Kunst overload i Basel

Sally Mann: Virginia at 6, 1991
Sally Mann: Virginia at 6, 1991

Jeg har været med familien en weekend i Basel til kunstmessen, Art Basel, der denne gang “udkom” i sin 46’ende udgave. Jeg har aldrig været der før og ved ikke heeelt, om det er noget, jeg har lyst til at gøre igen – mest fordi det var så stort – der var simpelthen alt for meget kunst. Niveauet var meget højt, og jeg så rigtigt mange flotte, sjove, spændende, originale og inspirerende værker. Men selvfølgelig også en hel del af det, som Jr. med en samlebetegnelse kalder “Meh”.

Billedet øverst, den lille pige af Sally Mann, var nok et af de dejligste billeder, vi så. Umiddelbart kunne det være enhver idiots feriebillede i s/h Instagram-lækkerhed, men så alligevel ikke. Der er en grund til, at Sally Mann er blevet en stjerne på fotografi-himlen.

De ni billeder i “galleriet” (beklager min elendighed som fotograf og endnu større elendighed som billedredaktør (billederne ligger på siden i mobilversion???)) er alle kunstværker, jeg af en eller anden grund synes om (klik og se i stort format). Jeg kan ikke altid forklare årsagen – hvilket måske er en af årsagerne til, at jeg ikke er kunstkritiker. Det enorme billede af Richter, som jeg kan takke Louisiana for, at jeg har lært at kende, var jeg helt vild med. Jeg forestiller mig en kæmpevilla med en ubrudt gang så lang, at det kunne hænge der i al sin majestæt!

Herunder er så et billede, jeg gerne vil have forklaret, for jeg fatter simpelthen ikke, hvad meningen er.

Sandra Gamarra: "V.O. con subtitulos en espanol I", 2016
Sandra Gamarra: “V.O. con subtitulos en espanol I”, 2016

Jeg har ikke brugt timer på det, men jeg har da sat Manets billede (Olympia, 1863) ved siden af og kan ikke se forskel? Titlen på værket betyder noget med spanske undertitler, men forkortelsen V.O. forstår jeg ikke, og 1-tallet eller I’et til slut? Billedet af Gamarra er olie på lærred, præcis som originalen.

(Senere tilføjelse: V.O. står for Version Originale, som bruges i “dubbing-landene” til at angive, at en film ikke er dubbet, men er med undertekster. Så titlen er altså Originalversion med spanske undertekster 1. Det er muligvis sjovt?)

Rodney Graham: Artist in Artists' Bar, 1950's. 2016. Malet lysboks.
Rodney Graham: Artist in Artists’ Bar, 1950’s. 2016. Malet lysboks.

Jeg kunne rigtigt godt lide billedet herover og prøvede virkelig at få et fotografi uden for mange reflekser. Men som det ses, lykkedes det ikke særlig godt. Der er noget lidt mystisk og dragende og samtidig meget genkendeligt ved billedet – man kommer uvilkårligt til at tænke på kunstnerbarerne i indre København, men også lidt på stemningen i Hoppers Nighthawks. Efter at have læst lidt om Rodney Graham og set nogle flere billeder på nettet kunne jeg virkelig godt tænke mig at se en særudstilling med ham.

Anish Kapoor: Mirror (laser red to oriental blue). 2016
Anish Kapoor: Mirror (laser red to oriental blue). 2016

Det sidste billede er malet på et spejl. Regn selv ud, hvad der hører til i værket og hvad der er spejlets refleksioner. Det fungerede ret fantastisk på messen.

Derudover har jeg blot at tilføje, at Basel viste sig at være en ret dejlig by at besøge – det kunne man godt gøre, selvom der ikke var kunstmesse.

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Eye Attack på Louisiana

Som altid en flot udstilling – og herligt at se, at Louisiana virkelig kendte sin besøgelsestid, dengang disse værker blev skabt, for rigtigt mange af dem er fra samlingen og ganske velkendte for det trofaste Louisiana-publikum.

