Category Archives: Sports and Events

Jack Humphries & the River Cats

A few nights back, Jackson Humphries’ team (the River Cats) had an evening ballgame.  Jack is the son of my friends, Stacy and Scott Humphries, I had 30 minutes or so to get some pictures before dark.  Lots of heroics by the River Cats.   A couple of pictures below are of John Stokes, son a Bob and Macy Stokes.  Coincidentally, John’s team (with Bob as a coach) was on the receiving end of the River Cats’ big victory.

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Cuba (Part 8) Olympic Spirit

 Part of a series from my recent trip to Cuba.  Part 1 is here.

 

 

One quick stop on our Tour de Cuba was at a Havana boxing arena where some of Cuba’s Olympic boxers train.  Despite its tiny size, Cuba has won more boxing medals in the Olympics than any country other than ours.  The folks in these pictures, though, are just boxers-in-training, not Olympic champions.  Like so many places we saw in Cuba, the facilities were tattered, rusting, flaking and crumbling, but that didn’t seem to slow these guys down.  The guy seated ringside (below) was the coach.  I declined the suggestion to join them for some sparring practice.

 

Cuba (Part 5) Club Tropicana

Another in a seemingly-never-ending series of my pictures from Cuba. 

 

Remember  I-Love-Lucy’s Cuban-born husband Ricky Ricardo?  Ricky’s 1950s New York nightclub, the Tropicana, was named for and patterned after the real and original Tropicana in an upscale part of Havana.  Barry Manilow could tout the fictional Copacabana only as “the hottest spot north of Havana,” because there was nothing hotter than Havana itself.  Back in the 50s, Marlon Brando (in real life and in Guys and Dolls) was whisking his love interest off to Havana for an evening of spicy, glitzy tropical entertainment.  Back then, the Tropicana was the most glamorous nightclub in the most exciting city in the hemisphere.

The Tropicana’s proprietors were promptly “interned” by Castro after he took power, but the Tropicana lives on.  Today the casino is gone and the crowd has more European tourists than chic movie stars, but the show is great and the showgirls still look just like the ones in the pictures from the pre-Revolution heyday.  It’s an icon I wasn’t about to miss.  You can tell by some of the photo angles that my seat was approximately one inch from the edge of the stage.  Which made for some interesting (if sometimes PG13-rated) pictures.

Since I get to control what goes on this site, you won’t be viewing any of the pictures of me dancing with a showgirl near the end of the show.  My crew of travel buddies all ducked and pointed to me when one of the dancers stepped off the stage in search of a dance partner.  Hey, the joke’s on them:  How many Americans can say they’ve danced at the real Tropicana?!?

 

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Skip back to Cuba (Part 4) Kings of Cohiba

Mardis Gras 2012

It’s Fat Tuesday, and you’ll be relieved to know that I have been successfully evacuated from New Orleans.

Mardis Gras festivities center around parades – usually 3 or 4 parades each day – each of which is put on by a New Orleans area “krewe.”  Krewes are like fraternities for grown-ups (using the latter term loosely).  A little like the Shriners, except that their primary mission is just to throw one great big bash (including a parade) each year.  If this sounds like an odd or shallow mission, bear in mind that the Mardis Gras celebration is arguably the single most important part of the culture and the economy of New Orleans.  Don’t get me wrong:  Mardis Gras is not for the faint of heart.  You’ll see some things you were not expecting to see, and a few things you’d rather not see.  But once you learn to navigate the terrain, you’re part of a unique American and the Southern tradition.

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The picture just above is my friend Shane.  Shane is a member of a krewe called Bacchus, which means Shane dons a mask and a goofy costume and rides a parade float, throwing beads.  The Bacchus parade is not quite on the scale of the Rose Parade, but it’s closer than you might think. Each year, he invites 30 or 40 or 50 of his closest friends (mostly couples — a fully-coed and mostly-civilized crowd) to join him in New Orleans.  This was my eighth consecutive year.  Shane always brings a truckload (literally) of those enormous, gaudy, ridiculous strings of beads, so that we can all walk around town handing them out all weekend.  (The stereotype that Mardis Gras beads all go to young ladies who, uh, ‘flash’ for them is 99% incorrect.  The beads go to little kids who come out to see parades, to groups of grandmas in town for the weekend – to pretty much anybody who’ll smile and chat for a bit.)  Shane loves to come across total strangers walking around town with ‘his’ beads on.

Several of the parades have a big gala or “ball” at the end of the parade.  The Bacchus krewe’s ball is a black-tie, long-gown event with about 10,000 guests.  As someone observed this year, it’s like a gigantic tailgate party in tuxedos. The highlight of the ball itself is that the parade actually comes right through the middle of the party – with beads flying everywhere.  The guy in the King costume in the pictures below is Will Ferrell, the comedian; he was the Mardis Gras King of Bacchus.

The Bacchus event is always the Sunday before Mardis Gras (Fat Tuesday).  Fat Tuesday, of course, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.  Ash Wednesday is forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter.  Easter is the first Sunday after the night of first full moon after the first day of Spring (which is usually, but not always, Passover).  So I love it when people ask “When is Bacchus this year?” because I can tell them “It’s the Sunday before the Tuesday that’s just before the Wednesday that’s 40 days (not counting Sundays) before the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring – at about 7:30p.m.

The street scenes in the pictures are mostly Bourbon Street.  The park with the horse statue is Jackson Square (named for then-General and later-President Andrew Jackson, a hero of the Battle of New Orleans). During the parades, I enjoyed taking pictures of the band kids more than anything — so much so that I’m giving those pictures a page of their own.  Obviously, the trumpeter shown in the daylight shot above is no kid – he’s a “pro,” if you can use that term for someone who hangs out in a park and plays the theme from Rocky when somebody throws a dollar in his trumpet case.  Only in New Orleans do the majority of trumpet players pooch their cheeks out like that.

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Mardis Gras Bands 2012

 

As I mention in my main Mardis Gras post, some of the best parts of Mardis Gras parades are the New Orleans area high school bands.  The best ones are often from the mostly-black high schools.   I started trying to get some interesting pictures of some of the band members as they marched by.  Remember:  I’m a long-time band nerd myself.  These groups had an amazing number of twirlers, pom poms, cheerleaders, drum majors, rifle carriers, sword bearers and everything else.  Good to see that band was apparently considered “cool” at these schools.  I sure thought they were.

The two pictures with several kids acting a little crazy was the culmination of a “duel” of sorts between two big New Orleans bands.  The two bands set up in an intersection, facing one another, and took turns doing their best to outplay their rivals.  They were both great — amazingly so for high school bands who had just finished three-hour parades.  Toward the end, one group ran forward to taunt the other.  I was standing right between the two groups — right in the middle of the craziness.  You can see the New Orleans police standing there as if to keep the peace, but it was all in good fun.

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