treading water, not literally

We got very lucky in the recent flooding; or maybe “lucky” is not the right word: the first house my parents bought when they moved back to south Louisiana was twice destroyed in hurricanes. They had to strip it down to studs and rebuild it after Rita, and when the exact same thing happened in Ike, my mother went “eff this” and they moved. They looked at elevation very carefully when they looked for that 2nd house.

There was flooding all around us, including in town (we live outside the city limits of Abbeville) and we were kind of stuck in our immediate neighborhood during the weekend, and I couldn’t get to work on Monday or Tuesday because the bridges over the Vermilion were closed and LA-14 was under water. But we were fine, I’ve seen more water in the ditches and on the lawns during the average summer thunderstorm. The worst thing we had to deal with was a dog that hates to poop in the rain.

I spent most of the time watching movies on the MST3K YouTube channel and doing cross stitch, finishing two projects:

mori

(The text is my own addition, I found the alphabet by Googling “backstitch alphabet”, here’s a link if you’re interested.)

muffuletta

And I got started on a big project, a copy of the original 1723 map of New Orleans, the pattern is by the same woman who did the hurricane tracking map of the Gulf of Mexico that I did for Mom a few years ago. I’m doing it on 18-count as opposed to over 2 squares of 28 count (so 14, essentially), so the finished project won’t be as large, but the pattern is just as big, so I expect that will occupy me for at least the rest of the year.

Other than that, I’m just waiting for summer to end. I have my October vacation all planned, I’m spending a week in Galveston and renting a studio apartment (via Airbnb) that’s a block from the beach. To say I’m looking forward to it is a massive understatement.

Another weekend on the River Road

Specifically, LA-44.

In my never-ending quest to go to all of the festivals in Louisiana at least once (or at least, the ones that I think sound interesting), on Saturday I went to Frisco Fest, at the San Francisco Plantation in Garyville. I’ve been to the plantation before; in fact, a photo that I took of it is the header image I use for my Facebook page. Frisco Fest is a local arts and crafts festival, and I always like to what my fellow artists are making. I left with 3 bottles of fruit wine (made in Independence, LA), a set of embroidered flour sack dishcloths (made in Metairie, LA), and a pottery ikebana vase (made in Gonzales, LA). I was so impressed with the quality of the goods being sold that I talked Mom into going on Sunday.

Then I drove a little ways down the road to the remains of Tezcuco Plantation, built in 1855 and destroyed by fire in 2002. These are just cell shots but I also took some film shots.

Tezcuco Plantation

Okay yeah, I totally hopped the fence. It’s like knee-high and there are 2-foot gaps around several trees, how could I resist?

Tezcuco Plantation

Tezcuco Plantation

Tezcuco Plantation

Tezcuco Plantation

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Vacation #2: Windsor Ruins, B&W

This is slightly expired Fuji Neopan shot in my wide angle Vivi Ultra W&S knock-off. I shot this combo for the first time last spring and loved it, and this is a good subject for a wide angle lens anyway.

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

This is the last batch of vacation photos, but 2016 is already shaping up to be a busy travel year. I’ve got Krewe of Muses (already booked my Airbnb accommodation for that) and the Little Rock pen show in February; back to Lynchburg for the Monacan powwow in either April or May (they won’t commit to exact dates until it’s a bit closer); and at some point during the year I hope to spend some more time on Dauphin Island. I’ll probably do the Dallas pen show again, too.

My hopefuls for 2017 are FINALLY going to Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri, and visiting my brother in Chicago (during the Chicago pen show), if he’s still there and if his crazy boyfriend will simmer down long enough.

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Le Feu et L’Eau

Fire & Water is a local arts festival in Arnaudville that I went to on Saturday. It was an absolutely gorgeous day: low humidity, sunny, about 72 degrees. It’s put on by NUNU Arts & Culture Collective, which was started about 10 years ago by the painter George Marks, when he moved back to Arnaudville from Baton Rouge. It’s a small town, I don’t think there’s even 1,500 residents, and it had been slowly sliding away since the 1960s. But if you go there now, there are galleries and studios and a couple of really good restaurants and the Bayou Teche Brewery. You can buy some art or watch a demo or even take a class.

