Tag Archives: New Orleans

Hello From Heartbreak

How do you make lemons out of lemonade? 


Last February I made my way North from New Orleans to brave the cold to interview for rabbinical school. After the interview and the grueling Hebrew exams (which destroyed my confidence and made me wonder, “Did I learn ANYTHING growing up Jewish?), I met up with my old friend Jess in Center City. We ate lunch and discussed the possibility of my moving back to Philadelphia.

As a college student I loved to spend time in Center City. But as I walked around on that cold, sunless February day, I had only one thought that kept repeating in my mind,

“I don’t want to live here.” 

But here we are. It’s 2014 and I’m sitting here in Mt. Airy Philadelphia. I haven’t written anything of substance since Valentine’s Day of 2013 (see two posts below) for several reasons. 

I could give you a comprehensive list of excuses reasons why I haven’t written in this blog for practically an entire year, but it all boils down to one large one:

1. Leaving New Orleans has felt like my insides have been gutted. 

Pain makes great art, it’s true, however I was so sick and tired of hearing my own voice crying about how miserable I was to leave. And if I was sick of hearing myself, how would everyone else feel? 

So I kept it to myself as best I could and confided with close friends about how heart-broken I felt. I’m sure most people could tell that I was homesick, but up until now I made a point of not telling too many people. I didn’t think others would understand.It’s a rare thing to fall in love with a city. Not many people know the feeling. I was too hurt to open myself to the criticism that comes from those who are fine living Wherever, USA. 

But you know what? It’s f-ing January. JANUARY. And I still hate living here.

It’s really not Philadelphia’s fault. I just don’t belong here. 


There’s another reason I haven’t written or spoken about this. I have many reasons to be grateful that I’m back in Philadelphia. My family and my closest friends are here. I love what I’m studying in rabbinical school. I’m a part of a Jewish community now that nourishes me spiritually and intellectually. I wouldn’t want to study anywhere else. 

Yet still, with all the positives, my soul is lonely. I miss the streets that would vibrate with the sensations of New Orleans. I miss the brightly painted homes. I miss the attitude of laissez les bons temps rouler. I miss the way people spoke to each other in line at the grocery. I miss the art that circled around me at every moment. I miss the Mississippi river. I miss the sound of the streetcar rambling past me. I miss the Oak trees down Carrollton. I miss eccentricity. I miss the lizards that would run past my windowsill. I miss hearing the local commercials. I miss watching Saints coverage. I miss the bakery near my house. I miss being able to go to a coffee shop at 8 p.m. I miss the dog park. I miss the Mardi Gras Indians. I miss the warmth of the seasons. I miss the local produce. I miss the slang. I miss everything. Everything.   


When I lived in New Orleans, I felt like I was a part of something. All of us, we all loved New Orleans, and we all belonged to her. It was up to us to take care of her and shelter her from the outsiders who didn’t understand why the city which care forgot could and would and indeed thrived. 

I’m trying really hard. I’m taking my lemons, peeling the bright yellow skin, pursing my lips against the sour, and squeezing what I can. Every now and again there is sugar. Steven, my fiance, my lifeline. Shabbat dinners with our close friends. My beautiful baby niece. My baby nephew calling “Aunt Nini”. I’ve been told it can take a long time to become adjusted. But I don’t know if I want to adjust. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to lose it. I’m holding on to what I found in New Orleans. To the person I became because of New Orleans.

Six years feels like a prison sentence. 

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Celebrating the Super Bowl Is Messing with My Mardi Gras Mojo…


Writer Brett Will Taylor on WWNO said it better than anyone else, including moi. So I’m just going to let him share it with you fine folks.

See the original or to hear Brett read over the air: WWNO Celebrating Super Bowl XLVII

(Emphasis mine, because I can!)


To paraphrase Dr. John, such a weekend!

From the Westbank to New Orleans to Slidell, Carnival officially kicked into high gear these past few days as 19 krewes rolled, celebrating everything from lions and dogs, to Wookies and Greek gods… even Mona Lisa & Moon Pies.

But, now it stops. For nine days. Because the Super Bowl is coming to town. I’d rather have Santa Claus.

Still, I’m going to be a team player and make sure I look all nice and gentlemanly for the Ravens and 49ers. For the next week, I’ll sit up straight. Tuck my shirt in.  Might even wear socks.

Admit it. You’ll do the same thing. Why? Because we’re all in love with the City of New Orleans. And when the one you love asks you to look nice in front of 120,000 strangers, you do it. No matter the inconvenience.

Besides, there are a few reasons to celebrate Super Bowl XLVII. I count three.

