Friday, September 12, 2014

Fr. Tony's 2014 Prayer for the Saints

God of all unity,

We stand before you this day, ever grateful for the unifying spirit that has made us the Who Dat Nation!

We hail from all across the South - united under the banner of the New Orleans Saints and blessed by the presence of every walk of life.

We are One Coast. One Voice. One Dome!

We represent almost every group of people who have walked on the face of this blessed earth.

Among us are members of every faith community and every generation. We come from every race, creed and color. Stretching across the Gulf Coast and reaching deep into every state in America, we are the Who Dat Nation, unbowed and ever proud of our legacy.

Some of us ride boats up the bayous while others ride horses in Mardi Gras parades. Some drive streetcars down St. Charles Avenue while others rock shrimp boats in the Gulf. Regardless of our home ports, occupations or ways of life, we are united as Who Dats and come before you with one voice of eternal praise.

Lord, you said that where two or more are gathered together in your name, you would be in our midst. Well, as we gather as the Who Dat Nation in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and in other stadiums across the land, we believe your words to be ever true.

As you unite with us in the Dome and in our Gulf Coast homes, we ask you to send your blessings down upon "Our Boys." Help each of them to be the best that they can possibly be.

Guide our team's front office. Help them to make the best decisions and lead us into the land of great promise. Especially send your blessings upon Tom and Gail Benson. They are the heads of our Who Dat family. Shower them with great health and your undying spirit of love.

Bless Rita Benson-LeBlanc and Mickey Loomis. Infuse them with wisdom as they continue to choose the path down which we march as one.

Bless our coaches. Help Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, Pete Carmichael, Rob Ryan and Greg McMahon devise successful game plans that will ultimately get us to the Super Bowl. Allow each of them to teach and preach a message of success that will inspire "Our Boys" to be as united as the rest of the Who Dat Nation.

Bless our players. Send your grace upon Drew Brees, Zach Strief, Junior Galette, Curtis Lofton and Thomas Morstead and all of our players. Keep them safe from all major injuries and allow them to victoriously represent us across this great land. They are our brothers and our sons. Let them know just how proud we are to call them "Our Boys"!

Bless the entire Who Dat Nation as we march under the banner of the Fleur-de-Lis. Together with your grace, we will remain banded as one as we support and encourage the New Orleans Saints. May we always be One Coast ... One Voice ... One Dome!

Through the prayers of our heavenly New Orleans Saints, St. Francis Cabrini, St. Katherine Drexel, St. John Paul II, Blessed Francis Seelos and the Venerable Henriette Delille, may we be as united on earth as they are in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Together, may we always be one nation under God, undaunted and indivisible. May we stand tall before all as proud members of the Who Dat Nation!


The Rev. R. Tony Ricard, M. Th., M.Div., is the New Orleans Saints Catholic team chaplain and a theology teacher at St. Augustine High School. Read Sheila Stroup's interview with Fr. Tony and the complete story behind his annual prayer for the Saints.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

After 200 years, city's fighting spirit unchanged

Author Morgan Molthrop at Jackson Square crediting 'the man.'

