27 February 2006

Photos du Jour: New Orleans from the 45th Floor

I attended a pre-Bacchus party held at a CBD office building on Saturday afternoon. The view--aided by a crystal clear sky--from the office suite was fantastic. Here are a few examples of what I mean . . .

The Vieux Carre/Jackson Square
The Vieux Carre Riverfront, Faubourg Marigny, Bywater, and the Lower Ninth Ward. The MR-GO induced eroded wetlands (open water) north of the Lower Ninth Ward and Arabi are quite visible.
The Crescent City Connection, CBD Highrises, and Carnival Cruise Ships. These cruise ships are currently being used as temporary housing for law enforcement/emergency personnel but are scheduled to depart New Orleans on 1 March 2006.

26 February 2006

Bienvenido a Nueva Orleans/Dimanche Gras

Los Poseedores del Fuego . . . as seen on Thursday night during Chaos.

I have been sorta consumed with the festivities and with several out-of-town guests staying at my house. These are good friends that come down year after year and MG2k6 was not going to be an exception for them.

Plenty of pictures and comments to come . . .

After a week of nasty, overcast weather, today looks to be ideal--not a cloud in the sky. Five parades today since Endymion rescheduled from last night.

Thoth's Henry Clay/Magazine Street lagniappe route has been eliminated for today. I noticed a posted petition at St. Joe's Bar last night requesting the full route to run citing "loss of business" concerns to the businesses situated on Magazine. I wish the lagniappe route could be run, but this is Mardi Gras season of compromise. Most members of Thoth I know are sympathetic to the City's law enforcement/safety challenges and although they are disappointed by this change (25 less blocks of "ride" time) most are understanding of it.

Bacchus and then Endymion should be interesting . . .

23 February 2006

Mardi Gras 2006 (MG2K6)

The opening three paragraphs from the Introduction of Robert Tallant's 1948 classic MARDI GRAS .. . AS IT WAS:

Mardi Gras is a spirit. I believe it is an immortal one. It is certain that it is at least as immortal as Man's ability to make believe, to escape the dreariness of the everyday life that is most men's portion, to have fun, to laugh, and to play. I doubt that many of us want more immortality than that, not if we have much sense.

In our generation we seem to be at an end of an era. We are told that tomorrow there will be another kind of world and that it is highly probable it will be another kind of world and that is highly probable it will be even less pleasant than this one. We are warned, with dire soleminity, that not many of us can even hope to survive the change. We are comforted in regard to that with the assurance that if we do live through what is coming we will be sorry, unless we are monsters with paranoiac tendencies or unimaginative and humorless human automata.

That does not promise Mardi Gras much of a future. Yet I am not inclined to worry. I think if there is any world left in which human beings still laugh and still, even or rare occasions, have fun, there will be a Mardi Gras, and that it will live through whatever catastrophies occur, as it survived the perishing of Greece, the destruction of Rome, the centuries of pain and plague we call the Middle Ages, the perilous journey to the end of the earth that turned out to be America, and all the wars. Men cease to laugh only when they are very ill or when they have become beasts. As for the beasts, they cannot laugh, and I do not imagine they have much fun. That is why Mardi Gras is not a trivial matter but a very important one. In a way it is a symbol of the art of being human, and wherever people are still human, wherever they enjoy living, it will exist in some form.

Some New Orleanians expressed the opinion that Mardi Gras 2006 should be cancelled. Those holding this opinion were mostly displaced to places such as Atlanta and Houston and whom lost their homes to the post-KTMB flooding. Their general opinion was that staging Mardi Gras within the City of New Orleans in 2006 was a waste of limited resources, an illustration of misguided priorities, and an indication of an indifference by those able to be here towards their plight. I have nothing but empathy for my fellow citizens currently not able to be back in New Orleans and believe everything should be done to expidate getting those that want to return to New Orleans the ability to do so. I don't question such concerns are legitimate ones, however it is imperative Mardi Gras 2006 happens. I think the above piece is as relevant now as it was when it written in 1948. We are lucky--unlike the rest of our country as New Orleans has an intact 150 year old tradition of annually celebrating life and being human. We need to have this celebration this year more than ever after the past six months we've all been through.

But like everything else with New Orleans either you get it or you don't get it. Our displaced get it, but many just feel like they are being forgotten about or even worse purposely forgotten about. Most outsiders cannot and don't get it because what they know of Mardi Gras is limited to images of beads for breasts and drunken college students (both mostly consisting of non-locals, by the way). That's generally as in-depth as the Mardi Gras story is presented to them each year via television. Last week, GAMBIT WEEKLY penned a commentary entitled "Getting It" which I believe acurately confronts the message/perception issue. No, the outside will never get us--and to be honest that's part of the allure of New Orleans.

To use the only vernacular most Americans seem to understand post-11 September 2001, if we do not have Mardi Gras the hurricane has won. Instead, having Mardi Gras 2006 shows that hurricane and the rest of the world that the physical condition of our home might broken but our city's and it's people's spirit refuses to be broken. It's really just that simple.


Last week's warmup weekend is behind us and tonight the real deal begins . . .

Hopefully the weather will cooperate . . .

Thursday, 23 February
5:45pm KNIGHTS OF BABYLON, 18 floats
6:15pm CHAOS, 18 floats
6:45pm MUSES, 25 floats

Friday, 24 February
5:45pm HERMES, 25 floats
6:30pm LE KREWE D'ETAT, 19 floats
7:15pm MORPHEUS, 14 floats

Saturday, 25 February
11:00am IRIS, 32 floats
12:00pm TUCKS, 26 floats
3:30pm ENDYMION, 22 floats (3:30, jeeeezzzzzz)

Sunday, 26 February
11:00am OKEANOS, 14 floats
11:3oam THOTH, 38 floats (likely minus the HC/Magazine portion of the route)
2:00pm MID-CITY, 12 floats
5:15pm BACCHUS, 27 floats

Monday, 27 February
5:15pm PROTEUS, 20 floats
5:45pm ORPHEUS, 22 floats

Mardi Gras, 28 February
8:00am ZULU, 26 floats
10:00am REX, 27 floats

Endymion to Start at 3:30pm. WTF?

Bands were in short supply the first Weekend and parades (such as the Krewe of Carrollton seen above) went by surprisingly fast.

Endymion's start time has been set at 3:30pm on Saturday. For those of us that traditionally catch the parade in the beginning, this means that we will see most of the parade in the sunlight totally missing the wonderful light show that Endymion usually wows us with. And with previous parades passing by quicker than Jeff Gordon on a NASCAR track because they have fewer bands and less stops, Endymion could very well pass by before the sun even sets. I suspect if the start time was influenced by the NOPD so they wouldn't have to be on the route for so long. But, couldn't they just have started all of the Saturday parades a couple of hours later? Whatever the case, it wont be the same for those of us at the beginning of the route. And for those of you that must see it at night, I suggest catching Endymion further down the route either in the Garden District or to be totally safe catch it in the CBD.

22 February 2006

Photo du Jour: Foggy Mornings on the Mississippi River

The early morning fog has been relentless over the past two weeks or so along the Mississippi River. Its quite a sight to see how the fog mostly stays contained within the levees when driving on River Road or when along the batture of the River as seen above. The view from the second floor of the building adjacent to where this picture was taken consisted of a completely different view. The highest part of the fog was below the window level on the second floor so the thick misty haze hanging at the ground level appeared as a floor of cotton concealing the ground the below. Above the cotton--a clear blue cloudless sky. The contrast between the two views of the same area was remarkable. And in less than an hour, all the fog burned off.

21 February 2006

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse/Craig S. Miller: No Remorse, No Regret, No Respect

The bait is cast out and--I've got no choice but to take it hook, line, and sinker . . .

Ruth's Chris uses N.O. tactics to woo Pasadena
CityBusiness staff report/February 13, 2006 1:22 PM

PASADENA, Calif.: Ruth's Chris Steak House Inc. opened its 11th restaurant in California today and the 93rd location worldwide. The restaurant is located at 369 East Colorado Blvd. along the Rose Bowl Parade route.

"Each time we open a new location, we host a traditional New Orleans second-line parade," said Ruth's Chris CEO Craig Miller. "This celebration of our New Orleans heritage, led by the Storyville Stompers, a genuine New Orleans brass band, was a big hit with everyone."

The entrance to the restaurant features a courtyard with a glass canopy, gas lanterns, plants and a fountain. The bar area displays wines, leading into one of several dining rooms.

The "Ruth Room," named in honor of Ruth Fertel, the late founder of Ruth's Chris, features historical photographs of Ruth and New Orleans. Ruth's Chris moved its headquarters from New Orleans to Orlando, Fla., three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck and Miller said the move is permanent. Ruth's Chris stock traded flat today at $22.20 on Nasdaq.

I have attempted to refrain from profanity as much as possible in my writings on this blog. This has been difficult for me because I am very passionate about, and admit, way too emotionally invested in New Orleans (even before KTMB) and sometimes feel the need for animated language to magnify my point--especially on certain "pushbutton" subjects. One of my "pushbuttons" post-KTMB is CEO Craig Miller's desertion of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse corporate headquarters from New Orleans. The above report and quote from Mr. Miller cited in last Monday's New Orleans CityBusiness daily email really, really pissed me off, therefore (and this is a long time coming):


There. I said it. (Conincidently, Chris Rose wrote this on the use of profanity post-KTMB in New Orleans which is not only funny but true.) Now for the halfway-intelligent commentary to justify the potty-mouth . . .

New Orleans is literally fighting for its very existence and continued relevance and attempting to fend off extinction at every level--physically, culturally, socially, and economically. Does that sound extreme to anyone reading this beyond 50 miles of New Orleans (or the Mississippi Gulf Coast)? Seeing pictures on television of devastated neighborhoods does not quite accurately communicate the scope and magnitude of the issues we are facing here. So sorry fellow countrymen for the dubbed "Katrina fatigue." How about the "our lives" fatigue we will be facing in New Orleans indefinitely? Or maybe we should all just all pack it all up and put "this whole New Orleans thing behind us" and follow the lead of Ruth's Chris Sellout CEO Craig Miller.

One of the first economic dominoes to fall for New Orleans post-KTMB was the announced relocation of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse corporate offices to Orlando. As stated in earlier posts, the City of New Orleans remained an extension of Lake Pontchartrain when the relocation decision by Mr. Miller was publicly announced. No wait and see. No evaluation. No "let's see if we can make this work." Nothing. There was no desire to even briefly entertain such thoughts. Instead from his perspective Mr. Miller hit the lottery jackpot: the aftermath of KTMB offered the perfect opportunity to escape New Orleans with relatively little fuss and fanfare given the abounding and overwhelming distractions at the time.

I say the above profanity towards Craig Miller for choosing to flee New Orleans. I say it to Craig Miller for selling New Orleans out. I say it to Craig Miller for turning a blind eye towards the forty year history of the company. And I say it to Miller for disrespecting the explicit wishes of the company's late founder Ruth Fertel for the company to forever remain based in it's birthplace of New Orleans.

And now Mr. Miller has the continued audacity to, as described above, "use New Orleans tactics" in the latest Ruth's Chris Sellout grand opening in Old Town Pasadena complete with a Second Line and "a genuine New Orleans brass band." As Mr. Miller gloated about the company's proud New Orleans heritage, did he notify his guests that he single-handedly abandoned the city whose traditions, culture, and general "joie de vivre" are central in his company's long-time success and the centerpiece of it's marketing and branding? Apparently, he has no problem exploiting and capitalizing the being of New Orleans without actually being a part of New Orleans. Hey, I suppose you have to do something to separate yourself from The Cheesecake Factory and Gordon Birsch--neither of those are going to give you brass bands that according to Mr. Miller as part of the "celebration of 'our' New Orleans heritage" was a big hit with everyone in Pasadena. Back in September 2005 Mr. Miller celebrated that New Orleans heritage straight out of town.

Mr. Miller, take the historic New Orleans photos off the wall. Take the pictures of Ruth Fertel off the wall. Replace them with 1930's pictures of fruit stands and orange groves in the present-day location of Downtown Orlando. Replace Ruth Fertel's image with Walt Disney's picture in 1966 tramping through the pine scrubs that would become DisneyWorld. Although the company has no historic ties to Orlando, at least those pictures and forced-fed nostalgia would be honest about where the company is now both physically and ideologically . Those New Orleans and Ruth Fertel pictures are now as a valid as all the bullshit Americana crap that you find plastered over the wall at a Chili's or even worse at Cracker Barrel. They are nothing more than props to manufacture nostalgia and identity--and an attempt to associate with something of substance which Mr. Miller chose to disassociate himself with when he moved the company from New Orleans. Actually, maybe the historic and nostalgic photos of New Orleans should be replaced with pictures of that guy walking off with a plasma television on a flooded Canal Street or a picture of "Vera" (the sheet-covered body in a make-shift grave that sat there for a week) at Jackson and Magazine. Not quite the pleasant imagery as turn-of-the-century sepia prints of streetcars and cotton bales at the base of Canal Street, but apparently those unfortunate images represent the only New Orleans Mr. Miller cared to know when he hauled ass out of town.



Still awaiting a response, Mr Miller . . .

20 February 2006

House Cleaning in Baton Rouge

I'm feeling a little like ranting this morning.

We need to clean house in Baton Rouge of all the politicians who want to keep playing by the old rules.

For those who live in his district, please lets start with this guy. Jeff Arnold-Algiers. He sits on the committee that killed the bill that would have consolidated the seven assessors in New Orleans into one. He freely admits to being actively against it in the committee. Anyone want to know why? Because his father is one of the seven assessors. When asked if he thought this was a conflict of interest he said "No". Do we really believe that it is just a coincidence that his committee is the one that killed the bill?

Ok, maybe the language in the bill wasn't up to par and needed to be refined and will be addressed in the regular session in March. Fine. Mr. Arnold should excuse himself from discussion on the bill because of his obvious conflict of interest.

Does he realize the microscope the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana are under right now? We can't afford even the smallest evidence of impropriety. Mr. Arnold seems to be more interested in doing what is right for himself and his family more than the people he was elected to represent. Nepotism like this cannot be tolerated.

Another Reason You Can't Keep Mardi Gras Down.

As I was watching the Krewe of Carrollton parade down St. Charles Ave. yesterday I had a realization and I wanted to share with all of you here. Some of you may have already made this observation, I just found it interesting.

Isn't it appropriate that Mardi Gras is celebrated by Parades of "Floats" down the streets of the city? Think about it.

Photo du Jour: A Sign of Life for the St. Charles Streetcar Line . . .

Finally, something . . . This sign announcing the St. Charles Streetcar Line rehabilitation sprouted up last week at St. Charles Avenue and South Carrollton Avenue. In the past six weeks or so the fallen wires laying on the ground--notably at Calhoun and in front of the Latter Library--were taken away, but other than that there's been no real visible progress with getting the line back up. It's been so long since a streetcar ran on the tracks that in many places grass has overtaken the rails. As someone who lives a block from the St. Charles Line, the streetcars' rumbling and humming and clicking sounds heard in the still of the night in the long-ago normal times are sorely missed. It's too damn quiet around here now.

19 February 2006

Four Personal Consequences of Hurricane Katrina

I was helping a good friend move furniture out of his inlaw's flooded house in Lakeview to his Old Metairie flooded--but almost completely renovated and repaired--house. On one of our trips to and from House A to House B he made the comment that nearly all of his friends impacted by KTMB--especially those who flooded, but even those (like me) who didn't flood--currently found themselves in one of these four current situations:

1. Getting Divorced: Married couples are getting divorced like crazy as the stress of all of this is just too much for some to handle. I have a neighbor who is a lawyer who doesn't like to practice divorce law and in normal times refuses to do it. But now, she has no choice as that's where the work is. I know of at least two couples with whom I am friends currently in the process of getting divorced.

2. Having a Baby: If couples aren't getting divorced, they are now expecting a baby. I suspect in this upcoming late summer and early autumn this area will be having a baby boom. This happened after 11 September 2001 and also happened two years ago following the Four Hurricane summer in Florida. The Fair Family currently falls into this category and awaits a visit from Mr. Stork.

3. Becoming an Alcoholic or Drug Addict: Needing something to ease the pain I suppose . . .

4. Finding Jesus: I didn't know he was lost--but some are turning to religion to aid in their personal recovery.

The First Saturday of Uptown Parades: Pontchartrain, Shangri-La, Pygmalion, Knights of Sparta, and Pegasus

After securing an unreal parking spot on the corner of Prytania and Napoleon next to Sophie Wright School, we made it out to our usual spot on the corner of General Pershing and St. Charles Avenue for the "mega-parade" of five krewes. Usually we stand on the "sidewalk" side, but we opted for the "neutral ground" side yesterday. The circulated AP story described yesterday's parades (and the cable news blurbs that I saw this morning parroting that story verbatim) as "small, but enthusiastic." I'd say that's a fair account, but I don't think the "small" part of the description indicates any sense of alarm or worry as the crowds for this first weekend are traditionally smaller anyway. A misty, cold, windy, downright nasty day didn't exactly help either. In the two hours we were out on the parade route, the temperature dropped at least ten degrees.