I really enjoyed the show and seeing what other artists in my area are up to. There was a little bit of everything: painting, pottery, quilting, mosaics, poetry and short stories. And photography; John Slaughter had a table, and there was someone doing tintype portraits (which I had done a few years ago). I bought a copy of John’s new book, a collection of photos of Catahoula hounds, the Louisiana state dog. They are some gorgeous photos, I really admire people who can photograph animals. He was nice enough to sign it for me, too.

CatahoulaWEB

I picked up some information about joining; I let my membership to NOPA lapse a couple of years ago because I just felt like I wasn’t getting anything out if it. I live too far away from New Orleans to really be involved in that arts community, which took me a while to come to terms with because I do love the city and it has given me some amazing photos that I am truly proud of. However, I have no desire to live there full-time; I’m just not a city person and I never was. The planning meetings for NOPA were always on weeknights, and even though the workshops were usually on a Saturday I rarely went because I’d have to get up at like 5:00 in the morning to be there on time.

So long story short, I’ve been looking for a more local arts community to join. NOPA had the advantage of being focused entirely on photography, but it was just too far away. Lafayette has a similar group, but their website says their focus is specifically on digital photography, which doesn’t make me feel like I’d be welcome. I’m not going to decide anything until the new year, but an artist’s membership is just $25 annually, so it does seem like I could try it and not be out too much if it doesn’t work out for me.

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Vacation #1

(I’m also taking the first week of November off, hence the “#1”.)

I took the last full week of September off and spent several days at my parents’ condo on Dauphin Island, Alabama. While it was hotter than I’d hoped it would be, it still provided some much-needed peace and quiet so I could recharge my batteries. I would go down to the beach in the evening and watch the sunset, and I went into Mobile one day, but a great deal of the time was spent reading on the balcony or in quiet shaded spots on the island, and drinking lots of cheap pink box wine.

It wasn’t a photography-heavy vacation (the next one will be), but of course I took a few shots with my cell phone.

v formation and sunset

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre.

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre

I tried to tour Bellingrath Gardens, but it was just too hot. There was usually a breeze on the island, but the gardens were too far inland, and there wasn’t ANY air moving among all those plants and trees. I got about 1/3 of the way in, then had a gardener take me back to the gift shop in her golf cart.

Mermaid fountain, Bellingrath Gardens, AL

Magnolia Cemetery was one of the things I saw in Mobile. It was raining, so I just drove around (it’s one of those cemeteries) and shot some photos out of my car window. That was the only rainy day we had, and it stopped around 1:00, not bad.

Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL

I also had fried catfish and hushpuppies (THE iconic food of Alabama, like gumbo in Louisiana) at Wintzell’s Oyster house, strolled around Dauphin Street (Mobile’s answer to Bourbon Street, but much nicer, honestly–not as tacky and sleazy). I found a fun used bookstore called Bienville Books.

I came home on Thursday morning, spent one night at home, then got up early to drive to Texas for the Dallas Pen Show. It was MUCH bigger than the Little Rock show, the only other one I’ve been to, and I found my two wish list items and then some:

dallas pen show

The pen that looks orange but is actually red is a Pilot Vanishing Point, a “clickable” fountain pen. It’s got a stub nib. I love Pilots and have more of them in my collection than any other brand; I’ve wanted a VP but I wanted to see if I could find a used one to keep the price under $100. I just made it with this one at $95, it’s a few years old but was never used and came in the box. (A brand new base-model VP usually retails for $140.)

The pen beneath that is a Parker Duofold and it’s kind of a weird one so I decided it had to come home with me. It’s a Victory but apparently this particular color/shape was only made for the UK market. It’s a button-fill but it’s old enough to predate the distinctive arrow-shaped clip that Parker started using in the early 1930s (at least on American pens), and it’s got a 14k oblique nib.

