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.
One of the earliest memories I have of my father remains a wrestling match with a Christmas tree, trying to persuade it to stand just so. Come to think of it, that was actually an annual event. Flying nettles, sweaty brows, and errant gruntled pseudo-curses on par with A Christmas Story Darren McGavin battles with the home boiler. Years go by, decades really, a couple of kids get raised, a couple of marriages pass on, and in 2010 the world of medicine gave my pop a terminal diagnosis, only he proved them wrong. He’ll tell you he should be dead, but today he turns 73.
On a sleepy stretch at Loyola and Third in the heart of Central City amid a myriad of churches (some with an active congregation, some not so much), there sits a veritable historic housing preservationist’s dream, a 19th Century relic in what would otherwise appear to might have been a corner grocery or barroom. But not so fast, judges of book by covers! Look closer at the empirical data and ask some of the older area locals, and this hiding-in-plain-sight wood frame structure was by all accounts (or those willing to provide accounts) once upon a time a place unequivocally identified as the neighborhood brothel, dba The Dream Boat Inn.
I brought my kids to the park yesterday. As the temps are getting cooler and it’s a little overcast and drizzly this week, their boundless energy seems more so, and invariably the question arises: “Daddy, can I take my shoes off?” Okay, they’re 2 and 4, and yes, they should be asking “may I,” but no matter how hard you try, such corrective linguistic preferences breeze in and out of tiny ears, especially when all they want is to get toes to ground. I almost always answer “yes.”
As I wrestled over what I might pen this week I read over the transcript from yesterday’s CPC meeting regarding the rezoning request of 4877 Laurel so that it might become realized as a coffeehouse. And when I read the ridiculous decision crafted by the commission, my inner green apron got ruffled. That the CPC voted against a rezoning by 6 to 1 and with very little if any support from attendees on the matter, frankly baffles me. But then we are talking about a government entity in the City of New Orleans; maybe I shouldn’t be surprised? Le sigh.
Landmarks loom in high supply the Crescent City over as the landscape tends to change largely on a glacial pace. Many distinctive structures over decades have transformed from their intended utilitarian to cozy home spaces, mostly commonly seen in the ever rarer still in commerce corner grocery turned primary residence for an owner occupant. At auction tomorrow, if you’ve got the coin to spare, you may bid in what some may call a prime example of notable, public use spaces. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you for your consideration: the Jackson Avenue Ferry Landing.
Whether you realize it or not, now - right now – and through Thursday evening at 8 PM, the almost annual Orleans Parish Tax Sale is taking place via CivicSource.com. It’s a big deal for many reasons, but also it can be rather fascinating if you’re a fan of Crescent City dwellings as well as archaic governmental proceedings. Here’s why: you bid down.
It’s the same dollar amount to all bidders, but you bid down percentage of ownership. Therefore conceivably one willing to purchase 1% of any given property’s tax year(s) becomes the de facto winning bidder and cannot be outbid, however they are settling for the smallest possible amount of ownership. Very New Orleans, right?
New Orleans: if you live here, you’re married to it. Along with the betrothed come all the perks of city government with assorted departments therein, and Parks & Parkways, I’m looking at you. This is me, index and middle fingers extended, pointing horizontally into my eyes and singularly redirecting index finger in your general direction, P & P Music Factory. I. Am watching. You. You have 32 weeks to trim the tree across the street from me. Do it before and I’ll give you a gold star and curse less over the amount of property tax I pay annually. Do it a day later than yesterday, I will channel the spirit of Pulp Fiction‘s Sam Jackson’s Jules before he had his religious awakening, and I will figuratively eat your Big Kahuna burger. Why? Because of the time frame you conjured, a turnaround time of supposedly and approximately 7 1/2 months before an issue gains resolution. Only I won’t be saying “This is a tasty burger!”
With the annual replenishment of the Crescent City’s back to school population each August (read: freshmen, grad / med / law students, and transfers), my ears perk up over the newer voices one encounters and how they finesse our local vocab. My audio focal point will forever be the new crop of WTUL deejays who unmistakably take the crown for what I can only describe as interpretive “annunciation.” Between the butchering of street names, there are always the local musicians’ monikers that invariably twist tongues. I mean, is Torkanowsky really that hard to correctly pronounce? Le sigh. Let’s go over a few basics on the rue tip:
PROLOGUE: In 2009 on Freret St at an open house I held, a septuagenarian realtor I can only imagine being more local than local sneered in my general direction as she exited, “Freret’s never coming back.” Then being a believer myself, I felt at once insulted and repulsed, as if she’d purposely urinated on the floor and thought nothing of it. After all, in many ways I came to feel it was her generation that had largely abandoned the city proper, swapping distinctive neighborhoods for blanched strip malls and multi-laned thoroughfares, leaving behind a devil-may-care swath of once vibrant stretches, the very core that the surrounding region’s commerce and population sprang from. Now, in 2013, Freret crowns front pages, but without question there’s still much to be done.
Dave Thomas brought us the drive thru. The late founder of the fast food chain Wendy’s — beyond being the charismatic face of the company up until his death — in the fledgling days of the square-pattied empire devised a way for car-loving Americans across the country to stay put and nosh ever more quickly. (In-N-Out and Jack in the Box might stake earlier claims to the innovation, but find me one of those in the only metro area that matters.) It revolutionized commerce. I can tell you from my days in a green apron, drive thru locations easily produce two to three times the revenue of locations without this 20th century gift. As such, it employs more people and creates a better tax base too. All good things, right? Except when it comes to pollution and traffic congestion, those tick up as well. Faster, reliable and more often: the American way, no? Viagara, anyone?
Okay Louisiana lawmakers, I give up! The pelican state’s recent but maybe not altogether surprising archaic approach to finessing legal uses of handheld devices while driving has me questioning the logic over in Baton Rouge. As of last week, motorists (and presumably bicyclists too) are prohibited from use of social media while operating their vehicles, and while texting under similar circumstances was recently banned, general use of handheld devices and / or the internet remains legal. Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot elected officials and boo on you. Isn’t this a little like saying you can hold a cigarette while driving but you can’t put it to your lips? Or you can totally hit the drive thru and grab some artery clogging fare, and again hold it in your hand, but don’t eat it!
Tomorrow I’ll make 39. But that’s 24 hours away. Which in New Orleans ain’t the surest of equations. I know statistically warmer weather brings on more criminal activity, but temp wise we’ve had worse summers. Some might say it’s been comparatively cool over seasons past. Some might further say that might even explain away why here we are 2 months into the 2013 hurricane season with a thankfully uneventful record. Some might go on about climate change too, but I digress. As I creep into 40, the goal is to get there. Avoid the pitfalls of the Crescent City diurnal. Which again, doesn’t seem to get easier.