Archive for the ‘NEW ORLEANS FUN’ Category

Another tanda   Leave a comment

Another tanda

People who just yesterday played with us on the dance floors around the San Francisco Bay Area suddenly begin to have babies, others die in the most tragic of ways, and a new breed of playmates give us the eye the way we looked at our parents when they shook their heads watching our tastes and preferences. Lucy has morphed into Ethel, and Ricky is now Fred.It feels like just the other day when we made the decision to step aside and throw our support to a former disciple turned tango entrepreneur. In return we’d get the treatment and respect extended to visiting celebrities, and occasionally would be invited to do a workshop or two, or perform at some special occasion.

In between we had to deal to unexpected health challenges, one that almost marked the end of a road. Nevertheless, one year after our last foray as milonga hosts, we returned to the former Taqueros restaurant, now the upscale Irish House.

It was Sunday, the week after the Saints fumbled their 2011 Superbowl hopes in San Francisco, allegedly affected by the same malady that some New Orleanians who venture out of the Parish line suffer, the fish out of water syndrome. What’s great about this city is that nobody goes ballistic, there is no mourning period, they put their Saints paraphernalia away and resume the countdown to Mardi Gras.

We had this idea of appealing to a new group people so the critical mass of dancers in the city would increase, and we were expecting and prepared for a great introductory lesson and an introduction to tango parties to many newcomers. I felt like 1997 again, except I had long hair back then.

Imagine our surprise when face after known face began to file into the upstairs room on time for the multilevel lesson. They changed their shoes and stepped on to dance floor forming a circle. It really felt good and it changed our focus immediately.

We presented a very nice combination consisting of a turn to the left right after the salida in cross feet, then showed a similar salida followed by a turn to the right, and finally taught them how to concatenating them together for a longer and challenging move.

After the lesson, we danced almost four hours non stop, a new after Katrina record. The virtues of dancing at a public place become evident one more time. People made their choices of whom to talk to, whom to dance with, whom to drink with, and whom to sit with. The place really look like (not, I’m not going to say Buenos Aires), the place look like the kind of place where adults go to socialize with other adults.

Even a group of youngsters put some of us to shame, by occupying a table, ordering diner and drinking champagne. We really appreciated every single person who took the time to come, dance and have a good time.

When it looked like we were destined for the geriatric hall of fame, we heard the music, looked at each other and got up to dance another tanda.

Mañana de carnaval   Leave a comment

Mañana de carnaval

Since our first year in New Orleans, we have honored a yearly tradition on Mardi Gras.This year made it eleven years that on the day before Ash Wednesday, on Fat Tuesday, we wake up, have breakfast, dress up for the occasion, and head for the French Quarter.

Every year we shop in our closet for something original to wear

We walk up St. Ann from Jackson Square and make our way to Pere Antoine on Royal and St. Ann. We put our names on the reservation list and proceed to enjoy the last of the St. Ann parade. Music blasts from upstairs, and the street is a cacophony of voices, laughter and happy Mardi Gras wishes.

People know where we hang out for lunch, but they don’t know how we’re dressed

After lunch we make our way to Bourbon Street, and look out for some of our friends wandering around until the sun begins to go down.

Everybody loves to be photographed with intriguing characters

We make one last stop at Quarter Past Time on Chartres where we dance a tango on the sidewalk.

The sidewalk on Chartres St. where we dance before going home

Then we head home to watch the Rex and Comus Balls with all the pomp and circumstances that is expected from royalty.

Words are not enough to describe what is like to be part of the sea of bodies that flood the streets of the Vieux Carre where alcohol and levity rule the day. Remarkably, in eleven years we have never seen or heard of a fight, an altercation, or rowdy behavior. Everybody is on their best drunken behavior, and everyone contributes to the common desire to have a good time.

