AKA Abraham Bacoln

March 8, 2010, 9:54 am
Filed under: tidbit

At my favorite po-boy joint, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, they take your order at the counter and you go find a table. Later they call out your name over their speaker system – “Dave, pick up” – and you go get your food and you eat it. Well, I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Thing is their speaker system is a bit antiquated and it comes out sounding more like “aahvpickUP.” If you’ve ever been there you know exactly what I’m talking about. Therein lies the problem: my name, when blasted through their speakers, sounds about like a hundred other names. I always go up to the counter for the wrong name at least once. Always. It seems like every time I go to Parkway all the Evans and Heathers in the world go there too. Oh, and I forgot to mention they call out orders for the bartender in the ‘tavern’ section, so the whole time I’m waiting for my food I’m hearing “evnpickUP” which really isn’t much different from “evrnpickUP” and “evrpickUP.”

Yesterday I went up to the counter not once but twice for the wrong name.

First trip:
Me: Sorry, thought I heard my name.
Johnny: Oh, no, I just called Devon. You’re coming up soon though.

Second trip:
Me: Man, Johnny, sorry, thought I heard my name again. I’m always thinking I’m hearing my name.
Johnny: Oh, yeah, no, I just called an order for tavern pick up. You guys had the Italian sausage and fried shrimp po-boys, right? They’re almost done.

So I went back to our table to talk to Dom, and about two minutes later I heard over the loudspeaker:

“evnpickUP. That’s Kevin with a K. Kevin, pick up.

He’s a tall guy. Brown hair.

has a beard.

has the strength of a gorilla.

has the strength of ten gorillas.”

I will not deny that I got a little bit of applause as I flexed my biceps on the way to the counter.

Cities mentioned in Tom Waits songs
February 6, 2010, 12:03 am
Filed under: tidbit | Tags:

I was discussing with friends the other day how I probably only know the town Waukegan, Illinois because it’s referenced in a Tom Waits song. Then of course the discussion led to how to create a Tom Waits song, and how they inevitably involve the name of a town or a kind of car, or some girl’s name that sounds a bit antiquated, and so forth.

This got me to thinking, “Just how many cities does Waits reference throughout his discography?” I couldn’t find a list of exactly that online, so I decided to make my own list.

A caveat: I was very literal in my search and only kept cities explicitly mentioned by name. You won’t find in here any time he says Hollywood, Brooklyn, the Bronx, etc. as those are neighborhoods or boroughs within proper cities. Likewise I skipped a time he referred to something as a personal Waterloo since I figured he wasn’t actually talking about the city but instead what it stands for. Finally I didn’t take any note of cities referenced in songs that he covered. I just wanted a list of cities that he felt were worth mentioning.

So, more or less chronologically, we have:

The Early Years, Vol. 1:
Had Me A Girl: Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; Tallahassee, FL; Chula Vista, CA; Toledo OH

The Heart of Saturday Night:
Diamonds on my Windshield: San Clemente, CA; Riverside, CA
Drunk on the Moon: Cleveland, OH

Nighthawks at the Diner:
Better Off Without a Wife: Reno, NV
Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission): Cleveland, OH; Bakersfield, CA

Side note: there’s a song on this album called Putnam County. I grew up in Putnam County, TN and I know that I have heard more than one person there claim that Waits was referencing our home. However, since there are nine Putnam Counties in the US, I don’t think it was Tennessee. Plus, in the song he says, “just like a bastard amber Velveeta yellow cab on a rainy corner” and my Putnam County sure doesn’t have yellow cabs. I would like to think he meant Putnam County, Illinois, but this song was written before he met Kathleen Brennan. Come to think of it, I think I read once in an interview which one he is referencing, but now I’ve forgotten.

