Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Unnecessary Rudeness in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
City News
Or
Unnecessary Rudeness
            Headline: “Piglets That Are Saved from Burning Barn are Served as Sausages to Firefighters”. Think about it. You might say that that’s rude on so many levels; but, that’s who we are; we live in a very disparaging and insensitive world, it’s self preservation, self meditation and self medication.        
Should we be ashamed? Not at all; it’s part of our DNA, it’s in our blood. We make fun of the ridiculousness of life. By overtly and/or covertly disregarding the feelings, interests and well being of others-- concentrating our attention on our own well being-- we keep the: “I’m alright, so I don’t care; I don’t care, so I’m alright” machine well oiled. It’s so Jake Paul (and his 10.5 Million subscribers), it’s so… us. For example:
            Alrighty, you’ve read the article explaining that the Millennials vote could make political policy here? Yes/no? The Millennial population in New Orleans is approaching six figures and if they all voted for the same agendas, the city government would be run the way that suited them best, they could accomplish policy like legalizing marijuana or raising the minimum wage. Survey says; Millennials don’t vote. The same people, who do vote unfailingly, unfailingly vote for the same candidates; it’s like the winners of reader’s choice votes in publications that always go to the same faithful ‘favorites’. We need to raise the voter turnout to more than 40% to be able to move forward.
Onward.  It’s positively a rumor that a great American highfalutin grocery store with the bins for trash, recycle and compost throws everything in the same dumpster (except cardboard boxes) and continues to wear the green halo with their higher prices, non GMO stickers and a social scene reminiscent of that Safeway Grocery Store in the marina section of San Francisco.
            Stop me if you’ve heard this: You live in a nice neighborhood; you have great neighbors; your rent is reasonable; you have a decent landlord; the place isn’t in great shape; but all things considered, you count your living space a blessing. If something minor needs repaired, you fix it yourself and call upon the landlord as seldom as possible; you pay your rent on time and there’s been no significant raise for the number of years that you’ve lived there. In short you’re happy; been happy, want to stay happy. A property down the street goes on the market and is snatched up. The construction, destruction, demolition and rebuilding of the structure goes on for months complete with dumpsters, port-o-lets and worker’s double parked trucks. Granite counters are loaded in, lawn service, security systems, paint, pavement and minimalist foliage are appointed; there’s an apartment in the back that’s worked on and gussied up.
            Dust finally settles and an ‘Apartment For Rent’ sign goes up. The price-- on the sign-- is asking for three times the rent that you’re paying! It’s the ultimate ‘bend over and grab your ankles’ kick in the rear for you and your neighbors; you fanaticize that when your landlords see a sign like that they might wonder why they’re being so lenient on you. It’s evident that the new owners are either going to use the rent to pay off their note and contractors or they’re gonna flip the place. Kiss your mule goodbye; your hood has been infected with the germs of ‘repurposing’
Cold business: A streetcar stops at N. Carrolton and Orleans Ave, disgorging six passengers, four of whom spot their bus on the opposite corner; it happens that these four are of a certain age and cannot move as spritely as they once did. They wave, they yell, they cross against traffic and without any concern for personal safety. The light changes. The bus pulls off leaving them breathless and frustrated by life. Probably the bus driver didn’t see them and everyone else on the street did? Unlikely.
Questions:  Besides being razor close to no basis at all illegal; how about a street camera citation sent from the City of New Orleans from Tempe, AZ. whose penalty needs posted to Cincinnati, OH? This benefits our city… how? And, how does raising our sales tax help the working poor?
            Winner, winner, chicken dinner: A car pulls up in the parking lot. The motor continues to run. The car door opens and closes and no one gets out. The car pulls out. You look over and see that they merely wanted to deposit on the asphalt: a. the contents of their ashtray; b. drop off their fast food Styrofoam cups and containers; c. dispose of their kid’s dirty diaper or d. all three. Or, how about that mystery canine (hopefully) pooper that was not followed by a human scooper that leaves the droppings of the animal in path’s way? Where’s a Block Captain when you need one?

