Monday, August 14, 2017

Harissa 2017

Harissa 2017 By Philipe LaMancusa
2 medium to large red bell peppers
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin seed
1 tsp caraway seed
5 cloves fresh garlic
½ medium red onion
2 ounces dried ancho chilies
2 ounces dried guajillo chilies
½ c. Aleppo pepper
¼ c. olive oil
1 medium to large red tomato or 2 Tbsp tomato paste and 1/3 c. water
½ c. red wine vinegar
1/tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh mint (optional)
1 large pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp smoked paprika (optional)
Roast and peel and seed the red peppers
Toast the seeds lightly and let cool.
Seed, stem dried peppers, cover generously, moderately hot tap water 30 min drain.
Peel the tomato by blanching in boiling water 90 seconds and seed
Now put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth but still chunky

Let cool then jar and refrigerate. Keeps well.
Serve with pita and hummus or use as a rub or a marinate of fish or chicken. 
Pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, rose water more cumin, olive oil, add more garlic, hotter peppers, go CRAZY, man!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creole Meat Loaf

5lb ground beef (chuck)
6 oz catsup
2 Eggs
1 ½ C bread crumbs (we made our own)
Sauté until cooked, cool before mixing w/ other ingredients
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ c. chopped onion
¾ c. chopped celery
½ chopped green bell pepper
½ bunch chopped green onion
1 (‘3’ crossed out) shots Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2tbsp black pepper
½ Tbsp white pepper
½ Tbsp salt
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cayenne

 Bke at 350 until done (firm) about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve slices (about ten) smothered with the gravy that you made from the pan juices, smashed potatoes and any vegetable that you can think of. Oh, I don't know how to cut down this recipe.

Twelve Years Later

Twelve Years Later
 Debbie Lindsey

            Every day I pass her signature, stubborn and indelible, an autograph deeply imprinted from the added force of incompetence and malfeasance.  Katrina the hurricane, not The Flood, seemed to be saving her brute force for others and would have made her debut in New Orleans somewhat unremarkable if only the levees had done their job.  But they didn’t and I am reminded of this when I walk next to the three foot plus water line that remains on the glass door and its curtain that has hung stained since that August day.
            Every year, the anniversary of Katrina and the levee failures is met with diametrically opposing emotions and attitudes.  There are those who choose not to dwell on it and those (like me) who have trouble letting it go.  Some lives were damaged beyond repair and others whose lives were lifted up.  “Survivor guilt” is felt, to varying degrees, by those who lived on the sliver by the river and escaped the waters.  But no one, absolutely no one, was spared the pain.  And there is the collateral damage to families and friends who sat helplessly watching it unfold on televisions across the world.  Sometimes I think my sister, high and dry in Birmingham, was more frightened than we were here in the midst of it all.
            You learn quickly who simply can’t talk about it and respectfully change conversational course; but, most folks seem inclined to swap “war stories”.  Yes, it can be equated to having gone through combat and surviving in a war zone. As with war veterans, there is often that bonding, the camaraderie of commiseration that comes from shared dangers and the experiences of living through something historical.   And historical it was.
Katrina most certainly is something for the history books, and I say “is” as it cannot be placed in the past tense of “was”.  Much of this saga belongs to yesterday, however, we live in a landscape—organic, political, economic, and societal—that is forever changed and/or evolving as a result of Katrina and the levee malfunctions.  There were fifty-three breaches to our various canals and levees.  To date this is the largest residential disaster in U.S. history.  A major American city had its population reduced by half.  This natural and man-made catastrophe stands as this country’s costliest hurricane costing 135 billion just for NOLA.  And to this day these stats differ with a multitude of other sources yet all are shocking and admit to be record breaking.  The death toll will never be certain.
Much has been reported, rumored, and recounted about what took place during those days after the flood waters filled our city.  A great deal has been discredited, such as alligators and sharks swimming about.  Why the media wanted to dismiss this as urban myth is beyond me.  Certainly there were alligators—did they think that the gator was going to stay in Bayou St. John as its waters mingled with lake waters and not crawl or swim beyond some invisible boundary?  Heck a gentleman I knew was hospitalized at Lindy Boggs hospital at the edge of Bayou St. John and told of a rather large alligator in the building’s flooded lobby. As for sharks—well I know a very credible source in Gentilly who watched a fin gliding past his flooded home (just a bull shark perhaps).  When simple over-lapping of nature in otherwise urban environments becomes a “tall tale” you can see how easy it was for people to discount the truly shocking—things that folks simply could not wrap their heads around.
It truly was the wild, wild, west.  Anything could and did happen.  Heinous crimes and heroic deeds.  There was no precedent for the days and weeks that’s followed and certainly nothing was even remotely normal for the next year; and even as a rhythm reminiscent of life before Katrina slowly began to take root it would be years before significant reparations and restorations would outnumber the look and feel of a war zone.
            Lessons were taught and lessons were learned.  We know now to assume the worse from a storm and from our man-made protections.  But, and this is serious, we can never become complacent.  Have a plan, whether it is to stay or to go.  If evacuation is not possible then have every possible safety plan in place along with provisions. Stock non-perishable foods, a can opener, first-aid, pet supplies, solar or battery lighting (never candles—we nearly torched our house during Katrina), have prescriptions filled and zip-locked, and know that those cell phones will not be reliable for extended power outages.  Consider keeping or getting a land-line touch tone phone.  If totally dependent upon a cell then have an external back-up battery, a car adapter to plug in and charge from your car’s cigarette lighter.  Before a possible power loss charge phones, reduce to the cell phone’s lowest power mode, and then back away from that device until truly needed for life-saving communications.
            Also stock-up on lots of water, Pedialyte for hydration (my nerves and tainted foods wrought serious diarrhea), moist-toilettes, bleach, and heavy-gage garbage bags. And remember, that toilet ain’t gonna flush after several days (this is when those garbage bags in addition to cleaning out your refrigerator will be needed).  If you stay for the next flood you must remember what it was like twelve years ago.  And for the many new residents too young to have the Katrina Debacle in their memory’s reference--read about it now. I suggest: Chris Rose’s Pulitzer prize nominated “One Dead in Attic”, Douglas Brinkly’s “The Great Deluge”, and Google “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Katrina” (HuffPost), for more informative reads. 
I often wonder how many folks I crossed paths with during those couple of days leading up to Katrina’s landfall that are no longer with us.  We were the lucky ones, the fools who rode it out.  And, for no good reason other than sheer luck am I able to sit and write about it today—twelve years later.  Consider this a cautionary tale.


