Category Archives: New Orleans

Saturday Odds & Sods: Stop Breaking Down

Golconda by Rene Magritte

I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on an epic piece I’m writing for the Bayou Brief about movies set in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, which is why this week’s outing will be relatively short. Hey, stop cheering out there.

The Jazz Fest merry-go-round keeps on spinning out of control. Stevie Nicks has pneumonia and Finnwood Mac have cancelled the rest of their US tour including Jazz Fest. They’ve already been replaced. That means Jazz Fest has descended down the rock evolutionary scale from the Rolling Stones to Fleetwood Mac to Widespread Panic. The last band’s name aptly described how promoters must have felt upon hearing about Stevie.

This week’s theme song was inspired by the Jazz Fest mishigas. Robert Johnson recorded Stop Breaking Down aka Stop Breaking Down Blues in Dallas in 1937. God only knows when it was written. Johnson was not big on record keeping.

I have two versions for your listening pleasure. Robert Johnson’s original and the Exile On Main Street version by noted Jazz Fest drop-outs, the Rolling Stones:

Ordinarily, I’d call a tow truck after breaking down but let’s hop, skip, and jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Get Me Started

My Brother Imitating Scherzo by Andre Kertesz

New Orleans is a city of extremes. We do everything in an outlandish fashion and that includes the weather. I’ve been bitching about the pollen and the need for rain for months, but when it finally rained, it was a deluge. There are times when moderation is a virtue but it’s hard to find in this town. Oh well, you know what they say: “April showers bring the flowers that bloom in May.”

Traffic cameras have been one of the main topics of conversation locally.  Mayor Cantrell campaigned against them. She seems to have changed her mind as well as the rules governing them in school zones. The speed limit is 20 MPH but the city used to cut motorists some slack and didn’t issue tickets to folks within 5 MPH of the limit. They changed the rules without informing the public, which resulted in an angry debate on social media once the cat got out of the proverbial bag. Nobody likes paying $75 for going 3 MPH over the limit, after all.  This debate beats the hell outta talking about murders, mayhem, and the price of Jazz Fest tickets. Btw, the band whose latest iteration I call Finnwood Mac is replacing the Stones at Jazz Fest.

This week’s theme song was written by Rodney Crowell for his 2005 album, The Outsider. Don’t Get Me Started is something I find myself saying frequently in the Trump era. Don’t get me started about Herman Cain on the Fed, y’all:

Now that we’ve shared a rockin’ rant, let’s jump to the break or is that break to the jump? I hope break dancing isn’t involved: I’m not flexible enough to spin about on the ground. I leave such gyrations to young Paul Drake and the dude in the Andre Kertesz photograph above.

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The Veep Abidens

I remain undecided in the increasingly contentious race for the Democratic presidential nomination. I remain committed to the notion that anyone who wants to run, should give it a shot and see what happens. The more the merrier, let the voters decide. You’ve heard it all before.

I begin to wonder, however, whether or not former Vice President Joe Biden should throw his hat into the ring. It’s not for ideological reasons: anyone who was a Senator for 30+ years is going to have votes that look questionable 20 years later. It’s called the rule of unintended consequences and applies to the omnibus crime bill passed in the 1990’s. Its intent was NOT to throw more black folks in jail but that’s what happened. It has turned out to be a bad bill despite its strong gun control aspects, which proved to be depressingly ephemeral. Hindsight is always 20-20.

I’m less concerned with the “handsy Uncle Joe” stories than many. Arguably, these stories boil down to cultural, regional, and generational differences since they occurred in public view, not behind closed doors. Dr. A had a colleague who moved to New Orleans from New York in the 1990’s. She considered people calling her baby, sweetie, or darling to be sexual harassment. If that’s the case, it still happens to me every time I make groceries. In New Orleans, it’s just people being friendly. In fact, the colleague in question came to understand that. But I don’t think we should be having *that* particular argument during such a high stakes election.

I come from a touchy-feely ethnic culture in which hugging and kissing people of both genders is the norm. Having said that, I don’t recall ever kissing a woman on the back of the neck and sniffing her hair as Lucy Flores says Joe Biden did. That’s definitely creepy even if Flores herself thinks it was an invasion of her personal space and not sexual harassment. Is it disqualifying for a presidential candidate in the #METOO era? I’m not sure but it will  be a factor in a race in which there are multiple serious female contenders.

