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My Mom Completes 100 Years

My mom turned 100 last week. She was born and raised in New Orleans, seen so many amazing things come and go, and is now benefitting from and embracing the digital age. She’s lived through so many presidents, two world wars and other global conflicts. She likes watching The Big Bang Theory because it makes her laugh. She’s just as addicted to Downton Abbey as the rest of us and can’t wait for the next episode. She loves to watch the older episodes even though she’s seen them so many times she could probably recite some of the lines.

For 61 years she’s lived in this big house in the Maple Street/Carrollton section of the city for as long as I’ve been alive. Just a few blocks away toward the lake is Green Street and the house she was born in. Yep, that house is still there. This is New Orleans where people, instead of tearing them down, fix homes up to celebrate and hand them on to the next generation. She’s a great cook, a great mother, grandmother and great grandmother, the originator of so many progeny that it’s hard to count.

A hundred people showed up for her big birthday bash, some from as far away as New York, California and Georgia. When we sent out the invitations to a hundred people we figured, as you figure for most parties, that a third of the people won’t show up. In this case, we were wrong. Except for a few last minutes cancellations a hundred people did come to celebrate her century of life.

And what a party it was. I’ll never forget as we lit the candles on the cake seeing a massive crowd gathered around her and then singing happy birthday as loudly and brilliantly as I’ve ever heard it. She did a pretty good job at blowing out all the candles out, too. Throughout the day she sat in a big chair and held court as so many friends and relatives came to talk and give their congratulations for a life well-lived.

My mom is still sharp, still does her own books, still eats well, still goes to exercise class twice a week, still goes to the beauty parlor on Saturday. Yes, she needs a walker to get around, but she still goes up and down a full flight of stairs at least once a day. Folks still marvel that she can do that. I do too. Yes, her eyesight is not as good as it used to be and although she complains of not being able to read the newspaper well she can still read subtitles on the TV.

Recently, we got her a hearing aid which has made all the difference in the world because now she can be part of conversations without people having to yell, and I don’t have to turn the TV up so loud. A relief for her and for all of us.

What is the secret for my mom’s longevity? Well, some would say good genes. And that may have something to do with it. Her oldest brother lived to be 94 and drove a car up to the last few weeks of his life. She also had a great aunt who lived to be 105 who, as my mom tells it, was a little batty in the end for she was always concerned that German soldiers were trying to get in through the window. But she had been consigned to living in a rest home the last years of her life. Maybe living like that away from the constant love and caring of family members might have had that kind of effect on her. I don’t know.

But when pressed my mom says the reason she’s lived so long is because of her attitude. “You have to be happy,” she says, “no one can make you happy, you have to be happy in yourself.” Also, she says she just doesn’t let things bother her, she’s learned how to just let things go.

My mom may be 100 but she looks like she could be in her early 80s, a healthy early 80s. Her skin is still smooth and her voice is still clear and on the telephone sounds a lot younger than she is. The doctor says her heart is still strong. When she went last year for a checkup she told her that all she wanted to do was live to 100. The doctor confidently said, “Oh, you’re gonna live way past that.”

Having her as my mom has been a real gift and it’s been a real privilege for me to be able to be with her on a daily basis and take care of her needs over the last ten years. My mom gave me life, lovingly raised me and gave me a good home and encouragement for my future. I’ve realized that taking care of her and returning the favor of what she’s done for me is the most important thing I will ever do.

In no way have I ever seen this as a burden or something I have to do. I do it because I want to and is something I’ve truly enjoyed. In trying to be a good son by being her caregiver I have learned so much about myself, about her, our family and know that it has truly changed me and made me a better person. She’s my best friend.

Thanks, Mom, for everything. Live forever.

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Old Banking Idea Gives People in the Delta New Hope

What’s happens when a country town goes flat? When all the good jobs leave, and businesses pull up stakes? Banks leave too. Entrepreneur Bill Bynum decided to use his knowledge and expertise to create a credit union for an impoverished delta town; it’s an alternative to a bank which is usually owned by just a handful of people.

A credit union instead is owned by the depositors themselves and is helping folks who’ve lost hope to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and invest back into themselves and their community.

When I lived in Washington State I belonged to a credit union. In the Portland area where I lived there were several of these institutions which had branches all over the area. I believe in the credit union idea so much that even though I left the Pacific Northwest and returned to New Orleans ten years ago and although I have an account at a New Orleans bank I still belong to that credit union. I know, sounds crazy but what the heck. Why not? Credit unions are popular in the northwest, in New Orleans not so much.

Bynum’s efforts with the Hope credit union idea has generated $1.7 billion for its members and directly helped over 400,000 people. Bynum was awarded the 2013 John P. McNulty Prize for his exceptional leadership.

Find out more by checking out this website Hope Credit Union

 

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25 Great Reasons to Move to New Orleans

If you’ve ever thought about moving to New Orleans, or if you live here maybe you need a reminder of why you came, this cool blog post with great photos, from Movoto spells it all out for you.

 25 Great Reasons to Move to New Orleans

Great music -- one of the man reasons to move to New Orleans.

Great music — one of the many reasons to move to New Orleans.

 

Matt Muller, who calls himself an aspiring historian, does a great job of touching all the hot and cool aspects of this great American city, from the food, to the music to some unexpected elements.

It’s the kind of thing that makes the Cresecent City not only a great place for visitors, but for those visitors who decide to make New Orleans home.

Check it out at the Movoto page.

 

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Where is Louis Armstrong Buried?

Well, it being All Saints Day and all, well, it was actually the day after All Saints Day and we wanted to miss the crowds, my mom, sister, cousin and I drove to the Lake Lawn Cemetery in New Orleans to put some flowers at my dad’s and my aunt’s tomb.

Where is Louis Armstrong Buried?

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's ashes at Lake Lawn Cemetery New Orleans.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s ashes at Lake Lawn Cemetery New Orleans.

Here in New Orleans most people are buried in tombs above ground. Something to do with an old tradition, and also supposedly since our ground water is so high folks did not like the idea of their relatives remains being soaked in ground water.

If you go to Spain you’ll see the same tradition there at least with the old graves. After we paid our respects we went over to the mausoleum to find my grandparents. We looked high and low and could never locate their tombs.

While I was strolling past these glass cases that are set up to hold ashes and memorabilia of the deceased, lo and behold I happened upon the ashes of Louis Armstrong set very innocently off to the side. No fanfare or big plaque, or arrows pointing to the place, just this little cubbyhole with a 45 record, a gold box for his ashes, a photo and a little nameplate that says Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.

I had no idea that Satchmo was “buried” in New Orleans, and I doubt many New Orleanians realize that as well. I assumed that his remains were in Queens, New York where he lived out most of his life. Even though he travelled the world and was an international star his heart was always close to New Orleans where he honed his talent and his style in preparation to his life-long fame.

Here’s to ya, Satchmo. Read beans and ricely, yours.

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TP Declares Top 10 New Orleans Restaurants 2013

New Orleans food critic Brett Anderson’s got his new list of the best food places in New Orleans. These are the ones he declares “that meet the expectations of fine-dining restaurants in terms of ambition, food quality and service.” These are what would be considered not only some of the finest in New Orleans but also in the country.

TP Declares Top 10 New Orleans Restaurants 2013

Commander's Palace New Orleans

I’m glad to see that Commander’s Palace is on the list as it should and probably always will be. I’ve only eaten at 3 of the 10 and they are all great. And because of that fact I can’t really give my opinion of the overall validity of the list. But, heck, this is New Orleans. We do food here, and we do it right. There are tons of great restaurants with fabulous dishes and fantastic service.

Go to Nola.com to see the entire list and get a gander at the slide show of some of the more popular dishes. So, if you are comin’ to town or live here, put these on your schedule of places to get your noon and night gnoshing done.

Leave a COMMENT. Watcha think?

 

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The Roosevelt’s Fountain Lounge – A Reopening in Grand New Orleans Style

Got an invite to the reopening of the once famous Fountain Lounge at the grand old Roosevelt Hotel. Seems like fun, time to get out, so what the heck, I called in my RSVP. Getting an invite to these kinds of events because of this website is another unexpected perk to having a blog. Free valet parking, free food and drinks. What could be bettah? Lawdy, lawdy.

The Roosevelt’s Fountain Lounge – A Reopening in Grand New Orleans Style

The historic Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans reopens The Fountain Lounge.

The historic Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans reopens The Fountain Lounge.

This Fountain Lounge is where a restaurant used to be next to the other famous Roosevelt lounge which reopened a few years ago: The Sazerac. The previous owners of the hotel had covered all of this up. What’s up wit dat?

So what’s the deal with having two lounges right next to each other? Well, heck, this is New Orleans, babe, and we can’t have too many lounges, you know. The difference with this one is that well, it’s more open. They knocked out the walls facing the long grand lobby that makes the Roosevelt unique and elegant so you can look out on the folks walking by who get invited in by the atmosphere.

Where the Sazerac is more intimate, the Fountain is more open. There was a 3 piece jazz combo with a singer gracing the goings on and the lady maitre’d whose name Serenity just seemed to fit the ambience of the place.

The appetizers they passed around were exquisite, from the succulent broiled oysters to the yummy, crunchy crawfish balls along with the cheese plates they had laid around at different tables, letting you know that they are serious about serving seriously good food.

Oh yeah, dawlin. If there was ever a place to relax and share in the revelry that is New Orleans food and drink in a laid back atmosphere this would be it. The Roosevelt has truly done it again. It’s such a relief to know that this historic grand old hotel is in the good hands of a company that knows quality when they see it, the Waldorf Astoria chain of hotels.

 

Leaveth thou a COMMENT. What daya think?

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Bless This Food: The Way of Gratitude and Grace

Got a book in the mail the other day for me to review. I usually only do books about New Orleans or Louisiana. The book is titled Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces From Around the World.

Bless This Food: The Way of Gratitude and Grace

A beautiful book, Bless This Food shares 160 mealtime prayers from around the world

A beautiful book, Bless This Food shares 160 mealtime prayers from around the world.

So if it has nothing to do with New Orleans why did I say I wanted to review it? I see it like this: New Orleans is probably one of the most spiritual cities in the country.

Our major celebration, Mardi Gras, is really a religious holiday it being the day of going all out enjoying oneself before the 40 days of Lentan fasting.

We have churches galore in the city. In fact, just within walking distance of my home there are actually five Catholic churches.

Within about five minutes driving there are actually a lot more. That’s not to mention the churches of other denominations within walking distance as well.

So church going is very much a part of our culture here in the city and I believe has a direct influence on the way we choose to live life. So, a book about grace before meals? Bring it on, I want to see it.

Andrian Butash, a well-known marketing professional, wrote this beautifully designed book and he gathered together 160 timeless mealtime blessings and offers the background on the traditions represented. There are prayers in here by Ghandi, Shakepeare, Milton, Mother Theresa and the like. Pretty eclectic I’d say. You can choose one to fit any occasion.

As the author states:

Some of the fondest personal memories from my childhood are of my whole family holding hands around the dinner table saying Grace in unison, “For health and strength and daily food, we give thanks dear Lord, Amen.” The occasional gathering for prayer, no matter how brief, keeps the heart and mind in touch with the most fundamental of joys: belonging.

One thing we do as a family when we gather for meals is say the Christian mealtime prayer “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts…” which is included in Bush’s book. Another prayer we like to say is one that we learned from a good family friend who passed on a few years ago. We usually say this at large gatherings. It goes like this:

“Lord we thank you for our food, keep us in a happy mood.
Bless the cook and all who serve us, from indigestion, Lord preserve us.”

This always produces a chuckle no matter how many times we’ve said it.

And lastly, I want to add a beautiful one that I got from one of the Sherwood Films, the ministry in Georgia that produces inspiring movies by the Kendrick brothers. I wrote this out in the front of Butash’s book so I could have it at the ready. It goes like this:

For Food in a world where many are hungry,
For Faith in a world where many walk in fear,
For Friends in a world where many walk alone.
We give thanks.

I think it’s a very important practice to cultivate gratitude, not only at meals but throughout one’s day-to-day life. Gratitude is one of the quickest ways to alter your mindset and put you in an uplifting, positive mood.

