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Your Own Personal New Orleans Tour Remains Bestseller on Amazon! – Video

Well, I never thought it’d happen to lil’ ole me but my new book, Your Own Personal New Orleans Tour, has been on Amazon for almost a year now and it’s still a bestseller, in the top 5 in its category!

Your Own Personal New Orleans Tour Remains Bestseller on Amazon!

So here’s an interview I did with monster Internet maven Dion GeBorde about alla dat.

 

Click the Buy Now button below to get your copy of my bestselling travel guide

Your Own Personal New Orleans Tour

It used to be $0.99. Now you can get it for only $4.27.
But hurry, I may be raising the price in the near future. So now is the time to get it.

orange_buynow copy

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. You can get a free Kindle reader for your computer.
Download the Kindle app. for your Mac HERE.
Download the Kindle app. for your PC HERE.

Leave a COMMENT. Tell us what you think.

Posted in New Orleans Books, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Videos.

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New Orleans, A Kidnapping, Reconstruction and a Good Whodunit

It’s interesting that in the last year there have been two books published about what were famous kidnapping incidents in Louisiana. In the early part of the twentieth century was the Bobby Dunbar case wherein a little child wanders off, disappears, and is suspected to be a victim of kidnapping and apparently turns up later in the possession of an itinerant tinker. The book entitled A Case for Soloman shows just how duplicitous the news media can be and how their supposedly honest reportage of the supposed facts can influence a court case.

A new book of a real whodunit that takes place in New Orleans during Reconstruction.

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case is a fascinating account of a real whodunit that takes place in New Orleans during Reconstruction.

This latest such book, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case by Michael A. Ross, points up what initially was the opportunity but finally the tragedy of Reconstruction and what it wrought for the blacks in the South and especially New Orleans.

After the Civil War Republicans sought to correct the injustices that had been done to these people for so long. During these attempts at reconstruction blacks could hold public office and barriers to black-white equality were slowly and painfully starting to come down.

During this time in New Orleans blacks were allowed on the police force and one of the main characters in this book, an intelligent, refined, light-skinned Afro-Creole detective name John Baptiste Jourdain, was instrumental in attempting to crack this case of a white Irish baby who was stolen in broad daylight by two well-dressed and apparently refined light-skinned Negroes. (Descendants of Jourdain now own Lil Dizzy’s Cafe on Esplanade Avenue.)

Back in the early days of New Orleans there were many free people of color who, prior to New Orleans becoming part of the United States, had businesses, careers and many of whom were well-respected artisans in the city. The white and black populace intermixed rather freely and out of that came liaisons that produce many mixed-race children.

Although it was still against the law for the races to intermarry it was an accepted practice for many married white men to have a black or mixed-race mistress. The French who settled Louisiana and New Orleans had a very different attitude about race than the English who settled America.

Even under the slave regime, Creoles of color took great pride in the Francophone identity they shared with White Creoles. [Both] read French language periodicals, and relished wine, food served with rich sauces, and French colonial architecture. White Creoles patronized black Creole butchers, grocers, tailors, carpenters, masons and mechanics…

The city’s francophone Masonic Lodges accepted members across racial lines. Both black and white Creoles felt culturally besieged by the tens of thousands of Americans after 1803, and subsequent waves of German and Irish immigrants. They disdained the rough Kentucky flatboatmen, noveau-riche South Carolina planters, impecunious Irish, and blunt northern merchants filling the city’s newest neighborhoods. [And] the relationship between white and black Creoles was usually one of good will and mutual respect.’

The big tragedy of our city is that when it became part of the United States a whole culture of free people of color or gens de couleur libre, who enjoyed more equality with the French inhabitants, was basically destroyed. The American whites, new to the city and who were bringing their own laws and customs, put all blacks and even those light-skinned, educated creoles of mixed race in the same category.

If you were black you were less than. If you were black you were the same as a slave whether you were free or not. And slaves and their descendants could only be servants and could not stand on any equal footing with whites no matter how refined and educated they may have be.

So during Reconstruction these refined, educated Afro-Creoles were able to enjoy more freedom and the possibility of advancement in business and politics. This is why Detective Jourdain was such an important figure in this story. And why when Reconstruction ended in failure it spelled a tragic time for those of African ancestry especially in New Orleans.

