June 1

My friend John is currently searching for a natural indicator to mark  the end of summer in order to bookmark the termites swarming at the beginning. If I know him, he’d be pleased if it could be another pest.

I always think the summer season is hard to decipher in New Orleans. Used to be that once JazzFest was over, people began to shut up their apartments and stores and head to other cooler places for a month or two, coming and going throughout August. With the arrival of the casino downtown, that changed. Or maybe it changed with  the addition of thousands of hotel rooms downtown through the 1980s and 1990s or maybe it just changed. In any case, visitors come year round now and festivals like Tales of the Cocktail and Essence are big draws in July and there are things in August too that I cannot remember at this moment, but I know I am always surprised when they come-oh yes, just remembered one: Satchmo Summerfest.

Maybe summer is really here when the figs ripen and drop and draw flies and make walking in alleys a distinctly squishy experience, except that fig trees are largely gone from the Quarter, courtesy of part-time residents and non-Sicilians who tore them out at the beginning of their renovations.

Or maybe it’s when the children finish their school year at McDonogh 15 and St. Louis Cathedral School, except that Cathedral is no more; soon to be condos I am sure.

Probably many locals would identify the start of summer with the official beginning of hurricane season, which is today, June 1. That’s as good of a choice as any, since summer is a largely hostile time here, unlike the land of my childhood, the shores of Lake Erie. There it is a glorious and kind season with lightning bugs in jars, sailboats always on the water and cool walks in the dark before bedtime.

Tonight in my adopted hometown, I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood with my hard cider in a koozie cup as I do many evenings before heading in for the night. The Quarter seemed different, slower and more neighborly than I have seen  in many recent evenings. Lots of people on stoops with the front door open, dogs pausing on their walks with their people attached (when did huge dogs become a thing in the Quarter? and why usually 2 of them?) The Square is quieter, but will have more overnighters than the spring does. Lack of air conditioning at home will drive many to catch any night breeze they can out there and hopefully pick up a buck or two or make some friends.

The chalkboards in front of restaurants and bars praise their fruity drinks and their cold air conditioning and hope for a few big groups to come in and spend and tip well.

Seeing the row of smokers in chairs in front of Cosimo’s Dauphine Street windows was lovely even though I know they don’t think so, in these new days of no smoking inside.  Of course, sitting out there may also just be a leftover experience from their crawfish boil season. In any case, a great bar with the best well drink in the Quarter in my estimation.

The  tourists in town this Monday are quiet and mellow. Few whoohooers or Hand Grenaders  seen (or heard). These kind of folks are always welcome as they proudly take a photo near architectural details rather than of the silver guy or the drunk passed out woman.

On Royal, I counted 4 tours and 2 more on Saint Ann this evening. I remember once a friend of mine hissed at me as we passed a ghost tour, “You know they make it all up” and I laughed out loud and said, “really? you mean they don’t just stick to the truth about our ghosts?”

Let’s hope the entire summer is as quiet and as sublime as this first June early evening was.

Here is a list of nola.com’s “favorite” summer festivals.

Bellegarde Bakery Bread Class III: History of New Orleans Bakeries / 7:00 Tuesday Dec 2

