Monthly Archives: March 2010

Mississippi Road Trip!

I wasn’t sure if I had camping in me anymore. I realized it had been seven years since I had slept outdoors. The last time was Burning Man–but that’s a story for another day. When I asked the husband when the last time he had camped was he said, “It was with you, nine years ago, when we had that horrible time at that folk festival in Texas.” Neither of us could remember when was the last time we had wholesome, family-style camped. Although it had been a while, we both grew up with lots of camping, and knew that we could probably access that wisdom somewhere in our memories, the question was–would it be fun? Answer: Yes!

I had a few criteria. I wanted to camp, hike, swim in clear water (we’ll get back to that), and have the drive be less than three hours each way. An acquaintance of mine, who works for the Louisiana Park Service, recommended the Homochitto National Forest in southwestern Mississippi. And, that’s where we went.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps started reforesting the area, and creating recreation areas, spanning 189,000 acres. It is about 150 miles from New Orleans proper, and it takes two and a half hours to get there. We decided to camp at Clear Springs campground. It turns out that “Clear Springs” is a bit of a misnomer. But, the area is beautiful, and the number of campers is quite limited. We chose to go on weekdays (because we work weekends) and the weather was perfect, and there were very few other people around.

There are two different camping areas. I would recommend the $20/night campground, as opposed to the $7/night “primitive campground.” At first I thought one was for RVs and one for tents, but, no. The primitive campground is far from all the good trails and the lake. It also has no bathrooms anywhere nearby, no running water, no benches, etc. It’s just a numbered space with a fire pit. Spots 1-12 at the other campground are prime.

A word about culture shock…So, as we were driving into the general vicinity of the park, we literally lost count of churches–mostly Baptist. Then, when we approached the park entrance we saw two dismaying signs. One was from the federal government, alerting citizens to their anti-discrimination rights in terms of race and religion. (Never seen that at a park entrance before!) And then another that said, “No alcohol.”–Clutch the pearls.–Then, later, as we were exploring the park, we stumbled upon a lectern and seating that was obviously intended for preachin’ and witnessin’ the gospel. Or, maybe just weddings, we pointed out to each other. Dry weddings. Then, out of nowhere we were approached by an urban-looking guy, around our ages, with meticulously gelled hair, and spotless Ed Hardy sneakers, who had a BMW sports car with a surfboard and a SARCOPHAGUS (?) on top of it, who proceeded to tell us about his cross-country trip from San Francisco, and how he was originally from nearby McComb, Mississippi, and how this park was the best place, ever. We finally pulled ourselves away, and realized we blended in far better than this guy, and maybe we wouldn’t get run out of there, after all. We also came to the conclusion that the “no alcohol” rule seemed to be more for keeping the riff-raff out, and that responsible, discreet, grownups can do what they please.–But, you didn’t hear that from me.

So, Clear Springs is man-made, which I am a little ambivalent about. On the good side: the water is super-deep, which means it stays cool, and doesn’t turn into muddy bathwater by mid-summer. There are also no deadly snakes, so swim, swim, away. (We were the only brave souls swimming this early in the season). Also, there are tons of turtles, as their natural predator–the alligator–was also not invited to the party. Along the water’s edge, there are great, semi-private picnic areas, with lots of space. (We set up a Badminton net and a Bocce Ball court on ours). Also, there are lovely trails for hiking and mountain biking. It is a little manicured, but perhaps that’s the only sort of “roughing it” I have left in me.

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A Night at the Movies–to Feel Good About

Well, Zeitgeist continues to do their thing–which is to remind us that entertainment and social conscience can go hand in hand. Tonight is the last night to see a double feature of Soundtrack for a Revolution, a documentary that tells the story of the civil rights movement through its music. What a great idea, right? 7:30. $7

and…American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein, another documentary, this one about an American Jewish intellectual’s controversial views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . 9. $7.

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Roast Beast

I cannot resist an event called “Roast Beast.” The Hollygrove Market and Farm is throwing this all-day benefit today, from 1:30-10. Apparently you will learn all you ever wanted to know about animal husbandry, learn how to make bacon and sausage, and eat and drink very well. Tickets are a prohibitive $125, but it’s a benefit, and if you are serious about meat it seems well worth it.

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Stella!

