Letter From New Orleans: A Tale Of Two Krewes

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was elected in 2017 as a progressive. After four years of an increasingly incoherent mayoralty, it’s hard to tell what if anything she stands for. She was easily reelected but without any opponent of stature with the money to mount a serious challenge. Mayor Teedy believes she has a mandate but for what? Beats the hell outta me.

I realize that this post may qualify as inside-New Orleans baseball to some readers. I started out as a hyper-local New Orleans blogger in 2006, after all. Sometimes I revert to that form.

New Orleans is among the most interesting cities in the world and Carnival is central to our local culture. I have oversimplified at points to make this post comprehensible to those who are, as we say in the 13th Ward, from away.

Carnival disputes have often served as proxies for political warfare in New Orleans. In 1992, a Mardi Gras anti-discrimination ordinance passed shaking up the staid, stuffy, and often racist Carnival order. It led some of the snootier all-white krewes such as Comus and Momus to stop parading for good. It was a much-needed shakeup that led to the birth of some new and more diverse parading krewes such as Orpheus and Muses and eventually to quirky marching groups such as the 610 Stompers, Pussyfooters, and Laissez Boys to name a few.

It’s happening again. The city has decided to press on with Carnival even with Omicron raging. Ironically, the only thing Mayor Teedy did right in her first term was combat COVID. City Hall has announced that parade routes will be compressed and altered supposedly because of an understaffed and overwhelmed police department. In fact, this is a change  that has been long sought by the NOPD and they’ve managed to accomplish it under cover of COVID. They’ve wanted to consolidate the peak parade route onto St. Charles Avenue, and they’ve gotten their way for at least 2022.

The changes directly impact the parades that roll up Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. It means that these krewes will no longer parade around the corner from Adrastos World HQ. That’s no big whoop for me this year: I plan to stay away from the parade route. I’ve managed to go this long without getting sick during the pandemic and while I love Carnival, it’s not worth getting sick over. Nothing is.

There’s one krewe that has been rolling up Magazine Street for many decades: the Krewe of Thoth. They’ve made it a point to parade past hospitals and other health care facilities with the aim of bringing good cheer to patients and staff alike, especially at Children’s Hospital.

Thoth is the parade I will miss the most. There’s an annual neighborhood party at the corner of Valence and Magazine Streets. It was missed last year but it will be impossible this year as the parades will begin nine blocks away. I hope to feel safe during Carnival 2023 but it’s uncertain if Thoth or the other Magazine Street parades will return.

City Hall consulted with some of the parading krewes. Thoth was not among them.

One krewe that was not forced to move its route is Endymion. They parade across town in Mid-City. They’ve been allowed to stay on their customary route with a few tweaks That’s why this post is called A Tale Of Two Krewes.

Endymion is an obnoxious parading krewe with political clout and money to burn. Most of its members live in suburban Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes. The latter is the reddest and richest parish in the Gret Stet Of Louisiana. Yet, they have more clout than Thoth, which is based in the bluest parish with an allegedly progressive mayor. What’s wrong with this picture?

A personal note: I hate Endymion and the people who camp out for days on its route. Hardcore New Orleanians call these creeps the Krewe of Chad because one year some jerk named Chad painted his name on the neutral ground of Orleans Avenue. I am not making this up:

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Saturday Odds & Sods: A Hazy Shade Of Winter

Houses Of Parliament, Fog Effect by Claude Monet.

It’s been foggy this week in New Orleans. I love the fog as long as I don’t have to drive in it. It’s a by-product of growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Monet loved the fog too. Perhaps I should have named my black cat Monet instead of Manet. Oh well, what the hell.

It’s runoff election day. If you’re in New Orleans, please vote. I’m eager to see the backs of several candidates, but even if they prevail I’ll be glad it’s over. No more lying fliers. Huzzah.

There’s a measure on the ballot in nearby St. Tammany Parish that would bring a casino to the dull suburban burg of Slidell. Both sides are spending buckets of money on teevee ads and making extravagant claims about the impact of a casino. It cracks me up: casinos are never as beneficial as their proponents would have you believe or as bad as opponents claim. So it goes.

