Mardi Gras 2016

spray painted shoesThomas FewerChristy LorioMardi Gras 2016Mardi Gras costumesWell that was fun.

Mardi Gras 2016 came and went. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’m a very busy lady during carnival season. I marched with the Gris Gris Strut Marching Band again this year.  My friend Missy (flag corps) said it best: “This is like having a part-time job.” The band started practicing before Christmas, with the bulk of rehearsals in the weeks leading up to carnival. Then there are the parades. I marched in five of them this year, which was great fun but also physically and mentally draining. Walking at a snail’s pace across half the city while playing an instrument, coupled with the intense stimulus of thousands of eyeballs on you, takes its toll. Needless to say, it’s bittersweet that marching season has come to an end.

Oh yea, so y’all wanna talk about these costumes? This was the first time in three years that I didn’t have to balance Mardi Gras with school, which meant I had more time to get busy with the details. I think the official appliqué count was 28– all hand stitched by yours truly. And that’s not counting all of the sequin and feather trim work.  I started on our costumes a month ago, but as usual Lundi Gras night was spent at home with a needle and thread. Thomas was on shoe duty this year, and he did a great job dazzling up his pair of thrift store penny loafers.

After sifting through multiple costume boxes (we have enough to practically open our own costume store) to pull out my trust metallic gold body suit, I’m going to sit down after Ash Wednesday and put my old retail management skills to use. Each box is getting an inventory sheet, sorted by themes and color schemes. Our wigs (I lost count years ago) will get stored in their own separate box. A true #MardiGrasProblems situation.

The People I Know: Alfred Banks

Alfred BanksFreret Street Underdog Central

Whenever I go out for a jog I frequently have this local rapper’s music bumping in my ear buds. It’s time for me to introduce y’all to Alfred Banks.

HOW WE MET

I met Alfred Banks when I worked at Buffalo Exchange. I was a manager and he was a regular customer. Alfred is a sneaker head, so he always scoped out the shoe section first thing when he walked in the store, then would politely ask if we had any new shoes in his size (I remember it too!) that weren’t on the sales floor yet. Normally that drove me nuts (customers can be so pushy sometimes), but Alfred was so damn nice about it I gladly obliged. I haven’t worked for the company for three years, but we’ve kept in touch ever since.

WHAT HE DOES

Alfred is a rapper, and he hustles his ass off trying to make it as an artist. He’s determined to make a living with his music and has already racked up an impressive list of accolades. He was named one of the top 10 rappers in New Orleans by Complex Magazine, his video was featured on Mtv, he was Revolt TV’s 2015 “Local Love Tour” winner and he made DJ Booth’s “Top 5 Rappers in Louisiana” list. His next album is being released in the next few months, so be on the look out for that.

WHO HE IS TO ME

At only 24 years old, Alfred inspires me to keep working towards my goals. He’s had more success than most, yet he remains refreshingly grateful for any support he receives. Plus, he’s just a cool guy, no pretenses and despite what these photos may suggest, he’s usually all smiles. Any time I run into him he’s always bubbling with excitement from his own success. And hell, if we can’t get excited about our own achievements, who else will?

 

 

The People I Know: Christopher and Ruben

Christopher Lorio

 

I’m kicking off the first “People I Know” post of 2016 with the fam. Thomas and I started a new tradition of visiting my brother and his partner in Louisville for Thanksgiving every year. My brother is a professional cook, so this is one tradition we are highly motivated to keep alive. This year we brought the dogs with us to met their cousins for the first time. Four dogs and four humans in a two bedroom apartment could have been a disaster, but the long weekend was fun and everyone — humans and dogs alike– got along. We feasted on a six course T-Day meal, drank entirely too much wine, caught Ben De la Creme perform at Play the following night, and ate at some of the best restaurants and bars in town.

 

HOW WE MET:

Well, Chris is my brother. He’s two years younger than me. Ruben is Chris’s partner. He’s originally from Texas. We all met when we worked as waiters at a fine dining restaurant in the French Quarter circa 2000-2003. I got the job first, then Chris got hired shortly after I did. Thomas came next, then Ruben. Everyone hated working in that restaurant, yet any time we get together we can’t help but reminisce about how much fun we had.

 

WHAT THEY DO:

Chris and Ruben hold the positions of kitchen manager and dining room manager, respectively, at Decca, arguably the best restaurant in Louisville. Chris has wanted to cook professionally for years, so I’m really that he went after his dream. Prior to Decca he worked at an organic bakery in Louisville and prepared steak and stew dinners for weary hikers at Phantom Ranch. Ruben is the consummate industry professional; he’s worked as a manager at some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, and now Louisville.