Blacks here enjoyed a lot more freedom than in the rest of the country, and all of that came crashing down when Reconstruction ended. There was a backlash of pro-Confederate, white supremacist southerners and it did not matter if you were light-skinned, educated and refined, you were black and as such not equal. These folks had their opportunities stripped away and it was not till 100 years later that things began to finally change.

A fascinating, real whodunit, the author’s done an extraordinary job of making it read almost like a detective novel, with sparse and straight-forward, engaging prose. It’s a real page-turner. Especially well done are the court scenes that use the actual dialogue from the case. You can almost feel the heat and the claustrophobic air of the courtroom. The story is populated with fascinating local characters who would easily fit right into the New Orleans of today.

And like A Case for Soloman it points at how the newspapers of the day sought to influence the outcome of a case with speculation and twisted facts. It seems not much has changed.

The kidnapping and the subsequent court case depicted in The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case takes place in that window of opportunity for blacks during Reconstruction. It makes the book important for anyone who wants to understand what blacks in New Orleans faced, had attained and what they eventually lost. And also how New Orleans culture suffered because of it.

It’s also for anyone who enjoys a really juicy whodunit.

Posted in New Orleans Books, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.


UNO Film School Grad Lenses a Doc About Ninth Ward Trumpeter Lil’ Satchmo

New Orleans is never lacking in the realm of interesting characters. Now UNO graduate and filmmaker Cameron Wheeless is determined to bring one of them to light. Here’s the story about a determined young man who dreams of being a professional trumpeter.

UNO Film School Grad Lenses a Doc About Lil’ Satchmo – Looks for Kickstarter Funding


I was contacted by Cameron’s mom and here is what she has to say:

He has been working on a documentary about a young man from the Lower Ninth Ward named Eugene Grant aka Lil’ Satchmo who plays his trumpet on Frenchman Street literally every night. Eugene is a class act young gentleman but has many struggles and Challenges. My son is trying to help him with this film.

Cameron is trying to raise money through a kickstarter to enter the film in as many film festivals as the funds he raises will allow.

Please watch the trailer with this link and any help to spread the word about this story would be so greatly appreciated!

I think you will see get a glimpse of why Eugene touched my son’s heart!

You have to watch this preview to find out why Lil’ Satchmo is so special and worthy of a documentary made about him.

Cameron is looking for a sum of a measly $3000. The minimum pledge is $1.00. Perhaps you can kick in a few bucks to help out. The deadline is October 23.

Click here to be taken to the Kickstarter funding page.

Also, spread the word with your friends and family. Let’s get this funded.

Posted in New Orleans Art, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life, New Orleans News, New Orleans Videos.

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At Vikings Game New Orleans Saints Drew Brees Gets Slammed Then Gets Mad – Video

It seems that Drew Brees is the epitome of cool. Almost beyond human with self-control as I see it. So it was kind of refreshing to see him get really pissed off when he gets sacked and body slammed by Viking cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Saints defense and offense was acting pretty lame for most of the game. I mean c’mon, they had the lead and was getting pretty close to losing it. Then the Vikings did us a favor by their  unnecessary roughness and pissing off Brees. You don’t piss off our star quarterback. Seems like his response gave the team just the jolt they needed to finally wake up and cream the Vikings.

In this video Brees talks about being suplexed.

OK. This is the first time I’ve heard the word ‘suplexed.’ I guess it’s some kind of wrestling term or other. But thanks to being suplexed Brees and the team get fired up and they win the game 20-9. Oh yeah, babe. Dat’s howya do it.

Posted in New Orleans Life, New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Videos.

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Young New Orleans Jazz Musicians Tear It Up In The French Quarter – Video

Wow, I mean wow. These hep and cool New Orleans jazz cats are so fantastic that I got goose bumps several times watching this video. So much music out of just a few musicians.

Smoking Time Jazz Club Tearing It Up In The French Quarter – Video

It’s amazing how these youngsters are so down with the traditional New Orleans sound. It just goes to show that old time Dixieland is anything but ‘old time.’ It’s timeless. It’s got the beat, the move, the rhythm and it makes you want to dance.

What really makes this video a winner are the dancers cuttin’ a rug right there on Royal Street. Don’t know if they are part of the act or just a couple that came out to hear them. But it seems like they had plans to dance because the girl’s got some white shoes and the guy is wearing some white bucks. The dancing is just amazing and so full of joy and grace.

And you know this is not unusual in the French Quarter. You can go down there any day of the week and here some fabulous free music right there on the street. The music ole Satchmo used to play lives on in the current generation, and they play it with style, pizzaz and affection.

