Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ashes in New Orleans

Lafcadio Hearn, New Orleanian and author, writing to a friend in Cincinnati in 1870:

Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole state of Ohio.

(above, my favorite bar in N.O. - Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop & Bar)

People around the country don't seem to realize what a historic city New Orleans is in the U.S. Instead, all I get is comments from people like, "It's Atlantis, let it sink" and versions on that theme. I think much of the country just doesn't understand joie de vivre.

Now here's a reviewer with an eye towards history and charm:
Perhaps only in New Orleans could a bar exist that's simultaneously romantic and decadent. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, nestled in the less-touristy environs of lower Bourbon Street, is that bar. Whether or not you believe infamous pirate Jean Lafitte used this former blacksmith shop as a front for more nefarious enterprises, the location is still rich with history. For one thing, it's the oldest structure in the country (circa 1772) still doing service as a bar, and it helps keep that mystique alive with its conspicuous lack of electricity. Candles and a fireplace provide the only light. The bar also numbers playwright Tennessee Williams and more recently Lenny Kravitz among its more famous patrons. Besides these bullet-point features, Lafitte's boasts a friendly staff, a good mix of locals and tourists, and relentlessly casual atmosphere. Keep an eye out for piano standards on the weekends and potent Everclear-laced cherries every night. -- Robert Fontenot Jr.

(my sister got her photo taken with Lenny Kravitz when he was in the city not too long ago...maybe she will send me a copy to blog)

(gumbo from Bozo's restaurant in Metairie, LA)

rom the Wall Street Journal

Last month, Rodney Thomas, 18, and his parents decided they had waited long enough to cook the gumbo that was a staple at their New Orleans East house before Katrina. Now living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park next to a shuttered public-housing complex, they spent one Sunday last month chopping vegetables, peeling shrimp and cooking down the okra on the propane stove in the trailer. It was good, Mr. Thomas says, but what was missing was the rich hue imparted by the family's old cast-iron gumbo pot.

"We all wanted it so bad," he says. "Just to look at it reminded you of your past life and what it could be."

1 comment:

brian southwick said...

Hello, Ms. Dickson. I am a Baton Rouge native and longtime resident of Japan. I am interested in Lafcadio Hearn, and I welcomed the news in April of '04 that New Orleans was home to the International Koizumi Hearn Center. However, the Center abruptly ceased operating sometime in late spring, '05. I have so far been unable to learn the details of its closure, and I have no information regarding the fate of one of its founders, New Orleans resident and Hearn scholar, Delia LaBarre. Would you happen to know anything of interest? I would be most grateful for any information you may be able to provide. Regards, Brian R. Southwick P.S. I once went to Lafitte's Blacksmith, ever so many years ago it is now. A unique establishment indeed.