Thursday, May 1, 2008

"The Big Easy" makin' out along the Mississippi River

The Worcester Creole may wanna take a junket to the "Big Easy" sometime to witness the "Remake"..better yet "Rebirth" of a great American city... to see how it is being done!!

Been down in New Orleans, Louisiana with friends for the bettah part of a week+..attending the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This has been my second straight year attending the festival and yet I am and will be considered a newbie until I have attended a minimum of (10) festivals!!

Yes, the festival has this kind of a draw and you can feel it all ovah the city..from the folks that live in the historic Lower 9th Ward who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and are hawking bottles of water outside the Fairgrounds for $1, to all the many incredible eateries where you have to have reservations to eat cause they are filled to the gill 24-7...and all the sold out hotels, motels and bed and breakfast accomodators who have to say no to you if you had not booked a room months in advance!!

The first words out of everyone is.."ya'll here for Jazz Fest?"

My friends Kevin & Marie have been making Jazz Fest a yearly treat with other friends for years and last year they invited me along..this year I invited along my friend Carol and as expected Kevin & Marie made my friend their friend real quick!

I got into New Orleans last Thursday afternoon and made a beeline to Bourbon Street to get a Po-Boy (one can not go to New Orleans and not get a po-boy), listen to some music and DRINK:>) turned into a late night w/ Kevin & Marie down on Bourbon Street and then ended ovah at the St. Charles Tavern on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District..... I picked up Carol at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday and after a little freshening up at the bed and breakfast over on Magazine Street (Terrell House) where we stayed for the week... we headed ovah to Jazz Fest to catch Robert Plant and Allison Krause...Plant rocked the place with "When the Levee Breaks" along with a few other Zep chestnuts to make me one happy man!!

Another Friday night treat at Jazz Fest and maybe my favorite of the weekend was Buckwheat Zydeco performing a classic by New Orlean's own "superstar" Fat's Domino's ....."I'm Walkin' to New Orlean's"

Immediately post Friday night Jazz Fest we set up shop outside Liuzza's by the Track to drink gin & tonics & their famous Bloody Mary's complete with the stringbeans...if you have nevah had a Bloody Mary with stringbeans then this alone is a reason to head to New Orleans!! Hangin' out in front of Liuzza's post fest is tradition for many..everyone sets up their chairs on the sidewalks..gets a cocktail @ Liuzza's and then the post party begins with more live music ...yes the party is on the sidewalk and street outside the saloon-ONLY in New Orleans!! ...Worcester can't approve a liquor license at the local golf course or for local events without creating unnecessary "bad publicity" for an event or the city and yet New Orleans has festivals with thousands and thousands ATTENDING - and no problems and it can????

Our first incredible New Orleans culinary orgasm was at NOLA Restaurant in the French Quarter on Friday night after Jazz Fest and the post party at Liuzza's by the is one of Emeril's restaurants in New Orleans and a must for anyone looking to really dine out when on needs to make reservations well inadvance of Jazz Fest weekend..all I can say is class with a capital CLASS!! Just a great foodie experience and it wasn't to expensive - about $90 a person:>)

Saturday was Woodstock all ovah again as it rained for a good chunk of the day and we spent to much time looking for cover instead of listening to music....Carol dragged me over to hear Billy Joel at the Acura Tent and the last music to be heard on Saturday @ Jazz Fest and I'm glad I followed!! I was surprised to see so many thousands out in the rain listening to Billy Joel and his band...there were places where the water was 1-3' deep...muck everywhere and not a sad puss on anyone's face:>) I'm glad that in 10 years I'll be able to tell folks I sucked it up and hung out in the rain with many others...including Carol:>) Like Ted William's last ball game at Fenway in the 60's where only 6000 attended but 100,000 today say they were there..I can say I saw Billy Joel in torrential rain at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival!!

Saturday night was the second culinary orgasm of the weekend...a crowd of us went to K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen also in the French Quarter..this restaurant is owned by the legendary New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme and he is known for his Louisiana style cajun cooking with all those great spices..the "Chicken & Andouille Gumbo" along with an order of the "Fried Oysters" are killah and a great way to start off dinner!

