Oysters, Pistols and Tipsy Walking in New Orleans

October is a very big month for me, both personally and professionally, and we celebrated some seriously huge milestones this past month. In fact, we were so busy celebrating them, that I didn’t even have time to write about them! So just consider this the first in a three-part series. Or something.

First up was the birthday of my manpanion-for-life, XFE. We don’t usually travel for XFE’s birthday, what with Porktober® and all that being right around the corner. BUT, we decided to jump on some low fares and cash in some Starwood points for a quick weekend trip.

So, we went to New Orleans and acted like we were about 15 years younger than either of us are. We stayed up late, drank too much, ate too much, talked to random strangers, bought expensive artwork.

It's entirely appropriate to make finger pistols when buying artwork.
It’s entirely appropriate to make finger pistols when buying artwork.

Yeah, a little souvenir for my new office and to commemorate my first year of self-employment.

We saw this subtle little work of art while walking by the Hall Barnett Gallery on Chartres Street. They’re an LED reproduction of a neon piece called “Guns.” Supposedly, there were only three produced—one owned by the gallery owner, Holly, another owned by a couple in New York and then us.

They were absolutely unnecessary, but we just couldn’t walk away from them. I mean…neon guns? Hello? And they change colors! There’s even a remote control. We negotiated them down a teeny bit, but the final number still made me need a stiff drink afterwards.

(Update: They were damaged during shipping, so now we’re waiting for a new set. Or is it pair? Fingers crossed. Or is it guns crossed?)

Boo. Hiss.
Boo. Hiss.

Luckily, we were staying right across the street from the gallery at the W French Quarter. This is the infamous hotel where I cracked my head open five years ago. Actually, almost five years to the day. I know this because that super helpful Memories feature on Facebook popped up with that FrankenPoe picture right before we left.

Honestly, none of this is cute. The pout, the bags under the eyes, the airport bathroom stall. Oh, or the stitches.
Honestly, none of this is cute. The pout, the bags under the eyes, the airport bathroom stall. Oh, or the stitches.

Besides slippery dangerous showers, the W French Quarter is also home to SoBou, which is a Brennan’s establishment and therefore means: 25 cent martinis at lunch. (Note: if you ever do go this option—and you absolutely should—do not get one of the Kool-Aid colored/flavored pre-mixed martinis like a Cosmo. Get a classic, dirty martini).

I will say, we had a few issues with the W Hotel this time out. We were using points, cash and upgrades to cover our three-night stay, and they basically wanted us to move rooms each night. There was much finagling until they finally upgraded us to a carriage house studio type room that had definitely seen better days and had a non-working hot tub surrounded by cigarette butts on the patio.

W New Orleans Collage

The concierge also dropped the ball on the champagne I had ordered, despite the fact that I had filled out all the paperwork and called twice to order it and confirm that it would be in our room. There’s a whole litany of other annoyances (including XFE’s pet peeve: old, snagged towels with threads hanging everywhere), but, at least no one ended up in the emergency room, so that’s a half-hearted win. Sorry, W French Quarter.

We fared better in the eating category. On our first day we did a very scientific comparison/survey of two famous oyster places: Felix and Acme. We ate approximately four dozen oysters between the two places—raw, grilled and Bienville. XFE joked that we should have been pooping pearls after all that. Final consensus: Acme won by a shell sliver and honestly, it was their boo fries that had us coming back again the two days later (French fries covered with roast beef gravy and cheese).

Let's see, from left to right: oysters, oyster place, oysters, and oyster place.
Let’s see, from left to right: oysters, oyster place, oysters, and oyster place.

When we returned to Acme, we were not alone. We dragged along a couple of new friends we met during what was perhaps our very favorite tourist activity ever: the Drink and Learn Tour. We’ve been on a lot of tours in a lot of places, but this particular tour was hands down the best tour we’ve ever been on (and….didn’t take any pictures of. What can I say? I was too busy enjoying it).

