A Rambling Note from the Publisher: Nearly 14 years ago, when I launched my former website CenLamar, which was initially concerned with the politics of Central Louisiana, I was essentially alone in the wilderness (incidentally, that’s how many folks in Louisiana define any place north of Interstate 10). Fortunately, though, after a few months of writing into the darkness, I connected with a community of bloggers from New Orleans. By one estimate, in the aftermath of the Federal Flood, there were as many as 350 blogs published by New Orleanians; it didn’t take too long before they counted me in their number, even though I lived in a part of the state that probably seemed like a foreign country.
Peter Athas, a.k.a. Adrastos, was not only one of its most distinctive voices; he was also a part of the glue that held this makeshift virtual community together. And it’s hard to overstate how important online writers like Peter were in building back their physical community as well. As I’ve written before, today, most of those bloggers from the immediate post-K years have since moved on or passed away, but Peter, like me, is not really a blogger; he’s a writer. And he’s relentless.
Thankfully for me, Peter has been contributing to the Bayou Brief since we turned on the lights, and even though I now live in New Orleans, my work primarily focuses on the other 63 parishes. Peter, however, is a subject matter expert on New Orleans, so when he recently suggested carving out a his own corner here, I didn’t hesitate. He will explain the name, 13th Ward Rambler, but I should explain why I chose the title “Launching Into a Diatribe.”
Once every two weeks, Peter will use this space to write, rant, maunder, and occasionally palaver about whatever or whomever earns his ire or deserves his praise. And fair warning: If you’re an adult human being who is offended by those who employ occasional f-bombs, don’t bother writing me to complain. Peter curses. He also has a more robust vocabulary than almost everyone I know, which shouldn’t be too surprising. As the website Science Alert noted, a recent “study found that those who have a healthy repertoire of curse words at their disposal are more likely to have a richer vocabulary than those who don’t.” But I digress.
I selected the word “diatribe” to describe this debut, because as anyone who has read Peter’s work already knows, Peter’s heritage is Greek. And “diatribe” is a Greek word whose original meaning- the profession of studying- was altered by the French in 1804– the year after they sold Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson- to mean “a strain of invective, a bitter and violent criticism.” I think both definitions describe Peter’s work, and that’s a compliment. Peter is a critic and a satirist, because he does his homework.
One more thing: I want to personally echo Peter’s words of appreciation to the folks at Big Easy Magazine for their decision to report on Drew Brees’ alliance with the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, because off the field, we know he’s had to contend with people who have deceived and misled him. For example, he “invested” $15 million on a collection of jewelry that was actually worth $6 million (which is ultimately what a jury awarded him). He may need to make some personnel changes, and he definitely needs to answer questions about associating his good name with a bigoted organization. Finish strong, Drew.
I love writing for the Bayou Brief; so much so that I’ve decided to do it more regularly. Irregularity is bad for one: Don’t worry, while I’m not above terlet humor, I’ll skip it here.
Welcome to my new biweekly column, 13th Ward Rambler. I selected that name because I want my neighborhood to receive the sort of shout-out it used to get in Neville Brothers songs when Art and Charles lived in the 13th Ward. Additionally, it evokes the old New Orleans song Didn’t He Ramble. Speaking of shout-outs, the name was suggested by my friend, Stephanie Stokes.
You hear a lot about the 9th and 7th Wards but I’m proud of my neighborhood. The 13th Ward is where the Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe was founded; my neighbors include musicians such as Deacon John and Joe Krown. It’s gentrifying but we’re trying to stay funky.
Sometimes I’ll focus on one topic, other times it will be a crazy quilt of segments about the aspects of the Gret Stet of Louisiana that interest me, especially the heart of weirdness: New Orleans. I may even sneak some national politics by my editor. Oops, I have a big mouth. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, Lamar. I hope the gaslighting worked. It’s fashionable in certain circles right now.
Two of the topics in this inaugural column are somewhat long in the tooth but I haven’t written about them here and I want to share. Yikes, that makes this sound like a book report. What’s a bit of August news in September among friends? Besides, I’m a pundit not a reporter. I leave that to my colleagues. Lamar and Sue who have really been rocking it.
In addition to my interest in film, music, politics, carnival, and the media, I’m a sports fan. I admit to having some reservations about football in the Concussion/CTE era, so I’ve focused my fandom on the LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints.
We begin our journey with a focus on Saints QB Drew Brees’ unfortunate relationship with Focus on the Family.
Drew Brees: Wingnut Or Conservative?
I’ve long been aware of Drew Brees’ conservative politics, but I’d never thought of him as a hater. I may have to modify that view with the revelation that he recorded this video for Focus on the Family:
Thanks to our friends at Big Easy Magazine for unearthing that clip.
The video’s content is superficially innocuous but the company that the future Hall of Famer keeps is insalubrious to say the least. The Focus on the Family fucks are mainstays of the homophobic backlash that’s been building since the Supreme Court upheld gay marriage in 2015. The same backlash, of course, gave us Donald Trump for whom I have a plethora of nicknames that are in frequent use at First Draft: the Insult Comedian, the Kaiser of Chaos, Trumpberius, and the latest entrant President* Pennywise. End of the first of many digressions in this and future columns. Get used to it, y’all. I’ll do my share of cursing as well.
Back to Focus on the Family, hereinafter FOTF.
It was founded in 1977 by James Dobson who has always had an interest in sports. He essentially claims that Gret Stet hoops great Pistol Pete Maravich died in his arms; sounds like a suspicious death to me. #sarcasm
FOTF has had a relationship with Drew Brees since at least 2015 when the Brees family was profiled on FOTF’s web site. Again, the content is innocuous, but the company is ominous. For example, FOFT believes in conversion therapy. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
“Focus On The Family has raised over $515 Million over the past five years, making it one of the most well-funded anti-LGBTQ organizations in America. They invest in public education campaigns against LGBTQ equality, while their related organization Citizen Link supports radical anti-LGBTQ candidates who work against basic civil rights and legal protections.”
I suggest you read their top ten list about FOTF. The HRC classifies FOTF as a hate group. That’s not nice.
To be fair to Brees, it’s possible that he neither supports nor is aware of FOTF’s most extreme positions. But I think the question should be posed to him. I’m a believer in transparency. It’s better for this to be out there instead of being the subject of social media speculation. It’s rampant as of this writing. The Twitteratti love their gossip. They’re surprised by this. I’m not.
Does this alter my Saints fandom? Hell, no. Football is full of right-wing white boys and I’ve known for years that Drew Brees is one of them. Besides, his views on the Kaepernick kneeling contretemps were more nuanced than expected; he even criticized President* Trump. That’s why I have no plan to renounce my Saints fandom or return my tickets for the season opener.
I simply want to know if our QB is a wingnut or a conservative.
Let’s move on to a collision between Gret Stet politics and a New Orleans cultural institution.
The Lieutenant Governor Wore Lederhosen:
I’m sorry if I’ve seared the image of Billy Nungesser in leather shorts on your brains. It was thoughtless but I’d do it again. I’m uncertain as to whether Nungesser has ever donned that Teutonic garment, but it was a funny segment title, so I ran with it.
Deutsches Haus is best known for its Oktoberfest festivities, beer, and the chicken dance. They claim to be non-political but it’s unclear if they’re even-handed in that regard:
“The Musicians’ Clinic, which provides free and low-cost preventive health services to musicians, had invited several community health partners to its sixth annual blood drive at the Deutsches Haus facility.
However, within an hour of setting up a table aimed at raising awareness of its services, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which offers low-income women financial assistance for abortions, was asked to leave.
Erica Dudas, the managing director of the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Fund that was hosting the event, said two of the members of Deutsches Haus made the request, citing a club policy that bars politically charged groups from holding events there. Because the space was donated and there was no contract for its use, Dudas said, she felt she had to comply.
“Due to their policy of not having any hot-button political topics…. they asked me to ask them to leave,” she said. “The Abortion Fund left without protest or incident, she said.”
It turns out that the policy was not even-handed. The Twittering classes, myself included, recalled seeing David Duke and Steve Scalise in der haus during campaign season. That brings us to Billy Nungesser who’s running for re-election this year:
“On social media, several users pointed to an event on Sept. 4 to be presented by Deutsches Haus and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who is up for reelection this fall.
“That does not square with political neutrality,” said Peter Athas, a political blogger who visited Deutsches Haus for Oktoberfest when it was based in Jefferson Parish.
Julie Samson, Nungesser’s chief of staff, confirmed that he plans to host a dinner for Deutsches Haus with chef John Folse. She said Nungesser was asked by Deutsches Haus to host the event.”
The Nungesser dinner has come and gone but I had to post that passage since I was quoted therein. I think my quote was trimmed because, while I recalled seeing our little buddy Steve Scalise there during campaign season in Jefferson, I was not certain that he was campaigning thereby proving that I do strive for accuracy my reputation as a satirist notwithstanding. Apologies for that epic sentence. I never said I was Hemingway. I look rotten in a mustache…
I think it would be wise for Deutsches Haus to avoid events involving politicians except in their official capacity and to be even-handed in their treatment of groups and their causes. They appear to be a right-leaning group in a left-leaning city. I realize that it’s difficult to be even-handed in the Trump era, but they should live up to their stated policy.
One more thing: if Deutsches Haus has another event involving Billy Nungesser they should require him to wear lederhosen and post the pictures online. You may not want to see it, but I certainly do. Why? I’ll never know.
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the most pressing issue in New Orleans right now: drainage.
Cars In The Canal:
I’m lucky. The 13th Ward lies smack dab in the middle of what locals call the sliver by the river. We didn’t flood after Katrina and the Federal Flood and we haven’t flooded subsequently. Consider my fingers permanently crossed because weird places have flooded in the last few years. But if the 13th Ward floods, we’re all going down. I guess that makes us canaries in a dank coal mine or some such shit.
I don’t believe that drainage is the only reason parts of New Orleans flood. Climate change is clearly a factor, flash flood causing rain used to be rare, not a monthly occurrence. Then there’s this:
That’s right, that car has been in the drink since August 2005. Try as we might, we can never escape the legacy of Katrina and the Federal Flood. We can, however, be grateful for one thing: meter maids aren’t diving in the canals and giving out tickets. Ticketing cars is one of the things New Orleans city government excels at. I am adamantly opposed to meter maids morphing into mermaids.
That concludes the inaugural edition of 13thth Ward Rambler. I hope I didn’t ramble too much.
Since I went on about both houses (Deutches and otherwise) and the 13th Ward, the last word goes to my neighbor Deacon John with his recent cover of a Crowded House song: