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