Sunday, September 20, 2009

Political New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Common Sense
The Unsent Column
Dear New Orleans: The next Mayor, if they have any sense, will not welcome your input into legislation, policy or decisions. The next Mayor will also tell you the truth, whether you like it or not. These two basic tenets will lead to a smoother run government. We will not mention the current Mayor.
The next Mayor will, flat out, tell you that no, we do not want poor people in New Orleans, nor do we welcome their return from wherever they’ve been. It will be a crime to be poor punishable by education and employment. Charity or dependency will not be available to able bodied citizens. Homelessness and poverty will be met with training and education. Your participation in the betterment of yourself and your family will be mandatory and there will be no supplemental income available for anyone offering the same lame excuses that have worked the system in the past. We’re here for solutions.
The new mayor will not take any days off until these issues and the ones that follow are addressed and dealt with. Neither will the City Council who will meet constantly without public input. If you want to have your councilperson do something, you’ll need to tell them so yourself in your own forum; after all, you voted for them didn’t you? And if you didn’t, you’ll just have to suck it up and vote someone else in.
Councilpersons will meet with their constituents at neighborhood forums and then bring those opinions and options to the Council table. Your responsibility as a citizen stops and your councilperson (elected by you) takes over from there. New Orleans will be run for the common good whether you like it or not.
Which brings us the subject of voting. Anyone who misses three consecutive elections will have to re-register. Lack of interest will not give you a say in the new administration which will have it’s terms cut in half (Mayor especially) so that you will have to vote them in more often or vote them out while the wounds of their misdeeds are still fresh in your mind.
This city is not losing money; this city is hemorrhaging money. We are sending money out of town in outside contracts when the money should be spent here on our own companies to aid in our rebuilding and it’s a shame and the new mayor will stop it. We waste money paying ineffective and extraneous government committees and personnel instead of putting our money in jobs, small businesses and infrastructure.
Here’s some other things that need addressed: The dollar an hour raise that we voted in but the current mayor vetoed. The economy of the city being based on low wage tourism jobs. The labor force being down by over 100,000
Overall unemployment climbing to 8%, with 25% unemployment in young people and 15% in African Americans. Highest High School dropout rates. Highest teen pregnancies. High infant mortality. 71% illegitimacy rates among children being raised in poverty (right here in River City). I group these together because they seem to relate.
Solutions may come via focusing on paying attention to (and throwing employment at): the deplorable condition of our streets, public transit shortages. The need to establish recycling, real cooks in public facilities, more (and better qualified) teachers in our school system. Why should we have volunteer construction people from out of town helping to rebuild our houses, Americorps personnel coming for a tour of duty and Teach for America teachers in charge of our children’s education? Is it because we lack something in our own citizens? You bet your sweet ass. Maybe we should outsource our city government as well. Let’s get Chicago to take over; they do a heck of a job up there.
Onward. Did I mention quality of life and the environment? Did I mention schools and how parent s will be held responsible for their children’s grades, attitudes and actions? A child in trouble will be required to have their parents attend school with them, full time, until problems evaporate. Did I mention that a child’s parents needs to participate in their upbringing and behavior? Did I mention that a child’s parents need to participate in their own upbringing and behavior? Did I mention the child’s need to participate? Did I mention that you need to pay attention?
Other things that need addressed: Crime. Ah yes, crime. ‘Fighting crime’ is just an ambiguous statement as ‘petitioning the Lord with prayer’. Crime cannot be fought, crime can only be eliminated or left to flourish. Period.
Eliminating crime starts with employment, fair housing regulations, health facilities and education. Jails, courts and police forces are not effective
The ban of assault weapons in city limits. And blah blah blah…..
Housing. 63,557 vacant or abandoned homes
Rents up by 50% due to no rental guidelines
Blah blah blah…. And frigging blah
Consider that this is a rant has the future of falling on deaf ears and the city will go on and on in moral morass because anyone that unselfishly would like a change for the better around here has a the same chance of being heard as gas passed in a strong windstorm.
I’ll give you the definition of the word that typifies our situation and then bury this in the blog archive and not even submit it for publication. And then I’ll leave you alone. Apathy and impotence doesn’t deserve my rage. Here’s the word:
Morass: “1. an area of low-lying ground that is soft and wet to a great depth and therefore difficult to walk on.
2. A frustrating, confusing or unmanageable situation that makes any kind of progress extremely slow”. It’s hard not to notice, isn’t it?
But, hopefully now I can take a deep breath and write something upbeat for next month.

Early Bird in New Orleans: Thanksgiving

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Happy Bird-day
Twenty Minutes A Pound
When I first got back to New Orleans, years ago, I took a chef’s job on Bourbon Street. That first Thanksgiving, where we served over seven hundred meals, I worked seventy hours over the weekend. There were two of us in the kitchen. The General Manager instructed me the Wednesday previous to deep fry a turkey; I did not do it, I thought that he was joking. Deep fried turkey? C’mon. I was fresh in from the west coast and they don’t play that out there.
Since then I’ve understood fried turkey, turducken, turduckencorpheail and even a way to cook turkey impaled on a broomstick covered with a garbage can which is then surrounded by twenty five pounds of briquettes, lit with sixteen ounces of lighter fluid etc. etc. But, nothing spells Thanksgiving to me more than the smell of a stuffed turkey in my oven at three hundred fifty degrees (twenty minutes per pound), old fashioned I am. And I’ve got a thousand words to tell you how to do it… the old fashioned way.
First, try to get yourself invited to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, and then you just need to cut this article and save it for when you need to cook yourself.
Here we go. Count the number of guests that you’re expecting and buy a turkey, figure on a pound to a pound and a half for each guest, and that’s because there is a lot of trim, bone and gristle goin’ on with old Tom. In the days leading up to the big day purchase, russet potatoes for mashing, yams for candying, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, green beans, Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Carrots for gingering, pearl onions for the peas and maybe some chestnuts for roasting on an open fire. You’ll also need onions and celery for the dressing, snacks for when everyone is waiting for you to complete the meal, beer, wine, butter and brown-n-serve rolls (are you sure you couldn’t get invited somewhere?). Decide on your dressing and pick up ingredients; bread or cornbread, oysters, sausage, pecans---oh my god! --- What’s for dessert?
Here’s where you decide to go potluck. Or should. It’s either that or take out a second mortgage. Have someone bring the salad (salad?) and others to bring veggies, dessert, booze or etc. Don’t leave it to them to decide or you’ll wind up with twelve pumpkin pies and no mashed potatoes. Make a list of what you want and have them choose one thing to do and do it. Now, the list of guests get bigger exponentially with the size of the turkey, and visa-versa, as six to eight guests becomes ten to twelve, the bird has to be eighteen to twenty pounds and that’s conservative. A twenty-four pound bird will take eight hours to cook (twenty minutes to the pound). You’ll need to start earlier in the week, say Tuesday and Wednesday nights (you still have a job, don’t you?).
Break up the bread or cornbread for the dressing or stuffing so it can get stale; remember dressing is cooked on the outside, stuffing on the inside. Cut up onions, celery and peeled potatoes (two pounds for every three guests) into small dice. Save the trimmings from the onions and celery. Separate, cover and refrigerate. The potatoes will need to have a covering of cold water.
If the turkey is frozen, thaw it. In the refrigerator. Take out the giblets and neck from the cavities, wash all in cold, salted water (bird as well), remove any pinfeathers and discard them. If you’re doing the bird on Wednesday, cover with a damp towel and refrigerate. If you’re starting on Thursday, you better figure on getting up on dawn’s crack.
Take the innerds, neck, tips of wings, veg trimmings, a couple of bay leaves and lots of water and put on the back burner, on a low flame to cook; this is for your gravy. If you serve turkey without gravy, your company will look at you like you are stupider than a cashew and then kill you.
Sauté lots of onions and celery with poultry seasonings---sage, thyme, savory, more sage, powdered bay leaves and more sage, Salt, pepper and maybe some garlic in loads of butter. Let this cool and then mix with your bread/corn bread stale stuff. Add eggs; one for every four portions. How much is four portions? Two BIG handfuls put together. Righty—o.
Now, stuff old Tom (or not) and for God’s sake close that gaping cavity. Dust him with seasoning salt or a mix of salt pepper and garlic powder. Maybe some paprika. Place in a roasting pan (you have one don’t you?) covered with aluminum foil---NOT a paper bag--- face up or face down…your choice, for how long? AND, add another hour if you stuff the bird. Take Tom’s aluminum blanket off for the last hour for that Simonize sheen. You do not need to baste; contrary to popular belief.
When turkey is cooked, take her out of the oven and parade her around to the oohs and ahhs of your companions and then repair to the privacy of the kitchen, have another glass of wine and hack that sucker to bits. Public ‘carving’ is at best a humiliating experience.
Lagniappe: perfect mashed potatoes. The reason that you cut them small and uniform is so they cook evenly and thoroughly, not done on the outside and hard inside or done on the inside and water logged and mushy on the outside. Test for doneness like a professional, take out a piece…and taste it.
Start mashing potatoes by themselves, then add lots of butter some salt and pepper and lastly some milk---smooth? Tasty? You betcha!
Strain your gravy broth and if you want to, cut up the gibs and neck meat and set back on the stove, medium heat. For every twelve ounces of broth (beer can size), mix two tablespoons (shot glass) of flour with a half a cup of milk. Mix until smooth and stir into the broth and continue stirring until it comes to a boil. Boil one minute. Correct the salt and pepper (what did they do wrong?). If it’s too thick, stir in some beer. Serve.
