The big exhale of 10 years has arrived as New Orleanians near and far reflect on the 2005 storm season that changed us all. Personally, my experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina pale in comparison to many others. My journey to now may best be summed up from the wisdom of my stepfather who told me simply to “ride the horse in the direction it’s going.” Not an easy thing to do when the unknown awaited, especially in the immediate aftermath of the devastatingly unexpected.
In 2002 local musical impresarios Benny Grunch and the Bunch released a song entitled “Ain’t Dere No More.” In it the group collectively bemoan, as only the natives may, the loss of landmarks around the New Orleans metro area. It played in my head over these last few days as I watched yet more apparently salvageable dwellings, in this case double shotguns, meet their untimely demise in the 2400 block of Cadiz. What was more upsetting to me was that their demolition was supposedly not going to happen, and the structures were to be saved by their new owner Arnold Kirschman. Even be occupied by him. Except guess what? They gone.
It all happened so innocently, my love for riotgrrl queens Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and Carrie Brownstein, collectively and arguably better known as Sleater-Kinney. While living in Austin in the late 90s, I wanted to attend an in-store performance at Waterloo Records by this well-regarded female rock trio which at the time I had never heard of. Unable to make the event I sprung for a copy of their third studio album, Dig Me Out, and lost my mind. Just lost it. What was this sound? Who were these ladies? The hungry, urgent beats, the sharp, frenetic guitar work, and the layered, waling vocals. And the lyrics? Each song was a visual field infused by carefully chosen wording arcing in harmony. I was hooked, taken, even smitten, and I wanted more.
For more months than I care to count, and for surely as many more to come, I have been watching and experiencing firsthand the utter madness that is the ongoing construction along Napoleon Avenue. All for the sake of what we all cross our fingers will be improved drainage. Hold your breath, boss! Residing where I do half a block off of the thoroughfare in the middle of the stretch just two short blocks to Freret Street, the impact has been a daily reminder to take nothing for granted and be ready for anything. Some weeks I can cross Napoleon at my street, most I can’t. Some days I do a U-turn at Loyola, others it’s like a whimsical journey into the unknown peppered with hungry potholes and vaporous boundaries. But with all these catch as catch U-turns, that’s when it hit me: why isn’t the Freret intersection a rotary anyway?
I’ll be honest. When I think of Halloween these days at four decades in I get a little, well, meh. For me the gusto goes primarily to my kids and their assorted notions. “Nerd vampire” here, “moustachioed lumberjack” there, maybe a growling bat, maybe a smiley cowgirl. Costuming druthers swirl into the ether, their ideas and pairings, until something likely unforeseen altogether comes to fruition. The freedom of imagination and living in a town where almost anything goes. Swoon. And to be 12!
In all likelihood your favorite rock band or artist got their wee start doing someone else’s material. It remains the sort of natural path most musicians follow as they begin to hone their own sound. Some artists do go forth and produce new and original works while others may wish to rely on other’s material still, hence the staying power of the cover band proper. In the world of cover bands there happens to be a whole swath of styles, everything from the hardcore playing of all songs in any given single artist’s catalog to “wedding” bands who play very familiar material but from a spectrum of the well-known, like Steve Miller, the Rev. Al Green, and maybe some Hall & Oates or even Loverboy, for good measure. The latter are the bands everyone secretly loves because they tap into the collective social psyche as most everyone may relate to much of the material, though few would ever claim true fan status.
Finally, there’s what I’ve come to loosely define as the “meta” rock band. Meta, as you may know, can be defined as “referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.” There exists a fine line a cover band walks between being cover or meta, in my opinion. Why? Because cover is exactly that, but meta plays on a participant within the genre either going back to the good old days of when they sucked, perhaps playing a tune with a previous ensemble or just flat out paying homage to whomever.
“How are you doing?”
“No, Superman does good; you’re doing well”
So goes the old exchange that quickly provides the context of good versus well, and how one should really use them properly. Among the titles New Orleans carries, The City that Care Forgot remains very real despite the influx of the educated and employed. And you can see it almost anywhere.
It’s no secret to those that have dipped their toe in the water of New Orleans real estate recently that the stream of activity resembles more of a rushing rapid with unexpected twists and turns included. The tone of the market possesses a buzz that surprises even the most seasoned flippers and investors, and it shows more promise than concern. We all know these things ebb and flow, but it’s the perception of spaces that is changing the fastest, the intangible becoming realized in the tangible. More specifically, let’s look at a cute double that recently flipped in the heart of Central City, but hold on to your hat. And, as usual, for clarity/disclosure, I did not participate in any part in any of these sales; effectively, I am only an observer fascinated by the pace at which these changes are taking place.
It began innocently enough. Years ago, spring 2009, while rebuilding, my wife elected to get a batch of chicks to raise. Pairing her love of gardening with the future production of yard eggs, these were the things she loved and that her parents had shown her growing up. And now being a mother herself she wanted the same for her own growing family. Except we didn’t live in once-sleepy River Ridge but still drying out New Orleans, and well, chickens weren’t the norm yet.
“I think I was 7 or 8 when I took apart my father’s radio,” says Cameron MacPhee, native New Orleanian and co-catalyst for this coming weekend’s Mini Maker Fair, recalling the first thing he remembers disassembling as a boy. “I was sure I had his permission,” he follows up, if not somewhat deadpanned. “I even got shocked, like one of the capacitors got me.”
MacPhee is now a father to a couple of young boys himself, and his story is likely all-too-familiar for the those participating in and attending Saturday’s first-ever event, the DIY and Maker movement is an all ages affair that extends beyond the boundaries of craft and convention.
