The story of New Orleans’s Most Talked of Club (NOMTOC) (WWNO radio. Feb. 2015)

CLICK HERE to listen to the audio version.

Few are more excited to ride this Mardi Gras season than the krewe of NOMTOC. NOMTOC, stands for “New Orleans’s Most Talked of Club.” But then you say you’ve never heard of ‘em?

“That’s probably a combination of their ambition, and a name. They wanted to be known, they wanted people to recognize who they were.”

That’s James Henderson Jr., NOMTOC’s President since 2012, and a NOMTOC member for roughly 40 years.

NOMTOC formed in 1951 on the West Bank, in Algiers. Racial issues, claims Henderson, kept the krewe from getting a parade permit until 1970.

“It was an outlet for African Americans,” Henderson explains. “They didn’t have an outlet over here. There was the Krewe of Alla, but we didn’t participate, we weren’t welcome to that. There was the Krewe of Chocktaw; we weren’t welcome to that. So yes, they were doing it for themselves.”

Today, NOMTOC remains proudly working class. Participation is open to everyone, with fees under $500 per year. As a result, the parade club boasts over 400 members of all races and genders.

But only the 65 African American male Executive Board members belong to NOMTOC’s Jugs Social Club. President Henderson explains the origins of the Jugs.

“Their first party they had little brown jugs, and the theme is the little brown jug… And that was it.” Henderson laughs. “I think it alludes probably to drinking.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at WWNO…

Or CLICK HERE to listen to the audio version.

Or watch this footage of Edna Karr’s marching band facing off against the band from Landry-Walker at 2015’s NOMTOC parade: 

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The Irredeemable Chris Rose (Columbia Journalism Review. March 2015).

CHRIS ROSE’S PULITZER CRYSTAL SITS in his small French Quarter apartment, its glass badly chipped from various accidents. The disfigured accolade for his work on a reporting team at the Times-Picayune is a reminder of both prowess and loss.

“The way the people of New Orleans made me feel after Hurricane Katrina—like I was holding this fucking city together all by myself,” Rose tells me at the Napoleon House restaurant and bar, in a graffitied payphone nook where he’s eaten, drunk, and written for a dozen-plus years. “At the time, we had Ray Nagin as mayor; all the city institutions and individuals had failed everyone. The Times-Picayune really stepped it up. And I was the face of The Times-Picayune.”

Rose’s collection of post-Katrina Picayune columns, 1 Dead In Attic(Simon and Schuster), became a New York Times bestseller in 2007. Since then, New Orleans’ news community has seemingly cast Rose aside. No journalism entity in town will hire him, he tells me, not even freelance. If they do answer his calls, they say he’s too much of a risk. And so for all of 2014, the 53-year-old Rose was waiting tables to pay rent and feed his three kids.

Rose looks noticeably frailer, his curly hair thinner, since the public last saw him. He looks like what he is: a man who has fallen, and gotten up, and fallen again. He won his Pulitzer by writing about his intense personal struggles following Katrina. A newspaper columnist who had once been known for celebrity gossip, Rose’s public persona was reborn. He used his column as catharsis, writing emotional, first-person accounts that spoke to—and represented—a suffering community.

Sitting and eating a muffaletta, and later strolling around the French Quarter, Rose is recognized and stopped by people from all over the country who tell him how much his work has meant to them. “I teach1 Dead In Attic as part of my college course,” two separate people divulge.

Over the last year, Rose also received many compliments on his writing while refilling his customers’ water glasses at the seafood and cocktail bar Kingfish, a job he recently left. “I’d walk up to the table and they’d fuckin’ drop their spoons,” Rose laughs, his eyes welling up slightly as he nibbles on “crawtater”-flavored Zapp’s chips. “When they realized it wasn’t a joke or for a story, they’d tend to get more upset than I ever did about it. It’s not what I dreamed of doing at this point in my life either, but I found myself having to comfort them more than they comforted me.”

When CJR last reported on Rose in 2008, his tale was one of redemption; he’d shaken an oxycontin painkiller addiction in rehab in order to serve as a bone-marrow donor for his leukemia-stricken sister. But while Rose suffered through rehab, his wife served him divorce papers. “I stayed clean until my sister died in the summer of 2007,” says Rose, who remained clean and clear-eyed all through the publicity run for 1 Dead In Attic on the flood’s second anniversary, including TV appearances with Morning Edition and CBS’ The Early Show. After that, he says, “I’d lost my sister and my marriage, so I went back to eating Vicodin.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of this story at Columbia Journalism Review…

Or, watch this long video of Chris Rose discussing post-Katrina progress: 

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3 short pieces: Quintron’s Weather Warlock + 2 (NewOrleans.me)

Below are three stories I wrote for NewOrleans.me
1) (March 11, 2015) CLICK HERE to read about a new movie called “The Lot,” filmed in, and about, Algiers Point.
2) (Jan. 13, 2015) CLICK HERE to read about Nari Tomassetti’s surrealist play, Dreadful Dwarf’s Delicious Day
And 3)
The Dropout Drops Out, With Help From Quintron

(March 4, 2015) Local musician and inventor Mr. Quintron could not have conjured up his newest creation, the Weather Warlock, without the help of Tulane’s radio station, WTUL.

