It’s my birthday today. We’re planning a relatively quiet day with dinner at one of the great restaurants in New Orleans, Brigtsen’s. It’s located in an Uptown cottage, not far from the river. The service is great and the food is even better.
A note on the featured image. I’m such a Manet fan that I named a black female cat Manet. She was long-lived and lovable. We had a game that we played together wherein we compared artists. I’d ask “who do you like better, Picasso or Manet?” The answer was always the same: “Manet.” She lived to be twenty, dying in 2005 not long before Katrina. I’m glad she missed the upheaval and disruption of our nomadic evacuation. It’s hard to be a grande dame when you’re on the move.
It’s sad how few pictures we have of our pre-digital camera era cats. This is a good shot of Manet in her Dowager Empress period:
Holy lagniappe catblogging, Batman.
August 1st was the 75th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s birth. I miss Jerry, which is why the Garcia-Hunter tune, Touch of Gray, is this week’s theme song. It was the Dead’s only genuine hit single, which is remarkable given their longevity and popularity.
We have two touches of gray for your listening pleasure: the VH1 pop up video of their skeletony promo video and a live version from 7/4/1989 in Buffalo. Notice Jerry and keyboard player Brent Mydland touching their own gray hair before launching into the song. Oh well, a touch of gray, kind of suits you anyway. Literal but still swell. Brent died in 199o. I’ve often said that being the keyboard player in the Dead was much like being the drummer in Spinal Tap. I don’t believe in jinxes but this one has a kernel of truth.
Oh yeah, both videos were posted by someone who spelled gray with an E. So it goes.
Now that I’ve made y’all feel old and decrepit, let’s limp to the break.
We begin our second act with a segment about gentrification.
Inauthentic Authenticity: There’s a trend among gentrifying business people to “honor” the past of their space. That sounds okay but it’s all in the execution as we learn from a piece by Henry Grabar at Slate. His focus is on Brooklyn:
On Saturday afternoon, there was an anti-gentrification protest in Brooklyn. The target was a new bar-restaurant called Summerhill, whose owner’s tone-deaf marketing caused an uproar on the internet and then one in real life.
Here’s the story: Toronto transplant Becca Brennan opened her establishment in Crown Heights, a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood that has for the past few decades been divided between West Indian immigrants and Hasidic Jews. In an effort to paint a bit of Brooklyn character into the corner storefront that is her first hospitality venture, Brennan made a regrettable decision: She decided to stock 40-ounce bottles of rosé and spotlight a “bullet hole-ridden wall” as a remnant of the space’s rumored past as an underground gun market. That “raised eyebrows for its apparent capitalization on stereotypes of black violence and poverty,” Eater wrote. (In the 77th precinct, where the bar is, the murder count fell from 82 in 1993 to 10 in 2016.)
In a word: uncool. There’s nothing less authentic than faux authenticity. All they have done is alienate the neighborhood and provide grist for my mill. The latter rocks but the former sucks.
And now for a brief lesson in gentrification, New Orleans style. Bywater used to be a working class neighborhood with typical New Orleans housing: shotgun doubles and Creole cottages abound there. Hipsters discovered Bywater after Katrina and have gentrified the living shit out of it. The most noteworthy thing that ever happened in Bywater was in 1960 when Ruby Bridges integrated New Orleans public schools by attending William J. Frantz Elementary School. As far as I know, no enterprising hipster has tried to capitalize on this event by decorating with pictures of angry white people yelling racist obscenities:
Sam Shepard R.I.P. The great American playwright and actor Sam Shepard died last week at the age of 73. Shepard’s Buried Child won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1978 but my personal favorite is True West. And who can forget his turn as the superstar test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff?
The best tribute I’ve seen was written by his close friend, the poet and rocker Patti Smith, My Buddy, Sam Shepard. Patti not only rocks, she rules.
Let’s lighten things up now that we’ve remembered Sam Shepard who was neither a Sham nor a Pharaoh. Another day, another obscure musical reference. This video will clarify things:
Separated At Birth: This week’s pairing brings together goofball actor Owen Wilson and comedian/chat show host Ellen Degeneres.
Ellen hails originally from Kenna, brah, which is a New Orleans suburb best known as the home of Louis Armstrong née Moisant Airport.
I’m acquainted with Ellen’s brother Vance and he looks less like his sister than Owen. Life’s funny that way.
Speaking of Vance Degeneres. He played bass for a pretty good New Orleans rock band, The Cold. They were a regional success but never broke through nationally. Here’s a sample:
I know what you’re thinking: The Cold were a New Orleans band? It may have had something to do with air-conditioning or snowballs.
Meet Malaka Charles: A news clipping was tweeted at me by one of my Spank krewemates but her account is locked so it won’t embed. No worries, here’s a picture of the picture in the paper. That’s a whole lotta Ps. I guess I should mind my Ps and Qs.
Malaka Charles is in the top row, center position.
I’m not sure from whence this came. I should, however, be alarmed that people think of me when they see the word malaka.
Neil Finn once claimed that history never repeats, the next segment disproves that assertion. It’s still a helluva song.
Today In History: There are many prominent folks who share my birthday including Neil Armstrong. He, however, is not a kindred spirit whereas the late, great film director John Huston was. He was born on this day in 1906. Mercifully, I’m not as crazy as Huston but I try.
Here’s a list of my Top Ten Huston directed films in chronological order:
- Maltese Falcon
- The Treasure Of Sierra Madre
- Key Largo
- The African Queen
- Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
- Fat City
- The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
- The Man Who Would Be King
- Wise Blood
- Prizzi’s Honor
Huston directed at least 10 other stellar films. His best work was at the beginning and end of his long career. The Sixties were not a good time for him. If you’ve ever seen The Bible you know what I’m talking about. The best thing about that clinker was Huston as Noah.
As a writer-director character actor Huston blazed the trail for Sam Shepard even if he wasn’t half as handsome. That’s no disgrace: Sam resembled Gary Cooper and Huston looked like his father Walter who was a looker in his day but no Gary Cooper. John, however, had a feline manner and purring voice as an actor. In a word: untoppable. As was his performance in Chinatown:
I hope watching Huston and Nicholson chow down hasn’t made you either hungry or dizzy. I have the perfect remedy for any befuddlement you may be suffering: some great music.
Saturday Standard: I mentioned Billie Holiday’s superb album Songs for Distingue Lovers in this space last week. Her voice is a bit raspy BUT she knocks every tune out of the park. Here it is in its original form:
That’s it for this week. We’ll give Sam Fucking Shepard as Chuck Fucking Yeager the last bat word. Fuck, yeah.