The Rio Grande
By Marc Quinlan So for Spring Break Alix Oreck, Paul Jacob, Mike Florack, Greg Mitchell and myself decided to slip out of town and paddle down the Rio Grande river for a week through Big Bend National Park. The start of the trip was nightmarish. Trying to get people through the endless parade traffic to meet at my house turned into a two-and-a-half hour total failure. No doubt it would have taken longer, but luckily someone’s willingness to drive the wrong way down roads and through portions of Audubon park got us out of town earlier than expected. Upon arriving in Texas, we rented canoes with a local company that also agreed to shuttle us, our boats and gear up river. At the put-in, everything was just perfect: the weather, the views; we were all so excited about putting paddle to water and allowing the accumulated loads of our studies and worries sink into the eddies about us. With all of our gear off the trailer, we waved goodbye to our shuttle driver, who smiled back and promised to pick us up 6 days later and 50 miles downstream. This sounded feasible. Mind you, none of us had ever canoed in a river before, or ever paddled a canoe through rapids, but we were excited about what lay ahead and that is all that mattered at that moment. Luckily, we learned how to canoe quickly. Over the first two hours we paddled only about two and a half miles (nearly everyone had either capsized or got stuck on rocks), but by the end of the trip we were averaging almost three miles an hour and – I am not gonna lie – looking real good doin’ it (well, that is until the 40mph headwind came in and we all capsized again).
I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but I personally was so thankful to be back in the outdoors. As much as I love the culture and the scene that is New Orleans, my only gruff is the cement-jungle feel of the city (and I guess I am not much of a swamp lover either – which doesn’t really leave much else). I was excited about getting away, and Big Bend National Park was much more than I had expected. We stumbled across an old spaghetti western movie set, saw wild horses, made ridiculously large camp fires, ate our weight in summer sausage, ‘acquired’ fresh Mexican-made tortillas, explored slot canyons, saw more stars than I have ever seen before, paddled into the head-wind from hell, learned two new ways to prepare marshmallows (who knew that there was more to mallows than a stick or smores), flotilla-ed as canyon-wren arpeggios echoed off of sandstone cliffs, and all became closer friends. Below are some thoughts and reminisces from the rest of our rangey crew…
By Alix Oreck All night driving leads us into a sunrise soaked red desert in west Texas. We have breakfast in a small diner with the sheriff: cowboy hat, gold badge and all. We organize, pack, drive, organize, pack, load into the boats, start paddling. Rapids, learning the strokes, watching our classmates change. It’s impossible not to. We start in the Colorado Canyon, where the landscape rolls away from us as though in an oil painting. Sunlight, desert grasses, muddy water of the Rio Grande. Physiology, histology, biochemistry start to drop off the shoulders and our postures straighten, our eyes open. We see scorpions, wild horses, hares, sparks from our campfires in the night sky. Our hearts open, we sing, we tell stories, we listen to the descending treble of the sweet canyon wren. Sun up, we’re up, paddling, splashing, jumping, hiking, exploring, scouting, running, soaking, cooking, looking rough and rangey. Sound down, we are gathered at the campfire, listening to life tales, watching the stars, snuggling in our sleepings
bags and tents, re-learning the natural rhythm of life, of being outside. Bonded, laughing, rangey. Spring break.
By Jove Graham Just about twenty four hours earlier, I had seen our driver, in an awesome display of drunken boldness, drive/roll his battered, unidentifiable (referred to as El Bronco) SUV down a goat path, over several small boulders and innumerable cacti, till it came to rest on its chassis on top of one unfortunately large boulder, two hundred yards and one fifteen foot drop short of his presumed destination, the Rio Grande. Seemingly unconcerned, the driver and his two slightly less intoxicated friends popped out of El Bronco, and started catching up to the former driver in terms of drunkenness as they mounted an unsuccessful catfish run from the bank. Later that night – returning from a hike – we found all three passed out on the bank of the Rio in a ring of Carta Blanca beer cans, having resorted to eating bologna that had been brought to lure the still-absent catfish. Yet, looking down from the aptly named Sentinel at seven in the morning, a group of five of us who had gotten up for sunrise saw El Bronco, now on something that could be called a road, bouncing back towards the nearest town, San Carlo, twenty miles away. Which is how, despite ample evidence casting the driver, Eduardo, as something besides the epitome of responsibility, I found myself laying on the head rests of the back seats, draped over our newly acquired Mexican friends’ fishing net, with my shoe on Marc’s shoulder, and my faced pressed against a dusty window that seemed to be channeling car exhaust from the cracked floor board, bouncing down the road to San Carlo. Although the rest of that day was great, I think I’ll always think of catching a ride in El Bronco on the way down from the Sentinel. Not that the rest of the day wasn’t interesting and exciting. We did get pulled
over by Mexican police only to find that Eduardo had run away from helping his grandmom move furniture and that she had recruited the police (in a town of ~2000) to help find him, but they seemed far less concerned than the abuela. And we did spend the day eating our fill of fresh corn tortillas with habañero sauce, purchased for 10 pesos (80cents) a kilo from the local tortilla lady… but there was something awesome about picking up with a bunch of friends that you had known mostly in a med school context, climbing to the highest point around, watching sunrise, and leaving logic behind to catch a ride into Mexico. We made it back safe, after filling Eduardo’s gas tank from a hand pumped gas station. Hopefully the same can be said for Eduardo – he had already taken down a six-pack on the ride back to the river and was looking to start in on another. The last thing he told us as we began hiking down a wonderfully cool slot canyon to rejoin the rest of our group with the canoes was that he had to get back to town to hide from his grandma.