Can there be a better combination?

Posted in New Orleans Art, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.

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Did New Orleans Win World War Two? The National World War Two Museum Fills Us In – Video

New Orleans houses the National World War Two museum. This is one of the best museums I have ever been to. And that includes those in Europe as well. I guess it means a lot to an American and especially to a New Orleanian.

Did New Orleans Win World War Two? The National World War Two Museum Fills Us In

Andrew Higgins, who built the Higgins boats that were used as landing craft for the D-Day Invasion was, was named by General Dwight Eisenhower as being the guy who won the war. Those boats were built by thousands of New Orleans citizens in the same area where the current museum now stands.

This museum is so interesting and so extensive that it would take all day if not two to see the whole thing. I’ve been there a few times for three hours each time and that is not nearly enough to take it all in. I have yet to see the new buildings, exhibits and movies available at the museum and can’t wait to get down there to check it all out. This video gives you and idea of what’s in store for the visitor.

Heart-wrenching, fascinating and inspiring, it is all that a truly great museum should be.

 

Posted in New Orleans History, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Videos.

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Yeah, New Orleans is Hot but What About Las Vegas?

People talk about how humid and hot it is in New Orleans in the summertime, that somehow dry heat is much better. Well, here is my take on all that.

A few weeks ago I went to Las Vegas for a business event. It was the middle of July. During the day when we had a break from the seminar I would walk outside the hotel and even before stepping into the sunshine it was hot. I mean it felt like opening an oven door. In fact, it felt like I was walking around inside an oven. That’s how hot it was.

Yeah, New Orleans is Hot but What About Las Vegas?

las vegas new orleans hot

Shot outside the Venetian in Las Vegas. More brutal in the summer than New Orleans. Who says dry heat is better?

Now, OK, so I may be exaggerating a little but that’s what it felt like. And there did not seem to be any relief from it other than stepping back inside the air conditioned hotel.

Because the air is so dry in Vegas when the breeze blows it’s hot. It’s a hot, dry breeze, and it feels like there is no relief from it. And here’s another thing: I was standing outside in long sleeves and pants and I didn’t sweat at all. It all evaporated from my body before I could feel any moisture on the skin.

So it was in the 100s when I was there. I know at least 104 or so and the weather man was talking about how it was going to go to 108.

And all these folks who say well dry heat is better then humid heat have never walked around in Las Vegas in the summertime. I mean it’s brutal. That is the only phrase that kept coming to me, “It’s Brutal” I’d say to myself. I mean it feels as if the heat and the sun is just beating down on you. And the night was not any better. Even after the sun goes down it’s hot, I mean hot, oven like hot, brutal like hot.

Anyway, all that being said I like Las Vegas. Although I didn’t put even a nickel in a slot machine I like going into the hotels, like seeing all the stores. They have a lot of real upscale stores there now. It seems that the strip is a lot more classy than it used to be. And some of the newer hotels like the Ballagio and the Venetian are really very nice, beautiful even. All of the comforts on the inside of these building belies the reality of the brutal heat outdoors.

In New Orleans I like to go outdoors and do my exercise, ride my bike and do bodyweight stuff like pullups and pushups and squats. And yes, I sweat a bunch. But I would not even contemplate doing that in Las Vegas.

Here in New Orleans the weatherman says “well, it’s going to be 91-92 degrees tomorrow but it’s going to feel like 102.” Who came up with that? I know what 101 feels like in Las Vegas and it certainly doesn’t feel like no 91 degrees in New Orleans. Here when the breeze blows at least it’s a cooling breeze, at least it gives you some relief and standing in the shade makes it feel a whole lot cooler than in Vegas. Even in the shade there it’s still damn hot.

And here I have no compunction to go outside during the day and get some exercise. When I start to sweat it cools me off and the heat doesn’t really feel brutal. I can’t imagine doing in Vegas the kind of outdoor workout I do in New Orleans. I mean I wouldn’t even consider it. Well… I did consider it but my inner voice said, “Your insane.”

OK, it’s true that here in New Orleans you can walk outside and just start sweating without exerting any effort, and yes it makes your clothes sticky but at least the sweat is cooling you off. Not so in the desert.

But here’s the thing, if you don’t want to deal with the heat in New Orleans or Las Vegas then here or there in the summer is not the place for you. Even back in the day before there was electricity, folks with means would hightail it to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to get away from the stifling conditions in New Orleans so they could enjoy the cooling gulf breezes.

It’s hard for me to imagine what it was like living in New Orleans before the advent of electricity and fans even, let alone air conditioning. But thousands of people did it and thrived, New Orleans at one point being one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest city in the country.

Folks just dealt with the heat, wore cool cotton and linen clothes, closed their shutters to let in the air and keep out the sun, built their homes with 10 to 12 foot high ceilings, had big windows they could open to let the breeze blow through and basically did not move around much during the day. That’s one of the reasons the South has the reputation for people who take their time when doing things. People just don’t want to move around very much and get overheated. Kinda makes sense.

I can remember when I was a kid going to art classes that was in an second story studio at the teacher’s home near the park. No AC, windows wide open and a fan or two. Yeah, I can remember sweat on my forehead but the breeze that came through the windows was nice along with the summer scents. It was kinda nice and it’s a good memory.

So give me humid heat anytime over that brutal desert heat. I don’t mind the heat in New Orleans and I’m glad we have air conditioning. Las Vegas, a nice place to visit but don’t think I’d want to live there.

Posted in New Orleans Life.

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New Orleans Music and the New Americana Movement – Video

New Orleans music seems to reflect a confluence of cultures. Out of that jazz and blues was born which spawned rock and roll, rap, bounce and a myriad of other musical styles.

People don’t talk much of folk and country music here, but heck I know there’s a pretty thriving community of what’s called Americana music, bands and performers. As a musician, singer/songwriter I consider myself part of this group.

New Orleans and the New Americana Music – Video

Americana is really a confluence of styles as well, mixing folk and country as well as jazz and blues elements.

In this video Tim Gendron, a student at UNO film gives us a little overview of what’s happening in New Orleans with this style of music. Lots of bands, performances and venues where these musician can “show their wares.”

Check it out.

Posted in New Orleans Art, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.


Fixing New Orleans Streets: Is 9 Billion Bucks Really Necessary?

It’s common knowledge that our New Orleans streets are pretty much on par with streets in a lot of third world countries. Many of them are broken, uneven and full of potholes. I recently read in the paper our deputy mayor Cedric Grant claims that it would take 9 billion dollars to fix all the streets in the city.

And you can bet your boots some of that money will be wasted on government corruption, and let’s say that half of that goes into waste and incompetence because we all know that government is wasteful. Have you ever heard of ANY government program that was not?

Fixing New Orleans Streets: Is 9 Billion Bucks Really Necessary?


Denny Shaffer of WRNO inspects a tree growing out of a pothole in Pontchartrain Park.

OK, so then cutting 9 billion in half makes it come down to 4.5 billion dollars. If this were to be turned over to the private sector to get this done we could probably cut that down to maybe half that, to around 2 billion. And we all know some streets need it more than others.

Here’s an idea: How ’bout paving the streets correctly, how bout using another technology other than the one that’s been used over the years that does not work?

People want to blame it on our soil, on subsidence. OK, perhaps that has something to do with it. But why not blame it on plain incompetence and corruption?

I want you to look at this: If it is all could be blamed on subsidence then why don’t we see houses all tipping this way and that like our streets are. Our houses just sit on top of the soil. And they are pretty heavy, heavier than cars.

OK, yes, some of our homes do need to be shored up from time to time, one end sinking lower than another, but this sinkage is relatively minor. Have you ever seen a pot hole under your house? Or in your front yard?

About ten years ago they redid Burthe Street where I live. Took them a whole danged year to do it. They came in, dug up the street, put in pipes, did this and that. Then covered it over again with dirt, smoothed it out like they were going to pave it. But nope, a little later they came back and dug it up again and did something else, did this and that and then covered it over again with dirt. Then eventually they got around to paving it.

This took a year, the entire street of Burthe was unusable for an entire year. Was there a flurry of activity on the street day in and day out? No. It seemed like only a few people were working on the job at any one time. Some of these folks did a lot of standing around too.

Eventually the job was done and we had a nice clean smooth street. For a while. Now at certain places you can begin to see dips in the street that were not there a year ago. On Hampson Street two blocks over, they worked on it the same time as Burthe.

Only a short while after it was done a huge pothole formed around a manhole cover in the middle of an intersection. Just a few months ago did they finally come and fix it. This after years and years of complaining about it to the city.

