Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The national treasures of Great Britain as ascertained by my twelve-year-old self

I am headed to the UK on Saturday to work out of my company’s Oxford office for a week. It has been 17 years since my first trip to England, but the impression the experience made upon me was indelible.

What follows is a comprehensive list of the very best things about England as determined by my very wise twelve-year-old self, punctuated with photographs of me at a delightfully awkward moment in my adolescent development.

Benetton sweatshirts
We arrived in London in June 1995, ready for a sunny summer week in Merrie Old England. Boy, were we surprised to discover that the high temperatures in London that week were barely going to reach the 50s Fahrenheit. Our Tennessee flipflops and tank tops suddenly seemed woefully inadequate. Possibly this was for the best.

I proposed that we take advantage of the plush spa robes in our hotel for outerwear:

But my mother did not think this was a tenable solution. So we had to make some purchases. Mama bought me a United Colors of Benetton sweatshirt, and by some miracle of the internet I have found a stock photo of the exact sweatshirt:

And just like that, I fit right in in foggy Londontown.

Take That
The only song in London that summer was “Back For Good” by Take That. It played on MTV Euro approximately a dozen times per hour. I became instantly obsessed. It was cold and rainy outside, and if I had had my druthers I would have spent the entire week ordering room service and watching Take That croon soulfully in a rainstorm on the TV installed above the bathtub in our hotel room.

Hearing the opening notes of this song still gives me a pang. I was furious when the song became popular stateside a few months later and my own private England song became available for public consumption.

tiny cars
We went to Lloyd’s of London headquarters to visit my uncle Larry, who was based out of NYC but who commuted to the UK regularly for work. We took a van so small that I probably could have reasonably brought it onboard my return flight to Nashville as a carry-on.

mango chutney
I had my first proper Indian meal in London that week. My dad and I went for a special dinner, just the two of us.

We were served fresh mango chutney. Our Middle American eyes had never seen such a condiment. We tried it--and we liked it. And then we talked about it for years to come. Mango chutney is still just about the fanciest thing to me.

Apparently Americans aren’t the only people who enjoy a giant department store. Harrods is like Walmart, if Walmart was REALLY fancy. Their motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for Everything for Everyone Everywhere. (Name another country where even the department stores have Latin mottoes.) While I appreciate the jaunty Latin (and you know I do), I would amend it to Omnia Divitibus Ubique or Everything for Rich People Everywhere.

I begged and begged my mom to let me try the sushi at the famous Food Hall. She said I had to wait until we were back in Nashville where I could get to a doctor if I needed to. Sushi is dangerous business.

wax sculptures
I mean, we had to go to Madame Tussauds.

A lot about English culture seemed really foreign to me, but they have one tradition that I found very easy to get on board with: afternoon tea. I truly don’t understand why Americans haven’t adopted this brilliant custom. Fancy snacks with tea? YES PLEASE. I had never had a scone before this trip. My family enjoyed afternoon tea so much that we had it every day we were in London. The waiter spoke with a heavy accent that has resulted in my family referring to to milk as “mik” for the last seventeen years. We are highly impressionable people.

stones of scones
Enthusiastic as I was for afternoon tea, I was STOKED about going to see the Stone of Scone. Just imagine my disappointment.

As you can see, I am pretty much an expert on England. That’s why I’m so looking forward to my glorious return. I have been promised a cream tea by my colleagues. I THINK THAT MEANS SCONES Y’ALL

Discussion question:
Have you been to England?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Over vs. Overdue for a Comeback

I am pleased to share with you my first Over/Overdue for a Comeback list. The Overdue for a Comeback component of my list has been a long time in the making. Coolio has been on this list since 1999. It was with a heavy heart that I removed Whitney Houston from the list last fall.

The Over list, however, is constantly changing. You can't step into the same Over list twice. Once something has been Over long enough, I'm too over it to even acknowledge it on the list. And once something is THAT Over, it's due to wind up on the Overdue for a Comeback list before too long anyway.

I have painstakingly culled this list with the help of a highly discerning team of Internet experts. Thanks to those who helped me brainstorm.

Without further adieu, I present to you:

Talk Like a Pirate Day
Keep Calm and Whatever Whatever
neons with neutrals
QR codes
Justin Timberlake (actor)
fake wayfarers with neon arms

*Eating cupcakes will never be over, I'm just over it as a thing.

**Eating bacon will never be over. But can we please pick another tasty symbol of American decadence??

Debbie Gibson hats
side ponytails
Planters Cheez Balls
body glitter
girl groups
Justin Timberlake (singer)
cottage cheese**

*Apparently I was not alone on this one

**I know you're scoffing, but who could have predicted the recent meteoric rise of Greek yogurt?

So if anyone needs me, I'll be listening to "Fantastic Voyage" and trying to figure out how to fit my Debbie Gibson hat over my side ponytail.

Discussion Question: What's Over and what's Overdue for a Comeback in your part of the world?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Texas Two-Step: Step Two

As promised, today I bring to you Part 2 of the bizarre story of caucusing for Obama at the Texas Democratic primary in 2008. If you like rodeos, then you’re in the right place, padnah.


Originally written in March 2008

On Saturday morning, I awoke at 4:45 with only one thought in my mind: BARACK. It was time to get up and Barack the vote at the Travis County Democratic Convention.

You might remember that Nick and I were selected as alternate delegates from our precinct to the county convention. We got a phone call a couple of weeks ago letting us know that we had been promoted to full delegate status and that we would need to meet up with the other 66 Barack delegates from our precinct at 6:15am at the HEB. Woohoo! We can sleep when we're dead.

We met our fellow dazed delegates and caught a ride to the Travis County Expo center with a nice couple. The wife turned out to be a freelance copyeditor for UT Press -- SMALL WORLD. We were about a mile away from the expo center when traffic came to a dead stand-still. It took us nearly 45 minutes to make our way up to the expo center, where two traffic attendants were taking their time collecting $5 from each car for parking. Talk about a barrier to voting!

We made it up to the south side of the expo center and discovered multiple lines snaking through the parking line, and numerous people roaming around with hand-made signs with precinct numbers on them. We eventually ascertained that we needed to check in with our precinct leader, get our alternate credentials in long line #1, and then proceed to long line #2 to get our delegate credentials. We knew that we had to be signed in by 10am for our vote to count. From 7:30 to 9:55am, we dutifully stood in our lines and chatted with the folks around us. At 9:55, after much pushing and shoving and elbow-throwing, Nick and I finally clawed our way to the front of the line to sign in for Obama. We cheered triumphantly and smugly looked around at all of the poor chumps who would not be able to sign in. That is, until we saw a hand-written sign proclaiming that sign-in had been extended indefinitely. Gulp.

We knew that we would be waiting until all of the thousands of signatures were hand-tallied, so we decided to walk down the road a mile or so to the closest sign of humanity -- a Conoco gas station. Nick and I set off with Jessi, a friendly girl from our precinct, and picked our way down to the main road and down to the gas station. The traffic situation had evidently become untenable, and the main road, as well as the road leading to the expo center, was littered with abandoned cars. It was like a zombie movie, or the Rapture -- eerie quiet, dozens of empty cars, and confused-looking people wandering around the barren landscape. We reached the Conoco station and bought taquitos and danced to reggaton coming from cars in the parking lot. We were realizing just how much time we were going to have to kill.

We made it back to the expo center a little before noon to begin the Afternoon of Waiting. We sprawled in the lawn in front of the expo center, we napped in the grass, we tossed rocks into holes and shredded blades of grass. It was a lot like this:

Eventually we went inside to begin several hours of Buddhist-style sitting meditation.

The expo center is huge and well-suited for rodeos. But on Saturday, we were herdin' Democrats. The bleachers and chairs on the expo floor were divided up by precinct, and we dutifully took our place with our precinct on the floor. The day's entertainment was an endless parade of local politicians who all gave variations on the same speech: "Is today a great day to be a Democrat in Texas, or what???? WOOOOOOOOOOO!!! We gotta get those Republicans out of office! WOOOOOOOOOOOO." As you might imagine, we began to crave the brief moments of silence between speeches. I entertained myself by watching the sign language interpreter, who signed with such emotion and gusto that I could have understood most of the speeches with earplugs in.

