Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Category


In New Orleans, The Writing Life on January 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm

***Insert Photo of Terrifying Adorable Birds Here***

I was at the neighborhood coffee shop, enjoying the almost fall-like January NOLA weather, when a blood-thirsty chubby dandy of a bird hopped onto the table inches from my hand. It stared at me with its cold, calculating warm and friendly eyes. Soon, a flock of these critters had surrounded me. I was going to take a picture, but I was afraid for my life they flew away.

Even when I try to be an hermit, trouble finds me.

October Country

In Awesomeness, New Orleans, The Writing Life on October 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I don’t celebrate Halloween, I celebrate October.

I live in October Country year round.

While walking from my final class today to my car, I realized how much this is true. Though I would live in October Country no matter where I physically resided, tonight living in this fair city added an heightened awareness to my October leanings. I would have taken a picture, but I am much better with words than visual images. I’m no Kyle Cassidy.

So, let me set the scene:

A crow cawed out her disdain for me from her perch on a wrought iron gate that swung into the grounds of a local high school. Amanda Palmer wailed directly into my brain from my iPod headphones: a powerful, raw, emotion-filled feminine voice. The coming dusk bruised the tempered fire of an autumn New Orleans sunset.

These elements converged to create a perfect October moment. I appreciated it.

Taking Stock: What Could Be Better (Jewish Edition)

In Judaism, New Orleans on September 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

In my previous taking stock post, I wrote about what I like in the New Orleans Jewish community. Now, I’ll post some of the things I think could be better (and that I will hopefully work on in the future).

-My Spiritual Life

I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am a convert. I converted at a Reform synagogue. The only synagogue I feel comfortable in is a Conservative synagogue. Where do I fit in?

I would like a synagogue that has a more musical tradition. I would like a synagogue where gender norms aren’t so strictly followed. However, I’m not going to find the music or gender deviants I want in New Orleans. New Orleans is very Southern, and the ways in which it assimilated with the culture at large are very different from the variants I found in Tampa. Somehow, I’m going to have to find a way to feel comfortable with what I’ve found here.

-Rosh Chodesh Group

I would like to join a Rosh Chodesh group, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in an Orthodox setting, so New Orleans’s Rosh Chodesh group is probably not a great fit for me. This is where I really feel I can work on the community; I would like to start one. I just need to find a group of (probably exclusively) women who would like to join and figure out other logistics, like where we’re going to meet and what the meetings will look like.

-Jewish Learning

I am hungry for more Jewish learning opportunities. I want to understand what’s going on in Jewish texts, learn how to read Hebrew, and attend classes based around Jewish issues and themes I’m interested in. There are some learning opportunities here, but I would like to see them grow. I have less confidence in my ability to start a group, because I don’t feel like I have enough expertise to run one, and so far I haven’t found many other people willing to give up their time and energy to teach or participate in the classes.

Taking Stock: The Positive (Jewish Edition)

In Judaism, New Orleans on August 15, 2011 at 1:01 am

It’s that time of year again. We’re pushing (slogging?) towards the Jewish High Holy Days, which automatically makes me take stock of my life. Sure, the normal New Year is fun. There are fireworks and stuff. But, the Jewish New Year, leading to Yom Kippur, is when the magic really happens for me. One year, I decided to move to New Orleans. The next year (okay, last year) I decided to fall in love. Who knows what will happen next year? I sure don’t!

If you take into consideration that I also attended the National Havurah Committee’s Summer Institute the first week of August, you will see that I have an even more concrete reason to take stock of my life. For an entire week, I got to learn, schmooze, network, and live with a bunch of hippie Jews in the woods. It made me realize some Jewish areas in my life that need work. It also made me realize how much I enjoy other aspects of my life.

I want to talk about these positives today, at least where they revolve around my Jewish life.