The Weather Warlock is a seven-foot tall synthesizer that reads all aspects of the weather – temperature, precipitation, wind, sunlight – and turns it into droning, therapeutic abstract music.

The idea began when WTUL gifted Quintron two old, antique mixing consoles, thinking he might need them, for something some day. “That particular type of console inspired me to build the Weather Warlock,” says Quintron.

“It’s made by LPD, and the physical design is really genius – it is a work of industrial design art. Those boards are the most well-printed circuit boards I’ve ever seen in my life. The face folds out like the hood of car, for accessibility, when you need to work on it. So much thought went into this thing – you don’t see them like that now – you didn’t see them like that then! All radio stations have now moved on to digital boards – who knows why.”

Though he radically changed the color, Quintron replaced the mixer’s switches and knobs to match its exact original holes. “I let the design dictate how far he I went with designing the circuitry,” Q explains. “And since I see ‘Weather for the Blind’ as like a radio station, the fact that it all would come from an old broadcast console seemed fitting.”

The Weather Warlock has been a hit with kids at New Orleans schools and libraries, from Uptown to Algiers, and at select spots on Quintron’s extensive worldwide music tours with his puppeteer wife, Miss Pussycat. Quintron has also put together an improvisational heavy metal band that plays along to the Weather Warlock during sunsets – the noisiest time of day for the invention. This Mothers Day will see the release of the first Weather Warlock album.

As with his other famous invention, the Drum Buddy, Quintron proceeded to build and prototype more Weather Warlocks. “One night he was hanging at my radio show and noticed that WTUL had one last extra old console,” says WTUL DJ GrisGris, Judah Lea, 33, whose show The Dropout has aired from 4-6pm each Wednesday for the last four years. “WTUL told Quintron they would give the console to him, and he agreed to do one of our benefit shows.”

This Saturday, March 7, at One Eyed Jacks, Quintron will repay his debt from behind his organ, as he provides “funeral music” for Lea’s show, The Dropout, which will soon (ahem) drop out of its time slot.

If you’re wondering where the name of the show comes from, here’s Lea: “I actually dropped out of the college I went to, and then here I was doing a show at Tulane, a college that I never even went to,” he laughs. “Normally WTUL DJs are just students. Though I’m not a student, faculty, or former faculty, I managed to sneak toward to the top of the list with my own slot.”

Lea describes his Dropout show with DJ Benny Divine as having emphasized, “Rock n’ roll, kraut rock, garage rock, psych punk – bands like Chrome, Aphrodite’s Child, and Ty Segall. Locally I fell in with Gary Wrong, Quintron, and Babes – those guys will all be playing at this funeral, because they kind of changed my tastes a little, so the show had been morphing to reflect more contemporary, newer bands.”

With no radio show, Lea will now focus his DJ GrisGris persona on his VHS-based found-sound and video art, which he displayed at most of Quintron’s local concerts in 2014. Behind the decks and the VCR for WTUL’s upcoming marathon weekend, Lea says his funeral roster will include the garagy bands Babes and Heavy Lids, the twangy Bobby Peters, 60s garage throwbacks the Planchettes, plus Woozy, featuring John St Cyr from Native America.

Quintron will play funeral dirges during a faux memorial service for The Dropout, says Lea: “Q has the coffin to put on stage, we have memorial wreaths, and funeral themed projections. Confrontational comedian ‘Patrick Shuttlesworth’ will act as pastor with Q[uintron] playing organ accompaniment. Patrick will sermonize and introduce every band, and each band will give eulogies for my show. I think Q’s practicing St James Infirmary. But I can’t say any more.”

Watch this video of Weather Warlock LIVE at Reckless Records: 

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Our Beheaded Baby Goat Went Viral (The Awl. Feb. 2015).

A couple of weeks ago, on a moist, chilly morning, I was drinking the day’s first coffee when a text arrived from my wife. “Someone murdered one of the goats.”

