Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Afternoon at the Audubon Zoo

I had the most incredible experience on Thursday afternoon!

Our houseguest for the past 6 weeks, Rachel, is a veterinary student; she was in New Orleans to do an externship at the Audubon Zoo. Since her term was completed, she asked her supervisors at the zoo whether her mother and I could do a "behind the scenes" tour. Not only did we get to do the tour, we were guided by the Zoo's vet in his golf cart, got to feed giraffes, and got to pet rhinos!

There were four male giraffes, one only two years old. He's the one who splayed his legs so he could stick his head and neck through the enclosure's bars. I guess he thought that would give him a "shortness" advantage and enable him to get more treats. The giraffes' tongues were REALLY long! Their tongues are prehensile -- like monkeys' tails. The giraffe wraps its tongue around the food pellet (high in fiber, I might add!) and rolls the pellet up into its mouth. SO cool! They drool quite a bit and burp more than beer-drinkers at a Super Bowl party! Dr. Mercado, the vet, carried a bottle of hand sanitizer and paper towels for us to use after snack time. We were in a protected area because the giraffes might kick, but we really didn't have to worry about them kicking -- they were only interested in snacks and came over immediately when we entered the enclosure. They also lost interest in us and wandered away pretty quickly when the biscuit bowl emptied! Their eyelashes are beautiful -- so thick and long -- kind of like black whisk brooms and they're much taller up-close-and -personal than they appear from the viewing platform.

The rhinos were massive! They had come indoors to feed and were just kinda hanging out in their pen -- an old female, a young female and a male. Dr. Mercado was a little nervous that they might accidentally hurt us, but the keeper had us walk right up to them and let us stroke them. They were very docile -- not at all like they're portrayed in movies, although I really wouldn't want to tick one off! Their skin is very rough and craggy -- difficult to describe -- but the skin behind the young lady's ear was almost soft and smooth. That's how the keeper described it anyway -- I thought she needed quite a bit of lotion. Her horn was a good foot and a half long -- the keeper said he had to trim five inches off of it last year, and trimming it isn't easy. She had to be sedated and he used a power saw! Their eyes are tiny, relative to their overall bulk, and they follow your movements closely.
We also went to see the giant anteater and her week-old baby, clinging to the fur on her back. He'll ride on her back for nearly a year! No wonder she seemed rather agitated. The jaguar didn't take his eyes off of the golf cart -- we were told the big cats don't like the medical staff and they know that when that particular golf cart approaches, it's carrying medical staff. Wow. One of the orangutans is pregnant! She's due in July -- maybe the baby will share a birthday with Ronni! Our visit on Thursday turned out to be serendipitous -- the big male escaped from the habitat about the same time on Friday! (But, he apparently wasn't too crazy about his new-found freedom because he jumped back in about ten minutes later!) Check out the Times-Picayune article at
What a treat! I wish the grandkids had been able to be there.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Parades Are Coming!

Parades are coming! It's time to bedeck the trees with new beads -- Gustav knocked way too many of them off of the branches and streetcar power lines. It's time to stake out our spot on the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground and complain about grown-ups using ladders. It's time to worry about keeping parking places in front of the house. It's time to make Fiesta Bean Dip and do a shrimp boil. It's time to drink too much and sleep too little. It's time to find out who the heck Bacchus will be this year!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Cool Times" in the Big Easy carried a brief piece yesterday revealing that New Orleans has been named by MSN Travel as one of the "15 coolest North American Cities." (Note: glaringly NOT making the list are Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco, to name a few). The author of the piece invited the readership to post their opinions of why New Orleans is such a "cool" place -- not just a trendy tourist trap. I thought this one captured New Orleans' essence remarkably well, warts and all:

"Posted by unclesalty on 01/26/09 at 5:08PM
Im an outsider looking in, a Mississippian, a tourist... but not really, I visit frequently... but it dosent suprise me N.O. is considered "cool". It is one of the few major metropolitan places left in the U.S. that has maintained its own culture. I dont know of anywhere else you find the debauchery of Bourbon right next to the refinement of Royal. Some places accommodate both atmospheres but seldom do they sit side by side and blend together and that attitude stretches throughout the whole city. Its a blend, its diversity, which is what this country really is meant to be. N.O. has its own music, its own architecture, its on style of food... In a country that has become homogenized, that in many ways become a giant strip mall, New Orleans is, seemingly, one of the last places where individualism not only survives, but thrives. Artists of all kinds have found inspiration in that city for decades. Which is why the culture of violence that exist there is all the sadder. It creates an invitation to make New Orleans into another dumping ground for a generic society just to bring some stability in the middle of all the violence. Its a city with an old soul that has seen a lot of good times but also a lot of bad and evil. And with no easy answers in sight all I can say is God bless you people."