Every so often, someone would assure us that we were mere moments from getting started with our caucus . We knew better. The crowd became restless. The food was expensive and inadequate; it was extremely hot and noisy inside the giant expo center; the lights were all blue generator lights that gave everything a sickly pallor and seemed to give everyone the same headache; the feedback from the microphone created an intense constant background throbbing that must be akin to the sound of being inside a womb. A woman passed out. Someone started the wave and it traveled around and around the expo center, gaining intensity. People would half-heartedly start chants: O-BA-MA versus HIL-LA-RY or just Sí se puede! Sí se puede! By far the highlight of the day was a frazzled father, who approached the podium clutching a screaming baby. "If anyone has Huggies size 3 diapers, please--please approach the podium. Thank you." He was mobbed by concerned-looking woman with diaperbags. Someone snapped a photo of him with his new stack of diapers and still-screaming baby.

Finally, around 5:30, things started happening and we actually conducted our caucus. What anti-climax! We were handed post-it notes by our precinct captain and instructed that we would vote when she held up a clipboard with our number. They predetermined our votes to maximize the number of delegates we got...or something. Basically, we were good little ducklings and we raised our hands when the nice lady told us to.

And then...that was it. We were free! The folks who drove us over decided to stay until the bitter end and sign up to be at-large delegates. We didn't know what that meant and we did not care to stick around to find out. I grabbed literally the next person who walked by who was wearing our precinct teeshirt and begged a ride back to town from her. We ended up piling 5 deep in the cab of a pick-up with two seats. On the way home, we rolled down the windows and shouted platitudes to other Obama folks. We also bypassed approximately two miles of cars lined up patiently, waiting to turn right, and at the last minute cut in front of a lagging car. I had spent all day hating the people who were cutting in line ahead of me, but I was so thankful that the stranger driving the truck decided to be a jerk. All the sooner to come home and collapse in exhaustion.

--31 March 2008, Austin, Texas

And that, my friends, is how I helped get Obama elected: by shredding blades of grass outside of a rodeo arena in Texas for twelve hours. I suppose there are many ways to get something like that accomplished. Sí se puede, y'all!

Discussion Question:
What’s your favorite way to get involved in the political process?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Texas Two-Step Primary: Nominating a Presidential Candidate the Crazy Way

Last week, Texas held their 2012 primary for the Republican presidential candidate. I don’t think much of anyone noticed, since Mitt has got the nomination on lock.

In 2008, the primary situation in Texas was very different. Obama and Hillary Clinton were in the midst of a fierce battle for the nomination, and the large number of delegates out of Texas meant that the Lone Star State became the focus of much attention from both candidates. If you were a Democrat, it was an amazing time to live in Austin. I got to see both Barry O. and Hill speak live at a rally following one of the debates, and I even got to see Bill Clinton give a stump speech from the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of the Clinton campaign headquarters. Should I have given into my considerable desire to throw my panties at any of the three of them, I was close enough to hit them easily. It was a magical time.

But the most exciting part of the whole election was the primary. If you ain’t never done the Texas Two-Step, then boy, you don’t know how we do things in a democratic republic. Please enjoy this piece I originally wrote in 2008 about the strange little process we call the

originally written in March 2008

In Texas, for some reason, everyone gets two votes in the Democratic primary. Once you vote in the primary, you are eligible to vote in the caucus as well. The primary accounts for 2/3 of the vote, and the caucus for 1/3. Here's how it works:

-Each precinct gets a set number of delegates.
-After the primaries close, voters are invited to return to their voting place and sign their name on a sheet of paper in support of their presidential candidate.
-After everyone has signed their names, each party selects three supporters of each candidate to conduct independent counts of the signatures.
-While the count is being conducted, the precinct votes on resolutions sent in by members of the community to send on to the Texas state legislature.
-Once the signatures are counted, the precinct delegates are assigned in proportion to the number of signatures for each candidate.
-Then supporters of each candidate organize and assign one person to fill each delegate slot assigned to their candidate, and then one alternate for each delegate. Each delegate must come to a day-long convention later in the month to cast their votes.

So Nick and I set off last night on our bikes to our voting place, an elementary school about a mile away. Nick's friend Tyler texted him that the lines would be long and we should bring a book. We took heed and stopped and got Goldfish crackers and M&Ms in lieu of an actual dinner. We got there and found that the voting line still stretched out the door and down the sidewalk, and that the caucus line was already about 100 people deep.

We took our place and noticed that behind us, instead of lining up into the parking lot, the line was creeping out into the street. There were families with strollers standing in the middle of the road! I called out that maybe it would make some sense to run the line into the parking lot. Everyone moved, and it's a good thing -- another 400+ people showed up for a total over 500 in our little precinct! For comparison, only 35 showed up to the 2004 presidential caucus.