Those were my two wish list items, but I had some money left in the budget, so I also got a 1960s NOS Japanese desk pen (some no-name brand, kind of a Pilot knock-off) and some ink. I went about $25 over budget when all was said and done, but I can live with that.

Oh, and I also got to eat a cheeseburger at In N’ Out Burger.

In N' Out cheeseburger

Well! Last month was certainly newsworthy.

SCOTUS both upheld Obamacare and told same sex marriage opponents to take their Bibles and go home, medical marijuana was approved in Louisiana, the asshole who co-wrote Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill is going on trial for crimes against humanity, and I BOUGHT A NEW CAR.

Untitled

Well okay, it’s not BRAND new, but it’s newer by far than anything else I’ve ever owned. It’s a 2014 Nissan Sentra with less than 31,000 miles on it. I bought it from Enterprise, which I did research on and is a totally solid way to get a great deal on car that’s only a year or two old. Brand new cars are a waste of money, anyway. I didn’t get a great interest rate, because I’m basically a ghost when it comes to finances (never had a credit card or owned anything I didn’t buy outright), but they took a chance on me because I made such a large down payment (about 1/3 of the total price), and I can re-finance with my bank in 6-8 months. The car’s new enough that I can get a car loan and not just a shady unsecured loan.

I bought this steering wheel cover last week:

Untitled

YAYISS

So now that I can stop saving literally every penny, I’m making some travel plans. I took 2 days off in February for Muses (although I wound up coming in to work that Saturday), and that’s it other than a few 3-day weekends. I’m in desperate need of relaxation, and I have 10 days of vacation I’m going to lose if I don’t use them by the end of the year, not counting some days around Christmas that I already have on the calendar.

I’m taking the last full week in September off, I’m going to stay at the ‘rents condo in Dauphin Island, Alabama for a few days. That will be a good time for it, the weather will have started to cool down and the kids will be back in school. Then I’m coming home for one night, and driving to Dallas the next morning for the Dallas Pen Show. I’ll stay overnight–I found a great Airbnb listing, it’s a loft space with its own bathroom, the family lives downstairs–and come back the next day.

And then I’m taking the first week in November off. That’s still in the planning stages, but on the 1st I’m most likely going to the town of Lacombe, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. There are a lot of cemeteries in that town that still practice traditional grave lighting on All Saint’s night, and I really want to get some photographs of that. I’ll stay overnight, either in the area or in New Orleans, and then I’m going to Mississippi for a couple of days. I want to explore Union Church, which is the first place my Galbreath ancestors lived in Mississippi before moving on to McComb, and I might go as far as Yazoo City. I’ll probably stay in Natchez while I’m there, I really like that town.

Patronize me

Have you ever dreamed of patronizing the arts, like some kind of badass Renaissance prince? Well, you’re in luck, because I just launched my Patreon. Pledge anywhere from $20 – $500 a month (why dream small, amirite?) and receive rewards such as prints, glass photos, and photo books. I also have specific goals listed, and a sneak peek at my currently in-the-works book project, Saints of Louisiana.

I’ve been wandering

I had planned another road trip this spring, to the Missouri Ozarks. But then my car up and died—it had over 180,000 miles on it, and the problem was actually fixable but not worth the money it would cost—so I had to go into money-saving mode. I don’t want car payments taking a huge bite out of my paycheck for the next several years, so I want to pay for half of a new car in cash and get a loan from my bank for the rest. Well, “new” in the sense that it’s new to me; the plan is to get a Toyota or similar with about 30,000 miles on it from Enterprise.

So I’ve been scratching my photography itch by going out on day trips any Saturday that isn’t a semi-tropical monsoon. The Ozarks will be just as beautiful—more so, even—in autumn.

These are just cell phone shots, I have film out for development.

