Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pursuing the perfect porch

If you haven't been reading this series on porches, you should probably go below and read the two previous posts, just to catch up. Go ahead, we'll wait for you.

The last two porches were giant, gracious, stylish gathering places. Poody asked if they could be called a veranda? I put the Wikipedia click through there, because apparently there is not uniform agreement on what a veranda is.

But today's porch is little more than a "stoop" in the New Orleans lexicon. Apparently a term of Dutch origin (what are Dutch words doing in New Orleans?).

I think a porch is more a state of mind than a piece of real estate. The owners of this stoop seem to get as much use out of it as many of the giant (and barren) porches around town.

The two chairs seem well worn and leave evidence that this is not a solitary pursuit. Sitting, re-sifting the events of the day. Catching up on people and places. Venting, stewing, chewing it over. Postulating, pursuing passions.

As I see it, the porch's main function, as it evolved, was a place of sharing -- time, memories, ideas, frustrations and joys. The size is not so important. In a sense, I would think the smaller spaces would encourage more bonding.

I promise to finish this series on porches up tomorrow, if you promised to come back. You won't want to miss it. I'm going to muse on my "virtual" porch -- a true story, well worth telling.

Bring a friend.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Porch past times

Again I am back to porches. Several good comments yesterday. We have abandoned our porches -- we just don't build them to any degree any more -- in favor of our back yard -- all walled in with fences.

This is my type of porch, with the curved setting at the end. Some have the setting at both ends. I've seen it referred to as Classic Revival and as being popular around the turn of the century -- not this century, the last one (1900+).

I know that air conditioning has let us de-emphasize porches -- that place where you would sit and visit while the house cooled down. But, these seemed to have gone out of style long before.

It took a special craftsman to the make the curved bannisters and the columns, so it may have been and economic thing.

Still, they speak of a certain grace and certain time when we would spend more resources on a place that fostered visiting, sharing, and passing time together in a quite tranquil setting.

--steve buser

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Porch pendancy

I'm back on porches today. That is, I'm not on the porch, I'm talking about them. But you understood.

The wrap-around is one of my favorites. Big, spacious. The large overhang, that allows you to get easily around someone in a rocker. This is the kind of porch that invites rockers. Plenty of them. The swing at one end is almost a requirement.

It's the kind of porch where you hang out on a rain night. The smell of the rain and misty breezes on your cheeks. The banging of thunder, the clap of lightning doesn't scare you in.

It can be a solitary recluse or a place for sitting and visiting and catching up on things.

Have to admit this porch is a little too angular for me. I like the curved porches. More of a craftsman thing. Built by someone who wasn't just building a structure, but knew he was building a way of life for a family.

I've been thinking hard about doing a web site on porches. The best porches of New Orleans.
Been looking as I drive around, making mental notes. Driving down streets I don't usually take.

Don't know if I can take on the extra load. Doesn't have to be daily though.

Maybe I'll just muse awhile.

--steve buser

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Watch the house reappear

When you're renovating your house, you sometimes find more problems than you wished.

You may wish your house would disappear. The magicians come in. Drape your house. Poof. It's gone.

Or at least your problem disappears. This is a treatment sometimes used for termite treatment. Cover the house and use gasses to rid the pesky critters.

That was yesterday morning. Below is yesterday evening. Prestidigitation. Suddenly magically before your eyes, the house reappears. Say the magic word.

--steve buser

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bronzed words

"The business and commerce of the West are carried on with New Orleans, and the southern, and south-western States, and with the Atlantic cities. We transport our dead or inanimate produce to New Orleans, with receive in return checks or drafts of the bank of the United States at a premium of a half per centum."

Henry Clay seems to not want to give up his oratorical practice, even if it is only windows listening. This statute is in the center of Lafayette Square in downtown New Orleans.

The square is popular for music events and is surrounded by the federal courthouse, and several landmarks, for instance Gallier Hall, the former city hall.

Lafayette Square is going to be the site of the second Louisiana Blues Festival this year on October 20.

--steve buser

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sail Dog

This dog was taking his owner out the the other day for an excursion on Lake Pontchartrain.

He's got his keen eyes on, staring along the channel and catching some of the breeze.

Oval-shaped Lake Pontchartrain is a very popular sailing place. The lake is the second largest saltwater lake in the country. It is about 20 miles across south to north and I wculd guess 50 miles east to west. It sits just north of New Orleans and divides the New Orleans metro area.

It's a real favorite for sail dogs.

-steve buser

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Merry Go Bird

I was at the Audubon Park Zoo, when I caught this strange fellow. He flew under the carousel while it was stopped. Soon it was filled with kids and the calliope. It started moving, the animals started going up and down.

