Sunday, December 4, 2016

Resolutionary Thoughts for 2017

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Resolutionary Thoughts
Just You Wait
            Maniacal, perplexing,  mystifying, puzzling, mind numbing, confounding ass kicking to the curb under the bus, over the river and through the woods; 2016 is gone and if I ever see it again, I’m going to beat it like ‘never fail meringue’, whip it like party cream,  batter it like gulf shrimp and snatch it bald headed! What a miserable year it was and I, for one, am pleased as punch to see it go and hopefully to never to darken my door again.
            It seems as though every blessed year at this time, for as long as I can remember, I have said and heard “Oh, this last year was bad, but next year it’s bound to get better”. I deserve a dose of Whup-ass for being so optimistic. Yes, last year was uber-terrible, but the year before was less unpleasant--- which was damned awful--- the year before that ate the weenie and the one before that it was simply gruesome and on and on and on. Let me ask you this: when was the last year that life did not throw something at you that you would have gladly done without? I don’t mind things not being easy; but,” temples are graying and teeth are decaying and creditors weighing your purse” is not my idea of a working mantra.           
As the eternal optimist, bruised and bloodied that I am, I’m going to be the first (and possibly the only one) to assure you that next year will be better. Sure, last year some of your heroes died, prices went up and not your wages, you spent more at the veterinarian than on your own health care and a few of your friends spent time in chemo. There was that front-tooth cap that decided to break when the dentist was golfing, the unexpected car repair, your rent was jacked up and you had to vacate; your neighbors got evicted to make room for an AIRBNB location. Add to that: the recurring pain in your lower back that’s suddenly attacking you (again); learning that GMOs contributed to your allergies, realizing that termites are eating your floorboards and, oh yeah, your dog died. You’re living in the crime capital of the country. What else can happen, right? Just you wait.
I have this theory that if life doesn’t kill you outright (and there is always that possibility), it is going to wear you down and wear you down, hoping that you will cease to struggle against its insidious carnival tricks—the ones that get you the pie in the face--and just give up. However, you (and I) will keep coming back like gamblers at the track, waiters at the video poker machine, out of work laborers buying scratch-offs and/or lovers in failed relationships betting that things will work themselves out.
Do you want to know why I am not going down without a fight; why I’m going to live a long life and get the most out of it?
The night sky in a riot of colors as the sun sets; coffee in the morning with something freshly toasted; getting in that old car of mine and hearing it turn over from a growl to a purr; whipped cream on sweet potato pie; crows, monk parrots and squirrels; my hot pepper plant when I can pick another red one for spaghetti; waking up with Girlfriend next to me with the dog and the cats all snugged up together; going home after a long day and finding that my daughter has sent me ice cream for my birthday; the beauty and light that surrounds me if I only take a moment to recognize and appreciate it.
I don’t find my self-worth by comparison; judging whether others are less fortunate to elevate my self esteem is unworthy of me; and, I am worthy. Neither do I consider that when a person has more than I--be it fortune, talent or fame—that that should be a cause for envy or jealousy. Those things are simply things that are.
Now before you start to think that I’m some kind of blissed out monk, let me stress that I am anything but.  
I tend to judge people. By the way they speak, dress, how they treat cashiers, if they litter and if they return their damn shopping cart to that little shopping cart station in the parking lot. I disapprove of men who wear their trousers below their underwear, who spit in the street and/or make discourteous remarks to unaccompanied women. I cannot abide by people who take kindness for weakness.
I get angry at people who make general rudeness a lifestyle, mistreat children, animals and/or drive like they’re from a third world country. I am not understanding about people holding up signs at intersections when I know that everything they’re begging for is already being freely provided by a plethora of social service organizations; I see no reason why an able bodied person cannot/ does not find gainful employment. See? I’m a snob.  

But, I tell you, next year it will be better; I’ll be better; I’ll be more tolerant, understanding and patient. And when someone needs some good advice, a shoulder to cry on, a mature outlook, I’ll deliver unto them my new mantra that I recently received from Rooster Sedaris: short version: “Just you wait.” Long version:  “Bitch, I’m here to tell you that everything’s gonna be alright; we’ll get through this shit, Mother Fucker, just you wait!”

Before celebrity Chefs in New Orleans

Before the Celebrity Chef in New Orleans
Phil LaMancusa
            To prove my point, before we start, Google: ‘Photos of Celebrity Chefs’. On that site you will see hundreds of pics of hundreds of chefs. What you’ll see by in large, is that most are male, (The female chefs will have a link to see them naked. I’m not kidding.) and overwhelmingly they be palefaces. Caucasians. Bleach Boys. Caspers.  Snow flakes. Only occasionally will you spot some color, perhaps a cafĂ© au lait, maybe an Asian tint or two; flies in the buttermilk, raisons in the Sun. This has nothing to do with a disparaging of the races, it’s stating the obvious: what the world pictures when it looks for culinary expertise is a reliance on the images that the media has burned into their brain pan. Youngish, well coiffed, white; as if kitchen work is done on a movie set.
            This was not the case, especially in New Orleans, until about forty years ago. There were no Celebrity Chefs per se; the reason why was, not many of the chefs running kitchens—Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, Brennans, Brousards, even Commanders Palace--- left their kitchens; they worked, most times up to eighty-five hours a week. They did not have time for stardom; they spent their time getting kitchens to run smoothly and making money for their owners.
            The chefs and cooks that brought our food to the attention of the world were African-American. The men and women that charmed the world with Creole food and worked the long hours, for low pay, in harsh conditions and took pride in everything that they put out to table were African-American. For too many years in the famous places that the food our people of color cooked and served and cleaned up after were not frequented by their peer group, people of color; and, the rich soul cooking that was enjoyed in black establishments was not to become famous to anyone except people of color and those others that knew how to search out new (and delicious) experiences.
            Therein lies the rub. Go back half a century and see the difference between then and now; the situation is completely reversed. The caveat here is to rule out the French, German and other European heads of kitchens that were employed mainly for their training, knowledge and ability to command; remember, at that time, our restaurants served mostly Creole derivatives of European cuisine.
            “The outstanding characteristic of a chef is dedication and a willingness to work.” So says Rudy Lombard in his 1978 seminal cookbook Creole Feast, co-authored by Nathaniel Burton; in it, “fifteen Master Chefs of New Orleans” (African-Americans all.)  “reveal secrets of Creole cooking”. Among them: Austin Leslie (Chez Helene), Rosa Barganier (Corrine Dunbar’s), Louis Evans (Hotel Ponchartrain), Nathaniel Burton (Broussard’s) and Leah Chase (Dooky Chase). Of these, Leah Chase is the last of that breed standing. At 93, Mrs. Chase still commands her kitchen on Orleans Avenue as she has since 1941.
            These chefs worked their way up in kitchens, oft times starting as porters or dishwashers; they learned from the chefs that were there before them, they learned to cook by sweating over a skillet of roux, a deep fryer, pot of gumbo or the oven heat of Jambalaya for fifty. They learned to filet fish, bone hams, make stock and perfect sauces; most times the recipes were stored in their brains, only to be passed down to those they deemed worthy.
            I learned to cook this way from a woman named Ms. Vicky at the Embers Steak House who had worked there for twenty-eight years, learning the recipes from the chef that had been there for decades before her; red beans, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, bread pudding, nothing written down on paper. She worked with a steak knife taken from the dining room; she measured in gallon buckets that oysters came in, her instructions (when I finally deserved them) were; “put too much oil in that pan, now add just enough flour, add a hand of paprika and three fingers of garlic”. She measured her seasoning vegetables (onions, celery, bell pepper) 1-2-3 one part bell pepper, two of celery, three of onions. “Always add your onions first to the roux, it stops the cooking right where you want it, don’t add salt to the beans until they’re finished cooking, save that water from boiling the shrimp and use it as stock for the Etouffee Sauce, here, let me show you the real way to roast a prime rib!” After me having spent almost forty years in kitchens myself, she treated me like a child that had “no learning and less sense” when it came to ‘her food’; but she took pity upon me, after all, I was the Chef, and schooled me in the tradition of the black hands that had been in New Orleans pots for almost two hundred years.
            The African American Chefs that shaped our city’s food have all but disappeared, like the dinosaurs; however, all young cooks coming up today could do with an archeological dig into what really put (and has kept) our food on the culinary map of the world, before they aim to celebrity status.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A dog and his boy

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Canine Comfort
A Dog and His Boy
            A thousand years from now when the aliens finally get here and sift through the rubble that we have left of this planet, they may well wonder about the connection between homo sapiens and the other sapiens that inhabited this once habitable world; the fanatics that were attached to their felines; persons with primates; those that exercised with the equines; women raised by wolves; those avid for aviary and the strangest of all, maniacs that were mad for their mutts: dog lovers.
            We let dogs into our houses and our hearts until they have us trained and at their mercy; sometimes all it takes is eye contact, a wet nose, the wag of a tail, a slobbering tongue and you’re a goner. Then our lives get embedded with canine metaphors: we’re dog tired and our dogs are barking because we have just worked like a dog on a dog day. We refer to our Greyhound bus service as the ‘Dog’; it rains cats and dogs, we put a sausage on a roll and call it a hot dog, doggonit. We oldsters danced the Philly Dog and the Dirty Dog, we talked of ‘puppy love’ and asked (musically) “can your monkey do the Dog?”
`           Every dog will have its day and I’ve had my share of them; it’s a love affair that can only end with my heart being broken-- and yet I’ve spent my life going back for more-- over and over again. I’m a sucker for them; I like it when they lick my face, I feel as proud as a parent when they teach me a new trick or show me one that they’ve known all along but were just waiting for me to catch on to. I’ve been trained to throw balls and sticks, take them places, clean up their messes and give them a trip to the veterinarian if they so much as look like they’re feeling poorly. I get them shots and monthly medications, premium food, spoil them with treats and buy them toys. I’ve told them my troubles, cried on their shoulders and mourned their passings.
            Sure, we live with felines also, but they’re as different as, say, cats and dogs. Cats are very independent, aloof and entertaining; they know tricks but refused to be trained, they want what they want when they want it and have no conception of separation anxiety: they’ll love you and leave you. It is said that cats are like people would like to be and dogs are like people really are; perhaps that’s why we relate to our Fido, Rosie, Grover, Molly, Ginger, Scout and Sophia dogs differently. We admire our felines, worship and adore them; our canines, well, they’re our buddies, pals, running mates; they protect and comfort us. They’re our commitment and responsibility.
            There are 340 breeds of dogs recognized in the world today; if you take into consideration the variations that can (and often do) occur, you might find yourself in love with any one of what we used to call the Heinz fifty-seven varieties. To a dog lover there’s no such thing as an ugly dog and, puppies and elder dogs bring smiles just at thoughts of them.   
            Veterinarian science had come a long way since my first dog got me; now there’s wonder drugs, x-rays, ultrasounds, surgeries, anal expressions, nail clippings and even teeth cleaning. I’ve known canines getting cancer surgeries, blood transfusions, morphine shots and Asian herbal medications. By in large, the veterinarians that I’ve had minister to my critters have been more than exceptional-- caring, understanding, knowledgeable, professional, patient and empathetic-- from instructing me how to care for an infant kitten to taking my dead dog from my arms and comforting me. The entire staff at my current Vet’s is aces; it’s a small family practice, close to my home and heart. They have been there for me, always going the extra mile and taking their time to answer any questions with educated and honest answers. There’s a special place in Heaven for them.
There are dog trainers, walkers, whisperers, psychics, massage therapists and astrological chart interpreters. What can you say? Dogs are born, they live and they’ll die, it’s called a life cycle. It’s—and there’s no other word for it—devastating when your dog dies. Your soul’s foundation drops away, you’re damaged beyond repair, your chest has a hole in it, you become unfocused and you grieve. Disbelief. Anger. Resignation. Tasteless food, fitful sleep, seeing shadows of where your best friend once made their spaces, Getting up in the night remembering not to trip over the dog and re-remembering that the dog is no longer there, will not be there again. Ever.
            You only miss them when you think of them but—as the song goes—you think of them all the time; and… time it will take, as you get over the dear one that you’ve lost; your best friend; the unconditional love that you shared. Your mantra becomes “don’t cry because it’s over--- smile because it happened”. Your recovery becomes fraught with clichĂ©.
Time never heals all wounds, but through long experience I know that, at the right time, someone will come along and tell me of another dog who needs a boy; and I’ll be off again, older but no wiser.
It’s said that love is the exchanging of pieces of hearts, and, I know before it’s over,  I’ll have given and gotten from canines enough to send me to my rest with, hopefully, a complete dog’s heart, and that… that’s more than fine with me; actually, it will be a privilege.  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bivalves and Bar rooms

