Monthly Archives: February 2009

Pot Roast

February 28, 2006, was Mardi Gras. It had been a stellar weekend and I posted three times that day: A Cinza das Horas, Demander la Charité, and Lundi Gras (this was originally posted February 27).

This evening I almost turned into a pot roast because one of my tires blew out on a busy bridge over the Mississippi River, as I was driving uphill in heavy traffic at 60 miles per hour. It was very dangerous and most harrowing, although I will say that it afforded me the otherwise unavailable opportunity of contemplating beautiful nighttime views of Baton Rouge while standing in the middle of this shoulderless bridge.

Fortunately I had made a real pot roast. To do it, I first drizzled the meat on all sides with olive oil and placed it in a cast iron pot. I doused it with a half cup of good cooking vinegar. I added a large can of tomatoes, a small onion, finely chopped, and a half a head of garlic, peeled. I simmered it quietly for a long time — at least three hours.

As the meat got closer to done, I added one Anaheim chile and three carrots, sliced lengthwise, three leeks, thinly sliced, four medium sized red and yellow potatoes, halved, two yellow crookneck squashes, thinly sliced, and one bunch of parsley, finely chopped.

I corrected the seasoning and removed the pot from the fire. I added one bunch of spinach and covered the pot, so that the spinach wilted. I stirred it gently and served with additional olive oil and balsamic vinegar as condiments.

Axé.

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Piano Lesson

It is no longer Carnival time, but it is the weekend, so we will sing! This song contains a piano lesson.

We will not sing the song I heard on the radio while driving, by a famous singer from the fifties, in which the speaker said he had told his driller he was quitting, but his driller knew he would be back This song was very macho and Republican, with a refrain saying something like “Ten days on, four days off, make good money, then have a ball,” and I heard it after spending several hours in a venue where people were discussing the survival gardens they are going to plant because Barack Obama is instituting socialism.

I have also been informed recently that many slaves would have preferred to remain in slavery, so that Emancipation was actually oppression. It reminded me of what I was told in Brazil long ago, that the Movimento Negro Unificado had been foisted onto Afro-Brazilians by Jesse Jackson.

Yes, it is clearly the fault of the Yankees, I said then. They have cast a spell on the head of your T-Neg and now the poor soul imagines he would like to be free. We used to say that back home, too, but those Yankee Negroes no longer allow us to speak God’s truth. The Brazilians did not like this very much but the parallel really is quite precise.

Axé.

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Al “Carnival Time” Johnson

The radio is still playing Carnival music, so I will, too … and introduce a song everyone should definitely know: Al Johnson on his very own Carnival Time. As lagniappe there is the more recent Mardi Gras Strut.

Axé.

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Entre el dolor y el placer

Entre el dolor y el placer median tres criaturas,
de las cuales la una mira a un muro,
la segunda usa de ánimo triste
y la tercera avanza de puntillas;
pero, entre tú y yo,
sólo existen segundas criaturas.

Apoyándose en mi frente,
el día conviene en que, de veras,
hay mucho de exacto en el espacio;
pero, si la dicha, que, al fin, tiene un tamaño,
principia ¡ay! por mi boca,
¿quién me preguntará por mi palabra?

Al sentido instantáneo de la eternidad
corresponde
este encuentro investido de hilo negro,
pero a tu despedida temporal,
tan sólo corresponde lo inmutable,
tu criatura, el alma, mi palabra.

–C.V.

*

It is Ash Wednesday and a new moon. On February 25th, 2006 we had not yet reached this point in the year’s round; my post for that day is archived here.

Axé.

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Mon couleur: violette

I am violet. “You surround yourself with art and music and are constantly driven to express yourself. You often daydream. You prefer honesty in your relationships and believe strongly in your personal morals.” You can discover your color here.

A

It is Mardi Gras. Happy Mardi Gras! You ain’t done sent me hardly no birthday greetings, so you had better come down to the Mardi Gras! All o’ y’all truck on down with a mambo swing! We are asking for you! Come see, cher! Iko!

B

“Capitaine, capitaine, voyage ton flag, allons aller chez l’autre voisin.”

Axé.

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Sugar and Rice

It is Lundi Gras and I am up the bayou. Listen to the original Jambalaya, it is really brilliant.

Les Mardi Gras s’en viennent de tout partout. Hear the Balfa brothers’ beautiful version of the ancient song.

Axé.

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Orpheus

Bacchus and Orpheus roll tonight! Here was Orpheus in 2007:

Axé.

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Carnival Post

Flora in Museo del Prado

Flora - Luca Giordano - Museo del Prado

On February 21, 2006 I published my third blog post, the first one that had any confidence or verve, and I had not yet mentioned Carnival. This year Undine has pointed out that she, and perhaps others, are waiting for my 2009 Carnival posts. I am flattered, but mostly I feel Carnival is unrepresentable unless writing about it is one’s job and one can put in a great deal of time.

