Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gentra Wars draft

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Gentra Wars
Heah Dey Come!
            “Good evening and welcome to the sicks-a-clock mews, I’m your host Wyran Milliams bringing you the latest breaking stories from New Orleans neighborhoods; tonight our field correspondent Itchard Mengels is reporting on the Gentra Wars being waged across the city: Itchard?”   

            “Good evening Wyran, reporting tonight from the Bywater in lower New Orleans, it looks like we have a skirmish at Franklin and Dauphine streets where a family of Gentras has taken over another double shotgun house and converted it into a single dwelling, as you know, other properties have been reported seized and turned into AirBnB’s and bed and breakfast enclaves; we’ve seen Oobers pulling up and disgorging northerners with carryon luggage and wearing Chicago Cubs sweatshirts. After the take overs in the French Quarters and the Marigny these forces seem to be unstoppable. Back to you Wyran:”  

Upyer Bucket List draft

PO Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Upyer Bucket List
I’ll Pass
            Okay, you’ve passed your thirty-something birthday and are about to decide on what you’re gonna be when you grow up. As any intelligent, aware and alert adult (you are, aren’t you), you’ve noticed a bunch of occupations that you are not inclined to pursue, among these are some non skilled, low paying dead end jobs that those of us with less resources growing up have been forced into; I swear, sometimes I believe ‘The Man’ keeps portions of us at a disadvantage just to keep the country supplied with cheap demeaning labor, the kind where you make enough dough to eek by but not enough time or money to take that night class to become a qualified professional  (like a vet tech, CPA or dental assistant), which would at least give our kids a leg up. Think about it.
Be that as it may, I’ve compiled a list of jobs that I’ve never wanted  

Love's Labor Lost

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Love’s Labor Lost
                Once upon a time there is a woman of a certain age, smart and sensible, that, while munching pralines, considered it time to (maybe) get married, settle down, buy a car, write a book; you know, a renovated house, double wide stroller, rescue puppy, organic shopping future. What can you say? It happens. Her name: Valerie.
            She was deeply in love with a man named Will; he made her laugh, they danced in the moonlight, made sweet love under the stars. But, Will couldn’t be predicted or corralled; with so many directions to choose from, his attention couldn’t fully focus on one. He couldn’t keep a job for very long; not that he was ever lazy or disliked, it was just that he would get distracted and decide to do something else, like help a friend build a boat or volunteer at a shelter. He excelled in academia yet completed few courses-- when class was in session-- he was more than likely off watching the river or listening to crickets.  He was the eternal child, a young Pan, and she wanted to hold him fast, settle him down, be his Wendy; but that would have meant that Will would have to grow up; she knew that if he did mature she would lose the man/child that she loved by him becoming someone that he was not -- at the cost of his happiness and freedom.
            She met Robert at a company picnic. He was the opposite of Will; he worked as a finance broker, had a great education and bright future. He was politically correct and active in community affairs. He wanted a wife, children and everything that came with it; security, responsibility and hard work. He brought her to meet his parents who fell in love with her and accepted her into the family circle without reservations. Robert took her to theater, society gatherings and restaurants of high regard. They spent weekends at his parent’s country cabin. He adored her and told her so often.  He wanted to plan a spring wedding and a honeymoon abroad floating down the Seine, sipping champagne and making love. He called her his Goddess and soul mate. She was ever reminding herself that he was financially stable, serious and practical; he was also good looking and fit.  He was as different from Will as night and day, and she was at odds as to whom she would rather spend the rest of her life with.
            And then there was Jill. Street smart, wise cracking, gum chewing, baseball slugging, platinum hued crew cut Jill. Tall, slender, take charge persona with a ‘don’t f*ck with me’ attitude and smooth caramel colored skin; she was also head over heels in love with Val. Jill worked in real estate, she made beaucoup bucks selling houses and condos to fools who had too much money and would soon be parted from it. Together they went out at night to clubs, slammed shots, smoked cigarettes and dissed male bipeds with abandon.  They dressed eachother, danced together and had even kissed once. Jill had told her that they could make a perfect permanent couple if Val could only ‘loosen up’ and let things happen between them. Valerie was conflicted but flattered.
            In fact, being the center of attraction to three, yes THREE, special people made her feel like a princess in a fairy tale; she felt conspicuous in her attractiveness, graceful, luminous… alive.  “Unfortunately”, she mused “they all like spinach and artichoke dip”; Valerie had been to a drunken high school party in her early teens where after a point the only thing that she remembered was throwing up huge quantities of bits and pieces of spinach and artichoke dip. Ever after, just the mention of the stuff was enough to turn her off. AND, they (all three) were “forever ordering the friggin’ sh*t wherever they went!”
            Even so, on Valentines when all three proposed marriage, it wasn’t easy to decide. First of all Will wanted them to hop freighter to Amsterdam, buy a mini-bus and go hook up with gypsies, pick grapes in France, figs in Spain, run weed to GIs in Kabul. He told her how he pictured her in peasant dresses by some forest firelight dancing barefoot while breastfeeding their children.
            Robert told her that they would marry at Grace Episcopal, he had chosen the bridesmaid’s dresses; they’d move into a high-rise condo in the city and build their little getaway place in the ‘woods’ right next to “Mum’s and Da’s”. Robert had already picked out their children’s names, sexes and schools. He was going to make sure that everything in their lives would be nothing less than perfect.
            Jill’s offer was the most tempting: buy some property in South Beach, open a gay night club and spend the rest of their lives “like them dudes from Birdcage!” Val was tempted, she was sorely tempted; thoughts of children, sanctuary and security fled.  So did the gypsy lifestyle, gallivanting and roughing it, “I’m not attracted to living with dirty feet and bathing outdoors; I’m also not cut out for life in a gilded cage”. However-- she decided-- a permanent decadent lifestyle was something that could surely float her boat.
            She mused into the night and into the wee hours, got a few hours sleep, packed a bag and left a note for her roommate “Dear Sal, --- been great--- sell, keep, or give my stuff away; rent’s paid until the first. I’m outa here!”  And that she was.

