2011 BatB Convention, New Orleans, LA

One More Time in the Big Easy
July 8-10, 2011

Rosemarie's con report

It hasn't happened in a very long time that the con returned to the same hotel a second time. So it was a great feeling to go back to the Inn on Bourbon. This time we had a Bourbon Street balcony and it was wonderful!  At least one night, after the con, I sat there for a long time just watching the activity down below. Strangely enough, this hotel has always reminded me of the Jersey Shore.  (The real Jersey Shore - not the stupid TV show)  On childhood family vacations, we would often stay at the only motel that was right on the boardwalk.  The noise from the boardwalk could be heard until very late at night.  But this was never a bad thing.  It was just a sign that you were on vacation!  So, for this reason I didn't think the noise from Bourbon Street would bother me and it didn't – although it was louder than the boardwalk ever was. 

    Thursday was a great day of tours.  The first was the Courtyard Tour.  The guide for this tour was amazing.  He really knew his stuff and told stories in a lively and interesting way.  We sat in various courtyards around the French Quarter and listened.  The courtyards were lovely – something you would obviously never see otherwise, but the tour really turned out to be more about the history and stories that he told us.  He talked about the family who owned the Laura Plantation and that worked out really well because we were going there!  If we had not been going there, I would have wanted to after listening to him.  And because Deb had taken the tour months ago, we even got some insider information that he had stopped giving to his current tours. That afternoon we did the Mardi Gras and Katrina museums in the Cabildo building and the 1850 House that was a short distance away.  These museums were very good – I loved the Mardi Gras museum especially – but unfortunately, the guides just didn't stand a chance after being compared to the courtyard guy. 

    After the museums, I walked a bit with Liz, Sally & Roz and we wound up near Cafe du Monde because we heard music coming from that direction.  There was a street band on the sidewalk playing "When the Saints Go Marching In."  It was so cool to happen across such a scene.  It became even more fun when the singer began changing the words during the second verse to apply to the Saints winning the Super Bowl.  It was one of those unplanned moments that was just perfect!

    One of the first con activities of the weekend was mask-making with Winter Rose.  The masks are my favorite part of New Orleans.  There are masks in almost every store and I've decided that shopping for a Mardi Gras mask is THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IN THE WORLD. This is true even if the mask is not for me, and this is true even if the mask is for me but I already have two at home from last time.  As you go from store to store there are millions of them and each one is prettier than the one before. I think to me they symbolize all the magic, mystery and romance of "Masques."  But it's also true that they are little individual works of art. 

    I don't know if anyone has seen the series of Mardi Gras posters by the artist Andrea Mistretta.  In 2009, I bought one of her posters at Mardi Gras World.  It was a last minute thing that I would not have bought if we hadn't had to wait for the second shuttle to take us back to the hotel.  Since then, I've been so glad for that second chance because I love the poster.  It was after this poster that I modeled the mask that I made at the con.  This year I was able to get another poster, the current 2011 one.  Also, I found a book of her art.  She has been doing these posters for 25 years, as of 2010, and the book has all of them in it.

    Friday midday we walked over to the cooking school's other location and had a wonderful lunch. I liked the pecan pie dessert much better than the bananas foster of two years ago.  On the other hand, I liked the jambalaya from last time better than the shrimp creole.  It didn't really matter though because the chef, Kevin, was hysterical and he made it a very enjoyable time.  He seemed to remember B&B and did a funny impersonation of how Vincent tosses his hair.  We took a photo with him afterward and I noticed that someone had given him one of the pewter Vincent pins and he had pinned it to his apron.

    After lunch we did Karen's candy dish paper craft.  I love paper crafts and this one was ingenious!  I also enjoyed the card making - it was good making beautiful cards with such a good purpose.  I really love sharing creative time with so many others.  The creativity of B&B fans has always inspired me to develop my own creativity more.  Bev's Drawing Vincent panel was another favorite hour of mine this year.  It was as good as I had hoped and it made me promise myself to continue practicing something that I used to love doing but haven't done in a long time. 

    Other panels, as I recall, were the Dirty Minds game that I know has been played before but this was the first time I was able to play.  The Cheasapeake group has a terrific sense of humor! There was line dancing with Peggy that was a lot of fun.  There was Beast Bingo several times and of course making up the care bags for the charity.

    The Friday night festivities were  lively and fun.  I know there must be some that I can't recall right now but I remember songs from Suze and the Fruitcakes, Winter's 1000 Nighties poem and Vincent in a fabulous Mardi Gras tux!  The Cheasapeake group led the second line parade that ended the night.  I loved catching my very first Mardi Gras beads – thrown to me by Deb. : ) 

The banquet centerpieces were beautiful. Being a book lover I really didn't think anything could top last year's, but the gazebos with V&C's silhouettes were superb and it was magical to walk in and see them there.  These silhouettes have been used before as large banner decorations and I love being able to have my own little copies of them now.

    We also got an update on the bench that was dedicated to Chan, in Oscoda, MI.  We think we felt her presence immediately after that, when the sound system went crazy during a video. We seemed to be picking up loud music from one of the nearby bars.  Deb said that she thought it was Chan, since we had just been thinking of her, and everyone readily agreed.

    It is true that strange, unexplained things, usually having to do with technology, do happen in NOLA!  We had a camera take a picture by itself last year in Muriel's sťance room.  Right before the banquet this year I also had a strange glitch with my own camera.  It took a weird split exposure type of pic when Helen was using it to take a pic of me with a few others.  Our hotel was an opera house after all, if it wasn't Chan it might have been the the Phantom.

    A big surprise during the auction was that there had been scraps of fabric from Vincent's cloak waiting for someone to do something with them all this time.  Peggy made a very moving presentation of the cloak that she lovingly made from these scraps.  It was not a copy of V's so much as Vincentesque.  It was really beautiful and we all got a commemorative card with scraps of the fabric on it in our tote bags.  Up until that moment I didn't really comprehend what was on the card.  I know someone once talked about cutting up one of V's actual cloaks - and I hoped that no one did that!  But this is a very special keepsake that I will treasure.  Later, I was also lucky enough to win the the rose pouch that Laura G. made from the same scraps. It's amazing how much it looks like the real thing and I am honored to own it! 

    I went to church at St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday morning with Rita.  For some strange reason it didn't occur to me last time to do this. But this time I was so glad to be able to say that I attended mass in such a major landmark.  I don't even think I can say that about St. Patrick's in NYC!  I'd have to say that St. Louis is even prettier inside than St. Pat's.  Usually old churches can be very dark inside, but this one was very light and airy and the ceiling was painted in such detail that it reminded  me of pictures I've seen of the Sistine Chapel.
    Sunday activities included the brunch, art auction and a great role playing game in which Vicky and Amber, as V&C, were the stars.  But the thing that stands out most to me is the Closing Ceremonies. This is only the third year that we have done the Closing Ceremonies in this way, but it has already become a not-to-be-missed moment.  I know that sounds odd – the end of the convention has never been a favorite part for anyone.  But Deb's idea to form a circle was outstanding.  I don't know for sure, but I assume that it was JoAnn's idea to expound on that concept and have the virgins stand in the center just like Catherine.  I wish I could have been a virgin at these last two cons and experienced that!  The feeling in the room is truly amazing.  I am suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to hug everyone!  This little bit of magic makes the end of the con so much easier.  There is more of a feeling of completeness when you finally do leave the room now.  I can hardly believe we went so many years without it.

    Following almost right after that was the Cat's Meow and what was probably the best Sunday night at a con EVER.  From the minute we went in and they sent us upstairs I knew it was going to be good.  It was like we had our own special room.  The way it looked down on the stage was awesome!  They mentioned B&B so many times and at one point I looked up and there was a scene playing on the screen.  My sister was watching at home and she said at times you could only hear what was happening on stage because the monitor showed B&B clips.  I really thought it was so nice that they would do that for us.  I can't really believe that was me on stage.  I was so happy that Sonia taped it so I could see that I didn't look totally stupid! ; ) It seems that the good feeling from the Closing Ceremonies, paired with a Hurricane and roomies that encourage me to step out of my comfort zone, all came together that night for one amazing and unforgettable time!  My sister said everyone in the B&B group was great and she also said to tell the girl who did Flashdance (Vicky) that it sounded to her exactly like the original. 

    On Monday, we got another chance to hold a baby alligator on the Swamp Tour.  This tour company was a bit more conservative – they had its mouth taped shut.  I don't know, it seem to me like that was not really necessary.  But because his mouth was taped some of us felt compelled to kiss him!  To paraphrase the Katy Perry song, "I kissed a gator...and I liked it!" : )

    On Tuesday morning I thankfully found time for a deliciously cool and refreshing dip in the beautiful courtyard pool before heading off to the Laura Plantation.  I really liked Laura in many ways better than Oak Alley.  The stories about the women who ran it and the fact that Creole women had rights to own property and vote on property issues long before American women was fascinating and right up my alley of interest.  I wound up getting the book of Laura's memoirs for both myself and a friend.

    Finally, on Wed morning before leaving for the airport, Kat, Tamara and I were able to squeeze in one add-on of our own.  We went to The Degas House on Esplanade Avenue.  It's a beautiful house that the artist actually lived in for about 5 months.  While the house owns one of his paintings and several of his drawings and etchings, it was not really about seeing his work.  It was more of a "Washington Slept Here" for art lovers. : )  Degas is one of my favorite artists from art history class.  Famous for his ballerinas and racehorses, I've always felt that he is a famous painter whose painting are actually beautiful to look at – as art should be.  A bonus was that the tour guide is actually Degas' great-grand niece. 

    Very quickly some favorite food memories: Crab Cake Alfredo the first night at Oceana, The Court of the Two Sisters Jazz Brunch, a roast beef po' boy that was out of this world, a muffalatta at the Cajun Cabin, the last night at Galatoire's with their delicious Crab au Gratin. And Camellia Grill, this wonderful little place that had only counter seating!  We squeezed that in right before leaving for the airport on Wednesday afternoon.

So many memories that I will cherish always. : )


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