It’s not quite official. Xy made the first cut and has been going to practice sessions. The rules are strict and harsh — you have to pass through many circles of hell before you can be considered a Big Easy Roller Girl. And it will be even longer before she sees any action in a bout, I think. For now she is aching all over from her last practice but the bruises so far are minimal. As busy as she is with teaching and mothering, she really doesn’t have time for this. Yet I’ve encouraged her every step of the way (including decorating her helmet last night) because I think it’s important for everyone to have some fun, and some “me” time. This might be the perfect activity for Xy. She’s got a lot of aggression that needs an outlet.

Katrina Jokes

[Katrina] Flattened Home

Flattened Home by Joshua Miller / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A friend of mine made a joke last week in an online discussion, and it really rubbed me the wrong way. It was a Katrina joke. I tried to play it off and make some jokes of my own, but ultimately I found, even after a couple days, that I was still ticked off. Finally I came clean with my feelings of frustration. He promptly apologized. I actually respect him more then ever for that; we kissed and made up, and as far as I can tell we’re buddies again.

But it has given me pause for reflection. Was this a simple case of misunderstanding by e-mail? It’s a famously “flat” medium where irony and nuance are lost. However, I don’t think that’s the case here.

Rather, I think that Katrina remains a sensitive topic for me, and probably lots of other people. Given the fact that it’s been four and half years, I don’t anticipate this changing any time soon. It’s beginning to look like a permanent condition.

The very word “Katrina” conjures up images of death and destruction in my mind. It conjures up the smell of mold. It reminds me of friends and neighbors who are no longer with us. It puts me back in an emotional roller coaster ride that is still not over.

As such, I’m not inclined to laugh at certain jokes.

It’s not that I have no sense of humor on the subject. To the contrary, I joke about Katrina all the time. Once, it was a coping mechanism. I laugh at such jokes when they come from certain quarters, from fellow travelers who have also had to cope with the bizarre circumstances of post-disaster reality. But when the jokes come from other quarters, my reaction may be very different. I’m liable to lose respect for the joker. I might even get a little angry.

To understand where I’m coming from, ask yourself the following:

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? How do you feel when other people make jokes about it?

I’m guessing that, for most people, “the worst thing” is something private. Thus you might never hear anyone making jokes about it. So maybe it’s not such a good comparison.

But Katrina and its aftermath was a media phenomenon. Everybody saw it on TV. Everybody’s got an opinion. Everybody thinks they know what happened — especially those who don’t. Therefore it’s fair game for everyone to offer their opinions and crack their jokes.

For example, there were some Bears fans a few years ago threatening that their team would “finish what Katrina started.” There was some deranged Colts fan who thought it would be funny to superimpose the team logo on an image of Katrina.

Or a more personal example: I recently shared an article about how “New Orleans ranks eighth among the nation’s largest cities for the percentage of residents who walk and bike to work.” A friend on Facebook quipped, “Well all your cars washed away.”

A harmless comment, a little throwaway line, right? Sure. But I didn’t laugh. If anything, I find myself making excuses on his behalf — “He probably didn’t think much before tossing that off,” and so on. If the remark had come from someone who lived here — if “your cars” became “our cars” — it would read very differently to me.

But as it stands, that comment just evokes a lot of bad memories.

White Car Under Pink House

Under the Broad Street Overpass

Side Car

I’m sure he didn’t intend that.

This is not a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not a case of unresolved issues. Sure, my mental health took a hit from the stress of Katrina, but I think I’ve made a (pretty much) complete recovery. I know plenty of people who haven’t. I know a guy who gets choked up every time he speaks about Katrina. It’s sad to see a grown person cry in public, but I understand where that comes from. Still and all, that’s not where I’m at. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to be able to rebound so fully.

It’s just that there are some thing which remain, for lack of a better word, serious. I’m not down with the mindset that everything’s fair game to be mocked and satirized. I don’t cotton to the perspective that we have to be cutting up all the time. To me that’s a form of mental totalitarianism.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying, pardon me for not laughing at your joke. Only, really, I’m not sorry. Would you make a joke about my friend who was murdered? Would you make fun of my baby being lead-poisoned? Damn, I hope not; that would be in poor taste. To me Katrina is very much the same territory. So I’d advise steering away from such jokes unless 1) you really don’t care about what I think, or 2) you are really, really good at it. Comedy can be an art form. I can respect that. But for most people, you’re just making an ass of yourself.

Dr. Francis and Me

Dr. Francis and Me

Here I am just hanging out with my favorite college president, Dr. Norman Francis.

Actually this photo was taken by Irving Johnson at a banquet where I was recognized for ten years of service here at the University.

I first realized Dr. Francis would be an inspirational figure to work for back in 1999, when I tuned into a national NPR story and he was quoted as an authority on the struggle for racial equality in America.

We don’t really interact much on campus, since he has much bigger fish to fry. I was honored to have my photo taken with him, and excited to receive it today. Definitely a keeper. Thanks Irving!

Two Years


Dear Persephone,

So much has gone on in the past month.

Let’s see — the Saints won the Super Bowl. You’re too young to appreciate the significance of that, but you sure enjoyed beating the hell out of that Peyton Manning voodoo doll.

Also, you had your first real Mardi Gras. I can’t imagine what you thought of all those people in those crazy colorful costumes. I’m pretty sure you loved it, though. You smiled and laughed a lot, and for an extended period your mouth was quite literally agape with amazement.

You also enjoyed a mini-evacuation when we had the house fumigated. I think you really did have fun staying at the house of my boss and her husband. For your mother and for me the whole thing was rather stressful and a big pain. But you were blissfully unaware.

It seems to me you’ve started to become more abstract in your thinking. You can identify emotional states as depicted in your books. You point to a face and say “happy” or “sad.” You recognize shapes and can name them. For example, you spotted a shape on our front door, pointed to it, and said, “circle.” I asked you about another shape on the door and you correctly identified it as “diamond.”

But what’s most impressed me is your recognition of similitude. You will often spontaneously point back and forth between two objects or pictures and say “same.” Sometimes these will be identical things, but often you are recognizing some similar aspect. Last week as we were looking at one of your picture books, you noticed that a snail’s spiral path matched the spiral on its shell. “Same!” I had never noticed that myself.

Things like that amaze me.

I forgot to mention last month that we finally weaned you from your mother’s breast milk. You were down to one feeding, in the early morning, and your mother wasn’t even sure you were getting much milk then. There were a couple rough nights, but I think you were ready. It may have been tougher on your mother than you, but it’s meant better sleep for all of us. Also some time in the past month we finally stowed away your last remaining baby bottles. You are drinking from sippy cups only now. You were just a little upset about that, but only for a few minutes, and now I think you’ve forgotten about the bottle entirely.

So much has gone on in the past month; it’s hard to think about the past year. But you are two years old now. In the past year you’ve learned to walk and talk. You’re big enough that I no longer carry you around strapped to my chest. I take you to daycare on a bike seat now. You still love to have books read to you, but you no longer want to repeat the same book a dozen times in a row — you’d rather read a dozen different books.

It was also in the past year that we got scared about the level of lead in your blood. I’ve been giving you extract of chlorella and cilantro pretty much every day for half a year now. This is supposed to detoxify the body, and you like the taste of it. Your last test indicated a drastically reduced blood lead level, and now that you’re two you are getting another screening, the results of which we will await anxiously. It remains my sincere hope that this is nothing but a footnote in your personal history.

It seems longer, but it’s really only over the last five months that we’ve taken a more disciplined approach to your sleep habits. You are sleeping better than ever, and so are we. There have definitely been some more and less difficult phases along the way, but recently I changed something in your bedtime routine that seemed to make a huge difference. After reading some stories and rhymes, I used to hold you and sing to you and then put you in your crib. Now I’ve changed the sequence slightly. I put you in your crib and then sing you a lullaby. You seem much happier with this arrangement.

For your birthday I got you an octopus made from a recycled sweater. You seem to like it.

Oh, one last thing: Now you really can make a stack of blocks as tall as yourself. Four months ago, nine blocks was your limit. Now you can do sixteen and not even blink.

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Hundredth Book

95 Mostly sci-fi books

Tomorrow at my book club we are discussing our hundredth book.

We have been reading together since the summer of 2001, when we got started with Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Since then we’ve been through an awful lot, including the flooding of our city as well as the death of our founder. But we’re still going, stronger than ever in fact.

We select our books by a simple method: Each person takes a turn selecting three books on a theme. Given the current size of our group, two years or more may elapse between turns.

This club is perhaps the single most enjoyable and completely stress-free activity I’ve had over the past decade. That’s why I’ve stuck with it, I suppose.

Actually it’s no longer as stress-free as it once was. It is more difficult to carve out that monthly time-slot since becoming a father; I feel a little guilty sometimes; and despite my repeated pleadings Xy doesn’t seem to respect my desire to have this one little bit of “me” time held sacred and inviolate. As a result, I’ve had to bring my daughter along to a couple recent club meetings, with varying degrees of success.

Yet still I persist. I’ll extract my revenge on Xy some day.

Here’s a spreadsheet listing all the books we’ve read, in order.

I see I’ve failed to mention one defining fact: We are a science fiction club. We read science fiction almost exclusively. I say almost exclusively because we have veered into fantasy occasionally, and we have read some books which many people, including our club members, would not consider science fiction. We have had many interesting conversations — I almost said “debates” — on the definition of the genre. In fact our very first meeting started with that question and it still comes up almost every month. I’m happy to report that we don’t appear to be in any danger of discovering a definitive answer.

If you’re interested in science fiction you should join us. We meet on the second Saturday of every month at 10:30 AM. (Except, obviously, this time; we’re meeting on a Sunday because of Carnival.) Location: Octavia Books. (Speaking of Octavia, our most-frequently read author to date is Octavia Butler.) You don’t have to be some kind of hardcore science fiction fan to attend. You don’t even have to know what science fiction is. Just bring an open mind.

Oh — our hundredth title? The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick.

It was OK. But I wouldn’t call it science fiction.

Editor B’s Pineapple Chili


Pineapple by Marj Kibby / CC BY-NC 2.0

David and Nicole came over for dinner a couple nights ago before heading back to Canada. I whipped up a batch of my famous chili, and Nicole asked for the recipe, so here it is. This is a vegan recipe but could easily be carnalized.

  • 1 large can of pineapple chunks in juice (not syrup)
  • 1 package Melissa’s Soyrizo or similar
  • 1 lb firm tofu, cubed
  • some olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • several cloves garlic, crushed
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 15 oz can kidney beans (or your favorite bean), undrained
  • 12 oz jar mild salsa / picante sauce
  • chili powder to taste — 1 TB for mild, 2 for TB moderate, 3 TB for hot
  • 1 TB whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt

In a large pan, brown tofu in oil, then add soyrizo, then add onion and bell pepper, then add garlic, stirring all the while. When the onion is transparent and the garlic smells good, transfer to large pot, add remaining ingredients, including juice from pineapple, but reserve the pineapple chunks themselves. I like to break the tomatoes up with a spoon while stirring. Simmer for an hour and a half, covered, stirring occasionally. Add pineapple and heat through. Serve with beer and bread.