Graison Gill (owner Bellegarde Bakery) will be continuing his Bread Class series with a history of Bakeries in New Orleans. This class will introduce participants to the history of bread and bakeries in New Orleans as the city approaches its tri-centennial. As historian Roger Baudier wrote, “The baking industry is regarded as the oldest business in the world. In New Orleans, founded in 1718, and for nearly 85 years the capital of a vast colonial empire, baking is also the oldest business.” We will understand the history of bakeries in New Orleans through photographs, discussions, tastings, samples, and interviews with current and former New Orleans bakers.We will learn and appreciate the rich and intricate history of New Orleans’ baking history. Looking beyond and through the snow white slice of French Bread and Poor Boy Bread, we will dive into the 300 year history of the city and region, which was and is home to a vast quilt of bakeries, grains, flours, and styles of breads. This story, most importantly, will be told through the voices of the men and women who make our daily bread. It is important for our voices to be heard. To aid Graison will be some baker peers of his speaking about there experiences: Dana Logsdon of La Spiga/Brocato’s; James Smith of Peristyle/La Louisiana; and Sal Lo Guidice of United Bakery. Graision will also be recreating some classic styles of bread from original New Orleans Bakeries. This event will be held in Purveyor Wines beautiful tasting room at 1040 Magazine St. and Purveyor will be providing wine as well. Saint James Cheese will of course be providing cheese. Graison’s events are always very informative and his passion for bread can be tasted in his products, these events are not to be missed. $30


Find these amazing breads here

Veronica Russell, award-winning New Orleans performer and costume designer, dies at age 44

One of our most creative and engaged community artists passed away this week after a brief illness. A great loss.

“She fused her acting and costuming talents into her role as the artistic director for Louisiana History Alive, whose performers assume the characters of some of the state’s most notable figures at public and private functions throughout the city — most notably in the French Quarter.

Russell often portrayed the notorious New Orleans madam Josie Arlington from the Storyville days.”

Veronica Russell, award-winning New Orleans performer and costume designer, dies at age 44 | NOLA.com.

525 Madison-Gallery Circle Theater

A celebrated address for sale. Home of community theater and the start of Diane Ladd’s career.
I had heard about this theater over the years and back in the early 80s lived down the block. I would sit on my balcony and imagine theater goers arriving at dusk on foot and by taxi. Later as I stood inside my living room leaning against the doorway, I would think I could hear applause over the wall. Or maybe it was real and from around the corner in the Square, back in those days of jugglers and guitar players quietly practicing in front of stragglers late into the late night.

Gallery Circle Theater was the up-and-coming challenger to Le Petit. After two seasons – 1948-1950 – in the Jewish Community Center, GCT played the 1950-1951 season in the American Legion Hall. In September 1951, it opened its fourth season with Bob Cahlman directing Marion Schexnaydre [Zinser] in The Heiress in a new home at 525 Madison Street in the French Quarter. In 1953, Cahlman cast a young inexperienced newcomer from Mississippi, named Diane Ladner in Room Service. She would go on to become Diane Ladd, wife of Bruce Dern and mother of Laura Dern.

And this from the 2014 news story about it being for sale still (or again):

It was the 1950s when the Gallery Circle Theatre made a home here. Actress Diane Ladd got her start in the 1953 production called “The Heiress.” Caldeira said the property was larger and was cut in half about 20 years ago. “A gentleman who lived in the Quarter acquired this half of it and created this house,” said Caldeira.

It also held WPA gallery showings:

525-Madison-Street-Tomato-Warehouse-entrance for sale in 2011 for 3 point 6 million bones, and in 2014 for 2 point 8.  What a place.

for sale

Benefit for HNOC

Well it ain’t Lil Queenie on the President, but may still be nice to get on the river…

5:00 p.m. Lectures by Captain Clarke “Doc” Hawley and Duke Heitger
6:30 p.m. Guests board the Steamboat NATCHEZ
7:00 p.m. Dinner cruise departs
7:30 p.m. Seating for dinner
9:00 p.m. Steamboat returns to the dock

Registration is now open! Tickets are $45 per person and include the lectures at 533 Royal St. and the dinner cruise (soft drinks included; cash bar), which departs from the dock at Toulouse St. and the river. You may also purchase your nonrefundable tickets through the NATCHEZ office by calling (504) 569-1401 and mentioning The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Guests can pick up their purchased tickets at The Collection, 533 Royal St., on the day of the event, starting at 4:30 p.m. You must have your tickets in hand to attend the lecture and board the ship. Ticket price does not include parking or gratuity. Proceeds from this event will benefit The Collection.