Tag Archives: The French Quarter

A Journey to the Land of Dreams…

IMG_1214NOLA1NOLA3nolabanner5Won’t you come with me?
Down the Mississippi?
We’ll take a trip to the land of dreams
Going down the river, down to New OrleansIMG_1106

From the time that I was old enough to understand it was my father’s birthplace, New Orleans has always held a special place in my heart and my imagination.

IMG_1097Before I ever set foot in the Crescent City – or even knew it was called “the Crescent City” — my grandmother’s annual Mardi Gras packages aroused a fascination with my dad’s exotic hometown. Grandma’s annual package included three essential items: her homemade fudge (maple and chocolate), Mardi Gras beads and doubloons, and a couple weeks worth of Times Picayune front pages.

Incredibly, I still haven’t been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

I was somewhere around 6 or 8-years old when we made our first family pilgrimage from Cleveland to New Orleans to visit Grandma Barrosse and the rest of my dad’s family. We went by train. It was the biggest adventure of my young life – and the moist summer evening heat, the scent of magnolia and honeysuckle, the little Confederate flag some relative gave me, and my terror of voodoo queen Marie Laveau are still among my most cherished childhood memories.

Cannons-MB-House-447-wideI was around 12-years old when we returned to New Orleans – this time by car. I remember that trip in sharper focus because I was old enough to appreciate taking in the wonders of the French Quarter, City Park and the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.

That second trip was also memorable because of my determination to capture green anole lizards (the dime store chameleons of my youth) in my Grandma’s backyard. I captured more than a dozen of them among the honeysuckle vines before my grasping hand, plunging into the vines after my prey — got stung by three wasps at once. Though they laid me low for a full day, I survived those stings – and most of my lizards survived the drive home to Cleveland.

Ross Salinger, the author, and John Goodrich at the Renn Faire in Metairie (1984)

Ross Salinger, the author, and John Goodrich at the Renn Faire in Metairie (1984)

A couple decades later, I returned to New Orleans for two years in a row to perform at a Renaissance faire in the suburb of Metairie.

Those two working trips to the Big Easy were a chance to reconnect with my nonagenarian grandmother, my aunts and uncles, and my father’s amazing hometown with its unique history, music, food and culture.

(Right) Doing the Sturdy Beggars Mud Show. (Center) The author and Ross Salinger in the French Quarter. (Right) John Goodrich relaxes in the courtyard of Napoleon House.

(Left) Doing the Sturdy Beggars Mud Show. (Center) The author and Ross Salinger in the French Quarter. (Right) John Goodrich relaxes in the courtyard of Napoleon House. (1984)

With Victoria at Napoleon House waiting for a Pimms Cup. (1985)

With Victoria at Napoleon House waiting for a Pimms Cup.

On the second trip, in 1985, Victoria (now my wife) joined me to work at the Renaissance Faire, meet the Barrosse clan, and enjoy the pleasures of the French Quarter.

But, until this year, I’d never taken any of my three daughters to New Orleans.photo 2

Well, I wish I was in New Orleans,
I can see it in my dreams
Arm-in-arm down Burgundy,
a bottle and my friends and me
                                                   Tom Waits

My youngest daughter, Evangeline (a good Louisiana name)  applied to Tulane University in New Orleans – and this spring, we were delighted when she was accepted with an academic scholarship. So, a 3-day father-daughter trip to my dad’s hometown was in order. The choice was between UCLA and Tulane – and this trip would help her decide.

IMG_1081Eva is a songwriter – and New Orleans is a musical melting pot unlike any other, where jazz, blues, big band, marching band, rock and roll, Zydeco, and all the rhythms of the Caribbean and Mississippi Delta come together in the streets, restaurants and bars.

On the day we arrived in town, we were delighted to discover that the last day of the French Quarter Festival was still underway and the Quarter was jammed with musicians and bands on nearly every corner — including this dynamic face-off between brass bands on Decatur Street.

IMG_1180We also went to Preservation Hall. My daughters had seen the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in concert at The Gainey Vineyard in Southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley – but to see these wonderful musicians playing their hearts out as we sat on the worn wooden floor of that modest, intimate musical temple in the French Quarter is a whole different experience.

There's music on just about every block of the Vieux Carre.

There’s music on just about every block of the Vieux Carre.

IMG_1115And then there’s the food. Nobody should visit New Orleans on a diet. Our first restaurant experience called out to us from its sign: Evangeline.

The food at Evangeline was superb.

Here’s just a sample of the many spicy and tasty delights we consumed at Evangeline and at other French Quarter eateries, including The Gumbo Shop, during our visit…

Jambalaya at Evangeline. Perfectly wonderful.

Jambalaya at Evangeline. Perfectly wonderful.

Gumbo at -- where else? -- The Gumbo Shop.

Gumbo at — where else? — The Gumbo Shop.

Eva enjoyed her muffaletta on Decatur Street.

Eva enjoyed her muffaletta on Decatur Street.

And, of course, we had to have our beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

And, of course, we had to have our beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

 

So long mom.
So long pop.
I’m goin’ to New Orleans or else
I’ll drop dead
Down in New Orleans
You know I love it there
And I ain’t been there yet.
                          The Rockme FoundationIMG_1136

The second day of our trip was the reason we were in New Orleans in the first place: my daughter’s visit to Tulane University.tulane

IMG_1132Tulane is a beautiful place.

I could imagine Eva attending class among the spreading trees, draped with Mardi Gras beads.

Perhaps she could even take James Carville’s political science class someday.

On weekends, she could take the St. Charles street car to the French Quarter and soak in music and culture that would inform her songs.streetcar

IMG_1135After our visit to Tulane we hopped that street car and returned to the French Quarter. The streets weren’t as crowded as they’d been the day before for the French Quarter Festival — but the the mood was still celebratory and the music was still playing.

Here, Eva is caught up in the New Orleans blues and the fancy steps of a veteran swing dancing devotee.

Dad and daughter at UCLA.

Dad and daughter at UCLA.

Ultimately, my daughter Eva chose to attend UCLA instead of Tulane. (Go, Bruins!) She’s a California girl — and we’re perfectly happy with her choice.

But on our father-daughter trip she fell in love with New Orleans.

And my love affair with my dad’s city was renewed.

We’ll be back in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, the Land of Dreams.

And New Orleans – as it has for centuries – will be waiting to fascinate and delight.

What follows is a photo essay to further celebrate the wonders of my father’s wondrous, historic, culturally resplendent hometown…

Dad poses across the street from our temporary home, The St. James Hotel on Magazine Street.

Dad poses across the street from our temporary home, The St. James Hotel on Magazine Street.

Dad gazes upward toward Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Dad gazes upward toward Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Magnificent trees rise above the artwork hanging on the Jackson Square fence.

Magnificent trees rise above the artwork hanging on the Jackson Square fence.

The street scene on the east side of Jackson Square.

The street scene on the east side of Jackson Square.

Local legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte's

Local legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte’s friends provided this house for his exile.

Eva in the courtyard of Napoleon House. Her dad's Pimm's Cup is on the way.

Eva in the courtyard of Napoleon House. Her dad’s Pimm’s Cup is on the way.

The aforementioned Pimm's Cup.

The aforementioned Pimm’s Cup. I already ate the traditional cucumber slice.

Classic, lovely New Orleans decay in the Napoleon House  courtyard.

Classic, lovely New Orleans decay in the Napoleon House courtyard.

Eva in front of the house where William Faulkner lived and wrote while in New  Orleans.

Eva in front of the house where William Faulkner lived and wrote while in New Orleans.

NO#10

You're not allowed to take photos at Preservation Hall. So, I don't know what this is...

You’re not allowed to take photos at Preservation Hall. So, I don’t know what this is…

NO#12

NO#13

NO#14

Eva poses in the gaudy costume of a Mardi Gras Indian.

Eva poses in the gaudy costume of a Mardi Gras Indian.

The French Quarter House with the famous cornstalk gate.

The French Quarter House with the famous cornstalk gate.

The cornstalk gate.

The cornstalk gate.

The Andrew Jackson Hotel -- where Victoria and I stayed in 1985.

The Andrew Jackson Hotel — where Victoria and I stayed in 1985.

NO#19

A French Quarter door.

A French Quarter door.

Typical French Quarter architecture and porch gardening.

Typical French Quarter architecture and porch gardening.

NO#22

Evangeline looks at home in the Vieux Carre.

Evangeline looks at home in the Vieux Carre.

One gorgeous building after another...

One gorgeous building after another…

That's all, folks! New Orleans is waiting for YOU!

New Orleans is a taste of Old Europe in the New World.

6 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Art, Beauty, History

Vic & Paul: Finally Out of the House

An Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage & Martinis

Vic & Paul: Back in the day.

After a two-decade absence from the stage, my wife Victoria Zielinski and I will perform once again in The Vic & Paul Show — an original two-person comedy revue with music that will play for three weeks this June at Push Lounge in Woodland Hills.

Imagine that.

It’s 2010 and we’re doing a show. We can hardly believe it ourselves.

Shelly Goldstein, friend and chanteuse.

Our longtime musical director, Steve Rashid, is coming out west from Evanston to accompany us on keyboards – and our good friend (and local cabaret goddess), Shelly Goldstein has not only been heroically giving us what direction we’re capable of absorbing after all these years – she’s also going to be singing her popular cabaret set after our shows each night at Push.

It’s going to be three weeks of fabulous grown-up fun – somewhere between Nick & Nora and Nichols & May (if they were a couple of over-50 parents with grown children.)

Push Lounge is located at 20969 Ventura Boulevard in that picturesque block of Woodland Hills known as The French Quarter. While this French Quarter lacks a Mississippi riverfront, Bourbon Street and beignets – it does have plenty of free parking in the evening. (I’ll say it again: free parking.)

Previews run Thursday, June 10 through Sunday June 13.
(Preview tickets are $10)
Previews will be followed by two weeks of shows:
Thursday, June 17 thru Sunday June 20.
Thursday, June 24 thru Sunday June 27.
(Show Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for folks under 18)
All shows are at 8:00 PM.

Push Lounge seats about 50 people a night, so if you’re planning to come – just reply to this post, let us know what night you’d like to come (and how many tickets you’d like), and we’ll put you on the reservation list.

The Vic & Paul Show is our way of celebrating our 20th anniversary as husband and wife by doing the thing that brought us together in the first place: having fun onstage and giving folks a chance to laugh along with us at this crazy world in which we live.

About Our Friends & Comic Collaborators:

Steve Rashid (Musical Director, The Vic & Paul Show)

Steve is an Emmy winning composer, performer, producer and recording engineer with a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Ripon College and a Masters in Music Composition from Northwestern University — and he’s one of the coolest cats we know. Steve’s company, Woodside Avenue Music Productions, is both a recording studio and a record label – and through it he’s released four solo CDs (“i will hold your tiny hand,” “Fidgety Feet,” “As In A Mirror” and “Song of Songs”). In addition, he’s produced/engineered hundreds of recordings for many other artists and labels, spanning jazz, folk, classical, bluegrass, gospel, country and pop music.

Steve’s newest project, cafeunderscore.com, is also his coolest. It’s an online gallery that displays a collection of Steve’s musical portraits of ordinary people observed in coffee shops.  You’ve got to experience it to understand how very groovy it is. (Steve’s a jazz guy, so it’s okay to use the word “groovy” when you talk about him.)

Rashid regularly composes music for dance — often in collaboration with his wife, choreographer Béa Rashid, who runs her own dance school, Dance Center Evanston. (It’s a wise man that works creatively with his wife.)

His jazz group, Steve Rashid and the Porkpies, was called “one of Chicago’s most entertaining groups” by the Chicago Tribune, and WGN Radio has called Steve “a Chicago treasure.” Vic and I are just happy to call him “friend”.

Shelly Goldstein (Director, The Vic & Paul Show — and the talented songstress who’s performing her cabaret set afterward.)

Shelly has been called “Kitten with a Quip”. By day, she’s a writer-performer who has written for every genre of TV, film and stage: screenplays, sitcoms, dramas, documentaries, animation, awards shows, song lyrics, jokes, club acts and special material for such performers as Steve Martin, Debra Messing, Sharon Stone, Liza Minnelli, Paula Abdul, Cybill Shepherd, Eva Longoria Parker, Steven Spielberg, Garry Marshall, James Earl Jones, Norman Lear and Yoko Ono.

By night, Shelly’s an international cabaret performer who has headlined in such venues as The Gardenia, Cinegrill, Hard Rock, 88s Cabaret, and the Inner Circle at the Magic Castle (LA), Pizza on the Park, The Theatre Museum & Frankie’s (London) & the Mill Theatre (Dublin). She sang the Judy Garland songbook in the London Production of Judy & Frank.

A native Chicagoan, Shelly and her husband, Brendan Foley, divide their time between Santa Monica and London. She and Brendan also manage to collaborate as a couple: Shelly co-starred in writer-director Brendan’s film, The Riddle with Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave and Brendan’s thriller, Legend of the Bog, with Vinnie Jones.

Shelly says she’s thrilled to reconnect onstage with me and Vic and Steve for the first time since the world was young. Indeed, this is going to be a lot of fun.

And we’d like you all to come out to Push Lounge and share the fun (and a smart cocktail or two) with us this June.

Who knows? It may be 20 years before we get a chance to do this again…

13 Comments

Filed under Art, History