Archive for December, 2006

Blast From The Past

One of the wonderful books TBK gave me for Christmas is a history of New Orleans published in 1930 by Lyle Saxon, called “Fabulous New Orleans.” The handwritten inscription on the opening page says, “To Father from Marion & Sister, June 21, 1931.” I’m a sucker for old books — particularly when they deal with something or someone I care about. Last Christmas, she gave me a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, written while he was president. Believe me — there is nothing new in the world of revisionist history and political aggrandisement. This 190something book is full of references to TR’s almost mystical powers of clearheaded thought — at least in the eyes of the worshipful (and obviously I-voted-for-him authors. Sound familiar?

Anyway — Saxon isn’t known as a great historian. I’ve read several of his works, including his “biography” of Jean Lafitte and Old Louisiana and others. He was an overly florid writer and took tremendous liberty with the facts, easily substituting conjecture when facts are hazy. And he was also very much a product of his time. For instance, he writes (when talking about voodoo), “one must understand something of the negro’s characteristics. It must be remembered that he is intensely emotional, that he possesses a childlike credulity, that his imagination is easiliy inflamed,” etc etc. So anything he writes has to be taken with a large box of Morton iodized salt at the ready.
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Who Dat?!

This is just to say that, thanks to the radio station currently calling itself The Rock Of New Orleans (104-point-something, I forget; the read-out in Mom’s car is broken), I have now had the… pleasure… of hearing the Ghost & Birdfinger song WhoDat2006. I’m not entirely sure whether this is a good thing. But proceeds from song purchases at their iSound website go to fund contributions to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, so that’s OK.

Here we are…..

….on a New Year’s Eve eve — watching it rain hard and digesting a bigass burger from Fat Harry’s on St. Charles. We went there specifically tonight — knowing the beer and burgers are good and the rain and the holiday break would be keeping the frat crowd away. We were right — the place was about 1/3 full and things were delightful.

It always rains/snows/fogs or something around year’s end. Two years ago, we got snow on Christmas. Last year, the fog was too thick to see any of the planned fireworks on the river. Ungodly, Dracula-movie kinda fog. Incredible and yet wonderful.

This has me all reflective about the past year, which has been a very, very tough one on us and yet also more rewarding than any I can remember. Our neighborhood, except for one house, remains intact. More wonderful people have moved in. So many more places are open than a year ago and the beginning of Carnival looms in another week.
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Kid Ory, Chickens and Jason London Hawkins

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Since I began hanging out at La Crepe Nanou years ago, I got to know Jason Hawkins pretty well while he was tending bar there. He’s a painter and we both love architecture. Jason has a degree in preservation and does a lot of paintings of architecture, many of his subjects are buildings that were demolished long ago. Prior to Katrina I was working with the PRC doing research on the homes where jazz musicians lived throughout the city but after the storm this project has been placed on the back-burner for a while.

I have a number of Jason’s pieces and he usually does one for me for my birthday. This year he gave me a streetscape of Storyville along Basin St. Left to right, the buildings in this painting start with Hilma Burt’s, Dina and Norma’s “French House”, the one-story Little Annex of Lizette Smith, Josie Arlington’s, the tiny place of Martha Clark and finally, the huge Mahogany Hall. In case your interested in reading more about Storyville, try a book called, Storyville, New Orleans, 0-8173-4403-9.

Jason lives in a house on Jackson Ave. which the PRC restored a few years ago that was once the residence of Kid Ory. Edward “Kid” Ory (1888) was a trombonist, saxophonist, composer & bandleader. Kid Ory led the Woodlawn band in LaPlace, and his own band in New Orleans. He recorded with his Sunshine Band in 1922 & in Chicago with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, Joseph “King” Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. His hit composition, Muskrat Ramble, has gone through many reincarnations. Kid Ory was at the forefront of the Jazz Revival in the 40’s and 50’s and continued performing into the 1970’s.

Jason stayed through the storm and is painting and bartending as a fill-in at the restaurant. Recently, he’s keeping some chickens in his back yard in Central City, they are really beautiful. For a moment, he considered selling the Ory house and maybe moving but he changed his mind. Jason’s work is the constantly rotating art that adorns the walls of La Crepe Nanou.

Metairie-ite Discovers The Bywater

I never really know what to blog about when I visit home these days. I want to report on things like an excellent meal at Drago’s or the difficulty of tracking down and affording enough crawfish to be worth firing up the boiler this season, but it just doesn’t seem important enough when people are getting water in their houses all over again.

But then again, life in the city continues, and it’s not all disaster all the time. Right? …right?

Right. I guess. Anyway, I’ve got pics of the Jefferson Parish pumping station safe-houses to share in a post tomorrow or next day. So it ain’t drinking and dancing and biscuits and jelly 24/7, either.

