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.

Grand Duchess adds to her earlier Festival decree

Our good Duchess has contacted me during this year’s festival calendar with some new thoughts on her decrees. In her unusual way, she sent the information to me via messenger directly to my chair set up on Royal…or was it Bourbon? She must have spied me weaving fast and purposefully through the crowd and noting my destination, sent a card down her marvelous stick and basket system she keeps at the corner of the balcony, asking the neighbor on their stoop to hand it to me. I remember a tug and had a card in my hand before I had even fully turned. “From you-know-who” was yelled in an amused tone as the messenger headed back to their perch and it was true that the verbena fragrance had indeed given away its owner.
the original set of her decrees
My Dearest Darlene,
We are pleased to see your presence throughout the festive weekend, although chagrined at your choice of beverage.

(She had spotted my limed Go Cup; she rued my love of cheap gin)
However, we are glad to see you looking so well. We once again ask for your assistance in publicizing our words to the Vieux Carre citizenry and as always, thank you in advance.

We decree that all festivals held in the village should entertain the idea of using those adorable blow up couches, simple pine benches (for ease in storing after) or, temporary trees to invite our visitors to sit in places that do not block our service or retail doorways.
We explain thusly:
How lovely to see the citizens using the streets so well during the planned parties. However, when the day closes and the storekeeper tallies their sales, one would hope for the type of success which depends on feet entering the establishment.

We also decree that for that very same purpose all tents of our temporary merchants be set only on blocks in which 75% of the offerings are residences. And, that any storekeeper on those streets can register their disapproval of a particular temporary merchant when the items detract from the storekeeper’s sales. The storekeeper would be required to list the central items that their store has long sold that the temporary merchant is offering. This does includes food or beverages. That storekeeper(s) disapproval should be weighted to such a degree that the residents must explain why they would want that temporary merchant to stay in the face of the storekeeper(s) opposition.. If the temporary merchant is moved, then the next choice to allow in that block must be significantly unlike the first.

We explain thusly:
Our long time storekeepers should appreciate new ideas and welcome new merchants to the area, as the small stores are, if you will, the 5th chakra of the village and need new energy to thrive. However, this does not mean that storekeepers can or should overrule any and all temporary merchants. Those those who impede on their central business should be the only ones that they may oppose. In other words, two silver jewelry sites on one block (or two gelato offerings) can be confusing and unnecessary when we have so much space to offer.

We also ask that the Loyola staff continue their excellent work to study the needs of cyclists in our village and find ways to secure their property more carefully. Clearly, we need to invite more 2-wheeled conveyances and reduce the attraction of the 4-wheeled variety, as evidenced by the continuing stand-still every festival weekend on our Old Levee Street. (DW-Old Levee was changed to Decatur Street in 1800s).

Lastly, we must search for an expansion of sites for our musicians in non-festival areas and on non-festival weekends (see our earlier decrees) but not at the expense of the residents. We ask that Miss Darlene’s idea concerning adding busking stations be explored.

(DW-huh. Once again, she confounds me. I had raised the idea of adding busking areas in some areas of the Quarter, but how had she heard of it?
Buskers is a term used for itinerant musicians or performers and some cities or other public entities paint musical signs on the ground where musicians could set up on festival days and weekends. I thought we should close Wilkerson Row on weekends and allow buskers on that street, as well as on the Royal end of Pere Antoine Alley next to the Cathedral, as well as next to Bienville’s statue (with its hierarchy of the smaller standing priest and even smaller sitting Native American at the end of Conti) and in the corner of the Cabrini Park under the overhang; there would be painted musical signs where groups could set up for a half-day but then they MUST to move to another space on the next half-day . This is designed to offer more underused spaces for entrepreneurial musicians, while ensuring that merchants or residents don’t have to listen to the same musicians under their window every day.)
We hope that the Loyola staff can attend to some of our decrees in the midst of their busy Uptown paving schedule and in the meantime, welcome all to our village.

Program To Fight French Quarter Termites Nears End – New Orleans News Story – WDSU New Orleans

Program To Fight French Quarter Termites Nears End – New Orleans News Story – WDSU New Orleans.


Great. Now they will be returning, and since the city is working to find a way to make as much money from any group that visits that they can, we’ll have to wait for the “Formosa Festival” that will no doubt be added to the tent and table schedule on the FQ calendar.
Or maybe the termites will start a FQ Formosa walking club met by residents armed with Insecticide foamers and treated wood bats with battles held at dusk at the corner streetlights with sadly, no clear winners day after day.
Either way, we got trouble right here in River City.