Emory on MREs—One Cat’s Story of Survival and Stardom

New Orleans was very much a frontier town in the early days after Hurricane Katrina. Not to say that it isn’t still in many ways, nearly 3 years later. But when Brenda and I returned at the beginning of the fourth week we easily saw why the general public was still not allowed into the city limits. Downed live oaks and power lines, and sundry debris scattered the landscape. Then there was the general lawlessness with sounds of gunfire being common just days before.

But we did have some sense of safety, what with squads of heavily armed soldiers—toting automatic weapons and grenade launchers—sharing the streets with first responder relief workers and a dramatically decreased local police force. Luckily, the latter had support from parish, state, and federal law enforcementand—and even Israeli Special Forces guarding the gated Audubon Place neighborhood—establishing our own military state. So it was with door machine gunners in circling helicopters and low-flying C-130 cargo planes passing overhead every hour or so, that we lived our tentative life.

Brenda had her week-long stay at the hospital during this first 7 days of our return. Being an ICU critical care nurse, she was required to stay at the hospital during the entire week. This left just Angelo, his daughter Julie, and I in the neighborhood. It was great fun. He and I used chain saws to dismember fallen trees, and I rode high in the scoop of his front-end loader for the taller reaches. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the safest practice since most of the area’s hospitals were still shut down. Yet we cleared and cleaned up our neighborhood, getting back to some semblance of normalcy for our own safety and mental well-being.

One rare phenomenon was the presence of numerous dogs and cats wandering the streets. Many owners left a couple days’ food and water for them, thinking they’ll return from evacuation within a day as we’ve all done time after time over the years. It was a strange sight, indeed—these former pets, many with collars, roaming the streets wide-eyed with looks of confusion. Their emotions seemed to be a mix of trepidation of strangers and need for companionship—and food.

None really came near Angelo and me as we worked except for a mackerel tabby cat we called Jenny. Angelo called her Li’l Momma because she was pretty large in the mid region, leading us to believe she was pregnant. We first saw her following the National Guardsmen as they patrolled up and down the streets, but eventually she started hanging around us since we proved to be a steady source of food. She was friendly enough, as long as you didn’t try to pick her up, touch her belly or legs, or anything else other than to pet her head. She was a biter; not piercing or malicious—just a warning to stop doing whatever you’re doing.

Fast Forward a Few Months

As people slowly returned to the city, our neighborhood became more fully populated with those who were ever going to return. Jenny was still roaming the streets so Brenda and I decide to adopt her, knowing that animals stand a far better chance living indoors than outside, and figuring that her kittens would have a better chance of survival if not born on the streets. It wasn’t difficult coaxing her into a carrier for a trip to the vet. But I was going to let them deal with the biting issue.

The vet had a number of good bits of information for us. First, Jenny was virus-free. While she did need to be de-wormed, she generally was healthy. Next, she’d already been fixed. Finally, we were told that she wasn’t pregnant—that this was impossible since she actually was a he. Who knew? Now we had to change her name. Remembering that he probably had lived the weeks and weeks after the storm on MREs provided by our urban warfare troops, I decided an appropriate name would be Emory.

Like many in the neighborhood Emory had quite a story of survival so I wrote about him for my friend, Terri’s, website crazyforkitties.com. Then, months later I started getting what I thought were a series of spam emails. I recognized neither the subject line nor the sender and promptly deleted. The next day I got a couple more from the same sender, Shawn—this time with “We love Emory too!” in the subject line. Okay, that’s my new cat’s name, so I viewed the message without opening it.

The email was from the casting director for a film production company in Los Angeles. They’d been told about my article by a talent scout for a new reality series they were developing, and The Story of Emory was exactly the type of tale they were seeking. Eventually, Shawn and I talked on the phone and he told me how interested everyone was to shoot one of three segments for their pilot episode at our house.

The company, Black & White TV, was putting together a pilot for a new show called Housecat Housecall. The concept is that a celebrity veterinarian from Australia comes to your home to help a cat’s owners deal with specific issues. In our case, the production company loved the idea of a cat having survived Hurricane Katrina and being adopted, and that the owners were trying to help it assimilate into a new, domestic environment. It was akin to grabbing a wild squirrel off a tree trunk and saying, “Okay, you’re now going to be an indoor squirrel.”

Purina pet foods was sponsoring the project, and the executive producers agreed that this was the perfect story of survival and compassion, and a great opportunity to help two owners cure—or at least to better deal with—their pet’s problems.

Emory Issues

Emory had a number of issues to address. First, there was the biting problem. He wouldn’t let me touch his paws, much less clip his claws. And a bath was out of the question. Next, he had the bad habit of clawing the floor rugs and some of the furniture. We’d never had that problem with any of our other cats and didn’t quite know how to deal with it, especially since scratching boards and posts didn’t interest him. But the worst problem was that he urinated on newspaper next to the litter box instead of in the litter box. Bowel movements were where they were supposed to be, but urine still flowed everywhere but inside the box.

He had another issue that fascinated the producers but which I never really considered a problem. Emory loved to shower with us. Yep, within seconds of hearing our twin 6-inch showerheads start flowing, Emory would bolt from wherever he was through the master bedroom and into the shower stall. Once inside, he’d simply walk around and lick himself where the water hit him. After a few weeks of this I made it clear to him that, while Brenda had no problem with such behavior, I, on the other hand, felt there’s something not right about showering with a cat.

Thinking that he simply was thirsty, I tried a couple different water fountains, rationalizing that he probably preferred drinking from flowing water sources than a water bowl. But he looked at the devices with fear and loathing—probably because of the vibrations and sound of the pump motor. Instead, when we weren’t showering and he was thirsty, he’d stretch upward toward the kitchen sink and look over his shoulder at us to pick him up (the only time he’d allow it) to drink from the faucet. Well, this was another practice I discouraged but that Brenda felt was harmless, as long as we kept the countertops wiped down after he finished.

After a few weeks of more production details, contracts, and releases, Brenda and I agreed to let the film crew into our home to shoot their segment. We had to ensure they understood that any damage they caused could potentially be expensive to them since you can’t just go to Lowe’s or Home Depot to replace parts of a 100-plus-year-old house. Such accouterments normally come from specialty salvage and restoration supply shops and can be costly.

We received assurances that the production company was fully insured, and scheduled the shoot. The crew arrived on a Friday, checked into their hotel downtown, and told me that they’d like to send the field producer and cameraman to our house that night to meet us and to give me a camera with the hopes that I might be able to shoot some footage of Emory in the shower. They’d had trouble in the past with pets not cooperating once a full film crew was in place and they wanted to cover all bases.

During negotiations I’d let them know that my MFA work was in television video and film production, so they trusted me with their equipment and to pick up some decent shots in case they couldn’t get Emory to perform on cue. So field director Rob and the cameraman came over Friday evening to meet Brenda and me, to give me a camera, and to tell me what sort of shots they needed. They said they’d return the next morning with the star veterinarian and the rest of the crew.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday morning the crew started arriving. First, there were the two directors, a cameraman, an audio technician, a video assist computer guy, and a production assistant. Then, the hair and makeup women arrived and asked Brenda and I where we lived. We said, “Uh, we live here.” They thought our home was a set, probably because the renovator did such a good job on the turn-of-century structure. After setting them up in our guest bathroom, the PA made a run to Whole Foods Market for craft services. This was set up in my office, where the computer guy and other crew stayed to be away from Emory to avoid upsetting him.

Finally, the star of the series showed up and went straight to hair and makeup. While she was primped, Rob interviewed Brenda and me in the living room, asking us to tell our story of Emory for various sound bites and footage. Once the star was done, she came out and introduced herself to us as Katrina. No, this wasn’t a poor joke. Nonetheless, the irony was unsettling, in a humorous way. Nonetheless, we told her that due to recent circumstances don’t be offended when we refused to say her name—opting for “Dr. K” instead.

Now it was time to get to work. We first started with some establishing shots of Dr. Katrina walking up to our house and knocking on the door. We did this four or five times from the outside, then reshot it several times from inside the house for cutaways. Next, we performed a number of scenes with Dr. K. asking us about Emory’s problems, and giving us advice on how to address them.

For instance, she suggested we give Emory regular tap water instead of filtered or spring water. He evidently grew up on the chlorinated stuff and nothing else would do. Also, she told us that, although it’s common practice to put water next to food, she recommend “hiding” small bowls of water throughout the house since cats actually like to find their drink—and usually away from their food. We did this for a while, and it worked—for a while. But he still preferred water from the sink and shower.

Regarding his bathroom issues, the good doctor suggested that we use Yesterday’s News brand litter since he seems to have a propensity for newspaper. And sure enough, he never goes anywhere but in the litter box now. The clawing problem was cured by a simple cardboard scratching board. He liked it more than the scratching post, the hanging scratching board, and the scratching pad we’d tried. He simply wanted cardboard—or, again, "paper."

Dr. K. couldn’t help with the biting problem, though. Indeed, she wouldn’t even touch his paws to examine his claws. And when Rob tried—against my suggestion—I had to fetch the Betadine for his wounds. Emory got his point across in about have a second.

On the final day of shooting, the crew came back for some pickup shots. In the process, I encouraged them to take a “devastation tour” of some of the 80 percent of the city that’s still destroyed. “Have you seen the film Deja Vu?” I asked. I told them that they could see the destruction shown in the movie up close and personal. “Plus, I can take you to the place where I volunteer to help feed the dogs and cats who were left behind by owners who never returned—the animals that weren’t as fortunate as Emory to have been adopted. They were intrigued with Animal Rescue New Orleans, their work, and their volunteers. I suggested that we take a ride out to their facilities, then get a volunteer to take us to a feeding station in the now-infamous Lower 9th Ward.

The Angels

At ARNO, the crew was fascinated with the collection of friendly and beautiful cats and dogs. I explained that many people come just to walk the dogs and play with the cats to keep them socialized, although there are many not-so-pleasant tasks such as cleaning cages. But their medical needs are taken care of here and at local veterinarian hospitals. I encouraged them to get some ARNO footage and some sound bites from the two-person staff and from some of the volunteers.

I noticed a woman loading 100-pound bags of cat food, jugs of water, and traps for the TNR (trap, neuter, release) program into her van. I suggested that the cameraman get such footage, and he promptly asked the woman to unload, then reload, her car for the shots. Afterwards, she ended up agreeing to let us follow her to a feed station.

At the feed station, ARNO Shelter Director Robin Beaulieu and I walked from the street to the destroyed home while I asked her questions about ARNO, and about the status of the tens of thousands of abandoned and stray dogs and cats still roaming the streets and making it on their own. As the cameraman and boom microphone audio guy followed us, heavy equipment machinery destroyed a shed behind the house. The house was next, but we’d be gone.

Once the Housecat Housecall field crew felt they had enough material, they thanked Brenda and I for the experience and the tour, and wished us well before heading back to the airport. Months later they let me know that the piece was finished and that they were able to include an additional 45 seconds of supplemental material to include our ARNO and devastation tour. They also had the star talk for another 10 seconds about pet adoptions—the only episode to include such a plea. Hopefully, this will serve to educate others about the state of affairs of the animal world in the New Orleans area.

Update: The silence is broken! After having been sworn to secrecy (and a non-disclosure agreement) for the past year, I just got notification that I can let the cat out of the bag--so to speak. The first episode of Housecat Housecall--the one with Brenda, Emory, and me--is airing the first week of June. This pilot was shot in three locations--Los Angeles, Houston, and New Orleans--and featured three families with cats with issues. And we were the New Orleans family. Here are the details:

What: Pilot episode of "Housecat Housecall"
Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008 (then every Saturday for six more episodes)
Time: 8 a.m. Central (re-airing on Sundays at 6 a.m.)
Network: Discovery Channel

Program: Animal Planet

Lagniappe on Aisle 17

Claire is strong and reactionary, and sometimes overly sensitive to any perceived lack of political correctness. She lived in New Orleans, but only because her husband was a philosophy professor at Tulane University. And though she was a former New Yorker living in the Deep South, she never lost her courage and character for self-preservation. It was just such fortitude that provides colorful anecdotes.

It was a usual balmy weekday evening one late spring when Claire was shopping—or “making groceries” as it’s called in the Crescent City. But this particular evening was different; she was being observed as she navigated the aisles. Occasionally, she’d catch a glimpse of a middle-aged, lower middle-class fellow who seemed always to be on the same aisle as she. Being streetwise, Claire avoided eye contact, and generally avoided him.

Eventually, though, the inevitable happened: She turned down aisle 17 only to find her stalker appear at the other end simultaneously. Options raced through her mind, ranging from turning around and perusing the Baking aisle until he left Canned Goods, or keep walking and confront this nemesis. She chose the latter.

With an air of determination, she strode down the aisle, oblivious to any items on the shelves. She, now, was on a mission—a mission of righteous indignation. In a matter of seconds, she was face to face with her adversary and gave him a look that asked, “Okay, pal, what now?” And her answer was swift and abrupt.

Without hesitation, her antagonist quickly and deftly unzipped his pants and exposed himself while standing next to the canned kidney beans. Claire stormed off to the closest cashier. “Where’s the manager?” she demanded. Within seconds an authority figure appeared and asked if he could help. “Yeah, you can start by calling the police! I was just flashed by one of your customers!”

“Can you describe him to me?” the manager asked calmly to comfort an increasingly agitated Claire. “What’d he look like? What was he wearing?”

“He had on a green shirt and matching pants,” she managed, bordering on maniacal indignation.

“Was he wearing a green jacket too?” he asked, squinting his eyes and slightly angling an ear toward Claire.

“Yes! That’s him! Call Security before he gets away!” She could hardly contain her appreciation for the manager’s recognition of the assailant.

“Oh, don’t worry about him, ma’am. He’s harmless. And he is Security.”

Service with a Song

One of my favorite breakfast dining venues in New Orleans is Cobalt on St. Charles. Located on the streetcar line adjacent to the ornate Hotel Monaco downtown, this restaurant has always held a certain fascination to because of the fine-dining experience at diner prices. Plus, on many weekends, breakfast patrons once were serenaded by the renowned keyboardist Joe Krown, soloing on the house piano.

It was on one of my many pre-Katrina Saturdays at Cobalt that a star was born. Well, not exactly there on the spot, but it could happen eventually in our City of Talent. My server was a tall drink of water—nearly 6 feet of slim, brunette shyness, around 20 years old. Queried about her pursuits other than as wait staff, she revealed that she also was studying voice and singing at the University of New Orleans.

Naturally, I asked if she was currently singing anywhere but, although her interest was long-standing, she had not yet performed in public. I saw this as her opportunity, suggesting that she sing something with Joe. But she said she hadn’t been working at Cobalt very long and that she didn’t even know him. I offered to make the introduction while she continued to wait on other customers.

When Joe finally took a brief break between songs I walked over to him. I explained that the tall model/server was a singing student needing experience, and he told me to send her over. Back at my table I flagged her down and told her that Joe was waiting to meet her. She put down her pot of coffee and went over to Joe.

They were about 30 feet from me so I couldn’t hear their conversation, but by the mannerisms I could tell that she was telling him what she knew while he was listening and nodding. Within seconds Joe launched into a jazzy number followed by Slim belting out a Billie Holiday rendition. I don’t remember the song but I do remember every single member of the wait staff stopping in their tracks—plates and drinks in hands—and looking over at the new vocalist, who happened to be their recently hired colleague.

