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Not Dead, Just In New Orleans

Actually, I’m back from New Orleans. My buddy Mur had the need for a sudden whirlwind research project for a book, and as I have a flexible schedule and can decide to take four days off on a whim (provided I bust my ass for the weekend prior) I went along to help drive and eat beignets.

We drove up on Tuesday, spent much of the drive trying to find NPR in Alabama and Mississippi long enough to tell us where the election stood, got to New Orleans, got into our hotel, and in the fifteen minutes between when we got out of the car and when we found a bar, they had called the election and Karl Rove was throwing a tantrum with the sound off.

I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. Not because Obama won—I am somewhere to the left of Al Gore, politically—but because it was anti-climactic! They didn’t even get through the Daily Show!

I drank something called a “Cypress.” It had sugar cane and cucumbers and rum.

The next day we roamed the French Quarter, soaking up local color. We encountered a man who introduced himself as “Hey, ladies! My name is Eddy and I’m always ready!” Then he told us about his four marriages, his great-uncle the voodoo priest (who passed all his powers on to Eddy, naturally) how he boxed Muhammed Ali in the parking lot of a hotel, how he had played the recorder in a past life, and now he wrote poetry on Facebook.

I believe the bits about Facebook. And the four marriages. I expect Eddy would have been difficult to take in the long term relationship department.

Mur, having doubted my tale of feral cats in Jackson Square, was duly chastised by the presence of said cats. We ate much crawfish.  I had another exciting southern-themed cocktail. We made a friend at a restaurant called Cafe Soule, who was having the most eventful week of her life, and was now running the restaurant. The bartender kept sending us shots based on their resemblance to cough syrup. “You have to try this one! It’s exactly like Nyquil!” We became slightly inebriated.

ME: You hugged the chef.

MUR: You’d have hugged him too, if he made you roast duck.

ME: …chefhugger.

MUR: Shut up.

We got free beignets out of the deal, though, so there’s that.

For breakfast, we went to the Ruby Slipper and I had poached eggs over “pork debris.” I still don’t know what pork debris is, but it’s amazing.

I went into a number of art galleries. I bought some prints. Surely there is wall space somewhere. And then I saw a painting of a pepper that pulled me in off the street and I stood in front of it clutching my hair.

ME: I have wasted my life.

MUR: No, you haven’t. Anyway, you have a Hugo.

ME: But I haven’t painted this pepper!

MUR: ….okay. I’m really trying to understand here. Why, of all the art we’ve seen today—including that one with the birds you liked—this pepper here is the thing that makes you say you wasted your life?

ME: I….I need to paint a chicken. That looks like a chicken. The way this pepper looks like a pepper. Does that make sense?

MUR: Not really.

ME: It’s an artist thing. It’s just…art. You know. Hits you. Oh god, look at the water droplet on the pepper there.

MUR: I guess some things just hit people differently.

ME: …Chefhugger.


I had a drink at the Green Goddess called “Glory For Your Salvation.” It narrowly beat out the Ninjarita.


The cucumbers are soaked in ginger syrup. It didn’t taste like alcohol at all. Three of them would have killed me.

We went on a “Vampire Tour.” I have had two very good tours in New Orleans. And now I’ve had this one.

MUR: I started to get a bad feeling when he kept referring to the author of Dracula as “Bram Stroker.”

ME: I was intrigued to hear about the “Goth religion.” And all this time I thought Kevin was a Lutheran!

MUR: I know! What was up with that?

ME: The high point was really the three-legged dog urinating on the street behind him.

MUR: Yeah…did you notice that the dog was, uh, intact elsewhere? It kinda looked like the vet just…missed.

ME: Oh well, could be worse….chefhugger.

MUR: You are just never gonna let that go, are you?

Also, New Orleans has some very educational graffiti.


And they brought their own paper and everything!

The next day we went on a swamp tour. The swamp was fine. As a birder, however, my sensibilities were…somewhat offended. However, I was sitting far away from the tour guide, so most of my commentary went unheeded by anyone except Mur.

TOUR GUIDE: And this is a waterfowl.

ME: It’s an anhinga, actually.

TOUR GUIDE: When I say “waterfowl,” people always think of ducks. But we get these birds, too.

ME: That’s an anhinga.

TOUR GUIDE: Lots of waterfowl!

ME: No, seriously, dude, that’s an anhinga.

TOUR GUIDE (some minutes later): That’s a…uh…

ME: American coot.

TOUR GUIDE: …moorhen.

ME: It’s got a white beak.

TOUR GUIDE: Yep, it’s a moorhen.

ME: The American version of the Common Moorhen was split off into the Common Gallinule last year, so you’d be wrong, but anyway it’s a Coot. It was the word of the day awhile back.

Some minutes later…

ME: AHHHHH Woodpecker!

