They say nobody needs a vacation like the man who just had one. It’s true. After getting home late Sunday night, I was back at work on Monday until 12:30 AM. I also worked late on Tuesday and Wednesday. I made a couple small mistakes printing the shows and was tired, but I did manage to get through the week just fine. After work on Wednesday, I met Andrey, David and Patrick at d.b.a. where Walter “Wolfman” Washington. Patrick had just returned from travels himself, having spent some time in South Africa. They were already a round or two ahead of me. After a little while be walked down the street to Blue Nile we met a couple of Andrey’s friends, Laura and Rachel. Laura is a fellow Karr alum. Khris Royal and Dark Matter was the band playing. Laura was acquainted with Khris who went to NOCCA. We were there for a couple hours, listening to music and enjoying adult beverages. Laura had a camera with her, the source of much amusement. Shortly before one we disbanded for the evening and I took a cab home.
I took Thursday off to unpack, rest and do laundry. I had plenty of TV watching to catch up on. That evening, I met the usual suspects and Haydar for dinner and a movie. I got picked up and we went to a Vietnamese restaurant on Manhattan and then went to the Palace for a movie. We saw Macgruber which was quite bad, exactly what I was expecting from a stupid SNL bit dragged out for 90 minutes. I walked out of Shindler’s List feeling better than I did after this movie. We didn’t go anywhere after the movie and I got a ride home.
I was also off Friday. Dad has started to close the office on Friday’s which makes sense as our patient flow that day has historically been dismal. I got an invite to go out late that night but elected to stay home and go to bed at a marginally respectable hour.
Today was my last in Phoenix. I slept until almost two this afternoon after being up so late last night. I woke up Ami not long after that and got ready for the day. I did the bulk of my packing in the last two days. I also had the chance to do some laundry so I was returning with mostly clean clothes. At about three, Ami and I went out to the Chandler Fashion center for something to eat at the mall food court.I had the “hambrosia” sandwich from Steak Escape. I used to go to the one at the New Orleans Centre with some frequency before Katrina when Tulane had a small campus there.
After lunch, Ami and I wandered around for a while. Our last stop was Barnes and Noble. I bought a magazine to possibly read on the plane. After that she drove me out to the airport. I got there with plenty of time before my flight… even more than I first thought. After I got in the terminal I saw on the departure screens that my flight was delayed an hour. I now had about three hours to kill in the airport. I sat around for a little bit and then broke out my laptop. I talked to Ami online for a little while and checked my e-mail and that sort of thing. I haven’t made much use of the web in the last several days although Ami had access at her condo so I can’t say I was deprived or anything. Later I got a little something to eat and drink and one of the sit down restaurants in the terminal. I waited a good while for my food. Silly me thought I had to hurry up a bit and eat to be in line to board the plane.
After I finished I found the flight was delayed a further half hour. I bought a few keychains at a gift shop and spent the rest of my wait loitering around and snapping a few pictures. Boarding finally started around eight and wheels up was at about 8:15. The flight itself was fine but since we left so late there wasn’t much to see out the window. I spent a good portion of the flight typing up log entries for the last week. Like the trip to Phoenix, my new headphones made the flight much more bearable. We finally landed sometime after midnight. After picking up my checked bag I took a cab home and went to bed.
Having waited around in vain for several hours yesterday, I went out to the pool after I got up this morning around 11 to hang out for a while. There was no good scenery but I had an unread issue of the Atlantic magazine to work on for the next couple hours. I called Ami’s phone by request t one this afternoon to wake her. Around two we drove out to Tempe Marketplace. It’s arranged like an outdoor mall. She wanted to buy a multi card reader at Best Buy so we went there first. I didn’t buy anything but I got my first chance to handle the new Canon 7D which is a pretty cool camera. I think I would like my next body upgrade to be full frame though. I’m sure I could be swayed by a lower price in the future though on this new wonder crop camera.
We had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. The food was pretty decent. I had their version of a meat lover’s pizza. I wasn’t able to quite finish it. I believe Ami had the Hawaiian BBQ pizza which was also quite good. After lunch we wandered around, stopping in a few places. Ami eventually found a place with a large purse she liked and bought a hat as well.