This song was followed by a blues number and was performed again with the perfection of a professional. Joe and Stretch were a perfect match, and when she finished all the wait staff put down their dinnerware and exploded into applause. She blushed, thanked Joe Krown, and walked off the little stage, heading back to the kitchen. As she passed one of her colleagues, the woman told her with an astonished gaze, “I had no idea. . . .”

The Real Dante's Inferno

My neighbor, Suzanne, is a yogini and teaches Bikram yoga at the studio on the end of my block on Danté Street and has asked Brenda and me numerous times to join the group. My concern regarded stories I’d heard of injuries. I had quit jogging for nearly a decade because of one little twisted foot during a midnight Halloween run. I don’t do injuries well; low threshold for pain.

But Suzanne confided that injuries normally are caused by people trying to do too much. She admitted that beginners can’t do everything, and shouldn’t try. That wouldn’t be a problem with me; if I feel the slightest twinge of discomfort, I’m done. I agreed to go with Suzanne the other day, primarily because, although she’s a certified Bikram yoga instructor who once had her own school, she also had not done it for nearly 2 months because of travel and family commitments. So I figured it was almost like she was starting all over again.

I had my mat and a bottle of water, met Suzanne on the sidewalk, and we walked another block to the studio. Once inside the front door she took my mat so I could speak with Bruno, the French instructor, sitting at the front desk. He explained the deal: “$29 for 30 days, or $18 for a walk-in.” I confidently told him that I’d just pay for the month. That’s when he offered the sage advice, “Why don you juice take de class firsh den decide after dat?” Excellent idea.

When I walked in the room Suzanne whispered, “Leave your shoes outside.” Then I noticed that everyone inside the room was barefoot, and that all the shoes were out in the hall. Why do I always notice things like this after the fact? I also didn’t notice that there were shelves above the shoes for personal items and I ended up taking my wallet, keys, glasses, and water bottle inside the room with me. Back inside I didn’t notice that no one else had all their stuff in there with them.

I’d planned to joke about “someone’s not paying their air-conditioning bill,” but once inside the yoga room it was brain-numbing hot. I forgot all about any clever little quips; I was in survival mode. Little did I know it was to get much worse. Everyone was lying down on their mat—my favorite posture, which I know now is called “shavasana”—so I did the same, where I remained at peace as a few stragglers trickled in. What I didn’t notice was that one of the stragglers was the instructor. I opened my eyes to see everyone standing up going into a stretching exercise. I leapt to my feet and mimicked them. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought as reached for the ceiling, then angled from left to right. Naturally, this was the easiest exercise of the 90-minute session.

Bruno cranked up the heat while seemingly trying to distract us with calm talk about movement and stretching. I wasn’t buying it; I could feel the hot air increasing in intensity and blasting right on me. Suzanne had placed my mat on one side of the room, next to the door, which I discovered why later. The exercises got progressively more torturous, and within seconds I was dripping wet. I looked around to see if everyone else was sweating as much, and they were. And this also was when I noticed some others with beach towels on top of their mats. Excellent idea! No wonder I was slipping and sliding on my now-foamy mat.

I put my towel on my mat and continued my postures, called “asanas.” I was sweating like a southern politician during election from places I didn’t know had sweat glands. The heat was unbearable within minutes and Bruno continued giving sedate guidance as he walked around the room. At one point he asked how I was doing. “About to throw up and pass out, and not necessarily in that order,” I answered. Seconds later, I bolted for the door. I just stood in the hall for a minute, then went into the restroom to splash some cold water on my face.

Back in the room I joined the sweaty group, who seemed to be moving along just fine without me. The heat bore down on me like a furnace. It was a dry heat, but so what—I was still exercising and the simple act of respiration was exhausting. This was the first time I can say that respiration caused perspiration. But I figured if everyone else could do it, I could too. And I did, for about another 20 minutes after which I headed for the door again. This time I stood in the hall, ensuring I was out of sight of the others, but I could still see through the door’s window that everyone was going on their merry ways. I returned to hell.

About two-thirds of the way through I’d had about enough of my wet feet slipping out of my wet hands and barely being able to fully get into any of the positions like everyone else. Even though I was in a room loaded with beautiful, sweaty, scantily clad women, that wasn’t enough to help me maintain consciousness. I stood up out of our supine position triggering a glance from Bruno—God of Fire. I made a “cut” motion with my horizontal hand across my neck, indicating that I was outta there, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Compassionate as he was, he wasn’t letting me give up.

While everyone continued their contortions, he asked in his heavy French accent, which I’d been nearly unable to understand during his commands, “Ez et de heat or ez et yu mind?”

“No, what’s left of my mind is fine. It’s the heat,” I explained.

“Juice lie down and relax,” he said in his firm but caring voice. “Don move; juice lie dare and cloos your ice.”

I did what he suggested, and it was better. I know my respiration was up, and I was sweating from my ears. I was even dripping into my nose in certain, inverted positions. But after missing one or two postures I was feeling better. I tried the next position but had to stop again. Naturally, we were nearing the end of the 26 movements and these were the most difficult, although, in my shape, they were all difficult.

Not that I consider myself flexibility challenged. I jog, bike, play some tennis, have rollerbladed, and always take the stairs over elevators. But I wasn’t in as good a shape as I imagined. Throughout the session I had two primary thoughts: One, aren’t there any easy exercises where you just sit there and wiggle your fingers or are they all joint-cracking, muscle bending contortions, and Two, how can 90 minutes seem so much longer?

In the film industry, what everyone wants to hear is “Cut! Print! It’s a wrap!” In yoga, the magical words that illicit true euphoria is, “Now it’s time for pranayamas,” which is yogaese for breathing exercises—the last practice of the session. This is surpassed in preference only by shavasana.

When it was all over, I’d actually completed around two thirds of the exercises and only left the room two, maybe three, times. Back at the front desk I approached Bruno and recommended, “You really should have a beginner’s class.” His response: “Dis ees de beginner’s class.” I stood corrected.

Nonetheless, everyone was pretty red-faced from the extreme heat, which I read later is to help lubricate the joints and decrease the chance of injury. That might be so, but it’s also hotter than I’ve ever been—even when I was in my 20s and was wearing long pants and long sleeves and leather chaps over the pants and a leather apron over the shirt and thick gloves and a cap and a welding shield, all inside a hot, steel pipe outside in the 90-degree and 90-percent humidity southern heat, while welding.

No, Bikram yoga is hotter than that. Look up Bikram on Wikipedia and I’m sure it’ll reference Hades. It was so hot, the outside air at 1:30 p.m. on this late July afternoon in New Orleans actually felt cool. As I told Bruno at the desk, my previous root canals were enjoyable compared to this. Still, I did feel invigorated, and wanted to do it again. At least I knew what to expect. I paid for the month, which I’m sure surprised him.

When Suzanne and I walked out the door a local shopkeeper on the sidewalk exclaimed, “Lord, it’s hot out here.”

“HOT? You think this is hot?” I screamed. “This is freakin’ air conditioning!” I yelled as she took a step away from me. “We just came from Bikram yoga and it’s like the depths of hell in there!”

“Oh, yeah, I hear it is hot up in there,” she muttered as I walked off, squeaking puddles of perspiration in my flip-flops.

In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, the heat was like being inside an incinerator but just the act of sweating so much ensured that weight loss was in the making. Probably the worst part for me was not being able to talk for 90 minutes. Later that evening Brenda thought I was jacked up on caffeine, even though I’d quit coffee some time ago. And the next day I’d cornered no fewer than four neighbors while Brenda and I were on our run, telling of the experience and prattling on incessantly, while their heads titled, eyes narrowed, and overall expression said, “What are you on?”

It’s an hour and a half until my next class—the second for the month, and of my life. I’m bringing an extra towel this time. And an extra bottle of water.

Day Two
It went much better today. This time, I never left the room, while several others took off for throw-up breaks. Most returned. This time Yogi Bruno was on his way to his vacation home in France, so we had Yogini Christina. She was a lovely example of walking gristle. Newly out of Bikram Yoga certification school, the tall, thin Christina led us through the exercises with the humor and compassion of someone with Bruno’s experience.

She ensured that we understand that it’s more important to do what we can than worry about doing all exercises correctly. While you don’t want to do anything incorrectly, you also don’t want to push yourself too hard and end up with an injury. And I pushed myself to the absolute minimum.

At one point she tried to intimate that I shouldn’t push too hard and just take it easy. She was preaching to the choir. And she did have a good sense of humor and laughed when she caught me looking desperately at the clock on the wall, then rolling my eyes in anxious despair.

Nevertheless, I actually made it through all but two exercises—basically anything to do with the knees. I got through one position and ended up with goodly rug burns on my knees, so I sat in the lotus position and faked the other positions, except the rabbit posture. You can’t fake that one.

So now I’m on board to attend 3 days a week at the House of Pain. But I think I’m going to look into the other class without the heat. I want to give equal time to both practices.

Day Three
The third day was great! Today wasn’t Bikram; it was Moksha yoga, and a lot less hot. The best part was that, although we practiced more postures, we performed fewer repetitions. Plus, the carpet (or towel, in this case) burns on my knees got a bit of a respite since only two exercises (which I didn’t do) were on the knees.

No throw-up breaks, fewer people in this 10 a.m. class, slight bit less heat, and an instructor who provided a little a cappella singing at the end. And it was a new instructor as well. Where Bruno would be a distance runner in traditional athletics and Christina would be a pole-vaulter, Sarah resembled a soccer player, or maybe a swimmer—strong and sturdy.

As my attendance increases, however, I find myself losing the previous feeling during the asanas that I feel while undertaking such tasks as waxing a car or painting a wrought iron fence: “I’ll NEVER do this again!” I’m actually beginning to feel more comfortable with yoga.

Day Ten
Call me Yogi Gary. Well, not quite. But I’m no longer intimidated by yoga. Bruno, Sarah, and Christina all teach a variety of asanas, and Bruno even likes to mix it up a bit now and then.

I now look forward to that walk down the block to the studio, and my flexibility has improved about 100 percent. I still have another 100 percent to match some of my classmates, but I’m also 100 percent more flexible than some of the newbies.

I’ve learned much from the practice of yoga over these past few weeks; here’s a summary:

· The reason that everyone is quiet (until I get there anyway) is that yoga is best practiced with full focus, which is best obtained in peace and quiet.

· No matter how much you want to rush it, it simply takes time and practice to increase flexibility. And trained yogis and yoginis understand this and never attempt to push students beyond their capabilities.

