I’ve had A Confederacy Of Dunces on my mind lately. John Kennedy Toole’s skewed vision somehow fits the absurdity of the moment. Like Ignatius J. Reilly, we seem to be strapped to Fortuna’s Wheel; some are on the upswing others on the downswing. Where it stops, nobody knows; much like a roulette wheel at a recently reopened casino.
I, for one, dislike the risky game of chance that we’re playing, American Roulette. It’s a kissing cousin of Russian Roulette that feels ordered up by Vladimir Putin and the Impeached Insult Comedian, not the Goddess Fortuna. I don’t like gambling with my life.
Let’s spin the wheel and see where it lands: a segment about Phase Two in New Orleans. I’m unsure if it’s red or black but to quote an old Robbie Robertson/Van Morrison song, “everybody in town is a loser, yeah you bet.”
Slouching Towards Reopening: New Orleans has entered Phase Two of its reopening. It’s making me jittery. I hear reports of unmasked tourists flocking to the French Quarter. My knowledge is strictly second-hand because you couldn’t pay me to hang out in the Quarter right now. Why? Most of the visitors are from places where the pandemic version of Fortuna’s Wheel is on the upswing: Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Unlike those places, the Gret Stet of Louisiana took care of business and we’ve been on the downswing. I’d like to keep it that way.
I wish more people were like Ignatius Reilly. He knew how to stay home. He was so traumatized by a youthful trip to Baton Rouge that he refused to leave the friendly confines of Orleans Parish for the rest of his life.
At the best of times, the French Quarter can resemble an open-air asylum. These aren’t the best of times. This tweeted screen shot of a live shot on WWL-TV Eyewitness News says it all:
I gotta give the naked guy credit. He’s not only secure in his body image but he’s wearing shoes and a mask. As a former French Quarter merchant, I can attest to the need to remain shod in the land of drunken tourists and Lucky Dog vendors. That brings our wheel back to Ignatius Reilly who hawked fictional Paradise hot dogs. Instead of selling them, he gobbled down the profits, which is one reason he was forever gassy. I’ll skip the details. I already showed you a dick pic. That’s enough gross shit for one column.
The last word of the segment goes to The Band and Van Morrison with the aforementioned song:
Let’s spin the wheel again. In this instance, those lashed to Fortuna’s Wheel are on the upswing. In any event, they’re on the march.
A Confederacy Of Anti-Confederate Protesters: Sunday morning, I awakened to a tweet from my Krewe du Vieux friend, the Emir of KAOS who is not to be confused with the Kaiser of Chaos:
I took a news holiday last Saturday so that’s how I learned that protesters in New Orleans had removed a statue of slave owner John McDonogh from Duncan Plaza in front of City Hall and dragged it to the river.
I’m not sure what I think of protesters taking such matters into their own hands. The City of New Orleans has already removed three white supremacy monuments, so we know how to do it. A process is being put in place to provide a legal and orderly framework for statue removal and street renaming. Having said that, I can’t get too upset about Saturday’s mishigas. This is a time to pick sides. I know which side I’m on and it’s not the Lost Causers.
Next time let the process unfold, y’all. If the statue of General/President Jackson is to go, it should be removed in the same way that the Lee statute was. It has historical and artistic merit and should be preserved somewhere. As a former Jackson Square merchant, I’m ambivalent about its removal but if it’s gotta go, it’s gotta go. The times they are a-changin’.
A brief musical interlude before we give Fortuna’s Wheel another spin:
Back to the roulette table to give the wheel a final spin. This time it lands on someone who’s emphatically on the downswing.
You Say You Want A Nyxvolution: I wrote about the Cursed Carnival back in February. It was during the Krewe of Nyx’s parade that a spectator was run over by a float at the corner of Magazine and Valence near my house. An aura of doom has clung to Nyx like the Romanovs in 1917 since that tragic moment. If they had a Winter Palace, it was just stormed.
The spark for what I call the Nyxvolution was an Instagram post from Julie Lea, the Captain/Tsarina of Nyx. It was deleted so, like Blanche DuBois, I had to depend on the kindness of strangers:
This misplaced, misguided sentiment was the spark that fired a revolt in the all-women’s krewe, until recently, the largest in Carnival. The revolt seems to be turning into a full-blown revolution thanks to the heavy-handed response of the Captain; her apology and deletion notwithstanding. You can’t delete people’s memories even in the age of Trumpian gaslighting.
Before the back story, another musical interlude. I live for the musical interludes, y’all:
Soon to be Captain of nothing Julie Lea has long had a bad reputation in the Carnival community. She’s a former NOPD lieutenant who left the force in 2015 to become Delgado College’s police chief. She was fired by Delgado in 2017. Lea formed the Krewe of Nyx as her personal fiefdom in 2011. Krewe bylaws in effect make her Captain for Life, which makes Nyxreform impossible and Nyxvolution inevitable. There’s an obvious lesson in this: if you belong to a voluntary organization, READ THE BYLAWS.
There has been a faint whiff of corruption attached to Lea’s reign:
In June 2017, Fox 8 television reported that an anonymous whistleblower with access to krewe credit card receipts revealed a $7,000 condo rental in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a 2016 Nyx board of directors retreat, plus several restaurant meals in New Orleans and in Slidell where Lea then lived.
At the time, Fox 8 reported that the krewe’s budget was approaching $2 million.
Lea did not respond to requests for comment at the time, but her lawyer lamented that his client was “extremely troubled by the fact that there has been an unauthorized and wrongful dissemination of the krewe’s credit card number and billing statements.”
There are other unverified but credible rumors floating around of a failure to pay and/or tip vendors, marching groups, and tractor drivers. I’m not going into details because I don’t want Bayou Brief to get a mean letter from Lea’s lawyer like the one he wrote to float lieutenants when they asked for the Captain’s resignation.
Thus far Nyx is bleeding members. It’s an open question as to whether it can survive. Lea didn’t make matters any easier with a letter to the editor in which she offered a listening tour of sorts and a committee on diversity.
Diversity was never the problem: Nyx was already the most racially diverse krewe in Carnival. That’s why some friends of mine initially vowed to work for change from within until they found it was not allowed by the bylaws. They left. It was made easier by the love it or leave it declaration in the letter from Captain/Tsarina Lea’s lawyer. Many chose to flee Lea at that point. Repeat after me: READ THE BYLAWS.
I had long thought that Nyx grew too fast. It got off to a promising start artistically but stalled as it turned into a giant beast of a parade. It appears that Captain/Tsarina Lea has never heard of the old saying: Too Much, Too Soon.
There have been calls for other krewes to reveal their views on the Black Lives Matter movement. That would be very interesting indeed. There’s a 1991 anti-discrimination ordinance on the books that could be used as leverage against miscreant krewes. If there’s an afterlife, its author the late Dorothy Mae Taylor may well trot out this quote:
The Nyxvolution continues and the pandemic version of Fortuna’s Wheel is still spinning. Let’s hope we hit a winning number. Stay tuned.
The last word goes to Robbie Robertson with the song that inspired the wheely important wheel imagery for this column: