Tag: identification

The intersection of St. Peter and Bourbon streets was a blur in a different way on the night of Feb. 7, 2010, and into the early-morning hours of Feb. 8 as the French Quarter filled up within minutes of the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl. (Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock, Inc.)

Postcard from the French Quarter:

(With my heart going out to those affected by tornado damage Tuesday in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, here’s a look back at one of the best night’s in the Crescent City’s history. Originally posted at 3:21 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2010, on a blog long since shuttered.)

NEW ORLEANS — Super Bowl Sunday has become early Monday morning, almost imperceptibly, and this afterglow of the Super Bowl victory by the New Orleans Saints still feels like something that might forever be called Lombardi Gras.

The fusion of the NFL’s championship trophy with the Carnival atmosphere in the Big Easy in February 2010 seems inspired now, almost fated, as I sit and rest tired feet while younger, more energetic revelers continue to party in the French Quarter. Now we know why the Big Game had to creep from January into February over the years.

Some of the passersby look at me as I type notes on my BlackBerry, and based on their comments, they think I’m texting someone. In a way, I suppose I am. I’m texting you.

In no particular order, except the free-flow way I typed them, here are notes of the sights, sounds and smells of my walk from near the Convention Center down to Jackson Square and deep into the Quarter:

Minutes after the game, euphoria.

There’s never been a feeling like it.

New Orleans empties onto its streets.

Car horns blare.

Strangers high-five strangers.

Who Dat!”

Tonight, no one is a stranger.

We’re all trying to wrap our minds around it.

“The Saints, NFL champions!”

The streets fill with cheers, and thanks to go-cups, “cheers!”

There are no words, really, but we’re all trying.

“Boom, chaka laka laka! Boom, chaka laka laka!”

More high fives, swarming like flies.

“Big guy, Who Dat!”

We pass Harrah’s, where a crowd has gathered.

Who Dat!”

The flow on Poydras seems headed toward the Superdome.

Let’s veer off into the Quarter.

You can see more of the street surface than usual.

That won’t last.

Got time for a celebratory Lucky Dog, Ignatius?

Someone’s walking under huge black-and-gold balloons.

Music is blaring from car stereos.

Car horns are approximating Mardi Gras songs.

Black-and-gold-umbrella dances.

More high fives.

Right there, smiling children who can’t possibly grasp the moment like their parents can.

Big-drink-in-hand high fives.

Cell-phone-hand high fives.

A single boot on the ground across from Café du Monde.

Let’s play kick the boot!

A solitary woman snaps a photo of St. Louis Cathedral.

Your blogger sits and types his notes.

Who Dat sitting on the phone, texting!” a girl yells.

“He Dat!” her boyfriend chants.

Me Dat, your blogger thinks.

Drew Brees jerseys everywhere.

Reggie Bush jerseys almost everywhere.

A Deuce McAllister jersey catches the eye.

Café au lait, then another, at Café du Monde.

Powdered sugar and jubilation floating in the air.

Around Jackson Square, tarot card readings.

Candles burn, lighting a dark corner.

Nothing beats the smiles of a young stoner couple.

Beads, beads, beads.

A Jeremy Shockey jersey, filled out like I’d never seen, stumbles over to Who Dat and high-five me.

“Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk)” fills the cold air.

Improvised percussion. A small parade starts.

Ghetto booties follow.

There are few, if any, street performers out here.

And yet, everyone out here qualifies, in a sense.

Cars roll by as people stand through the sunroofs.


What came first, those or Texas Stadium?

Glassy eyes.

Trucks roll by as people stand in the flatbeds.

A jazz band parades past us.

Broken glass.

Handheld cams.


Yep, this is what the Quarter smells like.

A lot of black and gold.

A little purple and gold.

Pretty girls.

(Many of them female)

A Saints Tailgating Crew mini-bus.

Cops on horseback.

Shirtless guys standing on the roof of a moving Suburban.

Does everyone out here have style and rhythm? Sure seems that way.

“Let’s repeat!” he says, and then he high-fives your blogger.

A man and his son ride their bikes through the craziness.

A blue hula hoop gets a workout around more black and gold.

A “When the Saints” parade breaks out, punctuated by Who Dats.

Group photos. Say “Brees.”

Group photos that from a distance, in the dark, resemble team photos.

A young woman announces she must soon relieve herself.

A split-second later, she Who Dats me, then high-fives me.

Her boyfriend slaps my hand, but it doesn’t feel like a high five.

Cat in the Hat hats in Mardi Gras colors near Pat O’s.

A single glove on the ground at the entrance.

The streets have fewer people on them than you’d think.

Five are making the noise of 10.

Ah, and then I turn onto Bourbon.

Five hundred make the noise of 1,000.

Garbage is fast piling up against the curbs.

Balcony parties.

Lip lock.

A Manning jersey — Saints, No. 8.

No sign of the Manning jersey — Colts, No. 18 — from this afternoon.

“Livin’ on a Prayer” sung twice in two blocks.

Bourbon is crowded.

And then some.

The girl pushing against me wants me to back up.

I can’t.

“Get the heck off me,” she says.

Except she doesn’t say “heck.”

She can’t grasp the force pushing me into her.

Or the force pushing her into me.

The Bourbon Street crowd is a little more surly.

This has crowd surge written all over it.

It’s probably a good time to duck in for beignets and elbow room.

Everyone seems to want to high-five the guy by himself.

There’s joy, disbelief and catharsis everywhere.

And no riots, fires or looting, at least not where I can see.

I’m cold, and it’s a long, long walk to where I left my car.

I hope it’s still there.

I’m glad I came. This was the place to be when the Saints won the Super Bowl.

The Saints won the Super Bowl. Mardi Gras may never end.

Lombardi Gras has a pretty respectable momentum itself.

Time to give the thumbs a rest.

I might need them to hitch a ride if I can’t find my car.

Seven years later, I’m struck by how many references there are in this play-by-play account of French Quarter revelry that a person would struggle to understand without having some familiarity with: a) New Orleans culture; b) the Saints’ many losing seasons; c) Super Bowl history; d) Mardi Gras; and e) the allowance of open containers of alcoholic beverages on the streets of New Orleans.

The sense of connection, in scope and in fervor, was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. All of us were part of a community, even if you didn’t know anybody else on the streets that night. We were all friends. We all knew what that championship, something many thought we’d never live to see, meant to post-Katrina New Orleans and to people who remember what the city was like before Aug. 29, 2005, the day the hurricane came ashore.

Seven years after that Lombardi Gras night, instead of being able to enjoy the anniversary, New Orleans was busy picking up the pieces from another destructive strike from nature. That nearly convinced me not to repost this old blog piece. But, at a time when it’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of togetherness I felt on the streets with thousands of strangers, I’ve been revisiting good days in America, good memories. This qualifies.

Lucky Dog photo by Lori Monahan Borden via Shutterstock.
St. Louis Cathedral photo by Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock.
Café du Monde photo by Andriy Blokhin via Shutterstock.
Drew Brees photo by Action Sports Photography via Shutterstock.

Note: Yep, no camera that night. Just the BlackBerry. So even though these photos are from different days in New Orleans history, they help, I hope, paint a more colorful picture than just the many words I pieced together with my thumbs on that wild night seven years ago.

Barack Obama and his family at his election victory speech Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago’s Grant Park. We are not the nation I thought we were becoming as I watched that night. (Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

Donald Trump is like a guy who takes a dump on half the yards in the neighborhood, somehow gets elected neighborhood association president, and then says it’s time for everyone to unite behind him.

Trump crapped on immigrants. He crapped on women. He crapped on President Obama. He crapped on you, even if you don’t think so. He crapped on America. He crapped on the world.

He denied, then bragged, then denied some more, despite proof. And yet, he won, because half of those in the neighborhood who didn’t get this treatment loved him. Now, he and his inner circle have urged the rest of the neighbors to come together, to heal and move forward — and without apologizing to any of them. Really? Forgive and forget? No way. The arrogance of expecting the people he dumped on to meet him all the way, not just halfway, would be mind-boggling if it were anyone else. But he has flung so much poo in getting the best of the party that owes its current existence to poo-flinging, we are well beyond what we once considered normal.

I have watched every U.S. presidential inauguration since Nixon’s second. That streak ends Friday. Call it a boycott if you’d like, although almost no one will notice. But in a still-defining-itself #notmypresident form of personal protest, I am doing my small part to refuse to normalize and legitimize Trump’s presidency.

Yes, I have read pieces — most of them by people seemingly lacking self-awareness regarding the blind spots inherent in their privilege — deriding the substance of, and the hashtag within — the previous paragraph. Many such pieces popped up amid post-election demonstrations across the country and the anti-Trump backlash on social media. A main point is, “Not your president? How’s that supposed to work?” My answer today: That’s for me to figure out. You can treat as normal and legitimate the people and events of your choosing.

As it turns out, I have plenty of company in some or much of my thinking. Dana Milbank and I have similar opinions on the Trump team’s angry call for respect. On the question of the legitimacy of Trump’s ascendancy, Paul Krugman and I (and Rep. John Lewis) largely agree. For a far more eloquent expression than I am capable of writing, I recommend Adam Gopnik’s The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear as a foundation for what’s to follow below.

Despite Trump’s insistence that he “will be president for all Americans,” there is no evidence that he is even remotely interested in proving it, in reassuring marginalized people that he is a man of his word. In fact, he has been known for decades as a selfish opportunist who is decidedly not a man of his word. As someone who has enjoyed the privilege of being a white male from birth, I consider it my responsibility to speak — for myself and for those who are now more vulnerable — about why I will not acknowledge his inauguration Friday.

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feelingsPhoto by Lopolo

About a week ago, a friend and I were talking about feelings, and how difficult they can be to embrace. It’s hard to let them simply be, and we think we have to do something about them, or wait for them to disappear, never to return.

These are thoughts we have about what we perceive as negative feelings; it’s never the ones that bring us joy. We’re glad to keep those, and we invite them to return often. We search for new ways to bring them back to us.

The conversation prompted me to think about something that happened years ago when a small group celebrated my grandmother’s birthday. She was well into her 80s, and although we didn’t know it at the time, she had only a short time left to live. When we gathered to sing to her around a cake with candles burning, she started crying and talking about visions she had of a daughter who had died many years before, 15 months after her birth. The atmosphere in the room sharply shifted. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath, and not like a person who is about to blow out candles on a birthday cake.

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“The Judge,” the 2014 film starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. as a father and son, judge and lawyer, left a lot of good lines in my head, but the quote stuck in there right now wasn’t spoken by either of those Roberts.

Halfway through the movie, Vera Farmiga, who plays the former girlfriend of Downey’s character, explains to him the origin of the name of her establishment, the Flying Deer Diner, telling a story about a close call on the road one day while she was driving with her daughter in the car. “This deer jumps, flies over the hood, his back hoof taps the glass; one mile an hour faster, he’s coming through the windshield, all antlers and hooves killing me for sure, maybe both of us.

“I make a decision right then and there: Whatever had or hadn’t happened in the past, I was gonna be the hero of my own story.”

Their history has an unresolved storyline, as do several relationships in the movie, which reveals those loose ends along the way — sometimes just to us, sometimes to us and to the characters. What has or hasn’t happened in the past invests much of their motivation, and it drives the film through its twists and turns, toward its denouement.

I watched the movie on the recommendation of a co-worker, someone with whom I’ve had more than one conversation about Duvall and what he brings to his characters. “Watch ‘The Judge,’ ” my co-worker said when he left the office Monday night. The next day, I checked to see if it would be on cable soon. I discovered it would be on HBO a little more than 24 hours later, during what is my weekend off work. Perfect timing.

When I asked my co-worker for some background on the movie, he mentioned that critics were split about “The Judge,” that some called it contrived, among other unflattering things. I can understand that now, even as I found much to like about the movie.

The quote stuck in my head planted itself there even as I knew what some critics probably said out loud when, after telling the story, Farmiga’s character took stock of what she’d just said and asked, “Was that corny?”

I liked it because it spoke to self-determination in a way that perhaps sounded corny but elevated the idea of shaping one’s life to something heroic, with the hero appearing from within rather than from without. It felt like something someone who survived a near-fatal collision and decided to start her own business might say to herself, and then to others.

spoileralertThere was much in the movie that I could identify with, in small and larger ways, that fit the film’s darker subtexts of mortality, regret, unfulfilled promise and more. On a different day, I might have chosen to write about the dynamics of a son fishing with his father, or about a son watching his father suffer the effects of terminal cancer, or about a son visiting his mother’s grave during a time of crisis in his life, or about moving on with life after the dream of an extended baseball career ends, all of which I’ve experienced — or about the relationships between brothers, which I’ll never experience.

But not today. Today, the movie left me with something else I wanted to make note of here.

It’s unexpected, really, that the quote stuck in my head isn’t one delivered by Duvall, who could read the newspaper aloud for two hours and I’d buy a ticket and some popcorn and sit down to watch and listen. But on this particular day, the line that sank its hooks in me was the one about becoming the hero in one’s own story, and I think everyone could use at least a little belief in the possibility that they could make that happen.

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there. You can read about him here.

“Enough Said” has been making the rounds on cable, and seeing it again reminded me of thoughts I scribbled down after watching it in the cinema in fall 2013. I recall wondering whether the movie would be a boost to the dating chances of big guys like Albert, played by the late James Gandolfini.

In fairness to writer/director Nicole Holofcener and everyone else who created “Enough Said,” let me assure you it is indeed a film and not a dating app. I don’t mean to relegate its art to something that might help someone find a dinner companion. The film has wit, and a soul, and it charms, to use a word I saw in more than one headline — including this one in reference to the male lead. For those who knew Gandolfini only as Tony Soprano on “The Sopranos,” the movie shows other aspects of his acting range. It does the same for those who know Julia Louis-Dreyfus only as Elaine from “Seinfeld.”

In an Associated Press story widely distributed around the time of the film’s release, Louis-Dreyfus was quoted about that side of Gandolfini.

The release of the film has been bittersweet for all of those involved, coming just three months after the death of Gandolfini. Louis-Dreyfus was a big admirer of the actor before working with him: “I thought he was sort of dreamy,” she says.

“James was very much like the character, Albert, that he plays in this movie: very dear, thoughtful, self-effacing kind of guy,” she says, choking up. “It’s lovely for his legacy and even for his family to have this performance documented because it shows him as this loving, dear man, which he was.”

Being roughly the same size and shape (and age) as Gandolfini when he made the movie, I was again reminded that I’ve found myself identifying with him in some ways since rediscovering him more than a decade ago (I’d seen him and liked him in other films, but his Tony Soprano is what hooked me). In the winter months, wearing a jacket not unlike one he would wear on “The Sopranos,” I sometimes recognized I also put on his lumbering walk, and when I noticed my shadow I couldn’t help imagining at times I was adopting his posture, maybe wearing the strong, assertive side of him as a shield. (Who would have thought that years earlier when I bought that jacket I was inadvertently paying, in the parlance of the mob world, protection money?)

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