· DO NOT try to do everything exactly as everyone else. Everyone has varying experience levels and you should focus on what you are comfortable with.

· STOP if it hurts. A little pain is expected, but you know your body and when it’s time to stop a stretch or to get out of a posture to avoid injury. Listen to your body.

Just remember these tips if you are interested in yoga, and you’ll be gazing between your legs—by bending over backwards—in no time.

Restaurants of Riverbend

While much of New Orleans rebuilds, some more fortunate areas were spared much of the wind and all of the water damage from Hurricane Katrina. Carrollton/Riverbend is one such neighborhood, although it’s only blocks from areas that were inundated with several feet of standing water. Within weeks after the storm, amid highly visible and heavily armed National Guard troops, residents returned to start their lives again.

Many of these residents were business owners operating the myriad of restaurants, ice cream shops, coffeehouses, bakeries, bubble teahouses, sandwich shops, and bars and music clubs. As a point of reference, pre-K there was no less than 29 restaurants in a 7-block radius of Oak Street and Carrollton Avenue, and 87 establishments within 1 mile. Post K, many have restaurants and reopened, some have not, but some new eateries have joined the scene. The latest count is 48 within approximately a 10-block radius. This list also includes coffeehouses that serve anything other than pastries as well as nightclubs that provide food.


Gelato Pazzo Caffé (lunch, dinner)
8115 Oak Street
Light lunches and quick snacks, with Panini (sandwiches) using imported cheeses, Italian and domestic cured meats, and local vegetables and pressed on imported Italian grills. Also serves salads with greens, grilled meats, and vegetables with homemade dressings.

Jacques-Imo Café (dinner)
8324 Oak Street
Roasted boneless quail stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras mousse and wrapped in Nimen Ranch bacon, served with a brown sauce of mushrooms and cranberries; alligator and sausage cheesecake; a range of dishes like the spicy Cajun bouillabaisse; their version of blackened redfish; paneed rabbit; and fried chicken.

Mockingbird Bakery and Café (breakfast and lunch) closed
8128 Oak Street
Sandwiches, quiche, roasted soups, salads, coffees, teas, juices and cider, and soda fountain drinks. Also, pastries, pies, and breads.

Ninja (lunch, dinner)
8433 Oak Street
A long list of sushi rolls includes the Rainbow Roll and anything featuring salmon or tuna, and the Ninja Dinner of edamame, gyoza dumplings, seaweed salad, and a choice of sushi rolls.

Oak Street Café (breakfast, lunch)
8140 Oak Street
Breakfast have donuts, pancakes with pecans, or Creole spinach egg nests, with lunches of meatball po-boys and fish tacos.

Squeal Bar-B-Q (lunch, dinner, late night)
8400 Oak Street
St. Louis ribs; hickory smoked meats to include port brisket, chicken, and sausage; 1/2 lb. hamburgers; and sandwiches that include smoked meats and chicken breast. Sides include corn maque choux, coleslaw, baked beans, collard greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and roasted corn cheese grits. Desserts include fruit cobbler and warm brownie.

Station 8801 (lunch, dinner, bar)
8801 Oak Street
Burgers, sandwiches, and salads as well as steak, tuna and charbroiled oysters.


Brigtsen’s (brunch, dinner)
723 Dante Street
Menu includes slow-roasted duck with corn bread dressing and honey pecan gravy, pan roast venison, rabbit, Gulf fish, autumn vegetables, and the Rebuild New Orleans Seafood Platter of broiled, grilled, baked, and sauté ed seafood.

Dante’s Kitchen (dinner, weekend brunch)
736 Dante Street
Brunch presents a house-made bread plate with orange and cranberry, mocha, and banana pecan breads. Entrées include debris and poached eggs, corned beef, grilled shrimp and grits, eggs Benedict, seafood cakes, pecan pancakes, bread pudding French toast, and vegetable and seafood omelets. There also are grilled chicken, shrimp and crabmeat salads, as well as ham brie, grilled Gulf fish, and chicken salad sandwiches. Dinners include a variety of appetizers from duck confit, escargot, and pumpkin soup to a paté plate, barbeque shrimp, and mussels. Entrées include redfish, tenderloin filets, goose cassoulet, Gulf fish, roasted duck breast, pork loin roast, seared scallops, roasted chicken, fish amandine, and a vegetable plate.


Bangkok Thai (dinner)
513 South Carrollton Avenue
Spicy classic dishes made either with tofu or shrimp, a number of curry dishes including the puff pie noodles with curry-smothered chicken, and a Happiness Tray that includes an assortment of appetizers.

Basil Leaf Thai (dinner)
1438 South Carrollton Avenue
Contemporary Thai cooking such as grilled chicken coconut soup, basil chicken, and sauté ed chicken, onions, vegetables, and mushrooms with jasmine rice.

Café Nino (lunch, dinner)
1510 South Carrollton Avenue
New York-style thin-crust pizza, hard on the bottom, with basic ingredients. Italian dishes like baked ziti, spaghetti, various meat and pasta combinations, calzones, and sandwiches such as chicken and meatball subs, and Philly cheese steak sandwiches comprising thinly sliced beef grilled with peppers, onions, and provolone cheese on a long bread.