Being grateful for one’s food and blessing it is an important practice to cultivate. It help sets the tone for the meal. This little book can help with that, and gives you a glimpse of how the rest of the world does it.

Keep this book by your table. Share a prayer daily.

You can pick up Bless This Food on Amazon.

Leave a COMMENT. Tell us what you think. And bless you for doing so.

 

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Glimpse New Orleans History From a 1901 Creole Cookbook

I recently got a cookbook in the mail that I was asked to review The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book from the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection, a company founded in 1812.

This thing is a reprint from a cookbook that came out in 1901 as a collection of recipes from the The New Orleans Times Picayune with an introduction from our own local chef-du-jour John Besh.

Glimpse New Orleans History From a 1901 Creole Cookbook

Creole cookbook of 1901 New Orleans.

Creole cookbook of 1901 New Orleans.

It’s a fascinating book. The original introduction states it was published “to assist housekeepers generally to set a dainty and appetizing table at a moderate outlay; to give recipes clearly and accurately with simplicity and exactness.”

It has all the classic recipes that you’d expect a cookbook of New Orleans food to have. Not only does it have familiar as well as unfamiliar recipes but has brief histories and explanations of the origins of some of thm.

And you really get an idea of what was common back then and how you can compare it to cooking practices of today.

For instance, they talk about fixing creole coffee. Now this was before the war and at that time using chicory in coffee was not a common practice.

So lest you think that mixing chicory with coffee in New Orleans was an everyday thing throughout the city’s history it was not.

Adding chicory was a way of extending coffee since coffee was in short supply during the war. There are still places in Europe that add chicory but they have been doing that for a long, long time. It seems that the chicory actually complements the flavor of the coffee while extending it and, for those who want to cut their caffeine intake, coffee and chicory is a great choice.

What was fascinating about the coffee section of the book is that it was considered no good to use coffee beans that had been roasted previously and stored. A good creole household used green beans that were roasted that morning in the stove. And the stove would not be a gas stove or electric stove but a wood stove.

Imagine that to have a cup of coffee in the morning you would have to get the stove going –imagine the heat in the summer — which takes quite a long time to get up to temperature. I know. I lived on 65 acres in the Pacific Northwest and we had a wood cookstove in our kitchen in addition to our propane one.

So after getting the wood up to the proper heat then you would take the time to roast the coffee beans which takes maybe ten minutes or so. Then after the beans are roasted you need to put them in a colander and shake them out to get rid of the flakey substance that comes off the bean when you roast it. I know. I’ve roasted my own beans too.

Then after you go through all that you brew your coffee in the double French drip style pot which takes 10 more minutes or so. So all of that to have a cup of coffee.

And to be honest having roasted my own beans and drunk the resultant coffee it really does not taste much different than good already roasted beans you get at the store. Which is why I only went to the trouble of roasting green coffee beans a couple times. Had it tasted really spectacular I might have continued roasting my own. But imagine having to light a cook stove and roast then drip your own beans to make a cup of coffee.

Living among our modern conveniences where we can turn a knob and a nice little ring of fire appears in our kitchen it’s difficult to appreciate what our ancestors had to do just to enjoy a simple cup of coffee.

This cookbook is an eye-opener to the social attitudes and kitchen practices at the turn of the 20th century, the century in which technology turned the world completely on its ear, and social mores were turned upside down.

This is one of the few cookbooks that can be read like a history book. It’s a fascinating account of our New Orleans creole culinary culture and history with great recipes you can actually use to boot.

You can get the Picayune’s Creole Cookbook here.

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New Orleans Gets a Taste of Sweetwater Beer

Ah, the many perks of having a blog about New Orleans. Once theses companies see you doing reviews they send you all kinds of stuff.

New Orleans Gets a Taste of Sweetwater Beer

Sweetwater beer from Atlanta now distributes in New Orleans.

Yummy Sweetwater beer from Atlanta now distributes in New Orleans.

Recently I got this big box in the mail. It was pretty danged heavy, well, you know as boxes in the mail go.

Brought it to the kitchen and opened it and found inside bottles of beer all carefully, individually bubble-wrapped.

Well, whoever sent it, heck, how did they know I liked beer?

I especially am a lover of Abita beer. Abita, our most famous local brewery, now distributes all over the country in select places.

I was surprised a few years ago when eating at a barbeque joint on Park Avenue in New York that not only did they serve Abita Amber, the brewery’s signature beer, but also their delicious stout-like Turbodog. (Turbodog has also become an ingredient in gumbo.)

So this company from Atlanta, Sweetwater, sends me three of their beers to try out. I only like to do posts about things relating to New Orleans and Louisiana so was hesitant about doing a review. They sent me these samples because they are distributing in the New Orleans area now.

They sent me their 420 Extra Pale Ale, the Sweetwater Blue (made with blueberries) and their award-winning IPA. Now I like IPAs, was introduced to them when I lived in the Portland, Oregon area, like the extra bite to them. Abita produces an IPA (India Pale Ale) but it’s just a little too bitter for me. I found that I like the Sweetwater IPA much better. In fact, I tried all three of these beers and I gotta say, although I am a big fan of Abita, this Sweetwater brand is giving them a run for their money.

We have a lot of craft breweries now in southeast Louisiana, with several in New Orleans itself making beers just for locals to enjoy. It’s great to see great beers coming out of these small companies all over the South.

One thing I like about Sweetwater is that their beers are unpasteurized which means you can’t let them sit around on your shelf too long. They are made to drink fresh. And I think not pasteurizing them gives them a complexity of flavor.

It’s the same with raw milk cheeses. Nothing can beat a raw milk cheese for flavor; other cheeses just taste dead when you compare them side by side. I think it’s the same with a beer. A pasteurized beer just does not taste as complex as a live one.

So, there ya go, this post I did as a favor to this company that sent me such great beer, I couldn’t just drink their beer and not say anything. And when I see it available in the store around New Orleans I’ll pick up a 6 pack. I like Abita because they are good and they are local but they got some competition with Sweetwater, and competition in our capitalist society is good. Very good.

 

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A New Orleanian’s Homecoming from Paris

There ‘s a saying that goes ‘you can’t go home again.’ I don’t know that the heck that means or where it comes from. But I’ve found it not to be true. And writer and New Orleanian Katherine Peck proves it in the article about her homecoming after a stint in Paris as an au pair.

A New Orleanian’s Homecoming from Paris

A view of the Eiffel Tower down what could be a French Quarter street.

A view of the Eiffel Tower down what could be a French Quarter street.

Yeah, I love Paris too, and most of the places I’ve visited in my travels overseas I’ve found something that I’ve liked and even loved. I lived in Seville, Spain for a while, and loved every minute of it. But there is nothing like returning to your roots, to something that’s familiar, to where people know you.

In Peck’s post on NoleVie she relates:

After a week of being back in New Orleans, I’ve realized how unique this place is compared to anywhere else in the world – including America. New Orleans possesses a particular warmth and color lacking in often cold and gray major metropolises, such as Paris.

My sister and I celebrated my homecoming with daiquiris — obtained via drive thru (the trick is in the straw!).

Then, at the supermarket, I was called “baby” and asked more times than I could count how I was doing that day.

And from personal experience, I’ve learned that you can go anywhere in the world and yell WHO DAT to a fellow New Orleanian — from the streets of Dublin to a Trombone Shorty concert in Paris — and generate a response.

There’s little doubt that New Orleans is one of the major culinary, artistic and cultural centers of the world. Living in another country for a spell really brings that awareness home.

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Posted in New Orleans Life.


New Orleans Americana Musicians: Gold Beneath the Highway – Video

Back by popular demand, here’s another tune from these fantastic New Orleans musicians. They do what I would call Americana music, which appears to be a relatively new genre. Well, I wouldn’t say the genre itself is new, just the term is new. Stephen Foster in the 19th century wrote Americana music. American folk music as well as some alt rock would fit into the category.

New Orleans Americana Musicians: Gold Beneath the Highway – Video

An excerpt from this article on Suite 101 gives us an idea of how this term developed:

Although the roots of Americana lie in the American Folk and Blues of the early 20th Century and the Rock and Country of the mid-century, Americana truly began to come together as its own genre in the 1970’s.