            What about the personal insults that we take every time we take our automobiles for a spin? Being cut off, boxed in, blown at, stink eyed and tail ridden. Try getting from here to there without talking to yourself. That oversized load in front of you that slides in and out of its lane and when you speed up, pass and get out of its way (because they might be inebriated), find out that they’re on their phone, yelling at the kids in the back seat and/or putting on eye shadow.
            And on and on and on; you’ve probably got hundreds like these and I’d like to hear about them; either for commiseration or just to let me know that I’m not nuckin’ futs.  Seems to me, empathy and compassion are rationed and rationalized; and the world, by and large, is ready to put egocentricity first at the expense of other’s feelings; we’re all ready to laugh at the pie in the face, the slip on the banana peel or eat sausages made from rescued piglets.
            Write me.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hosting your own New Orleans Parade

How to Host Your Own New Orleans Second Line
By
Phil LaMancusa
            You’ve seen them in the streets of the French Quarter; anywhere from two to two hundred; they’ve got a band, stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, drinks, smiles, they’re dancing, throwing beads and waving handkerchiefs to the astonished onlookers who wonder at the banner that reads “Welcome Home Sonny!” or whatever you can imagine as something that a person would want to have a parade for: birth, graduation, Patsy’s divorce or (in many cases) just for the hell of it. Did you know that you can DIY? You can, and I’m going to walk you through the process of giving/having your very own customized Second Line procession, or as we commonly call it: ‘Takin’ It To The Streets!’
            First of all, you could call a service that can provide you with all the bells and whistles including a restaurant destination for an apr├Ęs marche celebratory banquet, they will handle any permits, escorts and accoutrements for your event. Or you can continue to plow ahead on your own; and, by now we’ve all seen the Hannibal Buress stand up routine about having a parade in the streets of the French Quarter and how easy it is to organize and pull off. Well, surprise, it’s a little more complicated than the three minutes or so of humor that he uses and although it isn’t rocket surgery, it’s not like me, cheap and easy; more like a full time job for whoever chooses to take on this challenge.  I did try to follow his directions: “First you go down to the police station and get a permit” he said; to which the answer is: no, you need to get a permit from City Hall (1300 Perdido St. 7th floor) in person or online at nola.gov/onestop. The permit is $100.25 for non profits and $200.25 for everyone else (why the .25? Who knows?).
            Next you’ll need to choose the date, time and route for your procession (at least 15 days in advance of the occasion) because you’ll, obviously, need a police escort to assist you in impeding traffic while you parade worry free (drinks and all). The cost for the police starts at $384.97 for the first (minimum) two and a half hours and goes up; you pay that $384.97 whether you use them 2 ½ hours or not. Your route and size determines the amount of police necessary and for this you will consult with a Special Event Commander. They will have you fill out two forms with your intentions including who you have hired to clean up after you. You can find out more about police pricing at: nola.gov-secondary-employment/pricing.
About that marching band (remember them?); if you go to gigsalad.com/music you will find that there is a plethora of street savvy brass bands ready to take on your group’s event. They will range from $400.00 to $1,200.00 (and up) for an hour and a half (plus tip) depending on size, experience and date of the adventure; again, more time means higher fees.
            Okay, so here’s the scene: say you and your entourage of twenty want to meet at Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter St. (for drinks) and dance down Royal St. to Toulouse St. over to Chartres and across Jackson Square and end up at Muriel’s for burgers and more booze or a little further to Harry’s Corner for just a throwdown. Swell, that’s a twenty minute walk at most. Figure it will take at least an hour and a half. It’s gonna be like herding cats to get from there to there; alcohol, which many people want for this occasion ( while making most of y’all more jovial) will slow things down more than a tad.             You also need to consider whether you want to have all those accoutrements mentioned above, where and how to get them; did I mention that this will be a full time gig to get your ship off the ground? It will be. You’ll need two people, one who does all the running around grunt work (get Cousin Vinnie) and the other who will hand over their AmEx card and look the other way (Uncle Vito).
            So now, face it, this is not something you want to subject yourself to; I mean, yeah, get Vinnie to do it and Vinnie will have a great story to tell and you’ll have someone that you know that you can blame for any of the components that go awry, of which there will be many possibilities.  Orrrrr… call a company that handles these, and other functions, on an everyday basis. There are a few and I randomly picked MustDoNola.com (855-353-6634) from the Destination Kitchen site and queried them.
            I was told that because of the myriad of details that need the attention that will avoid mishaps, and the need to eliminate any level of stress, inconvenience or confusion that may occur, PLUS the absolute necessity to have this occasion not only go off without a hitch BUT keep things as light hearted and above all FUN for all involved, you NEED professionals who have knowledge and understanding of what it takes, how to do it and how to be virtually invisible to all but the hosts of any event that they’re involved in.  These people offer to take care of every detail of any celebration from greeting your people at the airport (with a band) to sending your guests out to the swamps on tours or to dump a body (just kidding) and in our case, organizing a second line parade through the streets of the French Quarter. They advise me that not only do they know how to spend a person’s hard earned, but also where they can save money and/or get the most bang for the buck.
So, my advice is: get the AmEx from Uncle Vito, give it to Cousin Vinnie and have Vinnie decide to either schlep it himself or “call some people”; relax, come on down to The Big easy, have a few drinks at Pat O’s, and act surprised and thrilled when all of a sudden twenty of your closest friends show up with a band to take you to lunch, ya know what I mean? Who doesn’t love a parade?
           