Camellia Grill (breakfast, lunch)
626 South Carrollton Avenue
Omelettes, burgers, sandwiches, and an assortment of pie a la mode.Chef’s Corner, The710 South Carrollton AvenuePrime rib, New York Strip, fish and seafood, blackened chicken, and sandwiches, po-boys, and salads.

China Orchid (lunch, dinner)
702-04 South Carrollton Avenue
Pot stickers and pepper steak; egg drop soup; moo goo gai pan; crab Rangoon; General Tso’s Chicken.

Cooter Brown’s (lunch, dinner, bar)
509 South Carrollton Avenue
Fried seafood, burgers, wings, grilled alligator sausage, and sandwiches with an oyster bar.

Granada (lunch, dinner)
1506 South Carrollton Avenue
Hot, cold, and vegetarian topas, soups, and salads. Also, paella, lamb chops and shank, duck confit, Moroccan lamb tajine, and sea scallops.

Jazmine (lunch, dinner)
614 South Carrollton Avenue
Spicy, stir-fried rice noodle dish and many other dishes and egg rolls.

Curry Corner (lunch, dinner)
1200 South Carrollton Avenue
Indian cuisine ready to eat and served to order.

La Madeleine (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
601 South Carrollton Avenue
Breads and pastries plus cafeteria-style service of salads, sandwiches, and meats and vegetable combinations cooked in puff pastries, like the chicken and mushroom Friand.

Lebanon Café (lunch, dinner)
1506 South Carrollton Avenue
Lentil soup and Greek salad, with entrees of rosemary lamb chops, featuring a pound of seasoned lamb grilled and served with a mixed salad, hummus, and grilled onions and tomatoes.

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (lunch, dinner)
615 South Carrollton Avenue
Gourmet pizzas salads, pita wraps, calzones, and pasta dishes. Chicken Marsala features roasted chicken with Roma tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms in a wine and pesto cream sauce, served over fettuccine and topped with parmesan cheese.

Mona’s Café & Deli (lunch, dinner)
1120 South Carrollton Avenue
Gyro plates and sandwiches, freshly baked pita bread, fried kibby, fresh hummus, chicken shawarma, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fried kibbeh, shrimp kebabs, and catfish plates. Some locations even have an international grocery with items like Jordan almonds, olives, pomegranate molasses and orange blossom water.

O’Henry’s (lunch, dinner)
634 South Carrollton Avenue
American classics such as burgers and a steak and shrimp platter.

Rue De La Course (breakfast, lunch, coffeehouse)
1140 South Carrollton Avenue
Pastries, croissants, cakes, biscotti, and cookies other offerings such as sandwiches with a choice of dark black forest and seven grain breads, meats like roast beef, turkey, or chicken salad, and a range of toppings like peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and sprouts with a choice of cheeses.

Saltwater Grill (lunch, dinner)
710 South Carrollton Avenue
Raw or charbroiled oysters, blackened redfish with lemon butter, potatoes and vegetables, or the grilled rib-eye steak. Lunch has a selection of po-boys, including fried seafood varieties, hamburgers, and grilled chicken.

Subway (lunch)
1332 South Carrollton Avenue
Made-to-order sub sandwiches.


Carrollton Station (lunch, dinner, bar)
8140 Willow Street
Sandwiches, burgers, and fried appetizers as well as shrimp etouffee, spaghetti and meatballs, and seafood platters.

Hana Japanese Restaurant (lunch, dinner)
8116 Hampson Street
Japanese cuisine from sushi and sashimi to bento box specials with teriyaki, tempura, and soups with udon noodles in broth or soba noodles. For dessert, mochi or chilled rice cakes.

Boucherie (lunch, dinner)
8115 Jeannette Street
Crispy duck Confit, blackened shrimp and grit cake, boudin balls, steamed mussels, smoked black angus beef brisket, pulled pork cake with potato confit, jerked duck breast, grilled wahoo and fried pickeled okra, smoked scallops with German potato salad, hummus stuffed baby eggplant with grilled squash, house-made fudge farms bacon brownie, Thai chili chocolate chess pie. Sandwiches and salads also available.

Mat & Naddie’s Café (lunch, dinner)
937 Leonidas Street
Grilled salmon with pearl barley and Romano risotto or venison medallions with wild rice pancakes, braised red and white cabbage, and apple demiglace. Weekday lunch buffets feature salads, pastas, meats, cheeses, and soups.

One (dinner)
8132 Hampson Street
Char-grilled oysters with Roquefort, duck and okra gumbo with homemade boudin, pan-seared rainbow trout, and grilled beef tenderloin.

Pepperoni’s (lunch)
8120 Hampson Street
Pizza, pasta, calzones, wraps, and po-boys.

Refuel Café (breakfast, lunch)
8124 Hampson Street
Traditional breakfasts, omelets, Belgian waffles, cereals, coffees, and white, green, and red Octavia teas. Lunch and dinner include crispy crab cake salad with avocado, butter lettuce, and citrus aioli or the Refuel Club sandwich: roast beef, turkey, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese.

Sara’s (lunch, dinner)
724 Dublin Street
Creole and Asian cuisine such as pepper-crusted pork chops, honey-ginger scallops, or Malaysian steamed mussels in a garlic white wine broth.