Not long after that, we went to the movie theater there and saw Iron Man 2. A showing began right after we arrived at 4:30. The film itself was a passable action flick but I found it quite inferior to it’s predecessor. The storyline had the typical laziness of a cash-in that I personally find rather distracting. During the car race scene, I had to wonder nobody seemed to have a gun to shoot the shirtless bad guy standing in the middle of the race track causing all kinds of havoc. That said, it was still kind of fun to watch. I won’t be going out of my way to see it again, though.
As we were leaving the mall we saw a band, Traveler, was playing at a stage in a plaza area. We stuck around for a couple numbers before heading back to Ami’s place. We stuck around there for a couple hours before going over to Melissa’s apartment. While we waited I put a movie on, Lost in Translation. Shortly after nine, we drove out there. Melissa’s husband Jerry didn’t show up until a while after we got there. We watched The Hangover, a movie that I’d heard referenced more than once in the last few days. Most people I’ve heard mention it speak fondly. I wouldn’t call it cinematic genius but it was quite funny. I also finally got the jab about that “satchel” I heard about earlier.
Before we left, we were offered cheesecake and beer… quite a pairing. On the way home, we stopped by the Lone Butte Casino where Ami waits tables at the 24/7 café. She needed to fill out a vacation request for next week. It was nice to see where she works and I got to meet several of her coworkers including one the managers, Patty, whom Ami speaks fondly of. We ordered some food to take home as well.
When we got back, Ami put another movie on, Zomebieland… another comedy I apparently needed to see. Again, it had its moments. Before turning in I had a look at Ami’s yearbook. I had forgotten the letter I wrote in it years ago before mailing it to Payson, where she moved after we graduated. We finally went to bed around four.
I woke up sometime after 10 this morning. I struggled to occupy myself until Ami finally woke up around three. Apparently that’s when she normally wakes up because she works a graveyard shift at a nearby casino. We left the house sometime after three. We had a late lunch at Arby’s, my first visit to one of their establishments… decent sandwiches. I think this was the day we stopped at Petsmart to pick up some things for her rats. Among them was a ball that rodents can walk around in. It proved to be the source of much amusement when we got home. Ami’s dog Aly didn’t know what to make of the ball that was moving around by itself. It was rather funny as, to quite Ami, Aly is a “big pussy.”
Later in the evening, we drove out to the Chandler Fashion Center to meet a few people for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Initially, we were to see a few of Ami’s friends there but that fell through. In addition to us were Ami’s mom Lucy, her boyfriend Jim, Ami’s sister Melissa and her husband Jerry as well as Jerry’s friend Max. Ami and I arrived first and every one else showed up not long after eight.
I think all of us had wings of one sort or another. Dinner passed quickly enough and Melissa Jerry and Max left. We had planned to see a movie or something with them but apparently Melissa had to work in the morning. Ami and I sat with Lucy and Jim and talked for quite a while before we all finally departed sometime after 10. Since we didn’t have anyone left in the group to do anything, Ami decided to show me Mill Avenue in Phoenix. There is a strip of bars and restaurants down this street near ASU. It’s a wide street which isn’t incredibly conducive for a pedestrian thoroughfare in my opinion but I guess they make it work. At the end of the line as it were are the Tempe river bridges. The monorail bridge is lit with changing multicolor lights which I did my best to photograph the Tempe Town Lake Light Rail Bridge. As we walked back down the other side of the street we stopped at Mojo frozen yogurt, apparently one of Ami’s favorite places. The elaborately decorated place has soft serve machines lined up where you fill a bowl with yogurt and toppings and pay by the ounce. We say for a while and then left. As we continued on our way we were approached by cordial gentleman collecting signatures to get someone on the ballot in a local election. He had to follow us a bit before Ami signed the petition. We spoke with the gentleman for a few minutes before continuing down the street. After we got back to the condo, Ami looked over all the pictures I have taken in the last few days and picked out the ones she wanted to keep and put on her computer. I put a movie on while she did that. I think we made it to bed before four this morning.
I woke up sometime before 11 this morning. I hadn’t had enough sleep but I haven’t had much luck sleeping past 10, or noon in my native time zone. I waited around the hotel room until about three when Ami finally showed up. At about four we departed the hotel to head back to Phoenix. I drove out of Las Vegas at Ami’s request. She was rather tired still. It was unfortunate that we got such a late start because there were a few things I was hoping to do this afternoon but I had to abridge my plans. One place I wanted to visit while in Las Vegas was the Pinball Hall of Fame. It took a couple tries to find the location on Tropicana Avenue but I finally found it after driving past at least once, in spite of having the address. It’s a non-descript building with a huge collection of pinball machines, old, less old and new. Ami was dog tired and stayed in the car to nap while I went in. I could have entertained myself for hours but I did not want to leave Ami in the car for any extended length of time so I looked around, played a couple machines and left.
Fortunately I didn’t have any real trouble driving out of the city and down the interstate in spite of a lack of any significant driving experience. It was rather fun driving through the desert with my friend… even if she was asleep half the time. The traffic was light and the scenery was nice. The checkpoint at the Hoover Dam was no trouble. We stopped at one of the parking areas to have a look but it was on the reservoir side so it was not the best photo op. If I pass that way again I would like to stop to take the tour.
My only real mistake in driving was missing the turn on I-40 to US-93 which is a direct route to Phoenix. By the time I realized the mistake it was really too late to bother turning around. Instead we continued to Flagstaff and then turned on to I-17 down to Phoenix. That particular error probably added an hour on to our trip. We changed drivers outside of Flagstaff in Williams as the sun was starting to set. I think we finally made it into the city of Phoenix around ten. We picked up a little something to eat and then went to Ami’s Mom’s place to pick up Aly, Ami’s dog. We ended up staying for a few hours watching TV and talking with Jim, Lucy and Jim’s daughter Katie. It must have been at least two in the morning before we left there and headed back to the condo and finally bed.
Having not made it to sleep before the sun came up this morning, Ami and I were rather late to wake. We did eventually get up this afternoon. While she was getting ready I went out to the parking garage to retrieve my sunglasses. It took an embarrassing amount of time to find our car. After I finally did I met up with Ami at the bar near the elevators and we went out on the strip to do some shopping.
It was nice and hot outside and Ami quickly felt overdressed so she bought one of those stretchy one size fits all dresses and chanced into that. I picked up a couple t-shirts in the same store. After that we got something to eat at a food court off the strip at a Wendy’s.
We spent most of the afternoon at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. I don’t recall either of us buying anything there but we did look at quite a bit of stuff. There was a gallery featuring the works on Vladimir Kush which was rather interesting. I think the Club Tattoo store was Ami’s favorite. We spent a lot of time in the Urban Outfitters store looking at all the knick-knacks and books there.
Since we weren’t terribly hungry around dinner time having eaten lunch late, we deferred dinner until later in the evening. We took the monorail back to our hotel to change and freshen up for the show we went to see this evening.
With more formal attire on, we took a cab from our hotel to Treasure Island. Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystere” was playing there and I bought some tickets last night. A long line had formed to enter but it evaporated while I waited at will call to pickup our tickets. This was my first Cirque Du Soleil show so I didn’t really go in with any expectations, even though the entertainment company has been around as long as me. I hardly feel qualified to describe the show in much detail. The show combines acrobatics and other feats of athleticism, street comedy and “worldbeat” music. Before the show starts, what could only be describes as a clown in a tux mingles through the audience with popcorn, spilling it on and around the audience. He’s also featured during the show as a nuisance to the performers and audience. At one point he put a man in a cage and proceeds to attempt to woo his girl.
Among an array of impressive acrobatics was a “hand to hand” performance by the Alexis Brothers in a particularly impressive display of strength at they balance themselves on each other. I was thoroughly impressed, although I wasn’t exactly drooling like Ami was. In any event, I’m sure one of the many reviews written about Mystere do a better job of articulating the experience than I could. One thing I was expecting that I didn’t really see that I was expecting was a coherent plot of some kind. If there was a deeper meaning, I did not get it.
