Long time, no ramble. I’ve been on hiatus for the last few months but I’m back.
We begin with some housekeeping: the 13th Ward Rambler will go from a bi-weekly extravaganza to a monthly one. Stop cheering, y’all.
Here’s why: I’ve taken on additional responsibilities at my other home on the internet, First Draft. I’m now the publisher, which involves juggling stories as well as punning. I decided to scale back here in order to keep the quality high and the jokes flying. Whether I succeed is up to our readers.
Much has happened in the Gret Stet of Louisiana since we last conversed so I’m going to throw some shit against the wall and see how much of it sticks. I hope that wasn’t too gross of an analogy; spaghetti doesn’t quite have the same visceral impact even if Neil Simon used it in The Odd Couple.
As you can see, despite Oscar’s best efforts not much spaghetti stuck in that scene from the 1968 movie version. I hope my batting average is higher. Besides, Lamar warned y’all in his introduction to my first column that I swear like a Greek sailor. Rambling and swearing go hand-in-hand.
I swiped the column title from social media. One of my friends said it but I’m not exactly sure who. I hope they’ll come forward. If not it’s mine, all mine.
In a September column I wrote about 2020 Fatigue, I expressed the hope that 2021 *had* to be better. Other than the advent of the Biden administration, I was wrong. Thus far it’s felt like an extension of 2020. Hence the stolen title. Hey, it’s not copyrighted.
Some of what follows is old-ish news but it’s what on my mind as the 13th Ward Rambler returns. There will be no Jeff Landry content. I’ll leave that jackass to our publisher.
In the early days of the Bayou Brief, I wrote so much about Carnival that Lamar asked me if I wanted to be styled “Carnival correspondent at-large.” Not a bad title but I pitched the idea of an opinion column and the 13th Ward Rambler was conceived.
That was a fancy way of saying that we begin the meat of this column with Carnival 2021 and memories of Carnivals past.
Carnival Musings: COVID quite rightly put an end to the normal Carnival routine of grubbing for beads, carousing in the streets, and entertaining large masses of people. I didn’t march in Krewe du Vieux, we didn’t have our massive Muses party, and there was no neighborhood Thoth Sunday party.
Thoth Sunday has long been a sacred day in my 13th Ward neighborhood. For many years, it was the only parade that rolled up Magazine Street. This was only the second time since we moved to this neighborhood in 2000 that we didn’t revel with our neighbors at the corner of Magazine and Valence. (In 2006, the parade rolled up Napoleon because of storm damage.) Over the years, some of our close friends joined us annually or just on the spur of the moment.
I met my fellow 13th Ward residents Art Neville and Deacon John Moore at that corner. More importantly, here are two of the people who made us feel welcome in our new neighborhood, Maggie and Wallace:
Neither of them still lives here but I think of them often. Maggie is still very much alive, but Wallace passed away quite some time ago. We called him the Mayor of Valence Street. He was retired military and 80 years-old when we first met. Wallace used to cut our grass before the storm. He always refused payment except in beer. I recall bringing him a case of Miller High Life and being told it was too fancy. I told him to keep it anyway and that we’d drink it together The next time I bought his preferred brand, Old Milwaukee. There’s no accounting for taste.
Then there’s another Thoth regular, Dr. A and my close friend Mother Mary. She’s known to our neighbors as the “crazy dancing lady.” On Thoth Sunday, she’s wont to dress up as a stereotypical Yat lady in curlers and a house dress. That’s why I dubbed her Thoth Sunday persona Santa Battaglia after Irene Riley’s best friend in A Confederacy of Dunces. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s Mary in action on Thoth Sunday in 2013 as well as one of her in repose with her daughter Betsy:
Wait until next year.
This year’s festivities were odd but still enjoyable. House floats became a thing. The featured image is of a house on Fortin Street that backs up to the Fairgrounds where Jazz Fest is staged. Here’s a picture Dr. A took of our friend Jen’s house in the same neighborhood.
Since I took a stroll down memory lane, I might as well link to my Bayou Brief Carnival pieces; two of which were quite controversial upon publication.
2/24/2018: The State Of Carnival
2/05/2019: Confessions Of A Krewe du Vieux Member
2/22/2019: The Zulu Conundrum
2/26/2020: The Cursed Carnival?
If I don’t plug them who will?
The last piece explains why I was less upset about this year’s parade cancellations than many. Carnival 2020 was not only cursed, it was a super-spreader event unbeknownst to everyone at the time.
Please get vaccinated when your turn comes so Carnival 2022 can return to normal.
Tourist Trapped: There’s a segment of my city that puts tourists and tourism first. It’s always bugged me even when I was in a tourism adjacent business as a French Quarter shop owner. The pandemic has brought out the worst in some of these folks.
Tourism honcho Stephen Perry pitched a fit when Mayor LaToya Cantrell clamped down right before Carnival 2021:
“Cantrell and New Orleans & Company have both been criticized for encouraging visitors to take trips to New Orleans, despite the risks of traveling during a pandemic.
But Perry, whose organization represents locally owned businesses and multinational hotel chains, insists the locals are at fault.
“Our own residents created a dilemma for government,” the letter asserts.
Perry also urged city officials, who have been scrutinized for lax enforcement of rules, to re-examine the way they handle code violations and “blatant” illegal public gatherings.
“It wasn’t the small number of responsible tourists we have been hosting or the majority of our citizens and businesses,” Perry said.“
I suspect even our readers elsewhere in the Gret Stet of Louisiana understand that tourists are the vast majority of the folks who crowd Bourbon Street looking for a good time or trouble, whichever comes first. Perry’s comments are sign of how out of touch he is with the community he supposedly represents.
Perry has been in his job since 2002 and makes a reported $430K per annum. In classic Louisiana fashion, Perry got his cushy job via his political connections: he was Governor Mike Foster’s chief of staff from 1996-2002. I’m uncertain if he’s a registered Republican but he talks and acts like one while “representing” one of the bluest cities in the nation. Perhaps that’s why Perry dislikes locals so much. The feeling is mutual.
Perry’s organization is an odd beast. It’s a private non-profit company funded by hotel taxes, which *should* be treated as public money. Perry has zealously guarded his group’s groaning coffers and has refused to help service industry workers who are suffering because of necessary steps taken to safeguard public safety during the pandemic.
I’ve been critical of Mayor Cantrell but approve of her feud with Perry who last May denounced her actions during the pandemic as a “demagogue approach” and “adversarial.” At the risk of being pedantic, that should be demagogic. Besides, he’s the demagogue in this ongoing dispute.
Public-private partnerships such as New Orleans & Company are a pox because they’re fundamentally more private than public. Perry seems to think that he’s more important than whoever the sitting mayor is and he’s on his fourth. Why not? He makes twice as much money as the mayor.
Perry is the worst example but every mayor since I moved to New Orleans in 1987 has favored tourists over locals. It’s why we have potholes bigger than some small countries and a water system that’s over a century old. Something needs to be done about the tourism cabal now that their hold on the local economy has been loosened.
This turned out to be my fifth Carnival oriented piece for the Bayou Brief. It just happened as I wrote it. I love when that happens. I hope you did too.
Here’s hoping that March feels more like 2021 and not the 15th month of 2020. We’ve had quite enough of that damnable year.
I’m back, bitches.