Leeville Cemetery

A cemetery in Leeville so close to the water (that’s a shrimp boat in the background) that it had to be cemented over to keep the graves from washing away in a storm surge.

Holy Mary Shrine

A roadside shrine in Golden Meadow that I photographed for my Saints of Louisiana project (which I am starting to fear will never be completed).

Adam's Fruit Stand

Adam’s Fruit Stand in Matthews.

Cemetery in Cade, LA

A cemetery in Cade that I stumbled across while driving from New Iberia to Lafayette.

Sailing

Sailboats on Lake Pontchartrain sailing past the New Canal Lighthouse, the last functioning lighthouse in Louisiana.

Maison de Reprise

The “Maison de Reprise” of Laura Plantation in Vacherie. I just photographed it from the parking lot, but I’m having the next meetup there.

Tomb of Valcour Aime

Upside-down torch detail on the original tomb of Valcour Aime (his remains have since been moved to New Orleans) in St. James. Aime was a sugar planter who was so rich he is sometimes called “The Louis XIV of Louisiana”. Google him, he was a fascinating man.

Sugarcane field

Sugarcane field in Vacherie.

Saint Amico Chapel

The Saint Amico Chapel in Donaldsonville.

IMG_20150411_142013_840

And the latest edition to my collection, purchased last weekend at the semi-annual sale at the Old Schoolhouse Antiques mall in Washington. I have a soft spot for Brownies.

Krewe of Muses 2015: Are you there, God? It’s us, Muses.

That was actually the title of their theme, in honor of their 15th year. Muses, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in years past, is an all-female krewe whose coveted signature throw are shoes that have been decorated with glitter, feathers, and beads. It’s the one parade that I’ve been to every year since I moved to Louisiana (barring the first year, 2010, because I arrived about 10 days after Mardi Gras). It’s actually kind of my Carnival season highlight, as I have zero desire to deal with the insanity of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or even Lafayette. I don’t even get the day off where I work now, because our customers/vendors are all over the world.

I was hugely disappointed to discover that Muses is apparently now drawing large enough crowds to require crowd control barriers all the way down St. Charles Street, where in the past they’ve always been limited to the intersection with Canal Street and maybe the first block down. This makes it harder to catch the throws, particularly when it’s as windy as it was on Thursday night. I know, I KNOW parades are not just about the throws. But the throws are what makes you an active participant in the parade, and not just a passive observer watching it roll/march by. It’s not about having the plastic beads and old shoes, which no one actually needs. It’s about catching them, and there’s something just sad about watching them fall short into the street.

Plus, the barriers kept me from catching another shoe. I KNOW she was aiming for me, we made eye contact, and some total douchecanoe threw his arms in my face and snatched it away. Fuck that asshole and I hope he dies a slow and lingering death of testicular cancer. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a barrier, because she could have dropped it right into my hands–which is how I got my shoe last year. I was at the start of the parade route last year, around Magazine Street, and I may try going back to that next year. It’s a more residential area and hopefully they won’t have barriers up.

Maybe I’ll try to find Airbnb accommodation in the area, instead of staying in an Uptown hotel. In the past I stayed at the Iberville Suites, but when I went to make my reservation the first week of January, they were charging over $600 a night! I about fell out of my chair. It’s expected for hotels, especially if they’re near big parade routes, to jack up their fares a bit during Carnival season, but that was more than 3 times what I’ve paid in the past. Totally ridiculous. I wound up staying at the Astor Crowne Plaza; they didn’t offer a free breakfast, but the room service breakfast I ordered did not cost $500, so I still saved money. Un-fucking-believable. It was so NOISY, though; my room was on the 2nd floor facing Canal Street, and all night it was police sirens and people yelling and cars blasting hip-hop. I don’t think I got more than 20 minutes of sleep at a stretch, until it finally quieted down around 4:00… for about 2 1/2 hours.

