jump to navigation

Baphomet’s New Orleans (17th Ed.): The Christmas Lounge December 10, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Baphomet's New Orleans, Christmas, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uptown.
add a comment

The Christmas (or Christmas Tree) Lounge is a bad answer to any question. Located just over Lowerline Street from stolidly respectable Uptown–the tourist-bus haunt of gnarled oaks, neo-Classical mansions and money as old as Egypt, rooted in a river, cotton and slavery–the Christmas Lounge stands in the adjacent nineteenth century suburb of Carrollton, long ago its own town with a quaint neo-Classical courthouse turned school just where the streetcars turn at the spot called Riverbend by real estate agents but known to past generations Uptown as the Devil’s Elbow. Surrounded by the once modest but now fashionable bungalows of a prosperous antebellum bourgeoisie and their employees, like all good dive bars the Christmas Lounge has the low-roofed and neon ambiance of a place men once gathered to wreath themselves in cigarette smoke and drink away the day’s labor straight from the beer bottle.

Today it is more likely filled with weary service people after the manager has tossed them out of the bar and everywhere respectable is closed, and the children of local, Jersey and Long Island money who mingle with the confident ease of daddy’s platinum card, students at Uptown’s expensive if not precisely prestigious universities, scholars of the sort who have quiet forgotten exactly which class they are in. Here the next generation of waiters and lawyers assemble to while away the smallest hours of morning with a studied drunkenness handed down in New Orleans from generation to generation.

The Christmas tree can manage a quite respectable martini early the evening, but the specialty of the night is the beer and occasional shot. Upended bottles of Jägermeister stand half-empty in their chiller/dispensers, the inverted stag suggesting a tribute to the author of this guide. A bottle of cinnamon whiskey does not last long and sugary sorority girl cocktails can be managed at all hours. There is still an active jukebox, an increasing rarity in an age when bartenders are liable to dial up a Pandora channel on their smartphone, and the music is an indefinable mix best categorized as loud and danceable.

There is a small set of long overused couches near the front, available for whiskey-earnest arguments, public foreplay, and passing out to the Instagram amusement of your friends. Toward the rear are small high tables opposite the bar, stools across long taken by the time you arrive, and the usual, narrow obstacle course through the middle where drinks are apologetically sloshed back from the bar.

To truly appreciate the Christmas Tree, it is best to dress in casual and spill-sacrificial clothing, start drinking before dinner, and continue doggedly on through the evening at one of Uptown’s many music venues until the band tears down. If you think you can still drive the Christmas Lounge is for you, or one can simply stagger over from the nearby destinations on Oak Street as they close.

Ranking: Four horns out of five largely for its promising youthful depravity.

Advertisements

Now is the Winter of our Discomfort December 18, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Carnival, Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, The Odd, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
4 comments

The cranky gas wall furnace is so old I sometimes think it is here by order of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the committees we have set up to preserve New Orleans historic character by regulating with the fickleness of ancient gods such critical items as the appropriate style of doorknobs allowed. The ugly grey panel inset on my wall is inefficient, unreliable and expensive: the very model of histrionic preservation, but I believe it mostly remains through the inertia of a typical New Orleans landlord. It still works, after a fashion, so it stays. Its cousin the floor furnace is largely extinct as a result of the flood, and the wall furnace lacks the charm of stepping on a metal grate barefoot or the portal to hell sensation of passing over one in operation, but it’s what I have.

The instructions of operation on my wall furnace are so faded that with an eight-cell flashlight and my readers on it still requires the skills of a document historian experienced in the decoding of ancient and marginally legible texts to make them out. Fortunately, it is not my first, and even after 30 years I remember how to turn the regulator just so and to warm the temperature sender for a bit to get the pilot lit. Thank the gods for the invention of stick lighters, as this was once an operation requiring a pile of kitchen matches that brought back memories of reading Jack London’s To Build A Fire.

Once the faint pilot is flickering, after an extended period prone on the cold floor holding down the starter and counting slowly to sixty by Mississippis while the sensor warms up enough to keep it going, you can at last turn on the heat. I know never to turn the gas up past the point it just starts to flow, and to keep my face and arm out of the immediate vicinity of the works. Crank it up too high because the house is cold, the floor is colder and you are desperate for some heat and the explosive blow-back of ignition will belch out of the access panel like a dragon with indigestion.