What happened to Val? She moved (by herself) to New Orleans and lived happily ever after. Happy Valentines y’all! 

Ball of Confusion

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Ball of Confusion
            We hitchhiked into New Orleans on the tails of a hurricane, the gun-metal gray sky limpid on the land along a gulf coast moonscape.  Our driver let us out on neon electric Bourbon St. at an Orange Julius stand where I had my first ‘California Burger’. “Hey Hippie”, he yelled to a passing freak “Y’all always talkin’ ‘bout brotherly lovethese fokkers need a place to stay!” Just like that, New Orleans was offered and we let her take us in.
            In those days poor boys like me could score copies of the underground newspaper --such as it was-- at 1212 Royal St. (seven for a buck) and sold them to inebriated  tourists on Bourbon St for whatever we could get, you could get the first seven fronted to you if you were broke. We’d get beans and rice at Buster’s on Burgundy for twenty-seven cents. Picture it: public phones a nickel, take the bus for a dime. Eventually we got a studio on Dauphine—with pool-- for ninety a month.
            I got a job waiting on tables at the Andrew Jackson Restaurant on Royal St. across from the Monteleone Hotel. Six months later another waiter, my wife and I opened a small café on Conti and Exchange Alley. The licensing was twenty bucks, the rent was two-hundred. We built the tables and benches and slapped together a concept; when the health inspector came, we left a twenty dollar bill on the counter and walked away. We got approved, no questions asked (the twenty had vanished).
            Six months later the restaurant belonged to everyone that worked there and we all moved in together, the restaurant moved to Barracks St. to a four story warehouse; ground floor: theater, second floor: restaurant, third and fourth floor: living quarters (twelve to twenty of us) the rent for the entire building was five hundred a month. There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air. Bands, on their way to the big time, came and played for free in the park, we had spiritual leaders, celebrated life, became a ‘family’, made love, had babies.
            Times were tough and the guys took jobs at demolition or sweeping the streets for the French Market Corporation, one afternoon the restaurant burned down (the landlord later was charged with arson). The family was split up and went separate ways.
            I took a job as a one man kitchen at Johnny White’s restaurant on St. Peter St. there was a flamenco club across the street, a bar where Jackson Square artists hung out and on the corner and a place called Crazy Shirley’s where Papa French’s band-- Bob and Henry French and Ellis Marsalis among others—played until the wee hours. I took massage classes and studied shiatsu.
            I cooked at Hullihan’s on Bourbon St, at Commanders palace with Paul Prudhomme. We rented an abandoned dry cleaning plant on Frenchmen St. when it was virtually empty of businesses and built it into a restaurant named Valentines (where Snug Harbor is today), again the rent was only two hundred bucks. We lived upstairs on the mezzanine, we bought a pick-up truck for a hundred bucks and named it Lazarus. A thousand words could be made out of each of the above sentences, and, relatively speaking this was not that long ago!
            The points of the story, two points really, are these:
1. A lot of us elder folks are not envious of the younger generation and the prospects that they have for their future and to them we say: the game is rigged; you will have to work for everything that you get and there will always be someone ready to take it all away at less than a moment’s notice. Wherever you are, whatever you do, there will always be someone in power above you and for the most part, they cannot be trusted to be fair. Try not to let it get you down.
 2. We’re essentially ashamed of our governments and the slipshod way that they are taking-- or not taking-- care of our citizens. The main difference between the then and now, as we geezers will tell you is that we (pretty much everybody) knew where we stood in the scheme of American dream of life and living. Now candidates and elected (so called) leaders alike will tell us that they know what’s best of us and that they have a ‘plan’, an ‘answer’, a ‘solution’ to what ails us, they’ll give us ‘transparency’. This is bull dung.
What we know is that all people just want enough, not a lot. . We want the basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. We want security in our living conditions for us and our children. We want to pursue and a make a living wage for what we can achieve using the talents that we have. We don’t want to be lied to by people that we put faith and trust in by word or inference.  We want to be able to expect those things.
Would I go back to the sixties and seventies? Like a friggin’ shot! Even at the age that I am now, I’m pretty certain that I’d get a fairer shake than in the 21st century. The mood was better, the food was better, the music was better, there were more outlaws and fewer criminals. We went on a grand adventure. We knew what to expect.
And to that gang of mine, wherever you are, I have two questions: when did you get so conservative and greedy? And…why?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rinse and Repeat