This afternoon at 4 is one of the highlights of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Brave souls gather in Jackson Square to battle it out in the “Stella!” shouting contest. In the spirit of A Streetcar Named Desire, competitors try to outdo each other (and Brando) for a chance at the title, and some as yet undisclosed prize. And, because we are an equal opportunity town in the public shouting arena, women contestants can scream “Stanley!” if they are so inclined. After the contest, at 5;30, their is a final judging at the mainstage at Le Petit Theatre.

All this “Stella” talk has me thinking about how it has been far too long since I’ve been to Stella! the restaurant. I am going to be so bold as to say that it is one of the absolute best of the best restaurants in New Orleans. For $105, you can opt for the seven course tasting menu, check this out:

Seven Course Tasting

1st Course

Roasted Heirloom Potato Puree with Applewood Smoked Bacon Lardons, Fingerling Potatoes, Truffle-Scented Petite Brioche Croutons and Truffle Crème Fraiche Caviar

2nd Course

Lobster, Egg and Caviart–Canadian Lobster, North Shore Farm Egg and American Paddlefish Caviar

3rd Course

Caramelized Hen of the Woods Mushroom Risotto with Virgin Olive Oil Local Scallions

4th Course

Pan-Seared Japanese Mero Seabass with Iberico Bellota Ham, Baby Turnips, Carrots and Parmesan Jus

5th Course

Steak and Egg ~ Seared Prime Beef Tenderloin with Sunny Side Up Egg, Breakfast Potatoes, Texas Toast with Foie Gras Butter and Truffled Hollandaise

6th Course

Delice de Bourgogne Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Candied Macadamias, Powdered Pistachio and Captain Crunch Nutella Explosion

7th Course

Chocolate Chip and White Truffle Ice Cream with Truffle Scented White Chocolate Panna Cotta, Candied Black, Garlic and Spun Raw Black Truffle Honey

Yes. The words “Captain Crunch” were in there.

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Crawfish Fest, in da Parish

In this, one of the most glorious times of the years in New Orleans, there are so many festivals going on, it can be difficult to choose. I’ve been highlighting the ongoing Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Also, today in the French Quarter, is the New Orleans Roadfood Festival, featuring an array of regional cuisines set up on Royal Street. Also, a good choice would be the Freret Street Festival. (I think they’re going to try to get you buy a house). But, you know who really needs your attendance? Chalmette.

The Louisiana Crawfish Festival is under way all weekend, but today’s the day to go, IMHO. I was out in Chalmette yesterday, and as I drove through the excruciatingly slow progress in the Lower Ninth, and then past the trailers that house both the library and the only health clinic, it was very demoralizing. Then, as I was reaching the outskirts of town, I saw on the horizon a great big Ferris Wheel and a whole carnival, and there was something so poignant about that. The fest not only has a whole carnival, but also; live crawfish races, live music, a beauty pageant, arts & crafts, and food, food, food! It’s continuing today from noon to 11, and Sunday from noon to ten at the Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center. Admission is free.

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Literary Fest Continued…

There are a lot of events in concert with the Tennessee Williams Literary festival, but today I am going to focus on theatrical events.

At 3 pm, there is a premiere of a production of a Tennessee Williams one-act play, The Reading, directed by a faculty member at the University Of Illinois. And, it’s only $5. (A lot of the events associated with the festival are really expensive). It’s at the Williams Research Center in the FQ.

At 6, local theater company Cripple Creek is presenting two one-act plays by TennWill: This Property is Condemned and Talk to me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. Le Petit, Muriel’s Cabaret. $25

And, at 7:30, the UNO Department of Film, Theatre and What-Not is presenting The Night of the Iguana, at the Le Petit mainstage. Tickets for this have been going fast. (The run has been extended). But, if you don’t get it in, or you’ve shelled out as many increments of 25 bucks as you can, you can always rent or buy the movie version–which is one of the best ever! Drunk, existential Richard Burton, a totally bad girl Ava Gardner, Nazis, what else do you want?

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Lit Fest!

The 24th annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival is under way. The Festival is comprised of a series of events; from “master classes,” with an impressive roster of literary professionals, to whimsical events like cocktail competitions and the “Stella!” shouting competition.

This evening’s highlight will be the festival Opening Night Gala at Le Petit Theatre: “Williams in His Own Words.” The legendary actress Lois Smith (who has had a long and distinguished career, but you might recognize her most recently from HBO’s True Blood, in which she payed Sookie Stackhouse’s grandmother) will be there ruminating.  Also, in attendance will be John Patrick Shanley, the Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright of Doubt. He also directed the film version, and won an Academy Award for the screenplay for Moonstruck. 6:30.


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