I had watched the "Biography Channel" on Chef Prudhomme after last years Jazz Fest and I was so interested in him and his style of cooking that I offered to buy dinnah for all my pals if we could get reservations there..and we did!! Getting to pick a restaurant on Jazz Fest weekend with this crowd is I upped the ante to secure the orgasm:>)

Sunday at Jazz Fest was fun but wet...very wet!! More great music in the rain that included lot's of Gospel (the Gospel Tent drew a lot of folks cause of the rain)..Irma Thomas the legendary Soul Queen of New Orleans , Elvis Costello w/ another New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and R&B superstar Al Green to end the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival!!

Irma sang "Sweet Memories" and it was a great treat and a song I am hung up on right now as it was an apropo song for the weekend spent with great friends..the link is from a past Jazz Fest with Allen Toussaint playing the piano...but it sounded as fresh at 2008 Jazz Fest as it was many years ago..when Irma & Allen played it together!! Irma is the star on this years 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster....the posters have become huge collectors items...I picked up this years unsigned by the "poster artist" and have ordered a "poster artist" signed one also as well as picking up last years with Jerry Lee Lewis as the star on the poster and signed by the "poster artist"..I picked up last years poster for $250.00 but the values on other web sites are running at $300+ right now..the 2006 poster with Fat's Domino on it is retailing right now at $1700+.

Most of the gang split back to Boston on Monday...Carol stayed till Tuesday and I got out of New Orleans on Thursday...Carol and I listened to a lot of good local music on Sunday night to Monday tripped around the French Quarter all day sippin' and people watchin' at Cafe du Monde in the French Market is a great way pass the time away...the chicory coffee takes a little getting used to and the beignets (french donuts) are different but part of the New Orleans when in Rome do what the Romans do!!

I also bought my very first painting from a local New Orleans artist....nothing fancy or expensive-just a real New Orleans theme (you will have to come to my summer Jazz Fest in July to see)....around the perimeter of Jackson Square is a cadre of local artist's who paint all day and sell their goods..the art hangs on the wrought iron fence around Jackson Square thus it is called "off the fence art" in New Orleans:>)

My last "Big Night" in New Orleans was Tuesday night and I spent it at the Funky Pirate Blues Bar on Bourbon Street by myself (Wed. night I relaxed my livah:>) listening to "Big Al Carson" Internationally Known, Home Grown..467lbs. of Blues!!! Big Al Carson plays four nights a week at the Funky Pirate and he has become my local New Orleans favorite....his nightly shows remind me of the many nightly "Little Joe Cook" shows I used to go to at the Cantab in Central Square-Cambridge..yah always knew where "Little Joe Cook" was in Cambridge and you always know where "Big Al Carson" is going to be when in New Orleans:>)

Great trip with friends...4 stars to all the locals in New Orleans for making this years Jazz Fest one to remember and I am sure for many others ...New Orleans is a great American City and we need to support it in it's REBIRTH!! This was my second Jazz Fest and my third time to New Orleans...hitchhiked thru it in 1980 when I was 18 on my way to Arizona from Tampa, Florida..I'll be back for many years to come...nothin but "Sweet Memories" about New Orleans:>)

2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival pics to be posted here soon!!

See 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival pics

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jesus Saves and Espo Scores on the Rebound

A real heart breakah tonight folks!

There hasn't been an exciting Boston Bruins - Montreal Canadians 7 game do or die hockey game in a long time..the Bruins haven't show so much in years and tonight they lost 5-0 in Canada..ouch again!!

A great series that finallly brought the B's back onto the Sports Section front page of the local newspapers!!

I was in Peppercorn's on Park Avenue in Worcester the other night getting a bite to eat and it was me and a couple of the same age watching the hockey game and no one was sad to see such a small crowd at the local watering hole watching a Bruins-Les Habitantes hockey game.