Normally, the first Saturday of Uptown parades features a schedule of back-to-back day parades and then back-to-back night parades. The reason for the unheard of five-krewe bundled parade was two fold. The first reason was to minimize the impact on the all ready stretched-thin city-provided emergency services such as police, fire, and EMS. (The police presence was quite evident, by the way). Secondly, these particular krewes membership has been impacted by KTMB and weren't able to parade their usual number of floats. To try to encourage all krewes to participate this Mardi Gras season, the City of New Orleans waived the minimum float requirement and these krewes were allowed to parade despite their limited numbers of riders. And although there were maybe thirty-five floats and about eight bands combined, the parades did not dissapoint in my opinion. The quality of the throws and floats were to par--but the entire procession came and went within an hour and a half.

The highlight of the afternoon was not a particular float, but instead a band. Marching in the first spot of the first parade, the Krewe of Pontchartrain, was the MAX Band which features the combined school bands of St. Augustine, St. Mary's, and Xavier Prep. These three schools have merged for the time being at Xavier Prep as St. Augustine and St. Mary's were heavily flooded. At one point in a particular cheer, the cheerleaders held up a three sign with their fingers signifying the unification of the three schools. It was an emotional experience seeing them pass by.

Here are some visuals . . .

17 February 2006

Flying the Official Flag of the City of New Orleans Shows Solidarity: We Will Persist

The Official Flag of the City of New Orleans was adopted by the Commission Council February 5, 1918 in honor of the City's Bi-Centennial. The white field is the symbol of purity in government; the blue stripe is liberty and the red is fraternity. The white field is five times as wide as the stripes of liberty and fraternity (or Union) because it is the mother of both; the combination of these three fundamental principles of good government constitutes democracy.

The three fleurs-de-lis grouped in triangular form represent the birth of New Orleans under the banner of the three fleurs-de-lis; but these having since been snatched from the blue field of the banner of autocracy, now rest upon the field of purity and equality and symbolize democracy triumphant over autocracy.The red, white and blue are the colors of the United States but are also the colors of France, and as New Orleans is the daughter of both, they are so grouped as to constitute a new and separate entity, which is now the flag of New Orleans.

-An excerpt from Raising of the Official Flag of the City of New Orleans on the City Hall, February 9, 1918.

Since Christmas, I have noticed the proliferation of New Orleans flags appearing on private residences throughout inhabited areas of the city. I am happy to see this and believe it illustrates a healthy portion of our citizen's solidarity and commitment to the future of New Orleans despite the many future uncertainties. I also think the more New Orleans flags flying on private residences in the city pounds the message to fellow locals, and more importantly to our fellow Americans from elsewhere, that we refuse to give up and New Orleans will overcome this tremendous challenge. Throughout it's 288 year history New Orleans has survived city-wide fires, disease epidemics and outbreaks, and numerous ravaging hurricanes--prior to KTMB. Overcoming natural and manmade disaster is nothing new for New Orleans--it's part of it's being.

To locals and non-locals, might I suggest purchasing an official New Orleans flag to hang at your house. Help us send a galvanized message to our country and the world that we support New Orleans and insist on a 100% full-fledged commitment to rebuild it honorably. To non-locals with family, past, or spiritual connections to New Orleans, display the flag up at your home in your town. When a neighbor or friend or passer-by asks what crazy flag you have hanging from your porch you can tell them its the official flag of New Orleans. Perhaps the flag will start a dialog in which maybe that person recalls a fond memory that took place in the city. Or maybe you have the opportunity to enlighten them of why New Orleans must unquestionably be maintained and how the federal government is obligated to make a non-half-ass commitment towards that goal. Basically, the presence of the flag can keep the non-New Orleans invested from forgetting the plight of New Orleans as news cycles continue to move on.

I bought my City of New Orleans flag two weeks ago at The Kite Shop Jackson Square. This store has been a mainstay on Jackson Square in the St. Peter Street-side Pontalba Apartment building since the mid-1970s and typifies a locally-owned business that must remain in the Vieux Carre essential to retaining the Quarter's character. I recall going to the shop in the late 1970's and early 1980s during elementary school field trips to the Cabildo and French Quarter. Help keep a long-time locally-owned business going by buying a City of New Orleans flag from them. They do have a website, but no mention of the New Orleans flags. I am sure they'd be happy to FedEx one out. If you're in the Quarter this weekend for Barkus, go see them and get a flag.

Here's their contact information:
The Kite Shop Jackson Square
542 St. Peter Street
NOLA 70116
tel: 504 524.0028

Six Pack of Dixie

Angus Lind writes in the TP today that the owners of the Dixie Brewery have vowed to return. Good news for locals and beer lovers all over the country. The Dixie Brewery is the last remaining old school brewery in NO. At one time there were many, Jax, Falstaff and Regal to name a few.


The Brewery took a real beating from Katrina with wind damage and as much as 10 feet of water. They have contracted for brewers in other areas to produce the beer for them, for now, and are close to a distribution deal.

The owners, the Bruno's, have been burdened with tax and financial problems since they bought the brewery in 1985. The IRS issues are now behind them they say. Kendra Bruno says they are survivors and they won't let it die.

The article doesn't get into specifics about the opening of the brewery itself, only that they say they will brew beer there again because "Dixie has so much to offer."

Next year (2007) will be the 100th anniversary of the Dixie Brewing Company. Let's hope they gets things back up and running on Tulane Ave. in time to celebrate 100yrs. I'll drink to that.

16 February 2006

New Orleans Photos: 13 January 2006

About a month ago--the day after "the heckuva town" drive-thru appearance--I decided to check the progress of the not so "the town I used to know" areas of New Orleans checking out Lakeview, the Lakefront, Lakefront Airport, the University of New Orleans, Gentilly, the Seventh Ward, and the Lower Ninth Ward. Outside of Uptown and the CBD virtually every traffic signal was not operable. Most signals lacked power and instead temporary four-way stop signs had been placed at nearly every normally signalized intersection. I will attest however, that in the following month some progress has been in made in regards to the traffic signal problem (at least on the sliver), but nearly all in the heavily damaged zones still remain dormant. It's truly amazing there hasn't been a rash of traffic fatalities from this--although there have been some.

The photos taken on 13 January 2006 can be seen at my flickr photostream here.

A few observations illustrated in the photos:

In Lakeview, signs announcing an intent to return are in the yards of many, many homes which is encouraging to see. Concurrently, many houses are also posted for sale in Lakeview.

Sections of Lakeshore Drive took a pounding from the storm surge knocking down light posts and eroding the soil between the street and seawall.

As noted in an earlier post, the city's Southern Magnolias seem to be the species of tree which fared the worse with the two plus weeks of standing water. It appears that most other tree species will survive, although low-lying plants throughout the flooded parts of New Orleans are deader than Elvis. Paris Avenue featured an allee of Southern Magnolias the entire legnth of the street. Now the median contains their skeletons.

Lakefront Airport got hammered. Many of the hangers and buildings at the airport got blown out by the tidal surge. Nearby Lakefront Arena suffered major wind damage tearing metal siding from the building.

That particular day was the day that landfill fires were burning in New Orleans East. The plumes of smoke can be seen in several of the pictures taken from the Lakefront as well as in the Lower Ninth Ward.

The downright violent destruction in the Lower Ninth Ward may be more brutal than the storm surge damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And I don't say that in anyway to downplay what the coast looks like. It's just that bad in the Lower Nine.

The new normalacy apparently includes military helicopters landing at the Downtown Heliport at the Superdome.

15 February 2006

2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Lineup Announced

Within the past hour Quint Davis and Festival Productions announced this year's Jazzfest lineup. The festival is scheduled for six days compared to the usual seven days as the Thursday date of the second weekend has been eliminated for 2006. Also, the Neville Brothers are currently not scheduled to perform in 2006 despite the long-time tradition of them "closing out" Jazzfest each year on the big stage. Until 27 April (for the first weekend) and 4 May (for the second weekend) advanced daily tickets ten dollars cheaper (USD 30) than at the Fairgrounds gate (USD 40) can be purchased. The cheapest option is to buy them at the New Orleans Arena box office in person to avoid the five buck so-called "convenience" fee lumped upon telephone or online orders. Jazzfest's official website is here.

