Archive for June, 2008

A most awesome “Worn Again” photo set is here courtesy of Miss Malaprop. Please click through and check the whole set. Previews of my favs are below…

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…it’s only 10:09 a.m. but this is the funniest thing I’ve seen so far.

c-ray-loves-someone-else-taking-heat

Thanks Clay!

Hey CNN!

Varg here!

Hey, now that oil is the highest it has ever been, you don’t have to continue writing stories about it reaching “a new high.” See, after it eclipses the highest it has ever been, each increment after that is a “new high.” So please spare us the inevitable “Oil reaches $143 a barrel for the first time ever” headline that I am sure is lurking somewhere in the fourth dimension.

Need a story idea? Check this…

Billions for Katrina recovery awaits president’s signature

Ya heard?

Varg

P.S. I’m posting this letter and your response on my blog.

I know a few posts back I said I was for the pay raises. Now, this may seem a little confusing but I am pro recalling any Congressmen who voted themselves a pay raise. Reason? I am always for a recall. The more recalls, impeachments and resignations the better. Let the heads roll I say! Oh, and let’s come up with a new calender too!

Oh yea, the story…

Metairie Republican first in state targeted for recall effort, officials say

Lord, I hate lists. I hate ranking. I know we live in a capitalist society and it is inevitable that things get placed in order from “best” to “not quite the best.” I understand the point of recognizing a group for their achievements but, once ranks enter the picture the whole thing because snarky. You’re asking for trouble. Number 18 is fine until someone looks at number 17 and says, “Oh Jesus, we placed behind them?”

A good way to avoid this is to make a list and write across the top, “In No Particular Order.” That way, all the listees are celebrated and united, not divided.

If you were British, you may ask yourself, “What’s he on about?” And I would then point you to this:

Gambit Weekly’s Top 50 Bars

And the reason I’m all upset is that my personal favorite bar in New Orleans (and perhaps the whole damn World) was noticeably absent from the top 5, then I saw it wasn’t among the first quarter of the bars listed, then I got on through the back half of the article and still did not see it. I had to go through 49/50ths of the list before I found it…

50. Molly’s at the Market
1107 Decatur St., 525-5169

At first glance, Molly’s looks like a prototypical Irish tavern, with its worn wooden tables, tall bar stools and requisite 30-plus years of memorabilia decorating the walls. But owner Jim Monagahan Jr. has turned this Decatur Street stalwart into a destination location for revelers of all types during Halloween, Mardi Gras and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, as well as a late-night rendezvous for hipsters and their ilk after catching a show downtown.

There she was in some sort of statement-making rank at 50. One might say fiftieth best bar in New Orleans. One might say dead last among New Orleans’ best bars.

There once was a time when I wasn’t some crazy/free thinking, partially self-employed blogger and folk artist living in a local neighborhood that used to be called “Slaughterhouse Point.” Back in the early-to-mid ’90s, picture me as a bewildered visitor of New Orleans, her out-of-town boyfriend. I hailed from a place Rolling Stone once called “The most conservative city in America.” People from New Orleans call it beautiful, I called it Hell, most know it as Pensacola.

My friends and I would roll into New Orleans in Japanese two-door cars and head straight for Bourbon street where our fake IDs were useless because no one ever asked for them. We stayed four and five deep in a little motel off Tulane called the Rose Inn and it usually cost us around $30.

It didn’t take us long to discover that there was more fun happening at the end of Bourbon Street than at its front and then as a few years went by and we became more of age we ended up abandoning that part of the Quarter all-together. What drew us away from Bourbon street was refinement and Molly’s at the Market.

The bar introduced us to Lower Decatur which in turn was a corridor into the Marigny and Bywater and all the treasures within them. Many nights we would traipse back and forth between those neighborhoods, in and out of music clubs along the way.

I became so enraptured with New Orleans, we decided to move in together. I escaped Pensacola in ’97 and moved into a place Uptown. Though there were plenty of bars with people my age around my General Pershing St. apartment but I insisted on riding the streetcar to Canal St. and walking the dozen or so French Quarter blocks to Molly’s and Lower Decatur.

When I moved to California, it was my first stop when I visited. It was the first place I brought friends and my future wife.

Sure, when I moved back and lived on Bayou St. John I could be seen at Pals Lounge (#42 on Gambit’s list). Yes, I have since moved over to the Point and can sometimes be found having a Boddingtons at the Crown and Anchor (not on the list), but Molly’s will always be held in higher regard.

This is just my story though. It has nothing to do with the staff at Gambit who made the list. It shouldn’t matter to them what some guy over in the Fourth District has tucked away in his synapses as it relates to a bar. So, I do have some points to make about Molly’s and its low placement on the list.

- Does The Bulldog (#26) have the ashes of two (nee’ three) people behind the bar? Or a coffin?
- Does the Polo Club (#19) have CDs on their jukebox that have been there for (at least) a decade?
- Did Pravda (#17) stay open throughout the second battle of New Orleans?
- Does French 75 (#10) have a cat mascot who has his own MySpace page?
- Is Cooter Brown’s (#5) a testament to both the fine craftsmanship of local wood sign makers / failed French Quarter businesses?

The (mostly) sweet bartenders, the black bathrooms, the free shot of Pepto Bismol ;-) on the bathroom sink, the numerous law enforcement badges, the glorious fruit of eavesdropping, the heckling of Margaritavillians, the great spots to lock your bike, the poetic alliteration of its name, the-several-times-an-hour playing of “Lust For Life” on the jukebox – it’s all part of Molly’s own lust for life.

I could go on and on.

Molly’s if I had a list (and as I stated up front, I don’t) you’d be number 1.

And Gambit, Jim Monoghan isn’t nice to me either.

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That said, the Gambit’s list is still pretty darn good and many of my favorites included on it. Such as…

Mimi’s (#1) – The few visits of mine were filled with glee. GLEE!

Napoleon House (#2) – Drinking there, I do not feel as though I am among ghosts, I feel I AM a ghost.

D.B.A. (#6) – Don’t just drink one type of beer and make sure you catch a show, the sound in there is as soulful as the tongue-and-groove it reverberates from. For a good example of this, catch John Boutte on Saturdays.

Rivershack Tavern (#8) – Over the River and up the levee from my place but worth the trip.

Old Point Bar (#11)
- I’m a homer for this spot obviously. A superb music venue with a huge bar and it’s right up on the river. The fiancee and I like to go there on Sunday afternoons and sit serenely by the levee drinking cold ones. Late at night you can see the hook-ups happen before your very eyes.

Carousal Bar (#13)
– My mom’s favorite bar. I must admit, it is fun when you can get a bar seat. Otherwise, keep walking.

Circle Bar (#22) – What’s it like to be hip but also unpretentious? Go to the Circle Bar and find out (at least the times I went). My kind of folks here.

Saturn Bar (#23) – I haven’t been since it was cleaned up but my friends say it’s still good. But oh man, back in the day there was really nothing like it. I have pals to this day that talk about it in very sensorial tones.

Markey’s (#28) – Great spot with strong drinks, cold, cold beer and (last time I was there) free pool.

Pal’s Lounge (#42) – See remarks above but also it’s a great place to snap photos of your friends. The art and wallpaper make it look like a true New Orleans haunt. Nice folks a great little bar game and good company. I’ll always love my Pals.

Carollton Station (#47) – Home of Romy Kaye some Saturdays! Beware of the Frat House across the street though. Meatheads and Girls Gone Wild everywhere! They’ll eat your brain!

Mayfair (#48)
- Cozy atmosphere and chilled ambiance. I must say though, I have only been once but I still remember a man in there with a pink Polo shirt on with white, pleated shorts. It was as if he was playing a preppy for Halloween. Except it wasn’t close to any sort of holiday. If someone can let me know if this man and his crowd often frequent this place that would be awesome.

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Below are bars on the list that would be great but are suffering from severe cases of Collera. That is an infestation that leaves the place crawling with loud, vapid, obnoxious, barely dressed girls and the drunk boys trying to screw them. They must be smart because they are seeking higher education but no form of the intelligence shows through. See the quarantine list below…

- The Columns (#15)
- St. Joes (#21)
- The Saint (#39)

It is said that in the summer months the infestation is less severe.

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Noticeably absent from the list…

The Spotted Cat
The Crown and Anchor
Tony Seville’s Pirates’ Alley Cafe
Sugar Park Tavern
Avenue Pub

Arnie!

Hey! It’s Varg. I wrote ya a lil while back about the lights in front on Fischer homes. I just wanted to let you know that Romy and I drove past the development the other night and all the lights were back on. Tell HANO we said thanks!

Rejoice!

Varg

P.S.: I’m posting this on the blog. Sorry for the redundancy but privacy laws apply.

UPDATE: A kid was killed there today in broad daylight.

NBC’s Tim Russert dies of heart attack at 58

He was a sharp interviewer with a superb style. I’ll miss his voice and manner. He was free of punditry and spin, a fine newsman.

What Bart Said.

We should all look to politicians and elected officials as civil servants and virtually at our bidding. However, the job should pay decently. The amount they are getting as a raise I am sure pales in comparison to the amount that is funneled through shady business deals throughout their terms.

The conventional wisdom is, “Why give them what they will steal anyway?”