A reminder that you can hear my views on today’s election by listening to The Ryne Show.

This week’s theme song was written by Paul Simon for 1968’s Simon & Garfunkel album, Bookends. It’s my favorite S&G record. It’s both arty and garfunkelly at the same time.

We have three versions of A Hazy Shade Of Winter for your listening pleasure: The S&G original, followed by the Bangles, and Hugo Montenegro:

If you’re feeling hazy, let’s shake it off by jumping to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Lens

Noir et blanches by Man Ray.

New Orleans weather is as variable during the fall as it is unchanging in the summertime. It’s been cold and dry then warm and muggy, but I have not resorted to air-conditioning. So it goes.

The Orleans Parish runoff election is scheduled for December 11th. I’m supporting an old school NOLA pol in one race and a reformer who’s running against an old school NOLA pol in another. Sometimes I even confuse myself.

I voted to reelect Jay Banks as my district city councilmember. He ran first in the primary despite all the mud thrown at him by his “reformer” opponents. They lost me forever when I saw that they’d rented a billboard together to plug their primary candidacies. Collusion is a bad look.

In the Sheriff’s race, longtime incumbent Marlin Gusman just missed winning in the first round. He’s a terrible sheriff but an excellent politician. I’m voting for his opponent, Susan Hutson, but she looks like a long shot because of all the local political muscle massed against her.

Like many others on the left, Team Hutson seems to underestimate how conservative many older black people are. When I was a neighborhood leader, the most rabid people about crime were elderly black folks. They’re also comfortable with Gusman who is favored to stay in office despite all the outside money being spent on behalf of his opponent.

This week’s theme song was written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes in 1980. It began life with the title I Am A Camera and was intended for the Buggles second album. Then Horn and Downes joined Yes, and it became Into The Lens, the first track of side two of the Drama LP.

We have the song in both incarnations for your listening pleasure. I prefer the Yes version because of Howe’s guitar and Squire’s bass, but Downes excels on keyboard on both versions.

There’s an oddball link between our theme song and this week’s Friday Cocktail Hour. Cabaret was based on John Van Druten’s 1951 play I Am A Camera, which in turn was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye To Berlin. It doesn’t get much odder than that.

Before we nod off like Lee Miller in the May Ray featured image, let’s jump to the break.

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Judging Judges Schroeder, Walmsley & Shea

Judges are in the news right now. Judge Bruce Schroeder who is presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse case fancies himself an insult comedian. He’s luxuriating in the national spotlight by making racist jokes and yelling at prosecutors.

Judge BS considers himself a “tough on crime” jurist but not in this case. He seems to empathize with the defendant. I think we all know why. Cryin’ Kyle is a white vigilante who shot and killed two men in defense of property that wasn’t his. Oy, just oy.

Meanwhile in Glynn County Georgia 3 white dudes are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. There was some racist grandstanding by one of the defense attorneys yesterday. Kevin Gough objected to the presence of Al Sharpton in the courtroom.

Upon seeing the famous activist and pastor, Gough had the vapors and objected to the presence of black pastors in a public court room. At least Gough didn’t call the Rev an “outside agitator” but the implication was there.

Mercifully, Judge Timothy Walmsley is nothing like Judge BS in Wisconsin. He handled Gough’s objection like a pro:

Walmsley said he was made aware Wednesday that Sharpton would be sitting in the courtroom instead of someone from Arbery’s family.

“And my comment to that was simply, as long as things are not disruptive and it’s not a distraction to the jury or anything else going on in the courtroom, so be it,” Walmsley said. “But if it violates the court’s rules with regard to the conduct of the trial or violates my orders with respect to how people are to conduct themselves in this courtroom, I will take it up with whomever I need to take it up with.”

Walmsley said he noticed Sharpton once “and that was it.”

“And the fact that nobody else even noticed that he was in here, means that everybody complied with this court’s rulings on sitting in this courtroom and listening to the evidence,” Walmsley said. “I don’t hear a motion and I will tell you this, I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

“If individuals, based on the limitations that we have, in the courtroom, end up sitting in the courtroom, and they can do so respectful of the court’s process and in compliance with this court’s orders with regard to the conduct of the trial,” Walmsley said, adding that if a person wasn’t a distraction, he wouldn’t do anything about it.

