Friday, February 23, 2007

Miss Julip pays her fine

Overheard between two ladies as I waited in line at the main post office in New Orleans while waiting to mail a birthday card to my Mum in Northern Ireland. I think it's so cute the way Southerners are still so formal, regardless as to race or class or how long they know each other.

Miss J: "Howdy Miss Nelson, I not seen you for long time. A long time."

Miss N (older): "I've been busy working Miss Julip."

Miss J: "I thought you be retired."

Miss N: "I be in two years Miss Julip. Two years more."

Miss J: "Me not ready to retire yet. No sir." At this point, Miss Julip starts trying to stuff what appears to be a summons into a lurid orange official envelope. "Lordie, this thing don't want to go inside."

Miss N: She runs her eye over the envelope, then at me. She laughs. "Maybe that a sign, Miss Julip."

Miss Julip: She laughs, too. "Lordie, I don' pay, they come after me and my wheels, Miss Nelson. Lordie, I not know what to do without my wheels."

Miss N. "Hmm mmm. I hear you. Hmm mmm. Lordie, transport in this town..." She looks over at a woman writing on a package and shakes her head sagely. "It's bad, very bad."

The line moves forward. "Miss Julip: "Well, I 'spect I be seeing you soon, Miss Nelson."

Miss N: "I 'spect so. You take care now hear."

More tales from The Big Easy and my cruise to follow

Monday, February 19, 2007

Grabbing those beads

Greetings from the heart of New Orleans a.k.a The Big Easy.

Larry and I arrived on Friday night to spend Mardi Gras with our friends Bob and Adrian who moved from The French Quarter just after Katrina and now have a condo on St. Charles Avenue, right on the parade route of many of the krewes including the biggies, Bacchus, Endymion, Rex, Zulu and the krewe started by New Orlean's native son, Harry Connick, Jr.

It's been a lot of fun watching the parades and I've caught mucho, mucho beads and mugs and trinkets, as well as having also a few celebs including James Gandolfini who plays Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, some pop band called Styx whom I'd never heard of until Saturday night when they passed by on a float, and American Idol's most recent product, Taylor Hicks. In fact, Taylor threw down a particularly attractive set of beads as he passed by, which I caught. They're definite keepers, though not because they came from the hands of Mr. Hicks.

Last night after the Bacchus parade, we went to friends Bob and Jan who preparad a most delicious New Orleans drink called Saccaran's (I think that's the spelling) which consisted of a blend of whiskey, Pernod, bitters and a bit of sugar.

More parades are scheduled tonight and all festivities culminate tomorrow which is Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) in the last two events from the krewes known as Zulu and Rex. In the old days when the Catholic Church ruled supreme, these two parades ended all partying as Lent began. But nowadays, people head for the French Quarter for more revelry and fun, which is exactly what we'll be doing.

Bob (Jan's husband) is taking us on a tour of the devastated areas THAT HAVE NOT YET BEEN REPAIRED--a huge scandal in itself in my opinion--on Wednesday, which will be very sobering. I'll take some photos ande post them at some point on my return to Pennsylvania.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An inconvenient truth

This weekend I decided to watch Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth which is nominated for an academy award in the best documentary category.

All I can say is I was astounded. It's presented in the form of a college lecture--he's currently going about the country giving lectures about global warming and at one point says he's given about a thousand of the lectures--and he skillfully interweaves the huge threat to our environment with the relevant science which he explains in a manner that everyone can understand.

One concept he explains relates to the hitherto unknown levels of carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere today which prevent the sun's heat from leaving our atmosphere and thus contributes to global warming and changing weather patterns. Scientist have been able to go back hundreds of thousands of years by analyzing ancient ice cores, back though four ice ages, and have discovered we now have levels of carbon dioxide that are already twice as high as has ever been found on earth before. Gore illustrates how these unprecedented concentrations of carbon dioxide will continue to rise if left unchecked by climbing aboard a lift device used to raise studio lights and cameramen in film studios and having it rise in sync with an adjacent graph delineating the increase in carbon dioxide levels. It rises and rises until Gore is looking down at us as if from a mountain.