By Mike Florack The Rio Grande was awesome. I came back dirty, cut-up, and exhausted, and I was absolutely stoked to be all of those things because the week was that much fun. We got to leave our cell phones, iPods, and computers far off for a week, and spent that time witnessing huge desert landscapes and the power of nature. I built the biggest fire of my life, ran through the Mexican desert on my first trip out of the country, and got to sleep under a sky of crystal stars every night. I couldn’t imagine a better change of pace from the med school life in New Orleans than our 1000 mile trek west to the border.
By Greg Mitchell
Since I can’t really think of a great way to describe the incredible experience of floating down the Rio Grande for a week (through two breathtaking canyons, no less), I would like to share some pearls of wisdom that I learned over the course of the trip. 17 hours is an awfully long drive for one day, but it can be fun if you are riding with other Tulanians. Sandals are great, but tennis shoes are better suited to running through water followed by hiking, they give better grip while scaling smooth limestone walls, and they do a better job of protecting against cactus spikes. Pepper salami, sharp cheddar cheese, and apple slices make a pretty fantastic lunch, and cream cheese, rojas, and fresh tortillas make an equally awesome dinner. I need to put a lot of sunscreen on my ankles. Skipping stones never really gets old. Don’t underestimate the eccentricity of millionaires… they might just up and build a resort in the middle of the desert. The canyon wren is the only bird whose call consists entirely of descending syllables. 18 miles isn’t too far to canoe in one day. Some moths like to be smacked around. It is really fun to run rapids in a canoe, but it is even more fun to run rapids sideways in 3 canoes held together by the passengers. You can actually see the reflection of your headlamp in spider eyes. There is more than one way to toast a marshmallow. Baby wipes do a surprisingly good job of substituting for regular showers. Big Bend national park is remote, but I would definitely return in a heartbeat.
If anyone is thinking about making a trip to the Big Bend Area, feel free to contact marc.quinlan@gmail .com, he has maps you can borrow and the must-see sights.
The Po Boy Festival
Sunday was meant as a day of rest, supposedly. Some like to chill out, maybe watch some ball, coolin’ out like the young guys on the block. Some of us like to indulge in a growing trend of misty-minded tricksters that celebrate the day of rest with a marathon session of ragin’ as a method of relaxation. We call it: Sunday Funday. This past weekend, we took to the streets as the 3rd Annual Po Boy Festival descended on New Orleans. But like any good boy scout, it started out with a little planning. We grabbed the “go bag”, filled it with granola bars, an umbrella, a buck knife, a roll of quarters, and a six pack of road beers. Bam, it’s go time. If you missed it this year, next year, don’t. The festival was a confluence of excellent food and earthshattering, face-melting, life-rocking music. Factor in the Saints game being shown on several big screen TVs, and there isn’t much else a New Orleanian could ask for. As we turned onto Oak street from Carrollton, our senses were immediately overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells. The tinny harmonies of the brass band playing in sync beckoned us in, and the smells of delicious fried foods cemented the deal. We knew we would be there for the long haul. Upon entering the festival, we decided to hit the food first, so as to energize ourselves for what we knew would happen later on. We didn’t get to try everything, but everything we had was awesome. From the Extra-special Peacemaker (fried oysters on French bread smothered in a Brie cream sauce) to the Bacon, Lettuce, and Fried Green Tomato po’boy, it was a string of consecutive “Mouth-gasms.” For the next several days, we shed tears for our taste buds, as it would be nearly impossible to match the deliciousness of that day.
After stuffing our faces, we caught Rebirth at the Monroe stage on Oak Street. Surprisingly, even these veteran musicians found themselves competing for attention as one brash, happy-go-lucky-I-donâ€™tgive-a-damn-in-the-slightest, dancing fool hopped onto a raised porch and proceeded to regale the crowd with gyrations that could leave even MJ seeing colors for days. Donâ€™t get us wrong though, we were doing our own crazy dances too-gotta make it rain. As Rebirth finished off their act, a familiar sticky smell began wafting out from the crowd, and an aura of low beats and low tones took the stage: none other than Papa Grows Funk. We were totally unprepared for the level of musicianship that these badasses could engineer, and as the show went on, we found ourselves trying desperately to salvage what was left of our faces after such intense melting. In the aftermath, we stumbled blindly through the last of the hardcore ragers, attempting to somehow stuff our faces with entire loaves of French bread that had mysteriously flooded the streets. Exhausted and penniless, we turned in our badges and cashed in our chips. But on the foggy streetcar ride back home, we could only agree, best Sunday Funday ever.
Art for Artâ€™s Sake
7:23 pm. Block exams are a week away, but instead of pouring over Anatomy notes, I’m walking down Julia Street approaching the Art for Art’s Sake event. This is admittedly not my best moment, but I’ve justified it as taking an educational and culturally relevant study break. Art for Art’s Sake is one of New Orleans’ many artistic events held to promote the local artists. It’s held every year on the first Saturday night of October and spans the entire length of Julia Street. During this time, all the art galleries open their doors and many of the local artists are there to speak about their work. The event’s just begun, but people are already filling the street. At the Warehouse District, a stage was set up with a live band; an artist was standing up on stage painting a large canvas with thick strips of red and yellow. All the galleries doors’ are open, and I step in the first one I see. 7:55 pm. At some point during my gallery hopping, I find myself holding a cup of wine in one hand, a plate of crab cakes in the other, and a Nikon DSLR balancing in the crook of my elbow. I’m wandering through a gallery with lovely glass figurines, but I keep having horror images of accidentally knocking into a display case filled with works the price of my medical school tuition, so I hurriedly make an exit. At the next gallery, I fall in love with an abstract impressionist piece, but the price tag reads $7,500. Ouch! Not even four years of eating only ramen will offset that purchase. Better flee this gallery too.
8:39 pm. The gathering in Julia Street is just getting lively, but I’m ready to head home. The thought of those yet to be reviewed lectures is stressing me out. But I enjoyed the venture into the art culture of the New Orleans. The galleries of the Warehouse District are a striking mix of styles, from works of mixed media to metalwork and paintings of classic still lifes to political commentaries. I’m looking forward to returning next year to see their new exhibitions. Sometimes, as medical school students, we forget that there are other venues of study outside of our curriculum, and it helps to step out of our bubble, shift gears, and enjoy the arts and humanities. The arts of New Orleans is famous for its uniqueness and we have it right at our doorstep. So if you find yourself lazying around on an unproductive Friday afternoon, walk along Julia Street in the Warehouse District or Royale Street in the French Quarter, roam their many art galleries, and explore. Jennifer J. Yuan, T1.
Feeling like you missed out? Looking to go gallery hopping? The New Orleans Arts District has open gallery events the first Saturday night of every month. You’ll be free to walk from gallery to gallery, partake in refreshments, and speak to some local artists. http://www.neworleansartsdistrict.com/
The Dirty Netters
The air was musky and stale, suffocating the audience with an agonizing anticipation. The denizens of Howlin’ Wolf lurked in their silence, liquored up and ready for the next act. It began with a shuffle, a sneeze, then a chant; and finally, amidst the roar of a mob, the Dirty Netter appeared on stage. What ensued next is legendary. Underwear rained down from the rafters like confetti. The floor hissed and popped like bubble wrap as fans raged across a dance floor strewn with broken bottles. And when the band hit their last mighty and righteous note, the crowd erupted in a torrent of emotion that could only be quelled by the Gods of Rock themselves. But the audience was only human, could only take so much. The lights soon faded, and as the Dirty Netter drifted into the darkness of their stage, we could never know that this was it: the end of their greatest and final show. Called the finest band in TUSOM history, Dirty Netter began as the story of an unruly bunch of misfits brought together by their mutual awkwardness and a true love of music. Living between tests and anatomy labs, the band made due with junk yard equipment, putting out such famous tunes as “labia gigantorum” and “we got standard schwinns”. But as the band started to make it big, trading in their trashcans and juice boxes for more traditional instruments, certain members questioned the band’s decisions. “In the beginning, we were all about the tunes, man,” said one of the members. “We had some hard times in those days, but at least we had each other. You know?”
Alas, even then it seemed that those innocent days of the Dirty Netter’s origins could never last. After hiring a manager, the band caught a few gigs at the 1430 auditorium. Within the first few shows, the students at Music and Medicine knew that a new king had arrived. “It was amazing,” claimed the deans, “We’d never seen anything like it. The raw power and passion if it all was completely overwhelming” In a poll taken after the initial show, it was reported that 14% of the audience experienced an orgasm by the concert’s end. The band was soon awash in adulation from an ever-growing fan base. “People were throwing themselves at us,” remembers one band member, “I even made a collage of all the clothing tossed up on stage. I caught a loin cloth made out of two hand towels and shoestring. Old ladies were propositioning me on Facebook. Things were getting outrageous.” Little did he know that the true outrageousness of the band would reach mythological proportions – maybe even to the point of simply being too much.
“Clinton was a hothead, man. Like, this one time, we screwed up a song. I mean, just a little, you know? But, Clinton? Man, he just snapped,” remembers guitarist Jason Maley, referring to an incident in which lead singer Clinton Piper, unable to control his fury, accosted several members of the band, using chairs, instruments, and a pair of num chucks named Ebort and Roeper. The incident was kept quiet, but their publicist later reminisced, ” They were so young and hormonal. I just knew in my heart of hearts that things would get out of control.”
In a sad twist of fate, it wasn’t the youthful exuberance that brought this band to its knees, butrather, the same demon that ruined so many of the greats before them: drugs. “Marty was out of control, man,” remembers Jeff Smietana. “He’d come to practice higher than snuffaluffagus from Sesame Street. I mean,
like he was on smack, bang, boom, woop, crush, dope, robitussin, ginseng, CoQ10, Flintstone vitamins. I mean, sometimes the best he could do was drool on the drums for an hour and a half. I’m telling you, the only reason we kept him was for those gnarly chops.” The band tried to make due, but things kept getting worse. Missed practices, visits from Clinton’s baby’s mammas, and biochemistry put an unbearable strain on the members. “We were fighting all the time, and over stupid things like which side our hair should be parted. Like, be real, we all know that you always part your hair to the left,” remarked Andre Kumar during an interview. “I was so fed up, man. Absolutely no sense of style. I was surrounded by rags.”
The dysfunction finally became unbearable when Marty, caught with several hundred dollars worth of bone boxes in the run up to the last show, was booked by campus police, famously screaming, “that was weeks ago.” But the damage was done. Acknowledging that the band had run its course, the members mutually agreed to disband, bringing to an end one of the greatest musical feats accomplished in this century. ” Where are they now?” some might ask. Well, we were able to speak with all the members of the band, at least for a brief moment or two. In the spirit of other famous musicians before him, Sherif found religion. He has become a born again Hari Krishna and plays music as a means of supporting his cause. Similarly, Marty cleaned up his act, completed rehab, and returned almost all of the bone boxes he misappropriated from lab.
On the other hand, Jeff, unable to renounce the hedonism of rock and roll, is currently in between tours of the US with a Kenyan folk band. He sends his best wishes to all the broken hearts he left behind. Andre also chose to maintain his musicianship, but in a more sedate manner, settling in with his baby mama and moonlighting as a studio musician (most recently recording with Dave Matthews Band). Jason currently finished production of the musical score from the new Disney movie, â€œThe Princess and the Frog.â€? Additionally, he has become quite the connoisseur of Nutria and regularly serves them to his guests at dinner parties. And lastly, Joel, unable to handle the demons of his past, returned to his ancestral home where he makes his keep as a swamp logger. Clintonâ€Śis a different beast entirely.
Alas, Clinton, aside from the occasional physiology cameo, remains a mystery. Word has it that he’s been living in a dumpster on Canal Street, terrorizing the local population of cockroaches. We just can’t be sure. When we asked about a possible re-union, we received several responses. Some of the band members were open for a one-show deal, but in the end, not everyone was on board. It is our unfortunate duty to report that we may have very well seen the end of Dirty Netter. So when you hear a version of ” I got Kirschbommed” or ” Dr. Franklin, We are with you,” pour out your drink in memory of this supernova musical group. RIP Dirty Netter.
Tulane SOM Student Adventures