Friday, March 26, 2010

The Best Kept Secret in the French Quarter

Verti-Marte Deli & Grocery

Let me take this oppurtunity to tell you all about Verti Marte.

Verti-Marte is a small grocery/deli/carryout that exists on 1201 Royal Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, I would highly suggest a visit.  Particularly later in the evening, so you can socialize with the crazies and the drunks who are standing in line to get their mac and cheese or their jambalaya.

As silly a reason as it sounds, my reason for wanting to go to Verti-Marte during my trip to New Orleans had to do with Greg Dulli.  There's a song on the first Twilight Singers record entitled "Verti-Marte" and as soon as I found out about the deli, I wondered if maybe the song had been named after it.  The song is an odd, moody, lush, mostly instrumental  piece with random bits of dialogue repeated throughout.  Does not conjure up the image of a place you'd go get a sandwich at 1 AM. 

Verti-Marte, like all the best food places, is pretty inconspicuous.  You walk in, standing in line and wait to order.

Can I help you, my good man?

You can peruse the large menu up front, advertising "Real Food for Real People at Real Prices".

Real food, dawg

Finally, you get your chance to order.  The food is worth the wait.

Yea, what's your order?

Anna and emerged with a muffuletta sandwich about the size of my face.  It was seriously large...and delicious.  Late at night sometimes, I dream about the sandwich.  It was so big though that Anna and I, together, could barely eat half of it.  I wish I had taken a picture of that sandwich now.

As we exited Verti-Marte, we were accosted by a drunk and/or crazy man eating mac and cheese who loudly exclaimed to us that it was the best mac and cheese he'd ever had.  A few blocks later, we run into this man on Bourbon Street walking a miniature horse outside of a gay bar (where another very nice, hairy man complimented my Twilight Singers t-shirt).
A man's best friend is his pony

A few blocks after that, another very drunk and/or crazy man yelled at Anna and me that we needed to "love each other more!  There's not enough love in this world!"

Then we all had to meet up with our professor (who was taking a bunch of us college kids on this trip) who made us go to a bar to pick up his very drunk ladyfriend and drive her home. 

Overall, it was a pretty legendary night.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Movie Mondays: Caramel (2007) and Linda Linda Linda (2005)

To make up for missing the last few Mondays, I'll post two movie reviews today.  These are movies I've watched recently and particularly enjoyed.  Go check them out!


Caramel (2007)

Starring: Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Adouad, Sihame Haddad, Fatmeh Safa, Ismail Antar, Fadia Stella, Dimitri Staneoski
Directed by: Nadine Labaki
Grade: A

Caramel is a charming ensemble piece by first time director Nadine Labiki.  Labiki is known for her work directing music videos for Arabic pop stars (Nancy Ajram, in particularly) and I was really impressed with this as her debut feature film.  It concerns five Lebanese women living in Beirut and their everyday struggles.  Most scenes take place in the beauty salon where three of them work. The film has a nice balance of drama and comedy.  Despite the fact that it deals with some serious issues in Lebanese society, it never gets too heavy.  The characters deal with such things as being in love, family issues, adultery, sexuality, marriage, re-virginification, homosexuality, living in a mostly conservative culture, and aging.  The chemistry between all of the women is great and their dialogue and interactions feel very natural.  Overall, this film shows an excellant, real slice of everyday life of women living in today's Beirut.


Linda Linda Linda (2005)

Starring: Bae Doona, Aki Maeda, Yu Kashii, Shiori Sekine
Directed by: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Grade: B+

Linda Linda Linda is the story four Japanese high school girls (OK, well, technically one of them is Korean) who form a rock band to play at their school's Hiiragi-sai or cultural festival.  Finally, a movie about Japanese schoolkids where they're not trying to kill themselves or each other! Granted, my exposure to movies about Japanese school children is limited to Suicide Club and Battle Royale but, you know, it seemed like a pattern.  This film is an adorable, peppy, feel-good piece.  When the story begins.Kei (Kashii), Nozomi (Sekine) and Kyoko (Maeda) are in a bit of a pickle.  Three days before the school's festival, their lead singer and guitarist quit, leaving them in a scramble to replace them in time.  Kei takes over guitar (though she barely knows how to play).  They recruit Korean exchange student, Son (Doona) to sing, though her Japanese is a little rough.  They decide to play three songs by Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts and the next few days are a series of grueling, non-stop practice sessions.  Through learning to play together, the girls learn about each other, become friends, and become empowered through the power of ROCK.  Although the pacing is a little off in the beginning and it takes a bit of time to get into this movie, I was eventually won over by its charm, energy, and spirit.  When it's time for the girls to finally play the show they've worked so hard for, you're jumping up and down and rooting for them to kick some ass.  Overall, this is a really adorable movie with some great music.  It made me want to get some stuff by The Blue Hearts...but sadly I can only find imported copies on Amazon for $40.  Sigh.  I'll leave you with the following clip:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Derby Dreamin'

In recent months, I've sort of become obsessed with roller derby.  This is through a combination of attending several bouts with the DC Rollergirls and watching the movie Whip It a couple of times.  The obsession became big enough that I went out and bought some derby skates, a helmet, and pads and spend a good chunk of my idle hours dreaming of my future glory as a derby girl...kicking ass and taking names. 


I'm not sure what it is about derby that captures my interest so much.  I've never really been into sports.  While I like going to the occassional baseball or football game, for the most part I can't be bothered to get into any sports or learn their complicated rules.  I went to my first derby bout out of curiousity.  I liked it   immediately.  I liked the punk-ish DIY aesthetics of the whole things.  I liked the bad-ass aliases that the players use (the DC league has players called "Guantanamo Babe", "Marion Barrycuda" and "Condoleeza Slice", for example).  I liked watching the blocks, the spills, watching the jammer whip around the track in a merciless pursuit of points.


With each bout that I've attended, I've gotten more into it, learned the rules, the penalties, and what to watch for.


Maybe the thing that attracts me is that roller derby is a sport in which women are encouraged to kick some ass, to be strong and aggressive and awesome.


Maybe it's because I feel, deep down, that I need be strong and aggressive and awesome.  That I need to learn to show a little nerve, to gain some confidence, to grow some balls (metaphorically speaking).


Maybe it's just because I want to learn to be able to wear booty shorts and fishnets without fear.


However, my dreams of being a derby girl are currently just pipe dreams.  I cannot skate without looking like an old lady shuffling or without falling on my ass.  But maybe one day I'll grow some balls, learn how to take a hit (as well as throw one), and get out there on the can call me "Hate Winslet".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sláinte Mhaith!

Today was St. Patrick's Day, a good day to wear green, drink Guinness, and pretend to be Irish.  Silly as this sounds, it was a good excuse for me to get nostalgic and think back on Marianne and I's trip to Ireland last July.  It truly was an awesome trip.  Marianne sent me a bunch of her photos from the trip and I had fun looking through them.  Oh, the memories...

There was the time when I felt a weird cumpulsion to hide behind this post in Cork.  I am also amused that there's a sign on the post for an Easter Rebellion commemoration.

Oliver St. John Gogarty in Dublin
And then there was the time I partied with these statues at our hostel in Dublin.

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
And then there was the time I crossed that trecherous rope bridge in Carrick-a-rede.

Sin-e in Cork
And of course, at every bar we went to, Marianne and I declared it METAL.

Paddy's Palace in Belfast
At our hostel in Belfast with Kelly from Canada and Jean-Marc from Miami, who I liked because he loved Anthony Bourdain even more than I did.  He's a chef  and when I brought up Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential, he exclaimed, "Oh my God, I read that book and thought, 'Holy shit, this is my life!'"  He also told me the night before that I was an "awesome girl" because I was the only one "not giving him shit".  The night before was pretty memorable, even though all that happened was a bunch of us hostel people hanging out in the back drinking vodka and beer.  I think a game of Kings was played.  Someone else got out a guitar and someone else played rap music and a bunch of people were talking and kicking a soccer ball around.  Oh, Paddy's, you were a weird and magical place.  I was possibly the only one not hungover in this photo, though I suppose it's hard to tell based on my facial expression.

Guinness Storehouse
And of course, what blog post about Ireland would be complete without the obligatory photo of a pint of Guinness?

At the end of each day, I took my Flip camera and recorded Marianne's final thoughts of the day, which we called our "Anthony Bourdain moment".  Here's my favorite one, at some fish and chips place in Dublin, the night before I was to fly home.