Dancing with Beautiful Strangers

P & Me

Our first plan was to reprise last year’s costumes which we didn’t really get to employ last year. But then it became clear that this Mardi Gras would be unseasonably cool, and perhaps downright cold. Costuming as Olympian deities seemed like it would be uncomfortable, and so I scrambled at the last possible minute to come up with an alternative.

What could we wear and still be warm? Robes, I thought, big robes, big enough so that we can wear anything we want underneath. Since the Saints won the Super Bowl, I could make gold robes for all three of us, and we could wear black beads, and we’d be set. (Black robes with gold beads just seemed too easy somehow.)

I found instructions that looked simple enough. Most of the gold fabric had flown off the shelves of the local fabric store, but I managed to find some drapery-type stuff in back. Couldn’t settle for yellow, mind you — it had to be gold. I also got some gold rope to use for belts.

I borrowed the use of a friend’s sewing machine and soon enough we had our costumes. We added black caps for good measure. We borrowed a wagon from another friend.

Mardi Gras is primarily an early morning holiday, at least to me. It’s kind of like Christmas in that way. This is contrary to the image many casual tourists might have in mind, due to the common association linking revelry with late nights. But I rarely stay out late on Mardi Gras, and for me the best part of the day is generally before noon.

We some friends in the Marigny for a breakfast party. We donned our costumes and around 10:00 AM we joined up with the Societé de Sainte Anne which seemed to be passing by. I say “seemed to” because the Societé de Sainte Anne is so secretive, so mysterious, so surreal and chaotic, that it’s really kind of hard to tell exactly where the parade is, even when you’re in it. It is a collective hallucination.

Soon Persephone was dancing with a beautiful stranger.

Dancing with a Beautiful Stranger

Isn’t that what Mardi Gras is all about?

Persephone has a great time. She had a fever last year, so this was her first real Mardi Gras. At one point she was literally agape, mouth hanging open is amazement, to see so many wild and colorful characters.

I did not take many good photos. I was juggling a toddler and a wagon and of course Xy’s always a handful.

Pulling the Wagon

Xy pulled the wagon at times, but most of the way I found myself carrying Persephone in one arm and pulling the wagon with the other.

We saw a guy in an egg costume. He told Persephone he was Humpty Dumpty, then thought better of it, saying, “You probably don’t even know who that is.” Persephone whipped out her Mother Goose book and immediately turned to this rhyme.


While wearing mittens no less!

Later we saw another Humpty Dumpty, a guy with his head made up like an egg, with tiny articulated arms on either cheek which he manipulated by a clever arrangement of rods, complete with a brick wall under his chin. I didn’t get a photo but it was pretty amazing. I saw so many amazing costumes. A Kachina doll. A bicycle hidden inside a giant shoe. A fully functional sound system sheathed in metal shaped like a bull and bellowing steam. Hindu deities with multiple arms. A mobile drum set with stripper pole. Saints-themed costumes were of course ubiquitous. I didn’t even get a picture of my friends as the three big quarterbacks the Saints took down. Imagine Brett Favre with a walker and you get the idea. Everyone wanted to take his picture but somehow I failed.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing costume of all was this tree house.

Tree House

How tall is that thing? They are looking down on people in second story balconies. And somehow it’s moving around. It’s a riff on a recent local news story about an artsy tree house that ran afoul of city inspectors.


I wish I’d had the presence of mind to get a portrait of all three of us together in our matching costumes. Some random stranger took a photo of us that looked pretty good — he showed it to me on the viewfinder — but I’m sure I’ll never see that again. Here’s a photo Howie took showing my daughter and me on Royal Street.

B & P

Probably the best photo I took was this portrait of an older man in a wheelchair, wearing a pink boa, smoking a cigarette and taking it all in.


It was a great day but not without incident. At one point I crossed Royal Street a little too hastily. I was trying to dodge what appeared to be a large ocean-going vessel when a king’s ermine cape got snagged on the wheel of our wagon. For this act of carelessness, I incurred his royal displeasure.

The other near-disaster came when we stopped at a friend’s condo. Persephone was playing with a toy that belonged to the resident canine, and they got into a fight. I got in between them right quick and the girl emerged with only a tiny scratch under her left eye, but she was quite frightened. The dog bit me on the leg, and I shudder to think what might have happened.

We were back home shortly after five. The girl was utterly exhausted.

If this Mardi Gras could be said to have had a theme, deeper than the Saints mania, it was perhaps a renewed snese of optimism and confidence, the hope that we’ve turned a corner in our recovery, that, as Adma Karlin puts it, “deep down the 2010 carnival season marks when, at long last, post-Katrina New Orleans became, again, just New Orleans.”

Here’s hoping.

Ignorant Filthy Rats


Carnival and preparations for Mardi Gras are keeping me too busy to write, so instead I thought I’d highlight some comments I received a few days ago.

Cast your memory back. Long-time readers will remember my letter to Paul Curcuru which I posted in 2006, regarding a certain abandoned grocery and the rodent population therein.

So the other night an anonymous person left the following note on that post:

I was a friend of the curcuru’s for many years; the store was owned by Joe Cucuru but was sold by his sons after he died. I believe they sold the property to a Vietnamese family.

[For the record: No. Paul Curcuru was the property owner, and may still be for all I know. The store was being rented to a Vietnamese proprietor before the flood put them out of business.]

Twenty minutes later, the same person left a comment on my follow-up post from 2008:

people living in new orleans are ignorant filthy rats anyway. you should feel right at home.

A couple minutes later, he left a second comment on the same post:

people who live in New Orleans are filthy rats anyway,whats the problem?

Apparently he tired of anonymity at that point, because this third comment bore the name Phillip Weiman.

Thank you, Mr. Weiman, for demonstrating exactly what I meant when I mentioned the “outpouring of internet-hatred” against New Orleans a couple weeks ago. Like I said then, we’ve heard it all before. We’ve read it all before. It doesn’t even faze us any more.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Samedi Blues

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs)

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs) by Cecily Devil / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Looking back, I realize we had only four Samedi Gras parties at our old house. It seems like more, because we lived there for seven years. Plus, we always did it up big. A keg of beer. Serious home-cooked food — usually jambalaya, though I think I made gumbo one year. And live music.

We bought that house in 2002, but Endymion was relocated Uptown in 2003 because of the (re)construction of the streetcar line on Canal. So, no party that year.

So we had our first party in 2004. As far as I know this was the first and last live performance by Phantasmagore.

Then we had one in 2005. Our special musical guest was Rabbit Hatch.

Skip a couple years, as Endymion was relocated Uptown again.

We were back on in 2008. I had a sprained ankle and Xy was just as pregnant as could be. Killowatt Rising played, a full-on electric rock band, and the party was showcased on the front cover of the Times-Picayune’s Inside Out.

I didn’t think anything could top that, but then we had our final party in 2009. We didn’t know it was the final party at the time. Still, it was very special. Herbie Jo Johnson provided the musical entertainment. My parents came down for their first Carnival ever. Best of all, our girl’s first birthday fell on the same date.

So at least we finished strong.

Now we’ve moved. We’re still in Mid-City, but everything is different. We’re no longer so close to the parade route. And we aren’t having a party this year.

What to do? I’m not really a fan of Endymion per se. I love the festive atmosphere the parade generates. It feels like the only time that Carnival comes to our neighborhood. but I’m not really into the parade itself. It is the biggest and gaudiest of the Carnival parades, but I don’t find its aesthetic compelling, and frankly if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it a thousand times. That’s why I enjoyed having htat party every year. It gave me something to do instead of watching the parade.

I guess maybe we’ll make it to a couple of other people’s parties. And maybe my daughter will be excited by the parade.

The whole prospect has got me feeling sort of blue. The day seems to have a different character in different parts of Mid-City. Some of my neighbors have been discussing problems on Orleans Avenue that are positively hair-raising:

Now, I’m as eager as the next guy to celebrate the roll of Endymion, but this has escalated into a problem of mass proportions. The practice of parking cube vans in the area, filled with kegs and ice, has increased exponentially. These vans are often used as makeshift port-a-potties once empty. You don’t even want to know what that’s like. There are fights, there is property damage, there is urination on houses and in alleys. In a surprising twist last year, this element added a new level of public indecency: couples having sex both on the neutral ground on the night before and in the surrounding blocks the day of. I kid you not. This has not just gotten out of control. It’s a plague. If it’s not enough to just be pushed out of sitting on the parade route, this litany of offenses has mounted to unprecedented levels. Imagine Bourbon St without all the pesky laws and controls.

Back at our old place we didn’t have those issues. The crowds would be thinner but still substantial.

I am missing our old ‘hood a bit today.

Settling for Less — No More

New Orleans Saints Fans High-Five Each Other

Today I’m offering a rare guest post by my friend David. Take it away, man.

B, I agree with all your points, but as someone who grew up here, the win means even more.

We all know that historically the Saints were a lousy team. The first Saints game I attended was in the 1980 season, when the Saints posted a 1-15 record, a record that remained the NFL’s worst until last season’s Detroit team went 0-16. The Saints went decades without a winning season followed by thirteen years in which they could not win a playoff game, modest accomplishments that are pro forma for most teams. Before Katrina, I frequently said, “Being a Saints fan is like trying to convince yourself you’re in love with a woman who’s been sleeping around on you; you know, sooner or later, you’re going to be let down.” By any empirical basis, on an intuitive level, the Saints’ winning the Super Bowl was simply impossible.

New Orleans’ culture possesses a unique ability to transmute disappointment into some kind of celebration, and so we did with the Saints. We wore our paper bags in the Superdome and turned our embarrassment into a hilarious, iconic joke. But we settled. We settled for less, for a real embarrassment. New Orleans does possess qualities that are precious and entirely too rare, chief among them are wildly creative imaginations, sublime beauty, and a humbling, profound love for this place. But the dark side of our city’s joyous resilience is that we’re willing to settle for less — from our government, from our corporations, from our civic discourse.

We all know that the Saints’ victory “means more than football.” In fact, it matters very little to me that the Saints beat the Colts or that they stand on top of the nation’s most prestigious sports league or that sports fans the world over are in love with our team. The reason my eyes well up when I think about the Super Bowl is because our team achieved something truly grand, despite every challenge, circumstance and history that would have excused them for settling for less.

So we have witnessed a sports champion becoming a people’s champion. Entrenched mindsets have fallen away; insufferable difficulties have been overcome. And now I cannot help but dream and dream big, of the city’s overcoming its oldest embarrassment, the ethnic divisions between her citizens created by their economic exploitation. We caught a glimpse of it every Sunday in the Superdome as the Who Dat Nation stood shoulder-to-shoulder, regardless of race, to rock the Dome in one voice. My dream is that, in this city of passionate love, each New Orleanian comes to love all New Orleanians and view the plight of their neighbors as the plight of their beloved city. Of course, fate handed us a new mayor on the eve of this victory, one who fortunately made unity his mantra. My dream is that, in this city of such imagination and creativity, we imagine and create a government and society based on economic and social justice. Such accomplishments are harder than winning a Super Bowl. Many would say they’re impossible. But Sunday, the Saints showed us that impossible is nothing.