Following the show, we stopped at the gift shop and picked up a couple little things. I wanted to have dinner at Delmonico’s Steakhouse that night but it closed at 10 like many restaurants on the strip so we took a cab to Smith and Wollensky which is next door to the MGM Grand where we were staying. I had the sirloin almost out of obligation and Ami had a turkey BLT. I was not especially hungry though and couldn’t quite finish it. After dinner we stopped at the hotel room to drop off the souvenirs we bought earlier and Ami’s leftovers.
Around one in the morning we went back out to walk around and get some drinks. Our first stop was the Centrifuge Bar in the MGM Grand. After a couple rounds there we walked up the strip and stopped at the casino bar at Bill’s for a shot and one of their 99 cent margaritas. Following that we spent a good deal of time at the Carnaval Court Bar at Harrah’s. As far as we could tell it was one of the few places open into the wee hours of the morning. We were there for a good while. Ami had me drinking a bit more heavily that I otherwise would have been. The big camera slung around my shoulder attracted a bit of attention. A couple handfuls of people had me takes pictures of them. One guy tugged on my camera strap and asked if I was carrying a satchel, much to Ami’s amusement. I didn’t yet get the joke.
Sometime time around four, things were wrapping up at that venue. The DJ was done for the night and we heard last call. Lastly we went to the Rockhouse Bar on the strip. I walked back to the hotel around five and went to bed.
Today is my 26th birthday. Both Ami and I were late to wake this morning. I made a couple calls after waking up for a car rental this afternoon. Around 12:30, we drove out to a nearby Enterprise Rent-a-Car where they had a Chrysler PT Cruiser waiting for us. It wouldn’t have been my first choice but it worked out fine. The manager there, Jon, helped me out and did the walk around the car. He was very helpful and successfully upsold me on all the insurance and liability options for the rental. Ami parked her old Camry in the lot and we loaded everything up and left in our new blue car.
Before heading out of town, we stopped to visit Ami’s sister Melissa briefly. She had some birthday presents for Ami to give her before we left town. We were only there for about 15 minutes.
Ami did the driving for the duration of the trip up. I offered to drive but she was fine doing the whole thing. While we were heading out of the city but still in Phoenix, we exited I-10 too early and ultimate ended up on US-60 rather early. 60 runs up to US-93 which is a highway that runs directly to Las Vegas but while still in the city it’s just another road with lots of traffic and stoplights. It took almost an hour just to clear the greater Phoenix area.
At Wickenburg where US-60 meets 93, we neglected to turn and started heading due west. About 20 minutes went by before I realized the error and we turned around. Ultimately that little mistake cost us another 45 minutes. The bulk of the ride was uneventful, we were driving through the middle of the desert after all. We did pull over at the “ruins” of Nothing, Arizona, which was an unincorporated community that had a gas station and shop. It’s abandoned now but I saw it on a map and Wikipedia weeks ago and wanted to have a look when we drove past.
The sun set long before we hit the Hoover Dam. Traffic is slowed considerably on the approach to the dam but the security checkpoint flowed smoothly. I couldn’t see very much at night but the enormity of the dam was still pretty clear.
A little later we approached the city of Las Vegas. Seeing it for the first time at night was quite striking. After driving through the pitch dark desert for hours, we drove over one of many hills and suddenly a sea of lights become visible. Once we got down into the city it looked much like any other until you approach and turn on to Las Vegas Boulevard, the strip. Before heading to the hotel we drove up and down the strip to take in the sights. I’ve never seen anything so awesome and unnecessary in my life.
After our bit of sightseeing we pulled into the self park garage at the MGM Grand where we had a reservation and checked into the hotel sometime after 10 that night. We had one of the “grand tower” rooms which was quite nice for the price but there was no real view to speak of where we were on the 4th floor.
