Guess who went to New Orleans?
These guys!(Smells like we didn't have a picture of us together in New Orleans and a little like Hugo Boss for Men)
Guess who got a tattoo?
ME! (This is a picture of me and the socks I got from Santa...actual tattoo pictures at end of story)
So you know whats coming right?
Its a Biztastic Picture Holiday Wrap Up Post! I'm like the Dick Clark of this website.
Let's start with PRESENTS! Stefan and I were apparently very good this year so I will only select a few highlights of the gifts we recieved.
Look who got a door mat that looks like a NYC subway manhole cover!
And I got the most rad gift ever! A POLICE SCANNER!We have already heard a police chase of "4 suspects on foot in the weeds, copy, one is armed and they are in the weeds." WHAT? I don't know but its totally awesome!
"Join me Stefan! And together we shall rule the galaxy!"
I got the Black and Decker STORM STATION! Why? Because my Stefan knows I am a crazy paranoid person! What is it? "When storm emergencies hit, it's good to have electricity, light, and a radio. It's even better to have all those things together in one place and easy to find when the lights go out. Black & Decker gives you all the emergency essentials in one handy StormStation."
Look! I got a bunch of comic book stuff!
Look! Stefan got a bunch of U2 stuff!
(NYC manhole cover not affiliated with U2)
Biz: I guess I'll try your new Tiger Woods golf game.
Stefan: Ok Biz, that's enough.
Biz: NEVER!!!! ITS MINE ALL MINE NOW!!!!
I already had these boxing gloves, but they seemed appropraite to use while brushing my teeth with this new toothbrush THAT PLAYS THE ROCKY THEME SONG WHILE YOU BRUSH!
ME-OW! Santa brought me some Purrrrfect crazy cat luggage!
It was a very Merry Christmas in the Stefan and Biz household!
Then on Christmas day we flew down to New Orleans. I won't go through the whole chain of events that led us down there, but the decision was made and we went, along with my sister and her husband, down to the Big Easy to do a little volunteering and a lot of eating.
It was very cool. Let me stress that you should go. Any place you would have gone as a tourist is totally fine! I think there is this big fear that you will go there and everything will be depressing and "broken." It isn't. The bulk of the damage was done to the residential homes and because of a lot of bullshit and bad organization, the rebuilding of the homes is taking a long time and the home owners are frustrated and either aren't coming back as it is too much to deal with or are tied up in red tape trying to get their homes cleaned and then rebuilt. As a result, there are a lot of stores, etc that aren't open...but there is so much that is open, you can find something to do all the time. It does feel a little empty down there. Only 1/4th of the city's population is there and the tourists aren't really pouring in...but Stefan and I didn't mind as it allowed us to barely wait for anything! No lines and no giant swarming drunk crowds....it was heaven!
On our first day there we worked with a group called Acorn, who was stripping houses. It has been over a year and still only a third of the homes damaged have been dealt with. A home owner can sign up to have their house stripped by a number of volunteer run organizations, then when they get to you on the list, volunteers like us show up and strip everything out of the house, down to the frame so that a rebuilding crew can come in and...well..rebuild. It is pretty weird, just think, it has been a year and no one has gone into the house and everything is pretty gross and its full of personal items...it is hard for the homeowner to throw out their own stuff...so we wound up tossing personal items that couldn't be saved and furniture, clothes, everything. It was very intense...of course, not nearly as intense as it is for the people who live there. I have no before pictures, but here are some of the during and the after.
Here is the house we were working on.It is a "double shotgun" house, meaning it is split down the middle into two homes. The home on the left was already emtpy of furniture and personal items, the one on the right was full of everything.
Basically you pull everything out, including the walls and appliances and the ceiling if it has water damage and then dump it on the street.We were told that the Army Corp of Engineers comes and pick all this up, but that contract ends in a few months and it will be up to the home owner to get rid of that stuff...which in my opinion, sucks. I of course am no expert into how things work down there, but i know that I felt frustrated just hearing about it and seeing the little I was exposed to.
Here is the house after we were done.
Here I am looking totally bad ass. The whole process went from 7:30am to 2:30pm. We were up in the upper 9th ward, and then drove back to the French quarter where we ate a giant friend shrimp Po Boy, fried crab claws, and a dozen oysters and tore it up on Bourbon street like a good tourist is supposed to. Stefan had his first Hurricane. We then spent over 3 hours at the Cat's Meow kareoking and making friends with a bunch of people. It was at this bar that Stefan went to the counter and asked for 2 bud lights and was given 6 and told "it's happy hour." How happy!
The next day we worked at the Second Harvest Food Bank. If you want to do any volunteering in your area...do this!!!! It was a blast! We spent four hours with other volunteers in this very I Love Lucy chocolate candy episode style set up where donated food items like cans, drinks, cereal, etc came around a conveyer belt and then got sorted and you boxed them up. IT WAS AWESOME! A lot of the canned goods were barely dented, but donated from the grocery stores because, you know...we as a society couldn't possibly buy a slightly dimpled can of peas. It was cool being on the other side of a food drive, you know? I got to see what WASN'T donated. Food banks get lots of canned goods already, what they need is breakfast foods and paper products like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, tampons, plates, etc. Stuff I never thought about donating! Remember that next time you are looking to donate.
Sorry no pictures.
Enjoy instead this picture of a giant walking Hangrenade.
And here is a dark picture of the Table Top Dancing establishment. You will see by the sign that the "Prices are moderate" and if you squint, you can see the fake "Sexy feet" that swing in and out of the windown next to the sign.
This place has been here for YEARS! It is a classic. However, after the hurricane, apparently Hustler came down and bought up a TON of places, we must have passed 6. Bourbon street is as classy as ever!
And now....what is really important...the tattoo.
I didn't really tell anyone about my plans to do this as I wanted it to be for me. Then I thought, maybe I shouldn't tell anyone now that it is done. I mean it is for me right? Maybe I should keep it for myself and let people see it when they see it.
But then I thought like myself and said "screw that! I am showing everybody!!"
Here I am at Electric Ladyland in New Orleans on Frenchman street (which is a very cool area where all the local "punks and tuffs" hang about and has all the old vintage stores, etc). My arm is so naked!
I have had the concept of a homage to my southern roots for a while now. A giant rebel flag with the words "American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God" scrolling beneath it was one thought...but then I decided to go with my gut and create an original design made up of the southern flowers that were in my back yard growing up in Alabama. I did a lot of research on the tattoo parlor and was really happy with the artist. He drew up a great design and we got going.
Did it hurt? YES! This is me hurting and that's only the outline. This moment is the ONLY moment in which Stefan wasn't holding my hand. I could barely get out the never ending string of "swears" that exploded from my mouth. Here I am looking a little tougher, a little paler, and a lotta tattoed.
This is Henry Rhodes, the gentleman who scarred me for life. On three seperate occasions after this meeting, we ran into him in various spots all over the city. It was a bit weird by the end.
Here is a lovely close up to bask in. It did hurt, but it was worth it and I love it.
From start to finish this holiday was fantastic. Great and thoughtful gifts, a wonderful trip to a great city, the chance to work with amazing and giving people, a lot of fantastic food and a bad ass...ok...a lovely and dainty tattoo to boot.
Yee haw and Happy New Year!