An Intriguing Notion

Mitch Landrieu

This passage in a news story caught my eye. Mary Rickard for Reuters:

Along with a championship team, New Orleans has a new mayor in Mitch Landrieu, who won election on Saturday by a wide margin. Landrieu, the city’s first white mayor in more than 30 years, pledged to bridge racial divides that have grown under Ray Nagin, the current mayor.

I’m one of those white voters who always thought the mayor of New Orleans should be black. That is to say, I see the value in having a mayor of color in a place with a long, ugly, bloody legacy of racial oppression. Even though I’m just as Nordic as can be, I sympathize with the perspective of African-Americans who fought for political power and want to hold on to it and view white candidates with suspicion. No, I haven’t walked in their shoes. But I know about the systematic suppression of the black vote. That was wrong, and I always figured having a black mayor kind of helped make up for it in some way.

So that’s where I align myself. All other considerations being equal, I’m pulling for the black guy. Call me a self-loathing honky if you like; it won’t hurt my feelings.

And therefore the notion in the Reuters article intrigues me — the idea that a white man could unify a city in which politics are so racially polarized. Is that really possible? Can white unite? It seems counter-intuitive at first glance. Outsiders might even be tempted to dismiss Landrieu’s election as an effect of black voters being displaced by the flooding of New Orleans. But in fact Landrieu won something like 60% of the black vote — which is still the majority in Orleans Parish. In fact, Landrieu won every precinct but one, and that was lost by only a handful of votes. (An election map is available on NolaStat.) His victory is considered a landslide of historic proportions, considering especially it was an open primary which he won outright. It should also be noted that Mitch’s father, Moon, was famous for integrating City Hall. That was before my time, but I gather that he was quite respected by many African-Americans. Apparently he was also hated by some white folks for the same reason.

Once upon a time I was an outsider who could pretend to be above it all, or at least ignorant. The longer I live here, of course, the more I become ensnared in the local political mindset. Being a white “Yankee” working at a historically black college puts some interesting twists in it to be sure. I’m still far from understanding all the nuances of race in New Orleans, but I do know this: The racial distrust cuts both ways here. It strikes me as possible that black folks may be ready to trust a white guy. I’m not sure if the reverse is true at this particular moment.

Of course, it must be said, the white guy has to perform. Landrieu has to make good on his promises and demonstrate from the start that he intends to govern equitably. There are surely plenty of black folks who are nervous and distrustful at this turn, and surely plenty of white folks who are gleeful for all the wrong reasons. But maybe, just maybe, the time is right and the people are ready and this guy has the stuff to bring some unity and a period of healing to the city.

It strikes me as vaguely improbable. But even the improbable seems possible in New Orleans today. After the all, the Saints just won the Super Bowl.

Not a Football Fan

A number of friends have remarked recently at how surprised they are to see me writing about sports, and about football in particular, since they remember when I didn’t know anything about the game except that the ball’s shaped funny.

It was not that long ago, really.

One thing I should perhaps clarify: I am not a football fan. I am a Saints fan. There is a difference.

I’ve already recounted how I came to appreciate the game of football in my fortieth year. If you missed this fascinating disclosure, I suggest you revisit my Confessions of a Football Skeptic. Most everything I’ve learned about the game has come from watching the Saints. I still haven’t taken much of an interest in watching other teams play.

But there’s more to it than that.

People here love the team. I remember years ago seeing a statistical proof that Saints fans were the most loyal in the nations, as a ratio of ticket sales to losses, or some such. The fans are off-the-chain crazy devoted, and that’s somewhat infectious.

But there’s more to it than that.

Dare I say it? The Saints have a cool image. They have an unusual name, an awesome logo (which goes back to the 12th century if not earlier) and classy colors. Even before I started following the game, I could be seen sporting Saints gear occasionally, just because I wanted to look cool.

B Fat Stats
Editor B in Cypress Grove Cemetery circa 2003

But, again, there’s so much more to it than that.

I could go on and on in this vein, but I’ll cut to the chase. After the floods of 2005, when everything about this city was called into question, interest in every aspect of the local culture intensified greatly, and I too was caught up in that. I decided to actually check the Saints out and try to understand what all these incredibly loyal fans were on about. It just so happened that I started paying attention as the team started to catch fire under Brees and Payton. The success of the team has been, quite simply, an inspiration to just about everyone living here. The team’s public rhetoric about rebuilding together has supported this. They are more than a metaphor. They are an example.

If they can succeed, so can we. Here’s a video clip wherein Garland Robinette says “they have awakened us to our own recovery.”

Despite many positive aspects, New Orleans had been on the decline for a good century, and thus falling from the national consciousness, when the city flooded in 2005. All of a sudden we were thrust into the spotlight, and it wasn’t pretty. Everything negative about the city, all our failings and shortcomings were on display — even as the nation was reminded of all the unique things New Orleans contributes.

So now here we are in 2010 and New Orleans is again a focus of national media attention, only this time the story is positive. More people watched this Super Bowl than any televised event in human history. As the saying goes, you can’t buy that sort of publicity. This is huge, and we need it.

But maybe even more importantly than how this makes us look to others, is how this makes us look at ourselves, like Garland said. It’s a reminder of the simple truism that if we pull together and work hard we can accomplish great things. We need that reminder.

Has there ever been a time when an NFL team has meant so much to a city, to a region, as what the Saints have meant over the past four and half years to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? I don’t know enough about the history of the league to answer that question. But I suspect not.