Winter this far south is not the cozy Rockwell fantasy of the paintings of Thomas Kinkade. (Yes, there is a link. Follow it at your own peril unless you have a large collection of cherubic porcelain children). Our vistas are not snowy landscapes of farmhouses set against a backdrop of evergreens with a skating stream or pond in the foreground and perhaps a horse drawn sleigh in there somewhere. It is brown lawns and winter killed uncut lots, the latter revealing a year’s collection of litter, which is one of New Orleans’ major local products after cheesy t-shirts and tourist vomit.

Our winter season is a confusing mix of Indian summer days and a cold damp so penetrating we must swath ourselves in animal skins like Neolithic primitives. You can keep your expensive, technical mountaineering shell and layers of fleece that work so well for Nordic skiing. Nothing but a thick layer of wool or a shell of leather can keep out the wet chill. The pea coat will never go out of fashion in New Orleans because it is not a matter of fashion but survival. I spent my time up north decked out in Cabella’s most modern fabrics learning to navigate a pair of beaver tail show shoes, awkward constructions of bent wood and tanned animal sinew. with a design dating back to the flint knife. Originally a gift that spent a few years crossed on the wall, my friend who gave them to me insisted they were fully functional and he was right. It was good to get out of the house for some reason other than shoveling, scraping and chipping away winter to a standard acceptable to finicky Nordic neighbors fond of an orderly neatness that does not come naturally to a born Orleanian. Give me a good pea coat for a trip through the French Quarter any day.

Forget a roaring fire. The bricked in hearths below the lovely mantels that rob you of a functional wall were designed for shallow coal fireplaces. I had one still open for use when I lived on Carrollton Avenue that I determined would still draft by lighting a small torch of newspaper. I confirmed it was not terribly obstructed by getting my eyes and a flashlight up the flue by a contortion usually only attempted by advanced students of yoga. Still, it could just manage the smallest of commercial press-wood and paraffin fire logs. I’m sure it had not been properly serviced by a chimney sweep since the last ice man sold his mule to the tourist carriage companies, but somehow we managed not to burn the building down. The first Christmas Marianne and I had the family over for Christmas dinner I fired it up, hoping the most festive part of the afternoon would not be the arrival of the fire department but the damn thing worked and I miss it.

We are simply not built for winter in New Orleans: not our homes, not ourselves. Every few years the city gets the idea to line Canal Street with palms to amuse the tourists but one good, hard freeze (the local equivalent of a howling blizzard) and they are gone again. City government is a dumb and lumbering beast that survives because is just to big to kill, and then what would your Delgado drop-out cousin do if not supervise the mowing of the neutral grounds? If we had real snow down here, we would all die after burning up the last stick of furniture before they would get the plows out.

§

Other than the icicle winds there are few signs of winter in New Orleans. The feral green parrots still favor the neighbor’s tree, some weedy thing that has managed 30 feet but is so covered in cats claw it is impossible to determine the species. There is an odd dissonance in sitting out for a cigarette in a sweater, thick flannel pajama pants, and my L.L. Bean slipper socks (indispensable for uninsulated hardwood floors) listing to their raucous tropical chatter.

Few trees change color down here to warn of winter’s approach. Only the cypress and some species of birch favored by northern transplants reliably show some Fall color and the fickle things wait until just before the solstice to change. I remember brilliant October afternoons driving the winding roads and low hills of western Minnesota, stopping along the way for pumpkins and apple butter. Here the display of bright orange and red leaves is a catch as catch can affair, and must be viewed between the blustery cold front that triggers the brief display of color and the next which blows the leaves away. Before you know it, industrious homeowners and city workers are out blowing all the leaves into the gutters, ensuring we will all enjoy the occasional use of our pirogues and canoes in the flooded streets.

Winter does have it charms. There is the arrival at your holiday party of a fabulously drunk contingent just out of some other booze-fueled party, intent on making hot-buttered rum, spilling liquor and sugar and melted butter all over the newly installed granite counters. This drives the lady of the house to distraction–convinced they will be ruined–in spite of all of your attempts to explain that the damn things are rocks forged over geological time and not likely to be dissolved by hot dairy products.. There are the fiery hogshead cheese and pickled okra, the Pickapepper sauce over cream cheese and the oceans of alcohol to warm everyone with festive cheer.