I’ve compared the early stages of the 2020 Democratic race to 1976 before. Joe Biden is an excellent analogue to the Happy Warrior of that era, former Vice President /Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. HHH was more battle-scarred, but by 1976 he had regained his popularity among the Democratic base. He was repeatedly approached to join the race and was always reluctant because he knew he’d feel less love if he became an active candidate. He did not run.

There’s ample evidence that many Democrats have great affection for Joe Biden because of his 8 years as Barack Obama’s loyal Vice President. We at First Draft call him Joey the Shark, but many more people call him Uncle Joe. The Uncle Joe glow is already beginning to fade as Biden inches closer to running. It’s getting ugly out there. The axes are being sharpened over his voting record, loose lips, and back-slapping persona.

Then there’s the matter of Biden’s age. Dr. A and I paid a visit to an elderly relative yesterday. She’s an ardent Democrat but expressed her own concerns about Biden’s age. She said that she didn’t feel like an old lady even in her late sixties but when she hit her mid-seventies that changed dramatically. Joe Biden is 76 and, unless you’re a lazy lima bean like the Insult Comedian, the presidency is an arduous, stressful job, and campaigning is even harder.

My unsolicited advice for the Veep is to abiden by his beloved former colleague’s example and stay out of the race as Humphrey did in 1976. The supporters of at least one of his potential primary opponents are ready, willing, and able to throw everything they’ve got at him. If he runs, he needs to be ready to deal with them, then face the prospect of an ugly general election in which Team Trump will not only attack him and his family but create new charges out of thin air. Trump’s only path to re-election is total destruction of his opponent. Believe me.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hand Of Kindness

Still Life with Onions by Paul Cezanne

March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.

Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.

Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Mr. Angel Comes Aboard/Johnny Angel

I’m working on a Movies Set In Louisiana piece for the Bayou Brief. It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated but it has a lot of moving parts; pun intended, it always is. It should be out sometime next week.

One of the moving parts is a nifty film noir set in New Orleans, Johnny Angel, which is based on a book by Charles B. Booth, Mr. Angel Comes Aboard.

The book cover is so torn and frayed that it gave me an earworm:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Takes A Tumble

High Spring Tide by Jack Butler Yeats

It’s time for the annual Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year it takes place on the day before the holiday but at least we got a wee break from Mardi Gras. Parading is hard work, y’all.

As always we’re going to our friends Greg and Christy’s open house to eat, drink, and be merry. The parade is exuberantly disorganized but the party is more fun than a snake down your trousers. It’s so much fun that one year a Leprechaun attended and posed for a picture with our hosts:

This week’s insidiously catchy theme song was written by Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite  for the Waterboys’ 2007 album Book of Lightning.  We have two versions of Everybody Takes A Tumble for your listening pleasure: the studio recording and a live version from Irish teevee:

Now that we’ve filled our tumblers with Tullamore Dew, it’s time to stumble to the break. I’m not sure if I’m capable of jumping.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

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Lundi Gras Odds & Sods

I have no idea why that chick is riding a walrus in the poster above. To the best of my knowledge, walruses aren’t indigenous to South Louisiana.

I’ve partied hurt this Carnival season. I twisted my knee on the route while foolishly trying to catch up with these guys.

I have three friends in the group and only saw one so I tried and failed to chase them down during the Muses parade two days before that video was shot. There’s no fool like a semi-old fool.

The conditions have been wet and sloppy, which hasn’t been all bad since it’s kept the crowds down. Of course, we have Chads who are into urban camping so they have tents to duck under when it rains. Heaven forfend that you attempt join them. In Chadland, pitching a tent seems to lead to pitching a fit. It’s the public green, y’all, deal with it.

Today is the day we watch the Krewe of Proteus fall off the bus and eventually stagger onto their floats. We live around the corner from their den and enjoy seeing them arrive after their liquid pre-parade meal at Antoine’s. Our out-of-town guests are excited to have the drunken plutocrat experience.

As you can see, I’m still in the Carnival bubble so I’ve got very little to say about the Insult Comedian hugging the flag or Seb Gorka’s hamburger speech. Gorka seems to believe in life, liberty, and condiments.

In the Odds & Sods spirit, here’s today’s earworm:

Surprise, surprise, it’s a Stones song.

Happy Mardi Gras. On Wednesday we repent our sins or some such shit. I may have to give up Keef and Woody for Lent.