Our video memories contain adult off color humor, political satire, and artistic displays of normally hidden body parts and suitable for an informed, adult mature audience…

The black and gold house party   Leave a comment

House tango parties are a rarity in the largest cities of the Northeast, Midwest and West. The critical mass of dancers makes almost impossible to dance in a living room. Not so in the Deep South where the culture of tango dancing has not caught up with the global explosion. From Birmingham, to Tallahassee and all across the South, somebody’s home is likely to be the center of tango activities. Tango dancing visitors must go sometimes through extreme maneuvers to find out where the social gathering is, and wondering if, as strangers, they will be welcomed.  It seems difficult to keep the tango from getting tangled into the complex social mesh that has been called the Southern hospitality. Not so in New Orleans.

In the five years before Katrina we managed to get people to like coming out dancing to a variety of public places to dance tango, and by the time the waters flooded the city, New Orleans had a prominent presence in the national tango scene because of weekly Saturday night milongas, a couple of weekly practices and monthly dances, and an annual major festival.

In the five years after Katrina, there has been a slow recovery process where former students have taken upon themselves to offer possibilities to dance, at least once a week and a couple of times a month. But something is still missing , and it is probably somewhere where the receding waters finally went taking the life and joy of a city that care seemed to have forgotten.

That’s why we welcomed the open invitation to a Black and Gold house party at an East New Orleans home that has been rebuilt on a site that had remained submerged under 6 feet of water for weeks after the breaching of the levees. The actual invitation read, Aaron’s Black and Gold Milonga (pre-pre Saints season), 8:00 PM – till,  Aaron’s house. There’s a pool, you can bring anything that will make the party better!

The key word is “party.” And that is something we know how to do with flair and style around here. Grant you, we all had in common our dedication and personal way to love the tango, although there were a few acquaintances of the host, curious about this tango thing he talks about all the time. There is really nothing mysterious or secretive about what makes New Orleanians drive across the lake, cross the river, or get in a car and head out of the city on I-10. It is a simple formula, free food and free drinks, and of course, as host Aaron says, being with people one likes…

The Black and Gold house party New Orleans style

Posted August 16, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME, NEW ORLEANS FUN

Tagged with , , , ,

A birthday party   1 comment

It was an incredible way to wake up the morning of April 16! It had been 48 hours since the call from the doctor’s office revealed that the results of a blood test indicated that I was suffering from a severe anemia. Within the span of three hours I was comfortably installed in Room 232 of the Oschner Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. During the first five hours of Thursday, April 15 my body received two 300 cc transfusions of type O+ blood. Mid morning I was taken to an outpatient procedure room for an endoscopy. A few hours later it was confirmed that the source of the anemia was internal bleeding in the esophagus and stomach inner walls. There was a bacterial infection that turned out positive.
On this birthday morning, Valorie‘s email wishing the Apio Verde to me was the first of a long series of emails and Facebook messages showing an overwhelming show of love and support. Just shortly after noon I was on my way home today, with 600 cc of new blood, a prescription for Nexium to heal the internal esophagus ulceration. The angiogram scheduled for the 20th has been postponed for a couple of weeks until the body replenishes the good blood. My love and gratitude to you all.
I was already feeling a great deal better, and we had a late lunch of salmon, rice and vegetables. Later in the evening still feeling remarkably better than I had in longer than I can remember but not wanting to push my luck, we choose New York Pizza in the neighborhood as the place for our private and low key celebration.
Back home, at 10 pm the phone rang… The people at the milonga at the Practice Place on Canal began to sing “happy birthday” to me led by our friend and organizer Ector… I was totally blown away by the unexpected gesture… What a great evening it had been, Cabernet, New York pizza with my dancing mariposa, and then the phone call…

Nine days later, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, a belated birthday party was organized by Valorie and hosted by our long time friends Denise and Julio.

The birthday vals in photos

After tonight’s highly emotional experience being the recipient of accolades, gratitude, admiration, love and respect, I’m supercharged with emotion and full of positive energy and a desire to live forever. Thank you doesn’t seem a commensurable way to tell everyone who came to Galvez tonight how much this night meant to me. It’ll do for the time been.

My birthday party video

Posted April 25, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in NEW ORLEANS FUN

Tagged with , ,


Ghosts, skulls and pumpkins signaled the arrival of Halloween to the city as the sun set down Saturday evening on the last day of October. Valorie came home earlier and waved her magic wand to transform the front of our home into a trick-or-treater’s magnet, then we sat on the porch to greet kids, parents and grandparents from the neighborhood.

I read somewhere that the origin of Halloween comes from the well-known Celtic celebration Samhain, that means “summer end” and marks the end of the harvests season in Ireland. For old Celts, the door that separates this world with the one beyond opens with the arrival of the Samhain, allowing the spirits to pass through. The familiar ancestors were welcomed whereas the bad spirits were driven away with masks and costumes. With the passing of time, the Celts belief  was mixed with the Christian celebration of the Day of All the Saints, and thus Halloween was born.
Anyway as the night grew older it was time for the adults to party and celebrate so we headed for the Vintage Room on Magazine where a Halloween tango party took place. We enjoyed ourselves very much, dancing to our content to pretty good music, and staying to the Cumparsita set (for the tango impaired, this song signals the end of the evening and the moment when those who want to go home together seek each other for the last dance) knowing that in the witching hours of the night we would get an extra hour to rest our bones, an event popularly known as “fall back” and consisting of turning the clocks back to 1 am when the time strikes 2 am.
That’s what I wanted to talk about… It seems that the excitement of the evening (a.k.a. early vodka tonics and late pinot noirs) set a chain of events as I entered our living room which can be described as unload your sorry rear end on the couch and do a thorough inspection of the interior of your eyelids. Sometime later I opened my eyes, or not, I turned back the clocks or not, the thing is that as some part of me seemed to be tampering with time, the hands of all the clocks kept turning counterclockwise and somebody kept yelling, “play that funky music!”


Everyone knows that employers routinely throw lavish birthday parties for their employees, so it should not come as a surprise to everyone that a few days after we returned from a two weeks trip to New York City, we took guests staying at our Bed and Tango to yet another birthday party for Valorie. Let this video clip speak or better show for itself…

Jack and Caroline give Valorie a fabulous birthday party


On Sunday July 12 we celebrated another year of life for Valorie and Aaron. Beyond the spooky feeling that another year has just flew by, we had a great evening in the company of very special people.

The birthday cake

The birthday cake

The method of celebration

The method of celebration

The place

The place

The wish of the day

The wish of the day

The reality check

The reality check

The symbol

The symbol

The birthday cake and the birthday dance

Posted July 13, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in NEW ORLEANS FUN

LA MILONGA DE PAPA   Leave a comment

Sometimes the simplest of problems lead to some wonderful solutions.

Doug and Catherine are good friends from the early days. Doug has been one of the contacts that facilitated our visits to Ithaca, NY over the years. He has then joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and spends a lot of his time at sea. Catherine is a university professor and she was coming to New Orleans to present a documentary she produced. Doug decided to come and join her.

When Doug wrote about their visit we were very happy to see that the weekend they would be in town coincided with the monthly dance at Lucy’s, so we made plans to go together and dance. The Wednesday before that, we found out that Lucy’s had been moved one week ahead because June 21 was Father’s Day.

At the Thursday class at La Thai, we were surprised to see Steven from Santa Cruz, CA via New Orleans, LA. He too was in town and looking forward to Lucy’s milonga. Just before we left we asked the owners if the tango room would be available Sunday, and to our surprise they said yes. So the Who’s Your Daddy milonga was born. The challenge now was to spread the word and hope for the best.

We couldn’t have been more pleased as the dancers of our community showed up in force and the party was a great success.

I don’t remember ever receiving an ecard within hours of the completion of a tango dance party, or a bottle of fine wine or a book with a Happy Father’s Day wish.

Actually I don’t remember how I got home Sunday night. I do remember Abita beer and FiorelIa’s fried chicken, crashing Clive’s gig at the Palm Court, and most important, I do remember the capacity crowd that filled the tango room at La Thai.

We are very grateful to each one of the participants for giving us the opportunity to show our friends Steven, Doug and Catherine a bit of what a healthy and nurturing tango community could be when people allow their good side to guide their actions.

With two days notice, it was an unexpected pleasure to see so many people engaged in the ritual of dancing and nothing else.

Posted June 21, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in NEW ORLEANS FUN


King cake season is over.

At midnight Tuesday February 24, the New Orleans police began its march along Bourbon Street from the uptown edge of the French Quarter. Led by fit cops riding spirited horses and the chief and his top brass on foot, the patrol cars blasted their sirens, flashed blinding red and blue lights clearing the street, and announced through its loudspeakers that the party was over, that it was time to go home or at least get indoors.

Looking like a modern version of Moses, the NOPD parted the sea of revelers revealing a sea of crap brewing and accreting in the streets, gutters and sidewalks, the garbage of Mardi Gras.

Marching right behind the police squad cars, Garbage king Sidney Torres IV riding a festooned garbage truck led the krewe of Sanitation parade as Bourbon Street was swept, scrubbed and rinsed so the dawning of Ash Wednesday would not see any traces of excess, sin and debauchery.

The city no longer weighs the Mardi Gras garbage to assess the financial success of Mardi Gras to discourage alcohol induced organized littering. But a mega success it was. Crowds matched the pre Katrina levels.

It was a gorgeous day, with blue skies, and warm weather.

Meanwhile, one week into Lent, we returned to our weekly tango night and were pleasantly surprised by the return of Jonathan, our favorite bartender back from training with the National Guard. We also continue to suffer from a shortage of decent male dancers, a curiosity phenomenon associated with the city I was told, something to do with Southern men laziness and sleaziness, I couldn’t catch the slurred phrase coming out of a sazerac sipping local’s lips.

I have long stopped worrying about those who don’t come since I began to pay attention to the quality of my dances with arguably the best tango dancers in the city. There I was feeling like a fox in a chicken coop sharing tandas after tandas with Valorie, Patricia, Linda, Jessica, Graciela… Contrary to traveling teachers or mail order “nuevo” acrobats, I have the satisfaction of having had an important hand in brigning up these ladies to the superb level they occupy. It’s like cooking with fresh herbs grown outside your window. It’s only fair that I love going dancing to Le Phare.

WE DO THE FAT TUESDAY   Leave a comment

The Rex Procession has been the highlight of Mardi Gras day since the Rex Organization was formed and first paraded in 1872. While there had been celebrations in many forms on Mardi Gras before that time, the Rex Parade gave a brilliant daytime focus to the festivities, and provided a perfect opportunity for Rex, King of Carnival, to greet his city and his subjects. The Rex Procession today is true to the long tradition of rich themes, elegant design, and floats built with traditional materials and designs. Most of Rex’s floats are built on old wooden wagons with wood-spoked wheels. In recent years the theme and design of the parade have been suggested in advance of the parade with the publication of Parade Bulletins, designed to give the public a glimpse of what will roll from the Rex Den on Mardi Gras day.

Themes for the Rex Parade historically have been inspired by the worlds of mythology, art, literature, and history, and draw on the rich images of ancient cultures and faraway lands.

The 2009 Parade Theme, “Spirits of Spring,” is true to that tradition. As New Orleans continues its process of renewal and rebirth, the 2009 Rex Procession illustrates the universal appeal of that theme, with beautiful images of Springtime and renewal. From Persephone to Poseidon to Eostre, ancient cultures created legends, myths, and festivals celebrating the arrival of Spring after the harsh winter. Flowers, butterflies, and bears awakening from hibernation—all are portrayed in this tribute to the renewing joys of Spring.

Our first order of the day is to pick a costume we will wear all day, then we head downtown to catch the end of the Rex parade on Canal Street and finally we walk around the French Quarter heading to our lunch destination at Pere Antoine on the corner of St. Ann and Royal. This year we have seen the crowds reach the level we were used to before Katrina. The sun reigned the entire day and we lived to do the Fat Tuesday once more.

Mardi Gras and the Rex parade