Category Archives: Bayou Brief

Bayou Brief: Stuck On Stupid

My Bayou Brief column is usually published every other Wednesday. That changed this week because of Hurricane Sally. I was concerned that many of our readers would lose power and internet connection. Instead, Sally decided to visit Alabama and Florida. My condolences to everyone in the impacted areas.

Here’s the tag line for this week’s column, Stuck On Stupid: “13th Ward Ramblings on the Louisiana Democratic Party, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and wayward wingnut pundit Dan Fagan.”

The part about Gret Stet Dems has received the most attention but my favorite bit is about former Picvocate pundit Dan Fagan. That’s Fagan with an A, not an Fagin with an I like this guy:

Bayou Brief: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column

I inadvertently took a month long hiatus from writing my bi-weekly column at Bayou Brief, The spell was broken yesterday.

My titles are typically short and punchy. This one is long, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column.

The column takes a look at hurricanes past and present and revisits some highlights of my post-Katrina and Federal Flood life:

I attended many “rebuilding meetings.” I saw then Mayor C Ray Nagin primp in front of a mirror and several City Council members show up drunk. I’ll omit the names to protect the guilty. Those in the know will know who I’m talking about. They’re long out of office so there’s no point to outing them many years later. Besides, who could blame them? Those were stressful times.

Those were crazy days indeed.

The column title was inspired by one of my all-time favorite musicals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. The last word goes to Zero Mostel from the 1966 film version:

Bayou Brief: Trump Trumps Trump

My latest Bayou Brief column is a review of Mary Trump’s extraordinary book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man.

I read the book in one day, revisited the passages about Fred Trump and his sons the next, and on the third day, I wrote the review. Sounds almost Biblical, doesn’t it? That’s the first and last time I’ll use that B-word to describe my writing. Not much of a revelation…

The key to who and what Donald Trump is his relationship with the Freds. As far as he’s concerned, Freddy Trump was the ultimate loser and Fred Sr. was the ultimate winner. He thinks of himself as a winner and is terrified that he’s really a loser. Just wait until November, Donald.

The Trump campaign has reached the desperation phase. They’re throwing shit against the wall and very little is sticking. The candidate’s limited attention span makes it nearly impossible to have a coherent message. It would help to have a coherent candidate instead of a windbag who says whatever pops into his head.

Earlier this morning, Michael F wrote about the MSM’s obsession with any change in tone by the Impeached Insult Comedian. They never last. At age 74, he is incapable of “pivoting.” It’s time for a self-quote:

President* Pennywise thinks sick people are weak: he even mocked his own father when Fred had dementia. Empathy and fundamental human decency are alien to him. He will never change. He’s incapable of it and those in the mainstream media who think he can change should have their heads examined, then read Mary Trump’s book.

With her Uncle Donald it’s all about two things: the Benjamins, and the Freds. He’s Fred Trump’s son; changing is for losers.

I have an ironic last word for your listening pleasure. The Freds are very much alive in the Kaiser of Chaos’ imagination:

Saturday Odds & Sods: This Forgotten Town

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans.

The weather in New Orleans has been almost as crazy as President* Pennywise this week. We’ve had record heat as well as torrential rain that caused some street flooding. There were thunderclaps so loud that they interrupted PD’s beauty rest. Now that’s loud.

It’s also lizard season in the Crescent City. They’re everywhere. I have to look down as I descend our front stairs to avoid stomping on them. The cat is obsessed with capturing and tormenting lizards whenever they get inside. I’ve rescued several already this year. Leapin’ Lizards.

A new Jayhawks album dropped last week. XOXO is more of a collaborative effort than past records. It features songs and lead vocals by band members who are not named Gary Louris. Tim O’Reagan and Karen Grotberg’s lead vocals are a welcome addition to the Jayhawks’ musical arsenal.

This week’s theme song, This Forgotten Town, is the opening track on the new album. It was written by Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, and Tim O’Reagan. We have two versions for your listening pleasure:

This is not Gary’s first town tune. There’s also this unforgettable song from Smile.

Let’s leave this town and jump to the break.

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Bayou Brief: Mask Wars

Image by John Valentino.

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column is online at Bayou Brief. In Mask Wars, I ponder political performance art and three of its Louisiana practitioners: State Rep Danny McCormick, Picvocate columnist Dan Fagan, and State Attorney General Jeff Landry.

After the column was written, Landry tested positive for COVID, which gave me the chance to write a rather amusing afterword. He subsequently issued a legal opinion from quarantine that the mandatory mask order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards is unenforceable. The opinion is strictly advisory, so it amounts to sound and fury signifying nothing. It’s also much like this venerable expression:

“Offering an opinion is like peeing on yourself in a blue serge suit. It feels warm and no one knows you’ve done it.”

There’s a dispute as to who first said this, but I first saw it in Gay Talese’s NYT book The Power and the Glory. It was attributed to former Times executive editor Turner Catledge. Catledge was from Mississippi and retired to New Orleans. After Catledge’s death, Dr. A and I went to an estate sale at his Garden District house. I bought his copy of that Talese tome. If only I could find it among the book clutter in my study. So it goes.

In other Mask War news, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp finds himself in a peach of a pickle. In a breathtaking display of hypocrisy, he’s banning local governments from mandating masks. Other than party affiliation, why is he a hypocrite? He wore a mask while welcoming the Impeached Insult Comedian to Georgia the other day. Trump was unmasked. Freedom, man.

Finally, one more Mask War note. Earlier this week, historian and New Orleanian John Barry wrote an opinion piece for the NYT about the pandemic. It was excellent except for this passage:

Social distancing, masks, hand washing and self-quarantine remain crucial. Too little emphasis has been placed on ventilation, which also matters. Ultraviolet lights can be installed in public areas. These things will reduce spread, and President Trump finally wore a mask publicly, which may somewhat depoliticize the issue.

Trump flip flopped on mask wearing the day after this piece ran. I’m glad Barry hedged his bets by using the word somewhat. Never assume that President* Pennywise will stick to a position for more than a few days. As I said in Mask Wars, “He’s consistently inconsistent.”

The last word goes to Fleetwood Mac with a Christine McVie song:

Bayou Brief: The Rename Game

My latest Bayou Brief column is online. I wade knee deep, not into the Big Muddy, but into the monuments controversy in New Orleans. I offer my top ten list of stuff that should be renamed. I make a few suggestions but I’m mostly interested in getting a conversation started.

I have a lot of fun playing The Name Game in the column. Let’s do it for the current First Draft team:

Peter, Peter, bo-beter
Banana-fana fo-feter
Fee-fi-mo-meter
Peter.

Allison, Allison, bo-ballison
Banana-fana fo-fallison
Fee-fi-mo-mallison
Allison.

Michael, Michael, bo-bichael
Banana-fana fo-fichael
Fee-fi-mo-ichael
Michael.

Tommy, Tommy, bo-bommy
Banana-fana fo-fommy
Fee-fi-mo-mommy
Tommy.

Oh, mommy. The last word goes to Shirley Ellis:

Bayou Brief: American Roulette

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. The tagline is succinct and snappy:

“The 13th Ward Rambler spins Fortuna’s Wheel, landing on Ignatius Reilly, Phase Two in NOLA, Slave Owner Statues, and the Nykvolution.”

The Nykvolution refers to the collapse of what was once the largest krewe in Carnival. It had a sister krewe, Pandora, which rolled in suburban Metry. Its implosion went public after my column went live. That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box.

The last word goes to Kay Starr and Johnny Hartman with a song I forgot about. Oops. I hope Fortuna isn’t vexed:

Songs For The Pandemic: Deal

I’ve been busy this morning painting myself in and out of corners for Wednesday’s 13th Ward Rambler column at the Bayou Brief. Shorter Adrastos: I’m all written out for the day.

One thing I write about is my concern over the premature spiking of the pandemic ball. People are acting like the crisis is over. They’re wrong. I’m not gambling with my life. Instead, I’m posting a few gambling songs as part of the Songs For The Pandemic series.

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was an avid user of poker analogies in his lyrics. We begin with two of his finest creations; both performed live on Halloween in 1980.

