Category Archives: Bayou Brief

Bayou Brief: March Musings, Not Madness

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. It’s full of spiteful goodness.

Here’s the tagline: “13th Ward Ramblings about the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, the Second District Congressional race, and the Shame of LSU.”

Did someone say shame? Cue the music for a double dose:

Bayou Brief: The 14th Month Of 2020

I took a break from my other home on the internet, Bayou Brief. The hiatus is over: the 13th Ward Rambler is ready to rumble.

In my return column, I ponder Carnivals past and present and take aim at New Orleans tourism honcho, Stephen Perry. It’s called 14th Month Of 2020 because it feels like it. Make it stop.

I’m not sure if I’m on fire but the Neville Brothers certainly were at this 1987 show:

Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Art Neville?

Saturday Odds & Sods: Forbidden Fruit

Photograph by Andre Kertesz.

The weather has been god awful in New Orleans most of the week. Cold, cloudy, and gloomy. It’s enough to make me mutter “Bah Humbug” under my breath as I write this. I also envy Claire Trevor her fur coat and ability to lie close to the space heater without catching on fire. One of our former cats, Window, singed her whiskers on an old-fashioned wall space heater in our old place on Pine Street. So it goes.

I’ve been listening to The Band a lot the last few weeks. Just call me a throwback music buff. Robbie Robertson wrote this week’s theme song for The Band’s 1975 album Northern Lights Southern Cross. The album remains overlooked and underrated; I’ve always liked it, especially this song. It’s a perfect album opener and a fine Odds & Sods theme song.

We have two versions of Forbidden Fruit for your listening pleasure: the studio original and the Band live in 1976.

Now that we’ve tasted the forbidden fruit and been banned from the garden of eden, we might as well jump to the break.

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Bayou Brief: Louisiana Potpourri For $400, Alex

I had a lot of fun with my latest Bayou Brief column. It’s dedicated to the late, great Alex Trebek and Louisiana Jeopardy fans. The tagline is in the form of a question: “What are 13th Ward Ramblings on Alex Trebek, Carnival 2021, Cedric Richmond, Karen Carter Peterson, and Jason Williams?”

I’m sure you recognize the first name, the others are New Orleans politicians; one of whom is leaving Congress to work in the Biden administration.  That means we’ll have a special election for Cedric Richmond’s House seat some time next year. Karen Carter Peterson is a likely candidate. Jason Williams is running for District Attorney and he’s an underdog in Saturday’s runoff. Now you know who these guys are.

That’s all, folks.

Bayou Brief: Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column is up at the Bayou Brief. I’m proud of this one. It’s something only I could have written. Who else would have brought Mel Ott and Leo Durocher into a discussion of the 2020 election? Whether that’s a good thing is up to my readers.

Here’s the tagline:

Peter Athas on the 2020 election, Steve Kornacki, baseball history, and why Joe Biden is like nice guy Mel Ott and Donald Trump is like Leo “The Lip” Durocher.

The last word goes to Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly:

Too Much Is On The Ballot/Hurricane Zeta Update

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. It’s my reflections on the upcoming election with a local emphasis. Here’s the tagline:

13th Ward ramblings on the 2020 election, Orleans Parish style. Sidney Torres is NOT on the ballot; he just acts like he is.

In other news, Hurricane Zeta strengthened in the wee small hours of the morning. After half-a-dozen games of hurricane dodge ball it appears headed our way. I’m not sure how this will impact my blogging, but I expect to lose power as this is a wind event. Anything I’m able to schedule this morning will appear but it’s unclear if there will be a Saturday Odds & Sods this week. Only the Shadow knows and we’re not speaking.

We just moved our porch furniture inside. Claire Trevor digs it. I thought she’d be unnerved by the extra clutter, but she just sniffed it and moved on. Cats are much tougher than humans.

I’ll try and check in later today. I *was* planning to write about why the 2020 presidential election is NOT 2016 but I need to remove any possible projectiles from our back yard. The good news is that Zeta is moving fast. It’s always better when an uninvited and unwelcome guest does not linger.

Believe it or not, we’re having a cold front tomorrow after Zeta zips through. 2020, man.

The last word goes to John Fogerty:

I wouldn’t advise walking in this or any other hurricane, y’all.

Bayou Brief: Governor Warbucks & Uncle Earl

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online and ripe for reading. The prose, however, may be overripe in places.

Here’s the tag line: “Peter Athas on the death of former Governor Mike Foster and how Trump’s illness has evoked the final years of Earl K. Long.”

I included my name so you’d know I wrote it.

I compare Earl Long to Donald Trump. Uncle Earl is the winner:

However unhinged Earl Long became at the end of his life, he was a better man than Donald Trump. He wasn’t a malignant narcissist who only thought of himself. He genuinely cared about poor people regardless of their race. He was a kinder, gentler populist before that term was besmirched by the Impeached Insult Comedian.

Get thee to the Bayou Brief.

That’s all folks.

Bayou Brief: 2020 Fatigue

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column for Bayou Brief  is online. In it, I concede that I’m as tired of 2020 as everyone else. I tried not to blame the year but it got the best of me. What can I tell ya? I’m only human.

Here’s the tagline:

“13th Ward Ramblings on bad years in American history, Metry woman’s nomination to SCOTUS, Jeff Landry, the Gret Stet Senate race, and the NOLA go-cup controversy.”

Let my people go-cup. Confused? This image may or may not clarify matters:

Via Howard H on Pinterest.

Thus spake the Krewe du Vieux sub-krewe of Mishigas in 2014. It wasn’t a great year, but it beat the hell outta 2020.

To understand the go-cup shtick, you’ll have to read the column. Go figure.

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: