Each Carnival I approach parade routes with glee and caution. As such please find the below pointers, tips, alerts, and otherwise whacks to the back of heads as the 2012 Mardi Gras season kicks off. We all want to embrace the revelry, so let’s all do our best to help each other enjoy, shall we? Let’s!
As the 2011 calendar year winds down, New Orleans property owners’ thoughts turn toward their 2012 property taxes due by the end of January, because the city has mailed out its annual notice and reminder – just in time for the holidays! However, this is not a new phenomenon. It is effectively an annual ritual, like Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, though clearly with less pageantry. And it applies to property owners only. Not renters. And not non-profits, which are another article for another time.
I live and work in the Freret corridor, and for many moons now promises of a new streetscape have been on the horizon. Most recently, the collective residents and business owners were informed by the city just weeks ago the start date would be some time in early November. Look at your calendar. It’s the middle of December, and not a bit of concrete has been disturbed.
What’s with this Travel & Leisure readers poll slapping yet another label on the residents of the Crescent City? Now we’re “the strangest.” Really!? The strangest? That’s just how I want to raise my kids and have them self-identify their home and rearing. “Don’t feel bad about not being like all the other 21st century American children, we’re just stranger than everyone else.” Um, no. I’ll accept most distinctive, most resilient, and / or most fun to be around, but I for one veto strange, at least insofar as defined by most.
New Orleanians possess a certain affinity for their street names and the unspoken connotations that go along with them. As quickly as one expresses what part of town he resides, next comes the street name, and lastly the block. Though neighborhoods may vary incredibly block by block, it’s the demarcation of what part of town any given street might run that really determines what a street is called – or what I’m getting at – might have been called. For example, I live on South Liberty, but did you know in fact by today’s street map there is no North Liberty? And why? Not sure really, but I can tell you presently that North Liberty is Treme Street, and given the HBO media machine it is highly doubtful Treme Street will ever return to North Liberty Street. Conversely, I wouldn’t expect Treme to anytime soon become North Treme and as such my street South Treme.
Watching from the sidelines these last few weeks as New Orleanians applaud or boo proposed demolitions throughout the Uptown area, I am once again left scratching my head from what seems to be a certain sense of inconsistency. Here’s why.
This week, I catch up with an old pal. Emily Davis and I have known each other for many years, and I wanted to share with the readers of UptownMessenger.com and the world one of my favorite New Orleanians and soapmaker extraordinaire, a local lady my daughters rightly and simply call “Ms. Emily.”
My ears rang for 3 days the first time I saw Soundgarden and, despite the pain and hearing loss, the experience (to use the vernacular) was sweet. They opened for Guns N’ Roses in Houston on the second leg of Guns’ Use Your Illusion Tour; the venue where it was held, The Summit, is strangely enough now a church. The second night of a two-night stand but also a Friday night, three of my closest friends and I drove over from Beaumont to see the show. That Friday morning the select few in our class that had actually had the opportunity to see this double bill the evening before (read: Thursday) recounted their experience. And we listened in awe to their stories, furthering our already eager anticipation. We couldn’t wait to see Guns N’ Roses; not one of us had ever really heard of Soundgarden. The evening before Axl had said this. And Slash had done that. There were other visual spectacles on par with an evening on Bourbon during Mardi Gras. Nonetheless my 17-year-old self had no idea I was about to become a Soundgarden fan. That and my more-or-less girlfriend around that time, Leigh Anne, was into them. After all, most romances generally produce some level of musical compatibility, do they not?
Two weeks ago I wrote a piece contrasting the Hornets “I’m In” campaign to the city’s “Fight the Blight” with mixed responses. And that’s to be expected. Along with this, recently the city facilitated yet another round of tax sales for delinquent property owners in Orleans Parish, and some of these properties are, yes, blighted. By city ordinance, a successful bidder on a tax year for a property is entitled to a certain percentage of ownership of that tax year for that property. Depending on the outcome and competitiveness of the bidding process some times that ownership is 100% and other times as little as 1%. It gets more layered, so stay with me. On paper, the goal of the tax sale is to get these properties righted on their parish debt and back into commerce, whether through a prescriptive period of delinquency and subsequent sale or the offender’s righting of their own tax debt themselves. If the property is not deemed blighted the prescriptive period is 3 years, and if it is blighted it’s cut in half to 18 months. This all seems relatively simple and plainly spelled out, right? It is, kinda.
It’s a Sunday morning in New Orleans, and for the next few hours a ritual will unfold. Light traffic whispers through the streets as if trying not to wake anyone. Sunlight warms the dew on last night’s Dixie cups strewn on a nearby sidewalk. And corner newspaper purveyors appear like a sort of urban legend. For but a few scant hours and during these hours only, the South’s oldest and New Orleans’ only newspaper, The Times-Picayune, will soon be personally handed off one by one. And why? I have no idea.
Note: Immediately below was composed before the recent Fight the Blight day this past Saturday. Additional thoughts follow.
Recently in a bid to generate enthusiasm for keeping the Hornets in New Orleans, a campaign was launched with billboards, TV spots, and print ads featuring everyone from the governor, to the mayor to Fleurty Girl all pledging their allegiance to our city’s basketball franchise. “I’m in!” they all repeated over and over again. “Are you in?” “I’m in.” “Oh, I’m definitely in.” “You know I’m in.” On and on. To which I say “Great! I love it when people are in!” I’ve always said I’m a fan of fans. God bless the ones who make it all possible for whatever; without fans every successful franchise athletically or otherwise would be nowhere. Except, when I walk my neighborhood I feel like the being “in”-ness stops when the director says “cut.” Why? Have you seen the condition of some of our more visible parks? Especially the basketball courts? I do not profess to be expert of the city’s parks nor of the heirarchy that presumably should be keeping them in check. But my stomach turns just enough when I think of this campaign, and then visit my neighborhood park: Samuel Square.
The biggest movement in food these days is quite simply the movement of food. Cuisine mobility. Culinaria transportica. The anti drive thru. While some American cities have been experiencing a food truck culture for some time, the stride is just now hitting here in New Orleans. Case in point: the first annual Street Fare Derby coming up this Saturday, September 24th. And as this phenomenon is slowly becoming a mainstay to the American landscape I am reminded of another from yesteryear: the trucker.
Perched in an unassuming French Market building just steps from the Mississippi River each Tuesday evening the radio personalities known as Jivin’ Gene and his right hand man Neil spin The ’50s Rhythm & Blues Show from WWOZ studios, doing so with a flare and reverence for an era of music long forgotten in many corners. And when one listens to one of their sets, invariably one wonders “Where are they getting these cuts from?” At times the show is packed with local nostalgia but certainly songs that maybe never even came close to the top 40. And that’s a good thing.
There are a handful of days in your life that seem to leave you forever changed. When you graduate. Get married. Have a kid (or four). And of course – your first concert. Remember yours? I remember mine: Night Ranger! On their “Midnight Madness” tour opening for an Ozzy-less Black Sabbath at the Civic Center in Beaumont, Texas. It’s a lot to process, I know. I was 9 years old and in 4th grade, and we didn’t get to stay for Black Sabbath. Klint Rhodes’ parents took Klint and me, but earlier in the day there was a record – as in LP – signing at the neighbgorhood record store Sound Castle. We missed getting our LPs signed but caught a glimpse of Night Ranger up close. That night at the show it was, well, amazing. They played all the songs a 9-year-old me would want to hear. There was even a sea of lighters lit up during “Sister Christian.” During which Clint’s dad leaned back and asked the guy behind us “Son, what’s with all the lighters?” Good stuff. And guess what? Night Ranger are still doing it! This Saturday they’re opening for Journey and Foreigner at the New Orleans arena. And it’s even almost the same line-up. In fact if you look at their website you would swear that Will Farrell were in the band, but it’s drummer Kelly Keagy. Alas, no cowbell.
Sad but true: consistently blight attracts campaign signs. Why? Free and unregulated use of space. That’s why. If a property owner doesn’t care enough about the blight, then they surely won’t care if a campaign sign (or six!) get placed on it, right? Yuck. That’s wrong and disgusting. Aren’t our elected officials supposed to give a damn about blight!? Not adorn it to their own ends. Doesn’t this speak volumes about who we are electing, voting for, and expecting to enforce law? Or is The City that Care Forgot ultimately and only that? I’d like to think not. I’m guessing you’d like to think not also. I’d like to believe there’s some level of enforcement out there that punishes the offending. What about the Alliance for Good Government? Perhaps they only endorse candidates.
Graffiti. Street art. Tags. New Orleans has a graffiti culture, a well-documented and healthy one at that — which should come to the surprise of exactly no one with our moniker of “The City That Care Forgot.” Webster’s says use of the word graffiti came into play in the early 60s and is Italian in origin. Um, okay, I can see that. Mostly we may define graffiti as “inscriptions, slogans, drawings, etc. scratched, scribbled, or drawn, often crudely, on a wall or other public surface.” But is it that easy? Isn’t calling something graffiti today a little like reclassifying a behavior exhibited from the dawn of time? Cave drawings. Wall art. Images telling us a story. Legally, illegally, or otherwise.