Dr. John’s contribution to the Deadicated album was a swell interpretation of Deal. It was made for Mac’s voice:

The great Dave Alvin covered Loser on his album of songs by California songwriters, West Of The West:

The Allman Brothers were on the skids in 1975 when they recorded the Win Lose or Draw album. They broke up for the first time not long after recording it. The title track is not about gambling per se, but its bleakness makes it a tune for our times:

Now that we’ve gone to prison with the Allman Brothers, let’s close on a more upbeat note with a gambling song written in 1950 by Frank Loesser for Guys and Dolls. It later became the property of the Chariman of the Board:

Bayou Brief: Rambling On My Mind

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. This time I use a Robert Johnson song title because I do more than my share of rambling. Anyone surprised? I thought not.

The tagline is straightforward: “Peter Athas rambles on about protests, the pandemic, and Picvocate columnist Dan Fagan.”

The column itself is NOT straightforward. I spend some time distinguishing Fagan with an A from Fagin with an I and Fagen with an E. The last two being the Dickens character and Steely Dan frontman. I suspect Fagan with an A might think of me as the nightfly in the ointment.

The last word goes to Donald Fagen with an E:

Bayou Brief: The Age Of Uncertainty

My latest column for the Bayou Brief went live at 11 AM yesterday. I’m trying to make the time and day, Wednesday, a bi-weekly thing. Regularity in regular features floats my boat. Oops, that sounded like a laxative commercial or some such shit. I should flush that paragraph, but I won’t. I don’t want to bring on another toilet paper apocalypse…

I had a lot of fun writing The Age Of Uncertainty. There’s even a vaguely amusing story about the writing process. I had a notion that I wanted to write about masks, reopening, and pandemic politics BUT I didn’t have a theme to tie everything together in a wordy bundle. The idea of stealing a Galbraith title came to me in a moment of wakefulness at 3 AM on Sunday morning. Sometimes insomnia can come in handy.

I spend some time in the column pondering the masking of America:

An important part of making phase-1 work is a willingness to wear a mask in public. I understand why people dislike masking. I have a size 8 head, which makes it difficult to find a mask that fits. Additionally, I’m almost as blind as a bloody bat and I’ve had a problem with my glasses fogging up while masked. It’s a pain but it’s imperative to protect others from your germs. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to keep my germs to myself and for you to do likewise. It’s one reason I’m staying in my Bat Cave for the time being.

It’s all part of being a grown-up. You gotta do what you need to do, not what you wanna do. What I wanna do is post a Graham Parker song with mask in the title:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Snake Bite Love

Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt

Perhaps I should have used Zachary Richard’s Snake Bite Love as our theme song while we were Festing In Place but I couldn’t let go of using Can’t Let Go last week. Besides, it’s never too late for a Zack Attack.

We have two versions of Snake Bite Love for your listening pleasure: the 1992 studio original and a 2009 live version from a Jazz Fest set I attended.

One more snake song before we slither to the break:

Ouch that hurt. Time to turn the virtual page.

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Bayou Brief: Blast From The Past

My latest Bayou Brief column is online. This time, I write about Jazz Festing In Place and the early release of former New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The Nagin segment is called Loose Tongue, but a good alternate title would be The Walking Id Walks.

Speaking of New Orleans and walking, the last word goes to John Hiatt:

 

Bayou Brief: Under Pressure, Nungesser

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. I take a look at the pressure brought to bear on New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell to reopen the city and a lukewarm pandemic apologia by the Gret Stet Grifter, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

This time, I decided to tease you with the opening paragraphs of the column:

Citizens of the Gret Stet of Louisiana and residents of New Orleans aren’t used to competent government. The incompetence reached new heights when both Bobby Jindal, who I always called PBJ, and C Ray Nagin were in office. They were both wreckers: one deliberately, the other out of indifference. One thing they had in common was incompetence.

That’s why the performance of Governor John Bel Edwards and Mayor Latoya Cantrell during the coronavirus crisis has been so gobsmacking. They’ve been communicative without panicking like Nagin and clear without self aggrandizement like PBJ. In a word: competent.

Bayou Brief: Hell Of A Spell

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. There are a few more jokes in this pandemic edition, Hell Of A Spell. There’s also a helluva tagline if I do say so myself and I do:

Peter Athas on Tony Spell’s death tabernacle, John Neely Kennedy being stuck on stupid, Kevin Allman’s crusade against Mardi Gras misinformation, and other signs of our troubled times.

My sole regret is that I neglected to make a Jimmy Swaggart joke when I cracked wise about Roy (Judge Pervert) Moore and the Mall of Louisiana. A lost opportunity because the Swaggart empire used to own the land the mall sits on. I must be slipping.

