How the ferry’s truncated hours effect Algiers’ culture and business (1A story, Times-Picayune. Aug 2014).

Neil Timms has lived in Algiers Point for 10 years, the last four-and-a-half as the owner of Crown and Anchor, the self-described “authentic English pub” at the corner of Pelican Avenue and Bouny Street, one block from the Mississippi River.

When he bought the establishment in 2010, business was thriving, Timms said. But since the summer of 2013, when the Algiers ferry cut its hours and eliminated car access, he estimates that his profits have dropped 20 to 30 percent.

“Right before the ferry hours got cut we’d built up a pretty significant amount of business of people coming from the Marigny and French Quarter just to drink at our pub,” Timms said. “They’d come on a weeknight — a fairly significant number, 20 or 30 people – and as soon as the ferry got cut it disappeared.”

The Crown and Anchor appears to have been among hardest hit of the small businesses that dot the Point, the historic Orleans Parish neighborhood whose culture and commerce are still adjusting, to varying degrees, to the ferry’s new hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 10:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Prior to June 30, 2013, the ferry ran 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. That schedule created a unique rhythm that drove a lot of the pub’s business: dawdlers who “miss the ferry and so they stay another half hour,” Timms said, “then miss it again, stay another half hour.”

Timms said his West Bank dart league can still pack the pub once or twice a week, but Thursday Trivia Nights are no more. “That was people coming from the other side,” he said. Live music also is a rarity now: “We don’t make as much, so can’t afford to pay the band.”

Things are not nearly so dire at the nearby Dry Dock Café and Old Point Bar. Dry Dock Owner Ron Casey, an Algiers resident since 1961, says that most of his profits come from food, so he’s doing fine.

“As long as (the ferry) is reliable then the hours don’t impact me that much,” he said. “I still get the daytime tourists.”

Ditto Warren Munster, who bought the Old Point Bar in 1997. He says tourists still come over in the daytime, and that the neighborhood folks who are stuck in Algiers once the ferry stops running have made up the difference.

“My profits haven’t changed,” he claims.

The hired hands behind the bar tell a different story. The Dry Dock bar stays open past midnight, and Casey acknowledged his bartenders have taken a hit. One, Cindy Cantwell, has worked at the Dry Dock Café for four years and reports a 30 to 50-percent drop in her tips since the ferry hours were cut. Jill Chaffe works the after-10 shift at the Old Point and likewise reports a decline in late-night business.

Vanessa Thurber, who has owned the Vine and Dine restaurant and wine bar with her husband Stephen since 2009, said the ferry’s new hours “have affected us negatively, clearly.” But the restaurants hours – 4 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday – align neatly with the ferry’s weekday schedule, so she says she doesn’t dwell on the issue.

“The only message I want to put forth going forward,” she said, “is that we are here, we are open, come and see us.”

Bars and restaurants aren’t the only businesses affected. Jen Kegel opened her NOLA Potter gallery in Algiers Point about a month before the ferry’s hours were cut last summer; she is now renting out the front of her gallery and offering art classes to try to make up for lost foot traffic. Algiers Point Tours owner Russell Blanchard says the ferry’s early weekend cutoff limits his ability to give his customers the full New Orleans experience.

“It’s sad that I have to say, ‘Here’s this great neighborhood with all this great stuff to do, but now you have to leave.” he said. “I mean, do you want to head home (by 8 p.m.) on a Saturday night? In a town like New Orleans that lives and breathes on nightlife and cuisine? It’s laughable.” CLICK HERE TO READ the rest of this 1A story at the Times-Picayune’s website, NOLA.com

Or take this HIGH DEFINITION ride on the Algiers ferry RIGHT NOW! 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

The White Guy Who Claimed He Invented Jazz (Narratively. Aug 2014).

Carol Tyner rolls up to the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans in a beautifully restored maroon 1948 Mercury. She drives the car to promote the legacy of her father, Dominic James “Nick” LaRocca, a Sicilian-American cornetist, trumpeter and bandleader whose Original Dixieland Jazz Band was the first group to record jazz. As far as Tyner is concerned, her father’s not famous enough.

“I had to go out of the country to see my father!” says Tyner, who recently traveled to Sicily to see a bust of Nick LaRocca. “I visited the one in Salaparuta at the music center named after LaRocca. My father wasn’t raised there but his parents were. In Salaparuta he’s considered alongside Louis Prima. Then I went to Palermo and found the street named after him, and then went to the music conservatory there, which has another bust. But then I walk around New Orleans and a lotta people don’t even know who Nick LaRocca is.”

At the Mint — which has served as a museum dedicated to New Orleans history both musical and otherwise since it stopped printing money in 1909 — Tyner would attend the unveiling of the third bust of her father, followed by a panel discussion titled “Marching In: Coming Home to the City Where Jazz Was Born.” Tyner looked forward to gathering with her cousins, her brother Jimmy — who now fronts her father’s band — and members of New Orleans’s large Italian-American community. Dozens of them came out to celebrate the man they believe invented jazz — a man who many in New Orleans’s jazz community consider a musical thief and an unapologetic white supremacist, whose infamy was sealed with a quote in the Ken Burns’s documentary “Jazz”:

“My contention is that the negroes learned to play this rhythm and music from the whites,” LaRocca said. “The negro did not play any kind of music equal to white men at any time.”

CLICK HERE TO READ the rest of the piece at Narratively.

Or check out this video that further investigates the controversy: 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

Let Me Clear My Goat (radio piece, WWNO/NPR. Sept 2014).

This is the story of how my wife Morgana King entered into a business agreement… with a bunch of goats.

It all began with just one goat, our pet, Chauncey Gardner: “We were joking about getting a goat instead of a lawn mower, and decided to go look at a farm on the West Bank and visit the goats,” says Morgana. “And it happened that on the day that we were there we saw Chauncey be born and decided to adopt a little baby goat, we’ve had him since he was a week old.”

That’s Morgana’s short version of how our pet of 11 years — a knee-high pygmy goat now weighing about 70 pounds — first entered our lives. He’s been our amiable silent partner ever since. Chauncey even evacuated Hurricane Katrina with us in 2005, riding calmly in the back seat as we traversed the South, looking for places to stay. We ended up living for a while on a farm in Houston, where we realized how different goats are from other pets.

“They aren’t jumping up on your for food, they live outside,” she says. They don’t have fleas and there’s no barking. They really are pretty self-sufficient and healthy creatures.”

Chauncey has done his job well — keeping our yard so nicely trimmed that Morgana decided she wanted to spread the benefits around to others. But since Chauncey can’t trim the whole world, she recently acquired nine more goats. CLICK HERE TO READ the rest of this piece at WWNO.

Or 

“Caldonia” Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

A Slut discusses trying out for Black Flag, Henry Rollins, and suicide (VICE. Aug 2014).

The internet is still mad at Henry Rollins. Dee Slut, however, is not—even though Rollins beat Dee Slut out of a job singing for Black Flag back in 1981. Luckily Slut (a.k.a. Dave Turgeon) got the booby prize of becoming a New Orleans legend by singing for punk band the Sluts on and off for the last 35 years. In between, Slut played and toured with every notable punk band of the era, and decided that Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye was a “dickhead.”

On the occasion of Rollins becoming a pariah—and the re-release by Jeth-Row Records of the Sluts only album on sexy pink vinyl—we spoke with Dee Slut about his Black Flag tryouts, his relationship with Rollins, and his own Rollins-esque thoughts on the many, many suicides he’s suffered through. CLICK HERE to read this truly great interview at VICE magazine.

Or check out this video of Die Sluts (Dee Slut + Die Rotzz) playing the song “Mom’s Cunt”: 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

NOLA Police brutality protest in wake of Ferguson (LA Weekly. Aug 2014).

Lafayette Square Park was tightly roped off when a couple hundred protestors gathered there last Thursday night to express their outrage with out-of-control police violence in Ferguson, Mo., New Orleans, and beyond.

Amid cries of “Justice for Mike Brown!” head speaker, Dillard University student Chanelle Batiste stood at the base of the park’s statue and held forth on police brutality cases, including the recent New Orleans incident where a routine traffic stop ended in an officer shooting a civilian in the head. The offending officer and the police department then failed to report the violence, and in fact, seemed to be covering it up—until the media reported it.

The crowd remained silent for a full 15 minutes while Chanelle Batiste discussed at length how the crowd would proceed with the officially scheduled moment of silence. With heat in the 90s and the sun still bright at 6:30 p.m., candles were passed out and lit among the crowd, who were asked to then raise their hands in the prone “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” position that has become the symbolic meme of the struggle in Ferguson. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at Louisiana Weekly.

Or check out this video of the protest march by David Bear: 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

Local writer publishes children’s book (The Advocate. Aug 2014).

Local writer and graphic novelist Gabe Soria loves issue No. 13 of the “Batman 66” comic book series from D.C. Comics — partly because Soria wrote the story, illustrated by renowned New York artist Dean Haspiel.

“Batman 66 is a retro series,” Soria said. “It’s based on the iconic TV show, much loved for its irreverent campy take on the character, with no allegiance to the other Batman comics.” The classic Batman TV series, starring Adam West as Batman, ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1968.

Soria’s retro Batman is an almost comedic character, and his dialog conjures Adam West’s measured voice. “I’ve been waiting to write in that voice for years,” Soria said. “I watched so much of that show as a kid. The dialog is wonderful. “The Adam West Batman, his speech patterns are as distinctive as Captain Kirk’s.” While staying mostly true to the TV show about Batman and Robin, Soria’s story soon takes a meta-twist.While scaling a 20-story building, the caped crusaders see a billboard for a new, modern TV show inspired by their own Gotham celebrity — except this TV doppelganger resembles more the colorless, gritty Batman of today’s Hollywood directors and comics illustrators.

“From what I have heard about it,” said Bruce Wayne’s Aunt Harriet as she sits down on the couch to watch this toughguy TV Batman, “it seems very lurid.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of this story…

Or check out this poignant and topical companion song to the piece… 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment

[radio piece] The Root Progression: Teaching In A Uniquely New Orleans Way At The Heritage School Of Music (WWNO/NPR. July 2014).

This fall, the 24-year-old Don Jamison Heritage School of Music will move into its first permanent home on Rampart Street, across from the French Quarter. The building’s façade is being sanded and painted for a December opening.

“All the classrooms are gonna have recording equipment so we can record each class,” says Derek Douget, the school’s coordinator of music education since 2010. “We have a state-of-the-art stage where we can do performances at the end of the week.”

Douget is excited about the upgrade to a new building, but he’s equally excited to expose more students to a nearly lost New Orleans tradition called the Root Progression: a teaching method devised and codified by mystic clarinetist Alvin Batiste.

“The Root Progression is basically a practice technique, and it involves the learning of intervals, so that you get them in your ear and get them under your fingers,” Douget says. “Section one of the Root Progression is just half steps. Then if you want to learn, say, an idea in half-steps, like a triad, it would be this —”

Douget plays an example on his saxophone. He studied Root Progression under Alvin Batiste — arguably the world’s first jazz teacher. The New Orleans-born Batiste taught at McDonough 35 before founding Southern University’s Jazz Institute in 1969. Batiste later spent four years as chair of the Jazz Department at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts before passing away in 2007.

Over 40 years of teaching, Batiste continually revised and self-published his own spiral-bound textbook titled The Root Progression Method: The Fundamentals of 20th Century African American Music. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this transcript…

Or go ahead and  to the audio version as it appeared on the radio: 

Posted in MPW's published writing | Leave a comment