Anyway, I don’t want to imply that the parade sucked or I didn’t have fun. Muses were amazing as they always are, and I actually did catch a respectable amount of non-shoe throws. I’m sure the fact that I did a sign this year helped. I spent weeks mulling over possible phrases, before settling on “Throw me something Muses-ter!”. (“Throw me something mister” is a traditional phrase that’s shouted at the krewes.) I did a Google Image search for each letter in the phrase, printed out one I thought looked interesting, cut them out, and glued them onto a piece of posterboard. Except for “Muses”, I used their logo. I was pleased with the result, which was fun-looking and big enough to read from a distance without being too large to easily hold. I gave away most of what I caught, to kids that were behind me and also to a couple from Chicago I got to talking to that were at their first parade. I just kept a few things that I didn’t already have from past parades.

I didn’t have any concrete plans for my Friday in New Orleans, other than eating at Elizabeth’s and avoiding the French Quarter. My first stop was Valence Street Cemetery, which was satisfyingly old and decayed, all crumbling tombs and busted wall vaults.

open wall vault

Society tomb

Then I explored the Holy Cross neighborhood a little bit, and took some photos of the Steamboat Houses on Egania Street.

Steamboat House (color effect)

Steamboat House

Then I had lunch at Elizabeth’s (fried chicken livers with pepper jelly, fried eggs and country potatoes), did some shopping at F&F Botanica (dressed Steady Work candles, Road Opener Oil, Fortune Incense), and by then I was feeling the effects of standing all night and getting about 3 hours of sleep, so I headed home.

Mystic Krewe of Barkus: Bark Wars

I have this thing where every year I try to go to one festival I haven’t been to before (this year I’m reallyreallyreally hoping that can be the Los Isleños Fiesta in St. Bernard Parish, which I always seem to miss), and every Mardi Gras I try to go to one parade I haven’t been to before. Last year was Krewe de Vieux, and this year I went to Krewe of Barkus. It was yesterday, and they had ridiculously good weather for it in New Orleans, sunny and about 72 degrees.

I didn’t get very many good photos. I could kick myself because I aaaaalmost brought my old digital camera, even started to put fresh batteries in it, then thought nah, I’ll just use my cell phone, this isn’t going to be “art” and it will be one less thing to carry. Well, my phone picked yesterday afternoon to act like a toddler not getting its way. The camera function kept crashing; or the focus would get all weirdly shallow and focus on the wrong thing. Like the crowd behind the parade would be in focus instead of the dogs, or a dog’s paws would be in focus but its face wouldn’t. And almost everything came out blurry, that camera usually has better action capture. It’s not like anything was moving fast. I deleted about 2/3 of the photos I took and wound up with less than 20 worth keeping. Oh well, just means I need to go back next year, right?

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Barkus’ human handlers must include a small army of discreet pooper scoopers; I didn’t notice any scooping but I walked back to my car along their route and I didn’t see any dog poop either.

I didn’t want to try to drive back through the French Quarter, which was a madhouse getting into–there were like 8 parades happening yesterday–so I decided to skirt the worst of by going down North Peter and getting on the freeway via Elysian Fields. Which I realized would take me past Island of Salvation Botanica, where I haven’t been in… gosh, I think it’s been a couple of years now. I just haven’t been hanging out in the Marigny, I guess. So I checked my phone and it looks like they’ve expanded their hours, they’re now open 7 days a week and even until 6:00 on Sunday.

The place has gotten a little more commercial, everything was slightly overpriced, and it even sells “Voodoo Dolls”, which I know they know is not actually A Thing, but it’s something tourists like to see. I didn’t see as many of Sallie Ann Glassman’s own oils, and the ones I did see had gone from 1 ounce to 1/2 ounce bottles–but the prices were still the same. I can’t really complain, because I know a lot of that money is going to the restoration of the city and the neighborhood–there were a couple of buildings I noticed that had businesses in them that were empty shells the last time I was there–but I think I will be buying most of my spiritual supplies from F&F Botanica when I’m in NOLA from now on.

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