The closest I can imagine is the Detroit Lions. Now that the Saints have made it all the way, the Lions are the only old team to never play in the Super Bowl. And furthermore the Detroit area has been weathering an economic storm for years that has in some ways been worse than the flooding New Orleans experienced. If the Lions were ever to mount a resurgence such as the Saints have done, it might have a similar feel to it.

Until then, I think it’s safe to say that New Orleans has a very special relationship to its team. Sure, there are plenty of football fanatics here. But I believe there are also a great number of fans, like myself, who simply would not be following any team if they lived elsewhere.

To reiterate, I am not a football fan. I’m a Saints fan. There is a difference.

A Few Choice Quotes

Toddler Abuses Peyton Manning
Toddler Abuses Peyton Manning

The Saints won a decisive victory against a worthy opponent, and people in New Orleans couldn’t be happier. To be perfectly honest I’m still having a hard time believing this is real. I had been anticipating defeat. I’d thought about what I’d say here if New Orleans lost — how it still felt like victory just to be in the game, how we’d still have a bigger party than Indianapolis. I even had a title for today’s entry: “Blue Monday (Not).” But I really didn’t expect… this. I didn’t expect I’d be writing from this perspective. I find I’m at a loss for words. So I will let some other people speak for me:

Text messages from my sister last night:

A win for pitty aint shit. Ur livin a 4 yr old wet dream all the way out.

Let me guess, u orleanians r going to riot n loot over a win? Whodat?

(For the record, no.)

Comments posted on yesterday’s column about me in the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Bart Everson was, is, and will always be a self-styled schmuck whose only claim to fame is his own hot air, seasoned with chronic halitosis.

Plus Bart lied about Timothy McVeigh being from Indiana. McVeigh was from the Niagara Falls area. He was executed in Terre Haute.

Barton P. Everson is a filthy, half-witted varlet, and his clothes are both malodorous and out of fashion! Were he in need of a napkin at a pumpkin-eating contest, and were I in charge of distributing napkins, not only I would not offer him a napkin, I would not give him one if he asked for it! I would pretend not to hear his pleas for napkins! That’s how scurrilous I find him! I am quite serious about this!

I, too, find his pustulent, malodorous nephariousness a preponderance of the ilk known abroad as a not-squeaky-clean person in his attributes and general bearing to be a massive run-on sentence. The injurious intent of his regular diatribitic misuse of community jocularity could only be interpreted as portential to the delusional meanderings of those whose socks could use a good wash…

Joe Flint for the Los Angeles Times:

Move over Hawkeye Pierce, looks like Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints just took your ratings crown along with the Super Bowl title.

Bill Simmons for ESPN:

On the heels of another third-down throw to Clark, Addai charges in for a 4-yard rushing touchdown (10 plays, 76 yards, 5:26 drive), followed by a shot of the Manning family’s luxury box and Archie sitting sadly before realizing, “Oh, crap, there are cameras on me, I can’t root for the Saints!” and belatedly applauding. That was fun.

Bill Barnwell on ESPN:

May the feeling you had watching Tracy Porter run the victory into the end zone remain on instant recall for generations

Jerry Izenberg for The Star-Ledger:

He is the one who triggered an early Mardi Gras, who wrote the ultimate comeback saga and hurled it directly into the teeth of the depression Katrina wrought. He is the one who gave new life into the age old New Orleans’ call to arms and revelry Sunday night: ‘‘Laissez les bon temps rouler’’ — “Let the good times roll.’’

Ohm Youngmisuk for the New York Daily News:

For Porter, this was incredibly sweet since he was born in Louisiana and played high school football there before attending Indiana University.

Andy Hutchins on The Sporting Blog:

Look, I know that Tracy Porter’s superb film study is what actually enabled him to pick off Peyton Manning’s fourth-quarter pass and return it for the Super Bowl 44-sealing touchdown Sunday night. If you believe that a mix of confidence and style can put karma on your side, though, join me in praising Tracy Porter’s hair.

Bob Kravitz, sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star:

But in the end, the Indianapolis Colts were left with nothing. Just a bitter, hollow feeling that will last well into the offseason.

Michael David Smith on NBC Sports Pro Football Talk:

And so it’s no surprise that Manning and Wayne weren’t in particularly good spirits after the game, and that they went straight to the locker room instead of sticking around on the field afterward to offer post-game handshakes to the Saints.

Maybe it’s time to stick in another pin…

Another Peyton Manning Voodoo Doll

Peter King for MySI:

It’s right, it’s fair, it’s just, it’s good, it’s shocking.


He said the Saints are not like a lot of NFL teams. Brees said the Saints “played for so much more than just ourselves. We played for our city … and the entire Who Dat nation that was behind us all the way.”

Simon Evans for Reuters:

The celebrations included the curious sight of Saints’ quarterback coach Joe Lombardi posing alongside the trophy named after his grandfather.

Judy Battista for the New York Times:

“This thing [the Lombardi trophy] laid in my bed next to me last night,” Payton said. “I rolled over; I probably drooled on it. Man, there’s nothing like it.”

Andrew Astelford for ESPN:

For many, [Ward McClendon] said, there remains a hole in lives in this area, where more than 75 percent of the pre-Hurricane Katrina population remains displaced. Here, he said, football has helped heal. Especially after a Super Bowl victory. “It’s doing a lot for our spirit,” McClendon said.

San Francisco Chronicle

Aside from bringing a championship to a hard-luck city, Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts is feeding feelings the city can overcome the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and solve long-standing problems.

Chris Herring for the Wall Street Journal:

“Even sober people came here for this, and that’s not something you normally see this time of year in New Orleans,” said Tish Welch-Slusher, a Sulphur, La. resident, referring to Mardi Gras. “This is going to be crazy.”

Richard Fausset for the L.A. Times:

At the Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel New Orleans, at Bourbon and Canal streets, numerous wait staff failed to show up for work Monday morning, and management types were conspicuously bussing dirty tables at breakfast time.

Anthony on Facebook:

Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?!? No one!!!

Love Your Enemy

I’ve had a lot of fun at the expense of my former hometown over the past few days — and the response has truly astonished me. So kick back for a few minutes and listen to this mix while I disclose a few final factoids.

You’re hearing a dozen of my favorite songs from or about the Circle City. Perhaps surprisingly, only a couple of them actually make fun of Indianapolis.

It might be noted that I haven’t mentioned the Indy music scene in my rantings. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because I’m actually a huge fan of Musical Family Tree, which is one of the best music/community sites on the web.

And — oh yes — it is based in Indianapolis. Indie rock (no pun intended) from that city is a sort of touchstone for the site, but it branches out from there. Way out. You’ll find music from diverse genres and from as far away as Japan, but all interconnected in one beautiful web of mutual complicity.

If all this seems unexpected in light of what I’ve been putting out recently, consider this photo (and caption) which I posted way back in July of 2005.


It’s like Indianapolis has turned into the Venice of the Midwest!

Yes, I’ve been dogging on Indy pretty hard over the last few days. Hopefully by spiraling into absurdity I made my intentions clear to even the most irony-impaired Hoosiers. What I said earlier this week is true: I love Indianapolis. Not because it’s a paragon of, well, anything, but because I haven’t got room for hate in this old heart of mine. Indianapolis is where I grew up, and I will always have a soft spot for it.

But it definitely helps to have an 800-mile buffer zone.

New Orleans is in many ways the polar opposite of Indy. I knew nothing of New Orleans as I grew up in Indiana, and it remained a complete cultural blind spot until I moved here ten years ago. The strange thing was that I felt at home here immediately. I’ve come to love New Orleans, not unreservedly, but in spite of her flaws — “warts and all,” one might say.

Which, by the way, is also how I love Indianapolis. Warts and all, and at a distance.

When I returned for that visit in 2005 I was mighty impressed by how much downtown Indy had changed. It really is not what I remembered growing up there in the 80s.

I just thought it would be a good idea to say this now, in advance of the big game. If I’d waited until after the Saints victory, people might have thought I was saying these things out of pity for the Colts fans. Not at all. I speak not out of pity, but because I love the truth. It’s the same love of truth which motivated me to compile all those very factual facts about Indianapolis.

Speaking of which, did you know Indianapolis recently made number eight on a list of top cities to visit in the state of Indiana? (Hat tip to Howie for that one.)

This just in: It appears I’m the subject of an article in the Sunday Herald-Times. That’s the daily rag in Bloomington, Indiana. Feature columnist Mike Leonard was apparently pushed over the edge by my goodhearted razzing. The full column is behind a paywall, but my sources have supplied me with the text. Leonard tries to explain away my invective based on the fact that I grew up in a suburb on the south side of Indy:

And when you grow up in a place like Greenwood, it’s easy to see the worst in Indy-A-No-Place. Of all of the cities and towns in Indiana that begin with “Green,” Greenwood clearly offers the bleakest, strip-mall-and-vinyl-village perspective of all.

Who Dat Say Dat Last Who Dat?

Who Dat?

This just in from my father:

With all the fun you’re having pre-game, I want to share a little game I played with my cousins, Allen and Francie when I was in my early teens in Wisconsin. One of us would enter the Grainary where another would be in the attic making noise.

The downstairs person would say: “who dat up dere?”
The attic person would say “Who dat down dere?”
Then the downstairs person would say (the punch line): “Who dat dat say dat last who dat?”

I think we were vaguely aware of a song that was kind of popular then, like now, incorporating part or all of our lyrics. Anyway, we got a big kick out of it, circa 1948.

Which just serves to further demonstrate how ridiculous the NFL’s recent attempt to claim ownership of the phrase was. Good thing they backed down.

Thanks for sharing Dad! Too bad you’re rooting for the wrong team tomorrow…

Indy Facts 21-30

The line just never stops!

My research continues to pay dividends. I’ve discovered things about Indianapolis that even I didn’t know, things that will make your hair stand on end. I started this list to help Saints fans, but when my friends and family up in Indianapolis read this, they will probably want to pack up the car and evacuate while the getting is good.

  1. Even though Jimmy Kimmel calls the score wrong, you gotta respect his take:

    Colts 31-21. I know New Orleans is the sentimental favorite, but I still think people who live in Indianapolis are worse off.

    Kimmel may have the score wrong but a gorilla and some cats pick the Saints. These animals are never wrong. Who’s laughing now?

  2. The benighted denizens of Indianapolis love to brag about how theirs is the only capital city located at the exact geographic center of their state — as if that was something to brag about in the first place. But as a matter of fact, like so many other pro-Indy talking points, this is a flat-out lie. Indianapolis is not at the exact center of Indiana. Not even close! It’s skewed a good 35 feet to the northeast. The founding fathers figured this was close enough — such is Hoosier laxity where matters of precision are concerned.
  3. And that leads us to another little-known but extremely relevant fact. Indianapolis was not the only name considered for the city. Because of the imprecise reckoning used to fix its location, the original name of the city was proposed to be Purtnearpolis because it’s “purt near” the center of the state. James Whitcomb Riley advocated strongly for this choice, but he was so drunk when he spoke before the legislature that no one could understand what he was actually saying.
  4. As an unfortunate consequence of the name finally chosen for the city, no one really knows what to call those who have the misfortune to live there. The official terms is Indianapolitan, which has more syllables than most Hoosiers can count. The problem is that no one can actually pronounce that word. Is that any way to conduct business in the 21st century?
  5. Hoosiers like to consider themselves well educated, but a recent poll indicates that 85% of Indiana residents can’t spell “Who Dat.” 63% weren’t even certain if it’s one word or two.
  6. Indianapolis is known as a breeding ground for terrorists and criminals. Jimmy Hoffa, Jim Jones, half of the original Symbionese Liberation Army, Timothy McVeigh, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Osama bin Laden are all from Indianapolis.
  7. There is a school on the west side of Indy that serves nothing but bacon in its cafeteria. Hard to believe but true! No veggies, no fresh fruit, no beverages even. Only bacon.
  8. Bourbon Street, probably the most famous street in America, is known across the nation for tawdry images of female Mardi Gras revelers baring their breasts in public. Here in New Orleans we know such behavior is the exclusive domain of tourists from out of town. What’s less well known is that 92% of those Bourbon Street flashers are from Indianapolis. It’s a statistical fact.
  9. The somniferous qualities of Naptown cannot be overstated. In 1992, the city council considered installing “wake up sirens” in the downtown area to prevent workers and tourists from nodding off due to sheer boredom. The project proved cost-prohibitive so today rampant snoozing continues unabated in the streets. Indeed it is not unusual to stumble over people sleeping on the sidewalk in downtown in Indianapolis, from which derives the customary Hoosier warning, “Mind you don’t stub your toe on that guy’s teeth!”
  10. The city of Indianapolis is so depressing, and its citizenry so lacking in moral character, that a Constitutional amendment was recently introduced to engineer a “reverse secession” which would effectively turn Indianapolis into an independent nation of its own. The amendment was narrowly defeated on humanitarian grounds.

These facts are backed up by a thorough research of the historical and scientific literature and are guaranteed to be pretty goshdarn accurate.

Hoosiers Fight Back!

angry mob

It’s almost heartening to see the Indianapolis folk awaken from their torpor and struggle to mount a defense against the mountains of factual evidence I’ve been compiling over the last couple days.

Of course, in typical Hoosier fashion, their counterattacks fall somewhat short of the mark, to say the least. Unfortunately ineptitude is sort of a tradition up there in Indy.

First we have some guy name Chris who’s all in a huff, man. He’s formulated a list of “5 Reasons New Orleans (and Louisiana in general) SUX” (typical Hoosier spelling) which he posted on this blog — twice.

He says we’re violent, ignorant, fat, corrupt, and racist. I fervently wish I could deny those allegations, but I can’t. I’m nothing if not a stickler for the truth, and I’m not one to gloss over serious problems.

However — and this applies to all who hate on NOLA — you really need to think twice about that strategy. It won’t work, and it might even backfire.

See, after our city was flooded in 2005, we got help from people all over the country. Along with that help, we also saw an outpouring of internet-hatred which I don’t think those elsewhere in the country can really imagine.

In other words, we’ve heard it all before. We’ve read it all before. We’ve chosen to make a stand, and we’re battle-hardened. As we’ve struggled to rebuild we’ve had to re-examine every aspect of life here, and we are more aware of our flaws than you — painfully so. Some of us are fighting to make it better.

Meanwhile, beyond the Crescent City, everybody’s rooting for us. We’re the underdog, and America loves an underdog. So disparaging NOLA just makes you look like a poor sport.

Hey, I warned you at the outset this wasn’t going to be fair.

Furthermore, Chris, I have to point out that your list stops at a scant five items. I’ve compiled twenty facts about Indy, and I’m only just warming up. You’ve got your work cut out for you. Despite what your Hoosier math skills might tell you, posting the same list twice doesn’t make it ten.

OK, next up: This blog also got a comment from the Marketing Director for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. Her remarks were so sincere and so heartfelt they almost made me cry. Almost. It does occur to me that this poor woman has one tough job. She has to try to get people to come to Indianapolis. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for her? You’d have to be a hardhearted curmudgeon indeed.

The real shitstorm (sorry Mom) has been on Facebook. There has been a group formed called Bart Everson is not welcome in Indianapolis. Unfortunately for poor Nate, the founder, it was quickly flooded (oops, bad choice of words) by New Orleans residents and Who Dats from around the country. On last review, I see Nate is considering signing ownership of the group over to me. “Maybe I should just surrender… I’m a stranger in my own group!”

Ya gotta feel sorry for these Hoosiers. You really do.

Meanwhile, that Chris Huff Man has been huffing and puffing on Facebook as well. He commented on my status — again and again and again and again — on every status update I’ve posted over the past couple days.

Chris commented on my status.

And it was the same comment each time. Not much content actually. Just a link. A link to a picture…

Colts = Katrina?

What’s that? It appears to be a Colts logo superimposed on Hurricane Katrina as it bore down on the Gulf Coast five years ago.


However, this is yet another example of Hoosier strategy gone terribly wrong. You see, the game isn’t in New Orleans. It’s actually in Miami. Y’all are welcome to send “Hurricane Coltrina” our way to join the party, of course.

This graphic is much superior.

Hurricane Whodat

I’m sure all will agree that “Hurricane Whodat” shows greater creativity and subtlety. But that’s the kind of quality — the passion — the attention to detail — I’ve come to expect from Saints fans.

I can only hope the Colts bring a stronger game on Sunday. Really, I mean that. I want the Saints to win, of course. But if the Colts come as weak as their fans, it won’t be much of game.

Footnote: I don’t even have the heart to ridicule these guys:

Stay tuned — more important and incontrovertible Indy Facts are coming soon.