Like Mardi Gras 2006, back in September it seemed a legitimate possibility Jazzfest 2006 would not happen . . . A significant portion of the Fair Grounds did flood, however its proximity to the Gentilly and Esplanade Ridges minimized the depth and time inundated. The clubhouse did sustain major roof damage--and I assume interior problems. Amazingly the clubhouse's large windows facing the track remained intact despite the high winds.

First Weekend: 28, 29, and 30 April 2006

The Meters, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, Yolanda Adams, Allen Toussaint with special guest Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Dr. John, Hugh Masekela, KebÂ’ MoÂ’, Yerba Buena, Rebirth Brass Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Galactic, Snooks Eaglin, Cowboy Mouth, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Terence Blanchard, Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters, Sonny Landreth, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, the subdudes, Ritmo Caribeño, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Terrance Simien, Anders Osborne, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Charmaine Neville, Banu Gibson & New Orleans Hot Jazz, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews with special guest Steve Turre, St. Joseph the Worker Choir, Dukes of Dixieland, Eddie Bo, John Lee & the Heralds of Christ, C.J. Chenier, The Iguanas, Luther Kent & Trickbag, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Big SamÂ’s Funky Nation, Rosie Ledet, LilÂ’ Rascals Brass Band, LilÂ’ Band OÂ’ Gold, Greater Antioch Full Gospel Church Choir, D.L. Menard & the Louisiana Aces, James Rivers Movement, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, NewBirth Brass Band, James Andrews, Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots, World Leader Pretend, Gregg StaffordÂ’s Jazz Hounds, Shades of Praise Choir, Leah Chase, JhelisaÂ’s Tribute to Nina Simone, Melody Clouds, Christian Scott, Crown Seekers, Popular Ladies, Nine Times Men, Westbank Steppers, and the Young MenÂ’s Olympians Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, David Egan, Franklin Avenue BC Choir, T-Sale, J. MonqueÂ’D Blues Band, Vivaz, Bryan Lee & the Blues Power Band, Panorama Jazz Band, Los Sagitarios, Cynthia Liggins-Thomas, One A-Chord Gospel Singers, Andrew HallÂ’s Society Brass Band, Louisiana Repertory Jazz Band, Jonathan Batiste, Loyola University Jazz Ensemble, Coolbone Brass Band, Hard Head Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Mahogany Brass Band, Tim Laughlin, Jo “Cool” Davis, Lighthouse Gospel Singers, Voices of Distinction, Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Kim Prevost, Leroy Jones, San Severino of France, Higher Dimensions of Praise, Joe Krown, Furious Five and Untouchables Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Willis Prudhomme & Zydeco Express, The Revealers, Poor Clares, The Elements, Los Vecinos, SUBR Jazz Ensemble, Jambalaya Cajun Band, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Paulin Brothers Brass Band, Don Vappie, Connie Jones, The Jackson Travelers, Tony Bazley, Providence BC Mass Choir, Val & Love Alive w/ the Dimensions of Faith, Chops Funky 7 Brass Band, Unstoppable Gospel Singers, Belton Richard, Inspirational Gospel Singers, Pinstripe Brass Band, Local International Allstars, The Bester Singers, Gospel Inspirations of Boutte, and more!

Second Weekend: 5, 6, and 7 May 2006

Fats Domino, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Keith Urban, The Ohio Players, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Special Ed & Big Daddy Kane, India “The Princess of Salsa”, Irma Thomas, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Doug Kershaw, Little Feat, Koko Taylor, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. & the Greater St. Stephen Mass Choir, The Radiators, Angelique Kidjo, Pete Fountain, Donald Harrison with special guests George Coleman & Eddie Palmieri, Le Grand Ballet “Ngalam” du Senegal, Yonder Mountain String Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, Deacon John, Nicholas Payton, Chris Owens, The Ladies of New Orleans R&B featuring The Dixie Cups, Wanda Rouzan & Jean Knight, Roland Guerin with special guest Marcus Roberts, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, RockinÂ’ Dopsie, Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis with special guest Lew Tabackin, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Tremé Brass Band, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles, Marcia Ball, George French, Stephanie Jordan, Hot 8 Brass Band, Sherman Washington & the Zion Harmonizers, Frankie Ford, Tab Benoit, Marva Wright & the BMWs, Lars Edegran & the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, Astral Project, Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band featuring Thais Clark, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Theresa Andersson, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Jeremy Davenport, Papa Grows Funk, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Lockport Chapter Choir, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Tony Green & Gypsy Jazz, Bruce Daigrepont, The Johnson Extension, Geno Delafose & French RockinÂ’ Boogie, Soul Rebels Brass Band, John Boutté, Thomas “Big Hat” Fields, Rocks of Harmony, Alvin Batiste & the Jazzstronauts, Germaine Bazzle, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, Jeremy Lyons & the Deltabilly Boys, Reggie Hall & the Twilighters, New Orleans Spiritualettes, Storyville Stompers, Tornado and Stooges Brass Bands, Scene Boosters, Lady Rollers, Original Men and Ladies Buckjumpers, and Valley of the Silent Men Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, LilÂ’ Brian & the Zydeco Travelers, Savoy Family Cajun Band, Eric Lindell, McDonogh #35 Gospel Choir, Susan Cowsill, Mem Shannon & the Membership, Kim Carson, Easter Rockers, Tyronne Foster & the Arc Singers, La Bande “Feufollet”, Zulu Male Ensemble, Jeff & Vida, Zion Trinity, Fredy Omar con su Banda, Driskill Mountain Boys, Bamboula 2000, Otra, Little Freddie King, New Orleans NightCrawlers Brass Band, Chris Clifton, Amina Figarova Band of The Netherlands, Pine Leaf Boys, Michael Ward, Dynamic Smooth Family, Imagination Movers, Lyle Henderson, Leviticus Gospel Singers, NOCCA Jazz Ensemble, Harvey Spirituals, Real Untouchables and Smitty DeeÂ’s Brass Bands, Mandeville High School Jazz Ensemble, Pfister Sisters, Second Nazarine Gospel Choir, June Gardner, Golden Wings, Batiste Brothers, Gospel Stars, Highsteppers Brass Band, and more!

14 February 2006

Mississippi Gulf Coast Photos . . .

Last week I was over on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and drove most of US 90 (Beach Boulevard) in Harrison County from the base of the now-ruined Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge in Biloxi, through Gulfport and Long Beach to Downtown Pass Christian. It appeared the majority of debris has been cleared from the heavily impacted residential areas immediately adjacent to the coast, but I saw virtually no new construction or significant renovation in these areas. In Biloxi two casino barges deposited by the storm surge adjacent to US 90 are in the process of being demolished in place piece by piece. I did notice work crews at the Beau Rivage (or Reau Rivage in honor of the late-Buddy Diliberto) but the resort appears a long way off from opening. Nearly everything within two hundred yards of Mississippi Sound suffered major damage from the storm surge along the Mississippi coast--with exception to some areas fortunate enough to be built on the occasional higher ridges affronting the beach.

The THIRD BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS Mississippi Gulf Coast flickr photostream can be browsed here.

Several of the pictures in this set feature personally meaningful places to me which recall fond memories such as Mary Mahoney's, the Broadwater Beach, Magic Golf, and Marine Life . . .



The above link contains two New Orleans articles--one from the Los Angeles Times and the other from the BBC. The L.A. Times article is entitled "Misery on Every Corner" and the BBC piece is named "New Orleans Risks Extinction."

The L.A. Times piece follows the controversial "America's Worst Disaster" Gray Line tour through devastated portions of New Orleans. The first time I saw one of the buses (on Wisner next to City Park) a couple of weeks ago my first inclination was to be angry. Was this not a case of exploitation? But as time has gone on (and as this article and the Times-Picayune has conveyed) I am not so opposed to these tours any longer. We desperately need people from the outside to be floored by what they see here. The outrage of locals and people like me ranting and raving and writing manifestos don't mean anything. What does mean something is when outsiders go back home and tell their friends and neighbors how bad it remains here because they have seen it firsthand and how something needs to be done to restore New Orleans now. The key thing they need to learn from what they see is: THE DESTRUCTION OF NEW ORLEANS WAS CAUSED BY A MANMADE DISASTER, NOT A NATURAL DISASTER. The levees and floodwalls protecting New Orleans are the responsibility of the federal government and the citizens have trusted that federal government to protect New Orleans from catastrophic flooding. That federal government failed the City of New Orleans both in regards to flood protection and the post-storm response--and it is obligated to right the wrong. Period. There should be no debate.