After we got settled, we walked up the strip, got a drink and generally just looked around. I had my camera with me and took lots of pictures. I thought we would get a look at the Bellagio fountains. We saw a show going on as we drove the strip but it was about one in the morning when we walked by. Apparently they shut them off at midnight… shame. I was hoping to eat at one of the Bellagio’s restaurants but they were closed too, understandably so. We walked into the casino where we were greeted by one of the security folks. He escorted us to Café Bellagio which has much more generous hours. It’s adjacent to the botanical gardens, a rather impressive and colorful display to say the least. The food at the restaurant was quite decent for a 24-hour restaurant. I was not very hungry so I just had the shrimp cocktail and some wine. Ami had grilled salmon. For dessert I had the carrot cake which looked nothing like what I was expecting. It made for a nice photo-op.
After what I suppose could be called dinner, we walked around for a couple more hours, mostly along the strip and maybe stopping in a couple casinos. We walked as far as the Venetian before we started heading back the other way. Even though we were out rather late, I was surprised hoe dead the strip was. There were only a few people still walking around and only a couple places still open. We tried to find a monorail stop and we got pretty close to one before we were told by someone cleaning floors at Harrah’s that they stopped at 2 AM. One last thing Ami wanted to was take a picture in front of an electronic sign at Denny’s that cycled the date which now reflected the 19th, her 25th birthday. After hours of stumbling around and goofing off, we finally made it back to the hotel room at about five. By the time we finally went to bed, the sun was coming up. I don’t think I’ve had cause to see a sunrise since the day my family got up early to evacuate for Katrina.
Yesterday, Bianca left the house early this morning to see her mom before driving back to Brookhaven. I spent most of yesterday packing and watching TV. I may have done some laundry too.
Today was the day I flew to Phoenix for my weeklong visit with Ami, an old friend from high school I haven’t seen in five years. We talked about a possible visit for the last few months with the likelihood of going to Las Vegas. As of this morning, that part of the plan was unsettled since Ami just signed the lease on a new apartment and was a bit pressed for money.
Having done nearly all the packing in the past couple days, I was ready to leave the house at a decent hour this morning. Dad and I went to the office just after 11 where we remained until about 12:30. I got a little bit of work done in an effort to clear my desk before departing for a week. I got a ride to the airport in plenty of time. I didn’t have any trouble getting through airport security although this being my first time flying with camera gear had me nervous.
I had about an hour to kill in the terminal before boarding. I bought a smoothie and took a bunch of pictures out the window. I was in boarding group B but I still got a decent window seat. The flight was full and departed on time. It was largely smooth all the way to Phoenix. For this and my return flight, I bought some new earphones to block the airplane noise which is rather severe. Last week I got a pair of Etymotic HF5 in-ear monitors and some Comply foam tips. Just having them in your ears blocks most of the noise and the engines are basically inaudible when music is playing so that made the flight much more pleasant than previous flights I’ve been on where I endured crying babies and the like. I brought a bunch of stuff to do on the three hour ride but I spent most of my time looking out the window and taking pictures. I haven’t been on a plane in a few years so there was some novelty to an airplane ride for me. Flying over Phoenix was certainly interesting. Obviously we flew over a lot of desert, but there was also a striking amount of civilization to fly over before reaching the airport.
After landing in Phoenix, Ami told me she was waiting at the gate. I looked intently after disembarking but I never did see her so we met in baggage claim. I had not seen her in five years but she looked just as I remembered… shorter hair perhaps. Having chatted briefly and collected my checked bag we made our way to the parking garage. She remembered what level she was on but we did take the scenic route to where she parked.
While riding away from the airport she suggested we get something to eat. Aside from the peanuts and cheese nips on the plane I hadn’t eaten anything myself and was game for a meal. We went to one of the many malls in greater Phoenix, Arizona Mills, and went to the restaurant in the upper level of Gameworks, a sizable arcade. We had the spinach and artichoke appetizer which was nice. I don’t remember what I ordered after that but I know I felt full fast. I forgot about the smoothie I had before leaving New Orleans. During what could best be described as dinner, we discussed driving to Las Vegas. She was fine either way but wanted to be in Phoenix on Friday for dinner with her mom and some friends who were going to be in town. We decided on renting a car the following morning and driving to Vegas, staying through Ami’s birthday and leaving on the 20th.
