For Those Who Love New Orleans

There’s nothing dull going on in New Orleans. Never. Not in politics, entertainment, religion, or sports.

You ready for this?

Start with the new Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog.” You can see the trailer for this–and that’s all I’ve seen so far; I think it’s out today–at What makes it fascinating is that this cartoon flick is set in New Orleans.

The city has been beautifully drawn again and again over the centuries, by some of the world’s finest artists. But never more strikingly–and may I say, more idealistically–than in this movie. Don’t look for dirt on the streets or trash in the gutter. This is Disneyland-come-South where nary a speck of dirt can be seen.

It’s gorgeous.

Mike Scott, movie critic for the Times-Picayune, refers to the “loving treatment” of New Orleans, “which ends up being a character in the movie.” He says that when the Disney people came to town last week and showed the first 30 minutes of the movie, “if the rest of it is as good as that first portion, they’ve done it again.”

A local church is in the news. The Church of Christ on Elysian Fields has gone to court to oust their pastor, accusing him of egotism, one-man rule, and money-grabbing. Elders produced an affidavit from a church in Waxahachie, Texas, formerly served by Pastor Jarvis James, as evidence that he’d racked up the same misbehavior there and they too had had to kick him out.

The article by reporter Katie Reckdahl was so sensitive to the religious issues involved and so knowledgeable about scripture’s admonitions about believers going to court against one another, that I wrote a letter to the editor complimenting her. We grieve over the situation; we’re grateful when the media covers it graciously.

What did it for me, however, was nothing Katie Reckdahl wrote. It was a photo that accompanied the article.

There are two pictures accompanying the article. One shows the church, a familiar sight to me as I made the morning and afternoon drive past that house of worship during my five years at the Baptist Association.

The other photo shows nothing but the reverend’s hands clasped together. It’s the cuffs that damned him. Okay, he’s wearing cufflinks, but stitched across the cuffs of BOTH THE SHIRT AND THE SUIT SLEEVE is his name: Jarvis James.

That’s all. But that did it for me.

I don’t need to hear anything else this man says in his defense. Anyone that egotistical has no business in the pulpit of a Christian church. One wonders how he preaches the line where John the Baptist says, “He (Jesus) must increase; I must decrease.” Or where the Apostle Paul says, “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

His sleeves remind me of the time recently when an expensive sports car almost ran me off Interstate 10 in Metairie. As he sped past and I recovered, I couldn’t help but notice his personalized license plate. Had we gone to court over an accident he caused, his tag would have been his biggest accuser. It read: “AGGRSVE.”

Since Mayor Nagin is in his final few months as the leader of New Orleans, candidates are beginning to position themselves before the electorate. Most are unknowns and will soon drop by the wayside. Two in particular have made the news today.

Candidate James Perry aired a profanity-filled television spot this week. Of course, the bad words were bleeped and the mouths of the talkers were pixelated (meaning you couldn’t read their lips). Still, you knew what they were saying. The people in the ad were expressing shock that some of the mayoral candidates are veterans of local politics. So they are uttering things like “What? Are you —-ing me?” “Are you —-ing kidding me?”

I’ve not seen the ad, thankfully, but the newspaper report says the sound of the first letter of the bleeped words can be heard, leaving no doubt in the hearers’ minds what’s being said. Perry’s spokesman said on radio that people are assuming too much if they think the talkers in the ads used profanity. Uh huh. Sure.

Reaction was mixed. Some callers to talk radio shows agreed that they too are exasperated over the sorry slate of candidates lined up so far. Most were offended by the ad. The radio stations of course ran the ads again and again so callers could refer to it. I suspect Candidate Perry got his money’s worth.

Leslie Jacobs has thrown her hat (her bonnet?) into the ring for mayor of New Orleans. This woman has built a solid reputation as an insurance executive and a visible supporter/spokesperson for educational reform in the state. Her first TV ads aired this week, and she is promising to pour $1 million of her own money into the mayoral campaign. Her team says the ads will continue until the election, that she is in this to win.

