Dante’s Infernal Journal With Michael deMeng
Hell-Oh Kitties: Portraits of Precocious Pets in Purgatory Workshop With Andrea Matus deMeng
New Orleans, LA
January 29 – February 4, 2023
Friday, January 27, 2023
This trip did not get very far before I realized how much I do not like traveling right now by air. While I am the one who booked these flights it was with regret that I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. last night in order to be in some presentable shape when the alarm went off this morning at 3:00 a.m.
The next hardship happened when I got to the airport in Milwaukee only discover that my TSA traveler number was not up to date in my Delta Airlines record so I ended up having to skip the pre-approved line and go through the rigors of de-shoeing, emptying out my electronics and holding my hands over my head while my pants do not have a belt.
Indignity number three was having my credit card (one of two) not work when I tried to buy my snacks for the first flight (the good news is I found out later that was just that machine—not my card).
Both of my flights had the same problem: by the time I got on the plane I had to walk about ten rows back of where I was sitting before I could find an overhead for my carry-on which meant then I had to swim back upstream to my seat to the irritation of all my fellow travelers in the aisle trying to get to their seat.
Once I over head this in an airport: “I love to travel, I just hate the traveling.” I am getting this as a tattoo.
Despite being delayed by a de-icing need in Milwaukee, my Delta flight to Atlanta got me there in plenty of time to make my connection. When they announced it was ten minutes before boarding would start, I fled to the men’s room. When I left the men’s room I ran right into two very special people, my art wife Marilyn Werst and her delightful husband John. It turns out we are all on the same flight to New Orleans.
One nice thing about today’s travels is that each of these legs of the journey were about one and one-half hours in the air. The three of us got to NOLA around 11:45 a.m. (CST) and shared a cab to our home for the next ten days: Hotel St. Marie on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
I checked into my room, unpacked and then went to the grocery store with John. After that Marilyn joined us and we went right up the block to a bar called The Will and the Way where we met Marilyn’s friend Laura. Laura is heading to Ecuador and Bolivia tomorrow as part of her work with a non-profit that is working with indigenous peoples, local governments and investors to save the rain forests of this region. Oh, yeah—she also does stand up comedy. To say she was a very unique person is an understatement and we had a great time hearing her stories.
The rest of the night was down time in my room as I am a little behind in my sleep.
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Today I got up at 7:00 a.m. and was on the road by 8:00 a.m to have breakfast at one of my favorite NOLA joints, Ruby Slipper on Canal Street. Except that location is closed, so after walking there, I had to walk over to the new location on Decatur. By the time I got there it was a 30 minute wait for a table but I could sit at the counter in ten minutes so I took that option. After my French Toast, bacon and eggs while watching a Tolkien film with subtitles and no sound, I was on my way to the streetcar.
No. 48 Canal takes you right to where I was going for $1.25. The problem was I did not have the exact change needed to board so I dived into a Walgreens and one power bar later I was able to board the bus. The driver eyed me up, assessed me as a senior and told me I could get an all day pass for 80 cents. He took my paper dollar and gave me the pass and a 20 cent token back. Yes, it is good to be old in NOLA.
My favorite floor at the New Orleans Museum of Art is the top floor which has artifacts from Africa, Oceania and Mesoamerica. I get so many ideas for art from looking at these collections.
After a couple of hours at NOMA, I hopped back on the streetcar and rode it back to Canal Street. I walked on Camp Street to another great museum of art here, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. While all the art in this museum is always edgy and interesting to me, the highlight on this trip was the work of Gregory B. Saunders. He makes paintings with graphite shavings that look photorealistic. If that weren’t enough, on some of them he adds found objects.
After an hour or so in this museum, I walked to the circle by the WW2 Museum to catch a trolley back to Canal Street.
After I walked back to the St. Marie, I went into the workshop and had a good talk with Andrea Matus deMeng, my instructor for tomorrow’s workshop and the wife of Michael deMeng.
Then it was into the Vacherie restaurant and bar in the hotel where the forces were gathering. I got hungry so I walked a few blocks to a barbeque restaurant called Pig Out that had as a side the best mac and cheese I have ever eaten.
Back at the Vacherie I met more of the gang including Michael deMeng, my instructor for the Monday to Saturday workshop, Katherine Engen, our workshop provider, as well as my companions for the evening, KD Duncan and Sue Urquhart.
KD, Sue and I went to the Chewbaccus parade, the first parade in the Mardi Gras season.
After the parade, it was back to the Vacherie bar where Michael, Tina and Karen where closing the place. With class looming tomorrow, we all went to bed at 10ish pm.
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Today Karen Rexrode, John and Marilyn Werst and I walked to the Conti Café for breakfast. While this place now has a reduced menu I was still able to get something for breakfast that filled me up but it is amazing how things have changed because of Covid-19.
Today we are all happy as the first workshop of the NOLA experience, Hell-Oh Kitties: Portraits of Precocious Pets in Purgatory Workshop taught by Andrea Matus deMeng takes place.
Here is what my cards looked like at the end of the one day class:
We all met in the lobby of the St. Marie at 6:00 p.m. to be vanned to the Broad Theater for the Meet and Greet Event: a wonderful buffet of treats and a viewing of the film Extra Ordinary (2019), a hysterical Irish film about hauntings, exorcism and finding true love.
After we got back to the hotel I spent some time in the Vacherie with Jenny, KD, Sue and Kathy and Bob Gould. Then it was 11:00 pm, time to get to sleep as tomorrow is the first day of our Michael deMeng experience.
A few weeks after I got home, I had a chance to finish my cards and here they are: