For this week's cover story, I accompanied New Orleans' Bustout Burlesque to Las Vegas, where the troupe had three performances at the 16th annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. The article (with photos by Andreas Koch) only tells part of the story, though — the videos have to be seen in order to appreciate the talent and the artistry involved.
Most important, each king cake conceals a bite-size figurine, usually of a baby that traditionally represents Jesus. (The year after Katrina, Haydel’s Bakery made them in the shape of a FEMA trailer.) Whoever finds the baby in his slice has to hold the next party and buy the next cake — thus, the continuity of king cake season is preserved. “My mama would get so mad at us if we got the baby,” Mr. Henry said, smiling as he remembered his childhood in the Lower Ninth Ward. “King cake was expensive back then.”
It's a really nice story with some fine observations, but it's not a New Orleans story unless there's one tiny quibble, and it comes over the description of Charles Mary and Charlotte McGehee, who run Debbie Does Doberge:
The pair are just the kind of young, endearingly single-minded food entrepreneurs commonly spotted in Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., who carry a torch for tradition but yearn to express their creative urges.
New Orleans has always had those people, long before the first Bushwick beard was grown or the first wacky vegan doughnut was fried. They may not be glamorous, self-promoting, young, attractive or white; they may have gone unnoticed by the national media until just recently; but, yeah, they've always been here.
Thanks to all our readers for being there for another year.
Enjoy the story of Mr. Bingle.
Ever have a day where your mind is clouded with memories, one triggering another? That's the kind of day I was having when I was on my St. Claude bus adventure for the final Public Transit Tuesday, before I take my new position as a general assignment reporter for The Times-Picayune.
The only way I could transcribe the memories in my mind that day would be to use stream of consciousness, which would end up looking about as messy as the legal pad I took on my adventure, where I jotted down notes including "The Mack, Charles, PTSD about Mom," "New Kids on the Box lunchbox from Eckerd's" and "Te-Te's cocaine and Cuban sandwiches?"
Since the St. Claude bus was pretty full, as is usually the case, I was able to keep from reminiscing so much by paying closer attention to the people on the bus with me.
When I made it to the end of the line in Arabi, I was tempted to catch my favorite bus, the St. Bernard Parish bus, but was too busy trying to listen to the boys freestyling and beatboxing in the back — not that they were good.
My hearing isn't the best so here are what I think are some excerpts from their verses:
"I met her on crack, f*ck the n*gga head up
Driver off the bus, went and had a heart attack."
"Make a n*gga feel the way my Uncle Terry feel."
"Dat boy said, dat boy said, dat boy said, 'MAMACITA!'"
"I think Wayne garbage though — and THAT'S that sh*t I don't like."
"Dat boy said, 'I'ont want no HIV, yes Lawd!"
"She sent me nekkid pictures — I LIKEDED DAT!"
It was a pretty day so I decided to walk down St. Claude, but not before stopping at a restaurant that's — get this — actually run by native New Orleanians...
I met a woman today who was (rightfully) suspicious when she saw me in the 7th Ward, digging under a house, snapping pictures and writing in my legal pad. After chatting for a while, she asked, "What are you going to write about? This article, what is it?" I said, "Well. I don't know. A little bit of everything, really. I can delete the pictures of you if you want." She looked at me for a little while, trying to see if I was legit, before saying, "Alright, sista, Imma let you have this one...But if you see what's going on and don't write about it, you're a part of the problem."
I agree. I've mentioned the issues that we were venting about (gentrification, euphemistic neighborhood names and discrimination) and others that would have come up in the conversation eventually (hate groups, homelessness, accessibility, the stigma in the black community associated with seeking mental health care, blight and the lack of love for New Orleans East), but I'll admit that I haven't really gone into detail as much as I can and should. She correctly guessed that I try to keep my power-fighting to a minimum because I don't want to ruffle feathers.
When I started this column, I was used to writing for CUE, our monthly fashion, home and beauty magazine. I love writing for CUE because I love glossy magazines; like CUE intern Angela Hernandez, I have stacks of glossy mags all over the house. (I know a girl who slipped on a magazine and broke her arm, though, so be careful and keep those stacks off of the floor.)
@angieworldorder @megandoesnola We are all going to end up on hoarders burried under stacks and stacks of magazines.
— Angela Hernandez(@AngieHrndz) September 10, 2012
I'm not linking the actual Twitter conversation because I know this person doesn't like to mix Twitter with his actual blog. I know that because I ended up getting really angry about his accusation later that night. Not because of him, but because I was venting to someone about the accusation who said that someone else said that my writing "sounded too much like ad copy" and that set me off. (The person who told me this was trying to be helpful, not gossipy.)
I didn't think the person who originally said my writing sounded like ad copy liked me anyway (well, I thought the person did at first but then I thought the person didn't), so I tried to brush it off, but I kept hearing it play in my mind: Ad copy. Ad copy?! I wondered to myself if the person had ever read a magazine; my CUE writing and glossy magazine writing are pretty damn parallel, which is a good thing.
I searched all over the Internet and found out who was behind the cartoon avatar on Twitter and was pretty happy to see that I wasn't the only journalist — not even the only Gambit writer — that he openly critiqued.
(Update: He liked the next installment, we follow each other on Twitter and he likes my Facebook journalist page and all of that good stuff. And I'm pretty cool with the person who didn't like me back then. We're not best buddies or anything, but we like and respect each other.)
Riding the bus today with Apptitude founder Chris Boyd, we discussed the importance of doing things for your community, even when they are often literally more trouble than they're worth. He said, "It's a good motivation when you remember that you're doing something for New Orleans."
The East is coming back and it's pretty close to what I remember. Ah, the East. Aside from having to live with my Mom's emotionally abusive first cousin and his even more emotionally abusive wife from October 2002-May 2003, after my Mom died and my Paw Paw took ill (He died in February 2003.), I have nothing but fond memories there: shopping at the Plaza as a kid and boy-watching there as a teenager, visiting family and friends of the family since practically every 7th Ward household engaged in the New Orleans East exodus and doing suburban family things like going to Denny's and Wal-Mart without having to go to Metairie, Kenner or the Westbank.
From what I gathered on this bus adventure, the majority of the East is back and there's not much blight — except for businesses. There were so many abandoned businesses and overgrown lots where businesses once stood. And it wasn't Mom and Pop places — these were strip malls, schools and other businesses that, if I had to assume, have the means to rebuild.
The fact that the Lake Forest bus was "oh-my-God-is-someone-else's-sweat-dripping-down-back," "please-mister-bus-driver-don't-make-a-sharp-turn-because-I-don't-want-to-fall-out-of-the-back-door" packed not only illustrates the rebounding population of the East but provides quite a few quotable moments...
The second accompanied installment of Public Transit Tuesdays brings us from City Park to Audubon Zoo on the Leonidas bus, passing through Hollygrove, Pigeon Town and Gert Town, proving to be a fine continuation of my Uptown education which began years ago when I was a student at Lusher Extension. This bus adventure opens with difficult questions: How do you pronounce "Leonidas" anyway? What are the boundaries of these neighborhoods? Good thing my bus buddy and best friend Jenny who was raised in all three neighborhoods was there to help answer them...
And you will rebuild.
In the meantime, why not re-read our Hubig's cover story, "The Value of Pie: Simon Survives"?
Since the Tchoupitoulas bus comes only once an hour—with the exception of coming once every half hour in the early morning, late afternoon and early evening—this bus adventure was more of a walking tour. A very exhausting walking tour. Still, I explored different socioeconomic areas, stopped at some fun places and met some nice people who were eager to talk with me...
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