Saturday, July 6, 2019

Electoral awakening

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The 40% Solution
            We’re all being media fed from both of Mother America’s breasts two completely different fantastical realities; one reality showing the world that seems positively plausible and one that is kicking us in the crotch. Fantasy fed and reality reamed. The revolution will be televised and we won’t really believe it--- until we turn off the set, look out of our windows and see that it’s already happened and we’ve lost. What it is, what it was and what it shall be.
TV, on the one hand, tells us that we have a Madame Secretary, a Veep, and a gun slinging ass kicking woman government agent (Homeland) who are gonna save us all from threats to our liberties; real and imagined, foreign and domestic. Look out bad guys; we’re comin’ to get you, wearing high heel shoes and a low neck sweater.
            Newsroom, West Wing, Boston Legal, Luther, Sherlock, Person of Interest, Law and Order SVU, The Equalizer, House of Cards and even Dexter. We watch like perverts at a peep show. Mess with us and we’ll bring in the big guns and beat you at your own game, we’ll sneak in with might as our right and let you have it with a shiv between your ribs and a boot to your bread basket; lights out, nobody home. Right will talk and wrong will run. These shows go back as far as you can remember: Miami Vice, Dragnet.
            We have this overwhelming need to see wrongs righted, to watch the downfall of those that would trample our lives, liberties and the pursuits of our happiness’s; turn on the tube, we’ve got a hero ready to fight for us and a happy ending. Turn off the television and what do we have? Bupkis.
            On the tube the police have forensics, they take finger prints, have line-ups, wiretaps, grill suspects, catch bad guys and are relentless in their integrity, dignity and evenhanded fairness, some even fall in love; but, woe to bad cops, even they’ll get theirs before we fade to black. What do we have in reality land? Don’t get me started.
            We’re tied to our sets by the cable umbilical cord. We like to watch shows where people can sing, dance and survive better than we ever could; we like to watch pitiful people in pitiful conditions try to overcome things like weight, intelligence, dexterity and movement/control of one ball with energy and intensity capable of powering a third world country’s power grid.
            Well, you admit, ‘I know life ain’t like that’; ‘it’s just an escape’; ‘I’m just passing time’; ‘it’s a much needed diversion’. It’s all too true, but, what about the rest of our lives? In the rest of our lives we are incredulous that immeasurably worse things are happening around and to us in real time. And we’re confused as to how to work this; we got no badges, we have no power and we don’t look good in high heel shoes and a low neck sweater; we’re caught up in the movie, in the real life moment and we haven’t been given the script.
            The world is on the brink of nuclear disaster, the economy has tanked, the courts are taking away our hard earned rights, they’re confiscating rosary beads from immigrants and putting kids in cages; what the !@^#*&%%!? What do you want from me? The world is starving, the planet is warming, we’re killing off species and children are being sold into slavery; the way we treat animals and each other borders on satanic, and I’ve got no idea what I’m gonna fix for dinner. Cars, critters, careers, kids and flesh eating amoeba; by my estimations fully 40% of the population (maybe more) are more concerned and focused on simply surviving than are those pushing to save the chimps, whales, reproductive rights or our environment.
            As you may have noticed, changing the world is a job for the young and the old; no one in the middle has time away from the ever spinning treadmill of life to rally, march, communicate or even pay attention to the chaos that is dooming our planet and our lives. I see folks with kids and I haven’t the remotest idea how they have time for anything else in their lives, let alone finding the solution to the greed motivated political geothermal level sugar rush tsunami hara-kiri that our so called leaders are pushing us into headlong and head first.
            The young and the old have time on their hands; however, it appears that the more the young want to change things, the more the old want America to carry on business as usual. New thoughts and solutions are coming up from the bottom while resistance to change keeps pushing back from the top and I’m here in the middle trying to get my rent in on time and still put food on the table, make dentist appointments, get the car tuned (in case of evacuation), do laundry and get heartworm meds for Fido. Even nightly news has to be set before me in knee jerk sound bites. And to what end?
