AKA Abraham Bacoln

A little promotion
June 8, 2010, 10:09 pm
Filed under: New Orleans, photography

So you’ve probably already read about this if you follow me on Twitter or if you keep tabs on me through Facebook, but I’m gonna post it here for posterity. There’s a local news site, inthekNOwla, and they decided to interview me for their Artist Spotlight series.

It’s very flattering, of course, to have someone want to write a little bit about what you do. It also feels strange to be getting interviewed and having attention rise at the same time as my photography inspiration and productivity declines. However, as much as I want to say, “Why are they interviewing me? I hardly ever make anything good anymore” it doesn’t negate the fact that they liked my existing stuff enough to write about it.

I’m in too good a mood for any sort of serious self-deprecation, so I’ll just say thanks to everyone that has constantly reminded me that I’m doing good work here and that I should keep it up. I had a pretty good day because of this interview, so I’m gonna ride that for a while.

A little positivity
May 24, 2010, 9:26 pm
Filed under: New Orleans

Many of my friends keep asking me about how the oil disaster in the Gulf is doing, and I tend to respond that I can’t even think about it. I keep the Times-Picayune’s headlines in my feed reader, and it seems like literally every third news item is about the tragedy. If you really want to know what’s going on it’s all here on NOLA.com’s page about the oil. I felt that Editor B’s comments on the whole thing summed up my feelings pretty well.

Since the oil is so depressing I am concentrating on other good things instead. For instance, last year the Buck Moth caterpillars (horrid stinging beasts) were out in what felt like record numbers, but because of an exceptionally cold winter this year they’re not nearly so bad. Likewise I think that our winter helped slow down the mosquitos this year, a sentiment shared by others, and also the Formosan termites aren’t swarming badly yet – no thick clouds of buzzing bugs obscuring every streetlight in sight.

But the best news I’ve had yet today is that this building:

Lindy Boggs Medical Center

the deserted Lindy Boggs medical center that has stood empty and falling apart since the storm has been purchased and plans are in place to turn it into a nursing home and hospital. It’s great to see that such a useful building is being put back into operation instead of being bulldozed to make way for a shopping mall.

Since I can’t reach out and touch all the higher-ups at BP (and by “touch” you know I mean “strangle until no sign of life is left”) I have to take the good news where I can find it, and this is pretty good news indeed.

I wish you could have been with me
February 8, 2010, 3:21 pm
Filed under: New Orleans

Yesterday was one of the most amazing and intense experiences I’ve ever had in New Orleans and I feel like I have to write about it. Not so that I can brag, and not so that I can pretend I’m some sort of Voice of New Orleans (Professional Blogger Edition) but so that I don’t ever forget the details.

I was extremely fortunate to have my good friend Mark in town for this occasion. He appreciates New Orleans more than anyone I know that doesn’t actually live here, so I couldn’t have asked for a better companion during the day. He’s a seasoned visitor, not just a Mardi Gras and Bourbon St. reveler, so he knows how to relax and flow with the changing situations that pop up down here.

As with so many other adventures here I felt it was best if we just played it by ear. Often times there’s no sense in making elaborate plans, especially those that involve the French Quarter, because you never know who’s going to call, where the fun will be, or what’s (literally) around the next corner. So, we headed down to the Quarter with only the vaguest of direction. Earlier we had a tantalizing offer of being able to watch the game at a private party on a massive screen, but unfortunately no one was able to pull enough weight to get our names on to the guest list for the kickoff, but we had rumors that we might be able to sneak in at halftime.

We parked in Tremé, just a few blocks outside the Quarter, in one of those magic parking spots, you know, “Well, this may not look entirely kosher, but I parked here once and didn’t get a ticket, so it must be okay!” During the walk down the Esplanade neutral ground we were flanked by standstill traffic on both sides – I couldn’t figure out where those cars thought they were going to go, or even where the unending stream of traffic headed out of the Quarter was coming from. Maybe everyone was driving down just to turn around and drive right back out, I don’t know.

Royal St. seemed to be a great place to cut right and head into the heart of the Quarter, so we did. The street was covered in black and gold, everyone wearing team jerseys, every fifth person with face paint or a football helmet or flag or umbrella. We stopped at the Verti Marte to get some Cokes, because even though we had several flasks filled and on our persons it seemed ill-advised to start drinking heavily at 3:00PM in the afternoon – not that that was stopping anyone around us. A block or two further a nice set of steps in front of an empty business presented themselves, and we took a load off for a while to do some people-watching. We were also at that point still waiting to hear whether or not we’d be getting in to the big party, so we didn’t have much of a destination anyway.