By the 1970’s, Folk and Rock Music had spawned a fusion known, fittingly, as Folk-Rock (R. Lankford “Folk Music USA).

At the same time in Country Music, a movement was forming away from its traditional center in Nashville. This movement became known as Outlaw Country and was in direct contrast to the Nashville music industry as the tight control producers had over the artists and their music (“Outlaw Country“ Rhapsody.com).

Roots music I believe is what it all comes from, definitely American and certainly down-home. Absolutely New Orleans could be considered to be one of the capitals of Americana music since I feel that traditional jazz as well as blues and most music that comes out of this city is roots music. If you do a search for Americana music on the Internet you’ll see that it appears to be a vast umbrella for what could be a mashup of traditional music.

Nick Spitzer’s NPR radio program American Roots is all about Americana music.

I’m a musician that plays various genres: traditional folk, some bluegrass, some originals, tunes from the American songbook, New Orleans music and Cajun music. I’be been used to calling myself a folk musician but really Americana seems to fit better at what I do over folk. I like that.

Gold Beneath the Highway does a nice job here with their original song “A Word from Home.” Nice lyrics, good harmonies, great guitar playing, good musicianship and a real authentic traditional sound from these New Orleans musicians. Yep, I would say pretty much Americana all the way.

Leave a COMMENT. Tell us what you think.

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New Orleans Teens Win Berklee Music School Scholarships

I always like to announce good tidings about people in New Orleans. Recently four young musicians from the New Orleans area were awarded full four-year scholarships to attend Berklee College of Music, a non-profit school in Boston. It was a stiff competition with 106 entrants from 36 different cities throughout the United States.

New Orleans Teens Win Berklee Music School Scholarships

darryl staves new orleans   nicole anderson new orleans raymond weber new orleans

Drummer Darryl Staves             Singer Nicole Anderson          Drummer Raymond Weber

Kiki Haynes, actress in Terry Perry’s upcoming series For Better or Worse on Oprah’s network, was on hand as the co-host to this sparkling concert. There were 17 winners in all and it’s quite an accomplishment for these young people to have received this type of recognition through such a scholarship.

Haynes said “Connecting with an audience through your voice and performance is something that I’ve always believed is key to success. These students have shown me just that, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work with Berklee City Music this year.”

New Orleans musicians are respected around the world for their education and creativity and innovation. It’s nice to see these young people on their way to what should be successful lives and successful careers.

And just who are these winners? They are Nicole Anderson, a vocalist from The Roots of Music, and Darryl Staves Jr. and Raymond Weber Jr., drummers from Tipitina’s. Also, from Jefferson, Louisiana, guitarist Hunter Burgamy, of Tipitina’s Foundation, was a winner as well.

Hooray for these young folks. Always nice to see these good people headed toward a bright future.

 

Leave a COMMENT. What do you think.

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When Katrina Hit Home -Young Folks Tale of Courage and Survival – Review

There have been a lot of books written in the aftermath and about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and what the failure of the levee systems built by the Corps of Engineers had wrought upon on New Orleans. Some books are scientific, others fictional and some of them memoirs. Now there’s a children’s book, When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home.

When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home – Young Folks Tale of Courage and Survival – Review

New page turning young folks book, When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home, a winner

New page turning young folks book, When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home, a winner

New Orleans eight years after the deluge is considered now to be the comeback city of America. Forbes calls us the best city to start a new business. Now entrepreneurs are flocking here.

Also, we are a top tourist destination, and things are looking really bright for us.

We got a great mayor and folks who have dived in, local and out-of-towners, to really make this place a bright spot in America, an American city reborn and better than ever.

What the hurricane did was thrust people into situations of which they never would have dreamed. Many people succumbed and let the circumstances beat them down but others were able to rise above the challenge and actually become heroes in their own right.

What could be a better idea for a young people’s book than giving the Katrina story to two kids and their families, black and white, Christian and Jewish, from opposite ends of the economic spectrum and throwing them together where they would have to depend on each other to survive.

That’s what Gail Langer Karwoski has done in her new book When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home. She’s done her research and actually interviewed kids to get their stories about what happened to them when the city flooded and how they came through it all.

