Category Archives: New Orleans

The 12 Yats of Christmas

Okay, so it’s a day or so late, but so what. This was sent to my by my cyber friend, Linda, who hosts The Task as Hand.

People who have followed my blog since its inception, or who have rummaged around in its archives, know that I grew up in the small Cape Cod town of Orleans, and though I lived for more than a third of my life in Broward County, Florida in and around Fort Lauderdale, my spiritual home is, and always will be New Orleans where I lived for nearly 10 years.

New Orleanians are often referred to as “Yats.” Most specifically those who come from the Gentilly area out by the Fairgrounds race track and home of one of the greatest musical events in the world, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the people who live in the uptown area around Magazine Street known as the “Irish Channel.” They have a unique accent. It’s much like a Brooklyn, New York accent, and probably because the immigrant mix of Irish and Italians to New Orleans is similar to that of Brooklyn.

The reason they’re called “Yats” comes from the manner in which they greet each other. They don’t say, “Hello,” “Good Morning,” or anything like that. They say, “Where y’at?” The response to which is, “Fine,” “Okay,” etc.

Linda sent me the following video in the comments section of this blog, but I’ve put it “Up Front,” so to speak to share it with all my readers.

Looking at the YouTube comments some of the things mentioned no longer exist in New Orleans. The K&B pharmacies, Schwegmann’s supermarkets, and of course the Lower Ninth Ward which still hasn’t been rebuilt. I will never return to New Orleans. Katrina destroyed it. Much of it is still in ruins, and it would break my heart to see the place so near and dear to my heart in such distress.

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Filed under New Orleans, New Orleans Music

Hiking in the Chiriquí Highlands

Not all who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Nestled over a mile high in the highlands of Chiriquí Province, Panama, in the shadow of the country’s highest mountain, the dormant volcano Barú, is the boutique hotel and working coffee plantation Finca Lérida.

So, what are you going to do when you get there? There’s no swimming pool, no “rec” room with pool tables and video game consoles. Not a zip line in sight. Well, first of all, you can simply enjoy the tranquility of the lushly landscaped grounds as you wander from your room to the restaurant or coffee shop.

There are flowers everywhere:

And there are quiet little nooks where you can sit and reflect on how lucky you are to have found this place:

But to really capture the place you need to put on your hiking boots and go exploring.

The finca covers 150 hectares (370 acres) of which 43 hectares (106 acres) are devoted to coffee production. But that’s not all there is up there. It borders Amistad National Park, the largest nature reserve in Central America, with nearly one million acres of tropical forest jointly administered by Panama and Costa Rica. The first impression visitors to the finca have is the sense of the immensity of undefiled nature.

Winding through the finca and into the National Park are 10 kilometers (6 miles) of well-maintained hiking trails. Six miles may not seem like a lot to some people, but when you consider that much of the terrain here is more on a vertical plane than the horizontal your legs are probably going to tell you there are are lot more than ten.

There’s a wonderful, painted map of what’s in store for your adventure:

Though the artist did have a bit of a problem grasping a simple concept:

Coffee Tour

If you’re someone, like me, who enjoys a good cup of coffee in the morning you need to sign up for the coffee tour. It’s a four-hour hike through the Finca led either by Eddy or Cesar, both of whom speak English and will explain the process from plant to cup.

That says 5,577 feet above sea level.

You’ll learn that growing coffee is a labor-intensive proposition, especially when harvest time rolls around. It can’t be done by machines since the berries don’t all ripen at the same time. You have to wait until they turn bright red before the “cherries” are ready to be picked. As skillful  as the indigenous pickers are, sometimes one gets away.

The four-hour tour ends at the Beneficio where the coffee begins its transformation from the raw state to the finished cup of perfect nectar. You’ll learn that each “cherry” contains two seeds which we commonly know as the “bean.” and the process starts with equipment designed and patented by the finca’s original owner, Toleff Boche Monniche. Dusty proof of the man’s genius hangs on the wall where the original patent and the drawings submitted to the U.S. Patent Office can be seen.

In the “cupping” room you’ll sample the coffee from three different processes.

(Photo by: Victor Bloomfield)

Panama’s For The Birds

According to Wikipedia there are 927 species of birds Panama, more than 500 of them can be found in the Chiriqui highlands, including the magnificent Quetzal:

While bird books will tell you that the Harpy Eagle, the largest and most powerful raptor in the Americas is Panama’s “national” bird (unfortunately not found in Chiriqui) don’t believe a word of it. Unofficially the national bird is the common chicken which are found everywhere and it’s a rare morning when you won’t hear a rooster crowing within ear-shot of wherever you happen to wake up.

Finca Lérida loves its birds. Once you stop gawking at the magnificent grounds of the finca you can’t miss the fact that there are dozens of birdhouses scattered around the hotel grounds:

The birding trails go deep into La Amistad International Park and is a tour that will be savored long after you return home.

