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Famous New Orleans Musician Tells About What Inspired Him to Play New Orleans Jazz

Xavier University educator  and New Orleans musician Dr. Michael White revealed what inspired him at a young age to take up the clarinet and play traditional New Orleans jazz.

New Orleans musician dr michael white

New Orleans musicians Dr. Michaels White reveals why he committed to New Orleans jazz at a young age.

On the show Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins on public radio White talks about the song that changed his life when he got a rare recording of clarinetist George Lewis and heard Burgundy Street Blues. He said he did not commit completely to the clarinet until he heard George Lewis do this song. Here is how he describes his experience:

I went home and I put on this record and from the first note it was like my whole life had been darkness and all of a sudden a light came on. It just opened up and expressed what it felt like to be from New Orleans. It was like all the things that are unique and special about New Orleans life and living.

The way people laugh, gumbo, the smell of cut grass and flowers in the spring by City Park, the bayou, the river, being around the French Quarter, going to fish fries, having people sit out on their stoops, learning their news from them, going to local restaurants and meeting strangers.

All the things that are very unique about the city, it seems like all those things were in the music, it seemed to be historic but at the same time timeless. I guess what that really was as I look back on it, was that it transmitted a spirit, and that was the real sprit of New Orleans and the real spirit of the people of New Orleans and the people that created this music.

I’m not the only person. There are other people that say that song changed their lives one way of the other. I’ve heard that all over the world. It’s a magic song, I have to tell ya.

Here is George Lewis performing his beautiful composition Burgundy Street Blues.

Dr. White was featured in the film “The Sound After the Storm” produced three years after Hurricane Katrina.

No doubt that Burgundy Street Blues as performed by George Lewis contains a spirit that’s influenced many New Orleans musicians decades ago and is still doing so today. Have a listen. It just might inspire you.

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

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Competitive Eater Furiously Eats His Way Through New Orleans Food – Video

Furious Pete takes us on one of his famous world tours through New Orleans food. He hits all the hot spots and eats typical Crescent City fare from the best places.

Competitive Eater Furiously Eats His Way Through New Orleans Food – Video

This guy is built like a ‘brick s**t house’ yet he is competitive eater, body builder and trainer. Which goes to prove you can eat yourself silly, which he does on this video, and still be in awesome shape. Of course, you gotta put in the work and time to do that.

It’s great to see the city from a ‘foreigner’s’ viewpoint and he shows us things that I’ve never seen before, such as how they make beignets at Cafe DuMonde. He gets a muffaletta from Butcher, a New Orleans sampler plate from the French Market, catfish, crabs and crawfish from Middendorf’s (which is actually near Hammond about 30 minutes from downtown).

Then he goes to Jazz Fest and gets a po’boy, then at Dat Dog they set up a special competitive eating plate full of sausage and bread and french fries and beans in a huge pile with two cups of beer and he downs the whole thing in about 20 minutes. Wow! Disgusting and impressive!!

At the end of the video Furious Pete is invited to a private crawfish boil. As the guy says at the end of the video “In New Orleans you don’t make friends you make family.”

Just watching this video makes me so hungry and I am sooo glad I live in this city where I can eat this wonderful food any time I want. Mm, mm, mm. Ain’t nothin’ like New Orleans food.

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

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New Orleans French Quarter’s Marvelous Cornelius – Garbageman Hero of Hurricane Katrina

Here is a review of another book I was sent set in New Orleans French Quarter during the time of Hurricane Katrina. I sometimes get books unsolicited, sometimes I review them, sometimes I don’t depending on the subject matter.

Sometimes I get books that have nothing to do with New Orleans and don’t quite understand why they send them to me since it is obvious that this blog is about New Orleans and the surrounding area.

New Orleans French Quarter’s Marvelous Cornelius – Garbageman Hero of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans folk tale set in the French Quarter in the days before and after Hurricane Katrain

New Orleans folk tale set in the French Quarter in the days before and after Hurricane Katrina

For instance, I recently got sent a book about the underground music scene. A big thick thing with only only brief reference to New Orleans. So there ya go, boom, not gonna review it.

But I did receive a little while ago a marvelous big picture book for kids called Marvelous Cornelius, written by Phil Bildner with illustrations by John Parra, based on the true character, Cornelius Washington, who road the garbage truck through the French Quarter delighting all he passed with his antics of dancing, calling out to people, “Hootie Hoo, Hootie Hoo” and banging trash can lids together.

