Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Orleans has had lousy weather this winter but the spirit of the city has never been warmer. The sense of optimism and racial harmony following the Saints Super Bowl win and the election of a new mayor offers real hope after years of sorrow and frustration following the federal flood. People streamed into town after the Saints won just to stand in the street and screeeeeeam "Who Dat?" Second lines, which seemed endangered only a couple of years ago, are now going strong as the entire city seems to have taken to the streets. The Aints funeral march led by Glen David Andrews and the Baby Boyz Brass Band a week ago started at Tuba Fats park in Treme with a largely black second line and marched to d.b.a., picking up 10,000 white people along the way. The David Simon HBO series Treme will soon be airing and is likely to go a long way toward enhancing the city's image even further. French Quarter Fest and the Jazz and Heritage Festival both have great lineups, and some of the smaller festivals that dot the calendar are picking up support as tourists become aware of them as cheaper alternatives to the big festivals. Trombone Shorty has a new album that really captures the power of his outstanding Orleans Avenue band and has signed with Verve records. With a full tour schedule, Shorty will be one of the biggest stars of the year. Anders Osborne also has an outstanding record ready to come out on a major label, Alligator records. Music is one of the leading economic engines bringing New Orleans back. The city still faces a massive recovery to fix its schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure, but there's a real sense that the tide has turned in this city's favor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mind boggling weeks in New Orleans

The last few weeks have been such a blur I haven't managed to post, But somewhere down the line I'll update you about the amazing transformation happening in New Orleans right now. I'll start with the OffBeat awards show in late January, where Anders Osborne unveiled what is destined to be one of the best albums of 2010, a powerful set of hard rock songs with Pepper Keenan joining him on guitar and Stanton Moore on drums. "On the Road To Charlie Parker" is an instant classic.

The Saints beat Minnesota in a wild NFC championship game in which the intensity of the crowd noise was probably the difference. Brett Favre looked like the Terminator -- taken off the field on a stretcher there he was again almost beating us right down to the last plays of the game. Somehow you knew the Colts were not going to be as hard to beat.

The Radiators were firing on all plugs over the two days of their anniversary celebration at Tipitina's.

Parades began in earnest the same weekend with the wonderful Krewe de Vieux. Music everywhere. Dancing in the streets.

The Superbowl celebration ruled all. Just the fact that they were in. Everywhere you went people were partying just to celebrate the fact that the Saints were in. The city announced a "victory" parade that would roll win or lose.

Mitch Landrieu was voted in as mayor. He won by such an overwhelming margin that there was no need for a runoff. That was the best news of the day because the last thing New Orleans needed was another colossal waste of money, mostly pumped in by Republicans, to sew the seeds of division. Republican politics right now is about naked greed, buying elections and turning the American people against each other. Fox news is at the center of this traitorous conspiracy.

Landrieu, unlike his preening predecessor, had the humility to stand aside and let New Orleans bask in something greater than political ego. People poured into town to watch the Super Bowl in New Orleans, even though Saints fans outnumbered Colts fans 3-1 inside the stadium in Miami. The Colts controlled the first quarter but then the Saints seemed to get their feet under them. After the stunning onside kick decision to open the second half the Colts were beaten even though they still held onto a one point lead into the fourth quarter. When Porter put the pick on Manning to end it all the entire city quaked with joy. Tears streamed down every face. People who hated football watched every last second and took to the streets in exultation.

There is no way to overstate how important this victory is for the city of New Orleans. The only parallel would be a tiny country winning the World Cup of soccer. The victory allowed people of the city to feel good about themselves in a way that hasn't been possible since the federal flood. Perhaps most importantly winning the Super Bowl united people of all races in New Orleans. Just as the Saints were a team made up of blacks and whites who worked together regardless of any cultural differences, everyone embraced each other after this victory. There has been an ongoing effort to stoke the fires of racial hatred, encouraged by politicians and media celebrities. On February 7, 2010, the people decided that those days were gone forever. The Saints won the Super Bowl and it was a victory for all of us. Now we have to finish fixing our fair city.