We’d recently moved to New Orleans’ slightly more suburban West Bank, where we could have more space, enough for my wife to keep goats. The plan had been to use the goats to help fight the post-Katrina blight that everyone complains about—tangled jungle that takes teams of men, gasoline, and garbage bags to clear away, our goats would devour. The city agreed to pay my wife to keep eighteen goats at a neighborhood park that had fallen into disrepair. For most of the last year, the goats had lived safely in a giant, beautiful, wooded area not far from the Mississippi River.

I sped off to the park, four miles away. As I rolled down the park’s main paved road, then across a verdant baseball field to the goats’ red mobile barn, I passed no one. Locked inside, sixteen goats pressed their noses against windows, watching me step over the waist-high electric fence that encircled their barn and about an acre of unkempt brush; whenever the animals ate one area bare, we’d move the barn and fence to a new feral plot. I walked over to where Calvin lay, on the edge of the stripped bare forest, his head missing. “Jack is missing too,” my wife told me. Calvin and Jack were the sons of our extra-small miniature pygmy goat, Wille. We thought he was too short to mount any of the female goats until one day, Caldonia popped out two tiny miracle babies that, four months later, still resembled kittens.

I trudged into the woods that the goats had cleared, looking for Jack’s body or Calvin’s tiny head. The electric fence, disconnected now, had been humming when my wife arrived earlier—a human intruder would have turned it off before entering. Back where our electric fence ended, the park’s chain-mail fence had been bent upwards, perhaps to accommodate passage. Farther down, an animal had dug under the fence recently. Otherwise, scouring our fenced-in acre, I found nothing.

Back at the barn, the police officer we had called, plus a lady from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, had arrived and were talking to my wife. She’d let her favorite goat out of the barn; tall, skinny Jesse is so well-mannered and loving that someone must have bottle-fed him from birth and let him sleep in their bed. The cop, who seemed polite and genuinely concerned, brought up “devil worshippers,” which seemed so absurd it forced my mind in the other direction. “Any dog with a particularly strong jaw could have grabbed Calvin’s head in its mouth like a tennis ball,” I said, “then given it a couple casual shakes and popped it off clean.” Everyone else shook their heads in disagreement as they marveled over the clean cut—no tearing, and somehow, no blood.

I didn’t want to mention the teens. But without much else to say, I grudgingly described six preppy white boys and girls who I’d encountered a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this piece at The Awl…

Or watch this TV report about the incident: 

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Chauncey the goat’s obituary (NolaDefender. Feb. 2015).

Morgana King and Michael Patrick Welch watched Chauncey Gardner be born at Rosedale Farms off Lapalco in June of 2004. He was bottle-raised and lived in a Bywater backyard behind Bacchanal Wine Bar for the next nine years, before retiring to an even bigger yard in Algiers’ Behrman neighborhood in 2013.

in 2005, Chauncey traversed the country in the front seat of his owners’ car during the month after Hurricane Katrina when citizens were locked out of New Orleans. His post-Katrina adventures were documented in severalVillage Voice papers. Chauncey also appeared several times in the Times-PicayuneGambit, and other publications and local television programs.

In 2007, Chauncey was featured in music videos by The Morning 40 Federation and The White B*tch.

In 2009, Chauncey starred in an episode of Animal Planet’s show Pets 101.

Over the course of his life, Chauncey was greeted by celebrity fans such as rapper Chuck D, punk icon Jello Biafra, and insult comedian Tony Clifton.

He served as mascot of New Orleans’s annual NOizeFest from 2002 to 2014, and was often used as a good luck charm during Saints game viewings inside Vaughan’s Lounge.

His calm, companionable personality inspired Morgana King to start her goat-powered company Y’Herd Me Property Maintenance in 2014.

Chauncey is survived by his owners, and his human sisters Cleopatra and Xyla Welch.

For more on Chauncey’s history, visit: http://narrative.ly/stories/my-wife-with-goats/

CLICK HERE to read the original obit at NOLADefender…

Or check out this music video we made, starring Chauncey: 

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Mosquito Supper Club (NewOrleans.me. January 2015).

Mosquito Supper Club chef Melissa Martin grew up learning to cook for herself and five siblings in Houma. “Our supper club is a dream state of our past – that feeling you had at your grandparents house,” she says, explaining the underpinnings of her establishment, a restaurant-cum-dance-hall that brings Acadiana to the streets of New Orleans.

“In Houma I had like all these aunts and uncles, and we all lived next to each other we all ate at my grandmother’s house together every weekend. Then Effie Michot, my partner, is from Lafayette, from a prolific musical family,” Martin continues. “She eats breathes and sleeps Cajun music. It’s a driving force in her life. So my past was always food-centric-but for Effie, her past was more was music-centric. We’ve brought those two elements together with our supper club.”

“A lot of places where you see Cajun music, they’re restaurants,” says Effie Michot, whose father and uncles comprised the Michot Brothers Band, who traveled the world in the 1980s on a quest to reinvigorate Cajun music and language. Their sons, Andre and Louis Michot went on to become the Lost Bayou Ramblers.

“Growing up in Lafayette, a couple times a week I’d be out at some place like Prejeans or Mulate’s, eating and dancing and watching my uncles play. Our dream is not to own a restaurant some day, but to have a dance hall, where we can have dances at and cook and eat.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of this piece at NewOrleans.me…

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UNEDITED Book Review: New Orleans Boom & Blackout by Brian Boyles (New Orleans.me. Jan. 2015).

Below is the unedited version of this review, which is quite a bit longer than the one that was published HERE.

Author Brian Boyles has traversed the CBD daily for the last eight years as an employee of Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He’s also occupied the DJ booth at Handsome Willie’s, the CBD’s “neighborhood bar without a neighborhood,” spinning tunes at almost every Saints football game since the 2009 Championship Season. Both of these occupations—combined with Boyles’s natural curiosity as a journalist and historian—helped position him to become an expert in the social political drama that was the Super Bowl’s last takeover of New Orleans.

In his new book, New Orleans Boom and Blackout, Boyles combs over the 100 days leading up to the Super Bowl, and finds a concentrated amount of important history within. Like Mayor Landrieu and other politicians did at the time, Boyles frames the Super Bowl as the lens through which America will finally get to see the “new New Orleans.” With a dispassionate eye, Boyles documents the many instances en route, when “the contentious ghosts of the recovery emerged to complicate things.”

Within these 100 days—tucked inside the year of the Saints Bountgate scandal Boyles watched and heard and documented: cabbies blocking Canal Street in protest of being forced to make expensive cab upgrades; Ray Nagin begin his eventual indictment; the “War On Music” when the city suddenly got strict about nightclub permits; the expensive airport renovations that preceded the newer expensive airport renovations; the Federal Government hand the NOPD a challenging consent decree; the ACLU sue the city for free speech inside the NFL’s temporarily oppressive Clean Zone; Tom Benson unveil the Pelicans.

“Right now it seems like journalism,” says Boyles, who earned a Bachelor’s in History from Tulane, of his new book. “I was trying to capture something for posterity—and that’s when it becomes history. Every day now, something comes up that makes us want to argue about the direction the city’s going, and about authenticity—I wanted to step back from all that, removed myself from aspects of it that make me sad or make me happy, and figure out how it was all important, and how did it fit into the flow of New Orleans history.”

Some of the information in Boom and Blackout could seem rote to those who paid attention to this recent history the first time around. But Boyles carefully balances the essentials with street-level knowledge, gained from folks like the To Be Continue Brass band, with whom Boyles checks in every few chapters. The TBC have, over the years, been shuffled down Bourbon Street, block by block, until finally they were battling Canal Street and Super Bowl. When the band ran into Mayor Landrieu on a stage they shared during Super Bowl, TBC trombonist Devin Vance claims the mayor blew them off: “We was like ‘Hey, what’s up with Bourbon Street?’ and he just went through the door.”:

“I don’t like how they could fix everything for Super Bowl but they can’t fix the streets in our neighborhood,” said Vance. “They can spend so much money to make the city look pretty for something big like that, but you drive down my streets [and] they got potholes every block. You can spend that much money for somebody who’s gonna be here a couple of days for the Super Bowl?”

“For most people who live here, these events, you either work at them, or else you have to reroute your life to accommodate,” says Boyles of the special geographic proximity from which he absorbed his book’s subject. “But people tailgate outside of my office. Plus, DJing gave me a really good window into the people following the Saint, and the politics around it. The DJ booth at Handsome Willie’s is ground level, so you interact with people the whole time. I always had up to date information from the service industry about what those folks were going through, what they were expecting. ”

DJing those games, Boyles also learned a lot about Southern music tastes. “I went into that gig thinking I’d be playing classic rock and things. But I found out early on that white people like Southern hip-hop as much as anyone else. I knew Cash Money, but I didn’t know Tim Smooth, or the Bunny Hop. There was a cool period where I was learning through getting a lot of requests. But what struck me immediately is that everyone knew the words to “Nolia Clap.”

New Orleans Book and Blackout has been nominated for One Book New Orleans [http://ylcnola.org/display/one-book-one-new-orleans/].

And here is a video, that never gets old or less hilarious, of the lights going out in the New Orleans Superdome the last time we hosted the SuperBowl (the “Blackout” referenced in Boyles’s book title): 

Boyles will host a book release party on Tuesday, January 27, 5pm at Handsome Willy’s, 218 S. Robertson, featuring DK Maxmillion and DJRQAway

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