The city needs to develop a new technology of fixing our streets. We can’t use the same way of paving streets that they use on soil that is firm and not alluvial. This 9 billion dollars will not permanently fix these streets. It is only a stop gap, it is a never ending problem. And granted all streets eventually need to be repaved. We just would like streets that would last at least 30 or 40 years before that happened.

When I lived in Vancouver, Washington do you know how they fixed their streets? It was a pretty simple process. They would come down the street with a huge dump truck filled with an oily gravel and uniformly layer the street with it as it slowly moved along. That’s it. As cars passed it smoothed out the street all by itself.

Yes, it was kind of messy and you did have to be careful about wiping your feet off before walking in your house. Why don’t they do that here? There is no tearing up the streets making them impassable for months at a time. This operation takes hardly any time.

Now, I understand that some streets need to be torn up to put in new piping and things like that. But not all streets do. In fact, I would bet that most streets don’t. Perhaps not all streets could be fixed like that with the oily gravel, but I would bet that a good percentage could. And how much does that cost? It would seem hardly anything in comparison to the billions of dollars that someone in the government is estimating it should.

I’m no expert but 9 billion dollars to fix our streets seems a little much. 1 billion sounds more like it. But even that sounds ridiculous. Let’s just start there and make sure we have a lot of oversight and let’s try the oily gravel idea. Why not?

Posted in New Orleans Life, New Orleans Neighborhoods, New Orleans Videos.

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New Orleans Chef John Besh Shows You How to Make the Best Jambalaya

One of my favorite people is New Orleans Chef John Besh. Talk about  nice guy, he’s friendly and accessible and I really admire what he’s done in the city opening so many great restaurants.

New Orleans Chef John Besh Shows You How to Make the Best Jambalaya

Here he shows us how to make a really great jambalaya. It seems so simple, you know. Just watch and learn. It’s got my mouth to watering, boy.

This is a wet jambalaya which I think is the best. Sometimes you get this dish and it’s all clumped together and too dry. You’ll find this in some of the tourist places, all stuck together and barely any meat. Ick.

And don’t be a-scared of that pork fat. Dat is good for you.

If you’ve been following the news you know that they’ve discovered that all that junk about saturated fat being bad for ya is now just a bunch of bunk. I’ve known this for a long time, telling all my friends and family not to listen to conventional wisdom and don’t be afraid of dat fat!

I eat a lot of fat and I’m slim, and I’ve been doing this for years cuz I don’t follow conventional wisdom. Also, I got no cholesterol problems or high blood pressure. How do I know? Every two months I donate blood and they check this for me.

So dig into this video and make yourself some of this delicious jambalaya. And thank our favorite New Orleans Chef John Best for dat, cher.

Posted in New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Recipes, New Orleans Videos.


Take a Brief Tour of New Orleans City of the Dead

New Orleans cemeteries are known around the world for their unusualness. I mean we got these acres of monuments dedicated to celebrating our past citizens.

Take a Brief Tour of New Orleans City of the Dead

Here is a nicely down video in the Lafayette Cemetery which is right across the street from another famous landmark – Commander’s Palace restaurant.

It’s makes the place look like a jumble of little skyscrapers, a vantage point I’ve not seen before.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans History, New Orleans Landmarks, New Orleans Videos.

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New Orleans Citizens Are The Key to City’s Reform

New Orleans since the very inception has never been a stranger to corruption. Over the centuries it became the very fabric of the way things were run around here.  Just a cursory study of the 300 year history of New Orleans reveals how corruption has been rampant.

 New Orleans Citizens Are The Key to City’s Reform

Former Tulane president Scott Cowen with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama with former Tulane president Scott Cowen who says Katrina taught New Orleans not just to rebuild but to reimagine.

Corruption of our city and state officials was just something that the good citizens of the city just kind of tolerated and laughed at. What could we do? We felt powerless.

But after Hurricane Katrina people were be fed up with all of that and sought change. One of the first citizen’s groups founded was Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans. It was founded by some uptown ladies who had never been politically active before. They just reflected what a lot of people were feeling: that corrupt politics no longer belonged in our city.

With the recent finding of our erstwhile mayor guilty on 21 counts of corruption and sentenced to 10 years in prison, let’s hope that corruption has finally seen it’s day and New Orleanians can go about the business of making this a really great city minus the corrupt shenanigans of the past.

Former president of Tulane Scott Cowen wrote a great article for the Wall Street Journal outlining the improvements the city had made since Katrina.

