OK! Bayou at the Grammys

Dwayne Dopsie, at a pre-Grammy, Only in Cajun and Creole Country Celebration.                                                                                                                                                                  Photos by Jill Schensul

Saw Dwayne Dopsie and the (aptly named) Zydeco Hellraisers along with the Lost Bayou Ramblers at BB King’s Blues Club yesterday — it was the “Only in Cajun and Creole Country Celebration” thrown by the tourism folks of the Lafayette region, in southern Louisiana, west of New Orleans.

“What’s this? Cajun? Creole?” my friend asked while dancing to the  Ramblers.  She had tears in her eyes (I was still sweeping sweat out of my own eyes from the hellraising zydeco that had preceded it.)

Hellraiser Paul Lafleur plays a wicked washboard.

Cajun, Creole, zydeco  — whatever.  New Orleans and environs are what they are because of the patois, the gumbo — the mashup, you might say — of influences.  They don’t call New Orleans the Big Easy for nothing. Don’t worry about categories.

Shut up and dance.

Yesterday was the first time I’d seen both of these bands. And I was blown away, in different ways, by both.  It reminded me that there are so many ways to be amazing. ramblers2

Both bands’ albums are up for Grammys tonight (glad to see both bands also highlighted in the NY Times piece today, “Grammy Gems in the Shadows.”

My fingers are crossed while I’m typing this.  But really, it isn’t about luck (er, gris-gris).  All you have to do is listen, cher.

    —  Cajun: French Acadians who settled here after immigrating from Canada.
    — Creole: Descendents of French, Spanish, and Caribbean slaves and natives; it’s also come to mean any person whose ancestry derives from the Caribbean.
    Zydeco: Blues-influenced Cajun music, usually including accordion, guitar, and violin (and don’t forget the washboard!).

Please go to Jazz Fest

The lineup for New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2018 (April 27-May 6) was just released, and (as usual) I am psyched. David Byrne, Aretha Franklin, a special Tribute to Fats Domino – featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Jack White are among the headliners. It’s not just about big-star musicians (well, OK, sorta). It’s more that, bottom line, it’s #JAZZFEST!

If you’ve been, I need say no more. But here’s the more for those who haven’t.

I have never been able to convince any of my friends to come with me to JazzFest.  OK, sure, maybe the idea of spending a long weekend away with me scares them. But more likely is that once they see photos of the giganticness of the event, masses of people, the litany of musicians in the lineup, they are turned off. One year, I almost got my husband to go; then he saw an aerial shot of the crowd, and that was that.

I understand the teeming masses turn-off. I am not  a crowd person., But at JazzFest – as at many music or other festivals where everyone shares a particular passion – the crowd is a huge (so to speak) part of the joy (especially if you get VIP tickets that come with upgraded bathroom facilities and a little section where the people per inch ratio gives you a fighting chance at breathing/seeing a stage).

Back to crowd joys, though. An example:  I’m dancing my head off in front of a band with a big crazy washboard player and a granny playing the spoons and a brass section and “zydeco” or “stompers” or “hellraisers” in the name. I’m by myself (as noted)  and sweating under a  merciless New Orleans in May sun and lots of swampish humidity, salt stinging my eyes, and everybody looking the same, like they just pulled us all out of the Mississippi. And all around me, people are  dancing: some Brooklyn-esque hipsters with bookish spectacles all fogged up and sliding down; an old married couple with their matching leather-roadmap faces close together and  steppin’ at a bayou pace;  a woman in a red insanely big self-made hat (a J.F. thing) with her face  toward the white-hot sky and a smile shaped like bliss. And I catch her eye and we smile and I realize my cheeks are beginning to smile-hurt.  And the music, the joy, the moment, and the high somehow, unbelievably, get higher.

JazzFest is like the Northern Lights: It’s something I wish/ hope everyone can experience before they die. Continue reading “Please go to Jazz Fest”

Hot ticket turnaround

I usually talk about tickets in terms of airfare. But today, let’s stick closer to home and talk about those tickets for performances.  Broadway, arenas, that kind of ticket. The ones, when you actually snag them, feel like you’ve snagged some holy grail  (“Hamilton”? Foo Fighters? Chris Rock?).

Those same tickets can be a disaster waiting to happen.

Maybe you bought them for yourself. Maybe you bought, or received them, as a gift. Maybe right now, you’re entering the date on your calendar. You’re excited, looking forward to it.  Maybe, though, you’ve already found yourself facing down that big-ticket quandary, as you realize other commitments clash with the date of your show: ‘I can’t go. ticketforweb2Now what do I do?’

Tickets usually come with the caveat,  “All sales final. No refunds, exchanges or returns.”

For the most part, take those words very seriously.

But after being in a few ticket jams, I can tell you, it ain’t necessarily so.

We’re all human: ticket buyers and sometimes even ticket sellers. And so there are some get-out-of-ticket hell-almost-free policies and options.

Here are a few examples: Continue reading “Hot ticket turnaround”

2017’s best — and worst — new luxe hotels


Everybody loves a good list, and when it comes to travel, the best ones — the ones I respect, anyway — are those assembled by experts who have the background to be truly discerning. 