Bridget Riley: Movement in Squares, 1961
Bridget Riley: Movement in Squares, 1961

Mange af værkerne, måske særligt dem af Bridget Riley (f. 1931), ligner noget, man kan lave på en computer med lidt skillz og fantasi, men de er jo rent faktisk udført med lineal, maling og opfindsomhed alene. Mindblowing!

I dag mødte jeg en dame, der også havde set udstillingen. Hun var blevet så svimmel af at se på nogle af værkerne, at hun opgav frokosten bagefter pga kvalme! Så slemt syntes jeg nu ikke, det var, men nu er jeg også overordentlig glad for mad.

Francois Morellet, Sphére, 1962
Francois Morellet, Sphére, 1962

Den 14-årige og hans kammerat morede sig meget over, at mange af mobilerne larmede så meget. Mig: “Prøv du at bygge en maskine, der kan køre hver dag i 40 år uden at blive slidt!”

I udstillingen er der et rum, hvor opart perspektiveres i forhold til samtiden. Der var bl.a. denne fine illustration.

2016-02-18 12.21.59
1966

 

Vi nåede også Fire under Snow, en udstilling af videokunst. Vi havde det meget forskelligt med værkerne – nogle stod vi bare og gloede på og kunne ikke se pointen, andre syntes vi (og det er inklusive de to teens) var helt fantastiske. Ikke mindst Candice Breitz’ ’Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon)’ fra 2006. Wauw, et vildt værk! Vi sad foran det meget længe.

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Yayoi Kusama

Panoramafoto ind i græskarboksen på Louisiana. Foto: Dane
Panoramafoto ind i græskarboksen på Louisiana. Foto: Dane #ininfinity

Så har vi også været på Louisiana og se på prikker og græskar. Og ja, det er en svimlende flot udstilling. Uendelighed er et gennemgående tema hos den vedholdende, men også forstyrrede Kusama. Det forstår man fuldstændig, når man har set udstillingen. Hun laver virkelig aldrig én af noget – snarere én million! Hvis du ikke fik set dokumentaren om hende på DRK (den er der desværre ikke mere), så se lige videoen herunder – så forstår du!

I det hele taget er det et dejligt skridt væk fra den sædvanlige vestlige kunst udført af hvide mænd at tage på Louisiana. Ud over Kusama-udstillingen kører den store Afrika-udstilling stadig. Den indeholder mange originale bud på kunst, design og mode fra et andet sted, end vi er vant til. Afrika-udstillingen slutter 25. oktober, så det kan nås, hvis man skynder sig.

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Nat på museet

 

glyptoteket

Ja, egentlig mener jeg jo aften – nat lyder bare mere dramatisk. Vore store museer er begyndt at holde aftenåbent i forskellige formater. Louisiana holder aftenåbent tirsdag-fredag (til 22), og det vil jeg virkelig anbefale de af jer, der endnu ikke har prøvet det, for der er langt færre mennesker end lørdag-søndag. Har man tid, lyst og råd, er deres aftenbuffet i reglen et godt bud på et hyggeligt, sund og velsmagende måltid. Og nu er der jo PRIKKER – helt til januar måned.

Men faktisk handler dette om Glyptoteket og deres Slow og om SMK og deres SMK Fridays. De kommer lige efter hinanden (nok ikke verdens allerbedste planlægning…).  Glyptoteket havde ikke linket deres Slow i torsdags til Golden Days’ Festival of Important Shit – eller omvendt. Gad vidst, hvem der ikke taler med hvem? For en aktiv kulturforbruger hang arrangementet derfor lidt og svævede, og jeg havde svært ved at se den røde tråd i de arrangementer, der blev tilbudt. Det forekom mig altsammen enten uvedkommende eller elitært. Tilstrømningen var da også derefter. Jeg nøjedes derfor med at se Man Ray-udstillingen, som jeg af uransagelige årsager ikke havde fået set før. En udmærket udstilling, men måske lidt på den konventionelle side. Man fik ikke rigtigt fornemmelsen af, hvor kantet og usædvanlig Man Ray var i sin egen tid.

