Category Archives: Friends

Living on New Orleans Time

It’s a book written by one of my old college roommates and still a friend I speak to almost daily via email, Richard Caire. Though born and raised in New Orleans, Richard decamped for Memphis as a Katrina refugee and returned only long enough to collect what was left of his “drowned” possessions.

Richard is a very talented musician, writer, photographer, Photoshop guru, graphic artist (we studied art together in college), and all-around dispenser of verbal bravo sierra. He has a very weird sense of humor, kinda like me, which is one reason we have remained friends across the decades. This comes out in his photography and writings. He sees and feels things most of the rest of us never even notice as we pass them by in our mundane existence. He captures those images in his photography and his writings for the rest of us to finally appreciate what we missed.

Richard has for years been sending emails to another of our roommates, his brother, and me that contained images he had taken of various subjects around New Orleans when he lived here. He uses his Photoshop skills to make a “photo” into something more than what it started out to be. Some would call it “art”. I do. He often writes a very clever commentary to go with each of these creations that is filled with NOLA culture—and NOLA memories if you are from here.

Sam, the third roommate, and I recently encouraged Richard to compile all this into a book. Well, he took us seriously. For the last couple of months, I have been drafted into reading beta version after beta version as he developed his book. And since I had already “plowed the self-publishing row”, he had a ton of questions for me on how to do this. He didn’t understand that I was no expert, but I babbled out convincing-sounding advice. Well, low-and-behold, he finished it (and is working on a second one already).

Living on New Orleans Time is a wonderful collection of NOLA images and culture but not the kind you get from tourist brochures or carriage rides through the French Quarter. Richard’s images are “off the beaten track”, and his musings are not standard travel brochure fare. They are the words and things lived and felt by a New Orleans native. The book was self-published and is 198 pages of NOLA images and feelings. It is a tad pricey, but that was driven by the production cost of a book printed in full color with lots of images. But well worth the price.

I certainly enjoyed the beta process of reading and studying Richard’s work, and I think you will enjoy the finished product. Below is an excerpt with an accompanying image from the book published with Richard’s permission. Enjoy.

 

 

 If The Oyster Won’t Come To Baby 

– 12 September 1989 –

At 2000 hours on a Saturday, 26 September 2015, The Pearl Oyster Bar & Restaurant, at 119 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA closed. No drama, no fanfare. Just POOF! Gone …

As I stood in front of The Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant this day, The Pearl’s unforgettable sign still brightened this section of the Bayou on St. Charles Avenue near Canal Street. As I was about to press the shutter release, what appeared but a man and his little boy walking toward The Pearl. I still wonder if that little boy chowed down on his first dozen ‘erstas’ with crackers, ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice.

My best memories of The Pearl are the times I ate there after playing music with Bat, Henri, Eddie, David, and Charlie. In later years, I’d stop there for a ‘breakfast po’boy’ and coffee on the way home after playing at the club on Bourbon Street.

The Pearl’s traditional menu included staples like gumbo, crab cakes, and roast beef sandwiches – but it wasn’t until you ordered one of their hot pastrami sandwiches on rye with a dill pickle wedge –and a Barq’s root beer – that you appreciated what they did with food. Good night, Ms. Marie, wherever you are. 

*****

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Ollie And The Rain Barrel

I’m not sure just when this next story took place as I had completely forgotten about it until Buck reminded me of it in a phone conversation a year or so before he died. When I asked when it happened, his words were, “We were old enough to get into trouble.” That wasn’t terribly helpful because that covered a lot of years! We finally isolated it down to when we were in our late teens.

Four people were involved: Mike “Buck” Roy, Alvin “Al” Bartlett, me, and Oliver Darrel “Dee” White. We were kind of a “rat pack” that ran together for decades. Buck and Dee are both deceased now.

Dee lived on Williams at 16th Street. Actually, he lived in a small garage apartment behind his parent’s house and had lived there for as long as I knew him. Dee was two years younger then I was, and I meet him when he joined our scout troop. His folks were not poor and the house was large enough for Dee to live inside, but he didn’t. They fixed up the garage, and Dee had this really cool garage apartment complete with a bathroom where we liked to hang out.

The conversation I am about to relate began by Dee expressing the desire to have a nickname, and he wanted a cool nickname. He was already called “Dee” shortened from Darrel, so the request seemed rather strange to the rest of us, but then Dee could sometimes be a bit strange.

Curious, we asked what name he would like to have, and his reply was “Ace”. And he said it with a straight face, but that didn’t stop the rest of us from laughing. “Lib” White, his mother, would not have tolerated “Ace” for even a second, but Dee, I mean Ace, persisted, and we resisted. “Ace?” Really?

At which point, we began calling him by a nickname we knew he absolutely hated. His first name was Oliver, and we sometimes called him “Ollie” when we wanted to irritate him—like at that moment. That was always guaranteed to send Dee into a dose of the vapors.

After we had our laugh, we finally agreed. I think Al started it, and Buck and I picked up on where he was going with it. “OK, we’ll call you Ace, Dee,” said Al.

That lit Dee up. “Not Dee! Just Ace,” he insisted.