He remained motionless. Enjoying the ride.

Clearly this was not his first carousel.

Amazing that it didn't frighten him out of his wits.

--steve buser

Feathery female fears

The mother duck was taking her two ducklings out for a meal along the shore line in Kenner-- looking for safe places they could swim in an pick up some tasting bugs on the rocks.

The ducklings were usually a little slow in scampering in. There may have been 100 bugs sunning on a rock, but by the time the duckling got close, they had mostly zoomed behind the rock. Catching just one bug was about as good as they did.

Then mother duck would usher them back out to open waters to find another spot.

Occassionally, they would find rocks with algae growing and she would let them feast. She was most wary at these spots. She was probably more fearful because the algae was on rocks below the water and the slight waves could easily overwhelm the youngsters.

In the top picture, I ventured a little too close to get a picture. Mommy duck zoomed into a guard position and stared me down. After a few bites by the ducklings, she nosed them back out to safety.

In the bottom picture, the two ducklings seem to be conferring. Almost teenager like, they seem to be saying "She needs to let us loose. We're big enough to handle ourselves. I hate when she hovers over me..."

The mother keeps her eye staring my way.

--steve buser

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A family that bugs together...

I drove out to the lakefront in Kenner and found this mom taking her two ducklings out for a bite. (The food is the bugs on the our side of the rock -- they scurry behind the rock when the ducks come close)

The ducklings would follow her along the shore line until she found a good place for bugs. She would then move toward the rocks and stop. The ducklings would waddle in and try to pick off a bug or two before they all scampered to safety. If they stayed too long she would nudge them a long.

She always would keep a sharp eye on them and a would do regular scans of the horizon to make sure nothing dangerous was getting near.

She was pretty unsure of me, and swam out away from the shore with her two youngsters a few times to assess the risk. Eventually she got used to me and would let me get about 20 feet from them without running her safety drill.

--steve buser

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rolling on the river...

The paddle boats are a popular attraction in New Orleans. It's been years since my last ride -- a night time cruise around the New Orleans area with Irma Thomas as the entertainer. It 's really a fun and educational time. Summer times are good, because in the fall or winter it can get a little chilly out on the deck watching the lights go by.

"Left a good job in the city, working for the man down in New Orleans."

--steve buser

Excuse me while I rip the sky...

Just another sunset photo. All the rain storms we had here for a while presented great opportunities for shots.

In this shot the sky seems to be literally ripping apart.

-steve buser

Just plane stopped

(Note: the photo is a montage)

We were heading back to Beaumont this weekend but got stuck on the I-10 bridge over the Bonne Carre spillway. It took us 2 hours to get across the 10-mile bridge. There was an accident up ahead -- I suspect more than one.

The Bonne Carre is an interesting stretch of land -- this low swath of ground is used to take the burden off the levees in New Orleans. Every few summers there is a flood of water coming down the Mississippi. The river rises and puts pressure on the levees for days or weeks at a time. So they open the Bonne Carre, upriver from New Orleans and bypass the city -- spilling the water into Lake Pontchartrain and from there to the Gulf.

So what do you do on a lazy summer evening -- I started taking pictures of planes flying over and into New Orleans' airport. After about an hour the planes stopped coming past. Eventually I was curious enough to look around and saw that the winds had shifted and they were bringing the planes in on another runway.

Below, a lane of traffic trying to merge onto the I-10 from the I-310 suffers the same fate. But apparently they had a better view from up there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Frontal assualt, safe harbor found

We were heading home last night chased by this front that swept through and put everything in darkness. The thin strip of light you see on the horizon made everything worse because the contrast made it harder to see.

And then the rain, the blowing rain. We didn't really need the excuse to duck into a restaurant, but weathering the storm seemed like a good enough one.

A new restaurant on Magazine Street at Napoleon (old restaurant, new owners), Storyville, fit the bill. They have a list of a specialty hamburgers -- I chose the seafood burger with crab meat and shrimp.

The rain continued, which just allow us to have a few extra "glasses of milk" with my sister and brother-in-law.

The highlight of the night was the owner and the pastry chef coming out. They sent out some deserts that just blew us away. Turns out the pastry chef studied in le Havre, France. Fascinating story. It was all delicious, but the Oscar went to the bread pudding. I only do an occasional sweet, and although I like bread pudding, I don't want to give up one of my "occasionals." But this was bread pudding like I had never tasted, white chocolate blended in with the chef's magic turned this into a real treat.

Eventually, we braved the weather and headed home, but with a "must come back" on our list.