 

WHO THEY ARE TO ME:

I never fully understood the concept of “family is everything” until after Hurricane Katrina. Up until August 2005 my entire family lived in New Orleans, so I saw everyone on a fairly regular basis. After the storm Chris and Ruben moved to the Grand Canyon (Ruben worked for years at the Grand Canyon prior to moving to New Orleans) and Thomas and I decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona, a relatively short four hour drive away. The rest of my family stayed in New Orleans, so I only saw my “mom ‘n dem” once a year at the most. Currently my sister lives in Texas, so we don’t get a chance to be in the same room together more than once every two years or so. It wasn’t until we were scattered across the country that I realized how precious family time truly is.

 

 

Photo: That’s Chris on the left and Ruben on the right with Hambone and Spartacus, their beagles.

Catahoula Zine

 

Catahoula Zine

Catahoula Zine

I’m excited to announce a project I’ve been working on called Catahoula; the first issue of this quarterly zine features words and photography by yours truly. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a zine for several years, so I am ecstatic this project has finally come to fruition.

The first issue features “Allons,” a story I wrote this past summer about what it was like to grow up with a swamp for a backyard. I grew up in a typical Westbank subdivision, but my experience was slightly different than my neighbor’s thanks to the proximity of my parent’s house to the levee. Living next to the swamp was fun, but it wasn’t easy. Snakes, armadillos, wasps, and a slew of other animals constantly invaded our home and yard, and the threat of hurricanes was ever present. Growing up in this environment really shaped the person that I am today: someone who yearns for the outdoors and tries not to place too much value on material things since you never know when a storm might take them away. I haven’t lived on “the other side of the river” for 15 years, but I try to make it to Barataria Preserve, the location the essay centers around, at least twice a year. All but one of the photographs (the squirrel photo was shot at Audubon Park) were taken there.

Order a print or digital copy of Catahoula through MagCloud by clicking here. Print copies are $8.00 and digital is $2.00. I’m also giving away two digital copies of Catahoula to two lucky readers. Leave your email in the comments section for a chance to enter. I will pick two winners at random. Winners will be contacted early next week.

2015 Year In Review & 2016 Goals

Ahh yes, it’s that time of year: {insert something about this year being better (or shittier) than the last}. 2015 was admittedly pretty brutal at times, but overall I had a phenomenal year. Here is 2015 broken down by semester, since that’s how my life has been segmented the past three years.

Spring 2015

  • Joined a marching band (first time since high school) and marched in four Mardi Gras parades. P.S. I’m doing it again in 2016.
  • Took a scriptwriting class that really flexed my writing muscles. Fiction writing scares me, but scriptwriting helped me find a way to do it on my own terms.

Christy Lorio Driftwood

 

  • Won a departamental award for my work at Driftwoodalso received wonderful, heartfelt emails from faculty in regards to the complete overhaul we did to the print and online editions.
  • Publish-o-rama. Three pieces I wrote in my creative nonfiction writing classes were published in various literary magazines and websites.

Summer 2015

  • Ireland. I went to Ireland to study for a month. You can read all about my experience here. I made so many friends and had so many incredible experiences. I felt so enriched after the program was done.

Havasu Falls

  • I went to Havasupai for the fourth time in August. I didn’t blog about it (left my camera on a bus in Ireland), but I shared plenty of cell phone shots on my Instagram.

Fall 2015

  • Cut my hair above shoulder length for the first time in years.
  • Went wedding dress shopping with my sister in Houston over fall break. I eloped when I got married, and the one thing I regret was not wearing a wedding dress. I’m glad my sister included me in on her experience.
  • Saw Hamish Bowles on Halloween night in the French Quarter and he complimented our Halloween costumes later on social media. Yes, THAT Hamish Bowles.
  • A photo I took in Dublin was a finalist in UNO’s Study Abroad photo competition. I didn’t place, but the other finalist’s work was so good that I felt honored just to have made it that far.

Brent Houzenga

  • My 1999 Honda CRV got an upgrade thanks to Brent Houzenga. I’ve always wanted an art car and now we (he also painted my husband’s) have two. Half my neighbors think we’re cool, the other half think we are weird. They’re probably both right.
  • I replaced (and upgraded) the camera I left behind in Ireland.
  • Visited my brother in Louisville for Thanksgiving. We’re trying to make it a yearly tradition. My brother cooks professionally, so this is not a problem.
  • I secured a six month fellowship in my field, so I will finally be getting paid to write full-time. Mission accomplished (see below).
  • Read some of the embarrassing things I wrote in high school at Lost Love Letters, which was a fun and surprisingly cathartic experience.