The owner/tour guide, Elizabeth Pearce is a drink historian, fantastic historian, and an all-around hoot. You meet up (at a bar, naturally) and you receive a small, crossbody cooler containing four color-coded drinks. Then you take a short walk, stop, take a sip of your drink, and learn about the colorful history of New Orleans through adult beverages. Everything from how and why rum punch represents the early melting-pot days of the Crescent City to how praline liquor helped female slaves buy their freedom. It was so entertaining and we both learned a ton.

Then we went and got oysters and beer because that’s what you do in New Orleans. Or at least, that’s what we do there.*

(*We did a bunch of other galivanting and tomfoolery, but this is a family blog, so better left unsaid.)

New Orleans Collage

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Hurricane Snooze, Says the Girl with No Electricity

It should have been called Hurricane Boring. Or, Hurricane Eat and Drink Too Much.

Either way, I wasn’t too impressed with Hurricane Irene. At least, at first. But like a certain snooty cat who twirls around your ankles, only to move away when you try to pet her, Irene had the last laugh. A long, annoying hyena laugh.

"We're all gonna die!!!"

Let me just start by saying I’m very glad that the whole thing was so underwhelming. It’s not like I wanted death and destruction and looting in the streets of genteel Old Town (I totally would have hit up a few boutiques myself, if that had been the case. What can I say? I’m a lemming.) 

But as with the “earthquake” last week, I’m a bit underwhelmed. To hear everyone talking, Mother Nature was about to take a colossal dump on us. All over DC there was a mad dash to get supplies, a clearing out of store shelves by Friday night, and (at least within our house) talk of buying generators. All tweets and Weather Channel hysteria pointed to impending doom and the need for an Ark.

Here’s how we spent the weekend. On Friday, my emergency-disaster-preparation-partner XFE ran all over town like a crazy person procuring supplies. For us, this included brisket (trip to the butcher), liquor, lots and lots of non-perishable snack items, and flashlights. Somehow, even though we’re two grown adults, we don’t have flashlights. Obviously, this last fact required trips to several stores, until XFE tracked down the probably last two flashlights in the greater DC area at a sporting goods store. Good. We were all set.

"There are no flashlights to be found!!!! We're all gonna die!!"

On Saturday morning, we looked out the window and saw a slightly overcast sky. We made a last minute dash to Trader Joe’s for champagne and yet more tortilla chips. We were quite worried we’d run out of tortilla chips, a national disaster in the making. Then we went to Chipotle for our last meal. And other people’s tortilla chips.

XFE put the brisket on the smoker, I did laundry, and we eventually assumed our positions on our designated couches and waited for the worst. It finally started to rain and it kept raining, but it was like any other storm, really. The brisket kept cooking. XFE made trips out to the patio to check the brisket. Returning from one of those status checks, he reported that the shed out back was starting to get some water in it.

Now, this shed is a pretty important and large structure. It’s not really a shed as much as a second little house. It’s fairly large, has electricity and windows, and would make a lovely office if it had air conditioning and heat. As it is, we store all of our multiple pieces of luggage, my winter wardrobe, two barbecue grills, various tools, ladders, and most importantly, our wine fridge out there. Everything is up off the ground via shelves, pallets and wood beams, but only about an inch and a half, and well, we were expecting big things from Irene.

We quickly assembled some cat litter sand bags to put under the door. Yes. You read that right. Cat litter. Don’t laugh – although I certainly did when XFE first suggested it. Those sandbags totally worked. Even after hours and hours and hours of boring, steady rain.

Pleased with our inventiveness, we settled back on the couches. And continued the slow, long slog through the afternoon. Seriously, the ever-so-slight, possible-wine-fridge-disaster was the highlight. It just continued to rain, and we continued to be bored.

I’m not sure exactly what we would have been doing instead, but being housebound made the whole thing just extra boring. I mean, we’d already run all of our errands by Friday, basically, so that was already taken care of. I guess we would have washed the car, but that doesn’t take all day. It’s not like we had a list of things to do. But for some reason, just not being able to go outside made us both very antsy.

"I'm so bored cuz everything's closed!! I'm gonna die!!!"

