Friday, December 7, 2012

Pull my chain

A week or so ago I was walking back on Canal from the ferry returning from a job interview. In the Quarter even with eye sight as bad as mine you can spot tourists two blocks away. Things like beads, souvenir cups, pointing, taking photos actually and stopping when asked about their shoes. One couple passed, each wearing Hard Rock Cafe shirt from two completely different cities. They had a bag filled with... Hard Rock Cafe NOLA shirts. I just don't get it .

I honestly go out of my way to be nice, even helpful. If I see a couple spinning a map around 360 degrees and each pointing in different direction, I will causally ask "Whatcha trying to find?" I'll admit I bite my lip when they say something like "Hard Rock" or "Bubba Gumps" I want to say in a condescending tone "WHY?" I've seen tourists walk out of a McDonalds. Save your air fare, I'm sure there's one closer to your suburban home. 

 At least go to Krystal Burger and look out the window.
You might get to see a felony being committed. 

I love this city. Like when you are introduced to friends and family of a loved one, you try to make a good impression. One time I found myself with Otis walking on a menacing dark Burgundy Street feeling like a film noir extras. Like a siren, the unmistakeably cackle of "Drunk girls giggling" is heard. We met at the intersection 3 grenade toting girls pledging a sorority that night, emerging out from the darkness. "What's down there?" one managed to blurt out between giggles pointing towards Rampart. Otis sternly warns. "Oh Sugar, you DO NOT want to go thata way. Turn around and go back towards Bourbon. Nothing on this side but trouble. Please go back to Bourbon." We stood for a moment to watch them turn and walk back towards the light. Not as creepy guys checking out booty, but like two dads watching our girls walk to the bus stop for the first time.

If you plan to live here for any length of time you must be resigned to question of WHEN you get jumped, not IF.  You got to look after the friends of the city you love. My point is, if they want fucking Bubba Gump, then go ahead. "BUT, might I recommend a favorite of the locals?""Oh yes please...." Eyes open wide in anticipation of a secret or good gossip. "Coop's Place on Decatur. The chef is missing two fingers from when he used to hunt gators in the Bayou. He figured cooking gators was easier and safer than catching them. Try the Jambalaya." It's up to them at that point. Perhaps the feel safer at Bubba's. 

The French Quarter is like hard liquor,
some folks can't handle too much at once. 

A recent public issue in the Quarter led to a separate discussion among Quarter Rats, "Are corporate national chain restaurants good for the French Quarter?" Purists insist such blights should be driven into the river like an invading hostile force. Landlords holding vacant buildings and unemployed kitchen staff differ. Personally, I detest all things corporate like that. The Clover Grill might be a little more expensive than a fast food chain, but so worth it. Do you know how many oppressed workers  must endure Jimmy Buffet music all day while being forced to wear an ugly shirt as a uniform? Inhumane working conditions by even third world standards.

Look at how many chains do attract visitors, Harrahs, House Of Blues, Marriott, Hard Rock. We almost never get ads from them, no hard feelings. Tourists don't read us, locals do. We send people to the hard knock cafes on Decatur and Burgundy Streets.  I've seen what can happen. Hip, chic and slightly dangerous artsy neighborhoods homesteaded by 21st century beatniks who move in and make an area worthwhile. Ten years later it's all Starbucks and pretentious franchisees that the artists can no longer afford. It's not easy adjusting your budget from squatter to $2,400 a month.

Corporate imperialism, happens all of the time up North.

Folks buy expensive homes and condos on Esplanade and then yell at the brass band to keep it down. They have money and influence. So much in fact, they use it to destroy what makes their investment so valuable. Dumb fucks. Those of you not familiar with the corner of Esplanade and Rampart, there's this abandoned 1930's canopied gas station with a green Spanish tile roof. Classic building covered with plywood and graffiti. Habana Outpost from New York City wants to open up another restaurant on that location. Rampart needs something to improve it. For even street wise local, the area is sketchy. One of those "we have a web site community groups" of property owners near the proposed Cuban food establishment are fighting it tooth and nail. 

Arguments of scarce parking are moot to my ears. Most every weekend there is a festival of some sort when a parking space is as rare as a virgin in the Quarter. Noise? You chose to buy property in the heart of the Jazz capital of the world, STFU. Prefer the unoccupied building as a neighbor? I can tell you first hand it's a great place to take a piss and hit the pipe on the return from a night in the Marigny. I'll give up my convenience for the good of the city, because I love her. 

We all make concessions to live here.

The majority of Quarter Rats seem to lean towards the development. A safer and cleaner Rampart, the no man's land, the forbidden zone after dark. It would be a great anchor of development for the area. A safe stepping stone between the Quarter and the Marigny / Bywater action. A main thoroughfare into the Quarter that now is like a beautiful face with one front tooth missing. Someone wants to replace it with a gold  tooth let him. It's been vacant for years, I haven't seen any local investors jumping on it. You want genuine French Quarta? Ok, NO MONEY to invest. That's real.

More than a half million spent on the property, at least another quarter million in construction jobs to renovate it. Fifteen to twenty full time employees and a reason for the next empty building on Rampart to be a safer gamble.  Sorry if the delivery truck idleing outside your window while you try to sleep off a hangover is waking you up.  I choose to deal with a fucking steam calliope playing "Helter Skelter" at 8 am. STFU.

I never even heard of Habana Outpost until I saw a bunch of signs protesting them. Nice protest guys, I just became a supporter of your opposition. I never even knew about it until you pointed it out. Derp. Habana appears to be one of those kinder, cooler business owners. Hippie capitalists who are environmentally conscious, community centric that treats being a good  commercial neighbor as a responsibility. The love of people, great food, great music, no, they don't belong here. You don't want neighbors like this? Move uptown or STFU. 

Are you a NOLA purest who despise any corporate chains from out of town? Would you fault a local favorite if they had an opportunity in New York City? Imagine how proud we would be if Camellia Grill opened up in Brooklyn. No one complains if a well known local business has a dozen convenient locations in the Quarter. Do they define us?

Our leading industry is tourism.
The customers define the needs.