            Voter turnout is pitiful at best. Things are never going to change until the middle 40% can afford to live comfortably and with time free enough to ponder (and do something) about the condition our condition is in, time enough to make their voices heard loud enough and show up at the polls in numbers enough to effect a better world for us and our children.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A visit to the DMV

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Asexual Screw
A visit to the DMV, is mostly described as a thoroughly humiliating experience and a topic of epic conversations over adult beverages; very few of us have ever had overtly pleasant times there.   “I got my number, went out for a run, had some lunch, and when I went back; they still hadn’t called my turn”.
You’ll hear stories like this from every other person that has gone to the Louisiana motor vehicle processing centers. They used to be called the DMV, but now they go by OMV, different name, same dysfunction if not worse; the more aware we are of the advances in the outside world the more archaic the OMV appears, functionality speaking.
            “I waited for two hours and then they wanted information that was NOT listed on their website as necessary and literally I had to camp out and argue with them (quietly but firmly) for forty-five minutes before they finally gave in and let me have my license changed from Seattle to here”. And other stories like that; everyone I’ve spoken to has a horror story for when they try to do motor vehicle business in New Orleans, such as getting an updated version of your license when you change address or registering your Nissan Hocus Pocus or Honda Cilantro. Advice: bring a book and lunch or people watch the circus unfolding around you, asking yourself if it was worth the wait and the two busses it takes to get to this remote facility.
            Here’s some points: there is no clock on the wall to tell you how long you’ve been waiting, the time of ‘your turn’ ticket is stamped and a number for you to wait to hear announced for your up at the window portion of your visit; the numbers are called in no particular order. I sat next to a one arm taxi driver that waited five hours while numbers up and down from his were called for service before his turn was announced. Next, the chairs in front of whatever window you get to are lower than the one of the person serving you, I think so that you feel smaller than they, a typical alpha humiliation tactic used often in job interviews.
            There is a triage station where they weed out the totally unprepared, answer basic questions and issue a slip of paper that assigns you a letter and a number. E437, F585, G624 etc. High point of our last visit is when the number I 810 (pronounced by the loudspeaker as “Now serving Eye Eight One Zero, at counter number seventeen) was called; the entire room waited with baited breath as the number went up one time and then two for when it was announced that window number seventeen would be servicing number “I ate one too”, a collective smile went around the room. That’s how boring it is there. Oh, there are over twenty service windows there and at any one time I only saw upwards to eight employees (wo)manning them; the waiting area seats hundreds and each time I went it was full to capacity.
            First condition on getting booted off premises is to show up without your Social Security Card (the real hard copy is a must); why? Who the *&^%$#@! Knows? Next they want any proof of employment to be on ‘official’ letterhead stationary; renting agreements have to be on ‘official’ rental forms (available at office supply stores) and hand written anything is pushed aside as irrelevant.
            The office hours are from 8:00 to 4:00 weekdays (excluding holidays) and it’s common to see parents arriving after 3:00 with school kids to witness the mortification of their elders. At  3:50 a uniformed security guard about as big as a refrigerator announces that the doors will be locked in ten minutes and those still inside will be served; go out that door after four and there’s no re-entrance etc. etc. That’s when the efficiency of rejecting customers goes into high gear and you’re made to feel like they’re now shooting fish in a barrel and guess who’s in the barrel next?
            I was with a friend who has just moved here from Oregon and was changing his valid driver’s license from there to here; the first time he waited four hours before he was rejected on a technicality and we went back the second time with everything needed and got there at the opening bell. There were a hundred people waiting for the opening and it took nearly an hour to process through triage. He was then given a ticket with the number 26 on it. It took him six and a half hours to get seen and approved.
