Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Weekend in New Orleans

I just got back from a little visit with Brigid down in New Orleans! I had never been there before, but it's a place I've always wanted to see, so it's super exciting that one of my children actually lives there. Brigid works full time, teaching, so when I arrived last Thursday morning, I was on my own for a bit. (Jon stayed home. With our work schedules, his speaking engagements, and the needs of the dogs, it is increasingly difficult to travel together.)

As much as I love solo travel, I really hate driving in an unfamiliar city, and since I arrived before the check-in time at my hotel, I drove straight from the airport to a museum, partly to view the exhibits, but also to get my feet on the ground and have a chance to get oriented. There are many museums in New Orleans and I chose the National World War II museum, at Brigid's recommendation. (Bonus, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it turned out to be within walking distance of my hotel.) I'd say this museum is a must for anyone who is interested in the American experience in WWII. Exhibits cover everything from domestic life during wartime, to military uniforms, weapons, and many artifacts of all kinds. Particularly well done were the short informational films that played on loop, in various places throughout the museum. Of course I remember learning about the major events of the war in school, but these films, made up of actual footage from the time, really expanded my knowledge of and brought to life the raid on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the development of the first nuclear bomb. (Indeed, the short film about the Trinity Test - when we blew up a plutonium bomb in the New Mexico desert - was so compelling I sat through it twice and would have watched it a third time, but I felt like I'd hogged the bench for too long.) It was also a shock to see the displays of nazi symbols and regalia, as these are no longer just exhibits in a museum, but had been worn openly by the terrorists who invaded my city.

A typical WWII-era kitchen exhibit

I spent a lot of time in the domestic exhibit. :)
Please forgive the terrible quality of these pictures.


I drove to Brigid's house in mid-city and we walked along the bayou and then had dinner at a delightful mid-eastern restaurant, 1,000 Figs. We shared the spectacular felafel platter and a dish of spiced lamb hummus.

Empty plinth in mid-city where there used to be a confederate monument.


Friday was very bad, as I was sick the whole day. I'd had a bad headache after landing the day before and even cut short my visit to the WWII museum because I wasn't feeling well. I rallied in the evening after Brigid gave me some ibuprofen, but Friday I felt awful. I did manage to walk to a nearby pharmacy on St. Charles Avenue and buy ibuprofen and ginger ale. Back in the hotel, I spent the day throwing up and sleeping, just like when I went to Buffalo in August. I'm starting to think that flying must be triggering migraines because I'm never sick so it's weird that I would become so very sick whenever I fly and there are all sorts of articles on google about protracted air sickness and flying-induced migraines.

Saturday morning, still somewhat shaky, I ventured into my hotel's cheerful, sunny dining room and had a piece of toast and some coffee and felt amazingly better almost at once. My hotel (actually a bed & breakfast) was the Creole Gardens, set in an 1840's house and outbuildings around a courtyard.  Based on the conversations I overheard in the dining room, many of the guests were French. It's a beautiful building, located on the edge of the Garden district and very close to the famous St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. (Hint: I discovered when buying the ibuprofen that you can buy passes for the streetcar at Walgreens, which is handy because the ticket machines on the streetcar itself don't give change. A single ticket is $1.50 and a 24 hour pass is $3.00.)

Brigid and I strolled around the French Quarter, looking in art galleries and shops and we visited St. Louis Cathedral, where I lit a candle in thanks for my returned health.


One fun feature of the French Quarter is the street poets!

This poet must have gone off to get a hot drink. It was freezing!
Brigid's friend Zaq wrote me a poem about "resistance."




We had filled crepes for lunch at Cafe Conti in the French Quarter. After lunch we went to the Bywater neighborhood and walked to the "end of the world," a levy along the Mississippi, busy with industrial shipping. Brigid tells me that it's slated to become the launch point of a future Disney cruise, so the End of the World is at the end of its world. :(





We walked to The Sneaky Pickle, a vegan restaurant on St. Claude Street for hot tea and a snack. (New Orleans has so many great restaurants! I wouldn't have known what to choose but Brigid is familiar with lots of great places.) We poked around in a used book store, The Rubber Library, and I bought a vintage Duncan Hines cookbook and an old copy of Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore LappĂ©. 

The Rusty Rainbow



After that, we stopped in a bar for a glass of wine and a chance to look at our books and then walked over the "rusty rainbow" a humpbacked bridge over the railroad tracks and viewed the New Orleans skyline. 


Brigid sews costumes from assorted old garments and some of them were to be exhibited at the "Sustainaball" an event sponsored by Grow On, a community urban farming and sustainability organization. 



The back of a cloak Brigid made

Since it was Second Saturday and there were gallery shows going on everywhere, we went to a show at a ceramics gallery, where I couldn't resist buying this:


We finished the night with a late dinner of po'boys at the Parkway in mid-city. Goodness this post is getting long. I think I'll save the rest of the trip for a second installment.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Books of 2017 Part 3



The Innocent Traveler by Ethel Wilson (1980) Saga of several generations of a Victorian family who eventually emigrate to Canada. Mostly focuses on the free spirited Topaz, the old-maid, eccentric aunt.

The Friendly Young Ladies by Mary Renault (1944) A young girl runs away from home in search of her disgraced older sister.

The Golden Door by A. A. Gill (2011) Essays about America by a brit. One essay, depicting a cruel experiment performed by Thomas Edison (who was a monster, by the way) really put me off the whole book. Don't read this if you love elephants. Or skip that essay. Much thoughtful material though.

In Spite of all Terror by Hester Burton (1968) A children's book about the rescue from Dunkirk in early WW II.

The Proper Place by O. Douglas (1929) An aristocratic family faces reduced financial circumstances, sells the family estate and settle in a small fishing village in Scotland.

The Brandons by Angela Thirkell (1939) I've read so many Thirkell novels that their plots are starting to run together. This is one of her typical comedy of manners.

The Country Life Cookery Book by Ambrose Heath (1937) Vintage British cookbook. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I intend to.

The Sun in Scorpio by Margery Sharp (1965) This was one of my favorites of the year. A family living on Malta must return to England because of WW I. This book follows the misadventures of the family's younger daughter who can't thrive in the dreary northern climate.


Frost in May by Antonia White (1933) Young Nanda Gray, whose family recently converted to Catholicism, is sent to a select Catholic boarding school for girls. I believe this novel is autobiographical and there is much in it that will resonate with those of us who had a Catholic education.

The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857) Brilliant and readable biography. Gaskell knew Bronte personally.

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell (1940) One of Thirkell's recurring themes is people falling in love with the wrong person. But everything's always sorted out in the end.

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope (1880) The last of the Palliser novels. Not even being the Duke of Omnium will protect you from young adult children who behave like dumbasses.

The Day of Small Things by O. Douglas (1930) Continuation of the story from The Proper Place, mentioned above.


Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (1946) Satisfying novel that repudiates social conventions and also explores the consequences (not all bad, eventually) of a terrible decision, made in one's youth. Was made into a move, called The Forbidden Street. Anyone seen it?

Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell (1941) Oh dear, the War has come to Barsetshire. I thought this one was better than her average.

My Sister Eileen by Ruth McKenney (1938) The funny adventures and misadventures of two American girls.

Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner (1999) Memoir of a young girl growing up in Lewiston, NY, a small village just north of Niagara Falls. I loved this because Catherine herself is a precocious and amazing character, but also because I recognized so many local landmarks and names and also the overpowering sense of danger and attraction that comes from being close to Niagara Falls. I will be reading the second book soon, about Gildiner's teenage years in Amherst, NY which is the actual town where I grew up.

A Woman's Walks by Lady Colin Campbell (1903) Travel essays. I have to be honest and say, these were ho-hum to me.

Mama Makes up her Mind by Bailey White (1993) Essays about an eccentric southern family. Funny at first, but a bit tiresome by the end.

The Silver Thorn by Hugh Walpole (1928) I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. This was my first Walpole, but I think I'll be reading more of him.

Forever Chic by Tish Jett (2013) A book about fashion and beauty for the over-40 crowd.

Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp (1944) Cluny has been raised by her plumber uncle, since the death of her mother. The fact that she "looks like she's somebody" leads her into some unusual escapades. Was also a movie! Margery Sharp really raked in the movie deals, didn't she?

Northbridge Rectory by Angela Thirkell (1942) A small English village continues to grapple with life during wartime. This might be my favorite Thirkell to date.

& Sons by David Gilbert (2013) A group of sons is summoned by their father, after his closest friend dies. I had a hard time liking this one, partly because the narrator isn't very likable.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey (1930) Takes place on a single blustery day in March, in which the bride is somewhat ambivalent. Was made into a movie, but I haven't seen it yet.


Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose (2017) Inspired by Mrs. Dalloway; chronicles a single day in Johannesburg, in which Nelson Mandela dies and a woman plans a birthday party for her mother. Uncomfortable reading for an American in the Trump era. We're bad enough, but see what happens to unarmed POC here. (I'm not sure if this one is available in the US yet. I got mine from Amazon UK)


The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp (1937) How amusing that the final book of the year turned out to be the best! Julia Packett is perhaps no better than she should be, but she shows true moral courage in trying to prevent her daughter from marrying a bounder. (I haven't yet seen the film version - Julia Misbehaves. If you've seen it, let me know if it's good!)


Monday, January 08, 2018

Books of 2017 - Part Two


The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain (1934) I thought this would be about a housewife having an affair with the postman, and it wasn't. It is about an extramarital affair, though.

Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940) Funny and beautifully written novel about a young girl growing up in London.

The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope (1876) Fifth of the Palliser novels.


One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens (1937) Hilarious memoir about Dickens' experiences working as a cook-general in various households in England.

The Fortunes of Harriette by Angela Thirkell (1936) I was surprised that this turned out to be a biography of Harriette Wilson, a regency era courtesan. (I was expecting another Barsetshire novel.) Honestly, don't kill yourself trying to track this one down.

Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge (1933) Lovely novel about a young family in England, mostly in the WWI era.

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell (1947) Tedious novel about a young law student who takes a temporary job teaching the summer term at a boys' boarding school. Important to read for Thirkell fans, though, because it introduces you to characters who will figure prominently in her later novels.

Scenes from Provincial Life by William Cooper (1950) I had the odd impression that this book wasn't what I'd intended to read at all and that there's a different book by the same title that was what I really meant to read. Anyway, it's a sort of autobiography of a young teacher and his romantic misadventures.


Portrait of Elmbury, Brensham Village, The Blue Field by John Moore (1945 - 1948) These make up the Brensham Trilogy, a series about a town and nearby villages in England, before, during, and just after WW II.

Pink Sugar by O. Douglas (1924) Cozy novel about a fortunate young woman settling into a small village in Scotland.

The Innocents by Margery Sharp (1972) A mother who refuses to accept that there might be something wrong with her daughter, leaves her in the care of an elderly woman for the duration of WWII. This woman, though undoubtedly the best caregiver for the little girl, seems to be an unreliable narrator, which adds a slight edge of creepiness to the story.


The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon (1955) A children's book of very imaginative short stories.


Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell (1938) British comedy of manners and romance. Rather better than other Thirkell novels I'd read to this point.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2017) One of those bullshit books trying to capitalize on a trend. Don't waste your money.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011) Essays on all aspects of womanhood. Very funny and I also learned that if a shoe comes in yellow, you should buy it in that color.


Olivia in India by O. Douglas (1912) Charming and funny epistolary novella about a young woman's trip to India.

I'm going to finish up the list in a third post.