Six Pack Spice Info

We ship. Place orders and payments on our website,  or call 504-528-8382
Joe’s 2017 (Taco Magic)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, arbol chilies, granulated garlic, onion flakes, Spanish paprika, smoked paprika, leaf oregano, cumin seed.
Uses: 3 tablespoons will well season a pound of meat (fish, chicken) for tacos, enchiladas etc, also good in beans, empanadas, ranchero sauce. Dust on stuff to grill
Greek Fisherman (Lemon Pepper Blend)
Ingredients: Organic lemon peel, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, dried onion, leaf oregano, dill weed, fennel seed
Uses: Any seafood, salads, shellfish pasta dishes, baked potatoes, cream sauces.
Summer Pie Spice Blend
Ingredients: Allspice, cinnamon, cardamom seed, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Uses: use on heaping tablespoon for apple peaches pumpkin pies. Use on baked sweet potatoes, candied pecans and mulled ciders
Creole Crack Blend
Ingredients: Kosher salt, paprika, granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, leaf thyme, leaf oregano, leaf basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Uses: THIS is the spice to use on everything! Red beans, gumbo, as a blackening, French fries, mac and cheese, avocado, popcorn rims of bloody Mary glasses
Killer Griller (meat seasoning blend)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, onion flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper, crushed red pepper, white pepper, leaf oregano, leaf thyme, leaf basil, peppermint leaf, rosemary leaf, celery seed, yellow mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, allspice berries, seed fennel Uses: Braising, roasting, smoking, grilling beef, pork, ribs, chicken and fish. Use as a rub and in your BBQ sauces.
Ras al Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Ingredients: turmeric, cumin seed, ground ginger, Spanish saffron, black pepper, cardamom, seed fennel, mace, cubeb peppers, cayenne, white pepper, cloves, yellow mustard seed, poppy seeds, fenugreek seeds, star anise, granulated garlic, cinnamon bark, mint leaf, allspice, lavender flowers, organic rose petals, nutmeg

Uses:  Any dish that needs a curry like flavor, tagines, roasted cauliflower, sprinkle on fresh melon or mangoes, grilled vegetables and lime in the coconut milk sauce. 

New Orleans Olive Salad

Kitchen Witch New Orleans Olive Salad
2 medium carrots
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 small red bell pepper16 large green olives pitted
2 cups medium green olives pitted
1 cup brine-cured black olives
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup brining juice from olive jar
6 cloves fresh garlic minced
4 ribs celery
¼ cup (1 small jar) capers
10 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 tsp dried basil leaf
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Reduce all pertinent ingredients to proper sandwich salad size (dice real small)
Mix well and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and enjoy!

P.S. Feel free to play around with ingredients i.e. use pimento stuffed olives and eliminate the small red pepper etc etc. 

New Orleans Vegan Red Beans and

Kitchen Witch Vegan Red Beans
Thanks for asking; here’s what I do:
The day before, I put on a pound of Camellia brand dried red kidney beans (2 ½ cups) to soak 12 hours at least, preferably over night; I use 3 quarts of water at least for the soaking. After soaking, I throw the soaking water away and rinse the beans in a colander with cold water; then I put the beans in a heavy bottom pot on the stovetop, on medium heat with 6 cups of water and bring up  to a boil. When they reach the boiling point, I transfer them (and the hot hot water) to a Crockpot and let them cook, covered on the ‘low’ setting, all day while I’m at work, or all night while I’m asleep; what’s that, 6-8 hours? If the beans set up some foam in the ‘up to boiling’ stage, just skim the foam off and toss it; however make sure that you keep the 6 cups of hot hot water.
When I get back to the beans I give them a good good stir aiming to break some of them up to form that good good gravy. Meanwhile I sauté 2 cups of diced onion in 2 ounces of vegetable oil, up with 6 ounces of Field Roast brand chipotle sausage, also (a larger)diced; this product has the advantage of having enough sodium, spices and heat to where I virtually need no other seasonings.
When the onions are sautéed translucent and the sausage is well heated (it’s already at a cooked stage when you buy it), I mix them in with the beans and serve them with crusty French bread over cooked rice (I only use brown rice, but you can use whatever rice you like). AND don’t forget the hot pepper sauce on the side (we like Crystal or Louisiana brands). Serves 6-8, leftovers are yummy and the rest freezes well.
Now, you can gussy the dish up with other ingredients; but, to me that’s like putting a suit on a monkey: you can certainly do it, but why would you want to? Advice? Try it my way first before you decide to confuse the dish. Thank you, Philipe