The crooks are among us and it turns out some of them are well-placed, highly respected leaders.

The front page of Friday’s Times-Picayune shows Connie and Chris Breithoff, local art dealers, with shops in the French Quarter and on the North Shore. They will go to prison for art scams. What they were doing was purchasing cheap “Chinese wholesale paintings” (whatever those are) and marketing them as Southern homespun works by up-and-coming artists. They even manufactured biographies of some of the painters and created certificates of authenticity which they gave to gullible buyers to assure them of the value of their purchases. They made a lot of money.

At the court hearing–they had worked out a plea bargain so there was no trial as such–their supporters were decked out in “delicate scarves and pearls,” the T-P said. Of course. If you con people out of their money, you can then use that money to buy yourself friends who will stand up for you when you get caught.

Mom got 18 months in jail, son received 21 months. Afterwards, they’ll have 3 years of probation, and have been ordered to pay back nearly $1 million in restitution.

Stick up a convenience store with a handgun, get 20 dollars, and go to jail for 20 years. Figure a way to steal millions without a gun and you get 18 months. What a system!

Up in Baton Rouge, the mayor’s sister goes to jail. Evelyn Holden, 52, sister of Mayor Kip Holden, was working in the clerk’s office for a state court when she and two others started putting the squeeze on defendants. “Give us a bribe and we’ll see that your sentence is reduced or even dismissed.”

No word as to whether Ms Holden will try to find someone in the same office to bribe in order to escape jail. The newspaper said all three have pleaded guilty.

In Folsom, a tiny community an hour north of New Orleans, a fire district apparently overlooked the fact that their millage tax was expiring at the end of 2009. Hastily, they arranged for a vote for renewal to be held on–get this now–December 26. This would mean workers would have to set up voting machines on Christmas Day.

The state bonding commission refused to sanction the vote on that day.

At its worst, this was a scheme to sneak something by the voters when most would be unable to get to the polls. At its best, it was just negligence. The fire chief says they’ll have to lay off fire fighters since the first vote they’ll be able to hold in 2010 will be in March.

The Saints are 9-0 for the first time in history. Someone wrote to the editor protesting the way the Times-Picayune uses front pages to herald the team’s accomplishments. A letter to the editor today took a different position. Metairie’s Frank Lopreore said, “Attitude and work production in general around the city are vastly improved when the Saints win on Sunday; and when they play in the Superdome, it could be considered the sixth most-populated place in Louisiana…. Keep up the good work.”

I’ve gone on record as saying only a certain amount of insanity or ignorance would make a city go for a major sports franchise. The greatest reason–aside from the financial investment which is almost never recouped–is that the team holds the city’s self-esteem for ransom. If the team does well, the mood of the populace is high. If they are losing–someone ask Cleveland how it feels–the entire region gets the blues. It ain’t worth it.

On the other hand, it feels great at the moment. The Saints play lowly Tampa Bay Sunday, a team with only one win for the year. No one gives the Buccaneers a chance of winning, which means that Monday night, November 30, when the Saints host the New England Patriots in the Superdome, we should be 10-0. That should be the game of the year for the Saints, so stay tuned.

Never a dull moment down here.

Today is “grandparents day” at the school where our Metairie granddaughters attend, so we’ll be there all morning. Then the girls have their piano recitals at church tonight, so we’ll be in the audience.

As I say, constant excitement in this city.

4 thoughts on “For Those Who Love New Orleans

  1. Who Dat? 10-0. What a great start for a great team in a great city. You can tell I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, but down on the bayou. I cherish the memories of my time living in Louisiana ’78-’79 and look forward to every visit to the kids, grandkids and the Seminary in NOLA.

  2. Joe McKeever: For Those Who Love New Orleans is a good post. You have my vote regarding Joe McKeever: For Those Who Love New Orleans and I’ll bookmark this weblog right now.

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