Small Change:
I Wish I Was in New Orleans: New Orleans, LA
The Piano Has Been Drinking: New York, NY
Pasties and a G-string: Portland (but is it Oregon or Maine? Gasp.); Paris, France (“Gay Paree”)
The One That Got Away: San Francisco, CA
Small Change: Seattle, WA

Foreign Affairs:
Barber Shop: Cincinnati, OH; Pittsburgh, PA

Blue Valentine:
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis: Minneapolis, MN; Omaha, NE
$29.00: Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, LA
Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard: Baton Rouge, LA
Kentucky Avenue: New Orleans, LA
Blue Valentines: Philadelphia, PA

Johnsburg, Illinois: Johnsburg, IL; McHenry, IL
Town With No Cheer: Melbourne, Adelaide, and Serviceton, Australia
Swordfishtrombones: Crutchfield, NC; Birmingham, AL

Rain Dogs:
Singapore: Singapore; Paris, France
Clap Hands: Cincinnati, OH; Baltimore, MD
Tango ‘Til They’re Sore: New Orleans, LA
Time: East St. Louis, IL
Gun Street Girl: Birmingham, AL; Waukegan, IL

Gun Street Girl also mentions a city named Baker – I think it’s Baker, MT because earlier in the song he references the Burlington Northern Railroad, and there are train tracks right through the middle of Baker, MT.

Also, in case you were wondering, though the song 9th & Hennepin doesn’t explicitly say it takes place in Minneapolis, it probably does.

Frank’s Wild Years:
Hang On Saint Christopher: Reno, NV
Yesterday is Here: New York City, NY
I’ll Take New York: New York City, NY
Telephone Call From Istanbul: Istanbul, Turkey
Train Song: East St. Louis, IL

Mule Variations:
Low Side of the Road: Kokomo, IN
Hold On: Monte Rio, CA; St. Louis, MO
Get Behind the Mule: Atchison (KS?); Placerville, CA
Pony: Murfreesboro, TN; Natchez, MS; Belzoni, MS; Talulah, LA
Black Market Baby: Moberly, MO
Eyeball Kid: Saigon, Vietnam

Real Gone:
How’s It Going To End: Liverpool, England
Circus: Kankakee, IL; Sheboygan, WI
Day After Tomorrow: Rockford, IL

If you’re paying attention at this point (and I don’t blame you if you aren’t) you’ll see I skipped Don’t Go Into That Barn which has a litany of place names. Many of them exist (in name) in multiple states. However, since he says “take me on a flat boat” just pick one that’s near a river. Anyway, his list is: Dover; Covington, LA; Louisville (KY?); Smithland; Memphis, TN; Vicksburg, MS; and Natchez, MS.

Fish in the Jailhouse: Yazoo City, MS; Rolling Fork, MS; Natchez, MS; Kenosha, WI; New York City, NY
Road to Peace: Jerusalem, Israel
Rains On Me: Argyle, TX; Dix, TX
Fannin Street: Houston, TX
First Kiss: Elkheart, IN

So there you have it, a more or less complete list of cities mentioned in Tom Waits songs.

There were three albums that I was not surprised to find featured no names of cities: The Black Rider, Alice, Blood Money. Those were all in some way meant to be soundtracks to plays.

Albums that I was surprised to find named no cities: The Early Years Vol. 2, Closing Time, Heartattack and Vine, Bone Machine. If you had picked any of those and said, “Does Waits, at some point during this album, call out a city?” I would have put twenty down on yes without hesitation.

As for city most mentioned, it’s a two-way tie between New Orleans and New York at three each. They both get a used in a song title, so I can’t declare one a true victor. Coming in a very close second (third?) place is St. Louis, which would have tied for first, but there are two mentions of East St. Louis and one mention of regular St. Louis so I’m arbitrarily handing out the bronze.

Finally, if you know some place that I missed, by all means point it out. This research was performed haphazardly at best.

[EDIT: someone immediately pointed out that I had missed Kenosha, WI which was mentioned in Fish in the Jailhouse. Well, I hadn’t just missed Kenosha, I’d missed the whole song … which includes one more mention of NYC, putting it in the top spot for most-mentioned. Sorry, NOLA, looks like the Big Apple trumps the Big Easy.]

[EDIT II: I totally forgot that Singapore was an island city-state, so it’s been included (as has been the mention of Paris in the same song).]

[EDIT III: Thanks to Erich for pointing out I missed Talulah, LA in Pony.]

Ojen again
January 15, 2010, 5:58 pm
Filed under: tidbit

You may remember – or you may not, it’s been a while – that back in April of 2009 I wrote an entry on a curious liquor, Ojen. If you don’t want to read the whole thing the short version is as follows:

Ojen (pronounced OH-hen) is an anise-flavored liquor produced in Spain. It’s not the same as absinthe though the two have far more in common than, say, Ojen and gin do. Ojen gained popularity in New Orleans at the beginning of last century and over time became an old standby, especially during Carnival season. In fact, some went so far as to claim that New Orleans’ consumption of Ojen surpassed that of all of Spain – and considering how folks down here tend to enjoy a drink every now and then I believe it. Martin Wine Cellar was the last company importing Ojen into the US and they received their final shipment in the mid-1980s. Since then they had been slowly selling through it with no replacement coming because the distillery had stopped production [click here for a much more detailed history].

Anyway, that blog entry was last year. I bought myself a bottle of Ojen because I realized that soon enough we would be totally out, and soon enough we were. In fact it was sold out not more than two weeks after, which was a momentous enough event to warrant a short piece in the Times-Picayune (yes, that’s me being quoted in that article).

So where does that leave us now? Well, it leaves us at a very unhappy Mardi Gras, that’s for sure. One of the most (if not THE most) illustrious carnival krewes, Rex, used Ojen as their signature drink. This will be the first year in decades that their members haven’t been able to stop by the store and pick some up. I have it on good authority that there may be twenty or thirty bottles still remaining somewhere, if you know who to ask and have the right connections. I’m not sure that even I could get some if I wanted to.

I did have the good fortune to come into possession of a few bottles before it disappeared from retail shelves for good, though, and now have just over three left. A few days ago I had a friend in town who had read my bit about Ojen and heard me talking about it, and was interested in learning more. I said, “Let’s have a drink then!” He said something along the lines of, “No, no, it’s too special, I don’t want to use up your bottle.”

It took a while to convince him that that’s the whole point of owning a few bottles – so that I can drink them and share them. I didn’t buy them to hoard them in hopes of making a profit by selling them to some desperate member of Rex, I bought them to drink them. Slowly, maybe, una copita de Ojen every couple of months, but drink them I will. I have them so that I can share them with people that haven’t ever had it before, or in a few years maybe I’ll be sharing with someone that just hasn’t been able to taste it in a while.

Regardless of the circumstances I’m happy to have it, because sharing it makes me glad, makes other people glad. Together we can drink up the last bits of this small but not insignificant chapter of New Orleans history.

A fond farewell
November 13, 2009, 2:42 pm
Filed under: tidbit

So I know I said I was done taking pictures of my rabbit but, well, see, last night I went to drop him off with his new parents, and we ended up going over to The Rendezvous, and things got a little crazy.

Rabbits' Night Out 2/3

He decided to wear his tiny little rabbit hat, which is kind of like me wearing a human hat, except different. Instead of wearing a human hat though I continued the rabbit theme and … yeah. That’s enough. Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all.

Goodbye for now, little pal. I hope you enjoy your new home. It’ll be nice for you, I think, to live in a place where you’re not the scariest or weirdest thing around.

Astounding and intense
September 20, 2009, 6:17 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Let me quote some things from Wikipedia:

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was a real orchestra founded by a group of students at Portsmouth School of Art in Portsmouth, England, in 1970 — however, the Sinfonia had an unusual entrance requirement. Players had to be either non-musicians, or if a musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them.

Bryars was interested more in experimenting with the nature of music than forming a traditional orchestra. Instead of picking the most competent musicians he could find, he encouraged anyone to join, regardless of talent, ability and experience. The only rules were that everyone had to come for rehearsals and that people should try their best to get it right and not intentionally try to play badly.

and then link to what is now my absolute favorite rendition of In the Hall of the Mountain King. Delicious.

Some things to point your eyeballs at
August 4, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Here’s a bit of a convoluted story for you. One of my recent-er photos got featured on the front page of reddit which resulted in um a whole lot of views. (which picture? glad you asked. this one.) Okay so it was actually like 70,000 views, which is for a small timer like me a whole hell of a lot of eyeballs checking out my stuff.

Of course with so many people visiting my Flickr page I was bound to have some new people add me as a contact, and they did, and I dutifully check out the photostream of every single person who adds me. I don’t add most of them back, but I at least look.