Christy Lorio

  • Oh yea, I graduated last week! Y’ALL. I can not express the joy and satisfaction I felt (okay I can– I’m a writer– but I’m being lazy right now) when I walked across that stage. I received two bachelor’s degrees from UNO and at 35 years old it feels so good that I finally got the damn thing(s). Being an adult student certainly had its challenging moments (balancing a marriage and hours of math homework is not for the timid), but the sleepless nights and sacrifices made were worth it; I feel more confident knowing that I finally completed college. I utterly enjoyed going back to school as an adult; I honestly think finishing in my 20s would have been a waste. I was dealing with too much to focus. My dad died when I was 21, then my grandma died a year later. I also needed to figure out who I was before I could give a shit about schoolwork. I’m proud of what I did, and I think my dad and maw maw would be too.

 

2016 goals

I’ll go with 36 goals since I’m turning 36. I’m also copying off my friend Missy, since I like how she compiled her list last year.

  1. Take the GRE and apply to grad school for the fall 2017 semester
  2. Travel abroad at least once
  3. Visit the Grand Canyon (Okay I’m cheating with this one; my sister is getting married there in June.)
  4. Learn Spanish
  5. Cook more
  6. Spend less money on inexpensive meals (see #5)
  7. Get tattooed
  8. Edit my wardrobe so it’s more cohesive
  9. Take a sewing class
  10. Take more photography classes
  11. Launch a zine (Technically cheating because I’ve already started this, but I want to make it quarterly.)
  12. Spend more time with my friends
  13. Spend more time with my grandparents
  14. Maintain a weekly cleaning schedule
  15. Lose 20 pounds aka fit back into the Billy Reid jeans I bought when I was at my thinnest (and most confident self) six years ago.
  16. Start saving money to put towards a new car
  17. Put a serious dent in my student loans
  18. Read and watch everything on my “to read/to watch” list
  19. Spend less time on social media
  20. Blog once a week
  21. Audition for the volunteer orchestra
  22. Reestablish weekly date nights with my husband
  23. Visit four new museums
  24. Cook for Christmas this year
  25. Paint the bedroom and downstairs bathroom
  26. Take more day trips
  27. Go to the beach
  28. See more movies in a movie theater
  29. Watch more plays
  30. Write everyday (I’m kind of cheating because my new job will require this.)
  31. Go out dancing more
  32. Buy another camera lens
  33. Plan my 100 mile hike for late 2016/early 2017
  34. Bike to work (almost) everyday
  35. Love myself more
  36. Remember to floss

The People I Know: Rebecca

Rebecca Diaz

The third installment of this series is Rebecca Diaz, a friend of mine I met in California but didn’t really get to know until we became coworkers in New Orleans.

HOW WE MET:

I met Rebecca through Monika, a mutual friend, back when I lived in Phoenix and she lived in L.A. (2007-2008ish). We both worked as managers at Buffalo Exchange, albeit in different states. We met when I visited Monika out in L.A.,  and we reconnected when Rebecca moved to New Orleans a few years later and started working at the Magazine Street location. We’ve kept in touch ever since. Apparently she also knew who I was because we frequented the same fashion communities on Live Journal back in the day. And before you try to find it, I deleted my account a long time ago.

WHAT SHE DOES:

Rebecca is a co-organizer for Less Than 100, a pop up shop on Oretha Castle Haley that charges women 66% and men 100% of the retail price. Why the difference in price? Women make just 66% of what men make in Louisiana, and the shop operates on a pay-what-you-earn model. The shop will be in its Central City location until the end of this month.

Rebecca also runs Six Impossible Things, a pop up shop that stocks everything vintage, sequined, and fantastic. Having worked in retail for several years, she has a knack for finding both literal and figurative gems. Catch her at Little Flea NOLA on the regular.

WHO SHE IS TO ME:

Rebecca is one of those people that you can’t help but like the second you meet her. She’s quirky, hilarious, witty, and looks stylish 24/7. She also has a vintage clothing collection that will make you swoon with delight. But even more important than all of that she’s just a decent person trying to do decent things to better not only herself but the community as well. She’s a rising star and definitely one to watch out for.

 

The People I Know: Hannah

Hannah

Hannah engagement photo

Here is the second installment of my People I Know project. My friend Hannah Marcotte (aka my Cork wife) is a natural fit for this series.