First, it’s a party. Oh sure, we’re not officially invited, but when has that stopped us? If you live in New Orleans, you’re automatically invited to any party, anywhere, any time. It’s just the way we roll. And what’s a NOLA party without a fest? Super Bowl Boulevard is a four-day festival that features 49 bands, 12 parades, and 54 dishes of food. I don’t know about you, but I’ll celebrate any Thursday that let’s me hang out by the river while eating a Po’ Boy, drinking an Abita and listening to Amanda Shaw.

Second, this party is NOT for Atlanta. Super Bowl XLVII isn’t easy for New Orleans. But it would have been hell on Earth if the Falcons were playing. Fortunately, dat won’t happen. Once again, the gods have shown their supreme wisdom and reminded us that, when it comes to football, the Saints have Super Bowl rings. And the Falcons? Well, I guess they have, what? Onion rings?

Finally, let me suggest that there is even reason to celebrate the fact that Roger Goodell is coming to town. I know, I know. We was robbed. Free Sean Payton — before the season, not after it. But hear me out. Think about it. For one entire week, every time a plate of food is put down in front of him, the good Commissioner has to wonder if there isn’t some, shall we say, lagniappe, in his étouffe. Perhaps, as a local restaurant owner suggested to The New York Times, Goodell will bring a taster. If we’re really lucky, that taster will be… from Atlanta.


So good, and so true.


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King Cake’s Birthday, an Unauthorized List of Happiness

Didja know? This Sunday is January 6.

And while maybe January 6 is no big deal for most of the world (in other words, you’re boring Chicago), in NEW ORLEANS January 6 is King’s Day.

What happens on King’s Day?


All the bakeries in town open their french doors and the glorious smell of King Cake cascades into the air filling the streets of New Orleans with light and love and happiness and sugar. I like to call it King Cake’s Birthday. It’s also a signal that Mardi Gras is on it’s pretty little way.


snnfff. I’m excited.

(Btw, I just noticed that Flanders’ yellow skin, green shirt, and purple curtains are all Mardi Gras colors. Coincidence?)

So, in honor of King Cake’s Birthday!!!!!!! I’m going to give you my current list of why New Orleans is the only city that matters you should come visit me in New Orleans. This list is in no particular order, nor should it be considered official because I’m writing today under a self-induced hysterical sugar high.

Last night I went to a stellar author talk and book reading at Octavia Books. Emily Epstein Landau was in town for the American Historian Association Conference and came to talk about her book, Spectacular Wickedness, a study of race and sex politics in Storyville, New Orleans. I have always been fascinated by the history of Storyville, especially Bellocq’s Storyville photographs. There’s so much I still want to learn about this historic area in New Orleans, and my wonderful artist neighbor Nikki offered to take me on a tour (hopefully Tuesday?). Hurray! Until then, check out her work on Etsy.

A few weeks ago, I heard about The Goodnight Show with John Calhoun. I had been wanting to visit the New Orleans Healing Center since it opened and when I found out The Goodnight Show was playing at Cafe Istanbul, I was interested. When I found out that he would have Meschiya Lake on his show, I was sold.

Even though after two hours my butt was numb, the show was well worth the $10. Not only was there a bar serving “Goodnight Show Cocktails” of bourbon and soda, but there was a lot packed into the show. First, Dwight Henry, star of Beasts of the Southern Wild and owner of The Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe, came on and spoke. He explained that he was reluctant to leave his bakery and so he refused several times to be in the movie. Director Benh Zeitlin literally had to convince him that he was the only one for the role. Then Meschiya Lake, who I usually hear sign jazz songs, came on and sang a couple of her own love ballads. Her vocals were breathtaking. I could tell how nervous she was when John Calhoun interviewed her, I’m assuming she’s much more comfortable on stage signing then talking because when she’s singing she’s a goddess. She did tell a funny story about how when she was 9 years old she sang a Patsy Cline song and won an adult competition in a South Dakota steakhouse’s talent show. Then she toasted to her mom for bringing a 9 year old to a steakhouse bar competition.

And then she told us about the time she ran away to join the circus.

God, I love me some Meschiya Lake.

What was unique about the Goodnight Show is that it’s a Johnny Carson style talk show but dedicated to New Orleans. Just from the first show I added to my New Orleans cultural knowledge. There were stories about buttermilk bisquits and Grow Dat youth farming in New Orleans, Meschiya Lake sang some damn good ballads, and standup comedian Leon Blanda turned out to actually pretty funny.

The other night I took Sumner to his Christmas present: a night at W.I.N.O.

You would have thought the guy walked into Disney World.