-My Community:
Today was the naming ceremony for my rabbi’s daughter. Members of the larger New Orleans Jewish community showed up for the occasion. Rabbis attended. The director of the Jewish Day School attended. The Orthodox rabbi from down the road read a blessing that asked God to protect the new baby and her family. Then, we all ate pizza together and enjoyed the moment. I love that the New Orleans community comes together in ways that you don’t find in other cities, especially as members of different denominations of Judaism.

My Rabbi:
Ethan Linden, my biggest asset when it comes to Jewish geography. He is open, welcoming, and made moving to New Orleans a lot easier. He lets community leaders lead egalitarian services and is welcoming and open to everyone I’ve seen him come in contact with. He takes time out for his congregants and makes sure to carve out time for his family. He leads by example, and his example is a pretty tough act to follow.

My Synagogue:
Shir Chadash. Every time I attend an event here, I am greeted by people of all ages who always ask where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing if I’ve been absent. Members bring food to congregants who are sick or just need extra support. The staff is awesome and organized; events are always memorable and well attended.

Organized Communities:
I am a member of the queer Jewish salon here. I attend the occasional independent minyan service. I get updates about events for young singles, for young families, for events that need volunteers, for concerts and plays and lectures by and for the Jewish community. If I had the energy and time, I could probably fill up my week with Jewish events.

Kosher Restaurants:
There are two kosher restaurants near where I work. It’s nice to lead up to Shabbat with a kosher lunch or just choose kosher over the fried and fast food alternatives.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I think it’s pretty representative of what I feel is being done right in New Orleans.

The joy of living local

In Awesomeness, New Orleans on July 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm

One of the things I love about New Orleans is how easy it is to buy local (to differing extents). I volunteer and buy produce at a local farmer’s market and buying club, which buys produce, dairy products, and meat from producers within a radius of a few hundred miles. They keep track of all of their buys, which means I know when my peaches come from Alabama and when my rice comes from Louisiana. When I buy from them, I know my money is going towards supporting people I know and have worked with in the market.

This morning, I bought supplies to bake cookies from a locally owned supermarket. The chocolate chips are Hershey’s and the butter is from Virginia, but the people who own the market itself are from here.

After my shopping excursion, I bought an iced cafe mocha from the locally owned fair trade coffee shop next door to the market. They coffee isn’t local, but I like knowing that my money is going to support the girl with the candy red hair who works there. The coffee shop also hangs art from local artists on the walls, sells books by local authors, and has a number of community gatherings throughout the week.

I’m pretty poor, all things considered. But, it makes me happy knowing that, instead of giving money to huge corporations intent on supporting their bottom line at the expense of their customers and employees, I’m doing my part to support businesses who are, in turn, trying to support New Orleans and make it, and in some sense the world, a better place.

With the knowledge that Washington has (probably long ago) lost sight of helping and supporting normal, every day Americans, I’m glad that I can make some sort of positive impact on the world around me.

As our elected leaders squabble and show how out of touch they are with what we need, please join me in buying local and supporting local commerce. Support local libraries and educational institutions. Instead of looking to them to save us, consider doing your part to help out your neighbors and community members, because this is what it will take to get everyone through this bump in the road.

Bastard banh mi

In Awesomeness, New Orleans on May 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Yesterday, Alex drove me to Gretna, so I could check out the Hong Kong Food Market. Gretna is considered a part of New Orleans but at the same time could be a foreign country. There are people who have lived in New Orleans for years who have never ventured over to the West Bank. I hadn’t been there in about a year.

The HK food market is like one stop shopping for Asian anything. There is a fine dining restaurant, a jewelry store, a boba shop, a salon, and a number of other businesses set up in the same business complex, all catering to the diverse Asian crowd. The store itself is in an old supermarket, so instead of being cramped and cluttered, it’s pretty amazing to go into. We went in large part because I’ve been making bastardized Western banh mi sandwiches since my birthday, and I wanted to see what they were actually supposed to taste like. I also wanted to buy the ingredients for ramen, and I’ve been wanting to go to the Hong Kong market for months.

