My favorite kind of trip to New Orleans

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

My favorite kind of trip to New Orleans is to go by myself, leave the house at the time I want to leave, go to the places I want to go and take my sweet old time at those places.

I’ve done this hundreds of times since I was in my late teens and my latest trip started at 2:20 p.m. from my home in Gulfport on  Saturday for the Magazine Street Champagne Stroll and Independent Bookstore Day, but I had other reasons to make the trip.

First stop:  The new Shipley Do-Nuts on Old Metairie Road in Old Metairie for vanilla cream- and chocolate-filled doughnuts that were as delicious as the ones I remember from the 1970s when I would go to the Shipley at Hewes Avenue and Pass Road in Gulfport, and I miss those visits because that Shipley has been history for a long time.

Second stop: Stein’s in the Lower Garden District on Magazine Street for the best challah around, as good as what my dad made at home, though I had to park two blocks from the deli and market because the lease for the Stein’s parking lot, above, was terminated April 30.

Third stop: Octavia Books on Octavia Street off Magazine to buy a signed copy of Ann Patchett’s little gem titled “The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore,” and I saw so much more I wanted to buy, including Simon Griffin’s punctuation guide with a dirty word in the hilarious title.

Fourth stop: Antieau Gallery on Magazine, which features the work of artist Chris Roberts-Antieau, with beer for the Stroll.

Fifth stop: Young classical musicians were playing in front of a store just 350 feet down the street from the gallery. Never found out if they took requests, though I think they accepted tips. One possible request for next time: “How about a little ‘Eleanor Rigby’ for the all Catholic drinkers?”

Sixth stop: I completed my trifecta of daily dough with a bag of bagels at  La Boulangerie, a Magazine Street bakery, so I put it in my car with the doughnuts and challah.

Seventh stop: I think this pretty horse on Oak Street wanted to talk. We could have had a conversation.  I know drunks on Bourbon Street have had horse hallucinations, but I was sober and so was this creature.

Eighth stop: Surfin’ and turfin’ at Parkway Bakery and Tavern on Hagan Avenue with the best po-boy anywhere: Roast beef and fried shrimp.

I didn’t mean to offend my family and friends when I wrote the lead to this fine piece of quality journalism. They are always welcome to make a New Orleans trip with me, but just remember we will go to my places first and we might not have to go to your places.

Like Kramer said on “Seinfeld”:

I’m doin‘ what I do, the way I’ve always done it, and the way I’ll always do it.

Editor’s note: All the photos are mine and all were taken Saturday except for the featured image, which is from 2017.

 

 

 

 

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Striving to win Sir Paul vs. Phil Collins debate

The Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet' was published in 2016 and comes out in paperback in September 2017.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

GULPORT, Miss.  It all started on Oct. 18, 2016, with a Facebook message from Sun Herald sportswriter and longtime colleague James Jones.

“Sir Paul took a shot at my boy Phil,” James said.

James’ message included a link to a story in which Phil Collins, promoting his memoir, “Not Dead Yet,” revealed he still resents Paul McCartney after the Beatle allegedly mocked an autograph request at a Buckingham Palace party during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 2002.

In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2016, Collins said that “McCartney came up with Heather Mills and I had a first edition of ‘The Beatles’ by Hunter Davies and I said, ‘Hey Paul, do you mind signing this for me?’ And he said, ‘Oh Heather, our little Phil’s a bit of a Beatles fan.’ And I thought, ‘You f**k, you f**k.’ Never forgot it.”

Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet,' which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir ‘Not Dead Yet,’ which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.

 

I got the feeling I was supposed to side with Phil and James.

This sarcastic thought raced through my mind: “Oh, I feel sorry for Phil Collins.”

James and I agree on a lot of things. We think actor William Devane is cool. We like old TV shows like “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley.” We like the classic Rat Pack movies like “Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods.”

I’m entertained when James talks about Frank DeFazio, Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, Lenny, Squiggy, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio. He says we have worked with Laverne-like women in the Sun Herald newsroom, ones without the nasal Bronx accent but with the attitude.

James always mentions Doug Barber, our longtime Hall of Fame sportswriter colleague, when he talks about the Newsroom Lavernes.

The Newsroom Lavernes pushed Doug around. Doug is usually fearless about women, but the Newsroom Lavernes always intimidated him. Maybe that’s why he retired a couple of years ago.

James and I imagine Doug would shiver just seeing this Laverne DeFazio line.

Touch my “L,” sweetie, and your teeth go to Peoria!

James and I don’t agree on Phil Collins. James is a fan. I’m not a fan. I’m a Paul McCartney fan.

I told James “Phil Collins is a hack. His songs are terrible and he’s not even a good drummer. Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil Collins.”

Yeah, I’m quite aware drumming isn’t Sir Paul’s day job. Phil has played drums more often, and I have to admit, far better. I just wanted to antagonize James.

James seems to think “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is a great song and I think it is sappy and syrupy stuff. 

I couldn’t believe we got caught up in this. James is in his 40s and I’m in my 60s, but the more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. It was good-natured.

I told James that Phil was a 13-year-old extra in the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and perhaps that would have been a good time for Little Phil to ask for Paul’s autograph.

“U cold-blooded,” James said.

Our Facebook exchanges, all from his home to mine, carried over to the newsroom, where James sought sympathy for Phil from anyone.

He found it from the Page One designer, who was told the autograph sob story and then called Sir Paul “a big old douchebag.”

When I heard that, I thought, “Oh, brother.”

James, with someone finally on his side, told me, “Take that, you hater.”

Roy Rolison, my sports editor from back in the day, chimed in on my Facebook page with an old photo of Paul playing the drums. Roy was on my side.

“Paul has created an online instructional site to tutor, show the ropes to Phil Collins,” Roy said.

I have no idea if James saw the snarky post. Maybe he was listening to “Take a Look at Me Now.” If not that, maybe “Higher Love,” the only Steve Winwood song he likes. 

I retired from the Sun Herald on March 3, 2017, and I brought up our Phil-Paul exchanges during my little farewell speech to the newsroom on March 2.

Much of my prepared speech, which I worked on up to the last minute after a couple of weeks, was about parting shots and inside jokes. James said many nice things about me, but I had to poke him one more time.

“James, I’m ready to bury the drumsticks, though I still think Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil,” I said.

The line got some laughs, but I doubt that’s the last word.

Not dead yet, you know.

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Get off my comfy chair!

My comfy chair at Barnes & Noble in Gulfport
Chair
Not my favorite chair at Barnes & Noble in Gulfport/JOHN E. BIALAS

 

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Testy afternoon thoughts while waiting for my comfy chair at Barnes & Noble in Gulfport, Mississippi:

Don’t interview your job applicant right here among the magazine displays.

This bookstore is not your office.

This place is for people who want to sit, relax and read.

I don’t want to overhear your conversation with the woman next to you. Both of you are in two of the store’s few comfy chairs and I’m in an uncomfortable chair mainly because of you two.

Hey man, I don’t want to hear your color code system (“we have yellow and orange”).

I don’t want to hear the train whistle that is your cellphone ring.

I want you to leave. Now.

I came here to escape distractions and seek out other worlds far from my own.

I planned to read a few pages of a Dave Eggers paperback and an Eleanor Brown paperback, but you made me sneeze so hard from whatever manly fragrance you’re wearing (Johnny Depp Dior perhaps) that you’re forcing me to sit in the Starbucks cafe.

I don’t like to sit and read in the cafe. It’s uncomfortable being surrounded by religious people and lonely laptop people, even more so when the baristas fail to fill the water pitcher or they hide the water pitcher.

I get really thirsty when I’m irritated.

Since I retired, I make daily appearances at the store and I usually find a comfy chair. I even have a favorite comfy chair and might even chat with a couple of people also relaxing in their comfy chairs.

I believe my loyalty to Barnes & Noble entitles me to free reserved seating.

My comfy chair at Barnes & Noble in Gulfport
My comfy chair at Barnes & Noble in Gulfport/JOHN E. BIALAS

 

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Wasting time trying to buy ‘Elbowing the Seducer’

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I wasted two days trying to buy the out-of-print 1984 novel “Elbowing the Seducer” after reading about it on The New York Times website.

Times critic Dwight Garner wrote about the novel in his “American Beauties” column June 16 and this led me to an obsessive search of online stores because the book sounds intriguing and I would like to buy a copy to read this summer.

Garner hooked me with these two paragraphs:

The tangiest literary-world roman à clef to emerge from the ’80s — it is almost certainly the best of the past four decades — is “Elbowing the Seducer” (1984), the first novel from a writer named T. (for Trudy) Gertler.

It’s awful that this novel is out of print. It’s more awful that Gertler, who is still with us, has not written a second book. She has a high style, a feel for social comedy and a deadly eye for detail.

I enjoyed the column, which is “about undersung American books of the past 75 years,”  and I was on my way seeking a used copy of “Elbowing the Seducer” for under $10.