Here's the article:

Yep, our "culture of violence" does indeed beg God's blessing, and we'll take all the prayers we can get.

"A city with an old soul . . . ." Tres magnifique!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Civics 101, New Orleans Style

Today was the first time I actually entered the jury pool in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. What an interesting process.

We veniremen must call a recording in the "Jury Pool Administration" office each day to learn whether we are to report the next day. And, in typical NOLA vernacular, the recorded voice told Group #4 to "report to the Jury Pool Lounge [Lounge. Ha!] for 8:30 a.m. on Monday." Not "at" or "by" or "before," but "for 8:30." That's just one of the peculiar colloquialisms you hear in southeast Louisiana -- like "making groceries" or "where y'at."

Unlike 3/4 of today's pool, I arrived in plenty of time. Security at the Civil Courts Building is rather, um, casual. My purse had to go through the x-ray machine, but not the book I was carrying. TSA would have suffered a coronary on the spot! What if I had carved out a gun-shaped hole in the pages to conceal a non-metal pistol, like Dwayne Hickman's preacher character in "Cat Ballou?"

I did manage to avoid the elevator that you must close manually by shoving the doors together (I learned the hard way about that one on the day I reported to answer the jury summons!). And I found the "Lounge" with no problem this time (I learned on my first trip that the rooms aren't numbered sequentially). "Lounge" must be one of the most stretched euphemisms I've ever heard -- holes in the ceiling, theater-style flip-up HARD chairs, and a heat-and-air system that would make a polar bear shiver. I think I'll stick with my original assessment -- the Lounge is "holding cell chic."

Once there, I fell in line to check in with the Jury Pool Administrator's Administrative Assistant, a rather large man with a fairly brusque manner whose job it is to scan the summonses for attendance purposes, to acquire names of those who forgot their summonses, to explain how to detach the perforated juror badge from the summons and place it in one of those clear plastic sleeves with a clip that really only works on men's clothing, and to change the channel with a remote control on the television mounted above his desk from the local CBS affiliate's morning show to CNN and back to the CBS affiliate for the noon show. We didn't meet the Jury Pool Administrator (picture Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air") until all the late arrivals trickled in, about 9:45. Be there for 8:30, my foot. (Oh, The Administrator's Administrative Assistant also muted the television when Carlton came out to make announcements. Usually. He missed that cue when Carlton came out to tell us we were all excused for the day, so, instead, he had to answer the same question about 35 times about whether we could go).

Once checked in, the waiting began. Not as bad as labor and childbirth, but not as good as a delayed trans-Atlantic flight -- just sort of a gynecologist-appointment-on-a-day-when-he-has-an-emergency-in-the-delivery-room wait. (If you're a man who happens to be reading this, ask the mother of your children to describe the depth of this eternity). The really good thing about the wait is that you can get in some outstanding people-watching! I saw people of all ages, genders, races, socio-economic levels, and relative IQs. There was one man in pajama pants -- I wonder if he was one of the homeless I walked among while cutting through the abandoned Hyatt Hotel driveway from the parking deck to the courthouse. That was one sad sight. I think I'll choose a different short-cut next time -- listening to unfamiliar snoring amid urine-tinged air is not a good way to start the day.

But, one must make lemonade when besieged by lemons. I think my favorite people-watching sighting -- a sighting that made me feel not quite so put-upon -- was one of our former U.S. Attorneys. He had to sign in just like the rest of us. He cuts a rather striking figure, anyway, being all of about 5' 5", maybe 130 lbs., and sporting a mane (except for the male pattern-baldness spot on top) of snow-white wiry hair that cascades a good 4" past his shoulders. And today he was wearing black socks that featured red chili peppers. Red chili peppers on the former U.S. Attorney's socks. Now that's New Orleans style.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Civic Duty Trumps Hobnobbing With Royalty

Mardi Gras in Washington -- or “Washington Mardi Gras” -- is always held near the end of January. The "Krewe of Louisianians" is Captained by Senator Mary Landrieu, and the other Congressional Members are Lieutenants, etc.

This year the big events are on Friday night the 30th and Saturday night the 31st. Just simple little black tie affairs at the Washington Hilton Tower with 1000+ of your best friends from around the state, political bigwigs, serious military brass, and captains of industry. Nothing out of the ordinary.

