Had a great conversation with one of our lifetime subscribers today, John Jacobs, from Tucson. He and his wife Mary Anne (hope I spelled that right) are in town for a week, and leaving on New Year’s Day. John just stopped by to say hello and to thank us for doing what we do. It’s really nice to hear those words because it makes me feel like all the hard work and toil we put into the magazine pays off in that it’s doing what it’s supposed to—reaching people who love the music, want to know more about it, and who want to delve into all the complexities and wonders of our culture.
John told me that the first time that he and his wife had come to New Orleans was in 1988, to attend a conference for small festival promoters, and after that they came regularly, as they had fallen in love with the city. “Every time I look into something about New Orleans, I find something that’s even more interesting,” he said (I feel the same way. It’s almost like you’re peeling the layers off an onion. The more you think you know, the more you learn as you delve deeper).
John is a voracious reader, like me, so I recommended a few books: Nine Lives, Zeitoun, and Harold Battiste, Jr.’s Unfinished Blues, all of which I’ve read recently and which I’d recommend to anyone who loves the city. He said he’d be sure to get them on my recommendation (and if you haven’t read them, please do).
We talked about the television show Treme, whose second season is being shot in New Orleans as I write this for the Weekly Beat. John asked me if I liked the show (I do, and recommend it wholeheartedly). It’s always interesting to hear our subscribers’ points of view. We are “in” the New Orleans “moment” all the time, and often we forget about what makes the city so wonderful, charming and at the same time, infuriating. A lot of locals have a massive disdain for tourists and visitors, even though these are the people who allow us to keep up our insider-local mentality. I love talking to these people, especially our subscribers because they love what we do, and they appreciate the culture we’ve chosen to represent. They are a breath of fresh air to me.
There was a terrible story all over the news last night about eight young people who were burned to death in an abandoned house in the Ninth Ward. Apparently a group of these transient, probably homeless kids—mostly known as “gutter punks” on this side of the French Quarter, were burning wood and trash in a barrel in a vacant house to stay warm on a cold New Orleans night. I’m assuming they were asleep and overcome by smoke because only two of the group managed to get out. Such a tragedy, and it could happen to any of the many kids who hang around the Quarter. To my knowledge, there’s no place for these kids to crash on this side of New Orleans. On the other side of New Orleans, there’s the New Orleans Mission, the Ozanam Inn and the Bridge House. But where does a young kid living as a transient go for protection against frigid weather? Sad, very sad.
On that note, I won’t be maudlin any longer, because I’m looking forward to a brand new year in 2011. We’ll celebrate the Best of the Beat in a “new/old” location; the second season of Treme will air; the economy is improving; Donna’s on Rampart Street is slated to open again in the next month or so; and Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest are all right around the corner. We know that 2010 pretty much sucked for everyone in this country—except for the Saints win, of course. But I have to tell you, if I hear any more about “Who Dat” Water, “Poo Dat” diaper changing pads, or “Who Dat” special bank accounts (for godssake), I will scream. Go Saints, but enough already!
Let’s go into the second decade of the 21st Century with high hopes. Happy New Year!