Short column today.
I’ve teased easy-breezy-reads before, only to drop 1800 words on you.
But not today.
It’s Thursday morning, (as usual,) but the last week-and-a-half has been anything but typical.
It began a week ago Tuesday, when I left at 8:30am for ABQ, to catch 2 planes to New Orleans for an evening arrival.
That’s not unusual, a trip taking nearly 12 hours door-to-door, but sure enough, my plane was delayed in Houston, and then cancelled, as they shut the NOLA airport due to fog.
It took two days to get there, and I spent the rest of the week schmoozing, eating, drinking, reviewing portfolios, walking around the city, seeing exhibitions, drinking some more, and having a lot of fun.
I got home Sunday evening, after waking at 3:30am for an early flight, and while I was regenerating brain cells, yesterday morning, we had a wind and ice storm knock out the power and internet for 26 hours.
Right now, I’m barely functional.
I’m asking for a tiny bit of empathy, (as it’s not like we had tornados,) so let’s get the show on the road.
This was my first IRL festival since the world shut in March, 2020, and man was it fun.
I spent much of 2021 on PhotoNOLA’s advisory council, and made my feelings clear, from the jump, that getting people together in-person, (safely,) creates a positive energy impossible to replicate online.
Having cool, creative, hard-working artists in the same room builds camaraderie, and the possibility of new opportunities, which form the backbone of the fine art photo world in the US.
Certainly, I laughed harder than I have in years, drank more booze in a weekend than I do in 6 months of lock-down-life, and was palpably reminded what an amazing group of people we are, as a community.
Kudos to the New Orleans Photo Alliance, and PhotoNOLA, for making this happen!
As usual, I saw a ton of great work, and will write about the best portfolios I saw in a future article.
I caught a killer photo installation of wet plate collodion work, in the Houston airport, by Keliy Anderson-Staley, which I’ll share with you here.
Normally, airport art is forgettable, but I also saw some wonderful paintings in the NOLA airport by Richard C. Thomas on the way home, so let’s drop them into the narrative as well.
When I first arrived in New Orleans, hungry as a mistreated dog, I walked the two short blocks from the International House Hotel, (which is gorgeous,) to the French Quarter, looking for some cheap, tasty street food.
I found the aptly named Istanbul Cafe, where I got an excellent chicken shawarma wrap, which fit the bill, and I went back on Saturday night, to get some dinner that would also serve as breakfast for my early morning.
Next, I headed to Walgreens, for a bottle of room-booze, (Bulleit Bourbon,) and a four-pack of blue Gatorade, because once you hit 47, you don’t want to be drinking heavily without a plan.
When bars charge $15 per shot, getting a full bottle of good whiskey for $24 means you can hit the streets with a nice buzz, hook up your friends for happy hour, and generally manage the hair-of-the-dog situation.
The Gatorade is great for preventing/managing hangovers, as is my nightly ritual of 2 Advil and 1 Benadryl before sleep.
The greasy follow-up breakfast is also key, and I hit the really great Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant each morning, which was literally across the street from the hotel.
Day one, bacon egg and cheese on a homemade biscuit.
Day two, (the breakfasts got bigger each day, as the hangovers stacked up,) I had their loaded hash-browns, which had cheese, jalapeños and sautéed peppers atop the potatoes, with 2 eggs, a side biscuit, and an extra side of smoked sausage. (A local speciality.)
Day three, all that, plus a side of grits. (Each day, I grazed on the food, a bit at a time, to combat the encroaching hangovers.)
If you’re going to abuse your body for a few days at a time, in a party city like New Orleans, I’m telling you, a solid plan is required.
Yesterday, during the blackout, the kids and I played hangman, and laughed for a solid hour. (When your 14-year-old uses “puta” in-game, you can assume fun was had.)
I shared the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention,” as we lived all day without electricity or internet, and found new ways to amuse ourselves.
I’m glad the power is back, but honestly, that kind of out-of-routine experience is what makes memories.
It’s a lot like traveling, and I’ll remember this NOLA adventure for a long time.
Beyond the hilarious trip on a school bus, (where I was named bus captain, reporting to the driver, Ms. Jackie,) the wonderful parties, and a great visit to the Bayou Beer Garden, I also had dinner with a few friends at the über-trendy, insanely delicious Italian restaurant Sofia.
(Brilliant fresh pasta, fantastic pizzas, great meatballs, and a house-made ricotta, radish and flat bread appetizer that was so much better than it sounds.)
As we walked the streets, a group of 5 revelers, including 4 photographers, we stepped directly over a highly mutilated pigeon, and I was the only one to even notice.
I grabbed a photo for you, (trigger warning, it’s gross,) because that’s a part of the fun of seeing new things.
Across the street, a white cathedral glowed in the artificial light.
Quite the NOLA juxtaposition.
In a world in which many of us stayed home for a year, not-too-long-ago, I’m here to remind you that travel really does make us smarter, happier, and richer-in-experience.
So get out there, as soon as you can…
I’ll be back next week, and will share more about NOLA when I feature photographic portfolios in early 2022.