It’s not necessary to take one of the more organized tours the finca offers. Some might just want to stroll through this latter-day Eden. Eddy and Cesar are always available to guide you along the well-maintained trails. . .

(Photo courtesy of: Omar Upegui R.)

. . . leading you to this magnificent waterfall:

(Photo courtesy of: Omar Upegui R.)

You can choose the guided tours or simply explore on your own. If you prefer to strike out by yourself you will be provided with a trail map and given access to them for $10.70.

The Finca is open to the public and it’s not necessary to be booked into the hotel to enjoy the splendor of the Chiriquí highlands. But there is a big advantage to having a room at the hotel. After wearing yourself out on the trails you can go back to your room and decompress on one of these:

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Filed under Boquete Panama, New Orleans, Puddle Duck Goose, Uncategorized

Another One Bites The Dust

I guess it’s one of those things that comes with age. Our friends start dying off leaving us to ponder our own mortality. My friend Frank Hilson passed on a week or so ago, and today I discovered this…

One of my all-time favorite radio stations is WWOZ in New Orleans. I listened to it faithfully when I was living there. Next to Radio Baie des Anges in Nice, France, it played the best music in the world. Since I don’t have a television here in Boquerón I have to look for other ways to amuse myself. I’m an inveterate reader, but you can only do that for so many hours a day.

Recently I’ve been streaming WIOD in Miami to listen to the Dolphins games on Sunday. Thirty four to fourteen over the Raiders yesterday to bring their season record up to four big wins! This evening I hooked into NPR to listen to “All Things Considered.” Of course the first thing I heard was one of the station’s endless “begathon” messages. Then, for some reason, I decided to check out WWOZ and I found this on the station’s site home page:

Hoodoo Bluesman Coco Robicheaux Passes

Coco collapsed on Friday, Nov. 25 at the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street and was taken away by ambulance. He was pronounced dead after arriving at Tulane Medical Center. He was 64.

He was not performing at the time he was stricken; he often held court outside the Apple Barrel on his off-nights.

Known for an especially gravelly voice, a swamp-blues guitar style and a fascination with subjects of a spiritual and/or mystical nature, Mr. Robicheaux lived an especially colorful life, even by the standards of a New Orleans musician.

He released several albums over the past two decades. He was a mainstay of the Frenchmen Street entertainment district, a familiar figure both on- and off-stage, even as he also performed around the globe.

Mr. Robicheaux made a memorable appearance during the opening scene of the second episode of the first-season of the HBO series “Treme”: He sacrificed a rooster in the studio of community radio station WWOZ-FM.

He was also a visual artist, sculptor and painter. He created the bronze bust of Professor Longhair that stands near the entrance of Tipitina’s.

True to the spirit of New Orleans Coco, whose real name was Curtis Arceneaux led a colorful life. You should take the time to read about it here: http://blog.nola.com/entertainment_impact_music/print.html?entry=/2011/11/coco_robicheaux_rushed_from_ap.html

Back in 1983/84 when I lived on First Street (between Baronne and Dryades) Coco was my upstairs neighbor. I remember when he cast the bronze bust of the Fess. For a long time before it found its current home it was simply the most amazing door stop the world has ever seen. Coco Robicheaux was one of my favorite local friends. Many a night when he was working the door at Tips (before the World’s Fair closed the place down for a couple of years) Coco would let me slip in to see the Fess, The Nevilles, James Booker, Marcia Ball and others.

The world will be a sadder, drearier place without Coco in it. RIP Cher Ami.

I’m beginning not to like this getting older business.

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Filed under New Orleans, New Orleans Music

New Orleans Music Is World Music

As my regular readers know, I lived in New Orleans for nearly 10 years from the mid ’70s to mid ’80s and, of course, fell in love with the music. I mean who wouldn’t? In my travels since leaving the Big Sleazy, I mean Big Easy, I’ve run across New Orleans music many places.

When I was living on the French Riviera the Neville Brothers, who were once upon a time a $5 cover charge at Tipitina’s on a Saturday night, were featured at the Juan les Pins Jazz Festival. Unfortunately for the Nevilles an acapella group of young girls from London opened the show and blew the audience away. They were called the Mint Juleps and though I posted a couple of videos of the group before I’ll post one to either jog your memory or introduce you to them. This was the song they opened their set with…

Now you understand why the Nevilles didn’t stand a chance after the girls left the stage.

A few years later when I was on my single-handed trip through Mexico, Belize and up into the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, I pulled into the small town of Placencia, Belize. After getting anchored and securing everything on board I hopped into the dinghy and headed to a funky bar built out over the water, and who should be wafting out over the water from the juke box? One of my all-time favorites, Marcia Ball.

A few days later as I was walking down the sidewalk in Placencia (there was no road or streets in Placencia when I was there, just this half mile-long “sidewalk” down the center of town) I heard another New Orleans music legend coming out of someone’s house.  It stopped me dead in my tracks and I just had to stand there in the broiling afternoon sun until Johnny Adams, also known as the “Tan Canary,” finished singing this famous song…

I only saw Johnny Adams live once, but it was something I’ll never forget. Now, hearing Marcia Ball and Johnny Adams, each within a week, tells you that Placencia, Belize is one VERY cool little town.

Last Friday I was down the hill a little way helping a gringo friend saw up some lumber. David, who also lived in New Orleans for a while, streams music into his shop from some feed in the States and there was an “I can name that tune in three notes” moment when this famous piano pounder from the Ninth Ward started to drift over the sound of the circular saw.

I sort of give that one a pass since I know it was beamed in from north of the Rio Grande and shouldn’t count but it’s MY blog and I LOVE the good Doctor.

But this next selection DOES count. I got onto my bus at the terminal in downtown David to head back up the hill this morning. People like to get on it as soon as the bus pulls into its berth because the air conditioning is on in the bus and it’s HOT in David this time of the year at noon. The buses all play music, mostly the “Tipica” rhytms of Panama which I really love, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when the local “Tipica” station aired THIS song…

You can travel all over the world, but if I keep my ears open New Orleans music will creep up on me and say, “Hey, Richard, WHERE Y’AT?”

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Filed under cruising, New Orleans, Piano Players, sailing

HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!

Yes, they celebrate Carnival here in Panama but it’s not the same as when I was living four blocks off of St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. After weeks of parades on the weekend the big day finally rolled around. People “masked” and turned out. In the 10 years I lived there I only went down to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street twice. Much too crazy. Up by my house it was primarily families. DRUNK families, but families none the less. The first parade, REX with the King and Queen of Mardi Gras would pass by my house about 10 in the morning and it DIDN’T STOP until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Then there was a break for about three hours and the final parade of the year would come by about 8:30 and then it would be over.

Of course, New Orleans is all about music and Mardi Gras is a part of life there so naturally it’s enshrined in song.

Here’s Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

The one and only Henry Rowland Bird — Professor Longhair

Dr. John

You went looking for the Mardi Gras Indians sometime during the day and hope you’d find a Big Chief.

And on that note I’ll end this with some musical greats: Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Earl King and the Meters (Art and Cyril Neville, George Porter, Leo Nocentelli, and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste

NOTE: In the song “Carnival Time” there’s a phrase that, unless you’re from the New Orleans area would make no sense to you. It’s “Throw the baby out the window.” Now, if you have no frame of reference you might think that it’s about child abuse, but it’s not.

One of the traditions of Mardi Gras is the King Cake. New Orleans isn’t the only place that has the King Cake. Here’s the history of the thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_cake

Tucked somewhere inside the cake (AFTER it’s been baked) is a small, plastic “baby.”

The tradition is that if you have the baby in your piece you are supposed to throw the next party. People have been known to swallow the baby or to palm it and throw it out a window to avoid having to host a party, thus the phrase.

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Filed under New Orleans

2,541 Reasons to Mourn This Day

Five years ago today  Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of the United States leaving 1,836 dead and another 705 missing. New Orleans, of course, was the hardest hit and garnered the lion’s share of publicity from the people trapped in the Superdome.

While the people of New Orleans were about to be imprinted on the world’s stage this was going on 150 miles to the east…

In Mobile, Alabama

Almost immediately after the skies had cleared and images of the people stranded in the Dome and on rooftops started to hit the airwaves “compassionate conservatives” started to criticize the people who were trapped. But how do you evacuate when you’re in an ICU unit in Charity Hospital or Touro Infirmary? How do you evacuate when you’re bed ridden in a nursing home? How do you evacuate if you’re a doctor or nurse caring for those people?  How do you evacuate when you’re poor and don’t own a car? How do you evacuate when you’re an infant and your parents are poor and don’t have transportation? How do you evacuate if your owners don’t take you?

And the people who DID evacuate? Their lives, too, were forever changed because they had nothing left to come back to.

And  NEVER forget this idiot and his pal.

I loved New Orleans. I haven’t been there since Katrina and I never will. There are still large areas that haven’t recovered and I couldn’t bear to see that. It would break my heart.

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Filed under New Orleans, Uncategorized

Playing For Change

If you’ve been following this blog then you are familiar with Playing for Change and its videos. The originators of the Playing for Change movement gathered many of the musicians and they went on tour. This video features Grandpa Elliot from New Orleans and Clarence Bekker from the Netherlands who were such standouts in the Stand by Me video. Unfortunately Roger Ridley, who opened that video passed on in 2005.

This video was shot live in New Orleans. The group will be performing at my favorite music venue, Tipitina’s on July 18th. You’ll have to watch clips of the show when they’re released because, as you can imagine, tickets were sold out minutes after they were put on sale.

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Filed under Music, New Orleans, Playing for Change