Though I had cooked up a killer breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy it couldn’t stick around forever, and hunger found us. Having nothing but time on our hands until the 5:30 kickoff we decided to cross to the far side of the Quarter and check to see if Johnny’s Po-Boys was open … which of course it was not. It seemed like we weren’t going to have many options for food – true local joints (you know, the kind that locals might actually eat at, as compared to the overpriced tourist traps) were mostly closed to let their employees watch the game. So we wandered for blocks, seeing typically one of two things: closed signs or long lines. One place on Decatur (which shall remain nameless) actually had someone at the door saying, “Stop on in and get a muffaletta! Try our crawfish pasta!” and we had a mutual agreement that anyone who was having to ask for business on Super Bowl Sunday must be serving up some pretty wretched grub.

“At the very least,” I said, “we can go back to Verti Marte and get some po-boys there” yet I felt there must be a better alternative. I decided to make one last stop and check the wait at Coop’s Place, and that turned out to be The Right Idea. The wait wasn’t too long, and the atmosphere was great. Maybe a little hectic, maybe a little loud, maybe no less than three times did a spontaneous WHO DAT?! chant break out, and maybe no less than twice did I see our loving but harried waitress doing shots behind the bar, but that’s what makes things FUN. Feeling like a true American I ordered a grilled cheeseburger po-boy while Mark opted to sample their famous fried chicken. I must digress for a moment here to state that I’m not that big a fan of fried chicken, but I know good fried chicken when I have it, and Mark has the distinction of having made the Best Fried Chicken I’ve Ever Had. So, when he declared that Coop’s chicken was, “pretty darned good” I knew we’d started to hit that magic.

Sure enough I got a text from a friend saying, “Come to so-and-so’s house where we’re watching on the big screen” and that’s all I needed. With our bellies full of food we walked to the house on Orleans, just on the other side of Bourbon. By this time it was 5:15PM and in stark contrast to our earlier afternoon experience, the streets were empty. It was like a ghost town out there. The few folks on foot seemed to be just like us, hurrying to plant themselves in front of a television somewhere. We heard the cheering from every door when the Saints hit the field, we walked by the huge street windows of some bar just as whoever-it-was was singing the national anthem. I felt kind of like an outsider, catching glimpses of everyone else and their game faces while no one was seeing us walk by. It’s really strange to pass by shop after bar after restaurant and not have anyone staring out the window at you, to see all eyes turned towards the televisions.

We received a typical New Orleans warm greeting when we arrived at the house party. “Kevin, Mark, this is everybody. The buffet table is over there, help us eat, and sit anywhere you like.” You can’t ask for more than that.

As for the game itself: I don’t watch football, really. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not something that usually catches my interest. I know enough to watch a game, though, and this game kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire first half. Every time someone would open the front or back door of the house you could hear from all directions outside people yelling, especially when the Saints did … well … did anything, wrong or right. There was certainly a lot of yelling inside the house. By the way, don’t call me today because my speaking voice is shot. I don’t know how that happened.

At halftime Mark and I made the decision to stay there with our new friends instead of trying to scam our way into the aforementioned gigantic private party, so stay we did. And yell we did, and stick pins into a Colts voodoo doll we did, and hop up and down we did, and watch Tracy Porter do an amazing magic trick we did, and realize that with the time remaining in the fourth there was no way in hell the Colts could come back we did, and everyone began to yell even more.

I had told Mark earlier, “If we win this I want to see Bourbon St. explode, so I’m grabbing my coat and heading out the door.” After it was over and we had hugged and high-fived everyone in the place we left out and … it couldn’t have been more than two minutes since the game ended by the time we did all that and walked the block and a half to Bourbon, but the street was PACKED. I’ve been here for enough Mardi Gras to know how many people you can fit on Bourbon and we were near the limit. As I’m sure you’ve read by now in countless other stories, this was like no Mardi Gras or Bourbon St. anyone has ever seen. To clarify, I have seen that many human bodies on Bourbon before, but never all of them dressed in black and gold, and never all of them smiling, screaming, high-fiving, hugging, shouting, jumping, kissing, crying, and otherwise in a state of sheer ecstasy. Too often when you’re down there you’re trapped in a mass of humanity too drunk to care that they’re packed like sardines into a river of people milling about for no reason, with bland half-lidded expressions on their morose faces. But last night … there wasn’t one person in a hundred that didn’t have an enormous smile on their face.

I know I’m not from New Orleans, but I’ve done my dues and spent my time here, I’ve lived through (okay, partied through) enough Carnivals to feel that I have a good grasp on how this city celebrates, and I can absolutely positively tell you that I have never ever in my years here seen the city of New Orleans so incredibly happy. Like so many other people have said, it wasn’t so much about the Saints winning the Super Bowl as it was about New Orleans winning the Super Bowl, and it showed on the face of every person out there.

Mark and I stood in the crowd for I don’t know how long, just reveling in the waves of energy and excitement. Eventually we ducked off of Bourbon so he could grab a cigar, and I checked my phone for texts. One was from my very own mother who had just watched her first Super Bowl game ever, and it said simply, “WHO DAT?!” You’re awesome, Mom.

The other was from a friend and it said, “Molly’s?”