Bar Rooms and Bivalves
Phil LaMancusa
            Oysters. There is a cave in South Africa with oyster shell remains, indicating their culinary presence dating back as far as 164,000 years! There are mounds (middens) of shellfish shells in Florida, that date back 600 to 2,500 years and one that covers 25 acres and is 25 feet deep. Don’t take my word for it, go to Professor Google and ask for
In the Johnny-come-lately arena, American history informs us that the first oysters sold to the public were at a “primitive saloon” in New York City in 1763; and, in a call just today to Antoine’s Restaurant, after asking if oysters were on “their original menu”, I was told “Yes” (Antoine’s opened 176 years ago). As New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Antoine’s dining room in 1937: “How ya like dem ersters?”
            Ersters, Oystas;  and I hope that we’ve established some oyster cred, and, not satisfied with leaving well enough alone, let me throw one more quote at you: “Oyster eaters come in two forms: Rabid Oyster Lovers or those that consider them tasting like salty sea snot!” (Julia Robertson). I am in the first camp, I have been known to put down four, five, six dozen at local bars back in the day, depending on the price of course; my fondest memory is that of a joint in the Irish Channel that would have Tuesday Oyster Night at a dime per, I don’t recall the name of the bar, but I sure can bring back that sensual satiation sensation of having eaten my fill of those delicious morsels that I equated to the feeling of feasting on French kisses. Call me weird.
            I have eaten oysters in every form that I’ve come across in every place that I’ve found them, from huge honkers at a roadside stand in the Yucatan to those cute Olympia oysters by the shores of South Puget Sound. Belons, Kumamotos, Apalachicolas, Chesapeakes, Blue Points, Wellfleets, Malpaques, Hamma-hammas, Quilcenes and Penn Coves, in my lines of employment I’ve purchased them all wholesale and devoured them with abandon.
            My favorite is our locals, which are called Louisiana Gulf Oysters, harvested from over thirty different locations just south of New Orleans; to my taste, they are sweet, mild, delicious and very consumer friendly. My earliest recollection of eating them in New Orleans is at the Acme Oyster House in 1967. There I learned to eat them not with an off the cuff cocktail sauce or even that concoction called a ‘mignonette’ but the way the local Italians relished them. On the bar with all the other accruements were cruets of olive oil and this is how we did it. First you unwrap your crackers as you watch your oysters being shucked (never eat pre-shucked oysters raw, it’s totally bad form) and handed over to you. Next, you squeeze lemon over the whole plateful and watch them squirm, then some dashes of olive oil, some horseradish and a squirt or two of Tabasco on each one individually. Then, using your oyster fork to make sure that the little gem is free of the shell, pick the half shell up and slide the oyster into your mouth followed by its natural juices and the wonderful personal sauce that you’ve created and chew. Crackers figure in there somewhere and of course, beer, glorious beer. In those days there was no line to get in, they only had one location and the family ran the business.
            Fast forward to the twenty-first century. We’re now concerned with the safety of eating bivalves, all menus come with a warning, all chefs keep accurate records of who, what and when the oysters were purchased. Bars no longer can have raw oyster pop-ups (although Pirogue’s at 2565 Bayou Road does a bang up grilled oyster pop-up curbside on Friday nights) unless they can pass a Health Department inspection. You get plenty of offerings from places that are legitimate oyster bars at astoundingly low prices at what they call “Oyster Hours” ranging from free until they run out to a buck or less each, but Uncle Vinnie who just got a sack off the boat and brings them to Bruno’s Bar and ‘shucks ‘em for you hisself’ is a thing of the past. Elsa Hahne did remarkable coverage of our raw oyster cult as the Food Editor of Off Beat magazine in the September 2016 issue and lists a dozen places to get a dozen shucks for less than a dozen bucks. (If you don’t regularly get it, read and save Off Beat--Jan Ramsey and staff have been keeping the New Orleans music and food culture alive and well informed since 1988.)
            Enter now my latest oyster hope for our great city; Becky Wasden and Stafani Sell, the bringers of bliss in the form of bodacious bivalves, performing as Two Girls - One Shuck traveling oyster caterers, modern day goddesses of the “raw, dirty, salty, sweet” critters. They cite Tracey’s Irish Pub, Frankie and Johnnie’s for raw ones, as well as their Buck-a-Shuck appearances at Bayou Wine Garden on Saint’s game nights and some Happy Hours (call for info); Becky tells me that Bud Rips in the Bywater is trying to resurrect their old oyster bar as well.
            So, there I was at a wedding of high regard, esteem and warm feelings  where the topic of discussion is not how wonderfully radiant the bride looks (and indeed, she did) or how handsome the groom was (ditto) or the loving family support and cute youngsters and wise elders that attended; no, the buzz was all about the food. The food at this function was good and grand enough that I would have danced like Fred Astaire for an invite, luckily I didn’t have to, for Girlfriend and the bride go way back. And then someone says to me: “did you check out the oyster bar?” Well, my stomach’s sensory anticipation perked up like a Labrador in a duck blind and my natural half shell radar found my way to a corner where indeed two charmers were ‘Lady shuckin’ and jive talkin’ to a small gaggle of admirers, all the while dishing up icy cold half shells: love at first bivalve! I was like an illicit lover who swoops in takes a taste, then artfully dodges away only to come back for seconds and third helpings. I’m sure that they thought that I was stalking them, but I swear, all I wanted was their oysters (unfortunately they didn’t have any olive oil).
            So now in my ‘when I hit the lottery’ daydreams, I must include a huge and everlasting party with Two Girls-One Shuck center stage (you really should check them out: FB, Instagram, website, follow, call, whistle, book and be happy).
            We’re in the months with an ‘R’ in them, what most old timers consider oyster season; it’s the perfect time for me to partake in my passion, and although some folks would say that you can eat oysters all year round--and I agree-- I’m a traditionalist, so I don’t. I mean, doesn’t Casamento’s Restaurant (since 1919) closing during hot summer months tell you to wait until it’s really the season? It tells me.     


Friday, September 16, 2016

Gender and the Election (draft)