That was in the heydey of metal and plastic trash cans that were ubiquitous in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, before the garbage companies decided to go “modern” and require all customers to have those giant plastic bins with wheels you can roll out to the curb that apparently is easier on the garbage men and makes everything look tidier. It does. I don’t know if it makes it easier for the men though because I still see them hoisting the big bins by hand instead of hooking them to the contraption on the back that does the work for them.

The pictures in this coffee-table-sized book are simply drawn in a primitive folk art fashion and suit the story well, appropriate because the story is told like a folk tale. We learn about Cornelius and how much everyone loves him as he makes his way through the streets of the Quarter .

And then Katrina comes and the book depicts piles of garbage in the neighborhood some as high as the St. Louis Cathedral. The author notes that this never happened but you know poetic license and all allows exaggeration like this.

I do remember seeing a debris pile at the foot of West End Drive in the days and months after the storm put there by clean up crews. It was at least two times as wide as the cathedral and perhaps would have gone halfway up its height. So, although that was not in the Quarter, in fact, I don’t think there were any debris piles in the Quarter, these massive piles did exist.

Cornelius in the book is the hero who rallies people to not fret and frown but to get to it and start cleaning up the mess, and getting back to the business of living their lives. I think it’s really interesting that the actual Cornelius was raised in a little town in Louisiana called Waterproof. Very telling about this character.

Unfortunately, the real Cornelius died in the years after the storm and this is how the story closes in the book, a sad little note, but his spirit lives on to inspire others. It concludes with the line “But as for his spirit, that’s part of New Orleans, New Orleans forever after.”

What I think is instructive about this tale to kids, and adults as well, is here was a guy, a garbage man, supposedly one of the lowliest jobs on the totem pole, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy what he was doing, and was able to make his job fun and entertain folks as he went by.

Cornelius certainly made a name for himself and showed people that you can take any job and do it in such a way that you can enjoy it. The book appropriately begins with a quote from Martin Luther King:

Even if it’s called your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep street like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

Cornelius seems to be one of those eccentric characters that New Orleans is known for. And we are the better for it. (Aren’t we all eccentric in some way who live here, I mean don’t ya kinda have to be?)

The authors provide a link to resources for teachers with questions and activities to make Marvelous Cornelius more instructive, engaging and fun for their students.

This is a beautiful little book that any young person would love to have. And would be great for any adult to have on their coffee table, another artistic expression of the tens of thousands of stories about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

Posted in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Books, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Videos.

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New Graphic Novel Drowned City Puts You in the Heart of the Action as Hurricane Katrina Barrels Through New Orleans

Now that we are moving close to the 10th anniversary of that thing that almost took New Orleans for good, yes, Hurricane Katrina, we’ve been seeing a plethora of books, articles, events and such about the disaster and aftermath.

Back in the ‘60s Hurricane Betsy was a pretty devastating hurricane where neighborhoods were flooded and people died. I wonder why that storm is not remembered like Katrina? Of course, anyone who lived through that storm has their own stories to tell.

New Graphic Novel Drowned City Puts You in the Heart of the Action as Hurricane Katrina Barrels Through New Orleans

drowned city hurrican katrina new orleans

But Katrina caused so much devastation and the uprooting of lives and families and the deaths of not only the 1800 or so that died during the storm and the days immediately afterwards but of hundreds of folks who later on either committed suicide, got cancer, strokes or heart disease from the stress of trying to make their lives right.

We’re talking about the stress of dealing with the government’s Road Home program, insurance companies, dishonest contractors, families pulled apart and scattered far and wide. And in general the people who flocked to the area to take advantage of and prey on those who were suffering.

To many people who are from New Orleans and live in the city, having to unwillingly move somewhere else is like pulling the plug on life support. You can perhaps survive but it ain’t New Orleans where people are plugged into an amazing rhythm of life like nowhere on the planet.

To get a real glimpse of what it was like to be in New Orleans August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina sent its ravaging winds and flooded tides through this area, Drowned City, by author and illustrator Don Brown, is what you would call a graphic novel. But no, it’s not really a novel, it’s more like a graphic history of those days in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The artist did a similar thing in his book The Great American Dustbowl.

Told in comic book format Brown’s narrative tells what happened to people who tried to evacuate and those who were left behind, or just refused to move as the storm bore down on the city. It recounts the destruction of the seawalls and neighborhoods, the rescues from rooftops, the squalid and horrific conditions in the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center, the staggering failures of our politicians, and the struggles of people trying to survive and make sense of it all.

It is a story of tragedy and triumph and a salute to the resilient people of this region. The illustrations and the flow of the story are so effective that you feel in a way that you’ve actually gotten a real glimpse of the experience, transported back to when the city was hit by the big one, something that only a graphic novel such as this could do. It really puts you in the action.