            I have made two observations. First: the system I witnessed screams of letting people who really don’t like their jobs micromanage their clients to near psychic suicide. Answers like “we don’t have to do nothing here!” when shown what should pass for appropriate paperwork; and when the question is rephrased to “it says that these can be considered” answer “that’s more like it; we can consider, but we don’t have to do nothing!” Semantics is crucial. Second: folks are so pissed at the way they are treated, that subconsciously they vow never to heed any traffic laws ever.
            So when that speeding driver cuts you off; when they make a left turn from the right hand lane; when they turn without a turn signal (or don’t); when you see someone speed through a yellow light; ignore pedestrians in a crosswalk or drive like the bike lane is their lane; when they lay on their horn because they think that you’re not going fast enough for them even though you’re going the speed limit: picture the abuse that they’ve endured just to be on the road and wish them a repeat visit.
            Being on the road can be hell; getting the proper credentials to get on the road is heller.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tour Guide

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The Tour Guide
Herding Cats
            I’m into my third year as a tour guide, I lead New Orleans tours. I can’t sing, I aint pretty and my legs are thin; but folks laugh at my jokes and listen to my information, I know my stuff and have a great sense of humor. I have a license, carry a sign, wear an orange shirt; I work for a company named Destination Kitchen/MustDoNola, owned and operated by Julie Barreda-Cavigne, a chef and seasoning alchemist who is top drawer. We're rated number one by TripAdvisor. Monthly I text Wanda my available working dates and at month’s end after emailing hours worked to Rachel, money magically appears in my mail box. Winner winner chicken dinner.  
There are half a dozen of us guides and we do everything including food, history, cocktail, walking, Garden district and custom tours from two to two hundred people. Tours can be tailored or we have a pre-structured jaunts about town that cannot be beat. Tours range from two hours and up. The culinary tour is three hours and a walk of about two miles around the French Quarter with stops for eating, hydrating and rest facility stops for folks that need to facilitate their bodily functions, this is my forte (the tour not the bodily functions).
It’s kind of like doing a stand up performance that includes wit, history, education, facts and idiosyncrasies. This being New Orleans 300th year in existence, guides have been quite active on the street. People are interested in learning more about our city and my tour-guiding has turned into active employment.
Each trip out I am given a number of people to lead, and I never know who my people are until I see them; they are of all ages from across the spectrum of the world’s societies--folks like you and me. I arrive fifteen minutes before the departure time and collect my flock. We meet at various places around the Quarter and I start by introducing myself as I size up my audience. I get all kinds; kids that give more attention to their electronic devices than to some old guy in an orange shirt; couples engaged in PDA (public displays of affection) ditto; students, older folks, women in tight clothing and men with powerful hangovers. There are also the eleven types of dietary restricted folks that we’re happy to accommodate: and just when you think that you’ve heard every aversion, someone will surprise you with yet ‘sensitivity’ (Mercury?).
I warn them of treacherous walking conditions, explaining the alluvial soil that we’ll be traversing, ready to trip the unaware stroller. Watching someone trip and fall in the street is one of the scariest things that any tour guide can experience, losing people is another. Usually people are interesting and interested; the shy, the gregarious; BFFs, fast walkers, slow eaters, weak bladders or those most interested in another cocktail. We accommodate them all. I have a set schedule of places I need to be and when I need to be there, but by in large—hard as I might try--it rarely works out with precision. Occasionally there will be an overly impatient person, a couple who would rather talk to each other than listen to me, and/or the husband that can care less because it was his wife that made the reservation and he’s just along for the ride. There is also that person that wants to make sure that they get their monies worth, the one who wants to eat right away because they didn’t stop for breakfast; also guys who need to sneak a smoke or those lingering for selfies or photo ops. These are my children and I love each and every one of them. “Are we there yet?”
            Our purveyors, the food and drink outlets where we stop are gems of perfection and patience, we are blessed with being able to show off the best of our local foods and locations and my tourists always leave the tour knowing more about the city than can be gleaned from just a map.
I start by telling my group my name (and getting theirs) where I come from (and where they are visiting from) and explain my credentials and a word about our company and about Julie. I tell them that we will be on a three hour tour, but I have thirty hours of information and how I’ll be talking about food, culture, food, history, food, architecture, food, legends and facts (and food). And off we go.
You can be sure that no one on the excursion knows where we’re going; I take them up streets, down alleys, around in circles and back tracking. I could be kidnapping the whole bunch and they’d never blink an eye; once they start following you, they’ll go anywhere; I suspect that if we stopped for an espresso, I could walk them to Abita Springs, especially if there was beer on the other end.
On any given tour I walk about five miles to, from, and on. I could go on forever. After I’ve exhausted our time together, I still have only let them glimpse the tip of the iceberg that is New Orleans. Probably what will make me a great tour guide (instead of just a very good one) is my love of this place that I have chosen to make and call my home. The addiction that I have for all things New Orleans, all of the stuff that makes living here so much more preferable to other places, as well as all the things that I love not to love about her. The funniest thing that I love about New Orleans is how we all know what’s misfunctional about it, and with each election we pin our hopes on being able to change things; New Orleans laughs back at us, what fools we mortals be. Onward; “Let me tell you about our food and culcha! C’mon, ya gonna love it!”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Furder Fahdah

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Further Father
Lessons Learned
            Okay, here I am, going to write about fathers and Father’s Day and all the joys that a positive male role model can have on a fertile and impressionable child and/or children; I apologize if I disappoint and I hope to have another happy American ending for a column I’m asked to write to uplift, impress and inspire those of you that celebrate this auspicious day in our calendar. I may fall short in that endeavor.
            My father grew up in a volatile immigrant family and was strange from the time that he was young. He went into the armed forces during the second war and came back as crazy as an outhouse rat. He came back not only jumpy, lethargic, violent and psychically wall eyed; he came back without a respect for the common social mores of his times of which at that time were precious few. He was reactive and unreliable.
            Consider this; in times of worldly conflict, you take a million or so seventeen to twenty year olds, give them guns, send them out to kill other people, inform them that they may die as well and then expect them to come back sane and stable? Not a f**king chance; consider them lucky if they come back with all their body parts. My father came home damaged.
            I was a lad of three when I pissed him off sitting in my high chair and with my hands locked underneath the feeding tray he began to beat me. When my mother intervened, he beat her. Only after he and his brother knocked over a pawn shop and my mother wrote down evidence, threatened to have him jailed if he didn’t leave the city and us alone forever, did he disappear from my life. My mother had very bad taste in husbands and I could write a book on that one.
            I grew up without a father and the memory of that beating faded. My mother remarried another immigrant unable to relate to a pack of street rat kids, and I was raised with a man in the house but not a father. I was taught that empathy was for sissies; kindness is weakness         
Eventually I grew and had children of my own and I knew nothing about being a father except that physical violence against anything smaller or weaker than I am is categorically wrong and unacceptable. No instruction booklets or elective courses were available for me; nobody teaches you how to be a father and I failed. Times have not changed that much for grown males in today’s society and there are, a number of fathers today that labor under these same influences and lack of moral compasses when they deal with the fruit of their own loins. Happy Father’s Day.
            There is a dichotomy in fathers these days: those who have learned the lessons of the counterproductive actions that a father can have on their children and possibly whose fathers have learned and passed that evolution of behavior to them; or, on the other hand, there are still fathers that have a ‘deliver beatings, raise your kids tough to be able to deal in a tough dog eat dog world and take no sh*t from anyone’ and are raising their children to pass on that mentality of me/them/mine by any means bully as a hero tough guy smart talking badsass ghetto cred don’t give a f**k attitude misogynist role model to look up to. Seed banks; bread winners; Alpha males. Welcome to the world Sparky.