Having seen enough of the Bourbon St. crowd we indeed headed down to Molly’s on the far end of the Quarter. When we got there it reminded me of the traffic on Esplanade during the day – there was a serious clogged stream of people headed both into and out of the bar. I wondered if they were all just going to the back and turning around. We opted to stand outside instead, and because it was Molly’s, and this always what happens, I ended up seeing countless people I know. I realize that earlier I said I’d seen Bourbon St. as packed as it was, but I have never seen as many people on Decatur as were there last night. I can not tell you how many strangers I high-fived but it had to have been over a hundred. Literally every second (at least) someone yelled out, “WHO DAT?!” or “WHO DAT SAY DEY GONNA BEAT DEM SAINTS?! NOBODY!!” or “WE DAT!” or any other variation on the theme. For maybe twenty minutes we stood there and just watched it happen, and were occasionally dragged into it happening.

Feeling restless we headed out of the Quarter and down to Frenchmen St. where we met up with yet another of my friends. The cops on Bourbon are notorious for sitting there on horseback stone-faced and

okay I have to interrupt myself to say that I just now heard someone yell “WHO DAT?!” out in the street in front of my house. It’s still going on.

anyway the cops on Bourbon are often uninterested in engaging the crowd because, you know, they deal with drunken idiots trying to talk to them every shift that they’re out there. The cops on Frenchmen, however, were dealing with a crowd that was mainly locals, and I will not hesitate to say that I high-fived at least three of them. Mark refueled at the Apple Barrel and we stood around (and in) yet another seething mass of jubilant humanity with smiles and cheers in every direction. An empty parking lot had been appropriated by some drummers and fire dancers, and we stood there kind of shaking our heads, watching beautiful women flinging flaming fury in every direction while car horns honked and WHO DAT?!s punctuated the night. The siren call of the ‘Pizza by the Slice – Kitchen Open All Night’ sign got to be too much for some of us, and we wandered off to obtain some greasy cheesy wonderfulness. We stood eating out on the sidewalk, watching the parade of humanity go by.

At some point we realized it was well after midnight and while things certainly weren’t slowing down by any stretch of the imagination, nothing really new was cropping up either, and so we decided to call it a night. On the walk back to where we’d parked we saw the same unending stream of cars on Esplanade as before, but this time there were people crawling out windows, sitting on hoods, and shouts from every direction. I honestly felt like the entire city was made of pure Party(â„¢) and nothing could dampen my mood … not even returning to my car to find out that my magic parking spot wasn’t so magic after all. I wasn’t about to let one parking ticket get me down, though.

I couldn’t have been more proud than to wake up this morning and find out that yes, New Orleans knows how to party correctly, and no, we didn’t turn cars upside down and light buildings on fire and have crushing riots. We did the same thing we do every year – went out in the street and danced and cheered and had a good time.

I am so glad that Mark was in town to witness all this with me, and I’m so glad I chose to be down there in the Quarter before, during, and after the game. It was the biggest celebration I have ever seen, and likely the biggest that New Orleans itself has seen since the end of World War II. I’m grateful to the Saints for playing such a strong game and giving this city the victory party it’s been waiting for for 43 years.

New Orleans neighborhoods map
January 20, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: New Orleans

Hey, NOLA people and people interested in NOLA:

As you well know this city is a crazy bundle of crossed-up mishmash streets that start and end in unlikely places and probably drive the cartographers mad. I know it’s frustrating to me to make four right turns and not end up where I started. I spend a lot of time driving around New Orleans looking for things to take pictures of. When I’m out I usually know where I am, streets-wise, but have no idea where I am, neighborhoods-wise. That’s because the “official” NOLA neighborhoods have borders that could be defined as anything but regular.

Fortunately, the GNOCDC (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center) has this under control. They publish a map of neighborhood boundaries [link, .PDF] and that is pretty darned cool as well as helpful. My complaint here, though, is that the map itself doesn’t have any street names which can make it hard for me to ascertain exactly where I was, or where one neighborhood changes to the next. Likewise a PDF is not the easiest thing to scroll, zoom, or otherwise navigate.

Thank goodness for this day and age of do-it-yourselfness and the companies (and their applications) that help you out in this endeavor. I took some time to lay out the neighborhoods in Google Maps, as seen below:

View New Orleans neighborhood boundaries in a larger map

Hopefully some of you will find this helpful – the ability to zoom in and out, see street names, and so forth. Each neighborhood on the map has a link back to the GNOCDC’s community snapshot for that neighborhood. I realize that I’m linking to pre-Katrina data, but the point is to inform oneself of the neighborhood and its history, not the most up-to-date population count.

I hope you find it useful, entertaining, or both.

[caveats: I realize some of my borders are not perfect down to the foot – when one has to click every single corner of a polygon for 55 different neighborhoods one tends to be less than pixel-perfect. Also I did not do the neighborhoods on the West Bank or in New Orleans East because some of them cover many square miles of empty-ish space that I did not feel like tracing. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go back and fill them in but don’t hold your breath]

Also if you ever want to get straight to the map without visiting this blog just bookmark that there link.