Hardback. Paperback. It didn’t matter to me as long as it was in good condition.

Right to Amazon

I looked at a lot of sites, Amazon being my go-to, but one seller there wanted $157.71 and $3.99 shipping for a used paperback in good condition. That sounded money-hungry.


Then I ran into two Amazon third-party sellers seeking ungodly amounts of money: $999 plus $3.95 shipping for a used “Elbowing the Seducer”  hardback copy in good condition and $2,360.10 plus $3.99 shipping for a used hardback in good condition.


Greedy guts!

You might say, “Why not go to the library in your town?” I did. “Elbowing the Seducer” was not in the library database. Instead, it was suggested I search for “Plumbing the Elmer” and “Skidding the Row.” That’s what the titles looked like to me. Maybe the type was fuzzy.

Maybe at eBay


Not long after that, I found four offers for under $10 from an eBay seller and I’ve included a screen shot of three of the offers.


I eliminated two offers after learning the condition of  both copies was merely acceptable. One didn’t have a dust jacket.


The best copies from this seller were a used paperback in good condition for $4.47 and free shipping and a used hardback in good condition for $7.64 and free shipping.


I was all set to use my PayPal on the paperback or the hardback until neither one showed up in my shopping cart. I couldn’t contact the seller so I talked to an eBay customer customer service rep, and after 45 minutes on the phone with him, he told me the seller probably had not updated their settings and that the copies probably had been sold.

If I am able to buy two good copies of “Elbowing the Seducer” somewhere else for under $10 each, one will be for me and the other I will give to you. You won’t even need a cart.

 

 

 

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Beatles fans in their own write

By JOHN E. BIALAS

Going back to the biography Hunter Davies wrote in 1968, when I was 16 years old, I have at least 20 books about the Beatles.

Did I really need to read another one? Yes, I did.

The latest is In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs.”

The collection of essays is really a book of stories that are deep, meaningful and emotional.

A Beatles obsessive will go in with a lot of knowledge and will learn even more.

The stories are personal, familial, analytical and opinionated.

They offer fresh takes. There are twists and turns.

All of this makes me happy, just like a Beatles record makes me happy.

Baby and the basset

Tilly is our 4-year-old basset hound, and since her name is in the title of this blog, I’m required to have something related to Tilly to help me get clicks.

One of the ways I hope Tilly will get me clicks is the game I play on my Facebook page: Tilly or not Tilly?

On Facebook, I post a photo or video of a basset who looks like Tilly and ask, “Tilly or not Tilly?”

This blog’s first Tilly or not Tilly? is inspired by a video I saw on “Inside Edition” on Tuesday. Don’t ask me why I was watching “Inside Edition.” I will just tell you. I was stranded in the house until 5:30 p.m. because of rain from Tropical Storm Cindy.

You can see the video here. Tilly or not Tilly?

 

 

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Pursuing my interests one post at a time

By JOHN E. BIALAS

Pictures of Tilly is the title of this new blog and the name is inspired by The Who song “Pictures of Lily” and our family’s 4-year-old basset hound, Matilda, better known as Tilly.

The blog will be about my many interests, Tilly being one of them. You can expect to see pictures of Tilly. I just might have one running with this post. The thing is that the blog will not be pet-centric.

I’ve got so many other things I want to write about: The Beatles, books, bootlegs, pizza, po-boys, gyros,  New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, Covington, Madisonville, Mandeville, sports, TV, movies, art and photography.

In recent years, I’ve written about my favorite food on my Give Pizza A Chance Facebook page and I’ve written about my favorite music on my Tripe Face Boogie Facebook page. Some of the posts on this blog will have the spirit of Give Pizza A Chance and Tripe Face Boogie.

And if I think of anything else I like, I will write about that, too. Oh, yeah. Maybe doughnuts.

For now, this is a work in progress, but I have the time and the patience to speed up the process.

This post was originally published Monday on a free WordPress site. It’s being reprinted with some rewrites after I paid for a Go Daddy-hosted WordPress site with all the SEO bells and whistles.

I have a lot of time for writing about my interests. I retired from the Sun Herald newspaper on March 3, 2017, after 45 years and now every day is a day off and every week is a week’s vacation.

My plan is never to take a day off from blogging.

What else might I write about this week?

  • “In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs,” a new anthology of essays
  • An exercise in futility: A failed pursuit to buy an intriguing out-of-print novel after reading about it on The New York Times website
  • My long-running debate with Sun Herald sportswriter James Jones about Paul McCartney vs. Phil Collins

After that, maybe doughnuts.

 

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