The BBC piece is more a background type piece discussing the effects of coastal wetland loss, subsidence, and channelization of the River on the ability to protect New Orleans from hurricane-induced flooding. The usual experts are cited in the article such as UNO's Shea Penland and LSU's Ivor Van Heerden. Both WCNO and DaPB give deserved accolades to local FEMA representative Marty Bahamonde who went beyond the call of duty during KTMB to try to communicate to his superiors the reality of what was happening in New Orleans. I think Ivor Van Heerden is another individual who deserves to be thanked and given acknowledgement for his role both pre- and post-KTMB.

12 February 2006

2006 Krewe du Vieux Parade Photos

"Buy Us Back Chirac!" How funny is the mime?

Flickr photostream of Krewe du Vieux 2006 photos are here.

The plan was to watch the Krewe du Vieux parade in front of Jackson Square on the wide part of Decatur Street, but instead we wound up downriver near Molly's on a narrow section of Decatur. Despite the cold temperature aided by the bone-chilling wind tunnel effect between the French Quarter buildings, the turnout seemed to rival a pre-KTMB KdV--and appeared to be mostly local (at least where I was) although some carpetbaggers, et. al* (no offense) also populated the route. Including about ten brass bands, many of the themes, costumes, and throws were typically crude and outrageous in this year's "C'est Levee" Parade, but all were witty and funny naturally focusing on KTMB and its ongoing and ever-accumulating consequences. The satirical nature of KdV has always provided the opportunity for New Orleans to laugh at itself for nearly twenty years--and it felt good to laugh over the very things causing such grief and sadness over the past five months. Having that laugh while standing within an intact Vieux Carre surrounded by other New Orleanians and Louisianians you know--and even more so of others you don't know--to me seemed to provide some hope New Orleans can overcome the current adversities. Seeing that first float was a bit emotional as back in September it seemed possible none of this would occur in 2006 or possibly ever again. I expect the emotional response this upcoming Saturday afternoon when the full-scale krewes begin parading on St. Charles Avenue to probably be even more intense and farther reaching as many more people will be along the Uptown route . . .

UPDATE: The WaPo ran a story yesterday on the KdV Parade. Bravo to them as they continue to keep pumping out the New Orleans stories.

*- to be clarified in upcoming post.

11 February 2006

MG2K6 is On: Krewe du Vieux Tonight . . .

The satiric Krewe du Vieux parades tonight in Faubourg Marigny and the Vieux Carre. The theme of this year's parade is "C'est Levee" and there is no shortage of "material" this year to parody. The annual 2006 Le Monde du Merde is worth a read--and if you're not familiar with KdV, you'll get the general idea by reading it. This year's King is Walter Williams--the creator of "Oh No" Mr. Bill. Previous KdV Kings include Al Scramuzza in 1990, GiO in 1995, Buddy Diliberto in 1997, and Ernie K-Doe in 2001.

I can recall on a cold February night in 1983 as a 12 year old seeing the precursor to the Krewe du Vieux, the Krewe of Clones, and not quite getting it. I was embarrassed to ask my dad what some of the signs and floats meant. Tonight looks to be a chilly one . . . .

10 February 2006

Canal Place Theatre Reopens . . .

New Orleans' arthouse theatre is finally reopening. I had a really bad feeling they weren't going to return following the fire in Canal Place. The theatre doesn't yet show up in the online yahoo movie listings, but their site indeed lists current showtimes. The Shops at Canal Place--the mall in which the theatre is situated--reopens this morning as well . . .

Some Current New Orleans Talking Points . . .

Yet More Casualties from KTMB:
Last night I was in the commercial area of Carrollton at the River--referred to as Riverbend. In the past few months I've slowly noticed a fair number of businesses in this area and also along Carrollton's other commercial corridors of Oak Street and Maple Street permanently shutting down. Many never reopened after KTMB, but they weren't cleared out or displayed for sale signs signaling a final "throwing in of the towel." In the past month I've noticed this seems to be happening more often--and in many cases long-time established locally-owned and operated businesses. I know of several cases where business owners lost their homes and decided to relocate elsewhere--or just remain where they ended up when they evacuated in August. For others, they apparently have no faith New Orleans will rebound anytime soon and don't like their odds for survival. We've already lost (hopefully temporarily in many cases) so many businesses and institutions in heavily flooded portions of New Orleans so its imperative the ones on the high ground locations such as Prytania, Magazine, St. Charles, the Vieux Carre, and Faubourg Marigny remain.

Notable businesses in Carrollton yet to open include the Camellia Grill, the Double M Feed Store on Oak, both the PJs and Starbucks on Maple, and multiple Rite Aids (see below). Some business gone for good are: Paul's Framing on Oak, Cote Sur on Maple, Figaro's on Maple, and Margaux's (formerly Zachary's) on Oak. One thing that makes New Orleans what it is has always been the locally-owned small businesses--which in many cases amazingly we've retained for so long. New Orleans starts losing these wholesale and we take yet another step into the generic abyss that unfortunately defines the majority of this country.

Levee Board Reform
All indications from the special legislative session in Baton Rouge are that the proposed bill for integration of all of the levee board fifedoms into one megaboard is doomed to fail--at least in its current written form. At this point, I do not care if there is one board or several streamlined boards (I think I heard that the Netherlands has eight or nine boards under the DeltaWorks). For the love of God, just remove (or significantly reduce) the political appointment thing completely from the board(s). Staff these boards (or megaboard) with professionals in fields that have relevance to flood protection--hydrologists, geologists, engineers, wetland specialists, etc., etc. No longer have these appointments act as rewards for political friendship and loyalty but instead opportunities for educated experts to apply their skills towards providing the best flood protection scientifically possible for the entire State of Louisiana--not just the New Orleans area.

It's no surprise the all-out consolidation probably won't fly with the state's politicians. For instance, Livingston Parish wants out. The Westbank portion of Jefferson Parish wants out. (Or at least certain politicians from these areas have voiced they don't want to reform). They'd like to see the levee boards remain over their jurisdictions stay just the way they are.

Their angle: we didn't flood during KTMB and we're happy just the way things are. It all works just fine for us. And also, this whole thing is New Orleans' problem--why should the whole state have to deal with it?

The truth is the relationship between New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana (and even the neighboring parishes to New Orleans--especially St. Bernard and Plaquemines) has always been rocky. I have always said that the City of New Orleans is a northeast-type city (the era of development, the ethnic/racial diversity, the cultural aspects, etc.) cast by itself in the rural Southern United States. The other 63 parishes have always felt slighted that New Orleans drains an unfair proportion of the state's resources and the other areas don't get their fair share. The proposed levee consolidation idea is no different in their eyes. This proposal is viewed as a power grab by the New Orleans area politicians (and therefore a power loss for eveyone else). Also, the past (from their perspective) tells them their problems will always be given the back seat to those of New Orleans and they perceive the centralized levee board as focusing primarily on the New Orleans issues while neglecting their flood protection interests and concerns.

A flooding Mississippi River or Atchafalaya River or hurricane-driven storm surging Gulf of Mexico or Lake Pontchartrain or Terrebonne Bay or Vermilion Bay knows no political boundaries or jurisdictions. Therefore, protection of Louisiana from these threats should not be impaired by political boundaries or jurisdictions. If nothing else, there needs to be an independent oversight commission to assure the flood protection elements within the various jurisdictions work in unison and also to monitor and assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who ultimately has sole responsibility for Louisiana's flood protection. Hey, they decided they'd handle it--twice--in 1927 and 1965.

I personally resent the Administration treating Louisiana like a first grader by forcing us to prove our seriousness by reforming our levee boards--or we don't get the candy. They have framed this issue in their usual fundamental way meaning that anything (such as a compromise which will likely be the outcome if any reform is passed at all) short of one megaboard will be treated as an utter failure and therefore, we can't be trusted with any money, etc. Tis a setup in my humble opinion.

Rite Aid: Worst. Ever.
The Rite Aid Corporation just plain sucks. Really its that simple. Most of their New Orleans stores remain shuttered with no real signs of progress towards reopening anytime soon. The one nearest me on Oak and South Carrollton just sits there empty as it was cleared and gutted in November. Do these idiots not want to make money? Do these idiots want to lose more market share to Walgreens? And they are idiots--here's why:

Back in 1998 when Rite Aid agreed to purchase the K&B chain the K&B name could have been retained in this region but Rite Aid refused. I can just hear Rite Aid's marketing firm trying to explain to the executives about the unbelievable store and brand loyalty this region had for K&B and how they'd be absolutely moronic to outright change the name to Rite Aid. Keep the name of the stores in this region as K&B and print your own purple money or change the name and piss everyone off and have them running away from the stores. They could have done the K&B: A Rite Aid Company or something such as that, but no. The loyalty and affinity for K&B runs so deep in New Orleans that soon after they were bought out they conducted a firesale of K&B everything: from their own "generic" K&B products to K&B shopping carts and K&B clocks. Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up in Metairie for this thing. It was crazy--I was one of them.

So now having relic K&B products to show off to friends is considered cool. We stumbled upon a whole milk crate full of K&B toothbrushes at a flea market in Panhandle Florida a couple of years ago and I think we bought them all. The Circle Bar, however, has the holy grail: mounted onto the ceiling on one of the rooms in the bar is an exterior K&B clock which probably measures six by six feet--at least.

So, my point is Rite Aid is just horrible and they've managed to screw something up that was virtually impossible to mess up--and I'm talking before the hurricane. The store on Broadway is open (with limited hours) for beer buying since Walgreen's doesn't sell beer but it just seems like there is absolutely no progress coming along with the closed locations.

Nagin Questions Motives of Tulane Historian Douglas Brinkley:
Did anyone else see Mayor Nagin with Norman Robinson on WDSU after the 10pm news last night? He implied Brinkley's (his name was never actually said) upcoming book about New Orleans and KTMB is politically-motivated painting Nagin in a negative light and is purposely being released a few weeks before the mayor's election to hurt his re-election bid.

They're tryin' to wash us away . . .

09 February 2006

Revisiting that Week from Hell

The long road out of Mordor is a gripping personal narrative

Every now and then I like to revisit the past to put things into perspective. These days most of us are caught up with cleaning, rebuilding and fighting the political fight but as the months have passed since Katrina details of what happened seem to fade away. Revisiting that first week is usually puts those details back into memory. While the typical AP or local news story is a good way to remember, they are typically bland, impersonal, and lacking in detail. I find the best way to understand what happened is to read a first person narrative. Whether it’s history, war, or a disaster tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, nothing will give you a better idea of what really happened than an eye witness account written in the first person.

A great narrative that I found today on NOLA.com is from a woman named D Rose who lived in the Treme area during the storm:

The long road out of Mordor

D Rose of New Orleans writes:

Tuesday, August 29, 2005
(transcribed from crumpled pieces of paper written by candle light)

Last night we were perpared for the worst. We watched every news channel and emailed and called everyone.

The wind started howling at 2AM. I never went to sleep. I couldn't even drink a glass of wine. I thought I had to be on top of my game for whatever came at us.

By 5AM, Kevin was doing his Lt. Dan impression and yelling out the window, "You call this a storm?" I laughed and told him not to make the hurricane gods mad.

At around 5:30, Kevin called me to a bathroom window, for (oh joy) the crack heads were already looting the pharmacy on the corner of Esplanade and N. Villere. They were carrying loads of chips and crackers it appeared in plastic tubs.

Then all hell broke loose. The wind was so loud. If you ever saw the movie Twister- the noise was the same deafening tornado sounds with the occassional booms. The house started shaking and the second floor was swaying. I was getting dizzy. If it wasn't so life or death, it would have made a fun ride at Six Flags. All I could think about was that the house was going to crumble into a a pile of thousands of pieces of rubble and we would be stuck under all the muck, half alive and no one to help us.

...Read the rest of Rose's experience on NOLA.com

Tell the NFL You Want a Saints-Steelers Season-Opening Prime-Time Game

Time for a little grass-roots politickin' to the NFL on behalf of the New Orleans Saints. I had this little brainstorm on the way to work... Remember when I submitted the following article excerpt last month regarding the NFL's efforts to help the Saints remain in New Orleans:

Meanwhile, the NFL is working on plans to further promote the league's involvement in the rebuilding of New Orleans next season. Ideas include a kickoff concert in New Orleans leading up to the prime-time season-opening game at the home of this season's eventual Super Bowl champion. The NFL is also looking at a New Year's Eve Saints home game on the last weekend of the regular season.

So, let's look at the following facts:

1. The NFL wants to promote its involvement in rebuilding New Orleans.
2. The NFL is thinking about putting together a kickoff concert in New Orleans.
3. The concert will be part of the season-opening prime-time game at the home of the Super Bowl Champion.
4. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the world champions.
5. The Saints play at the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

HOW GREAT WOULD THAT BE?????????????????????????????????

It's time to gauge the level of "commitment" the NFL has. Would the league be willing to feature the New Orleans Saints in a prime-time season-opening game? That would show one hell of a committment to me. Sure, the Saints would probably lose the game, but it would be a nice gesture to give us a prime-time game to increase the team's (and the community's) exposure.

So how do we tell the NFL that we want it? I'm not sure. But if you agree with me that it is a good idea, SPREAD THE WORD. Tell other bloggers. Contact the Saints. Contact the league. Contact politicians. Hell, I don't care. Tell them that you want the Saints to play the first game of the year. Because you know if the decision is left to the TV executives who basically own the NFL, they'll choose either the Miami Dolphins or the Denver Broncos, who also have to play in Pittsburgh in 2006.

08 February 2006

Photo du Jour: Arabella Station Whole Foods

For those New Orleanians with membership in the cult of Whole Foods, a week ago today was a joyous occasion as the Arabella Station Whole Foods reopened after nearly five months of being closed. The building, a former bus and streetcar storage facility, suffered roof damage during the storm resulting in the ruining of the store's interior. The Metairie location has been open, although in a limited capacity, since December. Of course, had Whole Foods not closed their co-first store in the chain on Esplande Avenue about a year ago (not a popular move to those in the cult), they probably could have had that store opened relatively quickly since the Esplanade Ridge avoided serious flooding (assuming no roof damage). The rumor just previous to KTMB was that Harrison Avenue's Lakeview Fine Foods had acquired the former Whole Foods location and planned to open an Esplanade Avenue "mini" location. Lakeview Fine Foods was of course devastated by the flooding--their building has been gutted, but last I saw no progress had been made beyond that.

For the insiders, in the spirit of Where's Waldo, the game Where's Wejo can be played with the above picture.

07 February 2006

Photo du Jour: The Pass Christian Wal-Mart

Hey look . . . The storm surge of Mississippi Sound caused by Hurricane Katrina (KTMB) did to the Pass Christian Wal-Mart SuperCenter what the Wal-Mart corporation repeatedly does to the economies of towns and cities all over the United States. They both create a ruined, hollowed-out shell. How ironic.

Made it over to "the coooooooooooooast" today--from Biloxi back to Pass Christian. It's not good--most of the heavy destruction lies within several hundred yards of the beach, but the surge did also get further inland via Back Bay and some of the rivers and bayous. The intensity of damage gets worse the further west traveled, but nearly all structures within 300 yards of the Mississippi coastline (nearly 90 miles--from the Pearl River to Pascagoula) received some damage if not catastrophic damage. One exception to this is that some portions of Pass Christian and Gulfport located on higher ridges escaped the total wrath of the surge.

06 February 2006

New Orleans Saints: 230 Days Until Home Opener

The NFL, ever the PR-conscious league, announced yesterday that D-Day is September 24. The Louisiana Superdome is scheduled to be opened on that day for the Saints' first home game, against the Atlanta Falcons. That gives us all something to look forward to.

I don't want to sound like like I'm an NFL kiss-up, because nothing could be further from the truth. I don't like the way the league has become too generic and "corporate." But I am truly grateful that the league has stepped in and continues to make progress in New Orleans.

I don't like the way I'm hearing that the money the league is "donating" is supposedly tied in to lowering the penalty to the State of Louisiana if the team breaks its lease. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Hopefully it won't be this December. I also don't like that the September 24th date means that the Saints will play on the road for the first two games. This means the Saints could easily be 0-2 going into the home opener, thus reducing some of the enthusiasm normally associated with opening day. But I also understand that the stadium probably needs the extra time to ensure it's ready.

The guy from Ruth's Chris should take a cue from the NFL. Hell, a lot of people should.