-steve buser

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

High fly

I was just feeling a little flighty today -- thus this picture of one of the birds that hang around the Algiers ferry.

-- steve buser

Monday, June 18, 2007

Urban Oasis

I guess any shade in a sun storm. This bus picked a spot with a little shade along Canal Street to wait to pick up its group. The end of Canal Street has been a very busy area for the "volun-tourism" groups which go out to fix houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

--steve buser

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cat's eye

Cats are such curious creatures. This guy wanted to know what I was doing with that extra eye. But he didn't budge an inch when I zoomed in on him. He was probably feeling secure behind his iron fortress.

--steve buser

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Summertime blues

Just one of those days when you're goofing off and spending time together. My wife and niece, Rebecca enjoy a minute of camaraderie on the lakefront.

Summer is the time for such thing... the heat just slows down life a little

-- steve buser

Friday, June 15, 2007

Magazine, the street

Magazine Street has become more popular than ever in New Orleans -- in great part because it was a commercial street that was spared the worst ravages of the hurricane. It runs parallel to the river -- an area that is one of the highest in town. In fact, the Magazine and the 10 or so streets that parallel it along the river have earned the monicker "the sliver on the river" because live goes mostly that same as before the hurricane (maybe a little busier).
It is mostly small shops -- antiques, boutiques, house furnishings etc. and small restaurants. A very popular place for a day of shopping and night of eating and visiting.
It cuts through several of the old towns that are now New Orleans: Carollton, Jefferson City.

Take a stroll. You'll find something to your fancy.

--steve buser

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hair cut

Canal Street is getting a new face. It started before Katrina and the construction is really starting to shape up. Part of that is these new palm trees. But, palm trees apparently don't stay green enough, so crews have to come trim off the dead or dying leaves (the yellow ones in the picture). Notice the scale of this work, though. At each new tree, the bucket truck has to be moved and the blue tarps have to be repositioned.

I wonder how often the palms have to get a little off the top.

--steve buser

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Angry sky

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway gets it's share of bad weather. When you're out there 15 miles or so over the water, you're pretty exposed. High wind advisories are not uncommon -- they suddenly lower the speed limit on those electronic signs to 45 mph.

It wasn't good enough for us the other day when this suprise greeted us. The sky became almost black as night, the white caps on the lake started appearing and then the rain came.
We were hard pressed to keep up 30 mph -- the wind was whipping the car around. Then I saw something I had never seen. The wind started pushing the white caps down -- it pushed straight down and pushed the lake nearly still in a few places.

The end of this story is that we made it safely to our boiled crabs dinner -- the crabs were more than delicious.

--steve buser

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bursting with excitement

Remember the days when your excitement at things just bubbled out?

Your attention span may have been short, but the attention intensity was way off the chart. Everything seemed to amaze you. Lost to your surroundings, you allow the subject-of-the-minute to capture your total attention and imagination.

This young explorer was at the lake front oblivious to all but his soap bubbles.

Hope your day produces one of those moments of intensity again.

--steve buser

Monday, June 11, 2007

Film crew

A couple of milestones passed that I failed to mention. First, this blog has passed the two month mark. This post makes number 62. Second, the blog had the 2,000 the visitor a few days ago. Thanks to all of you whose visits and a comments urge me on.

I have been posting shots that I saw around the city and some from my archives. In the next few weeks, I hope to do some special project.

Again, thanks to everyone for their help and support. On to today's post...

This was a film crew I shot from out my office window. They were doing this shoot at the foot of Canal Street between the Shops at Canal Place and Harrah's Casino.

The street car was a prop. It was disconnected from the electricity. As they did each take, they would push it up toward the camera. The actor (with the white cross on his back) would step off the street car saying his lines. You can see the the guy holding up the white cue card for him. They did several takes while I was watching. Interesting stuff.

Film is big in New Orleans and Louisiana. Special tax incentives have brought in dozens of filmings and has led to the moniker "Hollywood South."

Wikipedia list these films as some shot in New Orleans : Ray, Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, The Skeleton Key, Glory Road, All the King's Men, Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, Waiting..., Failure to Launch, Stay Alive, and more. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau tallies over 30 movies released in 2006 that were filmed in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

'Laissez les film roulez", I say.

--steve buser

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wisdom of the street...

A lot of people yesterday took serious interest in where those Mardi Gras beads came from. Thanks for all your visits.

