Uptown’s Cajun luminary finds new audiences in virtual concerts

The last live show for musician David Doucet, a longtime Uptown resident, was March 8, 2020, at The Dakota in Minneapolis, playing with Cajun band BeauSoleil. David, guitarist for the Grammy-awarded band, is widely credited with transforming the acoustic guitar into an important voice of southwest Louisiana’s signature music. The younger brother of Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet, the Touro area resident has used his distinctive hybrid of fingerpicking and flatpicking guitar playing to enhance the performances of BeauSoleil, the band he and his brother have performed in since the mid-1970s. In 1991, David Doucet launched his own solo debut with the release of the album “Quand J’ai Parti.” David is bilingual, having learned French from his parents and grandparents, who luckily still spoke the language.

Silver Lining: Vegan meal service flourishes during pandemic

A pot of red cacciatore sauce bubbles on the stove, sliced eggplants roast in the oven, and bright green bowls of salad are piled high with chickpeas and jewel-like cherry tomatoes. An Italian feast is being prepared – but while Mediterranean flavors abound, there’s no cream, cheese or meat to be found. At Clairly Vegan, owner Claire Steiner has been attracting customers with plant-based versions of classic flavors. Steiner started her vegan catering and delivery business just this June in her own kitchen, with her mother, Anna Cannizzaro Steiner, helping out. “She would come over and we would cook away all day,” she said. 

The business now sells 75 to 100 orders per week out of Carrollton Commissary, a rented kitchen space on Willow Street.

Out: Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In: Shamrock Our Blocks

 

The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club has canceled the Irish Channel Parade for the second year in a row as the coronavirus continues community spread. Additionally, the  annual block party at Annunciation Playground benefiting St. Michael Special School is canceled. But New Orleanians have found a way to celebrate, along with some Irish and Irish-at-heart brethren in Chicago.

Viewpoint: Sealing off the French Quarter won’t stop COVID-19 infections during Carnival

Mayor LaToya Cantrell is caught between a rock and a hard spot.  

By her own admission, the citizens and businesses of New Orleans have done a pretty good job of following the city’s ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions. Tourists, on the other hand, come to New Orleans to party — and party they will regardless of any “rules” they consider arbitrary and capricious. 

The sheer number of visitors traveling to the Crescent City has continued to increase over the past few months – especially on the weekends. Unfortunately, some do not wear masks. Tourism leaders expect that Mardi Gras weekend will create the highest hotel occupancy since last March and lead to additional infections. Although Dr. Anthony Fauci is telling Americans “to lay low and cool it” instead of attending or holding Super Bowl parties this weekend, expecting people not to flock to New Orleans for Mardi Gras is unrealistic.

Viewpoint: It will take more than a vaccine to restore America’s spirit

Amid an Epiphany Day marred by an unanticipated insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the state’s highest COVID rates, 87-year-old Isiah Steele received his long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination at New Orleans East Hospital. “I am so blessed to have gotten this vaccine,” said Steele, before lighting a candle at the Shrine of St. Jude. “I will sleep a little easier tonight.”

Steele has been locked down in his family home since mid-March, where he has fretted about his grandson, a senior soon to graduate from LSU, and his caregiver daughter, who goes to work almost every day despite the pandemic.  “While I worry about their health and safety, I am mourning the loss of a year of my life at a time when I don’t have too many years left,” he said. 

A chronic voter, Steele is also troubled by how ugly and divisive politics have become. “I pray that our elected leaders will seek consensus, get the virus under control and everybody back working again.

Phunny Phorty Phellows herald Carnival with creativity and caution

 

With masks creatively incorporated into costumes, 25 members of the Phunny Phorty Phellows boarded a streetcar Wednesday at the Willow Street Car Barn for their traditional Twelfth Night trip down St. Charles Avenue. Since 1981, the krewe has heralded the beginning of the New Orleans Carnival season. Following COVID-19 restrictions, the 25 participants represented about 25 percent of the group’s usual size, the public was not allowed inside the streetcar barn to send them off, and crowds along the route were asked to wear masks and keep to small socially distanced groups.

Take a sneak peek at Carnival 2021’s house float project

 

The first of the “house floats” that will be dotting our urban landscape this Carnival season has already made an appearance Uptown. Sponsored by the Krewe of Red Beans and called “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist,” the idea is to put those out-of-work artists — usually frantically designing and painting floats this time of year — back to work. With parades canceled, many Mardi Gras float artists found themselves suddenly unemployed. One of those artists, Caroline Thomas, proposed the idea to the Krewe of Red Beans to create a crowd-funding site to finance house decorations that could look like floats. The initiative helps keep our Mardi Gras artists afloat while creating a Carnival atmosphere in our neighborhoods.

Viewpoint: Could recent crime spike be a direct result of COVID-19?

I was walking my dog early one morning recently when I saw a man squatting down to look through the louver shutters of a home across the street.  When he saw me watching, he scampered away. Did I foil a burglary? Possibly. 

COVID-19 has created great unrest in New Orleans and it shows as a wide variety of crimes continue to increase. As should be expected, citizens in almost every neighborhood are frustrated and afraid for their safety. Like COVID-19 itself, we can only assume crime will get worse before it gets better. 

Sure, we can attribute many homicides to gang rivalries — but not all the car break-ins and other property crimes, muggings, domestic violence, and even yesterday’s theft of an Amazon truck.