But instead of riding teacups you put a credit card into a wine machine and it pumps out wine, like so…

I’m not a wine connoisseur, and by that I mean I know absolutely nothing about wine except that I like it red. Sumner is much more in touch with his inner Bacchcus. So he was able to go around and choose wines from all different parts of the globe and we drank and made merry and I ate lots of olive tapenade while he was in his happy place.

I do what I can for the people I love.

A few days later Sumner took me to the Audubon Zoo. Not only are there ELEPHANTS (I will ride an elephant one day, goddamnit), but there is a Cajun Swamp exhibit that rocks my Yankee socks off.

I want one!

Sumner doesn’t quite understand my obsession with alligators. But seriously, look at them! Look at them!

It wants to eat you. I think it’s hilarious because alligators are terrifying (at least for me) but they are SO stupid. It’s like finding out the bully in your class you’ve been scared of is so dumb that not only can you run away from him but he doesn’t know how to walk without stumbling over his large feet. It’s ridiculous.

Also, I ran up Monkey Hill for the first time. I kept looking for the monkeys. Turns out there are no monkeys on Monkey Hill. You are the monkey.

Very clever, Audubon. Very clever…

The kids on the hill were NOT impressed with my Monkey Hill climbing skills. While I was looking around and asking Sumner, “But, where are the monkeys?” a few kids were waiting at the top of the hill saying “Hurry uppp. We want to race.” Sorry, kids. Mommy isn’t really agile anymore for rope spider webs, and if I had known I was going to have to climb up a rope bridge walk and then walk down one step at a time trying not to break my ankle I would have stayed on the ground. Sumner had to lift me up over the rope to get me down and I lost my shoe as all the adults waiting on the other side of Monkey Hill watched.


And that’s the end of the list- for now. Today is Friday and tomorrow I take the trip up to Jackson to see some friends, drink some Irish beer at my favorite pub, and hear some low down dirty Blues music. I am very excited.

So, when are you coming visit?

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Hurricane Isaac: The Official Janine Julia Updates from New Orleans

ImageHurricane Isaac, Update #1

Two bloody marys in, I’ve finished a bag of potato chips (I had help, back off!), and listening to a hurricane playlist on spotify while my neighbor plays Wii Mario. It’s still sunny and the pets are sleeping on the couch.


The pets are obviously very concerned.

It turns out that preparing for a hurricane (Isaac just turned from a tropical storm to a hurricane 1) is a lot like preparing for a snow storm up North.

Now it’s true that Yankees do not have the added stress of possibly evacuating before a snow storm. Let me tell you a little about what a pain in the ass that is.

Before it was even clear whether or not the tropical storm would force New Orleanians to evacuate, all the gas stations were out of gas. All of them. Every pump I went to was out. That was Sunday. On Monday morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to get gas and there was already a line.

An evacuation also means figuring out to where you will be evacuating. Some people book motel rooms and others are lucky enough to have friends and family in cities that are not below sea level- achem. But the thing about a hurricane is that no one knows exactly which direction it will head. Because of this minor detail, all the cities one would most likely evacuate to- Houston, Baton Rouge, Jackson- are also in the possible pathway of the hurricane. So after the hair pulling traffic that turns a three-hour trip into a seven-hour stand still, you could arrive in a city that also loses power. Bummer.

All of those reasons are enough to not evacuate. Now add an independent, moody cat who will definitely scream for the entire seven-hour car ride, and you can see why staying in New Orleans is the preferred choice.

So once I decided I was staying put in New Orleans, preparing for Hurricane Yitzchak was similar to what I’ve witnessed in PA before a blizzard. The kids get excited to have a few days off from school and the moms turn into combat experts, circumventing traffic laws in the street and cutting people off in the grocery store for the last loaf of Wonder Bread.

My first trip to the store was on Sunday. I bought a hand-held radio, AA batteries, and refilled my prescriptions. If the power went out I would use the AA batteries for the radio and anything else that I needed. I didn’t know exactly what else I needed that was at home and took AA, but I thought to myself, “all you need is AA.” I was pretty impressed with my master hurricane preparedness.

Then I went to the grocery where I decided to pick up a few necessities. $68 later I had in my apartment: oatmeal, cereal, bloody mary mix, Oreos, vodka, salad, ice cream, pasta sauce, bananas, edamame, almond milk, coffee, 2 jugs of water, a bag of ice, beer, and seltzer. The really important stuff.

Once I put the food away I realized, I should find my flashlight. Then it dawned on my that I owned one flashlight and that the flashlight took DD batteries and I had none.

So, I bought beer and vodka and Oreos, but no DD batteries or  an extra flashlight.

(palm to face)

Then I realized I should probably have a cooler too. In case the power goes out it’s nice to have a cooler to use when you want to quickly grab a drink and don’t want to let the cool air out of the fridge.

In other words, I bought all this beer and I damn well was going to drink it while the power is out.

So back to the store.

This time I went to CVS. I bought a foam cooler and toilet paper. Now I was using my head. The confidence came back until I found out they were completely out of DD batteries. I was reminded of my past failure.

I then proceeded to Walgreens. They were out of batteries. I bought another cooler that wasn’t foam because I started to question whether the styrofoam would hold up and this one appeared sturdier. To make the purchase feel more productive I bought two cans of Pringles.

Side note: I never eat Pringles. I also avoid Oreos because if Oreos are in my house I turn into a crazed woman looking for her next cocoa fix. But something magical happens in the panic before a storm. Profound thoughts such as, “But what if the storm is so strong and all I want is white frosting sandwiched by two beautifully perfect chocolate cookies?” Or, “This hurricane is going to suuuuuuck. I bet potato chips would really help me not fall into a tailspin of anger and depression.”

So let’s catch you up to where I am now. I’ve spent almost $200 getting ready for this showdown. It’s Tuesday, the sun is still shinning, but the wind outside is starting to make that “whooo” whirling noise it does when sh*t is about to go down. Since I was a kid I have always loved storms, so I’m enjoying the anticipation for whatever is to come. Everyone is either outside trying to soak up whatever good weather is left or parking their cars on higher ground. I’ve got the laundry done, I’ve showered, filled bags of ice in the freezer, walked the dog, put the outside stuff inside, and even picked out a few new books to read.

I say “bring it” Isaac. I’m ready.

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New Orleans Poetry Brothel: March 15 at Allways Lounge

Have you ever desired a private, intimate poetry reading from your favorite poet?

Your wish has come true.

Ask for Joie de Femme.


Read on for more information:

The Poetry Brothel is a unique and immersive poetry experience that takes poetry outside classrooms and lecture halls and places it in the lush interiors of a bordello. The Poetry Brothel presents poets as “whores” who impart their work in public readings, spontaneous eruptions of poetry, and most distinctly, as purveyors of private poetry readings on couches, chaise lounges and in private rooms. Central to this experience is the creation of character, which for poet and audience functions as disguise and as freeing device, enabling The Poetry Brothel to be a place of uninhibited creative expression in which the poets and clients can be themselves in private. For a small fee, all of the “poetry whores” are available for these sequestered readings at any time during the event. Of course, any true brothel need a good cover; ours is part saloon and part salon, offering a full bar, musicians, burlesque dancers, painters, and fortune-tellers, with newly integrated themes, performances and installations at each event. Please join us, Thursday, March 15th as our cast of Poetry Whores slips into the dark corners of The Allways Lounge with paying Johns to offer up a glimpse into the secrets of the poetic soul. Local poetry whores include Kelly Gartman as Odessa Harte, Ona Tzar as Nia, Zach Matteson as Sugar Le Fe, Lauren Marie Cappello as Olive, and Janine Julia Jankovitz as Joie de Femme. Visiting from New York will be veteran poetry whores Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein as Elka, Carina Finn as Cherry Cherie, Rachel Herman-Gross as Simone, Nicholas Adamski as Tennessee Pink, and of course, Stephanie Berger as The Madame. In addition we’ll feature Moxie Sazerac on Burlesque, Lady Hourglass with an experimental performance, and tarot and palm readings from Sugar Le Fe.  LadyBabyMiss and the Tigermen will be the house band for the evening. Members of the press are cordially invited to attend. You’re going to want to join us. We’ll all fall in love.

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Creative Writing Workshop Announcement New Orleans

Exciting news!

I have teamed up with the Broadmoor Improvement Association and the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center to provide a free Creative Writing Workshop open to all 8th grade students in New Orleans!

Here is some more information:

Creative Writing Workshop

Free and Open to All 8th Grade Students!

March 20 – May 1

When: Tuesday evenings from 4:00-5:00p.m.

Where: Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center in Broadmoor’s Education Corridor

(4300 South Broad Street, New Orleans)

 Students will be encouraged to write creatively and build a writing portfolio under the guidance of local writer and educator, Janine Jankovitz. The workshop will culminate in a public performance of students’ best work held on May 1st at the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center. This event will be free and open to the community.

 Spaces are limited, so please contact Holley Roberts before March 19th to sign-up: broadmoorholley@gmail.com

 Creative Writing Workshop_flier

 Help spread the word!

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I am officially past one month into the new year and 2012 has already proven to be a loud, uncompromising bastard of year; a ferocious bitch full of changes and surprises. There was a death, there was a birth, there was music, and there was a rebellious cat.

In the midst of all the crazy that’s been going on, I’m proud to write that I’ve been a very, very good girl when it comes to my resolutions.

                    Kinda the opposite of Claudia…

One resolution was to keep pushing myself physically. On December 26, 2010 I became serious about getting in shape (in other words, I saw the number on the scale and freaked out). Since then, although it’s been up and down (as my friend Jess said, “Weight is fluid”), I’ve stuck to it.

I’m pretty active at the local JCC gym. A good week usually means five days of cardio and two days of weights. I was biking for a while, but then my bike was stolen. Womp Womp. I have moved up in weights at the gym and can last at cardio most days for up to an hour.

While I’ve been proud of my progress, I’ve always marveled at friends of mine who could participate in marathons- or in the case of my friend Lena, a triathlon, because she’s a monster. Even while I was getting stronger I still wrote off running as an exercise I just couldn’t do.

Then one day I stumbled on this running plan for beginners from Women’s Health Magazine.

And you won’t believe it.

Please, I want to tell you what happened, but you just won’t believe it.


You know what Women's Health Magazine? You're f*ing right. I CAN do this.

I did it.

I’ve been running for the last three weeks, every other day. Last night, something miraculous happened. Something just clicked. I ran for over 20 minutes straight.

There were definitely Rocky air-punches thrown in the mix as I ran up and down Carrollton.



Another resolution of mine was to write more. My friend Sarah and I had been lamenting since we met almost two years ago that we needed a serious writing group. When we joined one this past summer, we realized that most writing groups are not going to give us what we need. I can only speak from my experience, but most writing groups I’ve come across are not for serious writers looking to be published. Most writing groups are an outlet for people who want to share the poems they write in their diary.

ImageDear Diary, today Brian asked to borrow my pencil. He totally likes me.

Now, I’m not knocking people who write in diaries. I write in a journal myself. But there is a significant difference between writers who want to share their work for the purpose of hearing it out loud and receiving praise, and writers who want other serious writers to read their work, rip it apart, make it bleed, and tell the writer to stop being sentimental and get to the f*ing point already. The hope is that real criticism will make the writer a, gasp, better writer. That’s what I need.

So, thanks to Sarah, this new writing group has been meeting quite often. It is exhilarating to have dedicated writers look over my work. It’s inspiring to read what the other writers have to offer as well.

With so much writing going on, I decided it was time to submit one of my memoir/fiction pieces I started with the 7th Ward Neighborhood Story Project.

And guess what?


It was rejected.



I’ll be fine. They told Elvis he had a terrible voice and should stick to being a truck driver. Boy, were those people pissed when they didn’t sign Elvis. Plus, if Elvis had listened to those naysayers, think of where we would be today? I mean, pop culture would think “Hound Dog” was written and performed by talented black singers.


Hey! Speaking of talented black musicians…


Another goal of mine was to see more live music in New Orleans. A recent highlight was last Thursday night at Le Bon Temps Roulé. Bon Temps is a great locals bar Uptown on Magazine street. Like most places in New Orleans, it’s bigger than it looks on the outside.


I had heard really great things about the music at Le Bon Temps Roule and had been wanting to go for some time. I met my friend Lindsey a few hours before the band was scheduled to perform (10 p.m. which means the band is playing at 11:30 p.m. in New Orleans). The bar was well lit and very welcoming. A few people were there, just relaxing, playing pool and drinking beer. Lindsey and I grabbed a seat by the window overlooking Magazine. There was a decent draft selection, so Lindsey and I had plenty of beer to choose from while we waited for the house band to start.

The house band, no cover, every Thursday night just happens to be one of the best brass bands in the city: The Soul Rebels.


Btw Bon Temps, you had me at the big alligator in the background.

Soul Rebels were stellar. It’s difficult to describe the energy inside a New Orleans bar when a brass band plays. It’s loud. Everyone is sweating. The band, at least at Bon Temps, is on the floor with everyone else, there is no raised stage. The horns blow inches from your face. Rough-looking regulars dance up close with hipster newcomers and everyone is throwing their arms up, punctuating the air with each beat. Brass band music is happy music. You just can’t help but feel grateful to be alive when you’re out dancing along.

So that’s what’s been going on down here in the Crescent City. Before I finish I just have one more “I live in a better city than you do moment”:

Down here, everyone is getting ready for Mardi Gras.

What does your city look like?

Because it doesn’t look like this:

(c)2009 Sharon Keating

Come on down, we love having new people to party with in the streets.

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