“Sometimes when I’m in the studio streaming ‘OZ, I hear the live wire music line-up for the evening, and I want to hop on my bike and take a ride into the Quarter and see what’s goin’ on,” says Andy Dahl. ”I really miss New Orleans, but I’m really enjoying what I’m doing here too so – - -,” he adds. Woven into the fabric of most metropolitan areas are the working class – and often starving – artists. New Orleans possesses its fair share, and in the course of the last year or so, one such soul transplanted to Baltimore. On a recent road trip up east I briefly caught up with Andy and peered into what he’s been up to since having left (hopefully temporarily) the Crescent City.
Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard has been the on-again, off-again comeback kid for a few decades now in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. Originally a retail corridor known simply as another leg of Dryades, suburban growth and inner city decay atrophied this dusty avenue wedged between the Lower Garden and the Warehouse districts. In the years I’ve known it, none of the original merchants from yesteryear remain (unlike Freret where the street-namesaked hardware store boasts an unparalleled longevity of operations, over half a century and counting, yes?). But tomorrow another door opens toward the promising future in a not-so-little venture known as Casa Borrega. Here’s a quick Q & A I conducted with the owners via email to bring you up to speed:
“I want a safe neighborhood.” On any given day I must hear this a good dozen times from newbies (and parents of newbies) moving to New Orleans, less so from those that are returning or looking for a change of scenery already calling the city home. And the why is simple I think: if you’ve chosen to reside in the city proper then you likely engage on a level of “This ain’t Mayberry.” Yes, it is a Southern space that affords the stereotypes therein where neighbors and strangers alike trade routine pleasantries, comments on the weather, and the not so stray parallel park assist, but that doesn’t translate to lowering your guard or not following your gut.
Everyone wants a safe neighborhood, but arguably crime happens all over; there isn’t a corner in the Crescent City any one can point to and say ‘Here! It’s totally safe here in the Cemetery District. Unlock your doors, and leave your bike unchained and smart phone unattended.”
As the 2013 close of another JazzFest leaves in its wake a thankfully healthy trail of mud, sweat, and beers I find myself at once indifferent but pleased, however mostly curious with one eyebrow raised just so. You see, if I get to go any given year I generally only have the privilege of going one day, and I’m okay with that. As such I tend to take it all in, looking to maximize my experience, people watching, carving out set times, and noting what, if any, differences from years past. So color me dismayed this season when as I queued to purchase my ticket and then queued again to enter the fairgrounds, the security measures in place from previous fests seemed largely unchanged – or – maybe even exactly the same. Bags searched? Maybe. Strollers examined? Ha! And the coup de gras of all contraband concealers the chair tube: opened? Nary a one. Frankly my fellow New Orleanians in a post Boston Marathon bombing world, this is not okay.
Repeat after me and out loud if you like: the New Orleans rental market is not like other rental markets. And mantra or double down if it helps you: the New Orleans rental market is not like other rental markets. It is only the first week of March, and I wrote about this last April, but it has become my mission to educate the public on this. Since the beginning of the year my phone rings non stop abuzz with anxious returnees and largely clueless university parentals most all not even looking to rent till end of May and maybe August. Ready for some contradictory advice? Relax. But be ready to be ready. Why? Read on:
As the New Orleans metro area rises ever more steadily in popularity in terms of viability and visibility (hello yet another Super Bowl and mostly uneventful Mardi Gras season) as well as the 2012 numbers-driven title of fastest growing American city (somehow when I mention this in passing conversation nowadays a lot of people missed this), integral components to our cultural seasons just might need to be kept in check. In other words, are we nearing a tipping point of over abundant festivals this or any other spring? Or as I’ve come to call it, will we soon experience Fest Fest? And should we? And if we do, are we in danger of becoming a mockery of ourselves? Maybe yes, maybe no.
As recently as this past Monday evening as I walked home from work, I saw an older black couple gutting a house in my neighborhood, some seven-plus years after the events of 2005. No volunteers, no fancy apparatus, no wrecking ball. Just two people, a truck and flatbed, and work gloves, overalls and dust masks, the pungent mold wafting from across the street. Where this house is, it’s unclear if the water came up or the water fell in, as the raised-pier home may or may not have taken flood water, and the roof while appearing to be halfway past its useful 30 year life did not appear to be damaged or compromised. The how is almost moot. Water up, water down, it doesn’t matter (unless you’re dealing with some damned adjuster). Water damaged the home. Whereas the why is more than evident. So many years later some may ask Why now? Why not choose to sell or abandon it all together? This home means something to them, and now in 2013 they’re here, they’re able-bodied, and they’re doing it, seemingly unassisted.
One takeaway should be this: our journey in recovery is far from complete.
For music lovers around the world, New Orleanians at home and abroad, and all others that can’t seem to eat enough Crawfish Monica any other time of year, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, will not only mark the release of this year’s JazzFest line-up but also an official beginning to the countdown when the hallowed names that unfurl before your very ears get cubed and slotted into what day and time in just a few short weeks. For me, I always find it kind of fun to predict, wonder, and generally kvetch over the money headliners that bring in the almighty dollar usually and unfortunately overshadowing the amazing city, state, and otherwise regional talent our slice of heaven has on tap. So without further ado, to follow are my guesses of possible headlining acts that could very well perform. And to be perfectly clear I have no affiliation with JazzFest nor am I privvy to any insider info. These are just my ramblings, though who knows, they could actually pan out. Why not?
