Carole King wrote it. Just about everybody recorded it. “Going Back.” A song for the ages. A song for me.
I was alright. I’d gotten over the shock. Of the feeling of loss. I knew it wouldn’t last. I didn’t expect it to arrive yesterday.
Here’s what happened.
My old friend and I have mutual friends. One of them was a good friend to me. We haven’t seen each other since the storm. Hurricane Katrina. She moved to North Carolina after the storm and a failed marriage. We do keep in touch. It’s hard not to in these days of every kind of messaging available to us. She texted me. Was I going to the memorial? Yes. Could I pick her up at the airport? Yes. Could she stay with us if have we the room? Oh, we got room.
On August 29th, we observe the 14th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at Buras, Louisiana.
It’s been fourteen years. Since we were driven from out home. Fourteen years since I saw my friend. Other friends. How did that happen? Where did the time go? Did I waste it? Did I just pass it?
Or, did I fill it with work? With fun? With light and love? God, I hope so.
All I know right this minute is something Neil Young wrote.
You know that they make me smile. After all, a pack of them allow us to live with them. They aren’t Beagles, but still.
After this miserable week, which isn’t over, I needed something to make me smile. So, I dipped into those lost archives and found something that would do the trick. The funny thing about this Krewe of Barkus was I don’t remember photographing it that year. Obviously, I did. And, I worked from an odd place for me, which makes me think that during Mardi Gras 2020, I should work from here again. Or, near this location.
That’s the thing about photographing something until you are bored with it. Review your archives. Find something you’ve done in the past, but have forgotten about, and think about doing something similar. But, better. Or, a little different.
This weekend and week is about as rough as it gets. First came Peter Fonda. I didn’t know him, but his work influenced me. Then came Nancy Parker. I met her once at the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. A true sweetheart. Next comes Governor Kathleen Blanco. I met her at some event. She helped rebuilt the city after the destruction caused Hurricane Katrina. She stood down the president when he wanted to nationalize the state in the aftermath of the storm. She was the aunt to a very good friend of mine.
It didn’t stop there.
My oldest friend in New Orleans died on Sunday. She had breast cancer. It was in remission until it wasn’t. She was 48 years old. She leaves a husband and a 12 year old son. They both adored her.
Today, I hurt.
I suppose that I’ll go to the celebration of her life on Sunday. From there I’ll go to the first second line of the 2019 – 2020 season. I wasn’t sure if I’d photograph that. I suppose the decision was made for me. My vision was clarified in no uncertain terms. You know, the people in the Mardi Gras culture call this, “home going.” I guess. It doesn’t hurt any less.
The picture. It’s old. Most of you haven’t seen it. It’s me. Today.
You know what I say. The work is the prayer. It had better be.
The picture almost looks like it could have been made in France. It wasn’t. It was made at a park and baseball stadium now called, The Shrine on Airline.
To me and many others, we think that’s a stupid name. It is home for the next two weeks to a AAA baseball team, called The Baby Cakes. That has to be the stupidest name ever for a sports team. The name and the team branding was created by two 22 year old designers from San Diego. They spent a whole three days in New Orleans. They thought they knew us. Anywhere is more complex than that.
The name is sort of a shortened version of the baby that comes in a king cake. It doesn’t make sense in the way that they used it. There was a big commotion about it, but team management kept the name. The sold a lot of merchandise, which is what mattered to them. After all, who doesn’t love an evil little baby holding a baseball bat in traditional Mardi Gras colors?
In two weeks, the Baby Cakes last ever game will be played in Greater New Orleans. They are moving to Wichita, Kansas, where a $90 million dollar stadium is being built for them. The team owns the name so that may travel with them. Thankfully.
At this point there is no replacement for them. There are a lot of AA teams located in the Gulf Coast. Hopefully, one will come here. I hope so. The baseball quality will be better since that’s where the stars of tomorrow play, as opposed to AAA where the stars of yesterday are rehabbing or hoping to catch another shot at the “big show.”
See what comes out of a simple little picture. Hopefully, you just learned something. Or, not.
One more thing.
I’m a New York Yankee fan. I was born to be one. Their AA team is based in New Jersey. Maybe the parish can lure them down here,
As you know, I’ve struggling with ways forward. It’s not that I’ve lost my motivation. It’s more along the lines of how do I progress? I’ve been poking around in my archives for about a month. I’ve pretty much photographed everything that interests me in New Orleans about four or five times.
It’s why I didn’t work very hard last Mardi Gras. It’s why I barely went second lining during the 2018 – 2019 season. It’s why I haven’t been roaming around photographing the Quarter. It’s why I haven’t been chasing the things that a great sunset lights up. Then, there’s the traveling for my other side.
I can also say that it’s the middle of a Southeastern Louisiana summer, which lasts from early May until mid-October. It’s hot. I don’t like being in the heat. I can also say that I don’t trust my hip and back.
Truth be told, I’ve acclimated to the heat. Walking dogs will do that. My physical issues have somewhat settled down. I still have no idea why on one day I feel pretty good. And, the next day I feel like I’m 125 years old. But, I know how to manage it. I’m not fast anymore, but I’m a long time veteran of photography. You know what they say. “Young fox, old fox. Old fox always wins.”
Before you tell me that photography isn’t a competition, it is. With myself. I don’t care what the other guy does, but I have to make a picture that progresses beyond the last one, even if it’s only by a teeny tiny bit.