Many marvel at New Orleans’ miraculous rebirth, having assumed the struggling, honky-tonk Southern city could never revive itself after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, the Crescent City is looking better than ever with sports and convention industries booming, a vibrant music scene and social innovation outperforming other areas of the country in job growth and economic prosperity.
In a provocative new book, “Andrew Jackson’s Playbook: 15 Strategies for Success,” author Morgan McCall Molthrop examines surprising tactics and innovations that have contributed to the city’s rapid recovery, suggesting that contemporary civic leaders have much in common with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson who soundly defeated the “invincible” British Army at the Battle of New Orleans 200 years ago.
Dozens of books have been written about New Orleans’ unique music, culture, and history, but Molthrop analyzes the city’s remarkable resilience from an entirely new perspective. He theorizes that character traits, tactics and determination Gen. Jackson demonstrated in defeating the far better trained British army are the same characteristics that helped catapult the city’s post-Katrina recovery.
By interviewing a wide array of notable local sources, Molthrop juxtaposes events from 1815 with those of 2005, demonstrating unconventional attack plans that achieved improbable victories. Success tips are categorized with military terminology, including shoring up defenses, using guerrilla tactics, acting with bravado and never forgetting the prize. Readers can valuable reap life lessons along with a fascinating history lesson.
Gen. Jackson was a frontier soldier who refused to follow traditional rules of European engagement.
“Pesky Americans refused to fight fair,” Molthrop wrote.
The rough-and-ready American general formed alliances with unscrupulous Baratarian pirates, free men of color, Choctaw Indians, Kaintucks and Creoles, each with singular mettle. Similarly, New Orleans’ post-Katrina revival brought together a motley coalition of business, government and educational leaders, entertainers, tourism and sports promoters – even a Vodou priestess – to cooperate in an entirely new manner.
Both crises called for decisive action and for sidestepping rules. Real estate developer, Pres Kabacoff, for example, saw an urgent demand for loft apartments for returning artists and a Healing Center to create a new social hub. Putting together federal historic tax credits and new market tax credits, he quickly built a nexus.
“All the internal politics and bickering – they are just sideshows to me,” Kabacoff told Molthrop.
With few troops and weapons, Jackson understood the importance of shoring defenses. By buttressing the port of Mobile, he cut off the easiest route for British invasion and forced their ships up the treacherous mouth of the Mississippi.
In 21st century New Orleans, the underlying defense is music – without which the city could perish. So, entertainers Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis and Habitat for Humanity teamed up to create Musicians Village, providing homes so musicians could get back into the clubs to perform.
After Katrina, the city needed to jumpstart its economy. New Orleans has always been a city of entrepreneurs “because large corporations won’t headquarter in a place with a poor school system and an annual summer evacuation,” Molthrop wryly commented.
But in 2000, New Orleans turned that hardship into an advantage, founding Idea Village, a startup community with a vision to create “a self-sustaining ecosystem that attracts, supports and retrains entrepreneurial talent.”
Above all, Jackson had the charisma to unite diverse groups and convince them to follow his leadership, pledging to die before surrendering to the British. The general’s team approach solidly defeated the Brit’s top-down command structure, slaughtering more than a thousand British troops in less than an hour.
“He’d beaten the army that had beaten Napoleon,” Molthrop wrote.
“Jackson’s Playbook” was designed not only to reflect on one of the most important battles in U.S. history on its 200th anniversary, comparing its indomitable military leader to modern leaders, but also to help people understand and manage complex issues in their workplaces, neighborhoods and in their daily lives.
If you think you know the back-story on the War of 1812, “Jackson’s Playbook” provides an entirely new insight into the events and the enduring culture of New Orleans. Offbeat photos and insider perspective on this intriguing city make “Jackson’s Playbook” a fascinating read and guide to life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bars provide havens from the summer heat

Photo credit: Veronica Dominach


“Hot weather opens the skull of a city,” wrote New Orleans-born Truman Capote, “exposing its white brain and its heart of nerves.”

Don’t it, though? The Crescent City in the soupy season has been known to bring on brain fever. Tempers flare, foreheads crack like expired pralines and businesses close shop until the school bell rings. Those “out there” look like “walkers”: feverish, half-baked, menacing. 
Road rage, domestic abuse and killer-mime hallucinations ensue. Crime rates keep pace with the soaring mercury. Locals stuck in town hole up and wait it out, allowing the tourists to take over.
Relax, there is respite. August here is when Hell freezes over inside bars and restaurants, the city’s ice palaces, which provide just the chill-pill to meltdown.
 (Warning: side effects may include dizziness.) The city’s makeshift igloos ramp up their air conditioning like no other metropolitan hot pocket. And though, by average, most are set at 73 degrees, that seemingly modest figure invariably feels far more brisk when out on the street it’s frying.
“When you go out to have a drink or eat here in the summer you know to bring a sweater,” said Genevieve Cullen, a bartender at Bud Rip’s Old 9th Ward Bar (est. 1960), which was cited as a cold front by several veteran barkeeps and night crawlers recruited as Advocate cold-front panelists. (None included their own digs as cold front candidates.) On a recent afternoon, Bud Rip’s proved more reasonable than chilly — though its new owners were in the throes of overhauling its AC system.