While my wife was reading the post, she was struck by how early Mardi Gras will be next year and decided to look it up. Apparently, February 5th is nearly the earliest it can fall. The last time it was Feb. 5 was in 1983. And it won't fall on Feb. 5 again until after 2160, according to this post. ( Let's see, I will be over 200 then. Probably won't be diving for many beads)

According to the New Orleans Public Library FactFinder, it can fall as late as March 9 --which it will do in 2038. There hasn't been a March 9 Mardi Gras since before 1947 -- So 2038 will be the first one in more than 90 years.

While we're talking about this, I suggest you mark the 2038 date on your calendar (you do have a 50 year calendar, don't you?) because if you miss it you have to wait until 2190 for another March 9 Mardi Gras.

Why does Mardi Gras move around -- because its the last day before the start of Lent -- "eat drink and be merry because Lent starts tomorrow and we fast for 40 days."

Starting back at the Council of Nicea and a lot of complicated work since setting up a new calendar, the Gregorian Calendar, the Catholic Church decided Easter was set for the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the Vernal Equinox.

You'll probably die if I tell you it gets more complicated than that (they use the "eccliastical full moon" -- not the same as an astronomical full moon. And they fix the Vernal Equinox at March 21 -- the VE is the when the "apparent ecliptic longitude of the Sun is zero" -- I knew you would ask) .

If your interest goes deeper, slip over to this link. I guarantee you will learn much more than you ever wanted to know. We'll wait till you get back to continue ...


So, (welcome back) Easter can range between March 22nd to April 25th. Mardi Gras was then set to be 47 days before Easter -- it can fall on any Tuesday from February 3rd (next one in 2285) to March 9th.

Uh Oh, I can see it coming. Go ahead. state your objection.

"You said Lent was 40 days. Now your telling me it starts 47 days before Easter?"

Well, I said Mardi Gras was 47 days before Easter. Mardi Gras is not part of Lent. Lent starts the next day, Ash Wednesday. Lent is to be 40 days of fasting and self denial. But, Sundays are the Lord's Day, and one does not fast on those days. So that stretches Lent out into 46 days starting Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter.

Now that you are wise to the ways and dates of Mardi Gras, you have receive special permission to wear you wizard's costume on Mardi Gras. (see above).

Mardi Gras music please.....

--steve buser

Saturday, June 9, 2007

They DO grow on trees

In case you were wondering (you WERE wondering weren't you?) where all those Mardi Gras beads came from, well, I was able to sneak into this bead farm with my wife and caught this picture of a Mardi Gras bead-tree.

All seriousness aside, click on the image above to see the large version. We found this tree the day after a Mardi Gras parade. I don't know who was standing under it, but massive amounts of beads must have rained down on them for this many to be caught up in this crape myrtle tree.

I saw a particularly neat pair of beads and was trying to nudge them down.

(oh, we got out of the bead farm without being discovered).

--steve buser

Friday, June 8, 2007

Reflecting on Mardi Gras

I caught this shot at a Mardi Gras parade as a band marched by. To the lower left you can see part of the band. In the center is the crowd lining the parade route. You can see one of the mansions along St. Charles Avenue at the top, middle. The picture is reflected in one of the band's tuba's. Throw me something mister.

Sorry -- this is the time of the year when the glow of this year' Mardi Gras fades and it's a long time to next year's (Feb. 5 -- a very early Mardi Gras) and everyone starts dreading the wait for the biggest party on earth.

If you've got a bent to come, this could be one of the best years -- crowds should be nearly as big as pre-Katrina. Wouldn't be surprised if they were bigger this year. Hotels book up early, you have to plan far ahead.

One of the problems with a February 5th Mardi Gras is all the parades and Mardi Gras balls that precede the big day. There are few weekends between the first of the year, and only so many halls for holding the balls -- everything get squeezed in -- sometimes that can cause some hard feelings when people have to move their event or share their date.

--steve buser

Thursday, June 7, 2007

River race?

Almost looks like a race a a tug boat pushes his tow just in front on of the paddle wheel boats that ply the Mississippi River. The paddle boats offer tours down the river from the docks at the foot of Canal Street -- while its a favorite draw for the tourist, I think a lot of New Orleanians like to make it a Saturday or Sunday outing, too.

-- steve buser

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Turbulent sunset

Driving down the Interstate the other night, we were overwhelmed by this sunset. There was a giant thunderstorm cloud behind us that that had a massive outflow cloud. That outflow came almost to the horizon, leaving just a crack for the sunset to sneak through. But what a crack! It shown in the blackness like a bright lantern -- that is except for the swirling clouds and colors it revealed.

I love to photograph sunsets. I have been shooting them for several years. There are a lot of lessons to learn in this. Contrasts make for good shots. Almost any night has something interesting in its sunset, but you have to be patient -- as the sun's rays go lower and lower they reveal different areas of the clouds. What may start as a cloudless sky, all the sudden springs to life, as light beams sneak under thin wisps and illuminate them from below.

