You have been answering our questions about New Orleans for longer than some of us have been alive. I know you are New Orleans' Know-It-All, but who is Blake Pontchartrain, really?
You are right, I have been around for a long time. I joined Gambit as a young man in 1988, when I was in my formative stage (see my original picture, right). I matured over the years and became more refined, giving the pelican on my shoulder to Robert Blake as his sidekick on the hit TV series Baretta (though he went with a different bird when the pelican yearned for Gulf fish), and trading my striped pullover for a suit from Brooks Brothers and a bowler from Meyer the Hatter. Like any good New Orleans gentleman, in the summer I swap my black wool suit for seersucker and white linen. But those are only superficial elements.
Like you, I revel in my first bite of king cake on Twelfth Night, trying to hide my tremendous joy when I get the baby hidden inside. I scrabble for plastic trinkets during Carnival parades and surreptitiously toss a few at the Boeuf Gras float in Rex and the King Kong float in Bacchus. I celebrate Mardi Gras in the French Quarter until the police clear the streets at midnight, then show up at church bright and early the next day to accept an ashen thumb on my forehead.
I hold an umbrella and do a high step at jazz funerals and tidy up gravesites on All Saints Day.
I make for the Fair Grounds on the first Friday of Jazz Fest and stay until the Nevilles shut it down the last Sunday, and I place my first bet on the thoroughbreds after feasting on Thanksgiving turkey, oyster dressing and gumbo. I've ridden on the streetcar named Desire and the City of New Orleans railroad train. I roamed Storyville in its heyday (just for the music, mind you), and as a boy I heard Buddy Bolden play when he was little more than scrawny kid with a beat-up cornet, and I danced the foxtrot to the piano rhythms of Jelly Roll Morton.
I've piloted rowboats and, later, paddle boats in the lagoon of City Park after trying my luck at the casino there, and I've caught fish for dinner out of Bayou St. John.
Through it all, I strive to tap into that collective consciousness of all New Orleanians who love our city and want to preserve its history and culture. My part in that mission is to examine the artifacts large and small left by those who made the city what it is and to help my readers learn, or remember, why we are who we are.
I study the past to preserve the future for all of us. Your curiosity is my avocation, and I answer your questions in this space to give voice to the things we most love about our city, its history and the people who formed it, so we always will remember from whence we came.
As for my age, let's just say that I am ancient but ageless — because you make me so. I'm young at heart but aged in the wisdom and experiences of this wonderful city.
Yes, Girvinia, there is a Blake Pont-chartrain, and he will continue to be with you in the pages of Gambit as long as there are questions to be pondered and readers who want to know about the people, places and things that make up the city of New Orleans and the areas around it.