            Are you a father? Have you ever been a father? Do you see yourself as a future father? You had better have your act together because not only is it a full time job, but, you don’t get time off to be a weakling. To be successful you have to be mentor, clergy, older brother, psychiatrist, guru, friend, confidant and gentle disciplinarian all at the same time. Patient, understanding, guiding and a person to look up to at all times. There is no one now that can hold you and tell you that everything will be alright; you are now the person that must hold. It’s a wake up, get up, suit up, show up and never give up on yourself or your kids kind of job.
            I have daughters. I see them, their husband, their kids, my grandchildren; and I see the adults struggle to be a stable force while dealing with their own and their kids’ challenges; I’m proud of the job they are doing. I’m proud of their single grandmothers who bring logic and love to the growing beings that know nothing of what is going on in their world and who need the consul of someone they look up to.
            It is sobering to be a father; there are no breaks; there’s no time off. There’s a nightmare in the middle of the night to console; the embarrassment of a bed wetting; the dealing with that bully at school; the emerging hormones of a preteen; the heartbreak of young love and attraction that can all be devastating to a newbie on this physical plane. It’s a heroic position to uphold.
            So here’s to you and your fathers out there on Father’s Day. Men of my generation were taught not to be in touch with their feelings and emotions; here’s hoping that your father ignored that teaching. Reach out, rub their balding head, stroke their fragile ego, tell them you love the way they burn things on that outdoor grill that they use once a year. And while you’re up, get them a beer.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Aging Dis-gacefully

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Rinse and Repeat
Aging (Dis) Gracefully
            Subjectively, no one grows old in increments; one day, all of a sudden, you see your reflection in a mirror (or in someone else’s eyes) and you ask yourself who that old person is, and it’s you. Of course you make light of it “shucks, if I knew I was gonna live this long, I woulda taken better care of myself (diet, finances, exercise, dentistry, dreams, aspirations, family commitments, love and/or life in general)!” That sarcasm doesn’t wash well as a rationale, and even you can see the flaws in it, so you lose yourself in memories and the memories of the different bodies that you’ve inhabited along the way. Ponder, if you will: time is a thief; it steals all of the selves that you ever were.
            What is your earliest memory? Is it being tossed in the air (and caught) by some big person, being cuddled, being suckled; standing in your crib crying because your diaper is full, you’ve just woken up and you’re alone in a dark room? Perhaps your memories don’t go back that far.
            How about the feeling of being little around bigger people; learning, in a group of kids your own size to deal with the politics of school; falling in love with your first grade teacher; learning to tie your shoes, read  phonetically, sit patiently with hands folded or take a forced nap after ‘cookies and milk time’? Having your rage suppressed.
            What about being told to go to bed when you’re not tired; getting awakened before you’ve slept enough; told to clean your plate, drink your juice, get dressed, get dressed, you’re not wearing that (!) and button up your overcoat? What was your first nightmare?
            You grow into a preteen and your voice changes, your feet and nose get bigger, you’re judged by how well you play sports, pull off mischief without getting caught, defend yourself physically and verbally; you want to belong somewhere but you don’t seem to fit anywhere. You tell your mother that you didn’t ask to be born. Your face breaks out.
            High School happens and your hormones rage; everyone is against you; you learn to slow dance, French kiss, have a crush, go steady, and get your heart broken; rinse and repeat. You join a tribe, rebel, study, and can’t wait to get it all over with; nobody understands the ‘real’ you, you’re artistic, sensitive, all knowing. Finally you get a driver’s license, a Social Security card, a part time job, an acoustic guitar and a peer group. You sing out for social justice.
            You graduate into a radical departure; you leave home, join a band, cult, Army or fraternity/sorority. You’re drinking with the best of them, no longer a virgin, doing your own laundry and you can play your music as loud as you want. You have roommates, you watch art movies, discuss philosophy, name your cat Rimbaud, roll your own (cigarettes). You protest inequality. At this point there is so much to do in life that you get very little done, it’s okay, you’re young, free and independent; you wire home for money. You visit the folks on holidays, surprise them with your new wardrobe, hairstyle and ability to talk adverse politics peppered with expletives. 
            At twenty-one you’re exhausted; you’ve taken lovers, gotten a tattoo, had a brush with the law, been fired for incompetence. At twenty-five: you’re golden, twenty-seven: you’ve been kicked to the curb, twenty-eight: you give up, thirty: you settle into a career. It’s time to get serious about relationships, money, security and the possibility of having a family of your own, a golden retriever named Marilyn, 401K and a car that is dependable. You buy insurance, use your degree to get ahead and embrace the responsibilities you once avoided.
            The years tick by in a flash; you take on more than three people should. You start a business, buy a house, raise kids or live alone in an apartment with a tank of tropical fish and the work that you’ve taken home from the office. You’ve been paying your dues and bills; you’ve fallen down and picked yourself back up, people count on you, you’ve found and lost Jesus on several occasions; you’re the life of the party, the master of the snappy comeback, always ready with a smoke or a joke. Shot at and missed, sh*t at and hit.
            Settling into what might pass for maturity you trudge along, taking happiness in your accomplishments, disregarding your shortcomings, everyone around you finally knows what can be expected of you. People around you get sick, get well, some of them die. Younger acquaintances get married; you go to weddings, funerals, baptisms, sometimes you just send a gift. You forget birthdays. You get regular checkups, quit smoking and cut back on the booze. You don’t understand the current musical trends, electronic gadgets; don’t know who these people are at the Academy Awards, all young people start to look alike and upstarts begin to call you “Sir (or Ma’am)”. You still pay attention, you’re interested in the news, you remember when you marched and protested; you believed that good would triumph over evil.
            And then one morning you see that that old person in the mirror is you and today you tarry a little longer and look deeply at that face. It’s a good face.  A roadmap of decades of a life; lines of laughter, sadness, worry and joy.  A scar here and there where a memory was born; an obstacle overcome; a time where you were laid low by an enemy, or worse, by a friend.  A scowl, surprise, suspicion, sorrow or a satisfaction, leaving telltale signs that are unseen from the inside but apparent when viewed in the looking glass (or someone else’s eyes). So much done; so much more to do.

Adoption Myself

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
New Jeers
Guy Friday
            I’ve decided for 2019, I’m gonna put myself up for adoption; it’s the only way out of this mess and I think that it would be mutually beneficial for me as well as my new family. Of course, we’ll have to set some ground rules and conditions; that would be as simple as knowing what would be expected of me balanced by what I would expect from my new family.  Believe me. I am a catch and will be an asset to wherever I land and to whomever I land on. I travel well and can learn languages… but I don’t do windows.
            First of all, you (whoever you are) would have to be able to afford me; I am not going to trade poor for poorer and if that doesn’t make sense, you can stop the application process right here. In return for my services which include cooking, simple errand completions and maybe a little light housework, I definitely need some financial stability in my life. You can be singled, coupled or nuclear familied in condition or number; although, I don’t do well in crowds or Eight Is Enough type situations, so, size does matter.
            Picture it: you get up in the morning, your coffee is made just the way you like it; I’ll know what you like for breakfast, I will have picked up your clothes from the cleaners, sorted your mail and have your newspaper ready at your place at the table. POINT 1: there will be no electronic devices at mealtimes, AT ALL (deal breaker). If there are dependents involved, whether they be four legged or bipedial, I expect that you will already have housebroken and trained them; I don’t mind reading to them, helping with studies, walks or chauffeuring them to their sanctioned outings. POINT 2: I don’t change diapers, clean up after or take crap from your kids.