Following our meal we walked around the mall for a while. I bought a couple t-shirts at Old Navy and I think Ami got some makeup from Claire’s or a store like it. After we left the mall she drove me to her new apartment that she just rented. She has not quite moved in yet. She was doing some painting and still a lot of things to move there. Following our short tour we went to the condo that she has been living at for quite some time now. I must have dropped my bags off there. I don’t remember how long we stayed.
There was still a lot of time to kill that evening so we went to IKEA. I’ve never been to an IKEA store so it was a new experience for me. It was interesting to walk through the carefully designed showroom… a nice little maze. The café portion was closed, however, which was a little disappointing.
After our little tour we drove out to visit Ami’s mom who is living with her boyfriend Jim and his daughter Katie. I only met Ami’s mother Lucy once back in the summer of 2003 after we graduated from high school. She didn’t look much different. We visited for a while, talking and watching TV. I think we watched a movie this evening too, The Unborn… I’ve seen better.
Later this evening, maybe around one or two, we went back to her condo. Before bed I booked a hotel in Vegas and got some show tickets.
Bianca woke me up shortly before seven this morning. I was supposed to be at the Superdome for eight. Tulane’s unified commencement ceremony was to start at nine this morning. We left the house shortly before 7:30, ahead of everyone else. On the way we stopped a burger king for a little breakfast. I might have been content to go without but I was eventually glad I ate something.
After we parked in the dome garage, Bianca entered at gate G. I had to walk around the dome to gate C where the graduate entrance was. From there I went to one of the “robing rooms” where students gathered to get their gowns on and form the lines that would enter the floor in front of the stage. The room I was in was for continuing studies, liberal arts and public health and tropical medicine students. I recognized quite a few people there but most were just passing acquaintances. Roy and Ash from my Practicum class last year were there. I sat next to them during the ceremony.
We were led out on to the floor of the dome back stage where we had to remain for a good bit before we filed out to our seats on the floor as Dr. White’s Jazz band played. I didn’t hear Sir Edward Elgar once. The unified ceremony was an elaborate and impressive affair. There was good music and not an excessive number of speakers. Anderson Cooper of CNN delivered the keynote address. I was initially disappointed when I learned he would be the speaker but I was pleasantly surprised. He delivered a funny and sufficiently substantive address. I’ve heard more than a couple self centered graduation speeches and this was not one of them.
The unified commencement ended with Wanda Rouzan and Dr. Michael White performing a rendition of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.” Then university president Scott Cowon declaring “Let’s have some fun” and thousands of little green and white beach balls rapidly descended from above. I think a disproportionate number of them landed on me and those immediately around me.
There was a 15 minute intermission before the undergraduate diploma ceremony. Those receiving graduate degrees had later events elsewhere and departed. During the intermission I got to find Bianca, Ed and my immediate family in the audience. Bianca walked down to the front row to talk and take some souvenirs off my hands.
The diploma ceremony proceeded just like any other. Names are read and the students walk across the stage to receive their diploma (covers). Those in the school of public health and tropical medicine went first. Second was my school, continuing studies. My walk was not really different than anyone else. I did half wave at the for the jumbotron camera because I knew I was some distance from my folks. After we walked off stage we posed for two separate photographers. As I was walking back to my seat, a professor I had a math class with walked up to congratulate me. I thanked him and said I wish I did better in his math class.
The diploma ceremony concluded at about 12:45. Immediately after that, all the students walked back stage to receive an envelope containing their actual diplomas. I was quick to get there and beat the long lines that quickly formed. With my diploma in hand, I went out to meet Bianca outside who was waiting for me. Everyone else departed a bit earlier to make a 1:15 reservation at the cheesecake bistro on St. Charles. I went there with my family the evening of my high school graduation and thought it would be cool to visit again.