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Rinse and repeat
Borax Brotherhood
Few sights can inspire thoughts more demoralizing than your pile of laundry waiting to be done. There it sits, in salacious solidarity and communal sang froid; there you are, semi-mesmerized, in conflicted contemplation, confronting a lump of sweaty fabric friends as they repose in that hamper, closet, drawer or laundry bag purloined from your summer restaurant gig. Face fear, ya gotta do the wash.
The bed linen that has comforted your midnight thrashings; the pillow cases that have held your dreams; the socks and stockings that have seen your wanderings (and perhaps do some wandering of their own); the silks, satins and nylons that have witnessed your flirting; handkerchiefs and washcloths that wiped your tears and running nose; towels that know their way around your body like a lover; your  skirts and slacks that have been your trusted vehicles as you roam from pillar to post;  ‘fun to wear’ underwear that know all your dirty little secrets; your work clothes, play clothes and the ones with a bloodstain you’d sooner forget about . Yours, all yours, almost living in sin themselves as they stew, awaiting the pleasure of your cleaning them, the holy washing, folding and sorting; a John the Baptist christening, resurrected and ready for  new adventures. You stare, you sigh, you speak: “it’s time.”
The more blessed of us live with access to washer/dryer combos in our abodes. The rest of us know the true meaning of the word shlep, since not many laundromats, washaterias or coin washes have adequate, if any, parking spaces. We also learn the meaning of the word (in)dignity; for our laundry is evidence—in full view-- of how we live and what we live in. A confessional where we must all come clean before we leave this place, this temple of wash and dry.
To my way of thinking, a ‘soap and suds’ joint is proof of universal regeneration. We bring in our soiled, exploited lives and come away… purified. Of course-- as in all cleansings-- it all must start with change.
Quarters mostly, that we’ve saved or will procure from the change machine. Unlike George Carlin, when we put a dollar in the change machine, something is going to change. The evil spirits of soil will depart (permanent stains excepted); smart money will wash once a week, whether they need to or not, I don’t know too many of those people. Usually the rest of us have our ‘bottom of the closet’ outfit where, we know, that when this particular garment has to be worn, it is damn sure time to bite the bullet.
Some people will take their time and sort the laundry before washing (colors, whites, darks), others-- and everyone at some time-- will just throw the lot in the biggest washer and let God be the judge on who comes out appropriately clean. At times we all have thrown that new red bathrobe in with everything and as a result have worn one shade or another of the color pink for the rest of the social season. It happens.
If you perchance would say that “it all comes out in the wash”…well, you’re right; and, who amongst us has not had the experience of ‘finding something’ from a pocket that wasn’t checked before wash day; money; gum; a ballpoint pen; that phone number (beyond recognition) of the cutie that you met at Vaughn’s last week?
I’m one of the people who like to take my time doing laundry and I bring a book, snacks and my ever evolving patience; however, sometimes I do the wash on the fly and multi-task my buns off with the clothes getting short shrift.  In a perfect world, here I am relaxing in the sun with a copy of War and Peace while my whites have a party in one machine, my colors are reenacting the musical Oklahoma in another and the darks are doing whatever darks do when they’re left to their own devices. All are looking forward to that last rinse and spin before the tumble dry sauna… happy happy fabrics all. I admit, sometimes I’ll catch myself staring into the dryer while the colors, darks and whites dance in an orgy of patterns and traces, their juxtaposition of shapes and hues like a flashback to the sixties; when, alas, I DID inhale. Then: “Time’s up, pencils down! Everybody out of the pool and into the basket for sorting and folding, c’mon guys, let’s take it to the bridge!”
And so, to the folding. Okay, I used to be the guy who threw everything together and got the hell on out, folding, shmolding. Now, in a state of near Buddhist compassion all gets settled and honored; I become one with my cleanliness. No, of course I don’t pair socks or fold my dainties. I wouldn’t dream of eliminating the search and rescue mission every time I grope those drawers. The socks rarely match, I hate wearing them and they’re always losing themselves, knickers are always ‘grab and go’. Period.
Ah. but the perfectly folded piles of towels, hankies, tees, and trousers. Folding a fitted sheet is a lesson in humility….can’t do it.  Getting it all back in my shopping basket (the ones that most geezers use) and laundry bag (also freshly washed) is an engineering feat, just as extracting them from those vehicles of conveyance, with any semblance of skill or organization, a miracle.
But the job is done, I trundle home, careful not to spill, proud of myself and my clean stuff. I’ve watched a section of humanity go through the same cleansing ritual, the dirty dancing ebb and flow of fabrical states of consciousness. All is right with the world.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Peas and Quiet