We stood in line for 2.5 hours. It was chilly and we were hungry but we made friends with the folks around us line. We looked at constellations and talked about politics and really managed to have a lot of fun with our neighbors. About an hour in, some fellow pulled out of the parking lot across the street too fast and smashed into a Volkswagen that was sort of hanging out into the driveway. He smoked a cigarette, paced around, talked on the phone, and then left. About half an hour later, the owner of the Volkswagen came out, gave the car a quick look, and drove away. It was pretty wtf because the car looked like it was smashed up pretty bad.

We finally got inside and signed our names and were turning to leave when I spotted Lyric, my favorite student from my TAship with Doug Parker. She cried out, "Katie! You can't leave! Our precinct gets 90 delegates [one of the highest numbers in the county] and we have to have at least 180 people here to be delegates and alternates!" Nick and I sighed, looked at our watches (9:45pm now), and turned back around and went inside.

There were clearly less than 180 people sitting in the small elementary school auditorium. There was a tiny old TV playing MSNBC, flashing maps of the state of Texas flashing TOO CLOSE TO CALL, TOO CLOSE TO CALL. The Hillary supporters gathered in the back corner of the room and the Obama supporters took over the rest of the auditorium, as we were the majority by 3:1. We had to nominate someone to conduct the caucus, a caucus secretary, and a speaker, as well as three counters from each camp to count the signatures. This, as you can imagine, in a room full of people only vaguely familiar with parliamentary procedure, took a considerable amount of time. We sent them off to count signatures and settled in to vote on the 40 precinct resolutions on the table.

In the course of an hour and a half or so, our precinct voted to send resolutions to the State of Texas legislature to:

-decriminalize marijuana/stop the war on drugs
-pull out of Iraq by the end of 2009
-support a national rail system and make public transportation and walkability a top priority
-to give all state employees the same percentage raise and to adjust the figures for inflation
-to make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal

…and several other things I can't remember. The proceedings were so informal and only loosely followed parliamentary procedure. There was a lot of yelling and laughing and I basically could not believe it was an official government proceeding. We got a lot accomplished, but we did it with all of the parliamentary acumen of this golden retriever:

We didn't even get halfway through the resolutions before our counters came back with the results. We needed 68 delegates for Obama and 22 for Hill. We split up and for whatever reason it took over half an hour get everything settled and get Nick and I signed up to be alternate delegates. It looks like our precinct is going to be fine for both candidates in terms of delegates -- the Obama campaign already had a number of people lined up who had to go home before 11:30pm when they finally started electing delegates. IMAGINE THAT!

Nick and I left after that. I imagine a couple of die-hards stuck around to finish out the resolutions.

anyway, 4.5 hours later, this was the most exciting, most hands-on exercise of my democratic rights that I have ever experienced as an American. so exciting!

--5 March 2008, Austin, TX

It's not over yet, folks! What do rodeo arenas, taquitos, and size 3 Huggies have to do with Obama’s winning presidential campaign in 2008? Check back later this week to read about mine and Nick’s experience serving as precinct delegates for our county caucus to find out.

Discussion Question:
Discuss a time you exercised your rights.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ways to make $$$ on the Internet--some excellent, some stupid--by the woman who has tried them all

I recently passed the dubious milestone of having made $500 on the internet over the last few years, so I figured it was high time I collate all of my knowledge on the subject into one handy blog post for y'all.

There are a lot of ways to make a little cash on the internet. Some are amazing. Some are dumb. Let me help you sort the wheat from the chaff.


If I could recommend but a single website for making a little money on the internet, it would be Ebates. Ebates offers cash back (right into your PayPal account!) at practically every online retailer you can think of. I've gotten $62.05 through Ebates in the last year with virtually no effort. If that's not enough, you get a free $10 gift card (I picked Target) after you make your first purchase. There is literally no reason you should not use this for online shopping! If you stack your cash back with a coupon code (I love retailmenot for coupon codes), you can ridiculous deals. If you decide to sign up, use my referral code and I'll get a little kickback.

TOTAL I'VE MADE: $72.05 ($62.05 cash and $10 gc) since 2011


Swagbucks is a strange, addictive little site that offers a zillion different ways to earn Swagbucks, which are redeemable for gift cards and trinkets and other stuff. For some reason the prevailing wisdom on this site seems to be that the $5 Amazon gift cards are the best value. I guess that's why I've gotten $220 worth of them in the last couple of years. You can earn Swagbucks by searching through their search engine, watching videos, taking polls, doing tasks, etc etc etc. They also give Swagbucks away via codes posted on their blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Sign up for this awesome email group to get email alerts when there are Swagcodes to be found. If you decide to sign up, use my referral code and I'll get a few extra Swagbucks.

TOTAL I'VE MADE: $220 in Amazon gift cards since 2010


This crazy little app allows you to send free gift cards to friends. I've been sending out free $5 Sephora, H+M, Threadless, and GAP gift cards to my pals all week, so you'd better believe I've gotten some back. I literally do not understand how this is free. Y'all better jump on this before these people bankrupt themselves.

TOTAL I'VE MADE: $30 in various gift cards just this week alone


Upromise is a neat site that gives cash back for groceries, travel, online shopping, and all kinds of other neat stuff. You just enter your store loyalty cards, and if you choose your credit cards, and you'll get a percentage back on some items. The money goes into a college savings fund, but you can get the money out at any time. I've made $141.92 over the last 10 years doing absolutely nothing. And hey! I've got a leg up on my future kids' college funds.

TOTAL I'VE MADE: $141.92 since 2003


I signed up for InboxDollars a few years back when I was really hard up for cash. They have a few different ways of earning, like polls and special offers (like Netflix free trials), but the main event is the paid emails--you get 2 cents for clicking a link in an email. Yes, I said 2 cents. Once you get to $35, they'll send you a check.

Y'all, don't do this. That's like 1750 emails you have to open to get $35. I can't quit this stupid site. After I finally got to $35, they gave me like a $10 bonus, which sucked me back into trying to get to $35 again. WHYYYY. Every time I try to delete my account, I see my balance (now at $18.25) taunting me. If you care to join me in this torture, at least use my referral code.

TOTAL I'VE MADE: $53.25 since 2007

I also can't forget gems like Groupon, which has given me several hundred dollars in credit for referring friends (and in turn a boatload of free goods and services); Foodler, which gives nice, fat rewards for ordering takeout; and LevelUp, an app that allows you to pay at certain businesses using your phone and gives you rewards for doing so. Paying for stuff with my phone makes me feel like a wizard, and it has saved me $18 so far at my favorite lunch spot. (If you sign up for LevelUp, use my referral code 66221.)

Thanks for all the money, internet!

Discussion Question:
What's your favorite way to make a little $$ on the internet?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I don't care that you know the difference between "your" and "you're."

I'm an editor for a living, so people love to send stuff like this to me.

comic from this dumb tumblr

And I generally give a kind little laugh, because I understand why they'd think I'd like it, but here's what I'm thinking: This is dumb.

When it comes to language, you're either a linguistic descriptivist or a linguistic prescriptivist. Lots of people have described this distinction better than I'm about to (such as this brief and brilliant manifesto from the Linguistic Society of America), but basically, Descriptivists seek to describe how a given language is. Prescriptivists seek to describe how a given language should be. If you're a self-described "grammar nazi" (and by the way, ew at that name too), then you're a prescriptivist.

I'm not a linguist. But I have studied a lot of languages, mostly ancient ones, so I do know this much. They say you can't step in the same river twice. Language is the same way. It is a breathing, evolving, crazy thing that is created by the people who use it. What's unthinkable today is standard tomorrow. Did you really ever think we'd start saying 'blog, short for WEBLOG?? I, for one, did not.

Linguistic prescriptivism is like trying to catch a falling star. It's futile.

But more than that, it has some pretty classist and even racist implications.

To say that some language is right and some is wrong is to make a value judgement. Many people who use "nonstandard" language were brought up speaking dialects. Some language features are divided along regional lines. But some are divided along class and cultural lines. These dialects and language features are often derided as having "no grammar" or "bad grammar," when in fact they have distinct, legitimate, and well-documented grammars all their own. They're just different than what is considered to be standard.

In some cases, they even address gaps in the "standard" language. Consider Southern American y'all, and yous, which is heard among working-class northeastern Americans. They created a second-person plural where standard English lacks a distinction between the singular and plural.

Growing up in Tennessee, I grew up immersed in Southern American English, which I heard to a greater or lesser extent from most of the people in my life (with the notable exception of my Midwestern father). There is no greater punching bag among American dialects than my native one. Writers love to give a stupid character a deep drawl. Laughs at the overdone accents of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel and Kenneth Parcell are, in some ways, at our expense.

buy this amazing wall decor on Etsy if you're so inclined

Finally, I beg the "grammar nazis" around me to consider how they came to know the difference between who and whom. They were fortunate to be educated in those differences. Not everyone has had the same opportunities. And if anyone would care to retort that these skills are taught in elementary school, which is compulsory in the US, I would invite those people to spend a morning in, say, an underprivileged New Orleans public school 3rd grade grammar class on an empty stomach. Just the fact that most people attend elementary school in the US does not mean that we are all afforded the same opportunities.

But...I'm an editor. How do I reconcile my heartfelt feelings about language prescriptivism vs. language descriptivism with my profession? Why on Earth would a person with such touchy-feely ideas about language ever ever ever want to wield a red pen and a Chicago Manual of Style for a living?

I love language. I'm a perfectionist. And my whole life, I have really excelled at making text conform to a given style. Linguistic descriptivists generally agree that there is a value to a measure of standardization to mass communications. Keeping mass-consumed informational texts fairly standardized allows us precision of language where it is needed. So I run a tight ship when it comes to grammar, syntax, spelling, and style in my books. But I do so with the full acknowledgement that my way is not the only way.

And that's why I think groups like this are unimpressive and silly.

So go forth and write however y'all damn well please.

Oh, and if you're interested in hearing what someone much more intelligent and interesting than me has to say about this issue, read David Foster Wallace's amazing article "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage." (High five pal Julia for that totally apt link.)

Discussion question:
What is your favorite non-standard English word or expression?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ways I would die in the Hunger Games

I just read The Hunger Games for the first time, and despite the fact that I longed to edit nearly every page of it, I really enjoyed reading it. But I couldn't help but think as I read it what a terrible contestant I would be in a fight to the death.

For this reason, I present to you


-Shot with blowdart while running for pink backpack with Hello Kitty decal at Cornucopia

-Knocked over head with rock when given away by aroma of shrimp and grits cooking over fire

-Speared while tucked into a tree writing a poem about my feelings

-Beaten to death when neon pink Doc Martens prove to be ineffective camouflage

-Bled out after shooting self in leg with crossbow sent by well-meaning fans

-Mauled in hand-to-hand combat with a groosling

-Gangrene from Bedazzler injury stemming from attempt to to sass up my uniform

-Poisoned by what appeared to be a wild katniss but was in fact a discarded tennis shoe

-Tried to make friends with especially cute tracker jacker

-Collapsed into immobile, sobbing heap the moment the games begin; dog-piled by other tributes

Discussion Question:
How would you die in the Hunger Games?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things I think you should do in the French Quarter

Once again, I have been lured away from the YA I'm writing right now and back to ma blog to address a request. It seems that a number of my dear friends are visiting New Orleans this fall and need suggestions for things to do. Well. WELL.

Anyone lucky enough to be heading to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras can go armed with the sage knowledge I provided in my Mardi Gras Do's and Don'ts post, but what about folks heading to the Big Easy for the other forty-someodd weeks of the year? Don't worry. I've got y'all's backs with some hot picks from a former NOLA resident.

The French Quarter is only six blocks by thirteen blocks, but most people have a hard time remembering to go anywhere else when they come to New Orleans. There's just so much to do! French Quarter residents have reported to me that they've literally gone six months without leaving the bounds of the Quarter. So without further ado, I present to you:

QuidQuid's French Quarter Picks


My pick: Galatoire's Restaurant

photo credit: jussissipi's flickr

You have to eat some French Creole food while you're in New Orleans. You just have to.

Maybe it's because it's the first place I ever ate in New Orleans, I don't know. There are a lot of fancy historical French Creole restaurants in the French Quarter--Antoine's, Broussard's, Tujaque's--but Galatoire's is the spot as far as I'm concerned. This is French Creole cuisine at its finest. I'd recommend something on the menu, but why bother? Chicken Clemenceau? Poisson Meunière Amandine? Close your eyes and point at one. It's all incredible.

I don't even know what this is and I'd eat it

It's expensive, but hey, this is the Fancy Food section! It doesn't' matter how much you spend, anyway. You will walk out of that place feeling like you should probably just Lieutenant Dan it into the Mississip' out of pure prandial delight. Just don't forget to have a cup of the turtle soup au sherry before you go.


My pick: Verdi Marte

photo credit: melinnis's flickr

Sandwiches are a very important part of New Orleans cuisine. You've got your muffulettas, of course, which can only be purchased at Central Grocery. If you need a burger, you head to Port of Call. But far and away the most important sandwich in NOLA is the po boy. It's a sub sandwich done as only New Orleans can do it--on halved French bread with incredible fillings like fried shrimp, roast beef, or even french fries.

photo credit: Ryan Boren

If you need a po boy--and believe me, you need a po boy--you need to take yourself to Verdi Marte. You're going to get there and say Are you kidding me? but trust me. This is the best fast food in the city. It burned down a couple of years ago, but it's cool--Verdi Marte is back and better than ever. So go get you some.

You should probably also have breakfast at Mother's on Poydras (just outside the Quarter), lunch at Angeli on Decatur, and cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde across from Jackson Square. You're going to need to eat a lot while you're there.


My pick: Snug Harbor

Sort of like you're going to need to eat a po boy, you're also going to need to see some jazz. Even if you think you hate jazz. Trust me. There's nothing quite like sipping a cocktail and listening to a little bit of jazz in the midst of your crazy New Orleans night.

The best jazz bar ever ever ever was Funky Butt, which, unfortunately, never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. It was dark and full of couches and shadowy nooks, the music was always hot, and the bartender Wheaties knew how to keep a glass full of Funky Butt Juice. Funky Butt was my go-to French Quarter hotspot. New Orleans perfection. RIP.

With Funky Butt dead and gone, I must send you all instead to a very different establishment: Snug Harbor. Snug, along with The Spotted Cat, is on Frenchman Street, which means its actually just outside the French Quarter in the Faubourg Marigny. But trust me, it's still the place to go. While four hundred tourists try to climb into Preservation Hall, you'll be up on the second floor with plenty of elbow room and a bird's eye view of the best jazz musicians in New Orleans. Charmaine Neville plays here on MONDAY nights, if that gives you any idea. Just look at this schedule. Definitely worth checking out any night of the week.


My pick: Chart Room (300 Chartres St)

If you are looking for a bar in the French Quarter, my friend, you are in the right place. You can't swing a whatever in New Orleans without hitting a bar.

First up, you have to walk down Bourbon Street and see what's up. Marvel at the flashing lights and all the drunk people. It's like an R-rated Disney World. If you want to party where your loved ones can keep tabs on you, go to Cat's Meow, which has a live streaming webcam of the karaoke stage. Take advantage of the lack of open-container liquor laws: buy a daiquiri or a hurricane at an open-air bar and then just walk back out with it to the street. I once--and this is 100% true--bought a frozen daiquiri in New Orleans so large that it came with a commemorative plastic tub and neck strap because it was too heavy to carry unassisted when full.

But when you're done with all that mess, check out one of the more chill bars. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar is (arguably) the oldest bar in the US. Hookah Cafe on Frenchman is now The Hookah on Decatur, but I bet it is still an excellent place to smoke hookah and get your drink on. I really adore Chart Room, a small rowdy bar on Chartres I love going to with my pal Karen. It's straight up French Quarter--open to the sidewalk, big beautiful bar, cheap drinks. It's an old familiar favorite.


Food and drinking is enough to keep a person entertained in the French Quarter pretty much indefinitely, but I guess if you get bored with that somehow, you could...

Go shopping! Hit the French Market, or the antique stores on Royal Street. Be sure to stop by Fleurty Girl--I love their shop on Oak Street Uptown, and I bet their new Quarter shop is amazing too! If you're going to buy any souvenirs, do it at Fleurty Girl and support a very cool local business.

Get pierced! Rings of Desire might just be the best piercing parlor in the country. Elayne Angel, the master piercer, has pierced over 40,000 people. She has hands so gentle a person can barely feel a thing. And she's trained a whole team of amazing piercers to give the same kind of care. These people specialize in serious piercings, and they're they only people on Earth I'd ever trust to pierce my goodies with metal if I ever decided to go that route. Just don't try to do it drunk--they will not go near you if you are.

Go to high tea! After you get your goodies pierced, head over to the Ritz-Carlton for high tea. I can't explain it, but there is something really fun about doing something so proper in the City That Care Forgot.

Have fun!!!!

Discussion Question: What's the most fun you've ever had in the French Quarter?