Gender and the Election
Democracy Inaction
Phil LaMancusa
  Who would you prefer to lead you into battle: Genghis Khan or Genghis Mom? This is going to be a classic type of question that you’ll be asked during this election cycle, make no mistake about it. Not whether you want to go into battle, who started the war or why it is being fought. It’s a typical tactical ploy called ‘smoke and mirrors’ used in any patriarchal society where struggles for power occur; to divert you from considering underlying issues; cloud the issue, who’s better at doing most anything at all, a man or a woman? Who gets your vote?
. Challenges like these will come completely out of left field, distractions to keep you from getting to the meat of any matter; and yes, we are in a patriarchal society (as is most of the rest of the word) and we’re mired in it. Patriarchal societies run the world whether we like it or not. Why ‘mired’? To be mired in something means to be stuck, jammed, caught, held.  The fact that patriarchal societies are based on fear, domination, oppression, sexism, specie-ism, age-ism and power is a form of mire. I’m against being mired in those things.
Politics have long been considered a man’s game and to go up against that a woman needs to buck that system. It’s all about masculinity being a leadership quality and prerequisite. In a patriarchal society men’s masculinity is regularly being challenged by bullies, and women are regarded as trophies at most and chattel at the least, to rise up in that system a woman has to face off to criticism that’s based on her gender.
Now, I’m not taking sides here regarding which candidate that you should vote for; I’m questioning simply: does gender play a part in political elections? That question cannot be answered without answering other questions first. Do any women besides Hillary Clinton and Claire Underwood want to hold public office?  Would bigger funding sources want to take a chance on a woman who’s running for office? Are women capable of holding office? Are women smart enough, focused enough, strong, decisive, grounded and able to make tough choices enough to serve the citizens of this great country and at the same time be representative of the most powerful nation on earth? Are they ruthless, trustworthy and courageous? I know, those are silly questions; and yet, you’re going to be asked them this fall to influence your vote.
Okay, here’s some numbers: 51% of the population are women but there’s only 17% in congress, 20% average across the board in politics nationally. When it comes to schooling, 33% are more likely to earn a degree and women are far more likely to graduate; however very few seek a career in politics. Is it possible that women have been shown that their way professionally, in a patriarchy, is preferably in the nurturing fields like healthcare, teaching and making homes for their families and their…men.
Men have it all over women. Men are born privileged, are raised to be ready for action and geared to win in everything that is competitive, and it’s part of their birthright to lead. Competition is great among men in big things like war, sports, politics, and women are relegated in a support capacity as nurses, secretaries and Girl Fridays. When a man exercises his sexual prowess he’s considered a stud; a woman doing the same dance is said to be a slut, when he fires someone, he’s tough; she’s a bitch. This is nothing new; these are called ‘gender (bashing) pronouns’, beware of them in election campaigns and debates.
I exercise my voting rights in every election that I can participate in; time was---when I couldn’t decide on a candidate that I wanted elected---I would merely vote in my party and for whatever woman was running, rationalizing that ‘men have screwed things up for so long that it was only fair to give a woman a shot’. A woman I know straightened me out by pointing out women that had been elected that were just as inept, unprofessional and dishonest as men in the same positions. Now if I don’t like any of the candidates, I don’t vote for any one, unless it’s to vote for the lesser of two evils or idiots. Am I going to vote in this election? Maybe not in every category; at this point I’m not jazzed about many of the choices.
The question is: will the American public (you) be swayed by a candidate’s gender? Voting for a woman simply because they are a woman is as wrong as voting for a man because of his gender; that’s stupid and that’s trouble. It is a fact that men get more credibility for their statements than women do--- even if they’re stating the same fact. So think about it, can you pick a candidate because of their qualifications alone? I know, I know, the whole process is rigged from the gate; leave that one at the door for a moment; the mature logic has it that as you decide on either of these two (or more) that are running this fall, you will (I should hope) want to make an intelligent, rational choice. Or will you be swayed by gender pronoun rhetoric?
Did you watch all of the debates, both parties? That would have been a great start. Did you watch the primaries? Does theater get any better than that? These are the scenarios that will occur, and you will witness, in the presidential race this fall in the year 2016: There’s Mr. T bullying his way to the front, belittling, scoffing, ridiculing and making up a whole lot of stuff; the gang leader, the pool bully, the sandbox lout and… it works! He’ll build a wall, deport the rapists, keep out the terrorists, bring back more wealth for the rich and let the poor have what they deserve…nothing! He’s the one for me!
And then there’s Mrs. C. with the whole political machine in her pocket, using all the skill and experience at rhetoric, debate and political savvy it takes to field questions like Serena Williams and dodge issues and topics like her attention span was Teflon and the subjects have no relevance to what her talking points happen to be. She showed the country that bucking the establishment and criticizing big banks and the wealthy doesn’t count for a hill of Bernies when the system that you want to change has and is in power. She’s one smart cookie! I want her for president!
The fact is that I don’t relish either one of them being the person that leads us into battle, and one of them certainly will. We will, once again, play the power game in the worldwide patriarchal system and arm our young people to go and fight wars that are for economic gain and power. Land areas will be decimated and collateral damage will include the young and the innocent, all in the name of peace and prosperity. Here’s the real question; when your child comes home in a flag covered box, who do you want to call them ‘heroic’ and give you a big old hug: an old letch with a comb over or a dowager in a pants suit?  If you answered Morgan Freeman… you missed the whole point.

Halloween 2016

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Trick or Treat
Grim Reader
Oh you wide eyed innocents who have come to this place believing the myth that you’re entering that Nirvana called The Big Easy; woe unto you who have sipped from that goblet of illusion, that wine of delusion, and are now waking with the headache of confusion. Never fear, your Uncle Phil will give you the straight skinny about what you need to know about living here; and if you don’t need these words of wisdom, you can pass them on to friends that are deciding whether or not to make New Orleans their home.
First: I assume that you already have a job; now, get a good landlord. Fact one is that the majority of landlords here have gotten really really greedy in the last few years.  New Orleans is the seventh least affordable place to rent in the country (proportionate to income); and, most important to note: tenants have zero rights here. You may get a one year lease and then go month to month, that means nothing. Unless you register your lease at City Hall a landlord can evict you with five days notice, for any or no reason (just ask former tenants of current airbnb apartments). Point two: landlords are doubling and tripling rents here because they know that some fool will pay; don’t be that fool, be prepared to take your time choosing your home, space and neighborhood.  Also, if you’re a first time home buyer---New Orleans is the least friendly place for you to try to take root.
Okay, so now you’ve found your digs. Here’s what’s next: you have to register to vote and you have to get a library card. You have to know about politics here; thatt’s really very easy; New Orleans is a blue dot in a red state and as far as politics goes: not much gets done without somebody getting/giving some money. You have to learn to and how to recycle: break down your boxes, don’t try to recycle glass or plastic bags and no garbage in the recycle bin or it simply will not be picked up.
You also need to be aware that it is up to you to take your trashcans to the street (and tote them back).  Become aware of when pickup day is, pull up your big boy pants and take the garbage out; and don’t put too much extra stuff out all at once (foliage cuttings, old furniture, spare tires) unless you want to see it sit in front of your house. ‘Free at Five’ means pickers get the good stuff you’ve left by the curb. Metal pickers pick up anything that they can sell for scrap, including beer cans and bicycles.
Bicycles are a great way to get around and it’s almost like a rite of passage to have one or two stolen. A word about bike riding is, you take your life in your hands because of reckless feckless rubber necking drivers. The alternative is to rely upon a motorized transportation. Public transportation, known here as the ‘Shame Train’ is an exercise in patience, humility, frustration and fortitude, not for the faint of heart, but sometimes necessary.
Cars are a way to get around;  parking around town is a bitch, with meter maids and boots costing you money as well as paid parking that costs as much as your child’s tuition. Make sure that you have a good mechanic that knows other professionals in the business; set aside a thousand dollars a year for shock absorber replacement because of our street conditions. Your windshield, tires, insurance carrier, nearest junkyard facilities will all come by recommendation. You’ll need a vehicle to evacuate from storms and to get you anywhere outside of the city limits, like over to Jefferson Parish where you can catch a show, shop or recycle glass. And yes, the First Amendment guarantees a person’s right to beg at street intersections; get over it, they aren’t going away. 
Yes we have storms here, rain, thunder and lightning. The streets will flood because the storm drains rarely are cleaned out and are used by construction workers to flush paint, cement and lawn debris to our lake. Also there is a culture of litterbugging here, you’ll see everything from cigarette butts, beverage containers, crawfish shells, plastic bags and even soiled diapers, try not to become part of it.
Wildlife, oh yes, we’ve got more wildlife than just you out for drinks and music with your friends. Feral chickens and rabbits, possums, clowders of felines, lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, stray canines, bats, alligators and every imaginable insect to bite, scratch, sting and frighten you; please don’t try to pet the raccoons. And yes, those are gigantic cockroaches (called Palmetto Bugs) they fly and will nip you; caterpillars will drop from oak trees and sting the heck out of you, and wait until the season when termites swarm into your house looking to relocate in your undies. There are also plants that will hurt you and some that drop seedpods that will poison your pets.
We also use chemicals with abandon here, we’d rather spray our way out of weeds and bugs than guard our health.  Workers chip paint, grind sidewalks and blow leaves with a gasoline driven machine strapped to their back with aplomb and without facemasks. Our lake fluctuates between safe and unsafe for swimming; I would not recommend eating any seafood from our waterways or vegetation grown in any un- remediated yards.