The Boston Bruins - Montreal Canadian's rivalry is historic and it was great to see some life brought back to it with some good hockey..I can close my eyes and drift back into the early 70's to remember begging my ole man who wasn't a sport fan to let me stay up to watch those teams that had Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Wayne Cashman, Stan Jonathan, Johnny Bucyk and so many other great Canadian born players playing for my team.

Congratulations to the B's..good series..heart breakah tonight - Les Habitantes got us again!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

250lb. Out of Shape Men Should Not Be Running!!

I'm back on the running/physical fitness "Comeback Trail" for the 18th time..Only Muhammad Ali, George Formen, Larry Holmes and Frank Sinatra have had as many comebacks!!

The last "Comeback" was in 2006 when I lost close to 20lbs. real quick and I was running and biking every day training for the "Battle of the Biggies" Duathlon along the Charles River.

The past seven years have been busy for me...I started B.A. Event Promotions in 2001.... moved to Worcester five years ago... ended my real estate property management business four years ago.... started the renovations of my real estate investments two years ago and have been doing everything but working out consistently like I used to for years!

Well now I am back to light running up at Newton Hill & weightlifting...and I hope to get a new bike within two weeks at Barney's Bicycle up the street for some cross training - buy local folks and we will see what happens. I'm hoping to get into some semblence of running soon so that I can get my buddy Freddie to run with me up at Sheepfold in Stoneham like we used to and maybe start up with some folks out this way..I remember what it was like running with slower folks when I was running consistently so I know this may take some cajoling and bribing:>)

Above pic is of me and my buddy Glen O'Connor eating and drinking after the 1996 Winner Circle New Years Day 10Km...hmm eating and drinking after racing!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Long Road Back..and it is long folks!

Made it ovah to Baba Sushi on Park Avenue tonight and by foot! My buddy Vinnie stopped by and instead of walking to Suney's....we went over to Baba Sushi for some food and drinks.

My neighborhood is not considered one of the more toney ones in Worcester but the reality is that if some folks looking for a real urban living experience would take a chance it could be...from my house on Chandler Street or the one at Dewey & Austin I have easy walking access to some great foodies in Baba Sushi, Haiku, El Basher, Biagio's Grille & Shiraz Armenian Cuisine - and if you really wanna get dirty drunk there is Leitrim's, Suney's & the Pleasant Cafe....matter of fact it can be a fun pub crawl for couples & friends looking to just walk about a neighborhood on a week night-something many in funky cities do all ovah the planet:>).

When one isn't in a drinking or eating night out mood but wants to cook/entertain at home then blocks away is Bahnan's Bakery & Middle Eastern Style Food, Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace & Living Earth - three fabulous marketplaces that cooks seek out to buy product.

The owner, Wilson of Baba Sushi sets the tone for your experience..and you see & feel it with his staff! Something that stands out besides the friendliness of the staff is that it is made up of many different faces...Asian, African, South American & European decents:>) Cool Stuff for Worcester!

Tonight was special..while in Baba Sushi I actually felt like I was living in a hip urban city, I have been waiting for this feeling for a very long time - 17 years:>).....I had a friend stop by and instead of getting up and driving miles to eat and drink....we just walked around the cornah to a cool foodie like I used to do all the time when I lived outside Harvard Square in Cambridge, Bunkah Hill in Charlestown & Davis Square in Somerville almost every night of the week!

A Paulie Recommendation: Oyster Shooters

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"The Best Of" that WOMAG forgot to aks us!!

I recently filled out "My Best Of" list for Worcester Magazine and I noticed it did not cover everything that I may consider the best of in Worcester so I figured I would add a few of my own that I would have asked if I was doing a "Best of Worcester" and then possibly expand on as I think this out a little more:>)

1.) Best Road Race (might as well start of with something I really know:>):

Worcester Firefighters 6Km - directed by Lt. John Franco every May

The Fallon Community Health Plan "Canal Diggers 5Km" comes close but it is hard to call something the best when it has only taken place once and Lt. Franco and his gang do a hellava job and it's a great cause so it get's my vote (but look out John:>)

2.) Best Hispanic Restaurant

Sazon Latino - Chandler & Piedmont

I eat here once a week and I feel most comfortable here as a non-Hispanic! This is not to say that I have felt un-safe at any other Hispanic restaurant in the city but at Sazon Latino I feel welcome the minute I walk in the door - the place is clean and the food excellent, a winning combination for me:>)

3.) Best Urban City Councilor

Barbara Halller - District 4

Councilor Haller has earned the wrath of me lately for her lack of communication to the electorate on a regular basis but that being said she works hard and there are few out there who could deal with what she has to deal with on a regular basis.

I am a firm believer that until we have more hard scrabble pols like Barbara who have some balls and can take the heat living inside the urban core of this city that it will take even longer for this city to "really" move!! There are just to many leading this city who do not want to live in the city part of the city or send their kid's to the city schools yet they know the problems and feel they can promote the city. We need leaders making more of a committment to this city and that means living in the "urban core" ...Worcester is only going to become a "City on the Move" when the actual city part starts acting like a city in today's modern World.

4.) Best Breakfast Nook

Sano Cafe on Saturday or Sunday morning - Chandler & Dewey

This isn't even close - I have eaten at em' all in the city being the only 45 year ole man on the face of the planet who has never married or had kid's so I have few to cook for even tho I can so I eat out a lot (again some may say it show's).

Sano cooks know how to cook..not just cut up some spuds and then throw on the stove to sit for hours..and then burn! It is a true dining experience when you eat there:>)

5.) Best Place to watch New Years Fireworks

Top of Rocks at Castle Hill Park - between Chandler & Main South

A real hidden gem within the city..once was the site of the first all women's college in the United States of America - Oread Institute
. It now is a neighborhood park that has two racketball courst, a basketball court and a small field. I hosted a children's race there for (2) summers as well as a weekly Monday night run from there.

6. Best Place to Talk Politics & Eat

One Love Cafe - Main South

This one could be debated all day long....I know the Bean Counter is a favorite for many and I pop in there every so often to bang it out with some of the westies over there but I just don't feel the passion that I feel at the "One Love Cafe".

At "One Love Cafe" you can really make some folks gaggle when they hear your thoughts on something:>) those "Stone Soupers" the easiest to get gaggling! And the food is out of this world if you dig jerk spices like I do!!

A Friday night at "One Love Cafe" is an experience..good food, great conversation with the cook/owner/chief dishwasher Venice (a few Red Stripe)..a joke or two about the
Artichoke Cooperative next door all while you watch folks who could be staring in the movie "Land of the Living Dead" walking by looking for their next fix, victim, old man to give a BJ to for three bucks or just a cornah to hang on - real city people watching at it's best and again while talking local politics and eating good food:>)

Lastly, where else can one go from a Reggae mood to a Blues mood in seconds...Gilreins Blues Bar is next door?

7.) Best Pet Store

The Pet Barn - Park & Chandler

In Boston & Greater Boston pet stores are no longer a place where you just pick up a can of Alpo and a generic dog they have become boutiquish in style and can board your dog at some, get your dog a day of a dog leash with Grateful Dead graphics on them and buy food that is better than most folks in Appalacia eat on a daily basis (I was tempted to say China like mi mum & dad used to mention when I was a wee lad and I did not want to eat:>)

Today I bought 10 cans of
Wellness Dog Food w/ New Zealand Venison & Sweet Potato's. I can't get Buddy the Beagle groomed there and they wouldn't board him longah than it takes me to buy his food but it does offer a certain funk and product that is unusual for Worcester so it gets my vote!!

8.) Best Butcher Shop

Emerald Meats - Chandler

Few places left in this city where you can get a real Irish feel and Emerald Meats is one of em! The owners are from Dublin...and have made it in the ole USA like many former immigrants in this country had. If you have ever been to Ireland and a Irish butcher shop then you know what I mean when you walk into Emerald Meats.

9.) Best Local Newspaper Writer

Scott Zoback - Worcester Magazine

I enjoy reading the Worcester Telegram & Gazette each morning for my local news but I really look forward to the weekly Worcester Magazine...for it's usually more indepth news stories and who's doing what locally gossip.

Zoback does a good job on his reporting...would like to see some more "Globe Spotlight" reporting from all of our newspeeps in this city as it is needed to bring more folks into the fold as to what is happening in this city:>)

10.) Best Place to go for a private walk with a friend

Newton Hill - Pleasant & Park

I live on the east side of Park Ave - on notorious Chandler Street East and I can see the peak of Newtion Hill from my kitchen window:>) is surprising how little use the Newton Hills paths get by folks?? I am on them daily with Buddy who just loves the wildness of Newton Hills that is home to hawks, assorted birds, chipmunks, racoons & deer at times and all within eyesight and walk of my very urban flat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What is with so many Hispanic-American owned business on Chandler having issues

The first three months of 2008 have not been good for Hispanic-American owned business on Chandler Street East which is between Park Avenue & Main Street.

Today, Alondra CD was busted as a gambling front, on New Years Eve a man was stabbed outside the restaurant at Chandler Street & Mason Street, a few days after this another person was stabbed outside the hair salon in the Chandler Auto Parts building and a few weeks back a brawl took place at El Buen Sabor that ended up with a shooting on Main South by one of the same culprits involved in the brawl.

This stuff is not good for any business on Chandler Street, a business district that has been stygmatized as a place to stay away from for to long and it hurts the "positive quality of life" environment that many of all race and creed are attempting create on and about the neighborhoods of Chandler Street East.

These acts can not be blamed on a "bad hood" because we have many fine business on Chandler Street East that do not have these kind of problems and some are Hispanic-American owned and are equally hurt by this nonsense.

Somerville Gang Wars to Somerville Breakfast Wars

I was born in Cambridge at the former "Baby Hospital" - Cambridge City Hospital (many in Somerville were) and I spent the first few years of life in a two family on College Avenue over looking Tufts University in Somerville, MA before mi mum and dad followed Dwight D's new highway system to the burbs alongside Rt. 128 in the mid 60's (nice way of saying "white flight" out of the urban city)!!

I lived in Wakefield, MA for most of mi "yout" but spent many a weekday and most weekend's visiting mi who lived in Somerville and worked for the City of Somerville School Department and the other who lived in West Medford but worked at the ole Fannie Farmer candy store in Davis Square-Somerville, MA.

Somerville has changed so much from when I was a wee lad growing up and going to the Somerville Theatre in the 70's, to when I opened up my first real estate business in Davis Square in the mid 80's and then moved it's location to the top of Winter Hill in the early 90's, to the 2000's when it became a mecca for educated kid's, young couples, creative individual's, baby boomers & the PDS:>) looking for that urban stimulation that I mentioned about in a below post.

The Somerville/Charlestown gang wars of the 60's are way behind us..and most of the Wintah Hill boy's from the 70's, 80's & 90's are either dead or in prison..Howie Winter is stilll around but livin' quietly - their notoriety mostly just of Somerville folklore now with discussion about them pretty much confined to the various veteran's posts and townie bars that have become fewer and fewer in Somerville as the years pass!

I still remember Buddy McLean's (seen above) brother Mike drinking at Khoury's State Spa (home to my first eveah running event in 1992) every morning at the Spa with all the other ole timers who used to fill it every morning -old man Khoury long dead himself!.

Anyway, Somerville is no longer called Slummerville, years past if you told a gal you met at a pub in Boston that you were from "The Ville" got the long cold if you say this they are on their cell phones quickly to tell mom that they met a "man" from "Somerville":>)

Somerville no longer has any "gang wars" it has breakfast wars:>) - it has become a gentrified enclave of Boston that is attracting many that in the past would never have called it home and in some sense it has lost a lot of it's shine that many of us miss:>) The Day's of past are just that past and as much as Somerville has become something to be proud of that most of us never would have imagined..something was lost that will never return and that is to bad!