Winter is racing season at the Fairgrounds. While bundling up to drink the best Bloody Marys in the city while gambling lacks the rustic charm of snow-shoeing or a sleigh ride through the park, it does get you out of the house and all of the frantic jumping up and down and hollering does get the blood flowing. There are the festive lights that the city’s residents take to a level only a place trained by the gaudy display of carnival would attempt. An inflatable Santa astride a Harley-Davidson may be a universal American icon of Christmas, but there is a Chalmette-aptness to them down here.

And while the rest of America settles in to watch the bowl games, sipping non-alcoholic cider next to their roaring fireplaces, we are busy pulling out hot glue guns and feathers, spilling sequins all over the kitchen floor, because Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Come Twelfth Night, when the true believers in the spirit of Creole Christmas will haul out their tinder-dry trees to the curb, we will all bundle up in our animal skins and pea coats to observe the ancient ritual of a mob of happy drunks boarding a streetcar to inaugurate Carnival. You can keep your ice-skating outings and sleigh rides. Me, I’m ready for the real pleasure of winter: the first parade of the season.

Call in the USO December 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
Tags:
1 comment so far

The annual NOLA Bloggers War of Bad Holiday Videos is starting to get out of hand. Time to call in the USO and raise the troops morale. Here’s some Pops holiday cheer piped through an old Philco radio console.

E.L.F. December 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Chieftans, Christmas, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

Or how to keep your Electric Light Fanatic’s head warm while putting up the icicle lights, and give a smirk of silly joy to every passing dog walker.

Silly Xmas Carols help the job go faster.

Silly Elf Hat

And so onto some seasonal sedition to make the moment complete.

Happy. Peace. Merry. Joy December 24, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Christmas, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans Saints, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

On reconsideration, this deserves it’s own post.

As the wheel turns away from the dark, let us all follow and second line into the light.

A Redneck Night Before Xmas December 17, 2006

Posted by The Typist in Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, parody, Xmas.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Was the night before Xmas in our trailer park,
An’ the street light was shot out, an’ boy was it dark.
The wind was a howlin’, the trailer was old,
So I drank me a beer so I wouldn’t feel cold.

The children was snuggled on their sleeper sofa,
And Momma was a snorin’ in front of her Oprah.
The tree had blown out all the fuses again,
So I dug out some pennies and jammed ’em right in.

I snuck in the kitchen to get me a beer
And some of that deer jerk I put up last year.
And me with my NASCAR Race Week in my lap,
I settled me down for a long winter’s crap.

When out by the door, I heard such a noise.
Sounds like Billy Bob coming home late with the boys.
I ran out the head with my pants still pulled down
And tripped over myself and Wham! I fell down.

Outside in the yard was a big F350
With all kinda’ lights that looked really nifty.
And tied to the hood of that beautiful truck
Was a fine lookin’ 24-point reindeer buck.

I hopped to the the kitchen, and what should appear
But some white haired old hobo a drinkin’ my beer.
Before I could say ‘What the hell are you doin’?’
He jumped like a flea right into the front room.

His suit was as red as the end of his nose,
And he had lots of black stains all on his clothes.
From the look of the guy and that flea hoppin’ trick
I knew right away that it must be St. Nick.

He didn’t say shit but just picked up his his sack
(An’ old Wal Mart bag with a big duct tape strap),
Dumped it out on the table and made a big pile
While guzzlin’ down my last beer with a smile.

For Becky Lou he had a great big surprise.
A doll beauty parlor built in a garage.
For Junior a NASCAR electric race track,
With a real workin’ pit crew around in the back.

Mama got matching housecoat, curlers and slippers
And a leopardskin outfit with all kinds a zippers.
And he gave me a wink as he slowly revealed
For me was a brand new Shakespeare spinnin’ reel!

He tossed back my last beer and belched with great glee
And hung up the pull tab right there on the tree.
He grabbed up his sack and slammed out the screen door,
So that half a the ornaments fell on the floor.

He jumped in his truck and he gave her the gun,
And with nary a word that old hobo was gone.
I went back in the trailer; didn’t know what to think.
There was no more beer left in the place now to drink.

But there in the trailer atop the TV
He had left me a whole case of Old Milwaukee,
With a note on the top that he wrote all hisself.
“Merry Xmas to all from that Old Redneck Elf!”

–MF Xmas ’00–