with theresa andersson when i first saw her one-woman-band kitchen video for “na na na” from her latest album humingbird, go! (basin street records) which became an overnight viral hit. i’d seen her at jazz fest before and enjoyed her performances, but her most recent album really cemented it for me and has become one of my favorites. and now that i’ve seen this clip from the forthcoming dvd, i might just need to get me a copy. word has it the legendary allen toussaint guest stars on it. (oh, and check her performance schedule – she’ll be out at jazz fest again this year and playing around town a bit later this month. she’s great live.)

now back to writing my july music column. (i finally settled on featuring sia, k.d. lang, and lucy woodward, for those of you who just can’t wait until july to get the scoop.)