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

                                                               C. Ray Nagin
Phil laMancusa
He came on like gangbusters. Native son of the seventh ward and Treme who went to college on a baseball scholarship, took a BS in accounting and became a CPA. He took jobs around the country and landed with COX communications where he rose, at thirty three years of age, to Vice President and General Manager in 1989 with a pay of $400.00.00 a year.
He was active in city, state and national politics as a lobbyer and functioned well at the local level, performing with many civic organizations; he also had irons in the fire in many local business deals, a shrewd operator. At forty-six years old entered the New Orleans political scene by announcing his candidacy for mayor. He touted himself as a poor son, born amongst us in Charity Hospital and as a business leader would take the city to a new level. He was elected mayor in 2002.
Katrina came in 2005 and the mayor lost his effectiveness. He holed up at City Hall and rarely ventured out to see to his constituents well being. He did make a forceful rant against the Federal Government on WWL radio with an impassioned plea for help and a demand for assistance.
He narrowly won a second term with two thirds of voters still displaced and helped to contribute to the city’s slow progress on a path of recovery. However, it appears that he was working both sides of the street; wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering got him a trial and a sentence in the slammer where you’ll find him today. He remains a lesson in greed, ineptness and showmanship bravado. His release is scheduled for May 25, 2023

                                                 Mitch Landrieu
Phil LaMancusa
            What can you say about Mitchell Landrieu? Politician and lawyer; son of a mayor, brother of a senator, one time deputy Governor and State representative; present mayor of New Orleans. First ran for mayor in 1994, narrowly lost in 2006 and took two thirds of the vote to win it in 2010.
            The city was left with a hundred million dollar shortfall thanks to the previous administration (C. Ray Nagin). He placed a hiring freeze on the police department and crime rates rose as police ranks dwindled.  He did things to beautify the city that our visitors will notice and left other parts to wither. He over saw the removal of city monuments (statues) that represented personages that were pro slavery and a minority of radicals on both sides of the argument disrupted the city with protests that took an additional portion of our police department from other duties. His infrastructure projects have cost money and have inconvenienced citizens. He is very adept at using federal monies for city projects and one of his gaffs is known as the ‘streetcar to nowhere’ on Rampart Street.
            Landrieu is a career politician and is a staunch advocate for juvenile justice system reforms; he also is a fiscal conservative actively working on and repealing an Orleans parish ‘amusement tax’ (2% of gross sales) and as a career politician is widely regarded as someone who has his eye on Washington D.C.
            He has reached term limits as a mayor and leaves the city with mixed viewpoints of his legacy. As mayor, he has done nothing wrong.
                                                            The Next Mayor
                                                         Phil LaMancusa

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tattoos then and now

Tattoo you
Phil LaMancusa
      I don’t mind that they hurt like the Dickens, like a shard of burning, jagged broken glass being scraped into your skin with a feel and sound of an electrically short circuiting combined buzz saw and drill bit, and the blood that’s being wiped away signaling the permanence of that ink as it’s buried beneath and on your skin…forever. You walk in, flashing virgin epidermis and walk out with the Chinese symbol for “Light Starch” tattooed to your chest; it sounded like a fine idea at the time, you dreamt that you’d be reincarnated as a shirt and didn’t want the world to be too hard on you.   
        Physical evidence going back over five thousand years has shown us that there’s not much new under the skin, as far as inking goes; or the variety of people who adhere to the processes. Priestesses and pirates; soldiers, sailors and carnival workers; criminals and tradesmen; Samurais and slaves; religious pilgrims and whores all have had something to show on their skin that set them apart from the unadorned. Headhunters and circus showmen; Popeye the sailor and Lydia the Tattooed Lady; The Illustrated Man and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Rose Tattoo, The Crying Heart Tattoo. From Siam to Siberia and Samoa; ink under the skin set sects apart --from ordinary citizenry --bringing luck and the protection of the Gods. 17th century seamen used tattoos as identifying marks to avoid unlawful impressments and as body identification in case of shipwreck. “Songs are like tattoos, you know, I’ve been to sea before”.
          When I was a kid in the fifties, we had fake transfer tattoos. I got my first real tat in 1962 in Hamburg Germany, another in the shadow of the Panama Canal; a Janis Joplin Rose from Lyle Tuttle’s studio in San Francisco; the word ‘Mentirosa’ (Liar) on one shoulder  to commemorate love lost; my daughter’s name on a forearm and yes, I’ve got “ROSIE” on my chest.
       Back in the days of my youth, it was the bad boys, the tough guys, the outlaws that sported ink; men got them in the military, women had showpieces in special places and --unspoken but understood-- all tattoos stayed clear of the face, neck and below the cuff line; a man with a tear tattooed to his face is said to have killed someone (two tears… two some-ones etc.), LOVE and HATE on the knuckles signified someone ready to use their fists, my mother’s first husband had FFFF on his knuckles signifying the Four F (Find ‘em, Feel ‘em Fu*k ‘em and Forget ‘em!) club. Back then, you could read a person by the pictures they had on their body because, yes, it hurts, it’s permanent and most times semi-thought out, but, your tattoo then became part of your identity and persona. I have my initials on my wrist from the needle, thread and India ink method used when I was incarcerated once; jailhouse tats are notorious in their complexities and stories.
         Back then a tattoo parlor had books of pictures that you could have put on your body and they charged by the illustration that was chosen; today, tat artists will charge by the hour and are capable of Michelangelo grade work in scope and concept plus there is an epidemic of amateurs that just need some friends to practice on. Ink has gone from Subculture to Pop Culture and it is a lot easier to get inked today; also, in some cases, a lot more expensive. Some of the better artists can cost between $300.00- $500.00 an hour (and up), in some parlors there’s an apprentice standing by to take the overflow just for the practice. In all cases you get what you pay for and then pay for what you’ve gotten.
       It is said that getting tats got goosed in 2005 with a TV show called Miami Ink and was further propelled into mainstream with social media , tattoo artist super stars and super stars that started sporting tattoos, but, I’m not quite sure if that statement is completely accurate; I was kinda busy with hurricanes that year.
         Putting aside deviance and decoration, today’s tattoo cult got its start in the 60’s with the Hippie and Biker cultures and went into full bloom with young women in the 80’s having lower back and nape of neck decorations, quite sexy at the time. Sports stars got into the act and younger kids wanted to emulate their heroes. And then it happened that bigger and more better became better and more bigger.
          That’s not to say that there aren’t a myriad of unprofessional (bad, naïve, inexperienced, homemade) tattoos out there that have a body wondering what a person must be thinking, or not thinking, to have something silly or less than wise permanently put on their skin such as the folks that look like someone has taken a Sharpie marker and doodled on them, or a name or saying that will mean nothing to the person five years down the road or that person that had neck and facial ink that will be a logical cause for limited employment opportunities.  
         Be that as it may, personally, I love tattoos, on myself and on other people; when I spy someone with tattoos, I want to go up and find the story behind them. Unfortunately, with the plethora of ink on bodies, I have this pessimistic fear that some people get inked ‘just because’. Perhaps they become addicted to the experience; perhaps they have too much money. I myself have a story with each of my renderings; they’re like pieces of art hung on the gallery of my body and I want more, except, I find that I can’t afford them.
       Would I recommend a person getting a tattoo? Yes, but with the caveat issued by Carlos Torres, a world renowned ink artist: “Think long term.”  (I say: “think nursing home!”) So, I’d shy away from Zombies, Herman Munster, a portrait of someone you (believe you) know/love, cat butts, Jesus playing basketball, ANY politician, sex organs, anything in old English lettering or above your collar line and for heaven’s sake, check all grammar and spelling so you don’t wind up with “Never Don’t Give up!” or “No Regerts”.       