Masterfully she has woven these accounts together into a tale that smacks of authenticity and told through the voices and viewpoints of the two main characters: Lyric, the little black girl from the Lower Ninth Ward, and Chazz, the Jewish kid from the Garden District.

The characters’ accounts are vivid and put you right there in the action. So much so that when I started reading the book I did not want to put it down. Yep, it’s a page turner alright. And even though I have my own Katrina story to tell, not nearly as dramatic as this one, still I could empathize with what’s going on because we suffered through having to see on television the harrowing rescues of our own citizens.

And I can remember driving through the Ninth Ward after the storm and seeing the massive destruction. The only thing I can equate it to was the feeling of being punched in the gut, a visceral reaction experienced by many who were able to get a glimpse of that once vibrant neighborhood where a majority of the black folk actually owned their own homes, and was the spawning ground of such famous and groundbreaking musicians as Fats Domino who still lives there.

This book has its own harrowing story tell and many of the scenes are not pretty. The author pulls no punches. This is a story that is as real as it could possibly be and is ultimately uplifting in the end because the main characters of the young people portrayed have to dig deep and call upon their own inner resources and knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong to survive with their honor in tact. The words of one of the main characters help them to get through: Always focus on hopeful.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

I spent the rest of Saturday getting ready. Following Adele’s directions, I taped all the windows. She said that running two lengths of tape in a large X would keep the glass from shattering in the high winds.
“But I closed the shutters. That won’t be enough to protect them?”

Adele shrugged.

“Okay, let me guess,” I said. “Just in case.”
I stoppered the bathtubs and filled them so we’d have water for washing and flushing—just in case. Then I helped Adele box up photos and important papers in plastic bins, and I carried them up to the attic.

I packed a suitcase with some clothes for me. I put it and Adele’s suitcase in the front hall, where we could grab them quick. I brought down my clarinet, which had belonged to Grandpa Charles. No way was I leaving that behind. Then I helped Adele gather food and drinks for the road.

Soon there was nothing left to do. We settled in the den with pimento cheese sandwiches and waited, for Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Leah—whichever blew in first.
By late afternoon, the TV news reported that all traffic entering New Orleans was being turned around. In order to ease congestion, all highways had been converted to one-way roads out of the city.

Adele and I looked at each other, and we both said, “Leah” at the same time.

She picked up the phone and punched in Leah’s number. I could hear the blast of rock music that signaled Leah’s message, so I motioned for the phone. I punched in Leah’s number again. More rock music. And again.

Adele looked at me, her eyebrows raised.

“If I annoy her enough, I bet she’ll pick up.” On the ninth try, I heard the click of Leah answering.

“Bingo,” I said and handed Adele the phone.
“Leah, they’ve shut down the highways coming into the city,” Adele said. “Where are you?” Pause. “No, they won’t let you through now. Stay there, understand? Don’t come any farther. Get a motel room. Yes, put it on my credit card.” Pause. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. If we have to leave, we’ll come to you. Oh, and Leah—keep the phone with you. And answer it.”

“So we’re going to ride it out?” I said after she hung up.
Adele nodded, biting her lip. “I have a bad feeling about this, Chazz.”

This is a great morality tale using the backdrop of Katrina, that storm of the century. Although written for young people, When Hurricane Hit Home is something that adults would absolutely enjoy and open their eyes to and give them an experience of some of the circumstances that thousands had to endure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Buy the book at Amazon.

 

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Posted in Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Books, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Neighborhoods.

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What the River Washed Away – A New Novel Set in Rural Louisiana – Review

One of the pleasures and perks of blogging about New Orleans is receiving unexpected packages in the mail of items to recommend in a blog post or requests to review books about New Orleans or Louisiana novels on the verge of being published.

What the River Washed Away – A New Novel Set in Rural Louisiana -Review

A few months ago when I got an invitation in my inbox to review a book set in Louisiana of course I felt it was my duty to accept. I always hope the books I get are good because not only do I hate having to read a bad book I hate having to give a bad review.

Many years ago when I was living in L.A. and working in the film industry one of my first jobs was to be a reader. I worked for a production company and they would send me books and scripts to read and write a review with recommendations as to whether it would make a good movie or not.

I love to read and sad to say that three fourths of the stuff I was sent was dreadful, a real chore to wade through. But every once in a while I’d get a great book or a script and was happy to recommend it. Of course, none of what I recommended ever got made into a movie. Oh well.

Fortunately, so far all of the books I’ve been asked to review for this blog have all been excellent. The new book by first time author Muriel Mhaurie Macleod is an exception as I would rate this book not only excellent but remarkable.

To be honest, when I received it in the mail I cracked it open and read the first few pages. It’s written in the first person of a young black girl in rural southern Louisiana and the authentic idiomatic language and pronunciation seemed at first a bit daunting.

Certainly having to read this narrative in this voice would slow down the reading and unfolding of the events of the novel. I just was not ready for it. So I put it aside in my pile of things to read always keeping it on top knowing eventually I’d get to it.

After several weeks time came for me to tackle it again. So I sat, opened the book and dove in, and at about page 10 I was thoroughly hooked. I got into the cadence of the narrator, the little girl Arletta, to where her words and pronunciation just seemed so natural and seemed especially true to the story, characters and setting.

How the author got into the head of this poor little black girl, living in a shack in the woods, raised by her flighty, voodoo priestess mother Mambo was remarkable, telling it almost as if she experienced it herself.

The situation and abuse Arletta has to endure is awful but she gains strength from an invisible friend and her finding her inner strength is what propels the book along. What Macleod has drawn are compelling not just three-dimensional but multi-dimensional characters that come alive on the page.

You get a real sense of place as the mood of each scene surrounds you wherever you’ve set yourself down to read the book. The novel is very southern, and Macleod writes like the very best of Southern writers.

And here’s the really great thing about this book: nothing is predictable. From page to page the author does a great job of not foreshadowing what’s going to happen. Every event as the story moves along is a surprise. In addition, nothing about the story seems contrived, it all seems to flow naturally from one scene to another with Arletta, the narrator, the focal point of the entire book.

Now here’s the real kicker: The author Muriel Mcleod was born and raised in Scotland and still makes her home there. She’s white. What she has pulled off with her first book is, in my view, a monumental feat of storytelling. It would be akin to me writing a novel set on a little island in Scotland using the language and cadence of the characters with a full grasp of the history and culture. I could not even imagine attempting it.

If I had received this book back in the day when I was a reader in L.A. this would receive my unequivocal recommendation to be made into a movie. Great believable characters, compelling visuals and a story arc that makes this book hard to put down once you get into it, these all necessary ingredients to make a great film. This great Louisiana novel, What the River Washed Away, has it all in spades.

I had the privilege of interviewing the author. You’ll see in the video above I’m at my desk in New Orleans and she’s on a little island off the coast of Scotland, the Isle of Lewis which is in the northwest corner of the Hebrides. We talk about how she came up with the idea for the story, why she wrote and how she came up with the voice of Arletta. It’s a fascinating interview with this fascinating first time author.

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Posted in Louisiana, New Orleans Books, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Videos.

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Food Tours in New Orleans: High Octane on Oak Street

Who’d a thunk that a foodie crawl in uptown New Orleans would be so popular. I mean most people think that you gotta stay in da Quartah to have any fun. Just what the heck does Oak Street got anyway? Well, for starters it’s got Jaques-Imo’s right next to the world famous Maple Leaf Bar. But then it’s got all these other places too, some old, some new.

Food Tours in New Orleans: High Octane on Oak Street

You’ll learn about a new place in this video that just opened a few months ago. If you do this tour you’ll learn about some other ones too that have fabulous drinks and fantastic food. And although this video is talking about a foodie crawl on July 18 these tours that Destination Kitchen puts one are regular ones not only here but along St. Charles Avenue and in the French Quarter as well.

So if you are looking for something different and unique and a great way to meet great people you can’t do much better than one of these food tours Julie Barreda of Destination Kitchen puts together. I know whereof I speak. I done a couple of her tours and loved them. So much so I thought I’d give her a plug here on my blog.

Just tell Julie I sent you.

Leave a COMMENT. Tell us what you think.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans Neighborhoods, New Orleans Videos.




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