I had a wonderful time at Carnival in 2006 … was too depressed by my job to participate in 2007 … appeared in a pleasant but somewhat lackluster manner in 2008 … and am working to a deadline in 2009. I had planned to limit my participation this year for that reason (although you have to realize Carnival has been going on for some time, and I have already attended a ball and three parades). Still, Undine has got me thinking: perhaps if I go to some of the most interesting events, in a way planned to be truly refreshing, it will be good for my paper.

That doesn’t mean I will write about what I see, as one cannot write about everything. I only write about what is new or newly discovered, and I am busy writing something else. But if I go to country Mardi Gras in the next few days, I will try to represent it somewhat, since you are unlikely to see it on television. In general, I recommend New Orleans the weekend or week before Mardi Gras, and the countryside for the five fattest days. Still, these notes are about New Orleans.

*

Relevant parades today are Isis, Tucks, and Endymion, all rolling in daylight. I have marched in Endymion myself, and I can tell you, those routes are long and it can get very cold in those costumes. On Mardi Gras day I like to see Zulu and Rex somewhere below Canal Street. But the night parades a few days earlier are more magical, and I especially like to see them pass underneath the regal oaks of St. Charles Avenue. The masked riders look more otherworldly, and the shining beads stand out as they are flung against the torchlit sky.

In a night parade you first have the torchbearers, carrying real fire. At one time they were inmates released from Parish Prison to fill this role, and it is traditional to throw them coins. Next come my favorites, the knights on horseback. They wear capes and spiked helmets, and they toss the first doubloons. After the knights comes the King’s float, and then a marching band. In New Orleans a classic band is the St. Augustine High School Marching 100. Here they are, preceded by torchbearers:

Here they are on a different day, less tired:

During and after the parades many people have gracious open houses with amazing buffets. If you are able to attend one of these it is always a great addition to the experience, and you can meet very interesting people. When I get home the first thing I do is sort my beads like Hallowe’en candy, which do I want to save for a special occasion, which do I want to give away instantly, and which are in the middle group, open for my everyday use. I am not the only one who does this. Beads can be spread on tables or in fireplaces, or hung on doors and mirrors, and it must look artless but it has to look good.

Carnival starts at Twelfth Night, but I really know it is coming when in early February a float parks on the street near my house. The same one comes every year, waiting to be decorated and brought out in the final days. I like it. I like being at home in the weeks of Carnival and hearing a tambourine rattle in the distance, and the children running across the cobblestones – Indians coming! And in the high days of Carnival I like to wander through the neighborhoods and come across random second lines, like this:

E.T.A.: There is one other, very important thing to know about Mardi Gras: you must shop and cook ahead of time. The streets will be jammed. It is hard to get anywhere and you will be out a lot, threading yourself through crowds. You never know how many people will suddenly appear at your house … or when you will arrive home having walked, jumped, and shouted for miles in the cold, sustained only by beer. You want to have already on the stove a large pot of jambalaya, one of gumbo, and one of étouffée … and you might want a court-bouillon, too. Yes, you could eat other things, but you will find that these spicy stews are not only the best option for feeding a crowd — they are what will best sustain you.

Axé.

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Tipitina

It’s Carnival time, and Professor Longhair is the only professor who counts.

Professor Zero did not post on February 20, 2006 – or if she did, Blogger has lost the post.  I am glad I began transferring the archive to WordPress later that year, and I wish I had transferred it all.

Meanwhile, speaking of Tipitina, last night she hosted Papa Mali’s Supernatural Ball. Don’t you wish you’d been there?

Papa Mali’s 2nd Annual Supernatural Ball

…with special guests George Porter, Jr., Hot 8 Brass Band, John Mooney, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Groovesect, Glen David Andrews, and more. Papa Mali’s music has always occupied that unique space between the swamps of Louisiana and the juke joints of Mississippi, evoking spirits weaving through the air like curls of smoke, conjuring visions of snake handlers and tent revivals, spy boys and street parades. For his 2nd annual Supernatural Ball, Papa Mali has put together quite an impressive lineup of friends to join in the fun. The variety of funk, blues, soul, klezmer and gospel artists on this show’s bill is without comparison in this Mardi Gras season — a show like this will be talked about for many Carnivals to come!

Do we have to go home?

Axé.

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Reading For Pleasure Wednesday (late): Karel Čapek

The avant-garde rules! I read R.U.R., Čapek’s 1921 play, and it is brilliant. You can read it right here.

Our post for February 19, 2006 is archived here. It was an expansion on my statement of purpose, the other two key parts of which can be found in the first post (18.II.2006) and on the about page.

This post was written on a cold gray Sunday. I was seeing my once notorious X then. This meant I had to enter his world Fridays at 17:00, and could not realistically escape until Sundays around 03:00.

I was always glad to make it home alone those mornings. The house was beautiful, the cat fluffy, the sheets rich. When I awoke later on I would realize how exhausted I was and how desolate I felt. On this particular Sunday I was teaching R.D. the next day. Rereading his text I saw that it expressed what would be an unplanned, but important effect of writing the blog. R.D. says:

“Oh, my friend! The sky is opaque; the air, cold; the day, sad. Gray, foggy melancholies float through the air. But a phrase, or a pressing of the hand in time can warm one so much! I will see you soon.”

Axé.

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