He also employs the canary in the coal mine analogy in two instances. One of the canaries is Greenland which is covered in a huge sheet of ice and is one of two ice sheets that work to keep temperature and climate regulated throughout the world. Greenland is melting at an astonishing and frightening rate. Should it melt completely, the world's oceans and seas will rise to such an extent that 60 million human beings will be displaced, including people in California, Manhattan, Europe (Holland will be totally under water) China and India. The list goes on and on. Displacing 60 million people can lead to a lot of global unrest it also should not be forgotten.

The depth of Gore's passion for this cause is illustrated by the comparison to the love he has for his son who almost died in a dreadful road accident. He states he could not imagine losing his son and the viewer can easily extrapolate and see he cannot imagine that we would lose this battle to save our environment. At times throughout the video, Gore's voice cracks with genuine emotion for the cause and only but the most resolutely determined to deny the truth he is telling will fail to be moved. He ends the piece with a warning that we must act now to save the planet and the United States must play a leading role because we are the largest economy and largest polluter, with Europe and China running a distant second and third respectively. It is disgraceful that this great nation has not ratified the Kyoto Agreement. It is clear each of us are personally responsible for the wellbeing of the world's environment and must adjust our activities to stop contributing to global warming. It is not by coincidence that foreign car manufacturers like Toyota are gaining market share at the expense of American car manufacturers who still insist on producing gas-guzzling SUVs' and are only half-heartedly investing in alternative fuel technologies. And it is a disgrace that Ford, GM and Chrysler cannot export vehicles manufactured in the States to China because they do not have products that meet China's more stringent anti-pollution standards. Yes, China has more stringent emission requirements than the United States. If this is not an indictment of our uncaring attitudes and destructive arrogance, what is?

Gore states we can change our fate but the window is closing. We took action and repaired the hole in our ozone layer. As Gore says there can be corporate profits and proper custodianship of the environment. We must stop buying into the nefarious propaganda of corporations who pay lobbyists to find scientists and offer them large sums of money to propitiate the lie that there is no link between man's industrial activities and global warming, etc. The debate is now over. 99% of the scientific community recognize the insidious link. It's time to end our indifference and stop the ridiculous hand-wringing and wailing "but what can I do?" as we drive around in these SUVs and crank up our air-conditioners during the summer and heat in the winter. It's time to think about holding the industries that damage the environment legally responsible and force them to make the necessary changes so future generations can enjoy a good, healthy and stable world.

Regardless of one's political party affiliation, we should all be immensely grateful to have a man like Al Gore trying to stir our indifferent consciences and stop global warming .

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A blog carnival

Why don't you consider heading over to Bridlepath, a horse lovers blog, because they've got their blog carnival and have some brilliant posts celebrating the great Barbaro--including a link to the blog I wrote about him.

Here's the link to Bridlepath

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tetley to the rescue

Further to my last post, Jessica from TetleyUSA left a message on my blog offering to help me out with the dilemma of my vanishing tea stock. (Who would have thought I had readers at Tetley?) She said she'd love to send me some of their British blend tea to try.

After giving her an address to send the tea, I thought no more about it. This afternoon I went out to do some errands and on my return there was a box waiting for me outside the garage door.

"I'm not expecting a package," I said to Larry. "Are you?"

Though we're going away in a few weeks to New Orleans and then taking a one week cruise, it seemed far too large a package to come from the cruise line if they were sending us unexpected information about the trip.

I went to it and saw it was from DHL and it was for moi. Then I saw the sender was TetleyUSA.

Wow, she sent it by courier, I thought. Highflying VIP teabags! It made me think of the ad on telly where the United States Postal Service Priority Package on top of the reception desk chats to the lowly plant in the foyer, telling it in a snobby tone that she's a very important legal document and has no time to talk because she's waiting for the postman to come and collect her because she has to be at court at a certain time--theme being the postal service comes to you. I rushed inside and tore open the package. Inside was a Tetley gift bag containing a box of British Blend tea, a small canister of English Breakfast tea AND a new blue tea mug.