And crime? It happens. I’m not allowed to furnish you with the variety, frequency and degree of that insanity and still welcome you to our city. I personally wouldn’t live anywhere else, they just ain’t civilized out there. You’re now living in New Orleans, don’t call it the Big Easy.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bar Flights

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Last Call
Bar Flights
            “Sex, politics and religion; these are the three things that you should never discuss in a bar” Big Red told me, along with the importance of leaving a more than fair tip and to never piss off the bartender. Even as a young shaver I knew that saloon etiquette was an important part of my coming of age process and loomed large in legends, lessons and lore. Tales were told by my elders of mythical and larger than life personages and occurrences, woven like barbed wire gossamer, woven with silver tongue Eudory Welty eloquence and smooth as a Barrymore soliloquy delivered like brass knuckles in a velvet glove. “I remember one time…” would start the illustration of points and a hush would be felt for six barstools in radius..
            Pubs, bars, taverns, saloons with mythical names: The Cave, Hideout, Alibi, The Office and yes, The John. The Wrong Place, Lost and Found, Golden Note, Corner Pocket , Wit’s End and the likes of St. Joe’s, Ms Mae’s, Brothers 111, Bridge View, Circle View, Beach Bar, Top Hat and Liuzza’s By The Track.  Smitty’s, Molly’s, Cosimo’s, Snake’s, Fahy’s, Hank’s, Roosevelt’s,  Pal’s and those places of drinks past which are no longer with us (to which we will raise our glasses) and are missed but not forgotten.
They blanket our city and are not to be mistaken for those ubiquitous watering holes that feature live music, exotic dancers, bead trading, neon color drinks and/or blaring disco-pop rave rhythms (bless their hearts). We’re talking bars here, gin mills, joints, watering holes; havens of serious drinkers who want the commiseration of likeminded miscreants with names easy to remember and pronounce, names that fit and wear well. They drink common brand beers, shitty chardonnay and cheap red wine; mixed drinks with two ingredients (three at the most) and shots to celebrate or to sulk. The blender is always out of order, they may not have mint for your Julep or Mojito and if you want to watch something besides Jeopardy at six, you may be in the wrong spot.
Our bartenders who see hundreds of customers a week and possibly that many a day are quick to peg a regular and commit their names, mates and drinks to memory within a few visits; if you hope for them to know your dreams it may take a few more. The regulars regularly include a lawyer, one or two people that are into real estate, someone who is computer savvy as well as the person that knows the words to all the old songs, a movie buff, a young couple in the bloom of first love, a handy (wo)man, off duty civil servants, couples of all stripes and persuasions and service personnel going to or from their gigs.
In New Orleans there’ll also be musicians, ne’re do wells, miscreants, tattoo artists, runaway princesses, pirates and those in the arts. At typical hang outs will also wander in visitors, locals with out of town company, lost souls and those mending broken hearts; sometimes a wanderer on medication or already half in the bag (these are generally turned away from service) and/ or underage aspirants out on a tear, delivery persons between stops, an elected official and surely a couple of smokers holding up the walls outside conversing in quiet tones or raucous laughter. Only Mr. Greenjeans is missing and he may be along any minute.
Sharing your local bar is like a marriage, and should (Lord forbid) you break up with your once significant other it is understood that only one of you get to keep the bar; it’s also understood at the bar which one it is. Oh sure, you both might be welcome there separately, if the other patrons are liberal minded; but make no mistake, the gang has chosen sides. It’s a real down feeling (and I know firsthand) when you walk into what was once your hang out when you were together, she’s there---and when you walk in---all eyes are averted from your countenance. You’re nothing but chopped liver.
If only to experience close up other lives that run the gamut of the potential capacity of human thought, emotions and actions spend time at a gin mill it’s reason enough to. J.R. Moehringer writes in The Tender Bar (Hyperion 2005) that “Americans invest their bars with meaning and turn to them for everything from glamour to succor, and above all for the relief from that scourge of modern life---loneliness.” His protagonist (one of many) believes that the corner bar is the most egalitarian of all American gathering places and while I’m not that sophisticated in my adjectives I do know that when you assemble in a closed space with bipeds with the capacity for abstract thought patterns and you throw in food, drinks and the now-ness of their day, their particular frame of mind, things happen!

In celebration or in sorrow; for company or for solitude; for strength, courage or simply to gain reassurance that I have the ability to endure, I know that when I walk through those swinging doors I’ll be at home. My bartender will catch my eye and smile (remember NEVER piss off your bartender) and reach for that cold one for me. My eyes will  run down the line of stools for familiar faces and I’ll go and greet everyone I know, with a touch, handshake, a kiss on the cheek; I’ll gauge everyone’s mood and see where, if anywhere, I’ll fit in, big swallow of liquid audacity and I’ll launch into the Neverland of perfect strangeness. My big exhale from the day’s occupation; my un-reality where everything matters and nothing counts.. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Skool Daze

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
On Higher Learning
School Daze
            It’s the election cycle, football season, dirty laundry is waist high and it’s ladies night at your local pub; forget it (!)--- you’ve got homework assignments that are due…yesterday! You’re availing yourself to the auspiciousness of advanced education because of circumstances that may or may not be of your own volition and possibly far from your control. Peer pressure, parental pressure (your Daddy’s rich and your Ma’s good looking); you’ve taken out a lifetime of debt in student loans or you’ve decided that there’s more money being a hair dresser message therapist vet tech dental assistant than being a bus boy dishwasher floor sweeping baby sitter (au pair, my butt!). Or, the three to five bum rap for B&E afforded you some state sanctioned free ed--this is your life right now, so pull up your big boy pants and get on with it!
Otherwise, what’s your alternative?  You may decide that structured learning is not for you; you don’t fit into the curriculum; it’s a drag or you just aint gettin’ it.  Well, you could “pack it in, get a pick-up, take it down to L.A.”; consider that you’re not really gonna be comfortable In your skin until you’re at least thirty years old; give yourself a break and take one.  Pursue a dream, then climb a mountain, join a cult, fight a fire, volunteer for foreign service, apprentice, make mistakes; program your own syllabus and educate yourself.  And/or run away with the circus.   Do something that you haven’t done before, start at the bottom somewhere and check it out, see where it takes you. Hit your stride, live under the overpass; hold up a sign at the intersection. “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack”, failing to live up to expectations, yours and others; perhaps, like a lot of us, ‘happy’ is what you want to be when you’re grown up.
First of all, you’re not going to school because you have talent, if you had talent you’d be out in the world workin’ on your next million. You may have ability, you might be tenacious, you may want better for yourself, you might have nothing better to do or you just don’t want to go out into the world and get a friggin’ job! In any case, you need to get to crackin’… that learnin’ ain’t gonna just rub off on you!
            Oh, so you thought that you had talent; everybody told you so, your parents, your lovers, your friends and your second grade teacher. Do you know what the odds are on you having talent? If you need to ask, then save yourself the heartache. At best, you have aptitude, drive, ambition and if you’re lucky, the capacity for passion. You may have intelligence, charisma, charm and good intentions; it takes that much to get a cup of coffee. For an amount of success; you’ll need more than that.
            Ah, with luck on your side, kismet, serendipity, good karma and love in your heart, you’ll go places. The streets and cities of the world are littered by the likes of those kind hearted souls that believe that the meek will inherit the earth. To make it around here all it takes is looks and a whole lot of money, right? Wrong, that only gives you comfort, not success, so you’ll ask yourself what success is?
            Success is the result of hard work whether you’re a banker, a butcher or a Buddhist monk; add to that, timing, wise (especially financial) decisions, connections and location location location.  And on the subject of luck, a very wise man I know told me “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.
            Focus; paying attention, toil and an amount of personal sacrifice; learning the tricks and tools of your trade, taking care of your health and body, being courteous, well groomed and mannered helps a lot. A barnacle attaches itself to something stable and its sustenance comes to it; a mushroom is kept in the dark and fed manure; a zinfandel vine fights for its nutrients and produces great wine; pick a role model.
            On the lighter side, one day you’ll look back on your educational experiences and exclaim that these were the happiest days of your life; so what if the older generation looks at you like you’re some kind of techno freak. You’ve got your SmartPhone, Ipad, and Wi-Fi; you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and a whole lot more. Whatever you need from life… there’s an app for that, YouTube, Google, Tumblr and your very own blog.  You’ve got voicemail and instant messaging for Christ’s sake, what could go wrong? The world.
            Outside of your student cocoon there’s this thing called a world and what others consider real life; unless you stay in school (which I highly recommend) you will be part of a larger universe where a man named Murphy is in charge and whatever can go wrong… does. Plans change (and should), dreams may become just that (dreams), love comes from unlikely places (it does), then there’s magic as well as danger, mystery, adventure and humor (often simultaneously) everywhere (count on it). You turn a corner, take a chance, miss a step, consider an alternative, play a hunch, avoid a conflict, make a point… things happen. Education, on the other hand, can be insular.
            One of the things that I’ve seen in other countries is that being happy is more of a priority than having fame, fortune or notoriety;  coffee in the morning; off to work as a mechanic or mailperson; pick up the kids; dinner and a good book before bed. “What do you want from life?” Song and lyrics by The Tubes (check it out).


Real New Orleans Food

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Real New Orleans Food?
Here’s the questions:  What is real New Orleans food, is there a real New Orleans food and how would any one of us know it --- if it were a snake would we bite it back? 
The answers are afoot when I go to John and Mary’s on Orleans Avenue for a boiled turkey neck, McHardy’s on Broad Street for fried chicken, the Orange House for Ya Ka Mein and/or over in to the Seventh Ward to find an African-American grandma selling Huckabucks (ice cups) from her kitchen doorway for fifty cents. Real New Orleans food is going to Galatoire’s for Crabmeat Ravigote; Pascal Manale’s Barbecued Shrimp, eating Tujague’s Oysters en Brochette and a fabulous Ribeye at Crescent City Steak House.
Real New Orleans food is found at fancy places and filling stations. From the Calas at Elizabeth’s to the Creole Cream Cheese at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market; from Lafcadio Hearn to Sara Roahen. Above all, real New Orleans food is an attitude; Mirliton is New Orleans, Chayote is Mexican… although they’re the same vegetable. Real New Orleans food goes back nearly three centuries and is a gumbo of influences.
The Creoles subsisted on seafood from the Gulf, lake and river; the early Germans at Des Allemandes kept us alive with their farming and dairy products, they handed us our first charcuterie. The indigenous peoples taught us to make hominy, Tasso and the use of powdered sassafras leaves (file); the French brought their cooking methods and terminology; wheat came down the river to make our roux; the Africans came and farmed rice (“YaYa” in their language) and brought okra (quingombo) to our pots; the Spanish gave us the ham (jamon, jambon) for our Jambalaya and from a common ancestor in Peru came red, black, white and pinto beans. The Cajuns? Well, the Cajuns have kept us in touch with our rural and rustic roots.
            This new land of ours gave back to the world: chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, chocolate, tobacco, squash and vanilla; we in New Orleans adopted celery, artichokes, thyme, coffee beans, sugar cane, bananas and bay leaves. We made them our own. We took in and we gave back; and, real New Orleans food is a product of Spanish, French and African cultures with influences of the Germans, Italians, indigenous peoples and settlers making do with what they could find, forage and figure out. Slaves bought their freedom by selling foodstuffs in the streets of the French Quarter; businessmen became rich importing ice to keep it fresh, housewives traded collards for courgettes over back fences and Caribbean cooks added a pinch of cayenne to our everyday dinners. Many cooks did not spoil the soup; they just turned it into gumbo.
Put aside for a second what our visitors dive into: red beans, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, remoulade, beignets, pralines, bread pudding, poboys--- those are native to us--- baked in, so to speak, second nature to us and only are window dressing to the real meat of what sustains us as a people. Try also to ignore, for now, the ‘newer’ ethnic oriented foods that, happily, has diversified our daily eating habits in the last, say, two decades (something that newly arrived folks may not realize), foodstuffs that were once novelties that are now mainstream: Vietnamese, Hispanic and Middle Eastern. It used to be that you couldn’t find sushi here with a Geiger counter; now, pretty young things are having it for breakfast at Whole Foods (another come lately business). These I consider no less than real New Orleans food, just newer New Orleans food; updated, expanded, and modified from the old to the new--- the eat goes on.
 I do question that ‘modern’ ethno fusion locality ingredient driven over-fussy and unnecessarily complicated works of art that pass for high end food nowadays; terrific to look at, hard to eat and harder to remember except that they contained weird animal parts and far too many garnishes. But that might just be me, I’m sure it has its place; after all, in 1722 after the ‘Petticoat Rebellion’ when Madame Langlois (Governor Bienville’s housekeeper) taught our founding mothers the recipe for pecan stuffed squirrel, I’m sure a few eyebrows raised as well..
New Orleans, known to visitors for our affinity for music, food and booze has become polarized four square by conflicting if not confusing messages that are sending visitors running to our culture pundits for explanations as to our definitions as New Orleanians as to what is really real New Orleans and what is not. Let me say this about that: Music and alcoholic drinks are a subjective experience and give rise to opinions that, like noses, vary from face to face, person to person; I cast no aspersions toward tastes in those areas; although I have my own opinions, I mostly keep them to myself.
When we talk New Orleans food, however, I’m ready to get ‘real’, I’m prepared to get up into some ‘grill’: New Orleans food is like a religion to us here and what we eat on any given day can be classified as such; all the food we eat here is good food (I should hope so) but it’s either New Orleans food or it’s not. It’s found in the components that we swear by: Camellia Beans, Crystal Hot Sauce, Pickled pork, smoked sausage, Mahatma Rice, CDM Coffee and Chicory and greens of every description. It’s found in the onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic that no home is ever without. It’s found in Steen’s Cane Syrup, Zatarain’s Fish Fry and our own special secret spice mixtures. Real New Orleans food has always been based on us being locavores and we were slow cookin’ (and slow dancin’) before ‘Slow Food’ became cool and a convenient catchword.
Our food rituals set us apart as well; red beans on Monday, King Cake at Carnival time, Reveillon dinners around Christmas, Gumbo Z’herbes on Holy Thursday, oysters in months with a ‘R’ in ‘em and that grilled pork chop sandwich from the back of a pickup truck at a second line winding through the Treme.
            Real New Orleans food is eaten all day and all night, washed down by cold beers and conversation. In the street or at the table, with smiles and camaraderie; the scent of smoke like perfume amongst the Jasmine, magnolias and sweet olive comin’ over the fence tells you that a neighbor will be over soon to invite you for an impromptu ‘cook out’ before a Saints game. Our gumbo is “too thick to drink, too thin to plow”; our boiled seafood brings burn to your lips and sweat to your brow; the tropical fruits from Mr. Okra’s truck perfectly ripe; that praline stuffed beignet from Loretta’s having your eyes roll back in your head.  There is nothing superficial or elusive in Real New Orleans food and it cannot be had anywhere but in New Orleans: have a Muffuletta in Des Moines? Not on a bet! Call it the heat; call it the humidity; call it the water. Call it my stubbornness; I’ll have Enchiladas, Pad Thai, Pho, Frankfurters, Falafel, Paella and Pizza in Pittsburg, Pensacola, Flushing and Fargo; I will eat Ban Mi in Boston, Green Eggs and Ham with a goat on a boat BUT… I will save my crawfish cravings for the Crescent City--- and only in season.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pigskin perplexity

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Pigskin Perplexity
Who Dat What Dat?
            I was never an organized spectator sports enthusiast, nor was I ever a team oriented, rock ‘em sock ‘em active player of competitive sports; once when I was pressure/enlisted to join a team, I asked that my position be named ‘left out’. The idea of swatting a vaguely spheroid inanimate object with a bat, club, racquet or my tender hands, is as foreign to me as getting into a roped enclosure with someone bigger (and tougher) than I whose sole purpose in life is to beat me like a red headed stepchild and be rewarded by having their hand raised in victory to the sound of cheers from a bloodthirsty audience who’ve paid money to watch this occur. Ouch!
            As a caveat: I’m aware that it takes great skill, talent and training to run that ball against the likes of that herd of buffalo size men on an open field, or hit a ball coming at you at a hundred miles an hour and run in a circle hoping to eventually cross ‘home plate’. I know that I’d never be able to take a nine iron, or whatever, and slice that egg size ball into a hole three hundred yards away or face Serena across a net as she runs me like a bad comedian dodging tomatoes from a hostile crowd. I can swim, run and bike, but not in competition; for me the emphasis on sports is in the playing… play-ing… get it?
            Also, I don’t have a head for statistics, historic significances, odds in favor (or against), theories, rules of the games, point spreads, names, dates or places. Who did what when how and against what opponent does not adhere to any of my gray cells-- and while this is second nature to some folks-- it seems that my brainpan has sports Teflon surfaces. Even in the Olympics my attention is captured more by figure skating, gymnastics and high diving competitions than on football, golf or hockey. I guess I should turn in my ‘Man Card’.
            That being said; I am a rabid Saints fan; they’re my team, my boys, my dogs, my troops. Although, I’m not sure why they keep getting rid of some of the most beloved players and hiring strangers for us to get to know and love (or not), they’re still a team I’ll get up, dress up, show up and never give up on. Black and Gold symbolize my city and her recovery and ongoing challenges. I just hope that they don’t start drafting any hipsters with man buns.
            In the aftermath of Katrina, I was at a talk given by Alec Baldwin; at the time, the city was a mess of trash, homelessness, chaos, confusion and militant optimism about the balls that it was going to take to get us off our backs and on our feet. The talk was given in one of the dining rooms of Muriel’s Jackson Square and thus spoke Alec: “You know, New Orleans is like your home team; and just because your home team gets their asses kicked, you don’t switch teams! It’s your team, you belong to it and it belongs to you; and New Orleans is going to get through this because her people will not, cannot give up on her.” He said a lot of other things too, but those are the words that stuck with me. At one time, our football team was being called “The Aints” and fans were wearing bags on their heads because they were so terribly bad at the game and that’s when I fell in love with them. I watch them play good and bad and cheer them on (loudly); I learned what ‘fourth down and one hundred and ten to go’ means because that’s what our city came back from; it has been a real ‘Hail Mary’ of a recovery, hasn’t it? And we’re still in O.T.
            Liuzza’s By The Track on N. Lopez is my home team when I consider bacon, beer, barbecued shrimp poboys and game time banter. Liuzza’s stays open for Saints games whenever and wherever they may be; if they’re on Sunday (when the kitchen is closed), patrons bring pot luck and their staff works their day off out of solidarity with the neighborhood and “Our Boys”. That’s the New Orleans that I know.
            As I said, for the upcoming competitive sports season, I know doddley-squat about such things, and previous to my Saints fever and fervor, I would have suggested that we give each team their own ball and have them stop fighting over just the one, but times have changed. I still don’t know the difference between a punt and a bunt, a tight end and a wide receiver (sounds rather earthy to me) or why some grown people get paid gazillions of dollars to run, jump, kick, punch, swat, slam and run in circles wearing themselves out, getting hurt and trying to hurt opponents that are trying to hurt them and others get hurt for little or no money at all; as they say “it’s beyond my ken”. However, put me on a level playing field with you, me and a football pool and I’ll give you odds that I have just as much chance of winning as you do, with no previous experience necessary.
            So, go on with your bad self and root, cheer, whistle, yell, stomp your feet and yell your lungs sore. Of course the Referee is blind and probably biased against your team (he’s probably being paid off). They (the other team) STOLE that victory! Gosh darn it! We still have a chance at the playoffs, semi finals or wild card matches; our team rocks! We have a mascot, a great coach, hot dogs, beer and a pretty lady in a yellow sundress screaming: “Stomp the bastard! Kill him!” I rest my case.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Goodtime Charlie's Blues