            As you return for the evening after you’ve busted your hump for the man, I’ll have your favorite beverage on hand, dinner will be in its final stages of preparation and softness and peace will prevail in your household; your mail will have gone out and your expenses analyzed and laid out on your desk for your consideration in your short ‘attention to life’s details’ time in your office. At this point I will ask you if you’d like a bath drawn, then if nothing else is required of me I’ll clear the table, lock down the kitchen and retire to my quarters. POINT3: I fulfill a finite function in your life and am not on call 24/7, after all I am human (or so I’d like to believe) and need some down time of my own.
            Imagine: I will do your shopping, I will remember birthdays, special occasions and make reservations and such; I’ll take care of (getting someone else to do) your laundry, carpets, windows and heavy lifting.  I’m not sure who’s going to make up your bed (it’s not me) or clean your toilet but we’ll find someone (else). I am a quiet person who likes things organized and neat and intend on maintaining that sort of life and environment for you. I ask nothing in return except one day off a week, a stipend of a reasonable amount, and perhaps my own wing of your castle. POINT4: Sanitation of your area is your responsibility, I am your functioning ward (for life) not your husband or your wife.
            Reflect that now you will have time to do all those things you’ve been trying to fit into your ridiculously mundanely cluttered and busy life; you now can exercise, read, paint, study piano, go sailing and/or binge watch the Blacklist while drinking beer and eating potato chips. Relax, I’ll pick up the (reasonably mild) debris and make things comfortable for you. Tobacco use is NOT allowed ever in your life (or any other self destructive influences).  POINT 5: You will not jeopardize my tenure by screwing up your health and well being; if you feel the need to talk things out, I’ll be in the kitchen doing the dishes, grab a towel and I’ll impart some life lessons.
            Well, you say, if I’m going to live by all those rules (POINTS) why the @#$!%&# do I need you? Well, I say, you’ve obviously got money but no time and I offer you a way to have both. Who’ll keep the pool cleaned while you’re on vacation? Who’ll take charge of the floors being done for the holidays; hell, who’s gonna make sure you have candy for the Trick or Treaters, flowers for you anniversary or getting your bills paid on time--YOU? Oh, and speaking of my living arrangements, I come with a couple of critters and a mate (she likes to clean so perhaps a package deal?), so, I’ll need room (I’m also thinking a little garden space as well).
            Seriously, don’t you (or someone that you know of means) need an older (wiser) more organized than you (clean shaven with minimal tattoos) music loving (no rap or twerk stuff), educated and personable live in Mister, who is non combative, emotionally stable, politically correct and a fabulous cook to boot? Listen, all you’ll have to do is make some dough to support us all and I’ll take care of everything else; kind of what you’d expect from a clone of yourself. If you’re independently well off or just some Dude(ette) that wants to focus on your own egocentric driven existence, you need a guy like me OR someone like me; for goodness sake, I need someone like me, except, I can’t afford me!
            So, I have a passport, a set of knives and the ability to prepare virtually anything that suits your palate; and, oh yes, I forgot to mention: I will polish your silver (as long as he’s not your horse).

Viet Cajun

Po Boy View
Phil LaMancusa
Gung Hay Fat Choy
Nguyen Ever

Cats and Hats: It’s February! Happy New Year! Wherever you are, whoever you are and whoever you want to be, New Year’s Day on this planet is like Happy Hour in the French Quarter… there’s always one going on somewhere.
If you are Christian countrified you’ve already celebrated your New Year’s Day on January 1st   and are pretty much done with it. What rubbish. If you don’t approve of the previous New Year’s celebration (that you probably screwed up somehow), pick another and do it all over again! Who said that the first day of your calendar year had anything to do with what space (and other people) believes is the first day of the year. What(?), the beginning of a year of the cycling of this globe that we live on that’s shooting through space at 67,000 MPH, while spinning at 1,040 MPH, going around a Sun that’s orbiting the center of the universe along with the rest of our galaxy (100,000,000 planets or so) at 480,000MPH? I’m dizzy all the time; it’s always friggin New Years!
Jewish calendars have four New Year’s days (Nisan, Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Tu B’Shvat); Islamic folks have Al-Hijra/Muharram starting on the 31st of August and is celebrated for 29 days. The Hindis have at least eight New Year’s days (mostly in mid April) depending on what part of India you’re in; Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Laos are also celebrate mid April.  Celtic New Year (Samhain) is November1; Thailand has Songkran (twice). My astrologer tells me that the New Year begins at the Spring Equinox March 20-21. She says “it’s lunar, fool”.
So, missed any New Year’s celebrations? Maybe you were busy slinging drinks for drunks? Well you’re in luck because; here comes another one, just in time for the February edition of Where Y’at; Chinese and Vietnamese (Korean and Tibetan) New Year, February 5th! Rock on with your Bad Self!
For those that might be unsure and possibly insecure, Asian cultures celebrate a twelve year lunar cycle and each year is symbolized by an animal; we’re just coming off the Year of the Dog and going into the Year of the Pig. Other animal years are horse, rat, snake, ox, dragon, monkey, goat, tiger, rabbit and sheep; their outlook on animal attributes are completely different than you might think and the best way to start understanding this  form of astrology is to find out which sign you are and what it means (talk amongst yourselves). For an example, if you were born in the year of the pig, you fall into one of five categories of pig corresponding to the five elements (metal, water, wood, fire and earth). Pigs are considered a wonderful astrological sign (what’s yours?) they are generous, diligent, loving and giving; compassionate and entertaining. It’s a good thing to be a Pig Sign; if you are one, this is your year!
As you know (or should) we have a generous Vietnamese population and this New Years promises to be big; it promises to go on for days.           Last year, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, 14011 Dwyer Blvd, was the location for a weeklong celebration with dragons dancing, wishes granted, flowers, parades, fireworks and festivities that thrilled throngs. This year is gonna be more of the same--- family friendly fun and participatory events, activities and games will abound. And there is no admission; it’s all free to attend but be sure to bring some spending for souvenirs and the delicious treats: Ban Mi, Pho and spring rolls supplied by vendors!
Now, those of you that have watched David Chang’s Ugly Delicious will already know this; but, for you others—let me be the first to clue you in--- Viet Cajun Food.
This is a twist on our local fare that has not caught on in New Orleans, they say, because we’re too steepid (combination of steeped and stupid )in our traditions to adapt or change our tried and true what works for what may be something that will possibly blow our minds with its uniqueness. Viet Cajun--consider this--suppose, just suppose, you take five pounds of our spicy boiled crawfish in the shell (yum) and you put them in a sack and add ginger, lemongrass and lots of butter and eat them like that. Yummer, huh? But noooo, according to folks in Houston, where this adaptation is going strong, us folks in New Orleans are stuck in our ways.
            Tell me this: how come when you go into a convenience store operated by people from other cultures (Asian, Islamic, Mediterranean) you really only find fried chicken, ham hocks, beans and rice? Why can’t I find Ban Mi or Shwarma in corner stores? Is it because the citizens of my ward and precinct are too thick to try something in their bowl other than gumbo?
            Let’s make a New Year’s resolution this February 5th: ask that Vietnamese counter clerk that makes that dynamite shrimp po boy to put some pho on the menu; in the same vein, find out from that Islamic guy at Brothers by the overpass where they keep the Harissa to spread on your fried chicken. Dammit, I want some gochujang available as a condiment; is that so wrong?
Granted, there are a handful of ethnically run small convenience stores and filling station outlets that have fried rice or egg rolls or even a few with Ban Mi sandwiches; but, by and large, if I want non mainstream Saigon selections (my favorites or new ones to try), I’ve got to drive out to Dong Phuong (which James Beard Foundation calls “a vital part of the local culinary landscape”). Do you know where Dong Phuong is? Well you had better find out before February 5th because that’s where the festivity epicenter  for our own Vietnamese New Year’s celebration is gonna be. Chuc Mung Nam Moi!