Moreover, the lady had written me a note in which she expressed a hope that I'd enjoy the tea and gave a brief history of Tetley, which is an English tea company (a fact I knew) and that teas from 30 different countries are purchased at auction and blended in England by trained tea masters (facts I did not.)

So I'm now sitting waiting fro the kettle to boil to make a cuppa of the British Blend. I chose this one because she stated in the note it would taste the same as the tea I've been carting over from teh UK through the years. This nugget of info I decided to treat with a bit of Irish skepticism while waiting for the kettle to boil.

Pause while I tend to the tea things, fetch a chocolate chip cookie (not usually on the menu, but a treat today given the specialness of the occasion) and drink my tea--not from the new mug. I must confess to being a trifle nervous because I intend to be honest in my assessment and suspect Jessica (if she reads this) will consider me an ungrateful tea whore if I cannot praise the gift.


It is true that a watched kettle refuses, simply refuses to boil.

Anticipation and nerves continue to dual. To assuage the latter, I decided to perform a sniff test of the British Blend teabags and my last two bags of the UK tea. Both have the same aroma so things look good. The same Tea Master blender, perhaps?

Tea's over. It tasted excellent. While it was not the exact same flavor as the tea I'd brought over from the UK, it has the same strong body and pleasing flavor. Because the tea sold here is made by the same Tetley tea masters in the UK, I wondered why there would be a difference. Then it dawned on me. This tea was fresh out of the packet and mine--purchased seven months ago--is older and has mellowed. In any event, I can now buy my Tetley tea here. But I'll also buy some when I'm visiting over on the other side because...well, it's fun to bring something from home. It's feels like you're bringing a piece of home back to your other home. Maybe that also accounts for a bit of the difference in flavor, too.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A spot of rationing

In the afternoons, I like to brew a cup of tea and have it with a biscuit--that's a cookie here, not one of those God-awful doughy things called biscuits that looks like an English tea scone (though not in taste) which one can buy together with a bucket of fried chicken at KFC and other places and is regarded as a deliciously Southern thing. I hate Grits and I hate Southern biscuits.

Coffee is my preferred beverage in the morning--not the weak American blends that are flogged by Maxwell House and Folgers--good strong blends like Pilon, which is Puerto Rican and tastes rather like Italian coffee. I've even been known to mix the Pilon with the mass-marketed stuff to improve it.

I am just as fussy about my tea. It must be a British blend, something like English breakfast or the more smokey tasting Irish breakfast blend. But my fussiness does not end there. The tea must actually come from Britain or Ireland. I cannot abide what masquerades as tea on the supermarket shelves in the United States. No matter how long it's brewed, it never seems to break through the 'dishwater' barrier. It looks sickly no matter how pretty the teacup it's in. It's flavorless on a bad day, tinny on a good. That the tea over here is not good is quite understandable because Americans are not a tea-drinking nation--though Larry has informed me that coffee was once offered as a freebie to American housewives who bought a packet of tea.

This afternoon I noticed my 'tea tin' in the cupboard contained only two more bags and so I went into the pantry to retrieve more from the Tetley 'self-closing' packet (the glue on the red tab device is poorly designed and so it doesn't close as stated) I'd brought back from Northern Ireland. There were only ten left. A chill ran through my heart.

This weekend when I speak to Mum I'll have to ask her to send me over a care package chop-chop. Also must remember to tell her to write 'professional sample' or 'book' on the package or I'll get stuck with ridiculous import charges, which will spoil enjoyment of exported tea because I will remember as I indulge. The other alternative, of course, is to go to one of those pseudo Brit shops they have over here where they sell things like sausages, bacon, steak and kidney pie, pork pie, Cornish pasties, shortbread, Hartley's jams, lemon curd and Digestive biscuits, most of which are in various stages of fossilization or moldy as a good Stilton because no self-respecting ex-pat is going to fork out eight dollars for a jar of marmalade or packet of McVities biscuits that they can get for a quid over there.

Oh, what to do...what to do. Must go. Kettle's boiling.