If there is any expectation that the officials won’t steal, they must first be adequately compensated for their (loose) service to the state. The previous salary virtually demands that the official dabble in some sort of other business enterprise and the fire-breathing starts there. It’s prudent to at least pay the legislation a wage that creates a palpable atmosphere where they shouldn’t steal any more. Greed is powerful but, at 16K a year, most expect it.

The expectation is among the first things that needs to be done away with. The foregone conclusion is that the politicians don’t deserve it and deserves really doesn’t have anything to do with it. If the expectation is that the politicians shouldn’t steal, the state should put some money down.

The politicians are the teen-agers and the citizens of Louisiana are the parents…

“Now little Billy, I have raised your allowance from $5 to $20, so I shouldn’t notice any more folding money missing from my billfold should I?”

Instead, the politicians are the disgruntled employee pilfering coffee packets as a defacto fringe benefit for his or her paltry salary.

Point taken that fiscal compensation from the state probably inspires an aspiring politician about as much as serving their constituency does. However, if the winds of change are to ever sweep through the legislature, the basic provisions for the honest officials should be in place. The state needs to do its part and say, for a double income family, 50K plus what ever your spouse makes should be enough.

Next up for them: Stiffer punishments and quicker recalls and impeachments.

Psssst. Have you heard? We’re doomed. America. It’s finished. The books are written. The articles are scripted. It’s everywhere. Liberals and conservatives agree. The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

But it isn’t.

This isn’t your grandfather’s America. That notion of it being the “greatest country in the world” isn’t so illustrious as it once was. It’s not that the country has lost status, it simply never deserved such status in the first place (no country does). Though, as countries go, this one is damn fine. Unfortunately, nobody realizes it. Everyone is too busy complaining about how its going down the tubes.

We get it. The country is not as great as it once was. But wait, hasn’t it always had challenges? People have always been broke. Government has always been corrupt. Folks have always been dumb. Perhaps instead of these problems producing a snowball effect it is simply a clearer awareness and realization of those problems?

Or perhaps it isn’t America that is falling apart as the rest of the world simply catching up? Is it really so bad? I have a car, a computer, an air conditioner (praise the lord) and a house. Yet if current newscasts or recently written books are to be believed, I am the equivalent of a Roman on the brink of his civilization’s decline – morally, spiritually and financially destitute.

Americans have always had a fascination with entropy, notice the blockbuster films of Jerry Bruckheimer and his ilk over the last decade that showed prestigious U.S. landmark’s being pulverized by meteors or aliens. One might think that after Sept. 11 these would cease but they still pop up every now and again. Conjuring up notions about the fall of America isn’t simply hypochondriac drama, it can also be quite dangerous because it deteriorates hope and fortitude, two essential building blocks of a great nation. That’s a huge difference between the Baby Boomers and the next generation. Somewhere along the way, there was a loss of hope. It could be Nixon’s fault. It could be Bush’s fault. It could be the media’s fault. It could be education’s fault. It could be because of JFK’s assassination It could be because of Sept. 11. It could be because of Viet Nam. It could be because of Iraq.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the notion really gathered moss. Certainly every generation before us has looked at the generation after and thought all was lost. But there is something adrenalized about this latest round. Perhaps it is because the country is heading into a recession. And not having money to waste always gets Americans in a tizzy. Maybe for too many years we rated our own success on how far ahead we were than the rest of the world. Like the man in the recent New Yorker cartoon who sat smugly in an empty section of first class and said, “First class is best when my friends have to ride coach.” With globalization and its effect on poorer countries (specifically, China), that cartoon takes on a worldly meaning.

There are other events that may have left us jaded: Bill Clinton lied to the American People and was impeached, health care began its descent, cable news began exploiting everything to fill a 24-hour news cycle, Election 2000 was a debacle, Katrina …it goes on. These are hard times to be sure. But they aren’t America’s end of days.

We are strong.

At some point though, it became passe to love your country. There has long been a self-loathing current running through American’s minds in the modern era but, with George Bush as its figurehead in recent years, hating America was just too easy. Think about it. Poor blacks hate America because they are broke and kept down. White racists hate America because the poor blacks get stuff for free (and the Latinos are taking over), rich folks hate it because they pay too many taxes. Liberals hate it because the corporations run everything. Conservatives hate it because there are too many minorities and gays. For many people, there is certainly a lot to hate. Unfortunately, not enough people realize they can’t change anything but themselves. They don’t know it starts with them. Rather, people will run around like Chicken Little and scream about the falling heavens rather than look within themselves. It must be ego. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Of course, no comment about the fall of America would be complete without mentioning what seems to be the real problem – an utterly absurd political system that is so eaten with the termites of greed and deception that everyone assumes a Napoleonic code when it comes to judging them. They are all assumed to be crooked and have hidden agendas (or at least suspected of them). This isn’t just South Louisiana either.** It happens in every city, county state and federal government all the way up the President George himself.

Thing is, the politicians are our fault as well. We have gotten to the point where we have learned helplessness. Nobody expects anything but lawlessness from them. No one is demanding faster impeachments, quicker recalls and loud, forceful calls for resignations. At some point between the Clinton and Bush administrations, the shame of a political blunder became shrouded (by downplaying the wrongdoing in Clinton’s case, by spinning it in Bush’s). The politicians aren’t vulnerable. Not enough anyway. They might wrangle among themselves but when it comes between them and the people, the partisanship will be amazing. Is 14 months in Federal prison really such a punishment if there are eight people whom you made rich waiting to offer you a private sector job at its conclusion? That’s shorter than college.

The reason politics is relevant to American entropy is because many times this nation’s psyche is reflected in its president – the turbulent ’60s fallowing Kennedy’s assassination, the materialism and bland pop culture of ’80s via Reagan and the paranoid distrust of the new millennium’s Bush White House.

Now the nation faces an election between an inspiring junior senator candidate running on hope and a four-term conservative senator from Arizona. Logic would suggest, in light of America’s perceived state of decay, the choice would be obvious. But what if it’s all just Chicken Little? The more our current state is perceived to be falling apart, the greater the likelihood of someone voting for the “change” candidate.

Now I have seen a lot of press friendly to Barack Obama. There is probably not a single edition of Rolling Stone printed in the last year that doesn’t glowingly mention him within the first few pages. He is currently running an advertisement on CNN.com. Most media loves him. Any article, book or notion that America is going the way of the Roman Empire only behooves his campaign.

Unfortunately for the point I was trying to make, he really is the better candidate. So far. But four years is a long time (eight years is even longer) so if he begins to change horses mid stream we will all be along for the ride. And after the last eight years with George Bush, we know how bumpy the ride can get.

Until then, it should be at least understood that the sky isn’t falling. Yes, its cloudy but that’s it. High gas prices won’t kill us. They might makes us smarter though.

Skyscrapers in Dubai or China compared to (as our mayor said) “a hole in the ground” in New York aren’t symbols of anything grandiose one way or the other. It isn’t (and I don’t want to overuse this phrase) a zero sum game. Wealth can be distributed. Our situation doesn’t need “have nots.” It doesn’t make me unpatriotic that I revel in the rise of other nations. It’s unpatriotic to herald the fall of our own and blame our own countrymen for it. To sit your ass in an easy chair complaining about the evening news and hating your neighbor.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for pointing out the errors and missteps in our culture. I’m saying, yes, we get the point. America isn’t realizing its potential. It’s a torn and divided country. I just wonder how much good the incessant bitching is doing. Folks seem content to sit in their Barcaloungers and complain as their form of protest. We understand the malcontent. The stage is set. The drama is: What are we going to do about it?

* This post was partially inspired by this Dan Carlin Podcast (MP3). Especially what he says around the 11 minute mark.

** The reason Louisiana gets so much attention is because folks like to point their fingers and say “that’s where it’s really screwed up.” This helps them swallow the pill that convinces them their politicians are on the up-and-up.

The fiancee and I caught Clint Maedgen and Strings at the Ogden last night. It was a great show with an interview in the middle by Allison Fensterstock* between tiny sets. We love string instruments. I realize that Nola is a brass city and, lord do I love trumpets and sousas, but there is something about bowed strings that reaches deep down into the ethereal soul of a human.

A huge highlight of the evening for me was a rendition of the Jane’s Addiction song “Summertime Rolls.” This tune was overplayed in the cassette deck of my Honda Prelude many consecutive nights in the early ’90s. It later came to reach a “don’t even look at it” status due to the chords and melodies becoming too intertwined with the glorious moments and youthful zeitgeist I endured with it as the soundtrack. So I had to shelve it so later listening would not interfere with the synapses in that cavern of my mind connecting THAT song with THOSE events.

My fiancee thinks I am crazy for this but there are many CDs that I will only listen to every few years in a nostalgic mood because if I listen once to often, the connection in my head might switch to the later event and I will lose that rush of emotion that connects the song to previous experience. I understand this is sort of a kooky concept but I swear by it and I know I have read some science that backs it up.

Anyway, back on track, Clint sang it with just him and vibraphonist Mike Dillon and it was damn sublime, the original, stripped down, melodic bass line was replaced with soothing vibraphone and serene vocals bouncing off the stark and open foyer of the Ogden, man, it was a joy. The ecstasy of the original was matched and, since it wasn’t a cassette deck but a live performance, even surpassed.

Video is below. Enjoy.

* Who I noticed also has an article on Al Green in a recent issue of Paste. Try to get past the Scarlett Johansson feature where she opines about how Barack Obama, Bob Dylan and others are her surrogate fathers and just read about Rev Al and the other great stories in that issue.