           
           
           


Restauran Tissue

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Restauran Tissue
Or
Chez Wha?
            Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends; 1500 restaurants and counting in New Orleans, and not counting filling stations, bars, convenience, Mom and Pop and grocery stores that sell food. Restaurants come and go here, sixty-two new ones in the last twelve months; and they go out of business just as fast. And as one goes down in flames, a new one rises from the ashes; the Phoenix Factor. A New Orleanian would have to dine out every night to support them, lucky for us that we have visitors; if the visitors stopped, the restaurant industry would be in the creek, not just up it.
There’s no end to the uninitiated that believe that they can buck the odds and open a successful restaurant that will stand the test of time; also there seems to be no end to the successful owners of places like the Petite Elite Sweet-treatery, Tiny Toney’s Taco Takeouteria or Nunzio’s Newfoundland Noshemporium to try their hand at opening locations two, three or four. Been there, done that. When a person(s) decides to try their hand at making a living feeding people they are in, basically, for a life without a life. Restaurant work doesn’t end at the closing of the day; it’s a twenty-four seven occupation on the scale of walking up to your neck into oncoming surf in Murphy’s ocean. Whatever can go wrong… will. I happen to love the business.
Many establishments host run-of-the mill self-aggrandizing owner/operators with authority issues and indecorous countenances who act like sandbox intimidators when things go awry and effectually unsettle everyone around them when things don’t go their way. They place ‘managers’ in charge and motivate them using a self perpetuating corporate inspiration/submission system, wondering why good people leave and rationalizing that ‘quitters’ cannot take the pressure (that they have created), this is the best way to success: spend your time perfecting surreptitiousness, stay alert to discrepancies in productivity and rationalize that if one site is working up to expectations, two or more would be better for you financially, if not spiritually. Make sure that your staff never work unprofitable schedules, avoid offering benefits and never shy away from terminating the weaker links. To some this is de rigueur.
            Sometimes a person will ask me if I ever miss the work of owning or Cheffing in a joint, Bistro, low brow or high end Gourmangerie, and I tell them yes; that’s because the work is the easy part, it’s all the rest of the stuff that goes along with being a conductor in this field of dysfunctional cacophonic Merry Melody orchestras that tests.
Basically--at the beginning-- passion is its own reward until the challenges start to fly at you like an octopus pitching bedlam fastball in an asylum world series.
            Numero uno, though, is that to be successful you have to be able to pay the bills, the twenty-seven different baseballs that you have to knock out of the park each month to stay in the game. This of course is relative to the dollars you take in and how creative you are at spending them; if you want a pretzel logic, Chutes and Ladders exercise, try conceiving how a sixteen dollar pizza cut twenty ways is divided financially for any culinary entrepreneur.   Slice one goes to the rent; slices two thru five pays the waiters, dishwashers, busboys, bartender; six thru eleven pay for the cost of the pie (averaged out over the whole menu); so now you have nine slices left. Telephone, electricity, gas, water, trash, insurance, linen, alarm system, computer, booze, office supplies, paper goods, taxes and workman’s compensation: munchers in a Pac-Man game eating into your cash flow--- and then the ice machine breaks; the drains back up; a rain storm floods your business closing you down for two weeks.
            The work is the easy part: you get up, suit up, show up and never give up; you become defined by your work and you try to balance empathy and discipline with your staff, knowing that you can never pay them a decent wage and realizing that few of them will ever reach their potential. You try to lead by example, admitting when you’re wrong and having that ‘Come to Jesus’ talk when you have to; you fight your demons on your own time and leave your other life (if you’re lucky enough to have one) at the door, you have a job to do. And you mistakenly expect everyone around you to live up to your standards.
            And then there’s the food and that’s what it’s really about; that’s why you’re here; working ‘the product’ so that your customers are whelmed, the critics approve of you and some crumbs hit the bottom line. And then the dishwasher shows up drunk on Saturday night and passes out in time for the seven-thirty rush; you find out that the cleaning crew is having surf and turf while working; the bartender is giving free drinks to his friends and big tippers. 
            The best thing about working in a restaurant is that you can take your craft with you anywhere in the world; the worst thing about running a restaurant is knowing that this is going to happen with your most talented staff and while the worst of your people will fade away (hopefully before damage occurs) what you’ll be left with will be mules that you can rely upon to do their job but not much more and all the hopes that you have for making a mark on the world will be forgotten as you row, row, row, that boat.
                        Having been around this block more times than I can count, I’ve seen it all from the inside; now, instead, I cook at home every night and leave you with the last line --which is also the first line-- welcome, my friend to the show that never ends.
             
           


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New Orleans Begniets

Mitch Landrieu

Mitch Landrieu
By
Phil LaMancusa
            What can you say about Mitchell Landrieu? Politician and lawyer; son of a mayor, brother of a senator, one time deputy Governor and State representative; present mayor of New Orleans. First ran for mayor in 1994, narrowly lost in 2006 and took two thirds of the vote to win it in 2010.
            The city was left with a hundred million dollar shortfall thanks to the previous administration (C. Ray Nagin). He placed a hiring freeze on the police department and crime rates rose as police ranks dwindled.  He did things to beautify the city that our visitors will notice and left other parts to wither. He over saw the removal of city monuments (statues) that represented personages that were pro slavery and a minority of radicals on both sides of the argument disrupted the city with protests that took an additional portion of our police department from other duties. His infrastructure projects have cost money and have inconvenienced citizens. He is very adept at using federal monies for city projects and one of his gaffs is known as the ‘streetcar to nowhere’ on Rampart Street.
            Landrieu is a career politician and is a staunch advocate for juvenile justice system reforms; he also is a fiscal conservative actively working on and repealing an Orleans parish ‘amusement tax’ (2% of gross sales) and as a career politician is widely regarded as someone who has his eye on Washington D.C.
            He has reached term limits as a mayor and leaves the city with mixed viewpoints of his legacy. As mayor, he has done nothing wrong.

            

C. Ray Nagin

C. Ray Nagin
By
Phil laMancusa
He came on like gangbusters. Native son of the seventh ward and Treme who went to college on a baseball scholarship, took a BS in accounting and became a CPA. He took jobs around the country and landed with COX communications where he rose, at thirty three years of age, to Vice President and General Manager in 1989 with a pay of $400.00.00 a year.
He was active in city, state and national politics as a lobbyer and functioned well at the local level, performing with many civic organizations; he also had irons in the fire in many local business deals, a shrewd operator. At forty-six years old entered the New Orleans political scene by announcing his candidacy for mayor. He touted himself as a poor son, born amongst us in Charity Hospital and as a business leader would take the city to a new level. He was elected mayor in 2002.
Katrina came in 2005 and the mayor lost his effectiveness. He holed up at City Hall and rarely ventured out to see to his constituents well being. He did make a forceful rant against the Federal Government on WWL radio with an impassioned plea for help and a demand for assistance.
He narrowly won a second term with two thirds of voters still displaced and helped to contribute to the city’s slow progress on a path of recovery. However, it appears that he was working both sides of the street; wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering got him a trial and a sentence in the slammer where you’ll find him today. He remains a lesson in greed, ineptness and showmanship bravado. His release is scheduled for May 25, 2023



Friday, July 14, 2017

New Orleans Olive Salad

Kitchen Witch New Orleans Olive Salad
2 medium carrots
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 small red bell pepper
16 large green olives pitted
2 cups medium green olives pitted
1 cup brine-cured black olives pitted
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup brining juice from olive jar
6 cloves fresh garlic minced
4 ribs celery
¼ cup (1 small jar) capers
10 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 tsp dried basil leaf
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Directions:
Reduce all pertinent ingredients to proper sandwich salad size (dice real small)
Mix well and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and enjoy!

P.S. Feel free to play around with ingredients i.e. use pimento stuffed olives and eliminate the small red pepper etc etc. 
Muffaletta Sandwich
Take your sesame seeded Italian loaf and layer in three meats and two cheeses alternately with a layer of cheese on the top. Toast in the oven open faced and when toasted but not colored take out of the oven, top the bottom (with the filling on it) layer with a healthy scoop of drained (use a slotted spoon) olive salad. Cut into sandwich size pieces and enjoy!