“If you’ve lived here a while, you know to bring a light wrap to a restaurant or a movie theater,” echoed Susan Spicer, the chef of the French Quarter’s Bayona and Mondo, in Lakeview.

Where to chill?

So what are the ultimate cold fronts for swilling and sustenance, day or night? (We wouldn’t dare to deem any of them THE sole cold rooms.)
Check the temperatures on wall units all you like, but they’re not an entirely reliable gauge. There are mirages at play, deceptive but subliminally effective.

Among the factors aligning to create snowball effects are an interior’s décor (spaces that are industrial, uber-Modern or simply sparse in furnishings exude cool), flooring (tiled or concrete are colder), ceiling height, and direct (or not) natural light exposure. If it’s a mole hole, it will likely be colder.

And there are crannies suggestive of haunted “cold spots” in otherwise comfortable rooms, that deliver shivers up the spine. Case in point: the Columns Hotel, where an AC vent positioned under a certain corner perch at the bar blasts frigid air up dresses and trouser legs.

New Orleans cold fronts, we discovered, invariably include sepulchral dive- and sports bars, sushi-and-steak houses, booze-friendly movie theaters, cigar lounges with their humidors and fat-cat clientele, vegetarian outposts, jacket-required establishments and all those f-f-f-frozen daiquiri factories indigenous to Veterans Highway and Bourbon Street.

“The challenge with daiquiri places is this: Are you cold because you are drinking them or because the bar is cold?” pondered Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant for the Warehouse District’s Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar & Restaurant, known for its “Arctic Shelf Pleasers,” such as Tito’s Frozen Lemonade. “Boozer’s dilemma,” she shrugged.
As for perception-versus-reality venues, a case in point is Uptown’s Brothers III Lounge, which is cooled by multiple wall boxes and deemed “butt-freezing” by a quartet of social-coasters on our makeshift team, most with penchants for black-tie and for slumming it.
On a Thursday afternoon at Brothers III, a surly barkeep growled, “I have no idea what the temperature is in here. Maybe 70? But we’re the coolest bar in town, and we got the coldest beer in town.” As evidence that it was “cold all right,” he added, “I may be the only bartender here who wears long pants and a long shirt to work in the summer.”

Not the only one, actually. At Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar on Tchoupitoulas Street, a bartender pointed to the blue jeans he wore to work to keep warm. He explained the wavering mercurial conditions (72 at that moment). “It’s colder now because it’s slow. Once the bodies roll in, though, it’ll ramp up the heat,” he said. And the temperature setting is lowered.

Source of pride

“It actually makes us pretty happy when someone eating at Mondo says, ‘It’s a little chilly in here,’ said Spicer, “because when we first opened four years ago, the AC wasn’t working right and it was hot, hot, hot. But once we added five more tons (of AC capacity) things got a lot better. Maybe we’re overcompensating now, but we do tend to keep thermostats set on 72.”
At the Riverbend’s New Orleans Original Daiquiris, a server reached by telephone placed the average temperature at 72. “We keep the settings in locked boxes to keep customers from turning it down,” she said. But on multiple visits we found the double-meters, encased in plastic, holding steady at 69.

Which is just how Tory McPhail, executive chef of Commander’s Palace, likes it: walk-in frigid. “It’s certainly cold at that daiquiri place,” he said, “but it’s also a cool spot to hang out because it’s more of a broad swath of residents — from judges to junkies — than anywhere I can think of … except maybe Central Lock-Up, which is certainly cold-hearted.”
He and others chose Port of Call in their top three of freeze-outs. “Besides being cold inside, the Monsoons have so much liquor in them that a layer of frost builds up around the outside of the go-cup,” McPhail said. “Cools me just thinking about it.”
Sean Meenan — a New York restaurateur and New Orleans transplant who’s feeling the heat from French Quarter residents over his envisioned Café Habana on Rampart and Esplanade — resides mere blocks from Port of Call. He too calls it “one cool oasis. You leave the outside behind when you enter.”
It isn’t so much the AC setting (72), so much as the positioning of the vents, which blast from all directions, including from above. On an early afternoon visit, a herd of customers wallowed outside the door in the 96-degree heat. When this reporter attempted to shake pepper onto a cheese-cloaked spud, it blew starboard onto a neighbor’s burger.

Back in the 60s

Likewise, beef people Mr. John’s Steak House, the Lower Garden District fixture, made the coldest Top 3. “It’s a f---ing iceberg in there!” said Brian Bockman, a Garden District architect who frequents the St. Charles Avenue restaurant. On an early bird visit, the maitre’d allowed that the temperature was 69 inside.
Restaurateur Robert LeBlanc — whose Lower Garden District whiskey bar Barrel Proof keeps its AC set at 65 when the doors are open to the street — said Mr. John’s was gloves-down the coldest restaurant in town. “I don’t know any colder dining room … or steakhouse. And they’re all pretty cold.”

Alternately, meat-averse Seed on Lower Prytania is “completely freezing too,“ said Bockman, “Probably due to the fact it’s vegan.” A weekday lunch visit found the temperature set at 73, but ceiling fans, concrete floors and a melon color palette in the cucumber-cool room spread the crisp-air love.
Then there’s the dress code-rigid Galatoire’s (owned by Advocate publisher John Georges), also a top ice pick. With its 60 tons of AC on the first floor alone, Galatoire’s keeps the temperature at 68, said president and CEO Melvin Rodrigue. “It’s all about the humidity,” he said.

“When August rolls around, I seek safe — and very cold harbor — at Galatoire’s, where they always keep the icy martinis and cold Sancerre coming,” said Julia Reed, vocal local and author of “But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!”

Reed called it a tie between Galatoire’s and the AMC Elmwood Palace 20 for cold spots, the latter “where a frozen margarita makes even the most mundane summer blockbuster entertaining.”
Tom Sancton, a clarinetist and author who gigs at the Palm Court Jazz Café, Preservation Hall and Snug Harbor, wholly concurred, seeking Arctic air at Elmwood. “None of the jazz clubs I play at really fit the freezing bill,” he said. “A lot of them on Frenchmen Street have open doors.”

Also cold

Yes, we know there are so many untapped cold spots out there that eluded our three-week sledding expedition. Try not to sweat it; lift a frosty mug instead.
Here’s our short list of freeze-factor runners up: the French Quarter’s Fahy’s Irish Pub (on Burgundy), uptown’s Superior Seafood, Grit’s Bar and Clancy’s, the Riverbend’s Cooter Brown’s, the Roosevelt Hotel’s Sazerac Room, Liuzza’s (Mid-City), and, as a whole, Harrah’s Casino … where, of course, cooler heads prevail when the chips are down.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Uncle Lionel moves onto his next gig

For some 30 years or more, Lionel Ferbos had been introduced to audiences as New Orleans' oldest jazz musician. Someone else will have to assume that title now since Uncle Lionel has crossed over.

Ferbos celebrated his 103rd birthday this month at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe where he was a regular and played trumpet at every Jazz & Heritage Festival event until last year.

Like most working musicians, he held down another job, running a sheet metal business as a master tinsmith to raise a family.

He took up the trumpet despite childhood asthma. Ten years younger than Louis Armstrong, he outlived Satchmo by 40 years.

Ferbos played Traditional Jazz, a genre that went in and out of fashion during his lifetime.

Irvin Mayfield said of Ferbos and his contemporaries: "There's a certain way that they play melodies - it's a different beat, a different rhythm. When you listen to King Oliver or Jelly Roll Morton, you hear it."

"That's one of the lost things that we won't be able to hear in person again," Mayfield added.

Corpus Christi Catholic Church in the 7th Ward was packed on Saturday for the funeral mass. The Treme jazz band came strolling up St. Bernard Avenue to meet the procession going to the cemetery. Everyone was smiling because though the occasion was sad, Ferbos had seen it all - several wars, recessions, civil rights, integration, Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans' rebirth.

He was going to meet his maker.

The band played, "A Closer Walk with Thee," a New Orleans standard the musician had probably played a thousand times.

Ferbos lived an exceptionally long life, but he was not alone, even in his final performance.

Lionel's chariot

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Which are the happiest U.S. cities?