New Orleans writer and former Gambit restaurant critic Sara Roahen's memoir "Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table" was selected earlier this year as the 2009 pick for One Book One New Orleans, the citywide reading event from the Young Leadership Council (YLC).
As readers of The New York Times know, the paper redeployed its New Orleans correspondent, Adam Nossiter, to a post in Africa last spring, and his last byline from the Crescent City was in April. Nossiter came to New Orleans post-Katrina in 2006 with a pedigree both personal (a well-regarded book about the death of Medgar Evers) and familial (his father, Bernard Nossiter, had worked at both the NYT and The Washington Post in his long career). When Nossiter left, the Times, as is its wont, didn't tip its hand as to whether it would be dispatching another full-time correspondent to the city, or just leave the region in the hands of a "Southern correspondent."
Well, now we've got one again: Campbell Robertson, a native Alabamian who covered the aftermath of the hurricanes in Mississippi, but spent most of his career in New York in a variety of jobs. Editor & Publisher profiled Robertson today and had this nice summation of his career to date:
A graduate of Georgetown University, Robertson worked briefly for the Manhattan District Attorneys office before detouring to Tangiers, Morocco, for a year, where he taught high school English. When he returned to New York, Roberston found that he lived downstairs from a man named Charley Conway, who worked as a day clerk for the Times. He was a lifer, says Robertson. I worked nights, and he worked days, so Id often meet him on the sidewalk and wed talk about books and movies, and things like that. One day, he showed me around the Times building and I thought, What a wonderful place. Shortly thereafter, in 2001, Campbell Robertson was hired by the Gray Lady as a clerk.
Robertson quickly became a reliable stringer. I sort of grew into this role, he says. Id have to fill in for a month in the police bureau, or spend three months as the Long Island reporter. But he proved to be most proficient at the Times Metro gossip column, Boldface Names, which was then headed by Joyce Wadler and had developed a reputation as a snarky answer to the citys tab offerings. I got to attend a lot of gossip parties, which is not nearly as fun as it sounds, Robertson says of his time with the column.
When Wadler left the column in 2005, Robertson was named as her replacement. Robertson saw the column through to April 2006, when Times management decided to scrap Boldface Names after five years of publication. He then served as a reporter on theater for two years. On day he was sitting with some editors, talking about things wed like to cover. I mentioned Iraq, probably a little more casually than I should have. And in June of 2008, after covering the Tony Awards in his last official act as a theater reporter, Robertson was off to Baghdad.
From Broadway to Baghdad to Baghdad-on-the-Bayou is as unlikely a career path as one could imagine in these parlous times for newspapers (and New Orleans), but Robertson is well-liked and -respected in New York. I met him over the weekend and he was a nice and obviously sharp guy. More to the point, perhaps, is the fact that some in the city felt Nossiter's stories had run out of juice by the time he left, framing every story in town through the lens of race (which is certainly a major lens in New Orleans, though not the only one). In an American Journalism Review story about his leave-taking, the topic was raised:
"The South has the heaviest historical baggage of any region of the country," [Nossiter] says. While this legacy of conflict and disagreement makes race "an ongoing good story," it is also a touchy subject to cover. "He tends to frame things a lot in a racial way," says New Orleans resident Karen Gadbois. Nossiter profiled Gadbois last August for her role in uncovering a nonprofit agency's misuse of federal funds meant for reconstruction. "[Race] becomes a player in the story but I'm not quite sure that it's always the player in the story that he makes it out to be."
Racial issues are always touchy, of course, but in New Orleans they're often heavy with nuance and layer, something that Nossiter didn't always seem to grasp. (For another perspective, see this long local blog discussion titled simply "Is Adam Nossiter a Tool?".)
Translating the sometimes-enigmatic Kabuki of New Orleans social situations (race, class, family, neighborhood, status, money, provenance, where you went to high school, and much more) is a tall order for anyone, particularly a reporter who's expected to explain it to a larger audience, and New Orleanians -- let's admit it -- are quick to swoop in when they get a whiff of inauthenticity or think someone is missing part of the story. (You know we do.)
That said, it's nice to have the Times feel we're still worthy of a full-time correspondent, and it's great to have Campbell Robertson in town to get a fresh take on things. He's hit the ground running, with a small place in the Marigny as home base, and he's looking to meet people, find great food and hear some good music.
So: welcome, Campbell; we hope you enjoy your time among us. If you meet him in your travels, point him toward a decent po-boy, buy him a beer (he'll accept) and let him know you're glad he's here. And if you want to catch up on his reporting from the real Baghdad, check out his archive of stories.
So many questions come up: Steven Segal is a real deputy in Jefferson Parish? Has anyone ever been arrested by him and lived to tell the tale? What catchphrase would you say to him if, while he was breaking your arm in six places, you recognized that it was STEVEN FREAKING SEGAL.
It's days like this I wish Cox Cable wasn't so horrendus that I don't p
With RB Reggie Bush and OT Jammal Brown both sidelined because of injuries, conventional wisdom might suggest that the Saints' running game was in for a let down against the Houston Texans. Fortunately for the Saints, someone forgot to tell that to RB Mike Bell and OT Jermon Bushrod.
Saturday's 38-14 win over the Texans showcased flashes of what made the Saints' vaunted offense the league's best in '08. New Orleans had 420 yards for the game-247 passing and 172 rushing. Quarter back Drew Brees methodically picked apart Houston, completing 9-of-14 passes for 87 yards. Brees' favorite, target WR Marques Colston had 66 yards on six catches. But even though it was Brees and the usual suspects running up the score board, it was back-ups Bell and Bushrod who did their fare share of the leg work.