We've never been invited to go even though our good friend, Tom, has been a member of the Krewe for several years. Tickets are usually difficult to obtain, but this year, because his daughter Veronica (yeah -- isn't that a hoot? How many Veronicas do you know?) was chosen to be a Princess, he was able to obtain more than his normal seniority allocation and invited us!

But do we get to go?


I barely managed to get out of jury duty in December so we could do all that whirlwind fun stuff in Arkansas. We had even agreed to go to D.C., but then I wasn't as successful in getting out of jury duty this and next week. Heck, I can't even schedule a hair appointment due to the uncertainty as to when I have to report -- I have to call in every night after 5:30 to find out whether Jury Pool Group #4 will be required to show up the next day at freakin' 8:30 in the morning!

So, while Tom and his lovely family are celebrating Veronica's ascent to royalty amid the D.C. elite, I will be miserable, cooling my heels in the "jury lounge" (think "holding cell chic") in our dilapidated Orleans Parish civil courts building, knowing that no lawyer in his right mind would EVER seat a cranky, fifty-something, white lady-lawyer on his jury, but having to stay until that certitude is made known to all possible judges. Daily.

So, I asked Tom and Debbie to do a curtsy to HRH Veronica for me, and to take lots of pictures. Isn't civic duty just the best?!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dog Days of January in New Orleans

Yesterday the temperature never rose out of the 40s -- today it's in the 60s and predicted to hit near 80 tomorrow. My dogs are really confused.

They are having a ball today, however. I couldn't get them to stay outdoors yesterday and today I can't get them in! Bouie, the young black lab, resisted my most recent attempt to get him to walk on the treadmill. I even walked on it with him! He just spooked -- such a big, bad dog!

All three are in the front yard now -- sprawled out in the grass with the warm sun showering down on them, listening to the middle school marching band practice in the schoolyard down the street. Do you suppose they know that Mardi Gras parades are less than a month away?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

A brave new day for the U.S. of A. I'll say one thing for our young new President -- he certainly has a mastery of the english language. I truly enjoy listening to his oratories, savoring his choice of words. I wish him and his handsome family luck and success.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Reverend Lowery's composition skills. In his attempt to end on a humorous note, he did not move me -- he left a sour taste in my mouth. His opportunity to deliver the benediction at the first black President's inauguration was ripe with promise and the hope of moving past racial divisiveness. I was hoping to hear words advocating unity and new beginnings; what I heard was "let's all be friends, but only after we get in one more gig at the white man." I felt his words to be mean-spirited and it put a damper on the day for me. What a shame.

Nonetheless, it's 2009 and we have much work to do to put this nation back on track. We gotta get it together!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Carnival Mania!

With the advent of last Saturday night's CAMAN Ball we have now entered full-blown Mardi Gras Madness. What a delightful evening we had, all dolled up in our finery. We toasted royalty old and new, second-lined to "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" while bedecked in pink feather boas, tapped our feet to the Marine Corps Jazz Band, and honored our flag with a Joint Color Guard. There was even tasty banquet food, and -- of course -- plenty of libations!

Probably the best thing about the weekend, though, was the visit of our friends, Mary and Kendall Penn. He returned from his second tour in Iraq less than a month ago -- this time he served as commander of the 39th BCT and Mary served on the homefront as a strong and admirable first lady. They also learned just last week that Kendall is on the promotion list and will be soon be getting his first star! I just LOVE pinning ceremonies! Let's just hope that Congress doesn't sit on the list too long -- that kind of worries me with a new administration coming in. Some Senator with an agenda against another nominee held up Pepper's second star for 18 months!
Don't the Paulsons and Penns look festive!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tag! I'm IT!

So, I don't know enough bloggers to tag someone else. I'll play along with Southern Girl, though, because it will make her happy.

by ALa Tag Rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you. --Done.
2. Post the rules on your blog. --Done.
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. --Done.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. Fat chance.
5. Let each person know you've tagged them.
6. Let your tagger know you've posted your entry.

Six Things About Marvelous Moogie:
1. I'm terrified of any and all snakes -- poisonous/non-poisonous, living or dead.
2. My roots need a serious touch-up.
3. Dogs run my life.
4. Cooking is my therapy.
5. There's a whole lot more of me to love since I moved to New Orleans.
6. My bestest friend is abandoning her family and me to move to Hong Kong for a few years.

There. Now the world knows that my hair is in full Bonnie Raitt mode.