It was raining a bit when I walked out. After I met up with Bianca and made it to her car, the rain picked up a bit. It took a few minutes to clear the parking garage but the traffic wasn’t too bad. My folks already had a table and drinks when we arrived. I felt like drinking champagne so we ordered a bottle. I wanted to save room for cheesecake and dinner later so I only ordered an appetizer. A few of us including myself had the banana’s foster cheesecake which of course was excellent. After our lunch and conversation with my folks and Ed which wrapped up around four, Bianca and I parted company with them and went out to the mall. She expressed an interest in going shopping while here and I figured I could probably use a couple things for my trip next week.
It was still rainy but we got covered parking outside Macy’s. In addition to other stores with visited, we went through a few looking to get a sport coat for me. I was hoping to find something not terribly formal. A gentleman at Dillard’s was very helpful but I didn’t find anything I liked under $300. I was hoping to spend $200 or less. Ultimately I bought a navy blue coat at Banana Republic. We spent about 20 minutes in Sephora and Bianca bought some makeup.
After we left the mall we headed to the quarter for dinner. Bianca insisted on treating me to dinner and she took me to Mr. B’s Bistro. I’ve mentioned the place in passing several times since it shares my nickname. It was going to be a surprise but there was an issue with her reservation. We walked in around eight and were seated at about 8:30. She had the filet mignon and I had grilled fish, both of which were quite good.
Later we met up with Andrey and David at Pat O’Brien’s. I think there were supposed to be more people with them. We got to hang out for a couple hours and stopped in a few different places, none of which I think Bianca enjoyed. She wanted to dance to pop music and that’s not exactly our thing. We walked to Frenchman Street, wandered a bit and then went to BMC on Decatur Street. I’m not sure who the band was but it looked like a high school brass band… not exceptional musically but entertaining. After that we walked across Esplanade to the Dragon’s Den. It was quiet but eventually a rap act got started which I thought was interesting if nothing else. Bianca was rather tired by this point though, midnight maybe, and both of us eventually left early. We took a cab back to the garage near her restaurant where she parked her car. I offered to drive but she was okay to drive. I think we made it back home before one.
Following a work week of no incredible consequence, I had the day off on Friday. I spent some of the afternoon packing for an upcoming trip. This evening, I went with Mom and my brothers to the Wave Goodbye party at Tulane for this year’s graduates. It’s a sizable event that occurs on Tulane’s campus in the Gibson Quad. There was as much food as you were willing to stand in line for and live music by the Hot 8 Brass Band.
We met up with Dad after I arrived and a surprise visitor, my godfather Ed Wernsing. He flew down from Illinois for my graduation tomorrow. We’ve only spoken a handful of times in the last decade and I haven’t seen him since I was 12 so it was especially kind of him to come. The party was a bit loud but we had the chance to talk about various goings-on in the last several years. My friend Bianca drove down from Mississippi this evening. She met us at the party later on. I also saw Andrey, David and Amy there.
Unlike last year, the party seemed to pass by rather quickly. At around eight, I left with Bianca. We never got around to getting anything to eat. All the lines were rather long. We went over to Camellia Grill, one of many fine New Orleans institutions she had not been to before. I can’t remember why but I wasn’t terribly hungry so I “only” got a couple scrambled eggs, bacon and fries. Bianca had one of their huge omelets.
After dinner, as it could best be described, we met up with Andrey, David and Romi at the Cure on Freret Street. We had a few drinks and sat around talking until about 11:30. At Bianca’s behest, her and I went home for the evening. It was just as well since I had to be up early in the morning.
Having completed an abbreviated summary of Jazz Fest, I can abbreviate everything else that’s happened in the last week or so. Overlapping Jazz Fest in the news was the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and subsequent oil spill. The story has owned our local newscasts in recent weeks. I don’t think I need to go on at length about the implications of oil reaching the shores of the gulf coast. Work has gone on largely as normal for me.
This past Thursday I took the last exam of the last class in my last semester at Tulane. It was just three questions and I didn’t have much if an answer for one of them. I didn’t do especially well on my other two exams either and I finished the class with a C… not exactly what I was hoping for when I started.
On Friday I went with dad to a school play at Ecole Classique. My nephew Brandon was playing a role in the school’s production of Grease. It was an ambitious production for a high school with some 40 kids in the cast… pretty funny too.