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Peas and Quiet
Intimate Quietude
            Congratulations, you’re finally at a point in a relationship where-- as imperfect as you both are—you’ve decided not to give up on eachother as friends, mates, partners in crime and/or lovers. Quite possibly all of the above. You’ve made the decision to take that leap of faith and commit yourself to another person come hell or high water. Don’t blush. It’s been done before and once this deal has been made, simply, bravely and unconditionally, it just might work; then again, what do you know? Haven’t you (like so many of us) been wrong before? Mirror, mirror…
            At one time I thought that people paired up this time of year so that they wouldn’t have to go through the holidays alone, you know, the romance that begins around Thanksgiving and ends after Jazz Fest; when they see themselves basking in sunlight, a hot oiled body in tight revealing swimwear and you’re not part of the selfie?  I know, I know; I was insecure, suspicious and untrusting about love. Then again, I was young and not vary trustworthy myself…
            Now, here’s your holiday advice: be suspicious, insecure and untrusting about love; you should ask yourself some questions, the main one being, will those things about them that you see as special become a pain in the ass come, say, in six months time? Will you be their really big catch or just their next BTN (better than nothing) until the holidays are over? Are you/ they/ I such a big friggin’ catch and who are we kidding?  Will the pleasure that we get from eachother possibly grow stale (for at least one of us) and this ‘togetherness’ fizzle out? Will the sky always be blue? Do catfish have kittens and what’s love got to do with this? Oh, blah, blah blah, you big baby; here’s your Uncle Phil’s wisdom on this very tender subject:
Take it from me, the first stage of coupling is usually friendship or lust, the next stage is usually insecurity by and about both partners each in their own definitions and by turns; I find it quite natural for a person to question whether a new romantic liaison is based on facts or fantasy and wonder if the other person is hiding some gigantic insanity that will eventually surprise them in the shower with a butcher knife and scary background music.
Then again, on the whole, life is like that--all new beginnings are like that. A little apprehension is natural: a new book, food, friend, pet, watering hole, vehicle, or if, when the great guy that has been selling you pot for years has to go away and has left you the phone number of another place to score, it be’s like that. Who knew that you’d love raw oysters, yearn for a turn table and some LPs, want to ever drive a Lincoln Towncar or bounce to Big Freedia? Who knew that after that initial ‘come on’ at the saloon, coffee shop, book signing or that run in on the produce aisle over the Romaine lettuce that you would wake up in the bed with them and want to take it a step further? And who the heck knows what that other person thought and is possibly thinking about on that--turtle breath, hair a mess and lingering love odor--morning after? Does that smile mean ‘hey, that was great, let’s do it again some more’ or does that sheepish grin hide a ‘what is that troll doing in my bed (or you in theirs), what was I thinking and how do I get out of this?’ Where are my (their) clothes?
Or, you know, this could be the beginning of a wonderful affair, an affair to remember, an affair that may go somewhere and is worthy of ‘rounding out’? Finding what else y’all have in common, how y’all feel about things in general and whether you can see your way into friendship, understanding, mutual respect, silly joking and more of that stuff you tried the night before that gave you that Charlie horse in your upper back and made you both giggle to tears.
If that’s the case jump in with full faculties and take the ride for all it’s worth, possibly a fling and nothing more; but worth finding out about. in other words, see what it’s like being friends more than anything else, lovers next  and see if, when the moments of passion have passed, and you find that you can still stand each other, maybe even to the point of wanting to keep and stay seeing each other, then maybe you should take that chance. 
            So, you’ve found what appears to be ‘The One’ and coincidently, just in time for that family gathering, office party, big game or pot luck at Sylvia’s house (you know, that friend of yours that’s always asking when you’re gonna settle down and get a squeeze that’s not a sleaze). What now?    
            In the words of Ernie K. Doe “pay attention!” Listen a lot. Take walks. Don’t take anything for granted and be honest with yourself and them. Do not, ever, rely upon your former experiences to rule current decisions. Learn likes and dislikes and learn to be alone together. Sing in harmony. Take it easy, take it slow, take the chance. Think of it as another opportunity to go shopping for presents (yay!). Congratulate yourselves.
            The holidays are upon us and it’s good to have someone to share the sanity and the insanity of it all with. After all, we all know how much trouble we can get into by ourselves, huh?