 

HOW WE MET

I had two classes with Hannah (we’re both English majors) but we didn’t become friends until we went to Ireland this summer with UNO’s study abroad program. I think we officially met when we both went to the higher ed protest at the state capitol last semester, but we didn’t start conversing outside of social media until we both boarded planes for Ireland this past June. She was also the first UNO person that I ran into when I landed in Cork.

WHAT SHE DOES

Hannah is graduating in December from UNO and is applying to grad schools. She works in student housing and just got engaged to Steve, a UNO film major. I was thrilled when Hannah entrusted me to take their engagement photos last week.

WHO SHE IS TO ME

I heart Hannah.

I’ll admit, I was surprised when we became fast friends. She’s more than 10 years my junior, initially comes across as a bit of a goodie goodie, and she’s in a sorority. But our friendship is a classic example of that old adage to never judge a book by its cover. We have more in common than I ever thought and we were kind of inseparable in Cork. Hannah is hilarious, smart, and just a great friend when you need her. We frequented Monday night karaoke together, went grocery shopping together at “the big Tesco,” and once you’ve taken a creative nonfiction writing workshop with someone it’s hard not to feel a bond with that person. I started to call her my “Cork wife” fairly early into the program, and when I flirted with the idea of breaking into an old asylum Hannah jokingly asked me, “So when you get arrested are you going to call me or Thomas first?” I ended up not going, but I probably would have called her first.

Photos: Hannah at Jackie Lennox Chip Shop, the first official meal we had in Cork. | Engagement photoshoot with Steve.

 

 

Halloween

IMG_1230Christy Lorio

IMG_1234Halloween! It really is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather (sometimes) gets cooler, the leaves start to change (who am I kidding), the air turns crisp (except when it’s steamy as $%#@ outside), and okay screw it, no need to pretend; fall in southern Louisiana toys with my emotions every year. The temperature still creeps into the 80s some days, and figuring out what to wear is a crap shoot. In the morning I’m digging in the back of my closet for a sweater, and by noon I’m deeply regretting not wearing shorts.

Oh, what were we talking about? Oh yea, Halloween. I’m slowly starting to enjoy the holiday again. I have to admit Halloween lost its luster for me a few years ago for several reasons. I worked in a store that sells costumes for 8 years, which was great for my costume closet, not so much for my spirit. There’s nothing fun about trying to locate all six parts for “slutty bumblebee dress with tutu, gloves, headband, and stinger” while you’ve got a line piling up at the fitting room and last minute shoppers calling in desperation looking for “anything 1960s.” Another aspect of Halloween that bums me out is seeing so many damn costume-in-a-bags on the streets. I understand people are busy and sometimes need to piece together a costume on the fly, but as someone who takes great pride in coming up with original costume ideas, it does nothing for the atmosphere (yea, I’m serious) when half the people at the party show up wearing the same uninspired flimsy costumes. I guess mass produced costumes are better than no costume at all, but half the fun of Halloween is seeing the creative costumes that people come up with.

That said, last night was the funnest Halloween I’ve had in years. It rained off and on all evening, which helped with crowd control, which meant only the die-hard partiers were out. I saw some great costumes (lots of Beetlejuice, N.W.A, skeletons, Star Wars, some jellyfish), and the energy was upbeat despite the weather forecast. It was almost like people had a “we’re all in this together” mentality each time it started to pour.

We pieced together our costumes this year with thrift store finds and some online purchases. I found my Victorian-style blouse and a khaki skirt at a thrift store on the same trip. The pieces screamed British safari to me, so we decided to build our costumes around my outfit and the pith helmet that Thomas already owned. The medals on his jacket are leftovers from my high school marching band days. I found them in my mom’s attic recently and knew I would find a way to put them to good use. I made my clutch out of a piece of leftover buckram I had from an old Mardi Gras costume, scrap fabric from another project, and extra trim from this year’s costumes.

The People I Know: Thomas Fewer

Thomas FewerThomas Fewer

 

Hello, friends. It’s been a while since I’ve updated. Truth is, I haven’t felt inspired to post much lately. I have a few good excuses for my blasé attitude towards blogging: I lost permanently misplaced my camera in July, which really sucked. I had dreams that it would magically turn up on my doorstep, but when that didn’t happen I just had to make peace with my idiotic mistake. I’m also smack dab in the middle of my last semester (!!!) so all of my efforts are going into school at the moment. Excuses, I know, but I finally broke down and got a new camera and lenses, the whole shebang, which has given me a reason to update.

One thing I enjoy is making portraits. I’m a decent photographer, but I want to be a good photographer, so I got this idea to start a portrait project for a little fun and practice. I hope you look forward to meeting some people I know on the blog in the upcoming weeks. To kick this thing off I’m featuring someone who might look a little familiar to you– my husband, Thomas.

 

HOW WE MET

I met Thomas two months before my 21st birthday. He had just moved down to New Orleans from Ohio with David, a good friend of his. We both worked as waiters at a high end, grand dame restaurant in the French Quarter. In fact, we all worked there: David, Thomas, myself, my brother Chris, and Ruben, my brother’s now partner of 13 years. I had a self-imposed rule that I should never date a coworker, but we started hanging out as friends and the relationship quickly escalated. William, Thomas’s best friend, told him “That’s the girl you’re going to marry,” and he was right. We’ve been together for 14 years and married for 11.

 

WHAT HE DOES

Thomas is a licensed counselor. He runs his own private practice, The New Orleans Counseling Center and is part of Magna Carta, an improv comedy troupe that performs every Saturday night at Playhouse NOLA. So go see him and tell him I sent you. (True story: I also told myself I would never date a psychologist in fear they would constantly analyze me. So the moral of the story is throw all of your dating rules out the window.)

 

WHO HE IS TO ME

I won’t get too gushy on y’all, but I don’t think there is a better partner out there for me. He’s funny, supportive, remembers to feed the cats (that’s a big one) and gives me the space I need when I’m not my best. When you’ve been with someone for 14 years, you’ll have lots of moments when one (or both) of you are not your best. A dose of patience, humor, and gratitude for one another helps you get through the tough times. Oh, and he also lets me have the last bite of ice cream and knows that I like to hike in front of him when we go backpacking. He tells me we should be buried together holding hands, I joke that I only signed up for “till death do us part.” Here’s to the next 14 years.

Growing up With Hurricanes

Barataria Preserve

 

“Are you planning on writing anything about Katrina?” My friend Missy posed the question to me during one of our quasi-regular coffee dates two weeks ago. The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is coming up on August 29, and my social media timelines are saturated with links to articles from both local and national news outlets.

I have mixed emotions about “K10”. I acknowledge the importance of commemorating the struggle, the lives lost, the frustrations felt (no matter if you stayed in town or high tailed it out of here), but I find rehashing the experience on a yearly basis exhausting.

I’ve shared snippets of my Katrina story with everyone from friends to total strangers, but I’m not ready to write my entire experience down yet. Instead, I’ll share an excerpt from Allons, a longer essay I wrote this summer. The piece is about growing up in a house that was situated on the cusp of the swamp in an otherwise nondescript WestBank subdivision. This particular part of the essay explores what it was like going through adolescence with the constant threat of hurricanes. If you enjoy it, or even if you hate it, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.

 

 

I was eight weeks old when I took my first pirogue ride. The levee was just a glorified dirt mound then, and a storm brought enough rain to flood our house, requiring my parents to bundle me up and float us out. The levee was still inadequate when my brother was born two years later. Whenever Nash Roberts would announce a hurricane was coming, neighbors would join together to fortify the levee with hundreds of sandbags, most likely purchased with their own money. The Army Corps of Engineers finally built the levee up and installed a pumping station that would suck the water out of the streets. However, the levees could only do so much. Whenever Nash predicted a really big hurricane was projected to make landfall, we got the hell out of town. If Nash said it was bad, then it must be bad. Everyone trusted Nash.

My sister was born seven years after my inaugural boat ride and by then me and my brother were evacuation pros. We could each take three toys with us, but no more. Mom would bring photo albums and important documents, such as our birth certificates, to my maternal grandparent’s house, since their house never flooded. Dad would board up the windows with sheets of plywood, which protected the glass panes and blocked light from coming in. We put all of our furniture up on wooden blocks, as if those extra two inches would make a big difference if significant flooding occurred. Anything that could get ruined would go on top of beds, dressers, and closet shelves. I would put my most prized possessions at the highest points, which forced me to assign value to everything I owned. Sometimes I thought about the worst case scenario, imagining our house filled to the roof like an aquarium. I imagined Sac-au-Lait and Redfish doing circles around the wooden dollhouse my paternal paw paw built me. I never worried about my own well being, but worried about my precious belongings, like what would happen to my microscope or my roller skates. Mom and Dad took care of the bigger things that my adolescent mind couldn’t quite comprehend, such as personal safety in the midst of a natural disaster. We also stocked up on canned goods and filled the bathtubs with water just in case water sources became contaminated after the storm. We never needed the water, but once every few years we would have to live without power for a few days and subsist on canned beans and PB&J sandwiches.

1 2 3 67