Goldendays2015

Dagen efter var jeg til SMK Friday, der handlede om Mesterværker og var knyttet til  Golden Days. Det var et virkelig godt arrangement, og det var ekstremt velbesøgt. Gå hjem og vug, jer typer, der tror, unge hippe mennesker ikke vil gå på museum. For det vil de i den grad godt. Jeg føler mig tit gammel, men dog sjældent, når jeg går på museum. I fredags var der dog kraftig overvægt af folk mellem 20-30. Måske lidt flere kvinder end mænd, men ikke overvældende (scoretip, guys!). Der var spændende musik, interessante “talks”, billige drinks og så al den dejlige kunst i behageligt aftentempo. Diskussionen, af hvad der udgør et mesterværk, er altid interessant. For det er jo lidt hævet over diskussionen om, hvad der er kunst. Prøv at snakke om det over middagsbordet – hvornår ophøjes et kunstværk til mesterværk? Når det har modstået tidens tand og glemslens dyb i 100 år? Kortere eller længere tid? Og kan det være et mesterværk i 50 år og så igen blive glemt?

Mit personlige højdepunkt var da en meget ung kunsthistoriker fortalte levende om et kobbertryk af Rembrandt, som i dagens anledning var hevet frem fra gemmerne og kunne beundres ‘live’. Folk, der kan formidle deres indsigt og begejstring, er noget af det bedste, jeg ved.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Christus helbreder de syge. "Hundredgyldenbladet", About 1649
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Christus helbreder de syge. “Hundredgyldenbladet”, About 1649

Og minsandten om vi ikke også var på museum lørdag aften. Jeg tror faktisk, det var en personlig rekord. Festival of Important Shit sluttede af med et bravour-nummer af en bryllupsfestKøbenhavns Museum. Udgangspunktet var selvfølgelig, at kulturarven er meget mere end fancy malerier og Thorvaldsens skulpturer, det er fx også den danske bryllupstradition. Har I nogensinde været til et dansk bryllup med udenlandske gæster, så ved I, hvad jeg mener. Der er sgu da ikke nogen andre, der klipper sokkerne af brudgommen! For mig var denne aftens højdepunkt nok Knud Romers lille, veloplagte foredrag om ægteskabet. Han er frygteligt irriterende, men på en meget klog og vidende måde.

 

 

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Richard Mosse, Jeff Wall og David Hockney på Louisiana

Vi har været på Louisiana et par gange, men jeg har ikke fået skrevet om det. Som jeg tidligere har beskrevet, er Louisiana en familiedestination for os – ingen andre steder opfylder så mange af vores behov på én gang.

Richard Mosse: Drag, 2012  Digital c-print ©Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the Artist, Jack Shainman Gallery & carlier ǀ gebauer
Richard Mosse: Drag, 2012 ©Richard Mosse. Jack Shainman Gallery & carlier

Richard Mosse‘ billeder fra krigen i Congo og i særdeleshed den film, der står centralt i udstillingen, er skrap kost. Den lyserøde farve, der er fuldstændig overvældende og dominerende, sender et stærkt kulturelt signal om ufarlighed og nuttethed, der er helt og aldeles misvisende. Farven skyldes Mosse’ brug af en særlig type film kaldet Kodak Aerochrome, som man tidligere brugte militært til at afsløre camouflage. Alt det naturligt grønne (og det er der meget af i Congo) fremstår skrigende lyserødt. Effekten bliver bl.a., at man bliver nødt til at kigge ret indgående på billederne, og at man aldrig får lov til at henfalde til beundring af det fine landskab.

Jeff Wall: Monologue, 2013 © Jeff Wall
Jeff Wall: Monologue, 2013 © Jeff Wall

Fotografisk kunst er virkelig ved at vinde indpas på de bonede gulve i Danmark. Det var på tide, og det er dejligt. Udstillingen med Jeff Wall er netop åbnet, og den er også flot og tankevækkende. De fleste af hans billeder er fra samfundets skyggeside, men slet ikke in-your-face, som det ses i fx aviserne. Snarere er han optaget af det lidt lurvede. Jeg har læst lidt i katalogteksten, og deri fortolkes billederne helt vildt – alt for meget for mig. Vi gik langsomt rundt og så på billederne og talte om, hvordan vi hver især læste dem (vi: min 26-årige ældstesøn og hans kæreste, min 13-årige søn og mig selv). Det var aldrig helt det samme vi så, så på den måde bidrog vi til hinandens oplevelser.

David Hockney: Woldgate, 6. – 7. maj fra serien Forårets komme i 2013  Kul på papir ©David Hockney Foto: Richard Schmidt
David Hockney: Woldgate, 6. – 7. maj fra serien Forårets komme i 2013, Kul på papir, ©David Hockney, Foto: Richard Schmidt

Endelig er der viet en sal til en af Louisianas “huskunstnere”, David Hockney. Ham er jeg fuldstændig pjattet med, så er det sagt. Et af mine mottoer er godt nok, at man skal skille kunstneren og værket, men i dette tilfælde er jeg vild med begge dele. Et interview med Hockney er altid fyldt med visdom, humor og underfundighed. Hockney har lavet en serie kultegninger, som et farvel til det England, hvor han er født, men som han ikke regner med at komme tilbage til. Der er tale om 30 tegninger af forskellige motiver i den samme skov, tegnet over et år, de fleste vist fra forsædet af kunstnerens bil. Hvis du ikke er så bekendt med Hockney, så se videoen herunder, hvor man både ser mange billeder, ser ham male og hører ham fortælle.

Udover de ovenstående kan man stadig se den store Modersohn-Becker udstilling, som jeg har set flere gange, men alle fire er ALT for meget på én gang. Hvis du skal derop snart, så kig lidt på Louisianas hjemmeside og beslut, hvilke af kunstnerne du er mest interesseret i, og skip så resten. Med kunstoplevelser gælder det ikke om at få så meget som muligt for pengene.

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GOP response to Obama's speech in Congress

At the time when Obama’s package was coming together, I looked high and low for an alternative. All the republicans could say was: Lower taxes. Here’s a speech now, which is hailed as the Republican Party’s response to the rescue package – why they voted no. It’s delivered by the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

A word of warning – I haven’t counted (don’t have time), but I do believe he says “Americans can do anything” more than 20 times… The above Youtube video is only the first part of the speech. If you’re not completely nauseated when you’ve sat through that bit, jump to Youtube to see the other half.

Notice his interesting reference to Hurricane Katrina (he is from Louisiana, after all). Bureaucracy was why the help went haywire, he says. Hm. And then there’s the ever-present tax cuts. The Republicans cut taxes for eight years, consistently. Example: Those who made $1 million/year got a tax relief of $53,000. And those who made $20,000 a year got a $375 tax relief. When Bush came into office, it was with a $237 billion surplus. When he left, it was with a deficit hovering around $1 trillion.

Only after 10 minutes does governor Jindal acknowledge that the Republicans didn’t quite live up to all his blabber, when they were in office. But that’s HISTORY now, he says. Now the Republicans WILL cut bureaucracy and government. And they will work towards bi-partisanship, as long as the Democrats will cut bureaucracy and government. I wont comment on what he says about the American healthcare system. Listen to it yourself… Towards the end of the speech he says something else that sounded a bit strange to my ears. He said “Americans won the struggle for civil rights”. ‘Scuse me, but since it was a STRUGGLE and since no other nations were involved, it must have been some Americans who won over some other Americans?

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Millions of dead fish

When we were on our tour of the US last year, one of our favourite states was Louisiana. We found the swamps beautiful and enchanting beyond belief and adored New Orleans (oh, the grilled oysters…). We wanted to take a tour of the swamps and decided that we didn’t want one of the “see an alligator, take a picture, go home”-tours, so we splashed out on a private tour with the Atchafalayan Basinkeeper himself. It was an unforgettable experience – and we didn’t even see an alligator. We saw lots of other things and Dean, the basinkeeper, knew every animal, bird, fish and insect in the basin. Knowing that this fantastic place will disappear within a very short time frame if something is not done, we joined the organisation, that supports the basin. Which of course means we get a newsletter now and then. Not often – since Dean is busy doing things, not just writing about them. Hm. In the latest newsletter he wrote this:

Hurricane Gustav hit the Atchafalaya Basin very hard. Cypress forests are hurricane resistant and hurricanes are actually good for the health of cypress swamps because high winds knocks down “trash trees.” The Atchafalaya’s fish and hardwood forests are not as lucky. Millions of fish died after the hurricane and it will take years for the Atchafalaya Basin’s fish populations to recover.

We bought and read this book about the swamps, what they mean to the eco-system of North- and South America, who lives there and why they are disappearing. It is very well written and researched and I warmly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in environmental issues. Here’s a quote from the book, where the author is talking to a Cajun shrimper (Tidwell, the author, knew nothing about environmental issues when he was first sent to the bayous by Washington Post to write a piece about the dying Cajun culture):

“All dis land around us, as far as you can see, is droppin’ straight down into de water, turnin’ to ocean. Someday, Baton Rouge, one hundred miles nort’ of here, is gonna be beachfront property.”

Oh, and speaking of books. James Lee Burke‘s detective Robicheaux  operates in Louisiana. This one takes place in the aftermath of Katrina. Both the description of the devastation after the hurricane and the plot are fantastic.

I was actually so fascinated by the swamps that I’m still thinking about retiring in a house on stilts, surviving on a diet of cajun-style cooked shrimp, jambalaya and oysters. As long as there’s Internet…

Egrets, ibises, wood storks, great blue herons, little blue herons, spoonbills and anhingas are feasting on the fish, which have sought refuge here. Photo by basinkeeper Dean Wilson. Above photo also by Dean.

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New Orleans revisited

When we left New Orleans in September we vowed to come back towards the end of our trip. At that time it was difficult to say whether we were crazy about the place because we’d just arrived in the South and everything was new and exotic, or if the city really was as special as we thought at the time. And after 22 states – yes, it really is that special!

We decided to try out some very touristy things, because our trusted guide book recommended it and because Dane really wanted to. So on our first day, we went on a two hour river cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. A very lovely experience that didn’t feel like a rip-off at all. The Mississippi really is mighty and sailing on her was something special. And on a steamboat. Even if that steamboat was only built in 1978. You should have heard the steampipe organ. It is WAY beyond description!

Next on the touristy agenda was a ride with a mule buggy. We were rather lucky with the driver – he was of Irish descent, but his accent was pure New Orleans – through and through. Dane claimed not to have understood one word he said. And he said a lot! And let Dane drive the mule. He (Dane, that is) was so proud and never realized that the mule knew it’s way through the French Quarter better than most. And also knew to stop at the lights! The driver told one dirty Irish joke after another – among lots of both interesting and juicy (but not necessarily true) anecdotes about New Orleans.

After that we were ready for some food and chose the much recommended Acme Oyster House. Even if it had a queue outside, we were inside in a few minutes. The food was very good – particularly the chargrilled oysters. Mmmmm. But the service. It was super quick – we’d hardly sat down before the waitress was all over us to make up our minds NOW. And the oysters were on the table in a couple of minutes. But – unfortunately – so were our main courses. Which of course meant that the main courses got cold before we could get around to them. And the noise level! Quite stressfull dining experience – in spite of the lovely food at very fair prices.

The black cab driver who took us home was a man who knew how to multi-task. He was on his cell having a very serious discussion with his wife about their finances. And he was discussing with the dispatch about his next ride. And explaining stuff to us. The radio was on too. All this besides driving… But he got us home safely and quickly.

The next day we decided to venture into town (campground is 6 miles west of downtown) by way of public transportation. That’s another first on this trip. So we went across the street to the bus stop. Very soon an elderly black man came, lugging a huge carry-all. He spoke in the dialect I’ve read that the slaves spoke. He said: “Y’all gotta ax the driver”. He was mighty friendly though. Well on board the bus we were approached by a number of more or less strange characters, both blacks and whites. But they were all extremely kind and helpful. We changed from the bus over to the newly reinstated St. Charles streetcar. That was a wonderful experience. The streetcar has only been back in action (after Katrina) for a few weeks. When we were in New Orleans last time, it wasn’t running.

We got off in the Garden District because we wanted to revisit the wonderful flag-shop we visited the last time we were there. Last time Dane got a wind spinner depicting a helicopter, but unfortunately – and the cause of much crying – he forgot it hanging from a tree in Savannah. This time we got two… And a long chat with Brad & Dellwen, the two ageing chaps who run the shop together. They certainly were characters too. Dellwen showed me what Brad had brought back with him after having left him to hike in Alaska for several weeks: A big gold ring, studded with diamonds. So sweet!

We jumped back on the streetcar and continued to the French Quarter again. We’d decided to have a proper meal for once, so had checked out the Zagat guide to restaurants. We’d chosen one and also been in there earlier to book a table. When we came back to claim it, the snotty hostess told us we couldn’t get in, because David was wearing shorts. They could have told us that the first time round, we thought! We trodded on, wondering what to do, because Dane was getting tired. On the way David had the good fortune of being shat on by a pigeon. At the time he didn’t appreciate it at all and was swearing a good deal… But just around the corner was a restaurant with a beautiful courtyard where people were dining. That was exactly what David had been longing for. Sitting outside among palm trees and having a lovely meal. They didn’t mind the shorts or the six-year-old, so we got a table in a corner by a little fountain. In Zagat we read (under the table) that this was one of New Orleans’ top restaurants, Bayona. What amazing luck! David now blessed the pigeon rather than cursed it. We had lovely food and a really, really nice evening. It was expensive for New Orleans, but not at all compared to Copenhagen or London. Just this one example: I had a glass of a wonderful late harvest with my coffee, a wine I’ve tasted before. Reason I remember it, is that it shares it’s name with my brother. It cost 5$ for a glass.

Needless to say, we were approached by more very special characters while waiting for a taxi outside. One guy wanted to make the DJ across the street play Puff the Magic Dragon for Dane, but of course needed a few bucks first, another guy told us not to trust the first guy. And then a biiiig SUV drove up and six black youngsters, all in white, got out, the biggest one of them with a huge snake around his neck… and true to form, our Pakistani taxidriver believed in The Jewish Conspiracy and talked all the way about politics in Pakistan, Iraq and US. Only took a break to marvel over the fact that we actually knew who Benazir Bhutto is…

New Orleans, we will be back!

More pictures and bigger versions here.

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Some city!

Our camp offered a free shuttle bus to downtown New Orleans at 9 o’clock. The driver also took it upon himself to tell us more or less everything about every little house or ditch we passed on the half hour drive. You get the impression that these guys are paid on a words-pr-minute basis. Were they paid on basis on how much their audiences in fact understood of their ramblings, I think they might consider slowing down. Our neighbours in the bus, an elderly American couple, gave up very quickly!

It was quite glorious weather, sunny and hot, but also a little bit windy. Cool, the natives called it. I’d say that’s because they’ve never been to Denmark… The minute you set foot in New Orleans, you realize that everything you’ve heard about how different it is from anywhere else, is quite true. Every phrase I can think of to describe it has been heard a million times before, but still, how about melting pot

We started, as we’ve been told one should, with café au lait and Beignets at Café du Monde. For a food item that is clearly mass produced in that kitchen (they serve nothing else), they tasted surprisingly good. But they are not good for you!!!

Then we spent the next many hours trawling up and down the French Quarter, mainly Royal Street. David had a haircut at a chic little hairdresser, while Dane and I had a drink at a little café, where the waitress had a little bone through her nose. And no, she didn’t look anything like a maneating pygmy. More like a punk from London. The French Quarter is very pittoresque, but doesn’t look anything like the France I know. See here for yourselves:

After having eaten a dozen very good oysters (8$!!!) and Jambalaya, we headed to another part of town, Magazine Street. Nobody apparently ever bothers with the Street or Avenue part of the street names. It’s something like if we said H.C. Ørsted, everytime we mean H.C. Ørstedsvej. Or Oxford, when we mean Oxford Street. It’s that abb(reviation) thing again.

Magazine is very, very long, like so many streets in this country. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to 5-digit house numbers! Almost all the way it is lined with detached or semi-detached houses in colonial style. Some of them so small that they look like doll houses. Either the new houses are built to look as replicas of the houses before them, or they just don’t build new houses. This house here is the only example of modern architecture we saw except for the highrises. It’s a pharmacy!

Every other house was in the style of these:

At one point we came to the fire station. A couple of firemen were sitting about in front of the impressive truck. Dane and I went over to ask politely if we could take a picture of them. And being New Orleanians, they instantly invited Dane to sit there with them. And inside the truck to see everything. And even to sound the horn once! It’s my fault the picture isn’t better – I must have been almost as awe-struck as Dane was!

There were several remarkable shops on the part of the street that we negotiated before nightfall. A lingerie shop with such a special atmosphere and a comfy sofa for the accompanying spouse with glossy magazines for men… And a combined barbershop, hairdresser, haberdashery and bar for men. Unfortunately David had just had a haircut a few hours earlier and he didn’t really need a shave… And there was the wonderful and mysterious shop that sold only flags and wind mobiles. The ancient owner told us that before Katrina, he’d hardly been able to make a living, and nobody really knew what the New Orleans flag looked like – or cared.

But after – everybody wanted the flags for their balconies. And they wanted wind mobiles for joy – something it must have been very hard for a lot of people to find in the months after the storm. It’s been two years since Katrina – and she’s visible everywhere. Some places in the form of posters about rebuilding the city and being proud of her, other places you can just see the waterline. And to the east – mile after mile of devastation. And everywhere people are still talking about it. I would, too.

While the last light faded, we watched some youngsters play basketball and football and then went to have a nice dinner. The taxidriver who was supposed to take us home, knew less about the city than we did. And his English was, eh, rudimentary. But with the help of a GPS and David’s pointing and directing we made it home to camp.

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What a wonderful place!

After having done our washing in a laundromat (yet another first), we drove to a new campsite in Baton Rouge where I have more family! They had long known to expect the crazy Europeans and when we announced our arrival, they were quick to invite us to dinner. And not only dinner, no, homemade Gumbo! Mmmm, that was good! And I must say – what nice family I have over here! Keep’m comin’!

The sweet and hospitable Bryan family (and us) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The next morning we got up and away early for our much anticipated tour of the swamp. We decided to splash out here and charter a boat rather than sharing a ride with other tourists. That turned out to be a very good idea. Searched around on the web for a while and fell completely for this guy here, who’s love for the Atchafalaya basin is unrivaled. On the way there, we didn’t get lost once and made it on schedule (more on getting lost later…). We let our RV stand on a deserted parking lot and took off in Dean’s little boat. Wauw, it was fast!

The swamp, the atmosphere, the sounds defy description. But it was breathtakingly beautiful and magic. Dean was a great guide – telling us about the history of the basin, the terribly many environmental issues that are facing the basin and wetlands generally and about the plants and animals that are invading the swamp and the ones who are extinct or threathened to be extinct. He knew the name of every bird, fish and insect we saw on the way. And – contrary to popular belief – there were no mosquitoes or horse flies or other despicable creatures – only insects we saw in the 2 1/2 hours we were on the water were – dragonflies. In all shapes and forms. We didn’t see any alligators – Dean was sure he saw one at one point, but it went under when we came near it in the boat. He did show us the tracks on the river bank, though! However, I found the ancient cypresses much more fascinating than any alligator could ever be!

 

 

More pictures here

After this fantastic experience, we drove on down towards New Orleans. Pronounced New ‘Orleans much to David’s dismay. And we got so, SO lost. The GPS wouldn’t accept the address given by the campsite, but we figured we could just follow their directions which seemed pretty straightforward. Well, guess what, they were’nt, or else (which is not totally unlikely…) we just got them all wrong. Downside was that we drove around New Orleans for hours. Upside was that we got to see with our own eyes, exactly what havoc Hurricane Kathrina really caused down here. In some of the poorer neighbourhoods we drove through, more than half the houses were left, empty. We probably wouldn’t have seen any of that, if we hadn’t got lost. Besides, we made people laugh. The people sitting in front of their little rickety houses knew that we were lost and grinned at us – but in a real friendly way!

Tomorrow we’ll spend the entire day in The Big Easy.

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Louisiana

You notice right away that you’re in another state. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s evident very quickly. Don’t know whether that’s going to be the case every time we cross a state border, but this time it was. For instance the casino billboards. None of those in Texas! And the condition of the roads. The I-10, which we’ve been on virtually all day, was absolutely awful for a good many miles. We could hardly communicate inside the RV, which  rattles quite a lot even at the best of times.

We’re at a campground just outside Lafayette. It was late when we arrived, so we don’t really know what it’s like. Right now we’re planning the next few days and trying to get an idea of what this is costing us pr. day in gas and other utilities. Won’t let you in on that just yet ;-)

We’ve been half eating out, half self-catering since we came here. Allthough I just love a real American breakfast with sausages, pancakes etc., I’m so happy that we have a fair sized fridge and freezer, and that the supermarkets have such a fantastic selection of ripe and yummy fruit and veg, some of it even ready peeled and cut. Because otherwise I really don’t think I could avoid putting on weight! We discuss this every time we’re in a grocery store or in a restaurant or fastfood place. It’s almost impossible to buy things that are good for you! Take the above mentioned cut fruit in the supermarket. Half of it is sold with a bowl of caramel sauce or the like. Or the bread section – 3/4 of the bread isn’t really bread, it’s cake! Same with yoghurt – there are about 200 kinds with “fruit” (=more than 15% sugar) and 2-3 kinds of natural yoghurt – and one that’s also fat free. And in fastfood places, you’re punished if you want a bottle of water instead of a soft drink. The socalled Combos (Supersize Me!) include only huge glasses of coke, sprite or the like. Water is extra. Lots of things are sold with FAT FREE on the label. Fine, but it doesn’t say that it contains 40% sugar – and the reverse – things are sold as SUGAR FREE, and you have to read the small print to see how much fat there’s in it.

It’s a really hard job to not put on weight here! Small wonder that it’s the poor and the uneducated who (mainly) suffer from obesity and all the related illnesses – it’s almost a science to shop healthy food that’s also affordable in the big grocery stores – particularly if you can’t, won’t or are unable to cook your own food and must rely on ready-made.

If you’re new to my blog, you don’t yet know that this is one of my pet subjects. But be prepared! It won’t be the last time you’ll find a mention of this or related subjects – not only am I obsessed with what’s in the food we eat and the politics that influence it, I’m also what the Americans call a Foodie

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