Only in New Orleans, A to Z

Angus Lind, columnist for the Times-Picayune, has filled the alphabet with aspects of the culture that makes this city unique. Sunday’s paper ran the Living section crossways so that by opening the entire page out, you have this giant poster depicting Lind’s compilation of New Orleans blessings, complete with pictures.

So many expatriate New Orleanians read this blog, we thought you would enjoy his list. It’s shortened somewhat for brevity’s sake. See if any of these bring back memories. Or make you homesick.

A is for Audubon Park, Azaleas, the Absinthe House, Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Algiers, Arabi, architecture, and ain’t dere no more. B is for the big easy, bless you boys, Buddy D, Tom Benson, Bienville, beignets, bananas foster, brake tag stations and Barq’s.

C is for Crescent City, Canal and Claiborne, Cajuns, Carondelet, Creoles, cafe au lait, Cafe du Monde, calliopes on steamboats, Chalmette, Commander’s, City Park, Charity Hospital, Camellia Grill, and the Crescent City Connection. D is for Deuce and Drew, Dawlin’, Dis n’ Dat, downtown, Delgado, dey all axed f’you, and D. H. Holmes.

E is for Emeril’s, ersters, Endymion, Essence. F is for the French Quarter, fleur-de-lis, French Market, de ferry, Faubourg Marigny, first you make a roux, and Frostop. G is for gumbo, gris-gris, Galatoire’s, Gentilly, Garden District, Green Wave, go by yo mamma’s house, and Gretna.

H is for Hubig pies, Hornets, hurricanes, Harry Connick Jr., the Huey P., half shell, Hap Glaudi, and how y’all are? I is for Irma the sweet soul queen, Iberville, Irish Channel, I done tol’ you a hunnert times, and izzat so? J is for Jazzfest, jazz funerals, jambalaya, Jackson Square. K is for K-Paul’s, K-Doe, Krewes, Krystal burgers, K-Ville, and “another K we won’t mention because it doesn’t exactly feel like a blessing yet.”

L is for lucky dogs, lagniappe, Landrieu, Lee Circle, Lower Nint’ Ward, Louis Prima, Liver n’ Onions, Lenfants, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. M is for Mardi Gras, the Mannings, Morgus, Mandina’s, makin’ groceries, Magazine Street, Marie Leveau, muffulettas, mirlitons, McKenzie’s, Monkey Hill, and Maison Blance. N is for N’Awlins, nutrias, neutral ground, nectar sodas, and no left turn signs. O is for “only in New Orleans,” Olympia Brass Band, and Orpheus.

P is for Pete Fountain, Pelicans, Preservation Hall, Popeye’s, Pirates Alley, Privateers, po’boys, and Pistolettes. Q is for queens, da quarters, and quiche lorraine. R is for remoulade, Rex, Rampart, Riverview, red beans and river, Redfish Grill, red snapper, Ralph’s on the Park, R&O’s. S is for Saints, Stchmo, St. Louis Cathedral, the Superdome, Second line, streetcars, Sally-Ann, Spud, Snug Harbor, Sugar Bowl, sno-cones, and Schwegmann’s.

T is for Tulane, Treme, Tipitinas, Tchoupitoulas, Tabasco, Tennessee Williams, trout amandine, t’row me sumthin’ mistuh, and turtle soup. U is for UNO, Uglesich’s, and Upperline. V is for voodoo, Veterans, and Vince Vance and the Valiants. W is for where y’at, Westwego, Whitney clocks, and Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

X is for Xavier and the ‘X’ on your house after the hurricane. Y is for Yo Mama Nem, Yats, Ye Olde College Inn, Yams, and Ya know what I mean? Z is for Zulu, zydeco, Zatarain’s, Zion churches and Da zoo where dey all axed f’you.

The other memorable thing in the Sunday paper was an update on the 1967 Saints, members of the original squad to take the field at Tulane Stadium and begin our half-century love-hate affair with the doormats of the NFL. For those who wondered “where are they now?” the article answers the question.

If you were like me and living here then–I was just finishing seminary and pastoring Paradis Baptist Church on Highway 90 West and so thrilled we had our own football team–you rushed home from church and turned on the radio (they appeared on television so rarely) to soak it up. No one who was there or who heard it will forget when John Gilliam took the opening kickoff for the Saints in the very first game and ran it back 94 yards against the L. A. Rams. We all thought it was a great omen for the future, and our enthusiasm was boundless. No matter that we lost that game 27-13. And where is Gilliam now? Running a landscape company in Atlanta.

I looked over the page for one name in particular: Dave Simmons out of Georgia Tech, middle-linebacker for the Saints for less than two years. Sometime in 1968 we flew Dave to Greenville, Mississippi, where I had gone to pastor, to speak to our young people. I have no memory how I learned of him, but he did a superior job and we became friends. In the early 1970s Dave and Sandy and the McKeevers all belonged to the FBC of Jackson as he was setting up his ministry. He established King’s Arrow Ranch out from Lumberton, Mississippi. We took our boys down there once and have pictures of them riding horses. Today I found out more than I wanted to know.

“Died in a one-car accident in Tennessee on Nov. 7, 1994. He was in route to Atlanta, where he had moved after spending many years as a minister in Arkansas. Simmons retired at the height of his career in 1968 to start his ministry, and he built a ranch for troubled children in Mississippi. When a hurricane destroyed the uninsured ranch, Simmons and his wife, Sandy, moved to Little Rock where Dave went to work for Family Ministries and eventually started his personal ministry, Dad the Family Shepherd.”