Back to the bastard banh mi- I had all the ingredients for rudimentary banh mi: pate, cold cuts, french bread, cilantro, tomatoes (although I’m not sure they usually go in banh mi…), jalapeno, mayo. I did not have Maggi sauce or the pickled carrots and cucumber I’d heard about. So, I went to Rouse’s to try my luck. I couldn’t find Maggi or anything resembling the pickled carrots I’d read about in Jaiden Hair’s post about banh mi, so I improvised. I made it first using a mixture of mayo and vegemite with italian pickled vegetables. That was pretty gross (if anyone has a recipe for vegemite that makes it less gross, please let me know) so I substituted soy sauce for the Maggi sauce with better results.

Yesterday, we picked up the real banh mi, and I have to say that, besides the strong pickled taste of the vegetables instead of the sweeter taste of the carrots, I wasn’t that far off. I sent Alex to work today with a simple banh mi type sandwich (just meat, mayo, Maggi, and cilantro) and he seemed pretty happy with it. Now he’s been at work, and I’m catching up on cleaning and writing.

A New Life

In Awesomeness, College Goals, New Orleans on May 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I have now lived in New Orleans for almost a year and an half. In the past year, I have gone from living in a constant state of unemployed terror to someone who has a number of possibilities in front of her.

Some of you already know from Twitter, but I have been offered a graduate assistantship at UNO. In the fall, I will either be working in the writing center or helping a professor with research. This will provide me with a stipend and free tuition, so I will no longer have to worry about maxing out my loans every semester.

The money from the assistantship will also allow me to travel in the summer of 2012. Right now, I’m thinking a trip to the UK is in order.

For the first time, I’m also looking into PhD programs. I’m hoping I’ll be working towards a PhD and enjoying a stipend and health benefits by 2013.

I’ve also been a bit surprised the past month, because I somehow managed to snag myself a boyfriend. This is surprising because I’ve been actively seeking a girlfriend since before I moved here and have been trolling (as much as it’s possible for me to troll) the Jewish queer events in New Orleans. The bf managed to go with the flow enough to skirt all of my objections, and it’s been interesting, to say the least.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday, so my mother has been in town for the past few days. She went home this morning and left behind two or more weeks worth of food and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Included was about three pounds of liver pate. A few months ago, Doc Brite wrote about a Chinese market across the river that sells Banh mi. I’ve never tried it before, but I’ve decided to give it ago because of all of my pate. Bf is going to take me to the market over the weekend, and I’m going to buy the fixings to make homemade ramen and compare my banh mi with the market’s deli. I’m hoping I’ll have just enough to also buy some lotus buns.

That’s been my life in the past month. I’ve been getting things done. I haven’t been writing enough, but I’ve managed to finish a few books, finish up the semester as a professor and graduate student, and enjoy life more than I have in years.

Kyle Cassidy’s “Leaving Dakota” Opening

In Awesomeness, New Orleans on April 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm

“Leaving Dakota” is scheduled to open tonight. All of the images are up in the NOLA Art House. I have cheap wine and fine Zapp’s potato chips on the menu. I have a good idea of what music I will play. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. and will run to midnight tonight. Saturday night will be much the same. I hope to have an awesome turnout.

That is about as good of a picture as the camera on my phone will take.

New Orleans is Dangerous

In New Orleans on March 30, 2011 at 5:02 am

It finally hit me, after more than a year of living here. In Florida, weather alerts were things to be ignored. If it was pouring down rain, I wouldn’t think twice of driving through it to get where I wanted to go. Here, the street drainage system is almost nonexistent. I think, based on the sound it’s making, that I might have damaged my car.

I wanted this post to be about a Jewish transgender issues discussion group I was driving to attend earlier. I left at 6:30 p.m. It was raining. I turned on the radio, and the radio said there was a thunderstorm with dangerous hail miles away. About ten minutes later, the announcement had changed to say the dangerous thunderstorm conditions were also in New Orleans. By this time, I was halfway to my destination. I felt it would be safer to keep on trucking than to make a U-Turn and turn back to my parking lot, which always floods. Around 6:45 or 6:50, the rain was coming down so hard that I pulled over to the side of the road to be safe. That’s about when the flash flood warning started.

I had three choices. I could stay put on St. Charles Avenue (one of the historical streets and big tourist draws) and wait out the storm. I could continue on to the discussion group. Or, I could drive home. I should have driven home. Instead, I chose to wait out the storm.

I watched the water build up on the side of the road and almost got in an accident because, in New Orleans, drivers often use street parking lanes as turn lanes. In conditions with limited visibility due to rain, someone almost backended me. At that point, I decided that the discussion group, which was now a mile away, was my safest bet. I pulled onto a side street to start making my way towards the house, trusting my GPS to help me make my turns. After three or four blocks, my car was in at least six inches of water. My battery light came on, and it became hard to steer. I cursed under my breath and kept trucking.

At the point where my wheels actually lifted off the ground in the water, I decided to start moving back towards St. Charles and more solid ground. I probably should have parked on a median with other cars trying to get to higher ground, but in these types of situations, one does what one has to. I did a lot of sweet talking to my car as we navigated through the flooded streets. I was now, somehow, blocks away from St. Charles. I drove as slowly as I could through the water, waiting for my car to stall. It never did.

Somewhere around 7:15, I was back on St. Charles. Except now, whether it was because of all of the water that the tires had been immersed in or because some water got in my engine, I surged forward into the street and almost rearended the car in front of me. (It might also have been adrenaline inspired lead foot.) I drove all the way back down St. Charles and only had to drive through a couple puddles. Then, I turned onto Carrollton.

Carrollton was even less flooded. More high ground. Except, I could see the water surging onto Carrollton from flooded streets. I kept the middle lane; there were places where the water from the flooded streets was moving back and forth in waves.

I drove to the Chinese takeout place next to my house and ordered some greasy, delicious food. A sort of triumphal dinner of carbs and fried, sweet, spicy chicken.

I arrived home around 8:24 p.m. Almost two hours after I left. The discussion group was only a few miles away.

Now, underneath the sound my car normally makes, there is a whining sound. I’m hoping it will go away in time. When I drove the six hundred miles from Florida to New Orleans, I think my car was making the same noise for a few months. If not, then it’s similar. I would hate for my car to suffer because I didn’t do the smart thing and stay home when I saw how heavily it was raining outside.

When I drove up to my apartment complex, I realized something was dragging on the ground. The waters dislodged part of my bumper. I stuck the piece back to where I think it was supposed to be. I hope that was the worst of the damage.


In New Orleans on March 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Now that I live in New Orleans, I’ve been attending a lot of charity and service functions. Today, I was struck by all of the bad behavior I have witnessed. Officials raiding a synagogue office to find the perfect office chairs, people copping attitudes with the clerical staff of the charity, charity workers bickering back and forth at one another, and at one point today, the end of one of the speeches was basically, “Well, our staff does a lot, and we thank them, but since we’re running late I won’t take out the oh, maybe two minutes it would require to actually name them so they feel appreciated.” I felt like myself and somewhere around three other people in the crowd were actually appreciating what was going on, and everyone else was either trying to project themselves as “SOMEONE WHO CARES” or trying (with different measures of success) to keep others from knowing how unhappy they were to be there; they either had to be there for work or they felt they had to be there to provide family support, they were on a board or committee, etc.

I think this is one of the reasons why I like Shir Chadash. I’m sure pressures are high there, too, but the one thing I’ve noticed is that the people there go out of their way to thank each other and acknowledge the help they receive in keeping the events and even just the day-to-day operations of the building running. This is especially true of the nonJewish staff. It’s nice.