Enter  LTI-Luxury Travel Intelligence’s Best (and Worst) New Luxury Hotels list. The annual compilation is the result of a dozen experts covering the globe to research the most anticipated luxury properties opening each year. LTI is a global members-only organization providing the latest intel for “high net worth”  travelers — covering not only hotels but restaurants, spas and nightlife.  They don’t sell travel or carry advertising.

I’m sharing their list not just because it’s a peek into accommodations many of us couldn’t afford to actually sleep in, but it’s also kind of fun to read about the one that blew it, luxury-wise. A reminder that price is not always commensurate with quality.

This year, LTI experts visited  74 new hotels; 14 merited inclusion on the Best list, while two were bad enough to make it to The Worst.

Here are their picks, in the (slightly condensed) words of Michael Crompton, LTI cofounder.

Continue reading “2017’s best — and worst — new luxe hotels”

Guilt goes postal

Help! Stop! No more! Please!

I know it’s the holiday season and that’s the reason I keep getting all these “gifts” in the mail. But I don’t want them. Not only don’t I want them, but they make me feel bad.


I got a dime from the March of Dimes, a stamp from Wounded Warriors, and  personalized return address labels from a wide variety of charitable organizations.

The letters — and the gifts — are unopened. And stacking up.

The higher the stack gets, the more guilt-ridden I get. In a perfect world, I would open these letters, enjoy the gifts, send back a donation. Not opening them means the organization wasted its money — which tacitly is my fault.

These are all worthy causes — I cry when I see their commercials on TV.  And just seeing the letter from the Wounded Warrior project got me upset all over again. But I can only afford so much a year, or a season. I donate to lots of causes, and give extra during the holidays. But I simply can’t give to every one — even if they send me a stamp, a dime, a label.

I am unable to throw these letters out, though.  That seems truly heartless.  Do I send them back — does “return to sender” work?  Maybe for the dimes and stamps, but what will they do with all those custom-printed return address labels?

Does anyone have any constructive suggestions for this problem? I can’t stand feeling like Scrooge — especially during the holidays.Dimes


Dog grooming the car

My  new car needed some recalibration, so  I got a loaner car from Audi, which is a very dog-friendly company. I mean, they have bowls of water for dogs who come to their showroom (with their people, of course). One of my dogs, Belle, had a seizure there while I was in for a service appointment, and half of the employees were standing over here, asking what they could do.

Anyway, I got this loaner Audi while my car was in the shop. And the agreement said dogs weren’t allowed in the car — which I thought was weird for such a dog-friendly place, although I did understand the ban. The agreement also said there would be a $100 charge if a dog was in the car — which I thought was just right for a dog-friendly place. I mean, do you know how much so-called “pet-friendly” hotels charge for the friendliness of letting your dog stay in their rooms? It could be up to $250, Thanks a lot.

Anyway, i’m taking back the loaner today, and there are, well a couple of strands of dog fur in the car. I mean, anywhere I go,  I leave strands of dog fur. It is the cross (fur) I bear for being home to two dogs, one of whom needs Furmination every single day.

So I start by taking my little portable vacuum out to the car. Then realize there are some stubborn strands that really need more suck-up power than the hand-held can provide. I plucked up the mats and brought them inside, to use the real-size vacuum on them.

Big mistake.

Bringing the floor mats into my house was like … well, bringing a magnet into an iron shavings factory. I plopped the mats down on the carpet runners on my floor and ran the Big Serious Vacuum Cleaner over them, And yes, while it took off some of the fur, when I turned them over, mon Dieu! the backs looked like something out of an allergy commercial, Fluff, everywhere.

I rushed the things outside,  away from our fur-infested environment, flapping them in the vain hope of dislodging strands  Then I plopped them on the black Audi’s car hood, and thought. I needed the heavy artillery: adhesive rollers.
I found two, and began rolling. A tip: it’s better if you unroll a long strip and then massage it against the critically furred patch of whatever.  By the end, there were long swaths of the tape all over the driveway.

and one on the nice black hood. I pulled it off, cautiously, without removing any of the paint. But leaving, well,  dots of the adhesive. I began scratching it off with my nail. Not efficient, and I could see my nail marks on the black shiny hood. I thought of nail polish remover (a solvent that in recent years has been disappointing me even in the area of nail polish removal) and decided it would probably take off the paint. I stomped into the house, deciding to lay the blame on my husband for leaving me here with the fur-erasure problem in the first place.

“So what am I supposed to do, use nail polish remover and then pay for a new hood?” I snarled into the phone.

Perhaps it was the “new hood” reference — since he could imagine how much a new hood might cost. More likely, he is just practical and smart. He said, “I don’t know, try some very hot water. With soap.”

I did.

It worked.

At least it seemed to. Hot water, non-scratch sponge. Poof! white adhesive spots gone. Paint still holding fast — at least it was when I left to come back in, warm up my fingers, report success to my husband, and write this post.

I trust the hood will still be a glossy, uniform black when I go back out to drive the loaner back to Audi for my own car.

In the meantime, I would love love love it if anyone could recommend the perfect vacuum cleaner for pet hair.