Monday, November 18, 2013

New Orleans

New Orleans. Overseeing volunteers in the Lower ninth ward.
The neighborhood's narrow streets are spotted with banana trees and lined with grass margins and shotgun-style homes, some still completely ransacked by the hurricanes, others beautifully rehabbed.
Theday was spent sanding and priming - chatting and laughing with the others made the day pass quickly. Afterward, the shower coulda used a traffic light. The French volunteers made dinner and it disappeared in seconds . Now the downtime - a cup of coffee and a game of cards and the hours unwind with an easy rapport unfolding between everybody.
Plenty more to do tomorrow .

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cafe Hawelka

Cafe Hawelka, in Vienna is as much a part of the city as the city is a part of European history.
First opened in 1939 , it has changed little over the following decades and since that time has been operated by the Hawelka family, handed down from generation to generation. Through the twentieth century it was and remains a meeting point for writers and artists to share ideas over a melange or two, and maybe one of the famous pastries that are still made in house from recipes handed down directly from the matriarch Josefin Hawelka.
Among the artists, housewives take a break from their errands. Businessmen take lunch, or random blow-ins like me come in to look at them.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, the dark wood and dim lighting invite the weary pedestrian to hang their coat and follow the maitre d' to a booth or table. From the deep colored wallpaper hang photographs of the family through the century and some beautiful original artworks - some original paintings hang from once unknown painters who, without the money to pay for their lunch, would offer a work of art instead. These hang proudly , some of them now priceless, in a room with no music or radio or any vestige of the modern world ,; a place to view art, enjoy coffee, and hear the low chatter of one of Europe's most elegant cities, and allow a small portion of the day to tick down at its own chosen speed.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

North Country

Outing, MN just North of Emily . Way up in the pines . Duck boats gather under a blue sky - the log-built bait shops dot route 169 and the camouflage hats and jackets dominate as 4x4s and flat beds file in and out of the parking lots .
The day ticks down at the pace you'd expect from a northern Minnesota village.
Still plenty green on the trees , but sure to turn soon. The slight chill in the air is a clue to what's up ahead, but for now, the sun's shining and there's time to kill. 

There's a play in Emily tonight that'll draw a good chunk of the little town - dinner theater: pulled pork and a musical comedy from Screen Porch Productions to wash it down. Maybe a beer at the Bungalow Inn on the way home.
Until then, a  guy could do worse than just kick back and look around. Think I will....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One Saturday Afternoon.....

The root beer was from the Abita Brewery in Louisiana. A good one - not too sweet and full-bodied.
The Blues City Deli rotates its root beer selection regularly and always has something worth trying. The locals file through in a steady line , heading for the counter- best sandwiches in town and they all know it, but that wasn't the only draw today.
At 1pm the Rum Drum Ramblers were hitting the stage with their unique brand of pre war blues- style original songs. These guys are local favorites and for good reason. These afternoon shows at the deli are few and far between these days for the Ramblers, so when the word goes out it travels fast. By the time I'd grabbed my root beer, it was standing room only. By the time I'd finished it, you couldn't fit a sardine in the room , and maybe it was time for me to switch to something stronger.
Local St Louis micro brewery Schlafly is well represented at the Deli, and 3 bucks bought me a bottle of their Pale Ale- smooth not too hoppy and a little nutty. Just a little.
Vinny, the owner. smiled and served me and then fought his way through the crowd to introduce the band, then fought his way back.
The band jumped straight in and in no time flat had the joint hopping - double bass bounced the harp player into a frenzy . Matt held down the guitar rhythm - nailed it to the floor, and a guest appearance from a waif like young girl dwarfed by her baritone sax completed the picture. The crowd , shoulder to shoulder , bopped and sang, whooped and hollered with each solo. Vinnie had announced it as the first gig of the year and proclaimed his intention to start as he meant to go on - with good music and great sandwiches - and man are they good. The Po' Boy's are incredible - the roast beef being a huge favorite. I opt for the veggie Po' Boy every time, and one of these days I may well have earned one of the house t-shirts with the slogan - "If it wasn't for Vinnie, I'd be skinny".
The line moved slow and insistent like cooling lava for the whole gig, and over time it felt like the whole neighborhood had squeezed its way into the roughly 400 sq ft room.
The band bopped til 3.30, and I left a little before, weaving through some couples dancing a two step on the street - the only space around to do so. I wandered out with a full belly and great music ringing in my ears, and a promise to myself to get back there soon. Hopefully I'll see you there.