For those of you who don't know the Saints' 2006 schedule, here it is:

Home: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Cincinnati

Away: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Green Bay, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh

I think it showed a lot of common sense to schedule the Falcons for the first home game. It's better to bring in our natural rival instead of having the NFL trying to cash in by bringing in the Redskins and turning the game into a media circus.

But I am disappointed in one thing. I was hoping that the NFL would announce that our "Away game" with the Giants this year was being played in the Superdome.

(Insert rimshot here)

05 February 2006

Ruth Fertel's Legacy/CEO Craig S. Miller's Sellout

I happened upon this article on WWL's site and also saw a blurb about the donation in New Orleans CityBusiness:

Steakhouse founder's legacy pays off for schools
04:03 PM CST on Saturday, February 4, 2006
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS: More than $1.2 million from a foundation established in the will of Ruth's Chris Steak House founder Ruth U. Fertel is going to public, private and parochial schools and educational programs in the New Orleans area.

The grant announcement Friday was timed to commemorate what would have been Fertel's 79th birthday on Feb. 5.

A New Orleans native, Fertel was devoted to the city and to education, said her son Randy Fertel, president of the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation. His mother, who died in April 2002, held a degree in chemistry and physics from LSU, he said.

Ruth Fertel always claimed that her strength in chemistry lay behind her wizardry in the kitchen, he said. Anyone who ever sat across the gin table from her knows how strong she was in math, he added. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse originated in New Orleans and became one of the largest dining enterprises in the world, as well as a clubhouse for political power brokers, Randy Fertel said.

He recalled what his mother did after Hurricane Betsy struck soon after she acquired the original Chris Steak House in 1965. "Faced with no electricity and no refrigeration, mom broiled all those prime steaks and I brought them down to Plaquemines (where she grew up) for evacuees," he said.

The foundation will enable Fertel to help New Orleans recover from the ravages of Katrina by helping its educational institutions recover, he said.

Educational institutions receiving grants this year are: New Orleans Outreach, New Orleans Charter Middle School, Newman School, Summerbridge, YaYa, KIDsmArt, the New Orleans Center for Science and Math, the Audubon Institute, the New Orleans Public Library, Ben Franklin High School, Holy Cross School, St. Bernard Unified School, Junior Achievement, St. Martin's Episcopal School, the University of New Orleans, St. Mary's Dominican High School, Jesuit High School and Good Shepherd School.

So even after Ruth Fertel is dead she once again provides her assistance to New Orleans after a devastating hurricane through her family foundation. In 1965 she cooked and cooked and personally helped those who needed help in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy. Following Hurricane Katrina (KTMB)--four years after Ruth Fertel's death--Ruth's Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig S. Miller figured "cutting and running" sounded like a better alternative than sticking around in New Orleans. I would not have expected Mr. Miller to personally cook steaks and go down to shelters to deliver them to the evacuated. No. What I expected from him was to commit to New Orleans by keeping the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse corporate headquarters here and not contribute to the hemorrhaging of white collar jobs New Orleans is experiencing. He could have been a hero. He could have gotten excellent PR and announced to the world New Orleans was here to stay and that his corporation was doing their part to ensure the city's economic and commercial relevance. But no--straight to Orlando--under the cover of distraction as the water still drowned New Orleans and that "etched into memory thanks to CNN/FOX/MSNBC" guy stealing the plasma television practically still standing on Canal Street.

And Mr. Miller can cite more favorable tax laws in Florida than in Louisiana, or he can cite Orlando having what he interprets to be a better labor pool to chose from, or he can say the move was in the best interest of the stock holders, or whatever other crap he can come up with. But when its all over he sold New Orleans out--and I have no doubt in my mind that if Ruth Fertel was alive (even if she no longer owned the company) this move would have never happened.


Still waiting for a form letter, Mr. Miller:

04 February 2006

DeWitt's Fruit and Vegetable Shed on River Road Obliterated by Tornado

The DeWitt Fruit and Vegetable Shed has been located at the corner of Iris Avenue and River Road in Old Jefferson for 50+ years. The bad weather of early Thursday morning spun a tornado that decimated the fruit stand, a raised wooden house next to the stand, and a concrete-block constructed restoration workshop. I stopped by DeWitt's on Friday afternoon and was able to talk to one of the family members of the owners. He was extremely choked up but vowed a return to the location--even if have to sell their fruit and vegetables from a parked truck on the site. He also said that the resident of the adjacent wood frame house was within the house during the tornado and that man described the sound of the tornado as "a coming freight train." Despite his house getting ripped apart, the man amazingly received no injuries.

DeWitt's survived KTMB, but gets destroyed by a freak tornado. Logical, right? As Ashley comments in the initial tornado post, apparently locusts are "on deck" for New Orleans.

Oh, and get this--I have some friends whose Uptown home got about three feet of water in the flooding . . . Well, guess where their non-flooded stuff was moved to? Yep, that self-storage facility on Jefferson Highway which also sat in the path of the tornado. Things did get a little wet, but it appears everything at this point is salvageable.

The pictures below were taken at the fruit stand. The first one was taken on 4 September--the Sunday after the storm (through my dirty windshield). The place was a bit rough even before the storm (to the point where I joked about what the storm had done to it--absolutely nothing--it looked virtually the same). The other three were taken on Friday afternoon and show what's left of the site.

DeWitt's Fruit and Vegetable Shed--Sunday, 4 September 2005 (six days after KTMB).

03 February 2006

And Now the Coliseum Theatre is on Fire . . .

Never ask: "What else can happen?" Never ask this.

As I write this the Coliseum Theatre in the Lower Garden District is burning--a four alarm fire.

The fire is reported to have started at 3pm. I drove by the place (and almost stopped to look at the renovation work that was being done since the storm) at 2:30pm.

Oh, and the DeWitt Fruit stand on River Road was obliterated by a tornado early Thursday morning. Next post to cover that . . .

Angry New Orleans Links of the Day

President Bush Adds To Louisiana, New Orleans Misery
Steve Sabludowsky of BayouBuzz in this piece brings up the USD 85 billion fuzzy math issue. I read this guy's opinion piece on a regular basis and he's usually pro-Bush on most issues--and now he's turned from that sinking ship. And yep, Mississippi has 1/3 the housing issue we have here in Louisiana, yet they get the same amount of money. No partisan politics there. Right, Mr. Barbour? Mr. Lott?

A City Fears for Its Soul: New Orleans Worries That Its Unique Culture May Be Lost
The Washington Post has consistently put out good New Orleans-centric pieces over the past month or so to try and provide some semblance of a clue within the Beltway of what the hell is going on down here. The Disneyland analogy has been a concern for many of us way long before KTMB. Can't tell you how many times I've had to inform people from out-of-town this is no theme park. Randy Newman sums it up perfectly: "They're tryin' to wash us away. They're tryin' to wash us away."

Rebuilding Wisely
As Richard Baker and the Louisiana delegation as well as other Senators and Representatives begin to question the President's poo-pooing of the Baker Bill, the dubbed Gulf Coast "rebuilding" czar Donald Powell goes into PR overdrive to counter any momentum that might be achieved in favor of the Baker Bill. Now all of the sudden after five years of an absolute spending frenzy the Administration thinks fiscal responsibility is a good idea. I am so sick and tired of being berated that "Mississippi has a plan, and Louisiana doesn't have one" as the scope of the problems and issues aren't in the same galaxy. Mississippi has a clean slate. Louisiana--especially New Orleans does not. Its two completely different types of rebuilding based on the way the damage was incurred. And then of course Powell has to slip in the "Louisiana can't be trusted with this amount of money" suggestion because (as numerous perfectly timed articles and stories point out) naturally our state is more corrupt than most.

The New Ye Olde College Inn

The original "Almost Actual Size" sign was weathered badly before the storm and KTMB finished it off. The new sign above was reproduced using photos of the original.

Located across from Notre Dame Seminary, Ye Olde College Inn has been a South Carrollton Avenue tradition since 1933. Up until four years ago the restaurant was owned by the Ruffin Family. Ye Olde was a place in which nothing changed--the food was the same, the waitstaff was the same, the stuff on the walls was the same, and the regulars in the bar were the same--FOREVER. And nine times out of ten (at least during the day) the 80+ year old owner was seated in the same seat at the bar overseeing things. And that's the way it was supposed to be--and the way I knew Ye Olde to be in a stability of the universe sorta way. When the announcement came that Mid City Rock N Bowl owner John Blancher acquired Ye Olde from the Ruffins, I have to admit I was nervous. A few weeks before the deal went down an article on the sale appeared in The Times-Picayune. John Blancher stated that the traditions of Ye Olde College Inn would be preserved and made the remark (paraphrased): "the place has been there since 1933--obviously they are doing something right so why would I change a thing."