Saturday Odds & Sods: All Down The Line

It’s been a crazy Carnival season as always. Mayor Cantrell’s efforts to keep the Chads and their ladders off the parade route neutral grounds have won plaudits. I realize that nobody outside New Orleans understood that sentence but life sucks and then you die.

We have house guests so my writing time has been limited, which means that an all-out Odds & Sods outing isn’t feasible. I’m even a catblogging slacker this week. So it goes.

I do, however, have a theme song. The Rolling Stones have been my soundtrack for Carnival 2019 so it’s only fitting to select All Down The Line from Exile On Main Street as the theme song for this truncated outing.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the Exile original, a 1972 live version with Mick Taylor on slide guitar, and a 2006 live version from Marty’s Stones flick, Shine A Light. I love me some Woody but Mick kicks his ass on this particular tune.

You’re probably asking yourself: why are the Stones my Carnival soundtrack? I’m not big on seasonal music. It’s an area about which Dr. A and I disagree. She loves seasonal music. Given a choice I’ll take Carnival music over Christmas music but I’d rather have another choice. What can I tell ya?

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to the Valence Street chickens who have yet to watch a parade with us. Let’s hope it stays that way.

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Al Hirt At The Mardi Gras

It’s that time of year so let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1962 with a live album from Al Hirt. The cover, via Discogs, is a bit old and beat up but so am I.

It’s selected tracks time, baby:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Moon River

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis

Carnival is about to kick into high gear and it looks as if it may be a wet season. There are few things worse than parading or watching in the rain. What was the old cliché? Oh yeah, don’t rain on my parade. I’m not a fan of being fenced in either.

This week’s theme song is a longtime favorite of mine. It was written in 1961 by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for the classic movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Moon River has some of Mercer’s best, and most evocative, lyrics. I’m still waiting round the bend for my huckleberry friend but they haven’t shown up. So it goes.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure:  a jazzy interpretation by the great Sarah Vaughan and a swinging version by my homey Dr. John.

Now that we’re huckleberry friends, we won’t wait until the end to jump to the break.

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The Bayou Brief: The Zulu Conundrum

New Orleans is one of the few places in the country where a white person can wear blackface in public and not be called a racist. Why? 20% of the folks who ride in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s Mardi Gras day parade are white.

My latest piece at the Bayou Brief: The Zulu Conundrum is an attempt to bring nuance and context to this contentious local discussion. I believe that, as they did once before, Zulu should abandon “blacking up” for all its members, not just white riders. The reason I use the word conundrum is that this is a tricky question in New Orleans even though it’s a no-brainer elsewhere.

I realize that my non-Louisiana readers will find this discussion baffling but it won’t be the first time I’ve baffled you. And it won’t be the last.

It Came From The Catch Basin

New Orleans has a problem with tons of plastic beads clogging up catch basins on the parade route. That inspired the Krewe of Spank’s Krewe du Vieux float this year:

That was, of course, before the bead monster known in these parts as the Beadgaroux hit the streets. This is our official, but not officious, 2019 logo:

Our most coveted throw was a set of nine trading cards “celebrating” clogged drains and bead monsters.

I wish I could take credit but the amuse-douche joke was the handiwork of my friend David Tower. Btw, he lives up to the name: he’s a tall dude.

Spank hit the big time this year. We’re featured in this video. I’m the guy in the green derby/bowler:

One of Spank’s closest sub-krewe friends is the Krewe of Mishigas. Their float was a work of twisted genius:

The RBG figure started off with a full rack, so I suggested that she needed boob reduction “surgery.” It turned out quite well.

The Mishigas button below was one of the most sought after throws of the evening. The photo is via international man of mystery Peris B.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers get the last word with a little ditty that was inspired by the 1956 sci-fi flick,  It Conquered The World:

FYI, our monster was better than the one in the cheesy movie.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Sidney Bechet

New Orleans born and bred woodwind genius Sidney Bechet lived a large portion of his life in exile in Paris. And I’m not talking Paris, Texas, which was as segregated as New Orleans. Bechet left the Other Paris to Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder.

We have two early album covers this week. They’re not vinyl LPs, but 10″ shellac albums. The first one dates from 1948 and features a cover by  Jim Flora:

The second ten-incher dates from 1952 and features art by Burt Goldblatt:

Since the albums aren’t online in their entirety, here are two contemporaneous tracks:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Pearl Of The Quarter

Krewe du Vieux 2019

Krewe du Vieux ate my week and the Krewe of Spank whuppped my ass. Today is the big day, which is why this week’s entry qualifies as a placeholder. If you want to re-read Confessions Of A Krewe du Vieux Member to get into the spirit of the occasion, there’s no time like the present.