Greek Festival in New Orleans

The New Orleans Greek Festival
Phil LaMancusa
            The New Orleans Greek Festival is held on the Memorial Day weekend May 26th -28th,  2017  and presented by the Holy Trinity Cathedral located at 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd and that’s the first thing that you need to know. The second thing that you need to know is the word Efharisto (eff-kaar-EEs-toe!) and you need to be able to say it all in one breath; repeat after me Efharisto!!! The word is Greek and the meaning is “Thank You!” and you’ll want to say it often and with vigor as you attend New Orleans equivalent of the painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat (g’wan, look it up). It’s a family thing, an eating, drinking, dancing, milling about, lounging, laughing, smiling music thing.
For the kids there is a playground with a climbing wall, face painting, crafts and one of those bouncy tent things where you allow the little darlings to work off all of the extra steam that they seem to wake up with. Kids twelve years old and under have free admission (the rest of us kids pay $7.00).
There is live (Greek) music and dancing in the Hellenic step/style; you can come and show your stuff, learn or just watch and be amazed by what you see. There is free offsite parking, about a half a mile down the road, with shuttle buses to and from the event or you can park on the roadway to get in closer.

You can rent canoes for bayou cruising, there are contests, raffles and even a ‘Toga Sunday’ pageant with prizes. There are tours given of the Cathedral that allow you view artifacts of the faith. 

Gospel Tent

Under the Gospel Tent
Phil LaMancusa
Probably the oldest and very first attraction at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the Gospel Tent. At the first Jazz Fest in 1970 at Congo Square, where the tickets were $3.00, there were four stages and the Gospel Tent; many of the acts did not even have microphones. One of the first performers at that festival in the Gospel Tent was a woman names Mahalia Jackson, possibly the greatest gospel singer of all times and she was, as they said, returning home to perform. Forty-seven years later, as you know, the Fest has grown; but one rock that has remained steady is our Gospel Tent, the first you hear as you arrive and the last to sing you on your way when you leave.  
Anyone with the sense of a sea urchin knows that New Orleans is a spiritual city; scratch the surface of any folk here and they will assure you that they are “blessed to be alive” to which the proper response is: “I know that’s right!”  Why few white people here under the age of forty does not carry this message in their daily life, this is a mystery to me; I reckon that once you reach a certain age or if you were brought up singing the praises of the Lord (instead of petitioning the Lord with prayer), you naturally feel blessed every day, faithful and grateful.
 Be that as it may, I and my peer group count our days on this mortal coil as gifts from a higher authority, and praise be to whichever power that that may be. It’s really really easy for me to worship the thousand faces of God/Goddess that have granted me my life because I believe in them all; I am a Christian, Jew, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, Baptist, Bacchus, beer drinking believer in the benevolence and bedlam of being.  Every Jazz Festival at the Gospel Tent my belief in Lord Jesus is super jump started again, with a charge strong enough to carry me through the year, you might say electrified. Every year when I go to the Fest, I know where to find Jesus and how could I not pay a visit, in fact several visits?
The advantage of being an all believer (from atheism to Zoroastrian) is that I can wander down any path and find my higher power ready to give my soul the strength that it needs to survive the weakness of my reserve, give me reserve to challenge my temptations, courage to fight my demons and put some gut in my strut; and when I walk into the Gospel tent, any hole in my soul is filled with the power of the people, performance and pure joy in the Lord. The music, the singing the spirit is infectious and I find myself swaying, singing, clapping and snapping with the holy, yes holy, atmospheric pressure.
Fair to say at this point that by in large were talking about an African American spirituality experience, for while I understand that white folks can have soul, they are (by in large) not as rhythmically inclined to belt out their raised voices in the adoration to one who can and truly does save. The music and songs are spiritual, Rock, Rhythm, blues, gospel and the primitive African call and response audience participation occurrence rolled in to one glorious exhausting heart expanding happening.
I have been floored by four glorious goldenrod gowned fully grown women; I have witnessed Blind Boys and Zion Harmonizers and by far I am carried away when a choir of fifty or sixty voices, in agreement and five pert harmony, lift their right to be heard unto the Lord. Can I get a witness?
And then there’s a slight pause in the music where Brother Love steps out with the microphone and challenges the audience that he has accepted as parishioners: “have you heard the word of God here today? (YES!) and do you feeeeeel the grace of the Lord (YES!) and do you believe that you have come to a HOLY place, a place of worship, THE HOUSE OF THE LORD?”  (YEEEESSSSS!) “then I want you to look around you and pick up all that trash that you brought in with you because this IS the house of the Lord and we do NOT leave trash on the floor; if you brought it in with you, then take it back out and dispose of it properly. “I WILL NOT HAVE TRASH IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! Can I get an Amen?” “AMEN!”

free people of color in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Free People of Color
New Orleans’ Third Society
            It might be important to note, as we reach our three hundredth birthday, that New Orleans is not, what can be considered, an old settlement/colony and that for over two hundred years before us the societies that fashioned our world here were in full swing; long before Sieur de Bienville brought the first two slaves (George and Mary) into the French outpost that was in the crescent of the river that the Ojibwa Indians called misi zibi or Father of Waters.
            The period of exploration and land grabbing was pretty much a white man’s undertaking and the subjugation of ‘primitive’ peoples (indigenous American, African) for pleasure and profit was part of the modus operandi of the male Anglo explorers and exploiters. It goes without saying also, that a shortage of European women did not deter the conquering heroes from exercising their sexual impulses with whatever female happened to be on hand; Indigenous Americans were harder to handle and soon were either displaced or destroyed, however, the slave trade was well established and provided ample opportunity and supply of feminine companionship. As a result, Africans, as time went on, were subjected to a genetic melding with Europeans, these mixed blooded Africans multiplied in numbers and became a new culture and class of citizenry; and they needed to be reckoned with, much for very practical purposes.
            Exploring and evidencing was part and parcel for this third race of peoples to fit into Anglo/Afro society, and the complexities of this racial bridge had astounding consequences. From the beginning of our French and Spanish occupation-- with the occurrence of manumission and the outright ability of an enslaved person to purchase their freedom-- a class of peoples did arise throughout our colonies and was labeled Les Gens de Couleur Libres--- Free People of Color (FPC). As time went on, classes within this class gave rise to definitions and labeling concerning the degree of proportion of blood—Black compared with White--that these Creoles of Color had running through their veins. Mulatto (50% African); Quadroon (25% African); Octoroon (1/8 or less); “not all Free People of Color were Creole and not all Creoles were free people of color but over time there has been some tendency to conflate the two, or use the word to refer to people of mixed race, which many but not all free people of color were” (LSU libraries).
Generation after generation, through the systems of outright taking of concubines and the more formal Placage arrangement, placed women of color into the arms of European men--perpetuating the systems themselves.  And, with the rearing and educating of the resulting offspring and subsequent societal mobility as a side effect, not only was eventual freedom a likelihood but, the ensuing possibility of economic security and solidarity from this closely knit society (FPC), as well, was practically guaranteed.  Against all odds the FPC actually thrived and prospered. ‘On the eve of the Civil War (1862), in New Orleans alone, there were 18,000 FPC owning and paying taxes on $15,000,000.00 worth of property.’ (Le Musee de f.p.c.) That’s literally between ten and fifteen percent of the population working in professional capacities, as artists and artisans, opening businesses, owning land and in some cases purchasing slaves for personal use.
            As first generation American and a northerner to boot, the scope and importance that FPC had that influenced not just the United States in general, but New Orleans in particular is somewhat beyond my ken (and possibly yours); however, I can tell you from what I have read and can understand, if you are going to understand this city to any degree, you need to know how FPC formed the foundation of our world here; the very fabric of our Joie de Vive.
            That being said, me expounding what I know about the FPC would be like you listening to a child trying to explain what’s inside a book by looking at the cover; however, I can tell you how to find out the whole story of the FPC from the people who study and live this historical American phenomenon; they are here in New Orleans and hold the pieces of the puzzle that make up who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.
            For sure you could just go to Professor Google and that would end up with inaccuracies, confusion and besides it would keep you from discovering the real deal. There’s a place that you can physically go to and have an immersion that will leave you wiser in spirit and intelligence while opening up your heart and your mind. It’s Le Musee de f. p. c. at 2336 Esplanade Ave. New Orleans, La. open Wednesday through Sunday; call for times and to book a tour 504-323-5074
            Book a tour? Yes. Situated in a wonderful Greek revival (I call it a) mansion are documents and photographs and art work and a knowledgeable staff that gave me more information in forty-five minutes than I could digest in weeks. From the French Quarter it’s about a twenty minute walk or bus ride or whatever, past stately large homes and shading oak trees where at one time many FPC had homes. The neighborhood is called upper Treme, where also, FYI was an enclave of Greek, Lebanese and Syrian peoples; but that’s another story. Heck there are more stories here than you can shake a stick at.
            So, there you have it (or as much as I have room to spill out to you) for those of you that want to know more about this city than red beans and rice on Monday and where to find a decent happy hour; know this: unless you learn about our heritage (s) here, you will never fully understand New Orleans.