Happy Holidaze

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Happy Holidays
Mirror Mirror
Sheesh! Can you believe that it was end-of-September when we started seeing the first Thanksgiving and Christmas displays erupting in stores like so much garish pustules, nudging aside the Halloween and Back to School detritus? I mean, it was still almost ninety degrees and sunny and they’re decorating with autumn leaves and Santa hats. Do I really live here?
This time of year has been commercialized out the wazoo, the expense, the pressure, the shipping and shopping, sidestepping and slam dancing through commercial venues not to mention the social obligations that you’re guilt-tripped into fulfilling or finding a plausible excuse not to. You’ll not get a full night’s sleep or a day’s rest from now until the thirty-second of May. ‘Tis the season to be stretched on the emotional rack to the limits of your patience, finances, endurance and abilities to meet expectations.
That said, you don’t have time to be pessimistic, especially around the holidays! I’m not gonna let you; this season will come and go, with you or without you, and there will be, unfortunately, no do-overs. Take a deep breath. You may as well make the best of it, suck it up and get in the spirit!
It’s the season to reconnect with family, friends, running mates and bartenders. This here time of year is what’s considered ‘the social season’. Years and years ago when dinosaurs ruled the French Quarter and Creole planters ruled the economy, you know, when stuff was simpler, we didn’t work all the friggin’ time. We took time off to act like true New Orleanians, placing more emphasis on enjoying the time that we have before we shuffle off this mortal coil, and less like acting like those hardworking barbarian Americans.
And so, in the spirit of channeling your inner Creole nature, I give you now your perfect holiday season senario:
Of course your employment circumstances allows you to take time off to enjoy this holiday, before, during and after; for what good is having a Thanksgiving feast if you’re not around for the traditional leftovers. Including the ubiquitous turkey gumbo? Transportation will be a breeze--I say this because it would be silly to put the burden of entertaining on yourself--planes, trains and skates will all be on time and in line.
You and your loved ones will be met by Uncle Billy in his cool 60’s station wagon and whisked to Grandma’s house where you’ll see smoke coming from the chimney and a bit of frost on the ground; she’ll greet you at the door, wiping her hands on her apron and brushing a tear from her eye. She’ll remark on how big everyone has grown.
Inside the house, the smells of hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies will permeate the air, it’s all warm and cozy and you settle in, your rooms are ready and the feast is not long in coming… perhaps a glass of port?
Aunts, uncles and cousins arrive with covered dishes and make themselves at home (in the kitchen), the bird is stuffed and cousin Dave makes a run for ice and the cranberry sauce that’s traditionally been forgotten up until this point. Dave comes back smelling of cigarette smoke and whiskey (of course). Aunt Rose brought her holiday Ambrosia and Sister Clair has brought the fixings for eggnog and her four kids who will be put to work setting the tables.  
The dog has been sniffing around the kitchen door and the cat is still in hiding; soft holiday music  is playing from the corner and everyone misses Grandpa who used to play the piano for company; he knew all the songs.
You herd your gang upstairs to freshen up and the towels are fluffy and the bathtub pipes groan with the hot water that comes frothing out… Etc etc etc.
Or not. Face it, there’s a lot out there that really sucks about our world and it can get you grim. Disasters of natural and manmade causes. Every broken commandment and law can weigh on your heart and happiness, you can see danger in every doorway, hear defamation in every conversation and misfortune in everyone’s circumstances.
So your holiday spirit might flag and conditions may not be idyllic, it can’t always be ‘over the river and through the woods’ for you; but, you know, if you allow your mind to shift into that holiday spirit sense, that walk up to Canseco’s for the forgotten can of Ocean Spray, a sneaked smoke and a quick one at Café Degas can transform every day into a holiday. Trust me. Your neighbors become your family, Liuzzas By The Track and Pal’s become your second home, doing laundry at the Washateria becomes a social occasion and you stop to pet and learn the names of the canines and felines on your street.
In other words, sure it’s the holidays and everything might not be Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart…. unless you allow your world to be full of all that is positive and festive. If you listen to your elders, and surely you should, you ought to choose those to listen to that have a good outlook on life. They’re the ones who will point out how special it is to be alive, how you can find beauty in all things and how the holiday season stretches from equinox to equinox, solstice to solstice and all points in between.
Here’s your words of wisdom: “Today is a holiday, have second helpings and eat more cranberry sauce”.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fish of the Day

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Carpe Diem
Fish of the Day
            Two peanuts were walking down the street; one was a salted (peanut).
Sure… some jokes fall flat; but consider, where would we be without our sense of humor? We’d be living in the doldrums, eh? (FYI there is a place named Doldrums in the Netherlands and it looks pretty darn sweet to me.) There’s an old wise guy saying that goes ‘you have power over anything that you can laugh at’. Well, my life is kinda laughable, certainly my money is funny and undoubtedly, some of my situations border on the comedic; however, as I live and breathe, sometimes I believe that it isn’t me that deserves a hearty chortle; the whole damn world is so freakin’ hilarious it’ll bring tears to your eyes!  And: just when you think that things can’t become more hilarious, they charge right ahead into the zip code that we know as the riotously bizarre. I know I’m amazed, well beyond mere humor, by life’s absurdities and I’m sure that you are as well; or, you should be.
Nowhere are things as fun and ridiculous as our eating rituals and feeding places; from restaurants to roach coaches, the whirling faces and hands of dervishes ply us with sustenance, sensory surprises and stimulations. Where else can behind scenes of mayhem, madness, murder, depravity and butchery slake gluttony from the greedy to the genteel? That we learn from an early age to appreciate and expect sating goes without saying and it’s many a parent that’ll be heard telling little monster child to: “eat this, you’ll feel better” (the basic amuse bouche).
Family meals that become legend in our advancing years have us seeking comfort food, while visions of pampered royalty send us to the white cloth establishments. Nutritional music soothing the savage breast.
We’re coming into what we call our ‘holiday season’, in New Orleans that stretches from Labor Day to the thirty-second of May; and, Honey, we’re gonna feed the world! I swear, this time of year, New Orleans must be a vortex of food products that gravitate to the heart of Dixie: flocks (birds), herds (cattle), gaggles (geese), schools (fishes), congregations (alligators), badings (ducks), chalcogens (crawfish), beds (oysters), droves (pigs) posses (turkeys) bales (turtles) and routs (snails). Not to mention trainloads of root vegetables and the vegetables that we root for (rutabaga anyone?), mountains of onions, garlic, peppers, celeries; a mélange of sweetmeats for the sweet; a glut of seasonal fruits and oceans of liquids, both adult and non. The head spins, the senses reel, the finances are stretched. Butter. Sugar. Coffee. Rice. Dairy. Cheeses Christ!!!.
Cookouts, barbecues and boils, vats of gumbo, wagon trains of lunch trucks, dinners at families and friends, snacks, street food, festivals, Farmer’s Markets, po boys, Fiorella’s meatballs, grocery store food, and café au lait with beignets to pass a goodtime. Food glorious food! Let’s hear it for the Muffuletta!
Food with music (bar food), Happy Hour food, take-out food and an All That Jazz sandwich from Verde Mart. Po Boys at Parkway, Ya Ka Mein at the Orange House, Kermit Ruffins and the barbecue swingers, potluck at Pal’s, game day eats at Liuzza’s by the Track (bring a dish), Breakfast at Betsy’s Pancake House and a slice of pizza anywhere, just to keep your hand in. And the Lord said “Get thee to Mandina’s for some red gravy, you Bacciagalupe!”
New Orleans for me is a food addiction; riverside, lakeside, downtown and uptown I am addicted to New Orleans. Mid-City (Namese), Orleans Avenue (fried chicken at the filling station), ride out to Dom Phong (mystery sandwiches), take the high road to Chalmette for a flick ( supersize popcorn), kick start your day at the Pagoda, this city is steaming, teeming, careening with passion, pride and power; and, it all comes with food. New Orleans is appeticious! I am so addicted to food, I’ll probably pick out the caterer for my funeral before I die.
Every year at this time… the hiring begins: dishwashers, busboys, waiters ( who is it that started calling them ‘servers’?), prepcooks, grill monsters, sauté dancers, pastry princesses, manic chefs, persnickety managers, personable bartenders, cute hosts, sommeliers and Maitre D’s. This time of year the veteran old schoolers are testing the newbie’s reflexes, responses and resiliences. Aching feet, raw nerves, meltdowns, tears, frustrations and fits of temper reign. Quirky mindsets essential, no prisoners taken, nicotine crucial to mental stability.
In a well run feedery, the eating area will hum-- and in the back--they be pullin’ knives on eachother! With a white tablecloth comes eighteenth century Russian nobility élan while the kitchen is waging Armageddon. Good results come from pride, training, competition, the desire to excel and management that is as ruthless as Tamerlane.
Of course, the hospitality game is not for people that don’t strut and fret their hour on stage and then not sit back with an amnesia enhancer to rekindle their humor, get comfortably numb, and laugh at the vagaries of life; I know, I’ve spent decades doing just that: shot at and missed, sh*t at and hit and when it’s over… a cold PBR, a Lucky Strike and silly service cynicisms amongst cohorts.
So, to the culinary class of 2016, I salute you! During your shifts you’ll wonder if it ever will get better than this and afterward you’ll relax and realize that, no, it doesn’t get any better.