How do you know if you have a 350 degree oven? If you put a piece of white paper in it, it will turn yellowish in seven to ten minutes. If it takes 12-15 minutes it’s too cold, If it happens in 3-5 it’s HOT. If you open the oven after five minutes and the paper is on fire---you’re screwed.
Oh, you want to start the oven at 425, put your bird in and then turn it to 350. How do you tell when your oven is 425? Are you sure that you couldn’t get invited somewhere?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Buckshot Gumbo in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Buckshot Gumbo
Women's Work
What is wrong with the world today? Women. And what is wrong with women today? Men.
Men. Such is the root of all evil; not money -- remember? -- money is good, men are bad. Well, not inherently bad bad. Untrained bad you might say and you’d probably be correct; the best men around had to be trained in manners and behavior beeecaaaauuuusssse… men are, left to their own devices and instincts, dumb as toads in a box of rocks. There, I’ve said it and I know beecaaauuusssse… I are one. And let me tell you right off, a whole bunch of princesses had to kiss me before I turned into anything remotely prince-like and in the interim I’ve gotten bruised by many of the rocks in that box. I’m still not a finished product…yet. As if any one of us is.
Okay, we’re not going to turn this into a rant about man’s inhumanity towards women or about the fact that because of the way men treat women worldwide there happens to be millions of women and girls that are simply missing from the planet; you’re smart, you read.
This be about America and our society and how although there are a few women that know what a good man they’ve got, there are many more that don’t seem to know what a schmuck that they are stuck with. With their consent, they let themselves be saddled (literally) with a guy that has no fashion sense, cannot budget money or keep a job, doesn’t help around the house and fails to live up to commitments and promises. AND they don’t take the time to train them, not even for the sake of the next woman that will have to put up with the brute!
Shall we start with the All-American tradition of blaming the whole situation on the older generation? Let’s… it’s their fault! The whole quandary, the morass, the dilemma, conundrum, confusion and gaffe is all their fault!
Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago there was a great evil in the world and the forces of good sent their brightest and their best young citizens out to fight this great evil. Many fought and many died and yet they persevered and they won, making the world safe for generations to come (me and you).
When they returned, triumphant, they were given a hero's reception and lived lives both fruitful and prosperous. They Fathered a large generation called Boomers and not only did they expect them to excel in life... they expected brightness. They expected frigging brilliance!
Objectively speaking, the next generation did not live up to those expectations. In fact, the next generation either rejected the call to brilliance or ignored it or simply did not comprehend that system of values. Orrrrrr…. they were smoking some funny stuff and protesting a war that they thought was stupid and could not be won. Needless to say, the Boomers had no way of knowing how to learn about manhood from their older generation whose formative years were spent killing the enemies of freedom. Are you with me so far?
Well, then we have the babies of Boomers who took over the country and what exactly is their legacy and their talents? Let’s see, their parents pretty much settled into a life of mediocrity compounded by a combative attitude that comes from not having a leg to stand on when debating anything requiring logic or common sense. The Boomer’s babies have guilt but no shame, pride without dignity, drive with no passion and are everything that their predecessors were not. Needless to say, they have not won any wars (or popularity contests) either. The only thing that they have going for them is greed and inconsideration at the cost of a planetary meltdown. These may very well be your parents. With that legacy, how the hell could they produce good boyfriends for you?
Okay, I made all of that up. That slug of a lump sleeping off last night’s drunk on the couch or out for a run while you try to find a babysitter (when he should be looking for work) is a figment of your imagination.
It’s true that most of the good men are taken (usually in marriage) by women smarter than you. You can change yours just by the fact that you fell in love with the Prince that you thought he could be. That’s better known as fat chance. The only thing that your man wants is to be taken care of and at the same time he wonders why you are not more like him; after all, he’ll say: “what’s wrong with me?”
What’s wrong with him is you. You make a big deal out of everything. You’re constantly ragging. You never want to have any fun or hang out with his friends and watch the game. All you do is shop for clothes and yak with your girlfriends or go places with those gay guys that you’re buddy-buddy with. Sheesh!
You want to drag him to chick flicks, you read books about stud vampires and you drink so damn slow your beer is warm before you finish it. You don’t want his pal to move in when his girlfriend kicks him out, you hog the bathroom and bitch at him if he forgets once in a while to put the seat down. He doesn’t want to take his boxers off the doorknob because he might want to wear them again and what’s the big deal about dishes in the sink, the ring around the tub or leaving his ball cap on when he eats in a restaurant. I mean, you weren’t complaining when you had him in the sack last night.
Sure, he likes to stop for a couple of drinks after work and yeah, so your birthday slipped his mind (just for a day or so) and why do you expect him to remember when the trash is supposed to go out? Housework? What housework, the place looks fine to him! And, no he does not hit on all of your girlfriends and whoever told you that he slept with your best friend is a liar!
Sheesh, you know what’s wrong with the world today? Women!