Cowen states in his article posted here on Citizens For 1 Greater New Orleans:

Forbes just ranked New Orleans the No. 1 Brainpower City in the U.S.; the metro area’s number of college graduates increased by 20.3% between 2007 and 2012; and major companies including GE, Gameloft and Globalstar have established operations in the city. The public school system has also seen a remarkable improvement: Only 5.7% of New Orleans children now attend a failing school, down from 65% in 2005.

It’s that fighting grass-roots spirit that has sparked most of the positive changes in the nine years since Katrina. The New Orleans Police Department was for many decades often seen as corrupt and dysfunctional. Some people even held them responsible for crimes, including shooting unarmed African-American citizens in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Yet the police department is now being rehabilitated not only through interventions by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, but with contributions from watchdog groups like the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Community United for Change, and Citizens for 1′s Court Watch NOLA and Crime Coalition.

New Orleans has definitely turned a corner with so many thing great going for it in business, education and politics.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

 

Posted in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Business, New Orleans Life, New Orleans News.

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How to Tawk Like a New Orleans Yat, Dawlin

New Orleans is famous for its quirky and its strange. We got da food, we got music, we got da awkitectyah, we got our own cultyah. Heck, we even got our own accent! Can you believe dat, babe.

How to Tawk Like a New Orleans Yat, Dawlin

So maybe you new to town, maybe you come heah fa a visit or what have you. Maybe you havin’ trouble understandin’ just how we talk. Well, you know, not all of us talk like yats, but we all got a little yat in us, dawlin.

So this video talks about a little book, The Yat Dictionary, which will have you living, breathing, and speaking yat in no time. You know as the sayin’ goes ‘do like da Romans do when ya dere in Rome.”

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Videos.


On Being a Mentor at Cafe Reconcile and a Key to the Violent Crime Problem in New Orleans

A few years ago I had the privilege of being a mentor for couple kids at Cafe Reconcile. Reconcile is a place that was started by a Jesuit priest in the heart of the Central City in New Orleans. Central City is one of the worst places to live in the city because it is just rampant with crime. Most of the murders in the city happen here.

On Being a Mentor at Cafe Reconcile and Key to the Violent Crime Problem in New Orleans

Kitchen workers at Cafe Reconsile, New Orleans...

Kitchen duty at Cafe Reconcile New Orleans

So people figure that heck if you just stay away from that area you’ll be OK. And except for random killings that occasionally happen elsewhere in the Crescent City it pretty much holds true. The original vision of the cafe was to provide a place for underprivileged kids to get experience and education in the restaurant business and culinary arts so that when they finish their 6 week intensive program they are pretty much ready to start working in a restaurant.

Some might start a job as mere dishwashers but at least they get their foot in the door and the education they get from Cafe Reconcile helps them move up rather quickly. Most of the kids are black but there are occasionally some white kids and hispanics that enter the program.

Entrance requirements are rigorous and not everyone who applies gets in. They have to show a willingness and commitment to want to improve themselves and there is a lot expected of them. Unfortunately they come from a community and school system where expectations are low and there is even some social pressure that encourages kids to not want to excel.

The thinking is if you excel then you are trying to be ‘better than us.’ And kids can actually get shunned if they get good grades and try to improve themselves. How the black culture ever got to to be this way is a tragedy of national proportions. That attitude encourages crime and so many people are not allowed to dream big dreams because they have been conditioned to think that not only can’t they achieve it but they are not worth it.

So in comes Cafe Reconcile to change all that. Admittedly the problem is more massive than one cafe can hope to change, but at least it does provide some kids with the opportunity to get out of a disempowering community and sometimes terrible family situations.

Many of the kids that are working in the cafe program have been in jail for one thing or another, some have been into drugs. Some are even unwed mothers. The program looks past all that and sees that if a kid comes forward and wants to be part of the program they show that they have taken their first steps to wanting to improve their lives. And the folks at the cafe will do everything they can to help them.

What the cafe program requires of them is being on time for all classes and meetings, staying off drugs, a willingness to learn and be coached and being responsible for taking care of their hygiene. Many of them have never had this type of rigor in their lives and those that get through it are the better for it and helps to spread the message of the cafe and the possibility that with love and attention people can reform and be given a real great start in their lives.

Many have gone on to getting great jobs in the best restaurants in town. Some want to open their own places someday. That never would have happened had it not been for Cafe Reconcile.

I had eaten at the place several times and loved the cooking and the down-home funkiness of the place with original art work on the walls, funky murals and the kids all eager to want to do their best. And for some of them their best is not always good enough. So they have to learn how to be better.

In the program they all get a chance to work at all the jobs that it takes to run a restaurant from maitre’d to waiter, bus boy, dish washer, food preparer and general clean up. Sometimes you may get one of them as a waiter. It’s new to them, and well, they just don’t get it always. They don’t get the whole deal of what it means to serve and to be on their toes. So they may forget something you ordered, or give it to the wrong person, or not be very communicative in the way a waiter needs to be. Learning about these things is all part of the training.

A friend of mine took on creating the mentorship program and I was asked to be part of the first group of mentors. My first day of going in as a mentor was challenging for me. Having no idea who I was being assigned to made me a little nervous.

The idea was for me to go in about once a week, have lunch with the kid assigned to me and engage in conversation. Then I was to check-in by phone at least once a week. I worried and wondered what the heck we would talk about.

Our life experience was so different, from different parts of town, almost like worlds away. The only thing really connecting us was the fact that we were both born and raised New Orleans. That was pretty significant in itself owing to our love for the place.

So on my first day as a mentor I’m down at the cafe and here comes this skinny kid with cornrow hair cascading to his shoulders with tattoos on his neck and some on his arms. His black skin showed them as only outlines, not like the bright colorful tattoos on whites.

Somehow I had to get past all of these differences and get past my judgements to be able to sit and be with him and regard him in some ways as equal, otherwise my role of mentor would come off as false and patronizing.

So after asking him a little about his life and family we found common ground in that both of us were artists. My being a musician and writer and him doing drawing and sketching. At our next meeting he brought in his sketchbook to show me what he’d done. I could see that he was really talented and he told me he wanted to do tee-shirts. That was pretty cool. He already seemed to have the entrepreneurial spirit. As the weeks went on and I got to know him I really liked him and admired him for what he was committing himself to.

So I only had 6 weeks to make some kind of impact on Larry. But as it turned out he seemed to have his head screwed on pretty straight and there was not really much I could do or say to have any impact really. Perhaps I was the first white guy he’d really gotten to know from the other side of town.

So it was mainly just taking the time to meet with him and see where he was at and what he needed. It turned out not much. We had good conversations and he was always very well-mannered and courteous, he had been raised pretty well by what seemed to be a loving family.

He told me he had ambitions of starting his own restaurant some day away from New Orleans. I asked him what he wanted to do that for and I informed him that I know in his young life that he has not done much traveling and seen a lot of the world as I have. But I said that of all the places I’ve seen in Europe, the middle east and all states on the North American continent there was no place like New Orleans.

Our scheduled mentoring time of six weeks was coming to a close and I determined that I wanted to continue our meetings perhaps over an occasional lunch. So I called him one day and he suggested we meet at the IHOP on Canal Street. I got there early to find that the AC had broken down that day. Although it was not real hot in the place it was stuffy and uncomfortable.

Larry finally showed up and we sat and chatted, tolerated the stuffy warmth of the place, and had a little something to eat. I found out that he had to take the bus and streetcar to get to the restaurant. I didn’t realize that he lived in Central City. We had a good conversation but it was all pretty much surface stuff, me asking him questions, imparting him wisdom and not getting too deep. I gave him a book of poems The Way of Life by Lao Tzu.

Several weeks passed and I called him to set up another time for a lunch this time close to where he lived. I brought another inspirational book with me that I thought he might like. This time I decided to really go deeper in our conversation and I asked asked him about his situation and his life.

He told me that he’d been in jail, picked up for driving in a car that contained a few marijuana cigarettes and was working on getting his record cleared by the courts. One funny but sad discovery he made while incarcerated was some uncles and cousins who had suddenly disappeared he encountered in the few days he was in prison. “Oh, so this is what happened to you all,” he told them. “Everyone in the family was wondering where you all had gone to.”

Then he revealed that he had recently seen a guy get shot through the head and killed outside his home, a guy on a bicycle. His mother had been terrified when she heard the shot thinking that it might be him. He said when he saw what happened he did not stick around, he quickly disappeared because he did not want the shooter to see who he was for fear that he might be next. And in that moment I understood why folks who’ve seen these crimes don’t come forward. It’s simple survival.