 Where would we be without food?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Korean Have Fun Marinate Wonder Sauce

This is a good one for chicken, tofu, shrimp or what have you. For best results marinate overnight, well covered, if there’s too much marinade, bag it and freeze it. AND if you feel like ‘bumping' up any of the ingredients (garlic, ginger etc); what can it hurt? Have fun!!

Korean Grilled Whatever marinade
¼ c. good soy sauce (Amino)
¼ c. unsweetened apple sauce (boil and mash a damn apple)
¼ c. chopped onion
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger root
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame seeds, plus more for topping
2 thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Friday, August 14, 2015

Central Grocery

Central Grocery
            If I were sight impaired and someone walked me through those doors I would know the perfumed vapors of an old timey Italian market. They’re the smells of garlic, olives, cured meats, hard cheeses and old appetites satisfied. It is an olfactory equivalent of being wrapped in your grandmother’s wool shawl on a cool autumn night; yummy, secure, safe. Linzalone’s in old Chelsea, Molinari’s in North Beach, Central Grocery in New Orleans.
I recently sat down with Tommy Tusa, third generation owner/operator of Central Grocery at his shop at 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter. As we all know, Salvatore Lupo (Tommy’s grandfather) is said to have been the originator of a more than extraordinary sandwich, a sandwich that is as indicative of New Orleans as the Mississippi River: The Muffuletta. Tommy is tall and trim and, if such a word can be used, dapper in appearance. His age is nebulous; he appears to be ten years either side of fifty years. He and his cousin Frank Tusa run the day to day operations. Like all true Sicilians, Tommy talks as much with his words as with his facial and physical expressions. We sit at the far end of the eating counter, he, of course sits where he can see his employees and the action.
PL: First of all, can we tell everyone, once and for all, what is the proper pronunciation of the sandwich?
TT: Muffuletta, pronounced “moo-full-lette-tah!” People call it a lot of other ways; we don’t really care, as long as they want one.
PL: And the name means?
TT: From what we can make out from the stories that my mother tells, it probably came from a baker named Muffuletta and was called Muffuletta bread long before we started making it into a sandwich.  That’s as much as we can make out, we don’t know if it’s true but it stands to reason.
PL: How did the store get started?
TT: My grandfather, like a lot of Italian immigrants, came here and worked in the grocery business. In 1906 he opened his own grocery about a block away and in 1919 bought this property and opened this (gestures). The Market workers used to come in and buy the ingredients for the sandwich from us, then they’d go outside and buy some bread from a pushcart, sit on barrels and such places, eat the bread (tearing motion) and ingredients. Then my grandfather got the idea of making the sandwich. There were at least six Italian bakeries in the Quarter at the time; in fact there were shops like this all throughout the neighborhood.
PL: This used to be a large ethnic neighborhood. Do you ever see that coming back?
TT: I remember like it was yesterday, the ice house, the fish markets; no, I don’t see it ever being the same. My father was raised in the French Quarter. It was a real neighborhood up until about 1950 and then it started to change. Now what we have here (indicates the street) are these street people; they sit outside panhandling, they camp out at night and you have to clean up after them in the morning, their garbage, food scraps, beer cans. You have to chase them away during the day “you can’t sit here, you can’t sit here” you’ve got to keep telling them. They’re ruining businesses and no one is doing anything about them.
PL: I was told that it’s their first amendment right.
TT: (raised eyes) Yeah, the ACLU…. What about our rights?
PL: Onward. Your mother wrote a cookbook? (1980 Marie’s Melting Pot)
TT: Yes, my mother and my two grandmothers; it took three or four years. Writing recipes, testing them and cooking, cooking. I remember the stories, my mother tells all the old stories, I know those stories. My mother lives in Covington, she’s 103 years old and frail so she doesn’t do interviews… obviously.
PL: Any thoughts on retiring? Any other family members coming in?
TT: I’ve worked here since 1970 so that’s forty-five years; no, there’s me and my cousin and there’s no other generation coming up behind us. Besides, what would I do if I retired (shrugs)? Stay at home and be bored?
PL: Were you looted during Katrina?
TT: Yes, all the businesses were. We opened after three months, and one day after that, Jim Belushi came in and saw that his picture was still on the wall and he pointed and said “well, at least they didn’t get me!!” We get a lot of celebrities in; I’ll show you the photos. Goodman (John) loves the Muffuletta; he can’t eat it here because they (gestures at the customers) won’t leave him alone.
PL: How many sandwiches have you made?
TT: on a busy day we’ll make about five hundred
PL: So you’ve made a million Muffulettas
TT: More than one million. A few million, at least. We’ve been in business over a hundred years (looks at me to indicate that I should do the math). And we ship. Overnight, next day delivery.
PL: What do you see as the future?
TT: Kids these days, they don’t know how to work; you have to tell them over and over how to do the same thing. You tell them to stay off their cell phone and then (making an imaginary call at waist level) you see them in the corner. I’ll tell you a story; when I was just starting working here, one day I made myself a little sandwich and sat down; my uncle came up to me and said “what are you doing?” and I told him. He said (slightly raising his voice) “Hey! You don’t eat here, you eat at home, after you get off; now, get back to work!” And that’s the way it was. Nowadays…
PL: When I was a kid, I had a friend named Rocco, my mother used to call him a “Bacciagalupe”. When I asked her what that meant, she would just point at him and say “Him, he’s a Bacciagalupe!” Do you know what that means?
TT: (laughing) Yes, I’ve heard that word; I think it means wiseguy or weirdo or some such character.
PL: Now, here’s the big one; what advice would you give young folks coming up? What advice do you give your children?
TT: I have two daughters and grandchildren. What would I say to them? (looks heavenward and then into my eyes). I would say “Do whatever you do to the best of your ability. Do it well; and never never give up. Never let anyone discourage you!”
And then, like a true business owner, he shook my hand, thanked me and said: “I’ve got to (indicating the sandwich counter) get back to work.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting Older

