bye bye Dryades Public Market

I guess sticking a tagline with your name is good enough for people to think your business served a cross-section.

This is what every story led with: “Dryades Public Market … the grocery with a mission (italics added) in Central City is closing today.”

Maybe the name public market fooled some people; really there should be a way that they should have been stopped in using that. Unfortunately, there is not.

As someone long involved in local food systems, I watched this idea sited on the ever-valiant Oretha Castle Haley with hope but more trepidation, and even a little more skepticism. Here are 2 posts from my public market blog where I referred to this entity.

In the late stages of design, I had been contacted by the developer, but I pretty much ignored the emails. (1) I felt there were better minds likely in the fray already, (2) I didn’t trust the local partner to do right by farmers based on what was being reported to me by some of them, and (3) I had moved on to more national work and felt I couldn’t give as much local context as I once had.  Still, they kept calling, so I went to meet with them.

In short, they strongly suggested to me that they knew their local partner was full of shit but felt they were too far along to stop. (I also remember that they kept telling me how many parking spaces this place would have-in exasperation, I finally said that in terms of what they wanted to happen and in knowing the area, parking wasn’t going to be the draw that it was for their projects in NYC. That they needed to let that go.)

What they wanted was some help in figuring out how to still make the idea work. We tossed around some ideas, but the lure of the food hub concept was too hard for them to resist  (although my memory was my only suggestion was to dump the partner publicly and reach out to a cross-section of chefs/farmers/organizers to come up with something else. They were definitely not gonna do THAT at that stage.) So what New Orleans ended up with was 3 different plans in about the same number of years: the “food hub”concept, followed by the “food hall” concept (run by good people who brought in other good people but had to do it without the financials being figured out and without a rebranding kickoff), and the last which was a bit of a desperate dab of a high end specialty store and a hot food line. All in all, nothing worked, even with a lot of truly well-meaning people doing their best to make it work.

I see people on Twitter calling for this to be relocated or even revived because of the “food desert” issue, but it is hard for me to see how people think this idea can work for either of those issues. (Also see folks calling out for ALDI’s or Trader Joe’s to come in to the site. Umm, not only is the square footage not even CLOSE to their wheelhouse, but the characteristics of a successful site for either is not even close to being present in New Orleans proper. It sucks but that is what it is. Capitalism.)

Food desert as a term doesn’t adequately describe the problem and for most organizers across the U.S, has been replaced by food apartheid.  This situation also is better served by that latter term, as OCH has long been one area well known for across-the-board disinvestment by the usual money for the 30 years before Katrina. Now of course, every developer is there using it to build more upscale apartments and eateries which serve only the new population. That is apartheid.

I also see people on social media responding to the news of this closing asking for the “culture to be saved” as if DPM had ANY relationship to our diverse, locally relevant food history or public market/corner store/Schweggie history. Let’s be clear: this blip on our screen is a result of the post-2010 culture designed almost entirely by our “cultural” (read NOT) mayor Landrieu, and the many developers who now have a complete hold on the city. That era was all about “white box delivery” as the goal, with the content being figured out later. Meaning so not New Orleans.

Situating this high end “market” (it hurts me to even write that word in relation to DPM) on OCH, in the midst of the incredible work done by long time activists to fight for equitable development was in in itself a mockery and so out of scale to the rest of the street it was doomed to fail because New Orleanians cannot be fooled.  Because what is true of New Orleanians is that, in terms of good ideas, they don’t believe they start with buildings; they believe they start with relationships, and they could see that this one had few.

If you were going for some level of authenticity, you’d go to Cafe Reconcile, Ashé Cultural Arts CenterRoux Carre, Casa Borrega, Church Alley (before it moved), Zeitgeist (also before it moved), bank at Hope Credit Union and so on. If you did those things, I find it hard to believe you would also enter the clubhouse that was J&J/DPM and spend your money there. And many of those “unfooled” New Orleanians I talked to said exactly that.

And yes, I went. I tried. And I felt out of place, and manipulated by a few wicker basket of bananas and apples and fancy water and a jar or two of local honey being sold to me as a grocery store. I left angry and embarrassed as to what this neighborhood which has survived so much was being offered even as the money was falling all over New Orleans. A crappy clubhouse.

So let’s be real and call this what it was: a bad experiment unworthy of OCH and New Orleans, learn from it,  and move on to better ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel ghosts

From @AmandaSoprano. Nothing more to say.

“It’s August 29th. I feel ghosts. The ghosts of what New Orleans was. Ghosts of her lost souls. Ghosts of ppl still living who were prevented from coming home. Today is a whole fucked up All Saints Day unto itself.”

Policing the police

 

Thanks to MaCCNO for posting this today. An extremely important piece!

 

“I witnessed numerous instances of private patrols harassing French Quarter street sellers, so the French Market Corporation and other businesses that paid into these patrols could monopolize the historic neighborhood’s tourist market. Once, I heard that a New Orleans police officer issued a ticket to a street poet selling custom-written poems to tourists. I looked up the incident and indeed, the officer issued the ticket. When I searched for body-worn camera video, I discovered that none existed. Upon further investigation, I learned that the officer—who was in uniform, performing a police patrol duty and not guarding a business—was detailed to a private patrol. He was neither issued a camera, nor required to videotape the encounter.

I searched records for other officers similarly detailed to privately operated police patrols and found numerous instances of them issuing tickets for “quality of life” crimes such as blocking sidewalks. These were thinly veiled attempts to remove homeless people and artisanal sellers from the Quarter, so they did not disturb tourists or divert business from its shops and “street markets” such as the French Market, an open-air market near the banks of the Mississippi River.”

My Year As A New Orleans Consent Decree Insider

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) is a locally based non-profit that has worked at the intersection of culture, social justice and policy for the past 6 years. MaCCNO advocates on the behalf of the city’s musicians, culture bearers and performers. We collaborate with, organize, and empower the New Orleans music and cultural community to preserve and nurture the city’s culture, translating community vision into policy change, and creating positive economic impact.

Poppy’s Drag Brunch Heats Up

On Thursday August 9, I packed up my truck for my usual trip to Ohio. I started to pack it around 6:15 a.m. to try to beat the heat and the street parade of hustlers eyeing my stuff. Even with that, the sweat that ran down my back and arms from the humidity and baked in heat of the asphalt made it clear that there would be no relief. As for the guy who threw trash into my truck bed, I told him off and even though he ambled off the block with a finger raised over his head, I felt better.  As Walt Whitman said, agitation is the most important factor of all.

That heat, the fact that I work from a laptop at home, and have a sister who has a generous nature and a comfortable home on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, means the pull to leave for a while is too great for me to resist.

But even though I am gone-pecan until the true fall arrives sometime in Mid-November with its wonderful slate of outdoor events and the arrival of citrus season, it doesn’t mean that New Orleans is ever far from my mind. I’ll continue to post about events and issues and have momentary pangs of homesickness too.

This is one event that I am sorry to miss:

Book signing with author Poppy Tooker
August 31, 2019 | 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The Shop at The Collection, 520 Royal Street
Admission to the event is free. The book retails for $29.99
and supports Crescent Care.
Join radio personality, author, and culinary activist Poppy Tooker as she and some special guests sign copies of her forthcoming book Drag Queen Brunch on Saturday, August 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Shop at The Collection, the museum shop of The Historic New Orleans Collection.
Drag Queen Brunch (Rainbow Road Press, 2019) features gorgeous colorful photography by Sam Hanna of dishes (both ladies and recipes) in some of New Orleans’s most iconic restaurants and courtyards. With every turn of the page, Drag Queen Brunch brings readers to the next stop of an unforgettable time with Tooker and a bevy of rollicking drag queens. 
The event is free, and coincides with Southern Decadence. The book will be available for $29.99. Refreshments from SoBou will be available for guests ages 21 and older. 
A portion of the proceeds from Drag Queen Brunch benefit Crescent Care, a healthcare initiative established by the NO/AIDS Task Force and the Lazarus House.
The Shop at The Collection — which has expanded to nearly 2,000 square feet — is located in THNOC’s new exhibition center at 520 Royal Street and is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Customers may also shop online at www.hnoc.org/shop.

Poppy is my dear friend but even if that weren’t true, I’d surely tell you to go to her talks, buy her books, and generally listen in on whatever is in her ever-so practical, generous, slightly dangerous New Orleans mind.  She WILL make you feel better about the two-showers a day temps and help you once again love the diverse creativity of our place.

Her commitment to the LGBTQ community has been so steadfast for decades  you can be sure that her book and the brunches are both celebratory and deeply insightful to why the drag community deserves to be lionized as true artists. As for me, their work to bring glamour back to everyday life,  living ones personal life in line with the political, and their constant education on behalf of the LGBTQ community are some of why I’d say drag deserves the big table. I am sure Poppy will have more.

I’ll be writing at the site below while I am gone in case you are interested.

https://thestateofthebuckeye.wordpress.com/

River is remembering

“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, that valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory–what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our “flooding.” –Toni Morrison