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Goodtime Charlie’s Blues
Let’s Eat Grandma
Blow wind blow. As you well know, New Orleans has recently gotten in waves of American immigrants. More expensive places in this country are sending disheartened, disillusioned and disenchanted ex-pats here, effectually making New Orleans now the seventh least affordable place in the country for renters. Bam! People that are poor in other places can live comfortably here, displacing those poor here that, now, can no longer afford to live here and have to move on to places where they, in turn, can afford to live.
The new refugees hail from New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and even places like Portland and Seattle (where they claim to have been Cali-fornicated to suffocation), and other high toned towns. These places are losing good people due to inflated costs of living, and in the process, it’s causing our costs to become inflated as well--like a doll at a bachelor party… with the same prospects. But that’s not the point of this missive; the point of this missive is not that we’re becoming gentrified because we’re not becoming gentrified, we’re being priced out. We got trouble, right here in River City.

Think about it. What we have here is a finite number of domicidal opportunities and logic tells us that when one person moves in, it’s because another has moved (or been moved) out.
Allison and her neighbor had small studio apartments when their landlord evicted them to create short term rentals, they’re in Metairie now. Patricia lost her lease after thirty three years and now has moved to Arkansas. Jen with hubby and baby in tow are off to Ashville (her parents will follow), Kassidy and hubby are also invading North Carolina. Both Laura (around the corner) and Jacob (next door) have gone north for their residencies. Melanie and boyfriend are moving to California of all places! Every day I hear more people I know-- that have made up the fabric of what it means to be New Orleans— bidding me adieu. Businesses that I’ve relied upon are closing, resources and services cut off, buckling under economic disparities between the movers and shakers that move in and those that are simply re-moved; but that’s not the point of this missive.
The question (point) is that: considering the ‘New Orleanian’s Diaspora’—(defined as: “the dispersion of a people, language or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place”)—are Ex-New Orleanians not creating the same dispersal elsewhere? Charlotte? Georgetown? Louisville? Galveston?  “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!”:  Austin has already fallen; I even hear that our folks are moving to Cincinnati!
I’m fortunate to have a ‘hidden gem’ of a shop in New Orleans, where I get to meet and greet people from all over the country (and the world at large); the stories are the same: it’s happening everywhere. Who are these people, having started this wave, that are leaving my friends left to wash up on other shores? By and large they’re classified as “Techies”, those folks that work from home on their computers and make living enough to pay and play here without adding much to the culture. Spectators. One of my ex-neighbors explained it thus: “they movin’ us poor folks out so much that pretty soon they gonna have to bus us in for second lines!”
E. g. usta be, creative French Quarter chefs had to move into affordable neighborhoods to build their restaurants and reputations, now, they have to move to (affordable) Arabi? The question is--- what happens to Arabi-ans when they are overrun with Orleanians? Gentrification or dispersal?
And once we’ve all left, when we abandon our (no longer) reasonably rented apartments, when we’ve sold our houses for a profit, when our job has been outsourced to Houston, where are we going to go? All the good places have been taken and taken up; Christ on a crutch, we’d have to go somewhere that has winter! Leave the country? That’s an option; however, we’ve already moved natives out of San Miguel, Placencia, Yelapa, Venice, Panama and Chiang Mai; there must be somewhere else! No, nononononono! There is no place like New Orleans; or is that: there’s no place like the New Orleans that was, the one in our memory that we came back to and stayed for?
I have long time New Orleans friends, you know, the ones who like to play the ‘ain’t dere no more’ game and a few of them opine: “wait until after the next hurricane, the next evacuation, then we’ll see!” See what? Oh, I know… all the bad guys will leave with their tails between their legs and all the good people will flock back like birds coming home to roost; giving Newark, Nyack, Norfolk and Newport News back to their displaced; give New Mexico back to the Navahos! New Orleans will return to the glory of yesteryear and we’ll all have kickass jobs, killer digs, meet ‘the one’ and live happy as crawfish in a muddy pond. Not likely. We created this monster as well as the myth that there ever was glory in our yesteryear; the thing that we cherish in our memories is fact: we were happier before. The thing that we fail to wrap our heads around is that it will never be ‘before’ again…ever. The folks that we point fingers at, telling ourselves that they are the cause of our New Orleans Blues came for the same reason we did, and now they, in fact, do live here at the cost of what we selfishly considered our way of life: dysfunctional and licentious but affordable. See?
One theory has it that humans are like a rash upon the planet, another is: “we have met the enemy and he is us”.