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Every Silver Lining
Touch Of Gray

Okay, here’s your life story: From birth to the ‘age of reason’ you’re pushed around and told what to do and when to do it, if you have any gumption, you push back and are called a spoiled, willful, spiteful brat. At seven or eight you’ve entered the world of other people, you become aware of peer pressure, fashion statements and kids that are better looking, better liked and better armed (to take on the world) than you. At twelve you feel the rumblings of your hormones, at sixteen you become a sex and acceptance addict. By twenty five you’re golden and three years later your spirit has tire tracks from being thrown under the bus. At thirty you’ve immersed yourself into a career (because you don’t really know who you are), by forty-two you’re in a mid-life crisis and it’s downhill from there.
In between those years you’ll experience growth spurts, pimples, cramps, confusion, children and a bucket of responsibilities and expectations to live up to. Scraps and scrapes and scars to prove it. You’ll have hated your parents, smoked things, made a fool of yourself, imbibed strong spirits and lost your self confidence and virginity on several occasions. You’ll be told what it is to be mature by a good number of (well intentioned) friends/lovers/kinfolk/others and just how unaware you are of the poor job you’re making of it
Awareness: knowing what’s going on while it’s going on; you’ll experience little of that and sometimes it is a case of “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” And of course, if you live long enough, you’ll look in the mirror and wonder who that old person is.
 We’re told from an early age that if we live long enough… we’ll get old. What we’re not told is that it’s gonna hurt. Knees, back, neck, shoulders, feet; they’ll hurt one time or another during each and every day. They didn’t tell me that; in fact, there’re lots of things they didn’t tell me. I’m not sure how the rumor got started that getting and staying older was such a great thing. It’s not. Let me tell you how I know: I am older –and, if you can’t tell-- I’m not liking it very much, if at all, and I don’t think that you’re gonna like it either.
Tee shirt: Mill Valley, California. 1989.  “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway.”
            “Flab. They didn’t tell me that my fine, tight gluteus maximus fabuloso was gonna become my gluteus maximus flabuloso; think that’s funny? Ask anyone my age what they think of their bottoms falling out and ten to one they’ll want to take a swing at you. Smart ass kid.
            Your hair will become as thin as your patience, your teeth will require regular checkups to no avail, your eyesight gets far and near and then hardly at all, your (“What’s that you say?”) hearing(?)…well.  The way you don’t bounce back from a night on the town (if you can stay awake that long) is telling. That fine firm flesh? You can kiss that six-pack goodbye; everything you eat is going right to your waistline and your hips. And that’s the good news.
            You’ll have insurance: health, home, vehicle, life and burial. You’ll have cards for Costco, Blue Cross, AAA, the library, CVS, RTA, AARP and Walgreens. You’ll be cautious about driving, walking, drinking, the safety of your pets and loved ones; by now you know that there are boogie men out there with names like COPD, Dementia, IBS, incontinence, UTI, menopause, Fibromyalgia, ED, arthritis, and cancer. Stick around, Kid, see what it’s like.
You won’t know any of the new technology, popular culture or music and you’ll reflect that the last dance steps you learned was to the Electric Slide. Sex will still be always on your mind but you’ll do less and less about it. You’ll take supplements (and not be any more supple), vitamins, calcium and floss your teeth. You’ll watch your icons, critters, friends and loved ones die... some prematurely.
Aging is a real pain in my butt—and adding insult to injury-- sometimes I’ll see myself through another person’s eyes, the myopic ignorance of youth perhaps, that, like in the Bradbury story, regard me as a being that has been created fully blown ancient. Bitter and pessimistic? It’s hard not to be; but, what’s the alternative? Looking into retirement homes and making out a will? Dying? That’s all I got? Are you friggin’ kidding me?
             Time. Time is something that I have now, it comes too slowly and it goes too fast.  Time is not money or security or something you bottle up and store under the sink for later. Time is ice cream, fried chicken, fresh peaches…bacon. Time is exactly the right temperature, uncomplaining and unconditionally. Time lets you know when to stand up for yourself, when to quietly sit down and how high your bulls**t meter will go before you tell somebody to take a hike. Time is shared like chocolate and fine wine.
            Time is not to be wasted or anesthetized, neither is love or youth; and I’ll venture that you’ve spent enough of it reading this. So, back away from my views, get that picnic, Frisbee, cinema ticket, fishing pole, wine glass and/or bicycle and with a special person (or not), take a deep breath and repeat after me: “evil spirit….depart!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Best-ever Lemon Pie