It’s also a great little history lesson that would help to fill in the gaps of what people around the country thought happened and what really happened. I like that he doesn’t seem to take sides politically.

And for dialogue he uses statements from the people who were actually experiencing the storm and the devastation. It gives it a real sense of truth and let’s the people tell the story instead of made up statements being infused from the outside by someone who was not there.

Although I enjoyed the book very much (not sure if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word) I take issue with one thing stated on the cover flap. It implies that Hurricane Katrina affected the African-American community the hardest and says a weather disaster became a race disaster.

This ‘race disaster’ thing is something that has been promulgated by the media and those who take advantage of such notions always wanting to look at an unfortunate event where blacks are involved as having some kind of racial or racist overtones.

But thousands of whites also had their homes destroyed and flooded. The Lakeview community was one such place and it is now only in the last few years that it is coming back. If 80% of the city flooded do you not think that many white neighborhoods were among them? Of course there were.

But of course you never saw or heard about any of this from the news media. That kind of stuff doesn’t ‘sell.’ Their cameras were focused mainly on black people and their neighborhoods. Rarely was there any talk or footage of whites who had their homes and neighborhoods destroyed as well.

Let me tell you you the real race disaster. It was the New Orleans public school system and many of its administrators and teachers, mostly all black, that for years had stolen, squandered and ‘lost’ tens of millions of dollars that should have gone to the schools and the students’ education. But instead went into people’s pockets. So bad was it that many teachers were forced to provide their own school supplies for their students even to the point of having to buy toilet paper for the restrooms.

These schools provided sub-standard education and thousands of blacks suffered this at the hands of their own people. Some were graduated out of high schools who could barely read, write or cipher. The schools were so bad that the state had to take them over. I would say that our high crime rate had very much to do with young people getting a poor education and not getting proper direction in life.

Despite the tragedy of lives and homes lost and neighborhoods destroyed, which Drowned City does so well depicting in its 93 beautifully drawn pages, Hurricane Katrina did us a favor by blowing apart the New Orleans school system. Now almost all of the public schools are charter.

And finally after all these years, really decades, our young, black kids are getting a good education, one that challenges them and prepares them for the world so they can have a positive and lasting impact on our community.

I would not call that a race disaster. I would call that a triumph. And now New Orleans is considered to have THE best school system in the country. Race disaster? I don’t think so.

The real race disaster is black on black crime that’s now epidemic not only in New Orleans but other American cities as well. The real race disaster was the New Orleans public school system in effect stealing the future of thousands of black kids to line their own pockets, perpetrated by their own.

Hurricane Katrina was not a race disaster, but a human disaster on a grand scale. Everyone who lived in the city, rich, middle class and poor, was affected in some way or another. To say one class or race of people suffered more than the other is not a true portrayal of the facts. And it’s divisive.

But I don’t really blame the creator of this book for that belief. It was burned into the public psyche by the media within days after Katrina had drifted northward and turned into a mere rainstorm. And that belief has continued to this day.

All in all Drowned City is definitely worth having and experiencing. Brown has done an admirable job portraying the Hurricane Katrina disaster to this great American city, New Orleans, in a matter-of-fact, effective and, thankfully, unsentimental way.

Although it says it’s for teens and young adults I think anyone of any age would appreciate this book.

You can go now and get Drowned City on

Posted in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Neighborhoods.

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Easy Cooking Authentic New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

OK, so you’re wanting to cook up some good, authentic, New Orleans style red beans and rice? Well, go no further than watching this video and following right along with cook Gaston Lang.

Easy Cooking Authentic New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

So he uses only authentic locally produced-around-New Orleans ingredients. Of course, if you can’t get the andouille sausage just try to get something similar that’s tasty and spicy. You can use almost any sausage really although it won’t give you the same flavor as andouille. Italian sausage will work too.

new orleans red beans and rice

Here are all the ingredients to make New Orleans red beans and rice. Note the pickled pork.

He adds pickled pork which I have never done and I’ve never have seen a recipe using that. So, of course, this will be something I have to do next time I make this.

Now if you want to mix it up and be a little adventurous you might want to try a variety of beans called Italian kidney beans or cannellini beans. The last few times I’ve used these beans I’ve really enjoyed the difference. Gives it a really rich flavor. I got ’em at Whole Foods and you can also order them off Amazon.

So there ya go. Just follow along with the video and pretty soon you’ll have you a mess of good old New Orleans red beans and rice.


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

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