Po Boy views
Phil LaMancusa
Billy’s Blues
Lonely at the Top
            It sucks being a giraffe, it’s got to be the worst job on the planet; worse than a donut fry cook, scrap metal junk collector or a manic mechanic on cars. I know it is because I spent a few early morning REMs being a giraffe and I can tell you that I didn’t like it from the beginning until the time that I woke up.
            “First of all, giraffes give birth standing up, so a newborn calf is literally dropped from a height onto the ground where they’re pushed to a standing position and told to get the hell moving before they become some lion’s hors d’oeuvre; father is called a Bull (which he likes fine) while mother is called a ‘Cow’ (fighting words where I come from). The whole gang of ‘em is called a ‘Tower’ as in: “hey Clem, there goes a tower of gy-raffes, must be six or eleben of ‘em!” I’m telling you, it ain’t easy.
            Next, it’s almost impossible to have a dialogue with more than one giraffe at a time, all that head turning hurts your neck, and brother, there’s a lot of neck to hurt. Also, it’s hard to get a decent drink from the water hole without all the other animals making fun of you, you have to eat what’s at the top of the trees and be satisfied with it and monkeys think that your appearance is hysterical and throw things at you. Conversely, giraffes are very good at one on one, giraffe to giraffe, conversation and this sometimes leads to romance and another calf being dropped from a high place to continue to cycle of life, to which I say: thanks… for nothing.  
            So, there you are or more precisely, I am (giraffe-ly speaking), one day, minding your/my own business, swapping jokes with the chimps, and Uncle Ralph says “Okay let’s mosey on”; actually he doesn’t say anything because giraffes don’t talk (imagine having vocal cords that long?). Uncle Ralph, who’s the ‘lead’ bull, just gets a bug up his butt and starts ambling and--what do we know—we can’t see what’s going on, so we follow him; off goes the ‘tower’ all six or eleven of us.
            BAM! There goes a noise and what do you think it is? It’s some pale, hairless biped who has just shot me with a needle and down I go unconscious to be ripped from my family and friends, shipped off to a zoo where there’s not enough room to scratch my assets and I’m put into an ‘enclosure’ with others of my kind and expected to eat dry grass and iceberg lettuce, drink from a water fountain that’s twelve feet in the air, and make nicey nice for the gawking dressed up humans that look to us more ridiculous than an orangutan’s back side. I have nothing in common with any of this.
            Sure, there’s a cute little giraffe heifer from Uganda or some place and she’s giving me the eye; and, I’ll tell you, when a female giraffe starts batting those eye lashes… boy, howdy! But hey, you’re wandering around on packed dirt all day and then enclosed in a dark barn all night (albeit with high ceilings) and face it, how are you going to pitch some woo with a bunch of long neck geeks snoring and snuffling (giraffes snore loud enough to rattle window panes) and wanting to get up into your grill because you accidentally stepped on their hoof or passed gas?
            Okay, so the sweetie sweetie preliminaries between Mary Lou (the heifer) and I are completed in the dark of night and next day she starts nuzzling up to me—in the ‘enclosure’—on the packed dirt—water fountain twelve feet in the air and you/I drop all of your/my reserves and composure and go for it. Suddenly you hear: “Hey Clem, come quick, them gy-raffes is f*kkin’!”  Talk about a bliss buster, total deflation, and you know that your performance will be dudsville and you’ll be the laughing stock of the stockade and you have to live the rest of your days with the shame. And the keepers wonder why you look depressed. Depressed? You don’t know the half of it; don’t get me started on the artificial insemination process.”
            I start to black out, my head is spinning, there is a rushing sound in my ears and a banging, banging and that’s when I wake up; it takes me a minute to get my bearings. I’m in a strange bed, it’s Tuesday and the garbage men are on the street with their usual hullabaloo and cacophonic city wake up call.
            Back to my life and reality; drillers are drilling, billers are billing, killers are killing and the swills are out in force, swilling; if it was a thrill, it would be thrilling…but it’s not.  I need to get up, shower, shave and get to work on time, I need to find water, a clean shirt, and my razor has become dull over night. I have bed head, bags under my eyes and I realize I just screwed up a (giraffe’s) wet dream; I am such a loser but…  I smell coffee.
            And I wake up again, this time for real. The dog’s licking my face, the mug of coffee is within my reach and her voice is saying “good morning, how’d you sleep?” For a minute I’m not sure whether I’m a giraffe having a dream that I’m a human or if I really did have a dream about being a giraffe; but, I reach up and touch her cheek and decide that I’ll be satisfied with what I’m seeing, what I’m feeling. I stretch and say “fine Honey, but you know what? It would really suck being a giraffe.”

leaky faucets

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Leaky Faucets
Question One
In America, one of our basic freedoms is Freedom of Speech, yes, it’s your First Amendment right to speak your mind, voice your opinion, wave your freak flag and/or poke fun at your elected officials or anyone else for that matter. Simply put, a person can open the mansions of their mind to the unsupportive, unsuspecting and unspecified universe at large and no one can tell them to “Shut the front door!” Hopefully such a person can find an appreciative, if not patient enough audience to avoid being offered a Hawaiian Punch, a blind ear or other such dismissals of drivel that we are all taught as reactions to the abundance of cosmic debris that has invaded our lives and have absolutely nothing to do with our realities. As we all know, it’s only our opinions that make any logical sense (at least to ourselves).
To balance this, we have created a class of society whose job, yes job, it is to tell us where we are blocked from our pursuit of freedom by RULES that don’t suit anyone but the enforcer of those rules; to wit: the postal clerk that will tell you that you cannot send newspapers or magazines at the ‘Media Mail’ rate because they are not considered ‘media’. (You’re thinking ‘well, what the heck are they?’) Or a US postal worker who explains that although it is their job to bring the mail to you, they only take mail from you as a courtesy (read: they don’t have to). This brings questions from the elder person without transportation that would need to pay bills by mail.
I have Winn Dixie wanting to swipe my driver’s license into their computer before they’ll sell me beer although I am over three times the drinking age and look it! The rules are the rules; sorry, you need exact change to ride this bus.
These seemingly illogical edicts are delivered by stony countenances that we’ve come to regard as BRF (Bitchy Resting Faces), and you’ve seen them; the check out person who disregards your brought-with-you grocery bags and proceeds to put one item per plastic bag in your cart or makes you bag your own groceries by ignoring you altogether; the policeperson that gives you the BRF when you question why it took three hours for them to respond to a call; or, the meter maid that doesn’t care if you dashed into a shop to get change, they’ve already given you a citation (citation?). That tow truck guy; the impassive receptionist; invisible salesclerks; city workers that came to fix a water leak and left a Rhode Island size crater outside your home. Not my job.
You wonder about how that travels up the chain of local government at every level; a streetcar to nowhere; a major thoroughfare closed for years for repairs (?); some streets paved and others resembling moonscapes. Who’s in charge? You phone to suggest that recycling containers, logically, should not look the same as trash bins, no one answers your calls or email messages. Your public swimming pool closes on Labor Day while it’s still hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk and the answer you get is ‘lack of funding.’ A fire hydrant outside of Matassa’s Grocery Store on St. Philip Street has been leaking for four years and goes unrepaired. It’s too easy to become used to this and to suck it up as part of the price you pay for living in Paradise. Or not.
Disillusionment can lead to complacency can lead to laziness; complaining can become annoying and fruitless; lack of results can leave a feeling of impotence and you can just give the flip up. We all suspect that, really, whoever wins an election is not going to fulfill campaign promises to make our lives better, safer and more prosperous; that all of the idealistic movements in the world really don’t take root for decades and then only when someone can make a profit from them. We all know that there are senseless wars, killings, slaveries, injustices, oppressions and suppressions that are based solely on greed. We see the world in a mess because of the human condition of turning a blind eye to the future of this planet; I once had a young man tell me that his religion basically told him that he could do whatever he wanted to do, commit any level of inconsideration as long as he was sorry about it sometime before he died.
So, how did we get here? Greed? Power? Spiritual amnesia? Psychic anesthesia? Name your poison, it’s all available as an excuse for not being right with the world. Four young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one beat two tourists unconscious at 3:30 in the afternoon on a busy street and we’re all outraged. Question one: where did our children learn that this was acceptable behavior and how did they learn to rob and injure so efficiently? A high profile musician embezzles public funds and diverts them for his own greedy enterprises; a Louisiana Governor cuts funding for higher education and finances his run for president; parents beat their children to teach them ‘lessons’; domestic violence and football games; refer back to question one. And us? When do we think about what we’re learning and teaching and how we set examples by our actions?
Here’s a sort of an answer; take responsibility for your behavior on a daily basis; act as though you are going to live forever in this mess, start cleaning up and stop wasting time, your health, your mental well being, your legacy. Pick up litter. Observe patience patiently. Don’t engage in negativity; say something positive to everyone you speak to; tell the people you love that you love them; practice the principles of right speech, right actions and right thoughts. Don’t put up with bull sh*t. Consider you might be wrong. Give a damn. Well, what do you know? I’m preaching to the choir.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Restauran Tissue

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Bone Appetite
Full Belly Wisdom
            I’ve been eating and working in restaurants since the Last Supper. I’ve bussed tables on Noah’s Ark, made final cocktails on the Titanic, and was in the kitchen when Henry VIII knighted Sir Loin of Beef. Comparing dining establishment experience, one day I remarked to a younger colleague:  “I’ve got food stains on aprons older than you are!” And it’s true; I’ve been around the culinary block so many times that the James Beard Foundation had my kitchen clogs bronzed. In all my years of eating and working in restaurants I have never heard anyone say: “Hello, I’m here to work your last nerve” but sometimes they do.
 Here’s a scenario: You’re working the floor or possibly the sauté station in the exhibition kitchen and in comes an ex (that no count that made a fool out of you) with their boisterous buddies, parents from Peoria or his/her new ‘friend’ and wants to sit in front of you/at your station. He keeps his hat on slouches at the table and signals the server with a snap of his fingers for beer. She sends back the well done burger because it’s cooked too much, spends the majority of time texting while he steps out for a cigarette just as the food is delivered (that he will send back because it’s cold). He switches from his phone to his IPod to watch a sports match while she reapplies makeup. The new paramour has brought twin fives that runs amok, imperiling life, limb and property playing tag. The group takes up the table for three hours, leaves a mess and an eight percent gratuity citing their ‘experience’ being sullied by the appearance of an insect. You’re not allowed to kill them.
The subject of restaurant behavior is timely-- being this is the restaurant issue-- so we’ll explore the nuances and social mores of eating in public places leaving employment war stories for another time. Having partaken in ‘away from home’ meals for millennium, I feel more than qualified to tug on your turban. Question one: do you often eat out with other people, alone or at all; AND, have you ever been on the service side of that ritual? Whatever side your bread is buttered, you can be sure that diners, cafes, coffee shops, bistros, affairs, food trucks, formal dining ‘establishments’ and joints all share a common denominator; wine and dine or grit and split-- it boils down to one thing-- appropriate manners are expected, if not required.
 Define appropriate manners? Simply: the logical modification of behavior that is extended by you as a courtesy to an individual or company that is supplying you with comestibles for your enjoyment, nourishment and hopefully, satisfaction.
Wherever you partake in food that is not you eating over your kitchen sink at home, from a to-go container, in your boxer shorts, drinking milk directly from the jug and wiping your mouth on the back of your arm, like it or not, you have an obligation to hold up your end of an unspoken bargain; that agreement is that both you and your host will act according to the environment and circumstances of the area given over to you for your ‘dining pleasure’. The faux pas’ range from asking for a knife to cut up fried chicken to wearing a baseball cap at the table in Ella Brennan’s place-- from the Colonel to Commander’s-- there’s a dance to be done and you’re either ballet or buffoon.
Figure it’s good training if you ever want to get ahead in the world, instead of left wondering why you weren’t told it was going to be like this when you grew up, if ever you do (grow up). Your choice is either to cultivate the ability to act ‘according to Hoyle’ in any given eating circumstance or progress no further than the way you acted in your High School cafeteria, and it will, like it or not, come to define you as an adult in the real world; from Chez Panisse or Piccadilly; The Waldorf or Waffle House. You will be judged. A chameleon-like ability to blend in to any given occasion is a mark of a superior mentality; here’s kind of a beginner’s primer.
First of all, if accustomed to eating out alone, you’re allowed to behave whatever way you like and reap the karma. However, if you are with others, it’s up to you not to be an embarrassment to mixed company. Napkins are universal, from Damask to cheap paper, learn how to use them; if you’re not paying the bill, you don’t get to order the wine; don’t make a pass at your server unless you’re a real catch (you’re probably not); do make your culinary restrictions known well before you enter the door; don’t expect any better treatment than anyone else unless you’re handing out C-notes; make sure that you’re not off-color, rude, sloppy, loud or ill mannered. Accept the traditions of the place that you’re at and don’t ask for anything that’s unreasonable like chopsticks at the Dairy Queen; vegan or gluten free options where there aren’t any (except possibly fried potato skins); a table for six for two people; a change in the music, room temperature, lighting or “can you just make me a soft boiled egg and some dry toast?” at Crescent City Steak House. Believe me; a person can go an entire meal without taking a smoke break or using an electronic device. Tip lavishly and don’t get loaded in public…ever. If you’re including children, call ahead to insure a kid friendly menu is available and note that it’s up to YOU to control their behavior, unless you’re going to Chuck E. Cheese. Whenever/wherever you eat out, remember: “act your age not your shoe size”, I will happily join you; and, I’m real good company.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jazz Fest 2nd week 2917

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Pete and Repeat
            So, is this your first weekend of the second week or the second weekend after your first? Are you walking in with your nose in the air like a bird dog, sniffing the wafting aromas of the hunka hunka burning love portions number nine, ten and eleven: “I smell ribs…gotta go!” Or have you arrived with your nose to the ground like a hound dog on the trail of beer, barbeque, buddies and blues. Who’s on first?
 Your look is familiar; don’t I know you from anywhere? Haven’t I seen your face before? I’m familiar with that wry swan smile, those Army scout eyes, that sunburned shoulder (you forgot your PF30 again), that hungry desperate surreptitious tuck and roll glance; that furtive insecurity, exhibiting the inner knowledge of one who is aware that it’s almost over!
I know that look of longing love at the end of an affair when you want to devour everything about your lover, the sights, smells, sounds and spice; the gaseous miasma of flirting food just beyond your reach; human smells in the air, sweaty pits, sun tan oils, hair goop, after shave lotion and all of it. That’s true for me also, so, I’m feelin’ ya; I want to be a sponge soaking everything up about the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) as well, for I have loved her and she has loved me back.
            Leapin’ Lizards! It’s the second weekend and I’ve got to take it all in, all that I can absorb! My bucket list: have I had my cochon de lait po-boy; soft shell crab; pheasant, quail, andouille gumbo; praline stuffed beignet and trout Baquet? Check list: I’ve had my oysters; at least a half a gallon of strawberry tea; a huckabuck, café au lait, messy BBQ, spring rolls and Jama Jama; seen and hugged a dozen people. But it’s not sufficient for this heart of mine, I want more! What haven’t I had, tried, tasted, begged, borrowed or browsed upon? What’s goin’ on? Who’s holding out?
            I liken it to an affaire de Coeur; even when strorm clouds roll in, you’re gonna give it your best shot. Word to your mother: “the worst day at Jazz Fest is better than the best day any other time of year!” The anticipation of its (Jazz Fest’s) arrival is like an incoming train bringing you your lost love; this year I even brought flowers for my first date, I mean, first day. I live close, so I hear them, see them, setting up the Fest and it’s music to my ears; the roustabouts and the tent slingers, beer trucks, sound checks, ice men, Indians and buses bringing bands.
            They open the gates and I’m standing there early, music fills the air, cooking fires are lit and the grand march and linger begins; seats are filled, lines are formed, blankets laid and golly, if someone hasn’t brought a beach ball to bat around! It’s a sensation candy store and the kids are in charge; there is no sorrow, no grief or pain: it’s Christmas and the medics have aspirins, Band Aids and armchairs!
            I thirst, that’s why I’m here; I’m a wanderer; a high relater radiator, sweet potato commentator, instigator investigator, nirvana spectator see ya later alligator man about this ad hoc al fresco percolator, drinking it all in! Elusive at best; appearing and disappearing, here and there and hear and left wondering if I was ever here at all. Who did you see? I don’t know, I saw them all, heard them all, ate and tasted it all and had a ball, seeing and sawing as much of all as y’all standing tall. Mama, I’m home!
            I wax prolific and expansive about my love of this venue, this time in my life and yours where and when we could come apart together in peace, music, food and the facilitation of our own standing sitting walking talking singing quietude of mutual atmospheric melodic meditation, protected witnesses all.
Sure, the weather has been hot cold dry wet dusty and muddy; there’s nothing unexpected in that, I’m down with that, ready Teddy. The mister has sprung a leak above my head in the Jazz Tent; so, why do you think I brought this here folding umbrella, just to keep the sun off me? Well, that too. I’ve also brought cash in small untraceable bills so that when I get to the front of the line and have exact money (plus tip); I can hit it with hot sauce and saunter smartly back into the stream of strangers somehow symbiotically connected to me.
There are those that think that the tariff it’s too steep; the crowds are at best congestive, the toilets are an olfactory mugging, the price of the food is up and the portions are too small. I’m not sure if we’re at the same festival. Like Arthur Dent, I’ve brought is my towel and openness to whatever will happen. I shy away from whatever doesn’t suit me at the moment, ready to split on or stick out the experience coming at me. Whatever, I’m here for the joy of it all, smiling because it’s happening again for the first time. I’m at the Jazz Fest again; let me wallow in the wonder, for this too shall pass leaving another notch on my memory wall.
It’s the second and final weekend this season and it will soon be over until, if the universe is willing, next year; there will be so much that will happen to each of us in the interval until next time, we’ll be older and perhaps wiser when we meet the Jazz Fest again. May we all take with us the serenity and tranquility that we’ve had with this uplifting and exciting time. After while, crocodile.