My friend G writes a lot of letters, and he’s one of the die-hard militant New Orleanians who are great to be around when you need some fervor. That’s not to say he’s Mr. Sunny optimistic, but he will defend the city to the highest level.
He sent me a few things (as he has before) that I thought I’d post. First he sent me this text from Tom Fitzmorris, who’s a bit pompous and all, but I’m glad he’s pissed about the shame that is Al Copeland. Just wish he was a little more vitriolic:
Copeland’s has taken over the former Lone Star Steakhouse on West Esplanade in Kenner, near the Esplanade Mall, and a few days ago reopened it as a standard Copeland’s Creole-Cajun restaurant. (Although they all seem to be working that cheesecake idea.)
That in itself is no big deal–one ordinary chain replaced by a better, local, chain. But it inspires a question, one I’ve been asked over a hundred times by readers and callers to my radio show. One I can’t get answered by the Copeland’s people.
Why are they allowing the two Copeland’s locations on St. Charles Avenue to just sit there, boarded up?
St. Charles Avenue did not experience significant flooding. The buildings may have had some damage anyway. But there’s nothing going on at either place. Not the older, smaller restaurant on the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon, or the much bigger, flashy Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro on St. Charles at St. Andrew, near the Pontchartrain Hotel.
The only word I’ve heard–and this second-hand–is that they’re thinking about what to do about those restaurants.
How about just opening them? Everybody else Uptown is doing pretty well. The neighborhood is pretty much intact. For the Cheesecake Bistro, there are more people working downtown than there were before the storm.
But right now, they’re a blight on the showplace street of New Orleans (although you might not know that for the condition of the St. Charles roadway.)
The streetcar line, which had to be completely rebuilt, looks to reopen before these two Copeland’s restaurants will.
Come on, Al. If you’re going to use the name “New Orleans” on your restaurants, how about helpping New Orleans a little?
I read Harry Shearer’s blog pretty regularly, but G paid close attention to these posts because he resents the hell out of the negativity we get in the national media, especially from Nossiter at the Times.
Two Posts for Harry Shearer on his blog (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-shearer/)
I. “How Are Things Down There?”
That’s the first question anybody who’s even a part-time New Orleanian hears from folks around the country. Anecdotal reports, like the recent NYT story about people moving out (the Times reporter, unlike lil’ ol’ me, couldn’t happen to run into anybody who’d moved in) are not much help.
II. Some Good News From New Orleans–A Blog to Cherish
I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t have known about it, had I not glanced at a house ad in The New Yorker for the magazine’s website, but newyorker.com has one hell of a New Orleans blog going on. Yes, it also contradicts everything one thinks about New Yorker, New York and New Yorkish journalism, but Dan Baum (with the assistance of his wife) is writing street-level reporting about daily life in the Crescent City, spiced with some excellent videos of Mardi Gras Indian celebrations. Baum has a true reporter’s eagerness to talk to anyone and go anywhere, so let him take you through the New Orleans that never makes the news.
Then there’s this letter to Keith Spera, who sang the praises of SXSW this weekend:
I am puzzled by your promotion of Austin and its music culture. This is a city that has made every attempt to take the culture of New Orleans hostage; first by offering safe haven, then openly seducing our musicians to remain, rather than facilitating their return home.
The shameless looting of our precious culture by others is now a fact of post-K history. Houston has stolen our businesses, San Antonio lusted over our Saints, and yes, Austin covets our musicians and artists. I would view these behaviors as picking the bones of the corpse if not for the fact that New Orleans is not dead, and is not about to die. I can also assure you that this culture is not portable and will not thrive elsewhere, except as an awkward caricature of itself.
As you enjoy this year’s festival in Austin, I remind you of comments made in aftermath of the levee breaches by two well-known Austinians who have taken much from New Orleans culture over the years, and given little back in this time of great need.
“Would I go back to live? There’s nothing there. People thought there was a New Orleans music Orleans music scene; there wasn’t. A lot of things about life in New Orleans were a myth.” – Cyril Neville, December 2005
“Austin is a different kind of town than New Orleans, which has been a dead-end street for a lot of people for a long time.” – Marcia Ball, December 2005
You might revisit their original interviews to appreciate their distaste for New Orleans, a city that you write about so eloquently.
You can see that this is a guy with some issues and some passion for the city. Good person to have as a friend, especially when the going gets tough.