That’s what I ruminating about.
That, and what do I really photograph as the 2019 – 2020 second line starts in a couple of weeks? What do I photograph as Carnival Season starts? Do I just say that I’m done with that stuff. Or, do I figure out some other approach? What would that be?
I have to laugh. Look at the two people in front. Look where the woman has her hand. I don’t know about you, but my head as never been used for a hand rest. I guess the guy doesn’t care. And, everybody is having fun.
I made many pictures of these folks, from standing in the street to deciding to mounting the guys’ shoulders and getting back down after they caught a few beads. They were laughing. So was I. I moved from this scene to a couple of others, as I normally do.
I changed the series. I said I would do that. I’m going to post a little “lost” Mardi Gras work over the next few days. Because I want to. I haven’t seen some of these pictures in a long time. When I cull for my agencies or for Storyteller, I pick the best images. At least, as I saw it then. But, there are sleepers. Pictures that I like better now.
That’ll happen. That’s why I say that you should let your new files or film marinate. The further you distance yourself from the emotions of actually being on the scene, the clearer you’ll see the images that matter. Don’t be like me and let the images sit for a couple of years or so.
I didn’t go out for Krewe du Veaux last year. In fact, I didn’t photograph Mardi Gras as much as I normally would. I have to think about it for next Carnival Season. My physical health is one issue. But, like everything else in the world, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s getting harder and harder to work myself into position.
I’m thinking about this now because like an athlete who plays a particular sport, I have to train and then get parade ready. It’s better to do that than to try to “play myself into shape.” That only works for the youngest of athletes. We’ll see how it goes. At least the dogs won’t let me walk less than 2.5 miles a day, every day. Of course, that’s not exactly speed walking. All of them, especially the all seeing dog, like to poke around, smell stuff and amble toward their destination.
Rain. Motion Blur. And, a strange crop of a woman standing next to me.
It seems that there is a kind of finality to this picture. That’s a good thing. This is the last of this series. I reckon that you’ve had enough. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. The first day of the week. The first day of a new thing. Don’t ask me what. I haven’t thought that far in the future. Yeah. I know. That’s just tomorrow. It’ll come to me sometime before that.
As you already know, sometimes I don’t talk about the picture. I veer off in some other direction. This is one of those times.
Yesterday evening was just terrible.
Peter Fonda died. He’s a big part of my youth. Movies like Easy Rider helped to form me. The music of that time was the soundtrack to my life. It really hit me when Roger McGuinn — the founder of The Byrds — tweeted, “I just lost a dear friend.”
Not ten minutes later I learned that Nancy Parker, a journalist and anchor person for local television channel FOX 8, died in an airplane crash while she was working on a story about Franklin Augustus, a local a licensed stunt pilot. He was also killed. Nancy Parker had been with the station for 23 years. It seems that everybody knew her or watched her. To a person everybody talked about her kindness and caring. I met her very briefly prior to the Zulus starting Mardi Gras Day one very cold year. We talked for a few minutes as people do. She made sure to stand behind me, so as not to get in the way of my lens.
My city is in mourning.
You know what I always say. The work is the prayer. That’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to Byrds music. A little of it was used in Easy Rider.
The whole place is glowing. Neon. Color. Reflections.
As a wise man once said, “when the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.
And, so they do.
These so-called lost files having been showing me the way. I’m glad that I’ve worked through this little series. There is so much more that I could show you. But, as I say, just because I made a lot of pictures doesn’t mean I have to dump them on you. Sheesh, a friend of mine from here and on Facebook just posted 54 pictures on Facebook. I don’t think I can count that high. Give your viewers a break. Cull that down. Just show your best work.
Lucky Dogs. See that hot dog on a bun looking food stand on the corner?
I participate in a food group on Facebook. It’s about New Orleans food. There’s been a changing of the guard with the admin folks. Now, we have people asking the same old questions, when all they really need do is go to the group’s archive section and search. Whenever somebody asks about inexpensive restaurants in the Quarter, I always respond, “Lucky Dogs.” (Wow! It took me forever to circle back to that.)
The truth. I wouldn’t eat from one of those stands if you paid me. They hit the streets about 11am. When I made the picture it was about 10pm. I’d venture to guess that some of the hot dogs in the steamer ave been there all day. They might not hurt you, but surely they are tough, chewy and don’t taste all that good.
They are a New Orleans institution.
That’s great. But, who wants to eat in an institution?
The picture. F8 and be there, except that it was probably more like f4 and stand very still.
That’s the story. On the anniversary of Elvis’ death. The day when he really did leave the building. RIP Elvis Presley.
It certainly didn’t stop these two women. They were soaked through and through. What did it matter if they got even wetter? Besides, when was the last time that anybody saw Bourbon Street without crowds at night?
And, she’s wearing flip flops. Normally, that’s just an act of craziness. If twenty people don’t step on your toes, consider yourself very lucky. Besides, you don’t want to know what covers that street on a normal night. By the end of the night, Bourbon Street truly stinks. I’ll leave it at that. Y’all have good imaginations.
The picture. It’s one in a series of “lost” pictures. That rainy night in the French Quarter sure added a lot of magical qualities to the image. Water. Reflections. Wet people. All I had to do was be willing to get wet. And photograph what I saw.