Then I decided to go deeper in our conversation. I asked him, “Why is that all of these black kids are shooting each other?” He said very simply, “Because they don’t have fathers.” I was taken aback by his honesty and candor. And also what seems like the simplicity of the solution of the whole terrible violence problem we have in this city. And from the mouth and heart and soul of someone who knows, who lives amidst the violence.

He went on to say that they don’t have anyone to look up to, no one to guide them, show them what’s right and wrong and they get mixed up with the wrong people who give them some sense of belonging and mentoring except that it is of the destructive kind.

I was also amazed that he was aware of and willing to admit a major challenge in the city’s black population: the ongoing and destructive effect of fatherless homes. Had I not been willing to do this mentoring gig for Cafe Reconcile I would never had had the opportunity to be face to face with someone who is living amidst the violence and lost lives and opportunity that is our city’s shame and embarrassment.

You know we see and hear about it in the papers and TV and radio but it’s really just news and stories we hear at arm’s length, it’s really hard to “get” until you actually know a member of the community it’s affecting, where you can sit down and actually talk with someone and get to know them on a friendship basis as I had the opportunity to do.

For months I did not hear from Larry. The phone number I had for him no longer worked. When I would hear about a shooting in Central City I wondered if somehow he had gotten in the crossfire or been targeted for some reason or other.

I had last heard that he had been working down at the restaurant Sylvain on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, a job that he had gotten soon after his graduation from the Cafe Reconcile program. One evening I was in the Quarter with my friend who had been in charge of the mentorship program. She suggested we pass by the restaurant to see if Larry was there.

We walked down the alley way toward the inner patio and to the kitchen. I peeked in the door and there was Larry. He looked at me blankly for half a second and then his face lit up when he realized who it was. He came up to me and threw his arms around me and we hugged for a good bit. We were both so glad and excited to see one another.

I was glad to see he was doing so well and he apologized for not sending me his new number. We took a photo with our arms around each other. It was really good to see him. Here was someone who made it out and was already making something good of his life.

Posted in New Orleans Business, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans Landmarks, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Restaurants.

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How to Have Fun in New Orleans – Two Ditzy Chicks Do It Their Way – Video

Well, if you want an idea of how to have fun in New Orleans look no further than these two girls from Astronauts Wanted. They really seem to have caught the flavor of the city.

How to Have Fun in New Orleans – Two Ditzy Chicks Do It Their Way – Video

Seems like much of their experience here revolves around drinking, starting at 9 AM Sunday morning. There are other things to do here. But what the heck. The video is fun and they looked like they are having a great time.

One of them says toward the end of the video “This is a f**ked up, wonderful town.” Yep, really that pretty much sums it up.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Restaurants, New Orleans Videos.

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New Orleans Voted Number 10 of World’s Best Cities

Yep, well, New Orleans has done it again as being one of the world’s best by Travel + Leisure. Why have we garnered such a distiction? Well, it’s the Running of the Bulls San Fermin fest, that’s a heck of a lot more fun than the one in Spain. And a lot safer too. With a lot more girls. And more booze. And more people making fools of themselves. I think.

The Crescent City Connection frames the skyline of New Orleans, one of the top 10 cities in the world.

The Crescent City Connection frames the skyline of New Orleans, one of the top 10 cities in the world.

It’s the quirky charm, they say, and the Satchmo Summer Fest. But, heck, it’s more than that. It’s the people and the food and the strange, dreamlike atmosphere, the down-home warmth of the place.

San Francisco, New York, Miami, ha, didn’t even make the cut.

Here’s an excerpt from SF Gate, a site in San Francisco:

In fact, San Francisco only placed fourth among all U.S. and Canadian cities in the travel publisher’s annual survey, with three cities from the South ahead of it on the domestic list,  in ascending order: Savannah, Ga., New Orleans, and Charleston, S.C., which repeated its 2013 top rating  on the U.S./Canada list. Charleston’s high ratings this year also earned it No. 2 on the “world’s best cities” list—up from No. 7 on the 2013 international rankings —with Kyoto at No. 1 and New Orleans  at No. 10.  

Kyoto, number 1? Hm, well, I ain’t never been there so I can’t say anything about that. And for Charleston to be voted number 2? Really. These results must be oddly skewed some way.

Anyway, there ya go. New Orleans still considered one of the top 10 best in the world. Well, we already knew that, didn’t we. Don’t need any magazine to tell us dat, cher.

Posted in New Orleans Business, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans News.

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