Could you tell me how to get in touch with the people who own the Lucky Dog business? I would like to know if they sell the cool hot dog carts.
Of course, I can give you the name and address of the company -- Lucky Dogs Inc., 517 Gravier St., New Orleans, LA 70130 -- and a number to call here in New Orleans: (504) 524-6010. But you would have to be very lucky indeed to get them to sell you a cart. They just don't do it.
These guys are very protective of their fleet of rolling restaurants made even more famous when the company was transformed into "Paradise Vendors" by John Kennedy Toole in A Confederacy of Dunces. If you remember, a temporary vendor of the delicacies was the incomparable Ignatius J. Reilly.
It's hard to believe that the New Orleans culinary institution has been around since 1947, when brothers Stephen and Erasmus Loyacano first bravely wheeled their first cart out onto the streets. By 1949, they considered marketing the carts, but reconsidered and turned to franchising or leasing. An advertisement touted the potential for investors: "Cruise the midway. Get around town. You and Lucky Dog follow the crowd." "A red hot steam job that will roll up profits everywhere you go." "Steam cooks 100 dogs, buns, and chili. Stores everything for 300 more."
But by 1952, they had given up on the franchising idea. And in 1970 they gave up altogether and sold the business -- Lucky Dogs Novelty Carts, Incorporated -- to Doug Talbot and Peter Briant.
After a difficult period of dealing with health restrictions that almost caused the business to fail, they developed a sneeze guard and a fancy hand-washing system that made it possible to continue steaming buns and weenies the old-fashioned way -- right in the carts. And the rest is history. The colorful carts and their even more colorful vendors have become a Big Easy tradition.
Today, tourists and locals alike partake of these culinary delights, but only in New Orleans can you buy them from a genuine, free-standing -- I mean free-wheeling -- cart. Lucky Dogs are, however, sold from kiosks at various casinos, and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland has a kiosk where the weenies are popular. Likewise, if you find yourself in Hattiesburg, Miss., you can dine at an establishment called Lucky Dogs and More.
And to console yourself for not being able to own one of these unique creations, you might enjoy reading a wonderfully funny book written in 1998 by New Orleanian Jerry Strahan about his years of experience as Lucky Dog vendor and manager entitled Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter.
We have an avenue called Elysian Fields, and there is a place near Shreveport with a street called by the same name. Now I know that Elysian Fields appears in Greek mythology, but why do we have a street by that name? Also, what does "Elysian" mean?
"Elysian" means relating to Elysium or Elysian Fields, a place or condition of ideal happiness. In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields were described as a wonderful place where everything was delightful, the place where the great and good would dwell after their deaths. They could return to earth if they wished, but few chose to give up the green meadows, clean air, continual sound of beautiful music, and banquets on demand.
When Bernard de Marigny acquired land after the death of his father in 1800, he decided -- after the Louisiana Purchase -- to subdivide his plantation to accommodate the needs of the growing American city. So in 1805, he obtained permission from the city council and laid out a new suburb, which he named Faubourg Marigny. The principal street was given the name Champs Elysees (Elysian Fields) or Promenade Publique. Someone in Paris had thought of the name first; and Marigny presumably fancied it as well as others such as Love, Bagatelle, Craps, Good Children, Greatmen, Victory, Moreau, and Casa Calvo. All of these streets but Elysian Fields have had their names changed. I think it's a loss.