Saturday, February 29, 2020

2020 01 Ghost Riders: The Krewe du Ghoul with Michael deMeng, Part One


Michael deMeng Workshop sponsored by Katherine Engen ArtVentures

New Orleans, January-February, 2020

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. this morning as I rose for the ninth time to head to New Orleans for a Michael deMeng workshop organized by Katherine Engen. The big difference this year is that with Denice's retirement, she is going to NOLA for the first time. To say Denice is a reluctant NOLA visitor would be the truth so it is my job to introduce this city that I have come to enjoy visiting every year in the winter.

Another first time event today is we decided to go to the airport using Lyft. That worked well and we were in the air to Atlanta on Delta at 7:00 a.m. We got on our connection to NOLA with no issues and we were picking up our luggage by 11:30 a.m.

The workshop hotel in NOLA is the Hotel St. Marie on Toulouse Street just off Bourbon in the French Quarter. We checked our bags as our room was not ready and then headed out onto the streets of NOLA to introduce Denice to the city.

Denice got a taste of the weirdness of Bourbon Street before we walked towards Jackson Square. 

I showed her a street busking band of great musicians and tried not to have her distracted by the stripper humping the street light in front of the band. Ah, NOLA.

After exploring Jackson Square (not many artists were out on this cold day), we headed over to Napolean House on Charters for lunch. I went for the traditional Pimm's Cup and Po-boy while Denice went for the Reuben.

After lunch we walked to the Mississippi and climbed the stairs up to see the river (which is still weird). Then in was in and out of a few shops and then back to our hotel to check in and unpack.

We lazed about for awhile before I decided I was hungry again. So around 5ish we walked down Bourbon to the Clover Grill where I had a pork chop with eggs while Denise had a BLT. Then we walked Bourbon Street after dark. Outside the Prohibition Bar, home of the Huge Ass Beer, we heard the sound of blues guitars so we went in and enjoyed a set by the Danny Alexander Blues Band.

Home by 8ish, I watched some NCAA basketball before we caught up on our sleep.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. today as we have a battle plan for the day. When we were ready, we headed down to Canal Street and the Ruby Slipper Café.

The Ruby Slipper is right next to what was to be the future home of the Hard Rock Hotel that recently collapsed during renovation and fell onto the streets of NOLA, including Canal.

We had a great breakfast at The Ruby Slipper after which we had to cross to the opposite side of Canal and walk a few blocks to get where the Canal Street Trolley now stops because the road is still block by the demolition of the remains of the building.

We rode the trolley out to City Park, the home of the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The walk to the Museum from the trolley line

After getting admitted, we headed up to the third floor, home of the foreign ancient art held in the collection.

After a break in the café, we did the second floor which includes photography, contemporary art and the historical collection of the museum. The highlight of the exhibitions was the one called Lamentations by Tina Freeman in which he matched locations from around the world with those from Louisiana.

After finishing the first floor exhibits, we walked out into the 11 acre, recently expanded, Sculpture Garden. Today when we left the hotel is was 62 and promising to be sunny but by mid-afternoon it was in the 50s, windy and no sun. Wearing only a long sleeve T-shirt, I was freezing.

We took the trolley back to Canal and walked down Bourbon to our hotel.

After an afternoon break, we walked to our next destination, B.B. King's Blues Club where we had 7:30 p.m. reservations because the music starts at 8:00 p.m. Tonight the club featured the B. B. King Blues Club All-Star Band which featured two really good singers. This is the third B. B. King's I have been to (Memphis and Chicago) and this is the least comfortable--but the music was good.

We got back to our room just in time to find the Marquette Golden Eagles locked in an overtime game against the Xavier Musketeers, a game they finally won in double overtime. Exhausted by the game, we went to bed half-angry at how this season is going for the old home team.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Today after we were ready we walked to the Café Conti for breakfast. This is located next to the building where we had the workshop the year they were remodeling the St. Marie workshop space. This is a nice place for food and today's banana French Toast for me was no exception.

Right off Canal is the Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church. We made this our first stop of the day.

Today we want to go to Magazine Street and the Garden District vie the St. Charles Streetcar which we pick up just off Canal Street. We got off at the Felicity Street stop which is the east end of the funky Magazine Street stuff and walked the entire length west to Harmony.

We diverted off Magazine to visit this church.


 We stopped for a latté at French Truck Coffee and then continued our Magazine Street hike.

We did not buy anything for all our adventures. Magazine Street has a strange split between high end boutique stores and funky down home NOLA stuff I expected to find. I think it has gotten too touristy for my shopping tastes. We hopped on the St. Charles Streetcar and rode it back to Canal Street.

We had been notified on the way that our reservations for Mister Gregory's Shrimp Boil and French Quarter Show had been cancelled for this evening. We decided to head over to The Green Goddess to make up for it. Denice ate shrimp while I had duck... and then we shared a bacon maple sundae (the whole reason for going there).

Tonight we used our computer to watch the Netflix film The Two Popes with great acting by both Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Today we walked across the street to the Four Points Sheraton for breakfast. Then we walked to the shuttle stop and road out to today's destination: Mardi Gras World.

This is where most of the floats for the Mardi Gras season are assembled and you can tour the plant.


We rode the shuttle partway back to the Wyndham where we got off and walked to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, a fine collection of regional pieces. The exhibition that really impressed me was called  Memory is a Strange Bell: The Art of William Christenberry . Here is the description from their website: "Christenberry was a multifaceted artist – utilizing painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, found object assemblage and installations to weave a deeply personal narrative with universal relevance. "

We walked back to the St. Marie and took a couple of hours rest in the hotel room before heading to the legendary Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 Tiki Bar for dinner. Although perhaps not as Hawaiian as we had hoped, Latitude 29 proved to be a fun bar to get some bar food.

We wandered about a bit before heading over to the Le Petit Theater for a performance of the Broadway musical, Something Rotten. This is a hysterical comedy that both pokes fun and pays tribute to the musical. The basic story is two brothers named Bottom are competing with William Shakespeare when their patron tells them they have to be different or lose funding. A soothsayer tells the boys, add music. The rest is comedy.

Afterwards we barged our way through the drunken revelry that is Bourbon Street on a Friday night. Now Denice knows what that really means.

Denice went to bed while I checked out the Vacherie Bar where I found Karen drinking with our favorite bartender Victoria. We talked for two hours catching up on art and other subjects.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Today was a lazy morning for us as we plan on doing the shops and galleries of Royal Street. With no point in an early rise, we slept in and hung out in our room until 10:00 a.m.

We hit Royal Street but some of the shops were slow in opening. We made a detour to Jackson Square where unlike the Tuesday the artists were our in full force. We passed on a collage artist's work and a painting on metal to purchase an altered photo mixed media piece framed in old NOLA house wood. I love this piece. So we did not have to carry this piece around all day, we dashed back to the hotel and dropped it off.

We did do some shopping back on Royal before heading over to Cafe Amelia where we had 11:30 am reservations for brunch. Denice had a beet salad while I went with eggs and grits while we both shared the most delicious goat cheese appetizer I have ever eaten.

After brunch we did some more shopping and then took a one hour tour of the Gallery House, a National Historic Landmark. We had a private tour with a guide which allowed us to see the house the way we wanted to and ask all kinds of questions.

We hit a few more galleries on Royal and I discovered that things have changed since last year. Cathy Rose has move to another part of the city (but there is a promise we will visit her later in the experience), Vinsantos' gallery has closed and so has Red Truck. We did stop in Graphite to say hi to the owner Taylor who is a big supporter of Michael's work. Denice bought a piece of jewelry at Betsy Youngquist's gallery and another piece at a different gallery which is to be set aside for Christmas.

At 5:00 p.m. we finally met some of our art buddies for the upcoming workshops including Evelyn and Alan, Marilyn and John and Lisa. We all took a 15 minute walk over to Mister Gregory's Shrimp Boil and French Quarter Show on Rampart Street. I had participated in this event last year and really wanted to have Denice experience it.

The door to Mr.; Gregory's NOLA style building opens promptly at 5:30 p.m. and closes behind the group after it is in. You climb a staircase to the second floor and immediately head out on to the gallery (which in NOLA is a balcony supported by columns beneath--they are considered another room of the house). Here we get the meet and great from Mr. Gregory and are introduced to the boil, the grill and some alligator sausage.

Denice, Lisa, Evelyn, Allan, Marilyn 

Next we moved inside to the picnic benches for the main course which consists of a red fish sample, potatoes, Cole slaw and the main event--fresh shrimp boiled to perfection.

The entertainment at Mr. Gregory's can vary from burlesque to drag and tonight it was a favorite of mine from last year, Dee Dee Onasis. What a voice.

After the event we walked back to the hotel and found Michael, Andrea, Sue, KD, Kathleen, Tina and Mandy (who is all the way from Australia).

You never know what you will see in NOLA

 We all walked from the St. Marie to Frenchman Street in order to view one of the early and less complicated neighborhood Mardi Gras parades, Chewbacchus is a Mardi Gras parade that is science fiction themed. It is one of the small, neighborhood parades that opens the season in NOLA.

After the parade, and our long day, we just walked back to the hotel and hit the hay. After all, tomorrow is Andrea's class and we want to be ready.