La Macarena Pupuseria & Latin Café (lunch, dinner)
8120 Hampson Street

Hand slapped pupusas and Latin American food. Soups, salads, pupusas, enchiladas, garlic shrimp, tamales, sweet fried plantains, carne asada, yuca frita, flan, organic tropical drinks.


Vincent’s Italian Cuisine (dinner)
7839 St. Charles Avenue
Neighborhood-style Italian café serving home-style Creole-Italian, such as eggplant sandwich, Artichoke Vincent with crawfish and shrimp, veal meatballs on garlic toast, corn and crab bisque en croute, veal cannelloni in a crepe, soft shell crab with tomato garlic sauce, panneed fish, crab cream sauce, garlic chicken, and braciolone.


Babylon Café (lunch, dinner)
7724 Maple Street
Focaccia-type Iranian bread, hummus and labna, and sandwiches such as roasted eggplant with roasted garlic, olive oil, feta and onions; chicken shawarma; and gyros. Mint and sage teas.

Bruno’s Tavern (lunch, dinner, bar)
7583 Maple Street
Menu includes Boudreaux cheese fries made with sweet potato fries smothered with roast beef debris, gravy, and blue cheese all broiled with golden raisins and spiced pecans.

Ciro’s Coté Sud (dinner)
7918 Maple Street
Classic French cuisine featuring escargots, mussels, baked oysters, and pate for appetizers. Onion soup and a wide selection of salads. Salmon, Cornish hen, duck breast, rack of lamb, pork chops, shrimp, and baked lasagna. Meat, cheese, and vegetable pizzas.

Favori Deli & Grocery (lunch)
7507 Maple Street
A neighborhood deli with po-boy sandwiches and a few dishes like jambalaya.

Figaro’s (dinner)
7900 Maple Street
Appetizers include stuffed mushrooms and Figaro’s Terrine; salads include Caesar and mixed greens; and entrees include penne sherried chicken, mussels, pasta primavera, lasagna, ravioli, grilled salmon, and veal. There’s also a large selection of standard pizzas such as a vegetarian and a marinara; gourmet pizzas include the Neapolitan, shrimp and cilantro, tomato basil, spinach, smoked salmon, and Italian sausage.

Fresco’s Café and Pizzeria (lunch, dinner)
7625 Maple Street
Pizza; chicken portobello stromboli with chicken, mozzarella, portobello mushrooms and a spicy red pepper sauce; and veggie wraps filled with hummus, roasted eggplant, peppers, spinach, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and kalamata olives.

Fresco’s Café and Pizzeria
7638 Maple Street

GB’s Patio Bar and Grill (lunch, dinner, bar)
8117 Maple Street
Fresh-ground hamburgers, baked potatoes, rib eyes, grilled or blackened fish, and salads.

Jamila’s (dinner)
7808 Maple Street
Tunisian and Mediterranean cuisine includes crawfish, zucchini, and spinach bisque; briks; and phyllo dough stuffed with potatoes, parsley, onions, and shrimp or tuna; lamb; and couscous dishes for vegetarians.

Maple Street Café (lunch, dinner)
7623 Maple Street
A mix of Italian, Creole, and continental cooking, with some Middle Eastern influence to include veal chop stuffed with prosciutto and fontina cheese, panneed with a crumby crust and moistened with a demi-glace-based sauce with mushrooms, red snapper with crabmeat, eggplant cake with a topping of a cream sauce with crabmeat, stuffed shrimp in phyllo pastry, pasta filet mignon with portobellos, salmon roasted inside a skin of phyllo pastry with a thin filling of spinach and feta cheese, and grilled fish with fresh spinach and an herb sauce.

You Gurt (lunch)
7638 Maple Street
Frozen yogurt, bubble tea, hummus, spinach and artichoke dip, edamame, grilled trianbles, soups, salads, pizza po-boys, wraps, and sandwiches.

Vera Cruz (lunch, dinner) closed
7537 Maple Street
Specializes in both Mexican and Cuban cuisine such as Guadalajara enchiladas and ropa vieja.


Café Freret (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
7329 Freret Street
Chef’s voodoo burger is a half pound of ground chuck with sauté ed onions and mushrooms smothered in the house “bomb” sauce and topped with bacon, provolone and fixings. New Orleans steakbomb is a portion of tender shaved steak with Swiss cheese, onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers on toasted French bread.

Chill Out Café (breakfast, lunch)
729 Burdette Street
Crawfish, seafood, and ham omelets; waffles; pancakes; soups; and tuna, chicken, salmon, or shrimp house salads. Various Thai dishes with seafood, beef, and chicken, fried calamari, spring rolls, and an assortment of noodle dishes.

Philip’s Bar and Restaurant (dinner, bar)
733 Cherokee Street
Finger food for those who want a snack with a beer, but also pizza such as chicken pesto and Thai chicken.


7624 Maple Street

Rue de la Course
1140 South Carrollton Avenue

7700 Maple Street

8210 Oak Street


Baskin Robbins
706 South Carrollton Avenue

Cherry On Top
7712 Maple Street

Cold Stone Creamery
624 South Carrollton Avenue

Cool Up Town
8108 South Carrollton Avenue

Pazzo Gelato
8115 Oak Street

Queen of the Ball
8116 Oak Street

You Gurt
7638 Maple Street

Coming Soon!
Yoga Studios
Day Spas