This recipe was given to me by a waiter/teacher that I worked with in 1999. After searching for years for a great recipe, I have looked no further. AND, I never want to lose it again.
Best-ever lemon pie
1 ¼ c. sugar
6 Tbsp cornstarch
2 c. water
1/3 c. lemon juice
3 eggs separated
3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ tsp lemon extract
2 tsp vinegar
Mix sugar and cornstarch in top of double boiler. Add the 2 c. water. Combine egg yolks with juice and beat. Add to rest of mixture. Cook until thick over boiling water for 25 min. This does away with starchy taste. Now add lemon extract, butter, vinegar and stir thoroughly. Pour into a deep 9” (pre-baked) pie shell and let cool. Cover with meringue and brown in oven
Never Fail Meringue
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
½ c. boiling water
3 egg whites
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt

Blend cornstarch and cold water in a saucepan. Add boiling water and cook, stirring until clear and thickened. Let stand until completely cold. With electric mixer at high speed beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Turn mixer to low and add salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in cold cornstarch mixture. Turn mixer again to high speed and beat well. Spread meringue over cooled pie filling. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. This meringue duts beautifully and never gets sticky. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Curried Cauliflower for all my friends

Canola oil
2TCumin Seeds
4 Bay Leaves
2T Garlic, minced Curried cauliflower
1 Head Cauliflower, broken down into medium florets
 2T Ginger, minced
3 C. Onions
1 medium size Red Bell Pepper, roasted and cut into strips
3 C. Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and largely diced
1 ½ T Coriander, ground
3T Garam Masala
½ t @ cayenne and White pepper, ground
3t Turmeric
2 Jalapeño Pepper, cut in half
4 C. Water
Fry florets, in oil, golden brown, add onions, peppers, remove drain and save oil. Add cumin into the pan, toast a few minutes then add garlic, bay leaves 5 min. Add garam Masala, turmeric, cayenne and white pepper, coriander, low flame  8 min add everything else, stir to combine, adjust salt and black pepper to taste, cover and cook in 350 oven 10 min. Serve with rice. Yum!
Garam Masala
8T cumin
12t coriander
12t black pepper
4t cloves
4t Nutmeg
8 Cardamom Pods

Toast and grind

Sunday, July 5, 2015

July 4th update on Bob

Update on Bob.
Well fans, Bob’s still in the ‘nursing home’ and now getting NO physical therapy, No speech therapy, No one attempts to sit him up, talk to him or interact on any level.
He remains in his (now) blow up hospital mattress bed, in a diaper and is delivered pureed food three times a day, he shows signs of fading and we try to keep him and his spirits blown up as well..
            His room-mate Sylvester, a broken bodied young man keeps his TV on 24/7 and the same for his radio which he keep with volume full throttle; Bob puts earplugs in to keep out some of the sound. Bob also sleeps with his light on over the bed either because he doesn’t want to sleep in the dark or that he cannot reach the light string. Bob and Sylvester’s room is not cleaned well on a regular basis, their AC unit does break down on a regular basis.
            We’re working on getting Bob to a better facility: St. Margaret’s at Mercy. It is worth checking out their website. I’ve taken a tour and talked to the admissions person. It’s a country club compared to where Bob is.
            Bob still has his legs locked in the kneeling position and his legs still have sores on them. I’ve been scheduled to have a ‘Care Counseling’ about Bob and my concerns. Since making the date, it seems that Bob’s care HAS gotten a little more attentive. The weekends are the worst because in actuality no one there seems to care a flip about professionalism.

            Bob still is lying in bed 24/7 with absolutely nothing to accupy his time or his mind save for the visits from myself and Debbie. He needs a shave again and his nails need trimming. I’m sure that he’s not the easiest patient to have but he certainly cannot be that much trouble. He does seem to be the easiest to overlook and ignore.