This week’s theme song was written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1973. It’s one of my favorite Steely Dan album tracks. It’s the touching tale of a man in love with a French Quarter prostitute named Louise. Ooh la la.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the steel guitar driven Steely Dan original followed by a swell 2013 cover by Boz Scaggs:

That’s it for this week. The closing bat meme is a picture taken by Dr. A near the Den of Muses.

The last word goes to the Neville Brothers:

Valentine’s Day In New Orleans

I’m not big on Hallmark card holidays. My mother used to make fun of Mother’s Day and thought Valentine’s Day was silly. Her stock line about the former was: “It’s always mother’s day in this family.” Mom’s attitude about Hallmark card holidays prepared me for Valentine’s Day in New Orleans.

Valentine’s Day typically takes place during Carnival and I think you know what my priority is. The good news is that my awesome wife, Dr. A, agrees. In fact, Krewe du Vieux has marched on Valentine’s Day several times during its history.

We will spend today working on our costumes for the big day. And we will spend tonight with 53 of our closest friends as it’s Spank throws distribution night. Our theme is still top-secret. I wouldn’t even allow Slumlord Jared access. Unless, that is, he bribed me. I am easily corrupted. What else would you expect from a Greek guy who lives in the Gret Stet of Louisiana?

There’s an image going around social media that sums up New Orleans’ relationship with Valentine’s Day:

Holy St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Batman.

Finally a message for Dr. A. As Maybe Cousin Telly would surely say at this point:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Struttin’

Urban roosters are popular in New Orleans right now. The Meters were ahead of the trend with the cover of this 1970 LP released by Josie Records.

Struttin’ was the first Meters albums to feature vocals. The back cover promotes their first two releases, which was not uncommon back in the day. Dig the crazy striped bell bottoms.

Here are two tracks from the album:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: New Orleans Mourning/The Axeman’s Jazz

I rarely post any book  covers released after 1970 but there are always exceptions. These two novels by Julie Smith are set in New Orleans. And 1990’s New Orleans Mourning features a spectacular crime: Rex, King of Carnival, is murdered on his float on Mardi Gras day.

Bayou Brief: Confessions Of A Krewe du Vieux Member

Carnival 2019 is as long as Anthony Davis’ arms. Unlike AD it doesn’t want to be traded to the Lakers. I’m not sure what LeBron would make of this on his home court:

Earlier today my latest piece for the Bayou Brief went live: Confessions Of A Krewe du Vieux Member. It’s a photo essay about my life and times as a member of Krewe du Vieux; something y’all have heard me go on about here at First Draft.

I picked the title because it’s catchy not because I confess to all that much. I must confess that it’s a relief not to write about a certain asshole president* who lied his way through the SOTU. I didn’t watch. Dr. A and I were babysitting our de facto nieces and nephew aka the Child Army. There was, however, snark and shade involved:

That’s why her nickname is the Benevolent Dictator. In the immortal words of Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect. It’s an open question as to whether I deserve any.

The last word goes to Jay McShann and the Rolling Stones with this confessional classic:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rainy Night In Georgia

Hummingbirds by Walter Inglis Anderson

The Super Bowl  will be played tomorrow in Atlanta, but ratings in New Orleans will be abysmal because of the infamous blown call. The game is being boycotted by most locals: Dr. A and I are going to two non-watching parties. I’m unsure if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be burnt in effigy at either soiree. One of them is a birthday party so perhaps there will be a Goodell pinata. Probably not: my friends Clay and Candice have a small child and the sight of Goodell is traumatic to most New Orleanians.

New Orleans and Atlanta have a longstanding and intense rivalry. And not just in football. They’ve topped us economically but we have better food as well as charm up the proverbial wazoo. Saints fans are also disappointed not to be Super Bowling in Atlanta because they’re losing out on some trash talking opportunities. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1967 by Louisiana native Tony Joe White who died last fall at the age of 75. Rainy Night In Georgia is a song that proves the adage that the best songs are sad songs: “looks like it’s raining all over the world.”

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the songwriter’s original, Brook Benton’s 1970 hit version, and a mournful 2013 interpretation by Boz Scaggs.

Let’s put away our umbrellas and jump to the break. We’ll try not to splash land.

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