Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
What do you know about the birthplace of jazz; the birthplace of Truman Capote; the birthplace of William Faulkner’s first book? What do you know about New Orleans? Melissa Lee Smith takes on the task of chronicling the history of this great city through a collection of photos, simply titled Historic Photos of New Orleans, which spans 100 years of New Orleans history. Not only does she provide an answer to those who hear New Orleans and can do little more than conjure up images of Mardi Gras and the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina; but she also appeals to the soul that refuses to abandon the term “K&B.” She masterfully blends the history, spirituality, pride and scandal that makes New Orleans the most unique of American cities.
The most notable thing that Ms. Smith subtly points out, is how well preserved it is. There were times when my mouth was literally agape, as I saw pictures that had been taken in the 1800s, that could have just as easily been taken in 2004. The book puts on display the city’s respect for tradition. New Orleans is home to the nation’s oldest yacht club (Southern Yacht Club), and open air market (The French Market), as well as the oldest cathedral in North America (St. Louis Cathedral). And of course, she pays homage to probably the most world renowned tradition, Mardi Gras. Notably mentioned in the book is how even in the 1800s, the port of New Orleans was still a powerhouse in the import/export business.
New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods are also showcased: the French Quarter, visited by tourists worldwide and lauded for its unique architecture; the Garden District, created for those who preferred not to live among the French Creoles in the Quarter, also a tourist attraction in its own right for its ornate landscaping; and Treme, the nation’s oldest African American community. You will also receive a taste of the arts and entertainment that the city has to offer, including the notorious Storyville.
I applaud Ms. Smith for not ignoring how African-Americans struggled to carve out their own place in the Antebellum South. The majority of black adults were relegated to work as laborers or domestic servants. The educational needs of black children were egregiously disregarded. Unfortunately, it would seem the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In viewing these photos, it makes me think the city that survived the Civil War, the battle that killed the British notion of occupying American soil, and the nations first disaster to exceed a billion dollars (Hurricane Betsy – again, the more things change. . .), can certainly regroup of the losses sustained by Hurricane Katrina.
I can only hope that a city so steeped in tradition will come to the realization that the tradition of neglect should not be repeated.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Stuff Black Mamba Hates
Tourists - Black Mamba is a city girl, so she enjoys living in touristy places. However, she is confused by the tourist's belief that not being native to a local gives one license to be an utter douchebag. Stopping in the middle of busy walkways; driving 10 mph on main thoroughfares; shouting unsafe things to the opposite end of the train such as, "I have NO IDEA where to get off!" are just a few situations where Black Mamba must battle with her inner self, not pull out her peace maker and have you run yo shit. This is entirely unacceptable.
American Caucasian Rescue Efforts - The biggest reason Black Mamba LOVES the movie "Akeelah and the Bee," was the fact that there wasn't some fresh-faced wide eyed white girl that saw her "potential" and delivered her from her peril. See, white people seem to really enjoy saving young minorities from, well, being minorities; just not in a meaningful way. Rarely, if ever, are the minority parents reached out to in ANY way. We can take this practice all the way back to Phyllis Wheatley, whose owners decided she was special enough to be taught to read and write, and her mistress "protected" her ("my Phyllis") from the big black negro (whose name escapes me) that wanted to court her. Think of every "inspirational" tale of integration. There's almost invariably some Anglo at the wheel, steering a gang of clueless black and brown miscreants to the glory that is their full potential. How else could they discover it?
The latest evolution involves the fashionable adoption of foreign children. Black Mamba is well aware that there are some people who are legitimate do-gooders, and have the purest of intentions. However, I have seen far to many black and yellow babies paraded about as the newest in the Gucci line. (I deliberately left out our brown brothers and sisters. Say what you will, but they keep their kids!) Black Mamba's opinion on the Madonna situation? When has she ever done ANYTHING that was not a calculated publicity stunt?
The fact that she likes Chris Brown - When Black Mamba won her car, she began to occasionally listen to the radio again. She found herself caught in the slow progression of tolerating a Chris Brown song, to nodding her head, to *gasp* SINGING ALONG! And as shameful as this is, she can't stop.
New Orleans Baked Goods Separation - Black Mamba very vocal about the benefits that living in Maryland affords her. That being said, there is a big difference between a Maryland donut (usually chains) and a New Orleans donut (usually local). A Tastee Donut (New Orleans standard) apple fritter reaches you right down to your most insidiest of insidey parts. I won't even touch on the fallen legend that is McKenzie's. *drool* Cinnamon rolls, buttermilk drops, black out cake. *saliva* Bunny Bread on a Saturday morning. *sigh* Randazzo's King Cake. *gasp* Hubig's Pies! *spontaneous orgasm* Of course, this is probably also the reason damn near everyone in the region has "sugar" (diabetes).
*I am well aware that there are probably other bloggers who have had a similar - or maybe even the exact - idea. This really matters not to me. There are no new ideas under the sun. Take it light and enjoy.