True NOLA

New Orleans. It’s a city that evokes a myriad of popular culture images: literary, visual and aural. For me, it’s Interview with the Vampire meets True Blood during Mardi Gras. Festive, crazy, sexy, and spooky, all set to a jazzy/bluesy Zydeco soundtrack.

Streetcar

About to board one of NOLA’s famous streetcars. Destination: French Quarter!

I finally went to this city of my dreams last week to visit my niece, Christine, who had moved there last year. It didn’t meet my expectations. Rather, it changed them. I’m glad I was able to stay in a home rather than a hotel and be escorted by resident instead of a tour guide. You learn different things that way, things that can add knowledge and authenticity if you’re a writer.

For example, I learned you don’t “get” groceries, you “make” groceries. My niece took me to a local grocery store, Dorignac’s, in the suburb of Metairie, where I got to see local products like Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning and Camellia red beans. I found out the residential roads are gouged with huge potholes. I saw that the Mardi Gras routes, like Saint Charles Avenue, have shiny strings of beads, AKA throws, hanging from the power lines and stuck in the branches of the oak trees amidst the Spanish moss.

I also learned to take life a little slower in the Big Easy. No one is in a big hurry to rush to the next thing, maybe because there’s a lot going on all the time. Delicious food and great music are everywhere. You can’t see it all at once, or in one trip, so you might as well slow down and soak it all in.

One of my favorite places to relax was Morning Call. It’s a rival to the more famous Cafe du Monde, open 24 hours and serving cafe au laits and beignets. Their location in City Park was restful compared to the tourist bustle of the French Quarter. The cafe au laits and beignets were to die for. I indulged almost every day during my visit.

Morning Call

Morning Call in City Park. You want to go here. Trust me.

After all, it’s NOLA and it’s all about the food.

gumbo

Tasty tasty gumbo!

Grilled oysters. So good.

Grilled oysters. Amazing!

This is what they call salad.

Crawfish remoulade salad. Oh so good.

Of course, it’s not a trip to NOLA without a night out on the town. On Saturday, we headed for the French Quarter, natch. Bourbon Street is as insane as you might have heard. We avoided it by walking along Royal Street, which was quiet and lovely, except for all the tour groups. At one point, there was one on every corner. Eventually, we made it to a dive bar on Decatur Street. Then we met up with friends in another place across the street. Somehow, at some point in the evening, going to a karaoke bar on Bourbon Street became a really good idea.

"Oh-oh, halfway there...!"

“Whoa, we’re halfway there…!”

I’m standing above the stage, shouting the lyrics to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer with about a hundred people. Crazy good fun!

After a while, I went out to the balcony. This is Bourbon Street at 2:30 a.m. The party was still going strong.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

After that night, we stuck to tamer activities, such as trip to the Mardi Gras Museum. The tour takes you among the actual floats and you can watch the artists hard at work creating next year’s fantasies on wheels.

Beginning of a project.

Lots of fantastical creatures being created.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

We also toured St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, a famed City of the Dead. Because of flooding, most New Orleans cemeteries inter the remains above ground.

Above ground tombs.

Above ground tombs.

While there, we saw the possible resting place of famed Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Fun fact for those who have seen American Horror Story: Coven: she actually was a hairdresser. People leave hair ties and clips as offerings at her tomb.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Although it was getting steamy hot and will get steamier as the summer progresses, I was sad to leave this lovely, unique and inspiring city. I’m already looking forward to my next trip. Perhaps for Mardi Gras. Until then, laissez le bon temp rouler! Let the good time roll!

Sweden Wins Eurovision 2015

Måns Zelmerlöw of Sweden has won the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest with his song Heroes.


The show ran 4 hours and featured contestants from 27 countries, including special 60th anniversary guest Australia. The votes were tallied from 40 countries and their professional juries. A representative of each country gave their results live.

Russia pulled ahead early and about half-way through, it seemed as though Eurovision would be crowning a new queen, Polina Gagarina. However, Måns Zelmerlöw began slowly pulling ahead until the latter votes steamrolled him into a decisive victory. Russia came in second and Italy came in third.

Congratulations to Måns Zelmerlöw, the new hero of Sweden and Eurovision! And congratulations to all the artists who performed in the semi-finals and the finale. Great job! See you next year in Sweden!

 

Eurovision 2015 Finale Line-up

The 2015 Eurovision Finale will begin soon! Artists from 27 countries will perform their songs. Voters in all 40 participating countries, along with a professional jury, will vote to decide the winner.

Recap of how to watch in the U.S. and any country that doesn’t broadcast Eurovision.

The 2015 Eurovision finale will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 21:00 CEST. That’s 3:00 p.m. EDT and Noon PDT in the U.S. You can watch the live show for free on YouTube and the Eurovision website.

Eurovision WebTV

Eurovision YouTube Channel

2015 Eurovision Finale Line-up in order of appearance:

  1. Slovenia
  2. France
  3. Israel
  4. Estonia
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Armenia
  7. Lithuania
  8. Serbia
  9. Norway
  10. Sweden
  11. Cyprus
  12. Australia
  13. Belgium
  14. Austria
  15. Greece
  16. Montenegro
  17. Germany
  18. Poland
  19. Latvia
  20. Romania
  21. Spain
  22. Hungary
  23. Georgia
  24. Azerbaijan
  25. Russia
  26. Albania
  27. Italy

The favored contestant to win is Sweden, but I’m rooting for Italy. Anything can happen. Best of luck to all the artists.

Enjoy the show!

Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 2 Results

Artists from 17 countries took to the stage for the second semi-final of Eurovision 2015 song contest, but only 10 will continue on to the finale. They are, in the order they were announced:

  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Montenegro
  • Cyprus
  • Azerbaijan
  • Latvia
  • Israel

To be honest, this wasn’t a real exciting show. Too many ballads and the level of artists between countries was markedly uneven. San Marino, we know you’re a tiny nation, but come on. Those kids belong in the junior competition and you know it. We’d all rather see Valentina again than that. And Ireland, please. You know we want Jedward back. Just do it.

Best performance of the night goes to: Sweden!

There’s a reason Måns Zelmerlöw and Heroes is favored to win. It’s a great song and he’s a savvy performer who knows how to work the crowd and the camera. Well done!

Divalicious award of the night goes to: Latvia!

The dress, the hand gestures, the confidence, but most of all, that voice. Aminata has the full diva package and jazzy Love Injected is just right kind of quirky to make her stand out.

Who brought the fun back to the show? Israel!

Nadav Guedj and Golden Boy turned the biggest party in Europe back into a party rather than a ballad-fest.

Best duet of the night goes to Norway!

Smolder. Those two were smokin’ hot! Mørland’s falsetto and Debrah Scarlett’s smoky vocals turned A Monster Like Me into the sexiest duet of the evening.

The 2015 Eurovision finale will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 21:00 CEST. That’s 3:00 p.m. EDT and Noon PDT in the U.S. You can watch the live show for free on YouTube and the Eurovision website.

Eurovision WebTV

Eurovision YouTube Channel

Eurovision 2015 – Semi-Final 2 Lineup

The second semi-final in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest is hours away. The artists and their nations are posted below, but first, a how-to recap.

Recap: How to Watch Eurovision in the USA

Eurovision has two options for watching online, completely free, either from their website or their YouTube channel.

Eurovision WebTV

Eurovision YouTube Channel

The official start time is 21:00 CEST or 9:00 p.m. Central European Summer Time. That translates to 3:00 p.m. EDT and Noon PDT in the U.S.

Here’s the lineup for the Semi-Final 2.

In order of appearance:

  1. Lithuania: This Time, Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila
  2. Ireland: Playing With Numbers, Molly Sterling
  3. San Marino: Chain Of Lights, Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola
  4. Montenegro: Adio, Knez
  5. Malta: Warrior, Amber
  6. Norway: A Monster Like Me, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett
  7. Portugal: Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa, Leonor Andrade
  8. Czech Republic: Hope Never Dies, Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta
  9. Israel: Golden Boy, Nadav Guedj
  10. Latvia: Love Injected, Aminata
  11. Azebaijan: Hour Of The Wolf, Elnur Huseynov
  12. Iceland: Unbroken, Maria Olafs
  13. Sweden: Heroes, Måns Zelmerlöw
  14. Switzerland: Time To Shine, Mélanie René
  15. Cyprus: One Thing I Should Have Done, John Karayiannis
  16. Slovenia: Here For You, Maraaya
  17. Poland: In The Name Of Love, Monika Kuszyńska

Good luck to all the countries and their artists. Enjoy the show!

Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 1 Results

As an American, Eurovision makes me weep for one big reason: it’s so damn efficient. In two hours, there’s a big opening, a bit of host blathering, 16 performances, voting in 40 countries, a bit of local color and performances, tallying of votes, and announcing the winners. In two hours! One of the reasons I stopped watching shows like American Idol is because they take too damn long.

Got that off my chest. Onto Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 1!

The evening started with the reigning queen of Eurovision, Conchita Wurst, singing her winning song Rise Like a Phoenix. She looked lovely in her signature strapless gown, this time white, showing off those gorgeous shoulders.

Artists from 16 countries took to the stage, but only 10 will continue on to the finale. They are:

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Russia
  • Romania
  • Hungary
  • Greece
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Serbia
  • Belgium

Best performance of the night goes to: Russia!

Polina Gagarina was amazing! What a great voice and such a powerful song. A Million Voices was not one of my favorite songs, but I’m loving it now.

Divalicious award of the night goes to: Serbia!

Beauty Never Lies starts out as a ballad and becomes a party! Bojana Stamenov​ commanded the stage with ease with her big voice and powerful presence.

Surprise of the night goes to Romania!

Voltaj​’s powerful performance vaulted their (mostly) non-English song De la Capat (All over Again) into the finale.

Most touching moment goes to Armenia!

Tears came to my eyes as each performer moved to different countries on a map of the world, representing the Armenian diaspora after the 1916 genocide. Face the Shadow remains one of my top songs, but Genealogy’s performance needs a little more work.

Eurovision Semi-Final 2 will be held on Thursday, May 21, at 21:00 CEST. That’s 3:00 p.m. EDT and Noon PDT in the U.S. You can watch the live show for free on YouTube and the Eurovision website.

Eurovision WebTV

Eurovision YouTube Channel

How to Watch Eurovision 2015 in the USA

Eurovision 2015 is upon us and the first semi-final is mere hours away. Most U.S. fans, like myself, can’t watch the competition on broadcast television or even cable.

But don’t panic!

Eurovision has two options for watching online, completely free, either from their website or their YouTube channel.

Eurovision WebTV

Eurovision YouTube Channel

The official start time is 21:00 CEST or 9:00 p.m. Central European Summer Time. That translates to 3:00 p.m. EDT and Noon PDT in the U.S.

Here’s the line-up for the Semi-Final 1.

01 Moldova
Eduard Romanyuta
I Want Your Love
02 Armenia
Genealogy
Face The Shadow
03 Belgium
Loïc Nottet
Rhythm Inside
04 The Netherlands
Trijntje Oosterhuis
Walk Along
05 Finland
Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
Aina Mun Pitää
06 Greece
Maria Elena Kyriakou
One Last Breath
07 Estonia
Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Goodbye To Yesterday
08 F.Y.R. Macedonia
Daniel Kajmakoski
Autumn Leaves
09 Serbia
Bojana Stamenov
Beauty Never Lies
10 Hungary
Boggie
Wars For Nothing
11 Belarus
Uzari&Maimuna
Time
12 Russia
Polina Gagarina
A Million Voices
13 Denmark
Anti Social Media
The Way You Are
14 Albania
Elhaida Dani
I’m Alive
15 Romania
Voltaj
De La Capat/ All Over Again
16 Georgia
Nina Sublatti
Warrior

Good luck to all the countries and their artists. Enjoy the show!