I used Richard Thompson’s When The Spell Is Broken as a segment divider. In this shameless plug post, he gets the last word with a live version:

Saturday Odds & Sods: For Shame Of Doing Wrong

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

I’m trying something different this month. I’m pairing the artwork of Edward Hopper with the music of Richard Thompson. Each Saturday in April will feature a different EH image and RT tune. I think they work well together.

My oak pollen allergy has been bonkers this year. We’ve hit a prolonged dry patch: no rain since some time in February. We tend towards extremes in New Orleans. It either rains too much or not at all. The happy medium is unknown in our forecasting annals.

The worst thing about this allergy season during the pandemic is that it’s hard for me to go outside at all. The last time I took a walk, I had a pollen related sneezing jag, which led some fellow strollers to glare at me as if I were Typhoid Mary. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for the Pour Down Like Silver album. I have a soft spot for that album: it was the first RT album I ever purchased but not until 10 years after its release. I was a late RT bloomer.

We have three versions of For Shame Of Doing Wrong for your listening pleasure: the Richard and Linda studio original, a poppy version produced by Gerry Rafferty, and a cover by RT’s former Fairport band mate, Sandy Denny.

Is it shameful that I like the poppy version from Rafferty’s Folly? Hell, I like the song below too. It was inescapable in 1978:

As I hang my head for shame of doing wrong, let’s jump to the break in a shameless manner.

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Bayou Brief: Love In The Time Of Coronavirus

The title of my latest 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love In The Time Of Coronavirus. I’m particularly fond of the tag line:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has Peter Athas thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. We’ve gone from “heckuva job, Brownie” to “heckuva job, Trumpy.”

Since the column is, in part, an extended flashback to 2005, the last word goes to John Fogerty:

“Brownie’s in the outhouse
Katrina on the line
Government’s a disaster
But Georgie, he says it’s fine”

Bayou Brief: Ode To Elizabeth Warren & Other Strong Women

Warning: No COVID-19 content. Promise.  Instead, I write about Elizabeth Warren, Mary Landrieu, Lindy Boggs, and my late mother.

Ode is one of my favorite words. I’m quite partial to this song as well:

Bayou Brief: The Cursed Carnival?

It was a rough Carnival season. That’s why it’s the subject of my latest column for the Bayou Brief. It has fewer jokes than usual but it was a deadly serious season.

Let’s close on a lighter with the original version of my favorite Mardi Gras song:

Bayou Brief: Painted From Memory

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is one of a personal nature. I write about the time that one of my favorite people at LSU, Coach Jay McCreary, introduced me to Pistol Pete Maravich. It happened many years ago hence the title, Painted From Memory: Coach Jay, Pistol Pete, and Me.

The last word goes to Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach:

Bayou Brief: A Tale Of Two Tones

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. The writing process was somewhat unusual. I had a mostly humorous piece ready to go when the exposed corpse at the Hard Rock Hotel collapse site story exploded. I kept the first segment about the aftermath of LSU’s national championship intact. I ripped apart the TFC segment and toughened its tone considerably; hence the title A Tale Of Two Tones: Of Tigers and TFC.

FYI: TFC stands for This Fucking City.

I did a phone interview with Richard Fausett of the New York Times for a story he co-wrote with Katy Reckdahl about what could be called Tarpgate. I was even mentioned. The way to get a mention when you’re interviewed as background for a story is to get the reporter laughing. It works every time:

“Peter Athas, a political blogger and columnist for The Bayou Brief, an online news site, has accused Ms. Cantrell of clumsily handling the disaster, and aligning herself too closely with the developer.”

Thanks for indulging that bit of egomania.

There will be a protest march this afternoon against the city’s mishandling of this disaster. Mayor Cantrell’s team is circling the wagons and lashing out at critics. The proper approach would be to distance the administration from developer Praveen Kailas and his partners. A bit of humility is in order but it’s in short supply on Team Cantrell.

This tweet concisely sums up my attitude about the Mayor:

I have a new sign off as the 13th Ward Rambler. I stole it from Walter Cronkite’s closing during the 1979-1980 Iran Hostage Crisis. I only steal from the best. I might as well use it here today:

And that’s the way it is on the 104th day since the Hard Rock Hotel collapse.