It was interesting reading about John Mecom, Jr., the first owner of the Saints. His family was from Houston and big in the oil business. Mecom was 27 years old, if you can believe it, and easily the youngest NFL owner ever. We were all critical of some of what we perceived as dumb errors in judgment and mismanagement Mecom made, but in the article he says in those days the NFL office called you with a suggestion, “you really had to follow through on it.” He says, “The league back then was famous for passing mediocrity around, and we made them less than mediocre.”

Somewhere I read the neatest story about the Mecom household when he was a kid. Some ladies from the Houston Garden Club came to see his mother one day. They said, “We’d like to invite you to join the garden club…but first, you will need to do something about your yard. It’s awful.” Mrs. Mecom answered, “We’ll repair the yard later. Right now, the boys need it as a football field.”

Now, that’s a mother with the right priorities. I know nothing more about her than that, but I have sung her praises for forty years just from that one incident.

Wrapping this up…

Street cars are now traveling the length of St. Charles Avenue, we’re glad to report. Minus the sound and sights of these cars, this city just wasn’t the same.

Brad and Angelina are in the news. They’re always in the news, of course, if you check out the tabloids in the supermarket line. But they’re at work making a difference here. Brad is generating and raising millions of dollars to build permanent housing in the Ninth Ward, and Sunday’s paper says they are trying to draw attention to the lack of health care for the youngest and poorest in our city. A recent study says 46,000 children along the Gulf Coast still suffer with mental health issues, after-effects of our 2005 hurricanes. The Columbia University study identifies three risk factors–drop in academic achievement, limited access to health care, and clinically diagnosed depression or behavior disorders–and calls for attention to be directed this way. Our “humanitarian power couple,” Pitt and Jolie, are using their celebrity to help the kids. And we thank them for this.

Saturday, I preached the funeral for 90 year-old Everett Charles Beasley, a member of the FBC of Kenner. Everett was a mess sergeant in the army for 20 years, from 1942 to 1962. He served through the Second World War and Korea, and then in his second career ran the food service program for the young University of New Orleans. When I became his pastor in 1990, he had retired again and was volunteering in the church kitchen. He was what is officially known as “good people.” He grew up on a farm in Sumrall, Mississippi, and still had relatives there. From time to time, he would call my house. “Preacher, come get some watermelons.” He had returned from the country with a dozen of the largest, prettiest, sweetest melons you ever saw, the kind that would have had my dad urging us to “save the seeds.”

Everett’s son-in-law was Nick Congemi, longtime police chief in Kenner, and the best law enforcement officer in the state for the last 20 years. Everett’s son Charles Beasley is an executive with Baptist Community Ministries, the foundation which funds a great deal of the Baptist Crossroads Project which is constructing homes in the Ninth Ward.

In 1962, as Everett’s military service was ending, he was returning home aboard a ship loaded with 5,000 American troops, when he heard his name called over the p.a. system. The captain had found out that Everett was experienced at large-scale food operations and ordered him to select any 200 men on board and take charge of the ship’s galley. For the next week or two, Everett oversaw the serving of 15,000 meals a day aboard that vessel as it slowly chugged its way across the Pacific. Welcome home, soldier.

I thought of, but did not tell at the funeral, something an uncle of mine did. John L. McKeever was a mess sergeant in the Second World War, too, but when the war ended he came home and went to work in the coal mines with his big brother, my dad. John L. used to get a kick out of telling of the time he was breaking eggs in a huge bucket in order to make a banana pudding for the camp where he was stationed. He said, “I looked down and realized one of the eggs I had broken in the bucket was rotten.” He would get an impish smile on his face and say, “I was the only one who knew there was a rotten egg in the banana pudding–and I ate more than anyone there!”

Being a preacher, the type for whom everything is grist for our mill, I have told that story a few times over the years to make the point that God does something similar with us. We all have mistakes and failures, but when we give them to the Master Chef, He works them into the fabric of our lives to make us who we are. Then, even though He “knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14), He enjoys what He has done and takes pleasure in the result.

4 thoughts on “Only in New Orleans, A to Z

  1. Joe,

    Christmas greetings to you and Mrs. Margaret. I am sorry that I couldn’t be there for church today. I would have loved to hear you preach. I did get a chance to worship with folks in my home church in Enid, OK, but I know so few people there any more. So I guess we can’t always go home. Have a great and blessed Christmas.


  2. Missed your message this am. Dale and I had nursery duty. The rest got off the hook. We had 10 toddlers. So cute, but I was whipped, Julie did promise to make me a tape. We will not be there on the 24th. Our adopted Chinese family who are students in graduate programs at UNO are coming over for supper and to see how we decorate and celebrate. We have gotten so attached to them. They have one 18 month year old girl and another one due in January. I will be exicted to be “Nanou” to another China doll. Hope you and Mrs. Margaret have a wonderful Christmas. Your grandson is getting so very tall. God bless you. Nancy Russell

  3. Thanks Joe – for the reminder of Dave Simmons. I remember well – the Sunday Gentilly Church had the privilege of ordaining Dave to the ministry. Ed

  4. Mr. Everett Beasley was a great friend to my father, Lee McMullin. They would walk together when they were both in good health. After a nice long walk around the walking trail near city hall, my father would stop off at Mr. Everett’s and rest awhile before walking the rest of the way home. We shared some of those watermelons, too! When Mr. Beasley was not feeling well, my father would visit him as much as he could. Then, when my father fell ill Mr. Beasley would call my mother and check on his friend. I hope that when I get up into the senior years, I’ll have a good friend to share good fortune and bad as they did. All my best to the Beasley family. William McMullin of Corinth, MS, formerly of FBC of Kenner.

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