This being the first weekend at home in several weeks I was able to get a lot of housekeeping done. I had quite a bit of laundry piled up and my bedroom was not its usual pristine self.
On few occasions in the seven year history of the neglected Daily Log have I left a whole month pass without an entry. With French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest right next to each other and school stuff sandwiched in, I have not had the time or desire to write here.
Immediately following the French Quarter Festival, I spent most of my spare time studying for my third and final exam in military history class. Professor Lagvanec finished his lecture series early and the students including myself were more than happy to take the exam early on April 22nd. It allowed me to be done with school before Jazz Fest, the worst possible time of year for me to be studying in. We all showed up that Thursday but the professor was almost two hours late and he only showed up to tell us we could not take the exam that evening. He had a scheduling conflict. The exam was rescheduled for May 6, the Thursday after Jazz Fest.
As a whole, Jazz Fest was pretty awesome this year. It started and ended with rain and was largely overcast in between but the crowds were still quite healthy and the music and food was as good as ever. I had a brass pass and I rented one lens this year, Canon’s new 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II. It’s an amazing piece of glass although it still needs to be in the hands of a pro to get the best results. Even so I would love to own one.
For me, the highlights this year were the Treme Brass Band, which is an annual spectacle in Economy Hall. Irvin Mayfield’s NOJO put on an awesome set. I now own their CD. Lionel Richie was dependably excellent. It was raining the Friday he played. He had the diehard audience eating out of his hand. The second Friday and Saturday, Dad came with me to the fairgrounds. I saw him intermittently during both days. At the end of the second Friday we saw the Gipsy Kings. I’ve heard their music on couple occasions in my life but this was the first time hearing a whole set of their music an certainly the first time live. I already like Latin music and I was thoroughly impressed.
The second Saturday was a pretty good day. Rain was forecast but the fairgrounds were spared. New Leviathan and Pete Fountain played in Economy Hall. John Goodman joined Pete briefly on stage, quite a hoot. On the last Sunday it did rain which made the tents popular and I spent most of the day between the Jazz and Blues tents. The Marsalis family played in the blues tent and BB King closed out the festival in the blues tent. Unfortunately, space in the blues tent came at a substantial premium. Such a popular act should have been on a big stage. I managed to get into the tent but I was off to the side and couldn’t see anything. I was only able to shoot a few pictures as I was leaving.
Unlike Jazz Fests in the past, I had to work nights on the weekends. Jazz Fest is always exhausting, especially going every day. It took longer to “recover” and catch up on my sleep without the benefit of going straight home after each day at the fairgrounds. The time I might have spent writing about each day at the fest was spent culling the day’s pictures. I averaged about 1,500 a day this year… about as much as my memory card collection allows.
Below is a list of each band I saw at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Friday, April 23:
Jesse McBride presents The Next Generation
Saturday, April 24:
N.O.C.C.A. Jazz Ensemble
Treme Brass Band
Greater Antioch Full Gospel Baptist Church Mass Choir
Patrice Fisher & Arpa and the Honduran Connection
HBO’s Treme Interview
Simon and Garfunkle
Sunday, April 24:
University of New Orleans Jazz Ensemble
Miss Sophoe Lee
Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band
Tribute to Juanita Brooks with Betty Shirley, Leah Chase and Germaine Bazzle
Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
The Allman Brothers Band
Thursday, April 29:
Lafayette Rhythm Devils
Hot Club of New Orleans
Chief Iron Horse & the Black Seminoles Mardi Gras Indians
Coco Robicheaux and the Swamp Monsters
Tulane University Jazz Ensemble
Mario Abney Sextet
Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys
Lyle Henderson & Emmanuel
Shannon Powell’s Organ Combo
Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show
Average White Band
Friday, April 30:
Juilliard Jazz Ensemble
Saturday, May 1:
Xavier University Jazz Ensmeble
New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra
Pinstripe Brass Band
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
Sunday, May 2:
Ronnie Kole Trio
Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra
Jonno and Bayou Deville