Irene’s next chapter…

…when they move from the 500 block of St. Philip to the 500 block of Bienville next week.

I LOVE this restaurant and am so glad they are moving to the Bienville location and not closing or moving out of our neighborhood… I’ll miss them on St. Phil and I think the museum should be shamed at their eviction of one of the best neighbors in the lower Quarter but Irene and son will do great in the new location too.

I’ll see you there. Story here.

 

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The 2018 New Orleans Combination: 606-10-300

Tomorrow the Maid of Orleans celebrates her 606th birthday. In the old quarter, a group of dedicated volunteers will stage one of the most beautiful parades of the year in her honor for the 10th year in a row. And directly after, fireworks will celebrate the 300th year since our city’s founding.

There may be no better way to understand the deep determination of people here to remain – and to not just to remain but to live with ease together and to honor the history we safeguard – than the Carnival season. This one, held during our tricentennial, should be especially exciting.

In many ways, the best and worst of what we represent is on display during these weeks every year: the DIY creativity, the peaceful takeover of public space (described best by CW Cannon in his New Orleans Manifesto), the informal conviviality among all groups gathered on a parade route. But also note the divide between rich and poor and people of color and white people: gauge the city’s interest in litter control or infrastructure repair between the worlds of St. Charles versus Claiborne, or check out the cordoned off areas for the politically connected on the grandstands in front of Gallier Hall for the big parades. Cannon points out “the social purpose of the Uptown route parading tradition was to standardize, control and express who the bosses of the city were in a striking visual spectacle.” If you doubt it, note where the Rex, Proteus or Comus flags on homes are all located, the debutante photos (and same names) on the news sites,  the pic of the middle-aged man who will be Rex in 2018 and his 20-something “Queen.”

(And don’t forget the groups of mostly young white men who illegally camp out days before a few unnamed parades in order to to be upfront and able to push others aside to get plastic beads and children’s toys and get pukey-drunk on the neutral ground.)

Even so, the season offers something good for every New Orleanian old and new, permanent or temporary. For most, it is a season of deep sociability and a slew of political or cultural indicators of the current mood sent by the people to their elected officials.

As a Quarterite, I tend to stay here to celebrate the season, venturing more often downtown than Uptown. One reason is that the city stopped allowing float parades in the Quarter in the 1970s and after some years of inactivity, the walking parade has taken over on our streets with a great deal of style. Joan of Arc’s parade- although not directly a Carnival parade as it would roll on her day no matter when it was-is the perfect way to begin the downtown season. With its handmade costumes and candlelight, it offers a humorous, educational, moving set of tableaus dedicated to one of the saints that New Orleans considers theirs.

I remember the first one in 2008 where I met it in the Square and then again at “Joanie on a Pony,” the golden statue now found on Decatur , where the parade ends and a few dozen bystanders shared king cake with the cold and wet but jubilant masquers who had pulled off their first parade.

What is significant about that date is that it was in the depths of the rebuilding of our city after the federal levee breaks and was about the time that the initial joy at returning had worn off and the long slog ahead to recover became quite evident. I was living in a FEMA trailer in MidCity and upon returning back to it and my still-empty street after the parade, found myself smiling at the memory of what I had just witnessed and enjoying the slice of king cake shared by its krewe.

Because it honors our connection with France, celebrates a plucky teenager who heard voices and decided to follow them and resist, uses a route that shows off the Quarter beautifully, is generous with its throws, truly offers tableaus, and is made up of diehard and joyous New Orleanians, the January 6th Joan or Arc parade is royalty among parades in my book.

724 St. Philip rebuilds after illegal teardown

The destruction of a historic structure is being rescued by new owner Vincent Marcello who is doing a nice job on the reno:

The stages
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700 Royal

pics: May 2016, September 2016 and January 2017.

Original story from 2015:

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The bricks for 724 St. Philip street were laid down in the 1820s, and in 1917 three Sicilian brothers by the family name of Montalbano purchased the small house from a widow and set up shop.

The front of the house became a delicatessen, and the back a grocery. The shop became known for the “Roma Sandwich” or the modern day muffuletta. The back room was filled with holy pictures and was allegedly bless by the Pope.

Leslie Perrin moved in next door at 728 St. Philip in 2000 and recalls the cast of “King Creole” lining up around the block to experience the original muffuletta.

The building is now owned by Larry Anderson, who obtained permits for interior renovations but demolished the entire building.

When the common wall between 724 and 728 St. Philip came tumbling down the residents became suspicious.

“At some point I said, ‘I need to see some engineering, where are the plans that you promised me?'” Perrin’s contractor husband Chuck remembers. “I wanted to see what the city has approved, you know, ‘how are you going to do it?’ And they kept saying well, I’ll bring them over tomorrow.”

But the proof of license never came.

According to Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, there were never permits. And Anderson did not show up to his hearing — his contractor did on his behalf.

The fine: $6,000. A small price to pay for destroying a piece of history that makes up the fabric of the neighborhood.

 

Story since Marcello bought from Anderson:

The VCC’s Architectural Committee said a new, two-story cottage that Marcello said he plans to build behind the building’s façade would be “decidedly reminiscent of a Creole townhouse.” The new building would be similar to the small masonry cottage that was originally erected at the location and later connected to the carriage house.

“There are historical elements of the building in the front that are still existing, and we plan to try to work with that to make a seamless transition,” Marcello said about his concept, which includes batten shutters, traditionally used on outbuildings, and restoration of the original millwork.

The Futilitarians- Review

The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading by Anne Gisleson

In short: I think this ranks as one of the best memoirs to come out of the South in some time. I’ve been waiting for someone to use the Katrina timeline to truly tell of the pain and random brutality that is so normalized here that it is often clichéd in the retelling. Gisleson’s take on New Orleans life is important in that she is a native of the city and it has been my experience that that is a too-small group writing about New Orleans in recent years. Her tender and often witty memoir frames how the city shapes – and sometimes breaks – family and friends, leaving the survivors to live with the absurdity of existence where most of one’s day is wrapped up in the trivial even as the tragic stays near, ready to overwhelm one’s own thoughts and fears when the night falls. Or, when tragedy is made personal via the faces or actions of the other souls that populate the city, sitting on bar stools at breakfast time or dancing for tips on Bourbon Street.
As a writer, she knows she will write about her family tragedies and confesses that her father told her at his regular lunch spot at the Rib Room that he would stop talking to her if she did. Just like most Southern daughters would, she simply waited until he passed to do so. His story is a big part of this book, as his personality and aspirations defined the family life even though he kept his own set of secrets that were only been partially glimpsed then or understood by his children to this day.
The overt search for meaning in the post-Katrina era is captured by the group of friends who begin to meet as the Existential Crisis Reading Group. Gisleson offers entertaining descriptions of the attendees, and what they offer each other in terms of solace or clarity but the moments of her solitary musings about her family, her own history, and the city are what make this memoir. While discussing Borowski’s 1946 painful short stories “This Way For the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” (inspired by his own concentration camp experience) she makes an excuse to take her son to bed so she could escape the room to instead lie in the dark with him sleeping next to her, looking and listening through the open transom, illustrating her momentary discomfort at sharing high emotion over what has been lost, what is still not absorbed and her own part in it all. Even though slightly removed, the presence of friends comforts and the house with its mark of previous generations who lived there before – some successfully- quiets her unease. That was a passage I returned to again and again, feeling she had captured one moment of the sweetly painful experience of life here in our land of misrule.
Her discomfort is partly because of her survivor’s guilt and from the realization that the family tragedies may have helped she and her remaining siblings make a more emphatic mark in the world. Suicide is a confounding subject for survivors, searching for meaning in the trivial things left, never knowing what had mattered, what had helped and what had hurt.

Not surprisingly, essayist Joan Didion, author of the brilliant book about her own family tragedies in “The Year of Magical Thinking” is mentioned; Gisleson considers Didion’s defense of writing painful truths about other people as “we tell ourselves stories in order to live” and originally dismisses it. Then, as she realizes her own urgent need to tell these stories she concludes that Didion may be right after all. And that addressing the murky emotions that people live with after horrible things happen is the furthest thing from futility and instead, is pretty close to transcendence which may lead, finally, to peace.

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