I don't know why we don't spend more time watching sunsets -- seems like the only time we gather to watch them is in special places. We were in the Grand Canyon one year watching the sunset sweep down the canyon and work its magic on the cliffs. But I thought to myself, I've seen just as good of sunsets in my backyard. I just have to sit and wait for the sun to find that sweet spot in the sky.

May all your sunsets be brilliant.

--steve buser

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How was your vacation?

Brown pelicans share their day. The brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana and is on the state flag and seal. By the way, the pilings they are standing on are the remnants of a lakefront restaurant sent to its grave by Katrina. I caught about dozen of the pelicans hanging around the area. It was a pretty bleak day, thus the washed out look of the the photo.

--steve buser

Monday, June 4, 2007


The Fleur-de-Lis pops up everywhere in New Orleans. An old symbol of the French monarchy, it denotes the French heritage of the city. The Fleur-de-Lis is popular on jewelry, dresses, ties... just about anything, including fences, where it is commonly used to top iron fences.

When the New Orleans Saints chose it for a logo, it pretty much assured its standing as unofficial symbol for the city.

--steve buser

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Path less taken

Living in the city, space is at a premium. What you do with that space, can add termendously to your quality of life. The owner of this house obviously wanted to be immersed in the smell and sight of a country garden from the moment they walked out of their house.

The photo may be a little decieving -- It appears the walkway is grown over. That's just because the camera angle obscures it. The walkway is there I assure you -- though it is encroached on a lot by leaning flowers.

While we are all enamoured of lushious, spacious gardens, I think a garden this size does as much if not more.... it keeps us close to nature, even on a short walk to the mailbox.

--steve buser

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Storm, porches and growing up

Another of my favorite houses. I have a real love of porches. I have fond memories of the porch at our house when we grew up. It wasn't a covered porch or anything fancy. But it was a good launching point for my first attempts on a bicycle. Later it was alternatively a space ship, a pirate's galley, and a remote mountain top. It was the base for our kick-the-can games.

Those were the days before air-conditioning, when sitting on the porch while the house cooled was a family activity. It was a time for visiting with neighbors and making strong bonds.
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas -- so there were evening when you would sit on the porch and watch the threatening clouds swirl around -- holding out until the last minute -- when giant rain drops started hurling down and you had to get inside quickly. My memory was of how high those clouds were and how they ushered in that eerie glowing light.

This house is on my route home most nights. I have wanted to photograph it, but never got around to it --till one night, threatening clouds were swirling. They offered a great contrast for the new post-Katrina coat of white paint. It was so striking, I had to stop and shoot it. The camera couldn't capture it all -- that coolness that blows out of a rain cloud, the "smell" of approaching rain, and the sense of darkness during the day.

Are you a porch afficionado?

--steve buser

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sunset Peeking

We were riding along the I-10 last night with a giant thunderstorm developing just behind us. The outflow from that storm swept over us and out almost to the horizon. As the sun started setting it put on a incadescent display that was stuning. The cloud only left a small sliver on the horizon for the sunset to work in. And the contrast with the dark cloud made the turbulent sliver all the more startling. I shot this through the front windshield as the car was moving along.

A few miles down the road, the sliver became a battlefield of beauty with swirling clouds and the golden orb playing games with light rays. It was too much -- I had my wife, who was driving, pull over at the next exit and started taking pictures. The sunset was just barely visible from our car and I had to climb a little up the hill to shoot. Nothing to steady the camera in some dim light. I used all the tricks I knew.

I would have loved to have had a better set up. But a sunset like this doesn't wait. A teacher I had 35 years ago said that it was the photographer and not the camera that really mattered-- a good photographer could take and outstanding shot with any camera. He was right, but I think he missed an important subtlety. A good photographer COULD take an outstanding shot with any camera -- he just couldn't take EVERY outstanding shot -- with poor equipment he has to be more selective and more creative.

Still my inexpensive Kodak served me well. I have already been budgeting to replace it. Trying to decide the next camera.

But back to the story. I snapped shots for about 20 minutes. I could have kept going for about an hour before it got just too dark. But, out schedule would not allow. it Nonetheless, I need to share a couple more of those pictures.... maybe in a day or so.

It was one of those nights that just makes a sunset photographer restless to get back to his computer and see exactly what he captured. I felt like it had been one of those very special times -- a sunset to judge all others against. It is times like these that makes me realize how much fun and passion I have for this.... keep watching this week for more.

--steve buser