Bushrod, despite pregame jitters, filled in just fine for Brown, who was out with an injured groin. Bushrod kept Brees relatively unscathed and opened up big holes for the Saints' running backs the entire game.
But while Bushrod was a pleasant footnote, it was Bell who was the story. On just ten carries Bell shredded the line of scrimmage, ringing up 100 yards rushing, more than double his output in the past two seasons. For his finale, Bell gashed the Texans on a 46 yard scamper for a touchdown. Offensively, the Saints still have questions about their short yardage efficiency. But at six foot 225lbs, if Bell keeps running the ball like he did Saturday, he could very well be the answer.
Landmark Theatres, a Wagner/Cuban Company, today announced that it will no longer operate the Canal Place Cinema in New Orleans, Louisiana. Monday, September 7, 2009 will be their final day of operation at that location.
It saddens us to leave the great City of New Orleans. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to terms with our landlord, said Ted Mundorff, Chief Executive Officer of Landmark Theatres.
Canal Place Cinema was built and has been operated by Landmark Theatres since 1988. It is located on the third floor of the upscale Canal Place Shopping Center at Canal Street on the edge of New Orleans' world-famous French Quarter. The Canal Place Cinema is New Orleans' downtown home for independent film and foreign language cinema, and has been host to the New Orleans Film and Video Society's annual film festival since 1988.
As the tapas trend has caught on, the small plates concept has been pushed to the point where some of these ostensible snacks cost upwards of $10 or $12. Vega Tapas Café is trying out a special that goes in the opposite direction, however, with a new $2 tapas menu to be offered on Tuesdays during September.
Vega Tapas chef/owner Glen Hogh (pictured) will answer the question of what $2 will get you tonight, during a free sampling from this menu, hosted by the ladies at Swirl Wines during their shop's weekly Tuesday wine tasting.
While the tapas are free, the accompanying tasting of six wines costs $10, and reservations through Swirl are required. Call 504-304-0635 for a spot.
More tapas are on tap at Swirl on Friday, Aug. 28, when local chef Dan Esses resumes his regular small plates service during the shop's weekend-kickoff wine tasting, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. In this case, you pay for tapas ($5 per plate) and get the wine tasting free. No reservations needed for Friday.
There might be walk-in fridges at some high-profile New Orleans restaurants with more floor space than the entire dining room at the Green Goddess. But the diminutive French Quarter newcomer just got some plus-sized media love any of its bigger neighbors would envy.
The Green Goddess is featured in the current (September) issue of Gourmet in the magazine's Restaurants Now column, a monthly rundown of new and notables around the country. New Orleans-based freelancer Pableaux Johnson wrote the brief, which you can see here.
Chefs Chris DeBarr and Paul Artigues opened the restaurant in May in the tiny Exchange Alley spot that had previously been home to Jazz Tacos. There are just a few tables inside, and more weather-dependent seating outside in the atmospheric alley.
Johnson describes DeBarr's style as "aggressively eclectic, incorporating exotic ingredients from every conceivable culinary culture into a wide-ranging menu."
THE 4th ANNIVERSARY COVERAGE COMMENCETH: USA Today on the effort to reform, repair and rebuild New Orleans' school system.
As the song says about New York, if they can fix schools here, they can fix them anywhere. It is too soon to tell whether they can, but at least New Orleans is teaching the nation a few things about what it takes to try.
TOWN HALL: Sen. Mary Landrieu holds a health-care town hall this Thursday in Reserve, La.
CARTOONIST GETS INK: A.D.: After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld's graphic novel about the days after the federal flood, gets respectful reviews in The New York Times (link) and the Los Angeles Times (link). Read Gambit's interview with Neufeld here.
HOW THE RICH FOLKS DO IT: Imagine Krewe of Barkus ... held in the Hamptons. It happened this weekend as the enclave of the rich and famous held their inaugural "Fido Festival." Barkus could kick their butts on costumes and originality, frankly, but on hand to add a bit of true New Orleans flavor was the Hot 8 Brass Band.
OCTOBER IN AUGUST: A coup
For decades, LSU was the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of Louisiana politics. There was virtually nothing the Ole War Skule couldnt get out of a governor or lawmakers. In fact, governors often were LSUs most effective lobbyists. No longer.
It's the Best of New Orleans, our biggest issue so far this year (136 pages!), in which we tallied all your votes for the city's superlatives in approximately 5,892 categories. The cover photo was taken by Greg Miles.
Dominic Massa on the legacy of Al Shea, who died Thursday after a career than spanned seven decades in New Orleans entertainment ...
Irma Thomas has a new collection of classic songs celebrating her 50th anniversary in music. Noah Bonaparte Pais rang the Soul Queen of New Orleans for a chat ...
On the heels of a new study showing New Orleanians want to reexamine the idea of saving Charity Hospital, Clancy DuBos looks at the bigfoot strategies used by LSU to build a new hospital in Lower Mid-City and suggests LSU might want to learn some manners going forward ...
Jeremy Alford reports from Baton Rouge on coastal shrimpers who banded together to protest the lowest shrimp prices in decades. But can they afford to strike? ...
And as lagniappe, we have stories on the Best Places to Get Wasted Before Lunch on Nickel and Dime Martinis, the Best Decorated House in the City, and "Byte Ponchartrain" advises an anonymous correspondent on the Best Way to Back Up Your Email.
See you on the newsstands Sunday, or online Monday. Commence to arguing over all the best-ofs, but remember: you picked 'em; we didn't.
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