SPOILER ALERT: The following has absolutely nothing to do with missing Malaysian flights, awesome local election results, what’s cool and/or gentrifying in New Orleans or St Patrick’s Day. Nor does it have much to do with fisticuffs, with or without spherical handheld orbs of freshly fallen frozen precipitation, that may or may not last exceptionally long and nocturnally. On a side note, turns out my high school sociology teacher was right: I don’t take anything seriously. Rock on, Mrs. Schneider!
I love my brother-in-law. I just do. And I have two. But I love my younger one more. What can I say? A parent doesn’t love all their children equally; why would you love all your in-laws the same? You wouldn’t, and you don’t. In fact, I’m guessing if you made it past the spoiler alert, chances are good you don’t love your brother-in-law, if you have one. Which is a shame. Because life is short, and why marry a spouse whose siblings are jerks? I didn’t.
Digesting a maladjusted observation by new New Orleanian Tara Elders in a recent New York Times piece regarding her new city’s supposed lack of cosmopolitan sensibility and its apparent lack of kale requires equal parts restraint and forgiveness. Questions surface. Who is she? Who cares. Why the kerfuffle? In short, New Orleanians take pride in themselves and this comment plays as a slight, however one frames it. Adding this misfire into the whole of its missive stirs up other unsettlingly obtuse observations the article makes, but for brevity’s sake permit me to sum it up in a quote of one ex pat’s (though presently a New Yorker) Facebook update “I defy you to read this article and not want to set something on fire.”
It was the best of Carnivals, it was the worst of Carnivals, it was the time of bare masking, it was the time of warmth sought, it was the suspension of disbelief, it was the veritable cold reality, it was a season of sunscreen, it was a season of wool stockings, it was the glimmer of spring, it was the end of our disparate winter, we had baubles thrown to us, we had rainsoaked remnants, we were heading to heaven, and we were all surely going to hell — in short, the 2014 Mardi Gras season gave us everything and in the end took it all away. Maybe in a way no one would expect especially given the late date: foiled by the longest, weirdest winter the Big Easy hopefully will ever know and never repeat.
Greetings fellow revelers! Happy to report the first weekend of Mardi Gras 2014 seemingly unfolded with minimal fuss and maximum fanfare. While I personally stayed Uptown, walking to this parade and that corner on Friday and Saturday, we heeded caution for Sunday’s wetness and took in a matinee at the Prytania. So while my own experiences stayed squarely in the 70115, from all the posts I read, the otherwise premiere Carnival activities in the remainder of the Crescent City happened as expected: ‘tit Rex got small, Chewbacchus made the kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, and Barkus took a dip. All on a Mardi Gras first weekend, as it were.
Bon to the jour, 2014 Carnival people! You may or may not know that the powers that be — read, your New Orleans City Council — have seen it in their infinite wisdom to make this Mardi Gras season one of change. “How so?” you may ask. That is, if you missed all the fuss last month? Before we roll through my standard top 20 we publish annually, in short here are the new rules and ordinances, with a few editorial embellishments:
If you’ve never traversed the Crescent City by foot, you are missing out. You can really dig in the cracked pavement and tiered landscape, plus there’s a whole host of scents to engage traveling by bike or car one is likely to miss. Just the other night a group of us walked from Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop over to the Marigny and the wafts of equal parts liquor, urine, and pot made for a less-than-appetizing nasal gumbo. But while one wrestles over the legal and the sanitary, in the French Quarter the street surfaces historically remain level. To say the least, it’s refreshing, especially if one is familiar with any other stretch within New Orleans where the mature oaks that pepper the streets over time have broken new ground, so to speak, giving the citizenry, say it with me: more broken sidewalks.
PREDICTION: Nine months from now the New Orleans metro area will be flush with newborns courtesy one winter storm Leon. Grumble, groan, no, you say? Prove me wrong, people, prove me wrong. With residents’ fave go-to spots for music, grub, and beverages largely on hold paired with a do-not-drive announcement unless vitally important, do the math. You’re off work, you can’t go anywhere, and there are only so many shows you can binge watch. And I’m guessing with the masses clamoring for foodstuffs at the nearby grocery, they did not also take time to sweep the birth control from the shelves. So congrats y’all, it’s a storm baby!
I woke up yesterday morning to social media posts that Frank Davis had passed, and I kind of sunk. While I did not personally know Mr. Davis, we — you and I — as a collective viewing audience certainly knew him, or at least his highly personalized way of storytelling over the decades. As a species, I think we can easily take for granted the things and people around us that populate our visual landscape, presuming they’ll always be in sight. Except they never are. And when the periphery changes and we lose one of our voices, it’s hard not to pause and reflect on what we’ll be missing.
I am a cat person, but we remain feline less for the moment. My oldest developed an allergy recently, and I chose my offspring over my rat decapitator we had had since a wee kitten rescued post-K, all mangy and feral. Not a tough call, but have you ever been brought a headless rodent with its noggin neatly next to its lifeless body? It’s impressive. And repulsive. And in short, quite a skill. Her name was Rita (yes, named after the storm – she did have a sister named Katrina who died a few years ago), and like most cats, self sufficient and less than encourageable; such are these creatures. And therefore and in my experience quite unlike the other preferred domesticated pet: your household dog.
Among the plethora of regional “only in New Orleans” who dats, where yats, and duck fats, what makes one feel more like a local than the timeless event of gathering foodstuffs we commonly call “makin’ groceries”? I put the origin to my French-immersed 11-year-old, and she walked away perplexed, but more like, “duh.” In French “to buy” translates as acheter (ash-atay), but we are talking academic-France French here, right? So you don’t simply buy your food, you of course “do the market” or faire la marche’. Ergo “to do” and parallel that in “to make” and, voila, one makes one’s groceries. One tween eye roll later, I knew I was on to something.