“Life is uncertain; eat dessert first,” was one of the standards Gail Cournoyer used to espouse any given workday, and usually a few times of day at that. I knew Gail when we slung coffee together in a green apron in Boston’s Coolidge Corner over ten years ago. She was a delightful sort, especially for being a native New Englander, having endured dozens of harsh winters. Always laughing, always cheery, even during a wicked Nor’easter.
Recently en route to a morning meeting, I got pulled over by the NOPD, with good reason: my license plate had long expired. And I knew it, and I knew what was next. My inspection sticker? Expired. Insurance? Legit, but no proof therein. The only saving grace was that my license to drive happens to be aces with nothing attached, plus I operated the vehicle in a stellar manner. Okay, the officer didn’t use the word ‘stellar’, that’s my own embellishment. But trust me, I’m a good driver, just maybe not always a 100-percent legal one.
“Da-aad?” called out my 3-year-old in a singsong, next-room voice as the Sunday sun crept up over the horizon, “This morning (pause) I didn’t pee in your bed.” I respond, same singsong and with a slight smile, “O-kay, thank you.” And while I was pleased to learn for at least one night my mattress went urine-free, I had to laugh a little. The night before, 4 hours away, and a state over, my 20-year high school reunion had taken place without me, and frankly I’m OK with that. But after waking up before the sun and seeing the ample Facebook posts from those in attendance I quickly wondered how many therein also woke up to a urine-free slumber and based upon the pics I wouldn’t say it was a lock. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves, maybe some more than others, and maybe others more than some. That said, I hope everyone made the effort enjoyed themselves responsibly, urine-free sleep and all.
Yet another rhetorical pop quiz from the Sewerage & Water Board this past Monday left Orleans Parish residents (read: me and likely you) wondering if our one and only water supply was safe for consumption. And the solitary answer everyone can agree on equals “Maybe.” Forget that it’s the 21st century, forget that Roman aquaducts remain a marvel to humanity and civilization on the whole, and forget too that over the next five years an Orleans Parish water bill will grow incrementally like a film of algae from a broken fire hydrant to the nearest street drain. But remember this: your vote still matters. And why this will always be important remains a let-me-speak-to-your-supervisor line of thought. The S & W B does not answer to much, or do they? So who’s in charge?
The other day my 10-year old says aloud to me as I scrawl something somewhere with my trusty ink pen, “Hey, I have that pen too!” I respond quickly, if not a little gruff, “You do? Well, it’s mine, so give it back to me.” To which she closes me down, “Well, it has my name on it soooo – - – ” She spins her (my) pen in her hand and holds it horizontally toward me, and sure enough there’s her full name spelled out. And there you have it! Possession remains 9/10ths of the law big, beautiful world. Lap it up! Ahhhhh, rules! That one’s going to be a lawyer I tell you; her mother and I have always said this.
In a day and age when both rents seem outta wack (read: way high) but loan rates seem equivalently outta wack (read: historically low), to follow are the pros and cons, or the likely benefits and potential headaches, of landlording.
Personally my journey to becoming a landlord was fairly accidental and organic. My (then fiance but shortly thereafter) wife and I purchased a little single shotgun Uptown in the late 90s only to move out of state within the year. We didn’t want to re-sell so we leased it out, and for 3 years we kept the same tenant which in turn paid our note and then some for miscellaneous upkeep. When we returned to re-occupy the space in 2001, a little while later we felt we kinda missed managing an income producing investment. In short order we made the leap proper and bought a duplex in early 2002, and we’ve been in the business since. So if you wanna be a landlord…
We might all agree the digital world is awesome till the power goes out. Suddenly you’re missing out on your next play on Words With Friends, status updates, tweets or what have you, but go ahead and scream because you’re miles from where anyone with a MacGyver-like sensibility (MacGyvine? maybe?) or open Radio Shack might hear you. No sir, the DTs of the smart phone come down ain’t nothin’ pretty, and at press time the Betty Ford clinic ain’t servin’ the likes o’ you.
The other evening, without thinking and in passing, I addressed a colleague who I’m guessing is a few years my senior with a “Miss” and her last name — let’s call her Jane Doe. We ran into each other on Magazine Street, and I was trying to keep track of my 4 girls when she walked by. Frankly I didn’t think she had recognized me as, much to my wife’s dislike, I’d recently trimmed my beard down to a fu manchu, and let’s be honest, a fu manchu makes a face present differently (and debatably embraced). So here I was keeping count of my brood when after she passed she turns and says with a smile “Oh, hello!” To which I, admittedly somewhat distracted while actively parenting, utter an “Oh, hello Miss Doe – - -”
She stopped, and her jaw dropped.
Monday morning I woke up with a crusty old ’90s grunge rock song rattling around in my head, which I suppose isn’t too big of a surprise. It was “Overblown” by Mudhoney. And unless you were or are a student of grunge, which I kind of was, or spun the soundtrack to the movie Singles more than a handful of times (guilty) you might never have heard this jangly noise bomb. It drives a careening beat and rhythm accompanied by these opening lyrics:
Everybody loves us
Everybody loves our town
That’s why I’m thinking lately
The time for leaving is now
Hey, hey, hey, hey (x4)
It’s so overblown