Anyway, last night was a Thursday night. I have a usenet acquaintance who’s been telling me for years that next time I’m in town I need, really requisitely need, to go to Vaughn’s of a Thursday night when Kermit Ruffins is holding court. And when Katrina touched down, one of the laughably out-of-perspective trivial thoughts that crossed my mind–you know what I’m talking about, the less important losses you babble about to distract yourself from the big losses–was, “Damn! I waited too long and now I’ll never get to do that!”

But in fact it is a thing still doable, and my husband and I done did it last night.
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New Orleans Birth

This one is definately on a personal note but I have to share the birth of my first baby, plus I have a tie-in line.

Please welcome one of New Orleans’ newest additions:

Chance Warren
7 lbs 9 oz
22 inches
December 21st 9:45 am
Born at Tulane Lakeside.
The staff was friendly and informative and the surrounding were calm and inviting. The birth was smooth and both myself and baby Chance are doing well.

Here is a picture

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We all in de same pirogue, cher

I’ve never eaten there, but this article outlines the tough times being faced by the city’s oldest restaurant. They’re not the only ones — not by a long shot. You can name virtually any upscale eatery in town and they’re hurting. Hell — a lot of the less formal places are also facing problems brought on or left in the wake of the hurricane, the flood, the insurance hassles, the loss of customers due to shrunken population and tourism, etc., etc., too many damn etcs.

It occurs to me to help by simply going there to eat. I mean, I’ve got a nice jacket and I enjoy spending time in Da Quawtah and it’s not far away and a cab ride’s not overly pricey. I’m a culinary kinda guy and it’s been too long since TBK got a chance to get all girled up. Her birthday’s coming up in February and yadda yadda. Maybe we WILL go there around her birthday (though not ON her birthday, since that’s Endymion parade night). So yeah — pencil us in, garcon…..
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T’was the Night Before Christmas

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The Teddy Bear House on Duffosat St

Ahoy to the World!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in the Faubourg
At the edge of the crescent, no creature stirred.
Under the shroud-like blue plastic from FEMA
That flapped in the wind in the wake of Katrina.
Nothing was hung by the chimneys with care
Since chimneys and roofs were no longer there.
The houses, abandoned for trailers or Texas,
Were circled with watermarks, branded with Xs,
And in them no sugarplums danced in kids’ heads,
For no little children slept snug in their beds
On this night before Christmas in Faubourg-St John
Where time had stopped dead, while the world carried on.
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Matt McBride: the pump station master

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Left Photo: Monticello drainage canal takes waste water from Metairie and drains it through Orleans parish, near Carrollton. On the Jefferson Parish side, they are reinforcing and building higher leveee walls all along their section of the canal. The Orleans Parish end remains vulnerable. Right Photo: FEMA waterfront property.

We’re in the middle of a long rain event right now and we’re seeing more than the usual localized flooding which we are all accustomed too. Usually we have to be strategic, adjusting our driving routes from A to B to avoid areas known for heavy flooding, anything not to get stuck in a situation where the water can cause your car’s engine to stall. Since the first heavy rains of summer, I noticed the back o’town areas along Louisiana have suffered worse flooding than prior to The Flood. Today people attempting to exit the post office had no other option than to turn around due to the small lake located at the exit. Friends in the Carrollton areas reported flooding where they had never seen flooding before. Even Claiborne had a lot of water. Some lucky folks opted to work from home today.

For Matt McBride, monitoring the condition and maintenance of our pumping stations and addressing issues relating to the canals and their impact on the neighborhoods they flow through, has become a great service he provides that largely goes unnoticed by the general population. We all agree that no amount of money for rebuilding is worth the wire transfer fee if we don’t fix our levees, floodwalls and pumping system.

Matt began by inspecting the pumps and making reports and started a blog called Fix The Pumps. Matt began gathering information and contacting officials in charge to be sure that all the promised repairs and vital upgrades were made after The Flood. He even has a insider who assists him who is aslo dedicated to seeing the repairs done properly. Matt refers to him as Deep Flood. There is a nice general update entry for new readers on Dec. 13, 2006.

If there is one citizen who’s niche activism is making the biggest impact on our recovery, it would be Matt. I watched the new roofs installed on Pump Station No. 3 recently. Thanks, Matt !

And thanks to Karen for taking these photos today! http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenapricot/329332075/

Eye opener

I headed up to the Northeast part of the country for the past week for some much needed R & R and some introspection about where I am after 16 months. It seems I have not been able to separate myself while I’m actually in the city. Or so I discovered for the past week. I spent a little time in Virginia Beach, drove up to Atlantic City for a couple of days and then spent the rest of my time in Philadelphia.

First I was surprised that America still has cities that are functional. Lights work, things run on time, there are things to do after dark and you won’t get mugged walking the dog. People are upbeat and positive- yeah even in Philly!!! I was there for 3 days and they only had 1 murder. Think about that. We go through 4 or 5 a day sometimes and we might be about a 10th of the size.

I’m not attempting to be negative. It’s frankly just the reality of the situation from my perspective. Every one of us is different. Things effect me in certain ways that others may not be give a second thought. That’s what this site is about. One persons perspective at a certain time at a certain place about a certain thing.
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