The first time I went there about a week after the sale one of the sides I ordered was the cucumber/onion salad (a Ye Olde staple). When its brought out and placed on the table by some guy I never saw before I look down and its got a red Italian dressing instead of the tradition clear Italian dressing. The first thing I ordered was different--ouch. As time went by the gumbo tasted the same but it was served in a different bowl. Then they stopped serving gumbo daily and only on Fridays. Within a few months, the entire waitstaff including the old lady waitresses who had been there for years were no longer working there. Then, a flat screen television was placed in the bar, a Sunday morning brunch with live music was introduced, they stopped using the front door and made all enter through the bar, etc., etc. I had a period of anger over these changes but as time progressed I got acclimated to the changes--and accepted the new vision of the place. The food was still good and mostly the same . . .

I know all of this sounds really stupid (like my wife having to hear me complain about such things as the bread rolls not being the same size or the switching of brands of melba toast), but the thing about Ye Olde is that for the 50+ years that my family has frequented the place the aura within those walls remained constant--and full of memories. And I guess from a personal level the same issues and fears I had with the changes that occurred with Ye Olde with the new ownershipI now have with the changes forced upon New Orleans since KTMB. Perhaps its not going to be exactly the same place, but that's not necessarily a bad thing--that's the glass half full approach anyway.

In a few days (4 February) the New Ye Olde College Inn will be opening in a building on the same block riverside of the original building. The original location received two to three feet of water--and unfortunately I have a feeling its going to be torn down. The new location was in the process of being renovated by Blancher to be home to a Thai restaurant. Luckily, interior sheetrock hadn't been yet hung before the storm so the damage within that building was minimal. After the storm, the decision was made to relocate Ye Olde there . . .

02 February 2006

And Now . . . Tornadoes

At about 2:30am last night I was awoken by extremely violent wind, rain, and lightening as a front passed through the New Orleans area. It was intense, but it seemed to pass through very quickly--like in less than thirty minutes. At one point, the sky was nearly continuously illuminated from the lightening strikes in the distance reflecting off of the low cloud cover. Turns out several tornadoes were spun as the weather passed--with Lakeview and Kenner (including Louis Armstrong Aiport) taking the hit.

Before I heard the report of tornadoes this morning, I noticed a portion of the sound abatement wall on one of the I-10/I-610 overpasses had been blown apart as it's debris spread was all over the road. Also, a friend told me he noticed significant damage to a self-storage place on Jefferson Highway.

Here are some pictures from WWL and the accompanying report.

As the WWL story cites: "Don't ever ask the question, what else could happen?"

UPDATE: On the way home from work this evening, I encountered an entire section of Old Jefferson from a few blocks east of Ocshner to the parish line with no power--pitch black dark with exception to the headlights of cars. Work crews in large bucket trucks were on Jefferson Highway and River Road working on the problem. The self-storage place noted above got absolutely hammered. Can you imagine moving salveagable possessions from a flooded house in the city into a storage facility and then that storage facility gets hit by a freak tornado?

Hornets Addendum: The National Media Thinks They Should Leave New Orleans

A couple of days ago, I wrote that article discussing the indifference surrounding the Hornets, both in New Orleans and across the nation. Since I wrote the article, the team officially announced that it would return to Oklahoma City for most of the 06-07 season. I mentioned that the national media, which largely backed New Orleans in the Saints fight, is taking Oklahoma City's side.

Since the announcement was made, I've noticed that it's just gotten worse. To me, it's beginning to sound like the national media has made up their minds--in favor of Oklahoma City.

Here's an excerpt from an article I read from ESPN.com's Dan Shanoff:

You could attribute the stunning 15-game turnaround to runaway Rookie of the Year Chris Paul (25 pts, 13 ast last night), but I'm going back to the Oklahoma City Factor.

They won their home opener in front of a frenzied OK City crowd and haven't looked back. They aren't exactly the '86 Celtics, but they are 6th in the West in home record. Last season, they were the worst home team in the West by 7 games.

Then, I read this from SI.com's Richard Deitsch:

There are roughly 300 days to go before Sports Illustrated names its 2006 Sportsman of the Year. I'm not waiting. I'm nominating an entire city: Oklahoma City.

One of the best stories in sports has emerged from one of worst disasters we've ever seen. In the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the NBA's New Orleans franchise was temporarily placed more than 700 miles away to Oklahoma City, a city not unfamiliar to tragedy with the 1995 bombing of a federal office building. Kansas City, Las Vegas and San Diego were among the other cities interested in the franchise but the NBA opted to send the Hornets to Oklahoma City, which paid for the Hornets' housing and office-space costs and offered the team a guaranteed cash payout if the team's revenues fell short of projections.

These days, the only projection Hornets fans are thinking about is who they'll play in the playoffs. Last year, the team finished with an 18-64 record. If the playoffs started today, the Hornets would be the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The team is 22-22 overall and 13-7 in Oklahoma, including a win over the Kings in January at the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center. The Ford Center's upper bowl has been dubbed Loud City. They should call themselves Proud City. The Hornets have played 19 games at the Ford Center and have averaged 18,546 fans --- including 10 sellouts. The in-game atmosphere rivals Midnight Madness. Fans arrive early for games and scream throughout. So much for Oklahoma being a pigskin state.

The NBA is the first major sports league to place a team in Oklahoma City and the league is clearly impressed. They announced yesterday that the Hornets will play 35 games in Oklahoma City and six in New Orleans in 2006-07. The plan is for the team to return fulltime to New Orleans for the 2007-08 season. That's the right thing to do. But Oklahoma City has set itself up as the top choice for relocation if a franchise moves, or if the league expands beyond its current 30 teams.

For years, Oklahoma City has craved a reputation as a first-class, major-league city. Welcome to the club, cowboy.

So it sounds pretty compelling. Oklahoma City: GOOD. New Orleans: BAD. But when these "journalists" recite the "facts" that help state Oklahoma City's case (sellout crowds, winning home records, etc.), they ignore a few other facts. So I thought I'd take a minute address them:

1. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is an EXTREMELY NOTICEABLE difference in ticket prices in Oklahoma City and New Orleans. The tickets in Oklahoma are much cheaper. Look it up. And yet, as someone else already mentioned, New Orleans has still sold out at least one of the games to be played in New Orleans already.

2. Comparing last year's Hornets team to this year's Hornets team is like comparing Larry Bird or Bill Russell's Celtics to the modern-day Celtics. Last year's team was HORRIBLE. Jamal Mashburn never played and was later traded to dump his contract. Baron Davis faked injury after injury, refused to play, held the team hostage, and was eventually traded. The team had Dan Dickau, not Chris Paul, playing point guard. Think about it. Can you really blame fans for not wanting to come out and support that trainwreck of a team? I could understand the argument if the Hornets were a playoff team last year and still had the second-lowest attendance numbers.

3. The novelty of the whole situation. I suspect OK City fans could be like Jacksonville Jaguar fans. In the Jacksonville situation, the city had to prove that was a "pro city," so it supported the team early. Through good fortune, the team was never bad, so the good times kept coming, and games kept selling out. But the first minute the team got bad, everybody jumped off the bandwagon. Now, the city can't sell out games without covering significant portions of the upper deck and lowering stadium capacity. Now, the team has been discussed as a potential candidate to relocate. What's gonna happen to Oklahoma City the first time the team goes 18-64? I think New Orleans has proved (through our pitiful Saints) that it will support a team, no matter how bad it is. It deserves a second chance.

4. The fact that George Shinn and Oklahoma City are trying to cash in on a NATURAL DISASTER should be enough to provide some opposition. I've heard some people mention that Oklahoma City should have more compassion for New Orleans, considering what it went through 10 years ago. But I guess business is business.

Maybe George Shinn, Oklahoma City, and the NBA are telling the truth. Maybe this is only a temporary thing. Maybe the Hornets are going to come back in two years. But right now, it really doesn't feel like it. And the longer the team stays away, coupled with the longer the team stays over there, the less likely it becomes that we will have any attachment to the team. Oklahoma City will claim the Hornets as "their" team, and things will just run their natural course.

We can't let that happen. Unless, of course, too many people just don't care. Which I suspect is the case.