We were so bored we even watched a couple of terrible movies on cable, including “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. And the very bad “Going the Distance” with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. We spent some time debating whether they were dating or not during the filming. I don’t think they were, but maybe they hooked up again during the filming. I’m not sure. Their whole timeline is confusing to me.

Then, things got rull interesting. At around 11 pm, the power went out. For no discernible reason. Nothing had struck the pole or transformer, as far as we could see, no lines were down. Houses a half a block away seemed to have power, but we, and a few of our neighbors, did not.

We called and reported the outage and went to bed. The rain continued all night long, along with some pretty high winds, but our bored selves slept like babies.

On Sunday morning, we looked out the window expecting total carnage. And, I guess, for the trees in the neighborhood, it was. Every leaf on every tree was now in the street. But that was it.

We hopped in the car to go buy emergency ice (same as regular ice, but used in emergencies) and tried to look for damage. We did see one car that had a tree on it, but that was about it in Old Town. Everyone appeared to have electricity except for us (and a few other neighbors).

Once back home, we settled in for more boredom, fully expecting the electricity to kick on at any minute. After all, there wasn’t a lot of damage in our area, so they should be right out, right? Right?

One of our neighbors stopped by mid-day and we compared notes. No, we don’t have any power. Yes, we reported it. Yeah, it shouldn’t be too long till it’s restored. Yes, it’s weird that only our five houses appear to be affected.

By 1:30 pm it was gorgeous outside, so we mobilized Operation Get Out of the House and went and played tennis. We came home (still no electric) and took cold showers (thanks electric water heater!). Finally, we made an escape plan: thanks to Twitter and Kimpton Hotels, we booked an “Irene special” and proceeded to eat what we could out of the fridge. Including lots of cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

"We gotta get outta here or we're gonna die!!!!"

By 5 pm, we were enjoying the nice wine happy hour at the Hotel Palomar and I began Twitter bombing Dominion Power. To no avail. We still have no electricity.

So now I’m annoyed with Irene AND Dominion Power. Word on the street is we’ll have power by Wednesday. Which is just so patently ridiculous I’m rolling my eyes.

Anyone else less-than-impressed with the annoying, moody teenager known as Hurricane Irene? However did you survive the “storm of the century?”

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Balance. Equilibrium. Stability. Remaining perpendicular. These are never easy things to achieve. Just ask former first lady Nancy Reagan (or even skateboard enthusiast and “How to Stitch” crooner, Lil Wayne).

According to AP:

“Former first lady Nancy Reagan is said to be doing fine after stumbling as she was escorted into an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley.

KNBC-TV video shows the 90-year-old Reagan walking into the room on the arm of Florida Senator Marco Rubio Tuesday night when she apparently lost her balance. The crowd can be heard gasping as Rubio catches her before she falls to the floor. Several people in the crowd then swarm her, and Rubio and the others help her get to her seat.

Rubio was invited by Reagan to speak at the library.

Library spokeswoman Melissa Giller told KNBC that the former first lady wasn’t hurt. Giller says Reagan apparently tripped on a post used for crowd control.”

Nancy_Reagan

Guuuuurrrl. I know how you feel.

Let me tell you about a clumsy little blogger who used to go by the nickname “Stumbelina.” I got that nickname from my dear friend Sonny when we were besties in Dallas back in the mid-to-late 90s. For a while, my dear friend even kept a running tab of stumbles – like, literally carried a piece of paper with little marks on it. That particularly fun-for-me project had to be abandoned when the sheer excessiveness of my affliction rendered the effort impossible.

I fall upstairs. I fall downstairs. I’ve fallen nowhere near stairs. I’ve fall in showers at nice hotels and required nine stitches. (That’s a true story. New Orleans, October 2010. My most epic spill to date.)

My favorite place to fall is, apparently, on metro escalators. One time I fell because my heel got caught in the hem of my pants and sent me tumbling (pretty sure I pulled my arm out of my socket trying to catch myself). Another time, I was on my way to meet someone for a run on the Mall and tangled my legs (no reason) and went bouncing down the escalator on my right hip. I had the gnarliest black, purple, green, yellow bruise for about three months.

About two months ago, I fell, in my own house, while carrying two empty plates and a couple of small ramekins containing soy sauce from the living room to the kitchen. Hindering my awesome and well-honed plate clearing skills? Two tiny stairs from our living room to the dining room. These are stairs I have successfully navigated probably hundreds of thousands of times. (Ok, a couple of other times not-so-successfully. I did fall down these same two stairs one time while carrying a scalding hot cup of tea, which I proceeded to slosh into my lap. Red thighs anyone?)  I still don’t know why my toe caught on the stair this particular time and sent me, and the soy sauce, flying, but fly we did. The pale yellow dining room walls sustained minor soy sauce-related damage from that particular event.

In fact, right around the same time that poor Mrs. Reagan was taking her spill in California on Tuesday, this girl right here (two thumbs pointing at myself) tripped and bit it on a very busy DC sidewalk. We’re talking total face plant. As in, cell phone clattering and skidding out of my flailing hand. As in, people stopping to help our poor heroine regain the upright position. As in, painfully limping the rest of the way to my destination, covered in embarrassment and shame.

Yeah. And that was AFTER I had swapped out my gorgeous 4-inch mustard colored stilettos for a pair of practical, if ugly flats, in full recognition that me and sidewalks do not get along. That’s right. I took PRECAUTIONS. And still I stubbed my flats-covered toe on a crack in the sidewalk and went stomach surfing in broad daylight in full view of the busy street, park and White House. I blamed aftershocks from the earthquake.

At least Mrs. Reagan is 90 years old. Lil Wayne had moving wheels under him. What’s my excuse?

DC Earthquake: Color Me Not Impressed

So, we had a little earthquake here in D.C. today.

It’s my first time in an earthquake. And I must say, at the risk of sounding totally blasé, I was a bit disappointed.

It happened at about 2 pm. I was earnestly at work when the whole 100-year-old building I work in started to rumble and shake. They’re renovating the floor above me, so my first thought was, “Oh damn. Somebody just knocked down a wall or something major.” A few picture frames fell over, but it was all over after about 20 seconds.

I also work right across the park from the White House, so the natural, second thought was that there had been an attack, but a quick look out the window confirmed that wasn’t the case.

After a very panicky HR person came through the floor yelling, “Get out, get out, get out!” over the screaming fire siren, we all, of course, evacuated the building and went to the nearest park where we stood around checking our Facebook and Twitter feeds and cracking inappropriate jokes. After 20 minutes, we were allowed back in the building.

I’m sorry but any earthquake where you’re allowed back in the building after 20 minutes isn’t that impressive.

I know, I know, 5.9, felt from the Carolinas to Toronto, all the way west to Ohio, blah, blah, blah.

And yes, the Smithsonian closed all its museums for the remainder of the day, the National Cathedral had some damage to its spire and the rumor on the street is that the Washington Memorial was leaning.

But 20 seconds of shaking? Really? I’m giving that earthquake a 5.9 out of 10.

One of my coworkers lost his economic stabilization piggy bank. That's it. The extent of the damage.

Oh, but don’t worry. While I was standing in the park enjoying the sunshine, other people were losing their shit. Crying on the sidewalks, panicking because their phone wasn’t working (mine was working just fine.)

But if you know DC, you know that people here lose their shit pretty easily. They’re a bunch of scared little rabbits in this city. You should have seen Snowmaggedon 2009. Anarchy. Cars being abandoned on medians type of crap. It was like a zombie wasteland in the days following that snow event.

The biggest annoyance about today’s “earthquake” is that metro was all jacked up. Of course. So the evening commute will (was) undoubtedly be a nightmare. Which means there’s only one thing to do – go to the bar. And order a martini. Shaken, not stirred.

By the way, I actually fell on the sidewalk on the way to the bar. Not because I’m clumsy (which I totally am) but because I may or may not have been feeling some aftershocks. (OK, I wasn’t)

I’m also starting an effort to get a celebrity benefit concert for the recovery effort. And by recovery, I mean my bar tab. Gwyneth Paltrow better bring her “Country Strong” butt out here and help me, I mean, DC. Please leave donation details in the comment section below. Help make DC stronger, people.