The name Walmsley triggered a memory. It’s a famous name in New Orleans. T Semmes Walmsley was Mayor of New Orleans from 1929-1936. He hated Huey Long and his machine with a fine fury. The enmity was reciprocated. The Kingfish’s nickname for the mayor was Turkey Neck Walmsley. It’s a complicated story so I’ll link to a 2016 Picayune piece by my friend James Karst to tell part of this twisted tale.

The memory triggered by the Walmsley name has nothing to do with Huey Long or Turkey Neck Walmsley for that matter. It’s a Judgey memory that was also evoked by Judge Schroeder’s misconduct in the Rittenhouse trial.

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Bayou Brief: Backrooms and Bayous

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column for Bayou Brief is a review of Robert Mann‘s swell new book, Bayous and Backrooms: My Life In Louisiana Politics. Here’s the whole damn tagline: “Is Bob Mann the Zelig or Forrest Gump of Louisiana politics? Find out in Peter Athas’ review of Mann’s memoirs.” Since I made the Forrest Gump reference, the last word goes to Jackson Browne with a song that was in the movie. Continue reading Bayou Brief: Backrooms and Bayous

Edwin Edwards, R.I.P.

Edwin Edwards in 2011. Photograph by George Long.

I have mixed emotions about Edwin Edwards who died yesterday at the age of 93. He dominated Louisiana politics for a quarter of a century. He served 2 consecutive terms as Governor followed by 2 non-consecutive terms for a total of 16 out of 24 years. He won 4 of 5 statewide elections the most important being 1991’s election from hell when he defeated David Dukkke. A victory for which I remain profoundly grateful, but I still have mixed emotions about the man and his political legacy.

Edwin Edwards was more than just a politician. He was a folk hero with a Cajun swagger. He charmed his way out of trouble. That’s how he got away with the shenanigans that eventually sent him to prison after 3 corruption trials.

By any standard, his first two terms were a success. I’m not going to repeat in detail what’s being said in the Gret Stet MSM about the 1974 constitution and his concern for the poor and elderly. I think that Edwards’ greatest accomplishment was being the first Louisiana governor to treat Black folks as full citizens. As a result, the African American community became his base through the trials and tribulations of his less successful third and fourth terms.

My first Gret Stetwide election as a Louisiana resident was 1983. The Edwards campaign was a well-oiled machine that year as he defeated Dave Treen a nice but dull man who was the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Edwards had a lot of fun mocking Treen as a stiff. He later regretted being so snarky about Treen who supported efforts to commute his sentence in the 21st Century.

I voted for Edwards in 1983 and 1991, but not in 1987. His third term was something of a disaster. The oil bust led to cuts in state spending and higher education took the biggest hit. He spent a hefty chunk of that term on trial. He was not convicted but it left a cloud over him that led to his primary loss in 1987 to Buddy Roemer who also died this year. Edwin’s passing leaves the world’s youngest hasbeen, Bobby Jindal, as the only living former Gret Stet governor.

In defeat, Edwards proved his political genius. He declined to face a run-off against Roemer. This has been painted by many as a sign that he knew he’d lose. That’s true but his motivation was to kneecap Roemer politically by limiting his vote to 33%. It worked: in 1991 Roemer got 26% finishing third in the primary.

I’m often asked by out-of-state friends if Edwin Edwards was a liberal. He was by Gret Stet standards but not by national standards. His record on Civil Rights was good but he gave the oil, gas, and chemical companies free reign as long as they paid tribute in the form of higher taxes and campaign contributions. The same went for gambling interests. The latter led to his downfall.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Something To Talk About

Cocktails by Archibald Motley.

We’ve had some unseasonably cool weather this week in New Orleans. It’s been a relief after last week’s constant rain. We’ve even had some sun, which was initially disorienting but I’m down with it.

It’s special election run-off day in the Louisiana-Second. An ugly and mendacious campaign was waged by the runner-up in the primary, State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. She wants a promotion after a disastrous tenure as state party chair and missing 85% of state senate votes last year. Talk about failing upward.  I also happen to think that comparing another Democrat to Donald Trump is punching below the belt. I look forward to voting against her and for Troy Carter.

This week’s theme song was written in 1990 by Canadian singer-songwriter Shirley Elkhard and recorded by Bonnie Raitt for her 1991 album, Luck Of The Draw. It was a big hit for the Bonster. It was later used in the Julia Roberts-Dennis Quaid movie of the same title in 1995.

We have two versions of Something To Talk About for your listening pleasure: the Bonnie Raitt original and a 2016 version by Blood Sweat & Tears frontman David Clayton Thomas.

Was that bloody, sweaty, and teary enough for you lot? While we’re still wet, let’s jump to the break.

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More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

The junior Senator from the Gret Stet of Louisiana is the man I love to hate. I considered two Sue Grafton inspired titles for this post, P Is For Phony or H Is For Hypocrite, before settling on this one. … Continue reading More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

Saturday Odds & Sods: On The Silent Wings Of Freedom

Photograph by Stanley Kubrick.

A bird got into our house while I was taking a jab nap. Claire Trevor was determined to get the poor wee house sparrow. I tried grabbling CT to close her in somewhere to no avail. I yelled at the cat to keep her away from the open door as the bird hopped from ceiling fan to ceiling fan. It finally flew out the front door. That’s as adventurous as it gets at Adrastos World HQ these days.

Mother-in-Law #1 is 99-years-old and in bad shape at her assisted living joint in Baton Rouge. The good news is that we’ve been able to visit her twice including yesterday. Her body is failing but her mind is still sharp. I’m not sure how long she’ll last but it’s a relief to be able to visit after not having seen her for 14 months because of the pandemic.

I’m voting later today in the special election called to fill Cedric Richmond’s congressional seat. I’m as underwhelmed by the choices on offer as I was by Cedric. The leading candidates are two hacks from New Orleans and a young firebrand from Baton Rouge. Since I do not want to be represented in Congress by someone from Red Stick, I’m voting for the hack I’m acquainted with, State Senator and former City Councilman Troy Carter. I loathe the other hack whose name shall not cross my lips.

This week’s theme song was written by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire for Yes’ 1978 album, Tormato. Yes are known for their great album covers. This is not one of them. The music is still pretty darn good.

We have two versions of On The Silent Wings Of Freedom for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 2006 live instrumental version.

Follow the flying fingers of Chris Squire and jump to the break. No finger jokes this week. Pinky swear.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Day After Day

La Décalcomanie by Rene Magritte

I’m getting vaccinated this afternoon at the Morial Convention Center. I’m a bit nervous and uncertain as to which vaccine I’ll be getting. I’m fine with any of them. The one-shot J&J variant has considerable appeal because I hate needles. Here’s hoping I get jabbed by someone with a light touch. Just don’t give me a smiley faced Band-Aid. I hope that’s not too much to ask. Enough jab jabber.

It’s pollen season in New Orleans. The mighty oaks are spewing forth their yellow poison (to me) and my eyes are red and runny. If I were a Republican, I’d turn this into a culture war grievance but I’m not so I won’t.

This week’s theme song was written in 1971 by Pete Ham for Badfinger’s Straight Up album. It was a smash hit across the globe hitting number 4 on the Billboard charts in the US&A. The song was produced by George Harrison and featured George on slide guitar and Leon Russell on piano.

We begin with the Badfinger original:

I had no idea that the second version existed until I checked out Second Hand Songs. Ladies and gentlemen, Bradyfinger:

The Brady Bunch kids cut two albums of then contemporary hit songs. It’s weird to hear a chirpy version of Pete Ham’s mournful song. If it weren’t so damn funny, I’d give it the finger, then eat a Butterfinger. Candy is the cure for many of the ills of society including Bradyfinger.

Speaking of fingers:

It’s time to cut out (cut off?) the finger jokes and jump to the break.

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