Archive for February, 2010
I love Women like I love my food, and I love My Food- Mr Okra
One time I was driving on Frenchmen Street, it was about 2 in the afternoon, just bringing the bikes back home after a tour. Mr Okra was driving in front, of me right behind me was a random 20something, it was a sunny day and a nice spot for mind wandering right in front of Washington Square Park. In fact I was thinking about how Mr Okra always gave a wave to the folks I take out on tours, and they always remark how fun someone like him makes our city seem. Someone on the street, lured outside by the siren sound cadence of Mr Okra’s Banana call waved him down and vegetable deals were being made. One of those moments you just love New Orleans. My revelry was broken by a loud honk. And another, longer, this time… WTF?
I looked behind me and the hipster doofus was honking his horn. He looked disgusted. Did he just honk Mr Okra? I thought. I stuck my head out of the window; “Did you just oink Mr Okra”. Truth be told, I’m fuzzy on what happened next…one of those rages where everything goes red; but his point seemed to be that the street was for modern conveyance, the comings and goings of the industrial world. My counterpoint was that if I ever saw him in this town, any where, my 135 pounds of unpleasure would be unleashed upon him. YOU DO NOT HONK MR OKRA! is all I remember yelling. THIS IS HIS CITY, NOT YOURS. The fellow in the car, probably thinking I was way less sane than I am, backed down and sat there quietly the next 2 minutes until Mr Okra’s truck had less vegetables and his hands had more money.
Traffic started moving again, and I never thought again of that guy until today. Either he moved from New Orleans back to some bigger city where old men in hand painted trucks don’t drive through beautifully dilapidated neighborhoods selling fruits and vegetables and filling the city with catchy refrains; or he stayed here and slowly learned why we love New Orleans, why Mr Okra has the right of way at all times and normal traffic laws don’t apply to everyone in this city.
One day, I hope to be sitting in a bar…could be tomorrow, could be 20 years from now…the once hipster doofus who was in the car behind me will see me and recognize me. He will buy me a drink and say “Sir, you were right, You just don’t honk Mr. Okra”
All this came back to me because I just watched the best feel good New Orleans 10 minute movie I’ve ever seen, TG Herringtons, Mr. Okra. For those from elsewhere in the United States, watch, and listen. Mr Okra is New Orleans.
Mr Okra – A short Film. (I still can’t imbed video, this is a link to the Youtube video)
One of the most twisted aspects when studying history is the fact that it is shaped, shaded, and written by the winners, meaning if truth is subjective, the subjects don’t get to give their version of the truth. Down here in New Orleans, most everyone can whistle along, if not sing along happily, to the Johnny Horton’s ‘The Battle of New Orleans’, a momentous, and rare, victory in our cities history. Obviously, we don’t have a song, or even a name, and hardly even mention the battle in 1862 in which the Union armies took over our city during The War of Northern Aggression (which as the losers, our name quickly gave way to the more unfortunate and fairly ironic ‘Civil War”. They even got to name the plundering that followed ‘Reconstruction’. Any modern Public Relations and Ad man can learn as much from history as from schooling, the game is always the same.
The Second Battle of New Orleans was another rare victory of the people over the power in New Orleans…The proposed highway overpass going right over Decatur street, with 18 wheelers shaking the foundation of the Saint Louis Cathedral was fought for decades before the smarter half of the city defeated the corporate class ( an awesome story I’ll tell in a later post). I’m fairly sure if Robert Moses and his sad followers won that, the battle would be called “The War Against Culture, Art and the Impovershed” and would be toasted in board rooms across the American Sector of our city.
Here we are in 2010, and once again, the good guys have won. I officially declare this weeks brouhaha of the Davie’s of New Orleans against the Goliath’s of the NFL the Third Battle of New Orleans. We win, we name the war…
Their lawyers came in full battle gear, $3000 suits and blackberries (actually, modern warfare gets more and more boring…the warriors of the NFL sat in their Park Avenue offices with views of Central Park dispatching missives through the internet while having their shoes shined and lunch brought up to their office, but I digress). Thinking they could outspend, if not out man our financially struggling city, they cried the battle cry of the brave, brave corporate executives that enjoy safely hiding behind unintelligible legalese. “Ceases and Desist” The battle was on…we never wanted this war, they drew first blood. That will be remembered.
Yes, local T-Shirt shops got the order. ‘Who Dat’ the chant of the hopeless Saints fans of the last 3 decades which had become something between a greeting and a battle cry of the city during this miracle year was no longer ours. It was being taken away (along with the Black and Gold fleur de lis first used by Louis the VII in 12150 as a family emblem) by outsiders; invaders to our culture, city slickers who wouldn’t know how to answer “Where Y’at” and would never deign to go to Chalmette to find out. But like an infant playing with his dads gun, the NFL had no idea of the force they were messing with.
The counter attack was swift and brutal. In a city where the citizens hadn’t been united on any single issue since the first flood waters rose bringing the decomposing bodies of our deceased to the surface and the demand for above ground tombs took root, the’r was not a single voice of dissent. From drunken Cajun ex football radio hosts to me to the nice lady at Gene’s selling me my beakfast Po Boy (Egg, ham and cheese-$5 with drink) it was unanimous. Fuck the NFL, they can pry our Who Dat’s from our cold dying fingers. When me and Davis Vitter agree on an issue (besides enjoying wearing diapers and being spanked by prostitutes) something big is going on. The NFL was suddenlt more hated than the Colts themselves. All stations were manned, old men figured out how to use email, people who would never call a politician manned the phones, lots of loud pointless threats were made at bars…the full gamut. Who knew if their antique fleur de lis fenceposts would become property of the NFL?
And in the end, just like in the first and second battles of New Orleans; out funded, out flanked, and against the odds, the disparate folks of New Orleans triumphed. Rascists from Metairie,, hoodlums from the Eighth ward, uptown doctors down town musicians and crooked politicians and preachers were able to hold their hands high and proud. We will go on to beat the Colts 35-24 in the Superbowl, brass bands will spontaneously hit the streets, Who Dats will be yelled like god intended…but in 1000 years what will be remembered is that New Orleans, through its sheer force of personality, and this city does have that, was the only group to ever beat back the corporate monolith of the NFL. Who Dat indeed.