TOUR GUIDE: And there’s a red-headed woodpecker.

ME, staring through binoculars: …red-bellied woodpecker.

TOUR GUIDE: We have four kinds of woodpeckers out here. Pileated, red-headed, hairy and ivory-billed

ME: …..!!!!

TOUR GUIDE: The ivory-billed is listed as endangered, but we see them out here!

ME: Oh my god that is such a massive lie I do not have words to adequately express the lies that are coming out of your mouth you lying liar that lies!

TOUR GUIDE: Or extinct. Maybe it’s extinct. One of those lists. Regardless, we got em.

ME: I would kill you right now but I don’t think I can steer the boat.

MUR: …you’re really genuinely angry about this. Wow.

ME: Look, this isn’t politics or love or something! Birds matter!

TOUR GUIDE: Yup! Had three ivory-bills out here last week!

MUR: Look, if you need to shove him into the water, scream “I’m taking us to hell, you bastard!” and gun the boat through the swamp screaming obscenities in search of this woodpecker, I’ve got your back.

ME: You are a true friend. Even if you are a chefhugger.

MUR: (sigh.)

And then we drove a million miles home and I had to pee about eight hundred times but we all got home and Kevin got home from Seattle slightly before me and we slept like logs and spent the weekend tearing out the downstairs carpet in preparation for the flooring guys. So I’m exhausted. But it was a good trip.

Except for the woodpecker thing.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

Ignorant guides should be shot. Chopped up into little pieces and fed to owls. Castrated.

Chefhugger, eh?

Fed to alligators. I would have wanted to feed him to an alligator. And I'm not even a birder.

Anyway, this post is awesome.
(You did VOTE, right??)

I often feel that I should pay you for the privilege of being able to read your blog entries.

This is one of those times.

This encapsulates my thoughts perfectly.

Y'know, and here I was thinking "I wonder if Ursula knows about the little bird refuge in the Audubon park. She's gotta know about that, right?" and then you didn't mention it! Obviously you should go the next time you're in New Orleans. There's also the Audubon zoo, which was closed by the time I made my way to the park and the Mississippi River which I can now say I've seen in person.

ETA: it's apparently called "Bird Island" http://www.auduboninstitute.org/visit/audubon-park/fun-favorites/bird-island

There may not be any birds there right now... Audubon Park Bird Island mysteriously abandoned(from 2011)
Nothing saying if they've come back this year or not.

Baby coots are the CUTEST baby birds. I love their little red heads and huge feet.

Hmm, as many times as I've seen Coots, for some reason, I've never seen a juvenile or a baby coot. Wow, those are some unusual colors!

Pork debris is just the bits of pork that fall off into the pan when you're making a roast or something like that. It is also, as you know, the tastiest part of a pork roast.

This. We also have delicious roast beef debris poor boys. Debris is basically the part of the meat you swipe from the edge of the platter before your Mom can put it on the table.

No, no, you don't understand. In New Orleans, Goth is a religion. It's… complicated. Basically about half the natives are vampires, you see, and, well, it kinda goes from there, you know?

I am also curious about your pepper experience. Did you get the artist's name?


I loved this already (chefhugger) but he said WHAT about the ivory-billed woodpecker WHAT.

(Deleted comment)
Now I wanna see the waterdrop.

No kidding. I was kind of hoping she'd bought the painting and was going to show us a picture of it, at least. :)

I know we've been out for sushi, but I want to be a sherpa for you at a show or trip or something!
Just so I can take NOTES!

Reading this was amazing, because on my trip to New Orleans last year I went to both of those restaurants and also on a swamp-boat tour. However, as I'm no birdwatcher, I don't know whether or not I was lied to.

Oh, gawd, ignorant guides! There's just no excuse for that!

Someday, you have to go on an African safari. The guides are amazing. They're like walking encyclopedias. And the park rangers are armed and licensed to kill. You'd love Africa.

I'm all for chef-hugging! And interestingly named alcoholic beverages!

I can hear your respiratory rate going up HUFF HUFF HRFFFF =D ;D

There is nothing wrong with chef hugging. When someone make delicious food for you it can trigger an emotional connection, in which case a hug may be appropriate. On the other hand inappropriate chef-hugging is bad. For example one should never hug any strangers who work at McDonalds, especially if they call themselves a chef. On the gripping hand chef-hugger does make an amusing insult.

You and Sarah Rees Brennan should totally get together and have cute blog babies, your posts are so similar in humour and tone :)

Im only a beginner birder, getting into it via my photography addiction but I feel your pain about ignorant guides.

And I HEART you and this post so much :)

The bit about the lying lying liar who lies sounded *exactly* like sarahtales, didn't it? I had to check to make sure it was Urs posting, in fact. :)