Out of the fifty or so people that added me one person really caught my eye, and that was Jordie Bellaire. She’s using Flickr as a place to show off some of her excellent illustrations and man was I ever instantly captivated. One of the pieces that really caught my eye was this one of a fox and a deer. It made me think, “Man, I want that picture for my girlfriend” (because her last name is Fox, you see) but that picture wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Then I noticed on Jordie’s profile page that she takes commissions, and that was that.

I requested of her a picture of a fox as a present for Casey. I also figured that I would get something for myself, but I had no inspiration, so I just requested that she do a portrait of me. I’ve never had a portrait of me done! Well, no, that’s not true – just the other day the amazing Kathy Rodriguez sculpted my handsome boneheaded self so I can’t say it’s never been done. However! This piece was the first one I’d specifically ordered, which gave me a mild ego rush. I felt like some sort of modern day nobleman, all waving my sceptre and having people adjust my crown.

So after I requested the pieces Jordie was in constant contact and checked in some revisions with me, but that wasn’t necessary as everything she showed me was golden and I don’t think I had any changes at all.

Oh, yeah, the images themselves. Here’s the fox!

And here’s the portrait!

and how could I not love those, right? I think they’re amazing.

So … maybe that story wasn’t that complex. I accidentally got my 15 seconds of internet fame, met someone making great art, and decided to pay her to make some specifically for me (her rates are nice, by the way, thanks for asking). I even got special extra doodles on the paper in which they were shipped, but those are for me, not you, so you don’t get to see them.

July 2, 2009, 7:44 pm
Filed under: tidbit

The old deli kitchen

Originally uploaded by Brother O’Mara

Pardon this bit of self-indulgent rambling.

I got my first job in the wine industry in February of 2002 and it was literally as the result of a finger poked at random into the Help Wanted section of the Times-Picayune. They were looking for stockmen and cashiers. The short version of my career is this: I showed up, got the job as a stockman, came to work on time and did what was asked of me, and as a result got several kicks up the ladder. I worked for months at the retail store on Baronne and of course experienced the frustrations of a retail store but overall really enjoyed my time there. I felt like I totally fit in with the company. By the end of 2002 I had been promoted to a position in our Mid-City offices, and I left the store to go sit at a desk and push papers. I worked there from 2002 until the storm.

Okay all of that is a grand oversimplification but you get the point.

What I’m trying to say is this: when I was working at this company before the storm we had two stores – one in Uptown New Orleans and one out in Metairie. I always aligned myself with the Uptown store, because that’s where I started. Most people in the company have a fondness for one store or the other, and for an astoundingly high number of us it is because that’s where we started our careers as stockmen (or stockwomen, or cashiers). The Uptown store is where I learned about wine, where I learned how to pour, and how to taste, and where I was thrown into the driver’s seat of a delivery van and forced to learn the layout of the city. That’s a great job, I might add – whenever you get to a new city, get a job as a delivery person. You’ll learn the bad parts of town right quick. It didn’t take me more than once driving down St. Bernard to realize that the biggest streets on the map might not always be the best way to get somewhere.

Anyway, the Uptown store is where I learned to love wine. I greatly furthered my knowledge during my desk job in Mid-City, and by attending every Thursday night tasting that I could, but the Uptown store is where it all started.

The last time I was there would have been some point in the summer of 2005.

As with so many of my stories, you know that Hurricane Katrina comes next. I left my flooded apartment and flooded possessions and flooded workplace and went out to the Great Northwet to find a new life, then ended up back in Tennessee, and then realized just how damn much I missed this city and this company, and in December of 2008 I came back here. I got a different job with the same folks, and now I sit in a different office in the same building in Mid-City.

During my first trip back here post-Katrina, in March 2008, one of the first places I drove by was the old Uptown store. It was shuttered, closed, the result of flooding and looting and everything else bad that happened during the storm. Since that first post-K view I have driven by many times. I parked there twice during Mardi Gras and that was somehow the most bittersweet – there should have been a lot full of employees’ cars and someone I knew guarding the entrance, but it was just me, my girlfriend, and a big empty lot beside an empty building.

Finally today after having been back at work for six months I had an opportunity to see the gutted insides of the old workplace, a chance upon which I jumped with both feet. My boss knows I do the photography so he encouraged me to bring my camera along. We drove there along with the owner. He and my boss were going to discuss what was left inside that might still be salvageable before they tear down the old building. I went along just to see the place.

And … it was very strange. I didn’t live the post-K New Orleans experience. I did my grieving somewhere else. It’s been three years and ten months now, and I don’t have any pain left associated with the hurricane – not that I really ever did in the first place. So … when I set foot inside the store I was awash in old happy memories. I didn’t feel sad, full of regret, full of remorse. I just felt invigorated.

My boss and I talked about the first time we ever met, the night that all the stockmen (of which I was then a part) moved hundreds of bottles of wine and tons of shelves so that we could replace all the carpet. I saw the signs on the walls declaring the various wine regions. I saw the handwritten chalkboard sign above the old cheese counter. I saw the customer courtesy phone where tens of old ladies had stood and chatted, just far enough out in the aisle to keep me from being able to wheel my hand truck by and stock shelves. I saw the warehouse upstairs, the receiving room in the back, the remnants of the old deli and kitchen and walk-in cooler.

I saw on the floor upstairs the inter-office memo from late summer 2005 saying, “There is a restructuring in the Inventory Department. Kevin O’Mara is now the Inventory Manager of the Wholesale division” – my most recent promotion before the storm worked its magic.

I saw two half-full bottles of Ojen. I saw one ancient bottle of the old style of Ojen. I saw floors and ceilings, walls and windows, and I was filled with every happy memory I had of the place and not a single one of the bad. It was, to say the least, an uplifting and fulfilling experience – something I didn’t expect in the slightest.

So now I’m content. Now I’m ready for them to tear it down and build anew. I got my last visit.

I don’t know about the others, those dozen or two people still with the company that worked there for years before I did – decades before I did – that lived half their lives in that building. I can only hope they feel the same sense of relief and happiness that I do in our decision to move forward and build something even better than that which we used to have.

June 26, 2009, 8:08 pm
Filed under: tidbit


Originally uploaded by Mirabila

So in case you’re not part of the twitterses or facebookses you may not have heard that we got a new cat. Well, technically it was Casey who paid the adoption fees, so … anyway, the point is that Barton lives with us now.

The strange thing about … yeah, I know, you can see in the picture that he’s carrying a ball. He fetches. Now I’ve known some cats that would fetch occasionally, but fetch is his favorite game of ever. He will fetch at least 20 times in a row before he starts to get bored, and he’ll be up for another game of fetch in an hour. We even have a video of Barton fetching so that you know Casey didn’t just Photoshop a ball into his mouth in this picture.

He loves fetching so very much that last night he jumped up into our bed with a ball in his mouth and dropped it between us. He did this not once but twice. I told him, “Barton, it’s dark outside. It’s dark inside. This is not the right time to play fetch.” He didn’t really want to hear it. He never wants to hear that it’s not time for fetch.

So there you have it – our pretty boy from the LA SPCA has a nice trick. Oh, hey, yeah, let me mention that the LA SPCA was wonderful. We got a cat, neutered and with all his shots, and microchipped, AND a bag of Science Diet cat food all for $75. That is, in my opinion, a hell of a deal, and we managed to save this soft white fluffy fetching lump from possibly being sent to his demise.

sweet cuppin cakes
May 29, 2009, 8:35 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Did I mention birthday cupcakes? I think these might be the birthday cupcakes I was talking about. Oh my yes.

hbty hbty hbdk hbty
May 29, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: tidbit

Sometimes I totally geek out about data collection. I can’t even explain; it’s just a thing I find myself doing. Without any sort of apology I present to you a pie chart of the ways in which I was told “Happy Birthday!” yesterday:

[click to embiggen]

The important thing to note here is that a certain social networking site will gladly tell you exactly when your friends birthdays are, and because of this (plus the ease of leaving a message for another user on said site) it shot to the top of the charts in terms of quantity of messages.

In terms of quality, though, the homemade cupcakes I received yesterday beat hell out of everything else.