“OK, Dee, I mean Ace,” Buck said. “We get it.”

“Dammit. ACE!” Dee insisted even more assertively.

“OK, OK, ACE it is, but, Dee, this is gonna take some getting used to,” I chimed in. Buck and Al nodded their heads in agreement.

Ace became exasperated then and even more vocal about his nickname. The rest of us were thinking he needed another trip to the rain barrel.

The Rain Barrel

Dee (or Ace if you prefer), an only child, was a bit spoiled and could get disrespectful sometimes. We mostly verbally slapped him down when he did that to us or simply ignored him. But there was one time he dissing someone, and we could not ignore it, and we all ganged up on him to administer some “brotherly love” discipline.

I don’t remember just what he said, but in front of us, he was very disrespectful to his mother. It was bad enough that those of us who witnessed it were offended, and not because we were all pillars of society always showing respect to our elders; it was just that bad.

The Whites had an old whiskey barrel in the backyard, and it was full of water. I don’t recall why they had this barrel of water. It was just sitting in the middle of the yard and doing nothing beyond that and collecting water.

Someone made the comment to Dee that his words to his mother were uncalled for, and Dee pushed back with something like, “What are you going to do about it?”

The gauntlet had been thrown down. The “double-dog-dare” had been figuratively tossed into the ring. Buck, Al, and I looked at each other knowingly. We all three looked at the barrel and then Dee. Lib White was watching all this and must have suspected something was about to happen.

In perfect unison as if rehearsed, Al, Buck, and I said, “The barrel!”

Dee looked at us with a confused expression on his face, then at the barrel, and back at us as we closed in on him. He laughed a mocking laugh! And that did it! The three of us were on him before he could take even one step. We had him off the ground and unable to do anything but squirm as we headed for the barrel.

About then Lib White figured out what we had in mind and called out from the back steps of their house, “Don’t drown him!”

Dee went into the barrel head-first and we held him down while he thrashed around throwing water over everyone. After an appropriate amount of time (short of drowning), we brought him up, and he was spitting out profanity between gasps for air.

“You going to apologize to your mother?”

The answer was a defiant “no” laced with profanity.

Back into the barrel he went, and this time he stayed down longer. We brought him up sputtering and cursing. “You win! You win! I’m sorry!”

We let him go, and Lib sighed with relief we had not drowned her only child.

I don’t remember how much longer the Whites kept that barrel around, a few years at least, and every time Dee got smart-assed, we would suggest it was time for another trip to the barrel. That usually calmed him down.

And we never did call him Ace.

 

The pic is of Dee and his wife, Patsey, in 2004.

 

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Mr. Hubwumpus

My dad had a story he told to us kids, one which I will always remember and have tried to pass on to my own kids and grandkids. And that is the story of Mr. Hubwumpus. I don’t know where MB got it; perhaps from his own father or mother. He first told it to me when I was around five. I can distinctly remember the settings, which was at my grandmother’s house one evening not long after my mother married MB.

Mr. Hubwumpus was a strange animal indeed. He was a dragon of sorts. He was green and had scales for skin, and he breathed fire and smoke like a dragon. His most unusual feature was that he had a light on the end of his tail and eyes on the back of his head. In a weird kind of logic, the light on his tail and eyes on the back of his head were there because, as MB put it, “He needed to see where he has been.”

No, I can’t make any sense of it either, not now and not when I was five. Light on his tail? Eyes on the back of his head to see where he’s been…? It’ll give you a headache.

About the time I turned fourteen my mother decided she was going to turn the tale of Mr. Hubwumpus into a children’s book and get rich while confusing kids all over the world with the tail light/eyes on the back of his head to see where he’s been brain teaser of an animal. I had some artistic ability, which I eventually turned into a profession designing ads and packages for some large international brands. I got this talent from my mother. Interestingly, she studied art at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1941, later dropping out of school when the war started. I studied advertising design there in 1964 when it was called the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette). The director of the art department was a Dr. Robertson. When I met him, I asked if he remembered my mother and he said he did.

Back to my story.

My mother decided I needed to illustrate the story, which she would write. Since the story of Mr. Hubwumpus had never gotten past a description of this creature in its early tellings, she had to invent a tale for the book, which ended up being along the lines of Mr. Hubwumpus had something of an identity crisis over his frightening appearance but wanted to make friends with a “people”, which turned out to be little Jimmy. But Jimmy’s mother saw them together told her son he must have nothing to do with that horrible looking monster. That was not good for Mr. Hubwumpus’ ego, and he retreated away from “people” back into the swamp. Jimmy ran away in search of his friend and fell into quicksand, and Mr. Hubwumpus came to save him. He huffed and puffed and breathed fire, which made his tail longer and its light brighter so Timmy could be pulled from the quicksand. All this was witnessed by the townspeople—you know the type: those holding the pitchforks and torches. And seeing the evil-looking Mr. Hubwumpus save Jimmy…well. (This is Copyrighted, BTW.) I just reread the manuscript, and the story is actually quite charming.

Meanwhile, my friends wanted to know what was taking up so much of my playtime. Being sworn to secrecy by my mother, I had to reply. “It’s Top Secret. I can’t tell you.”

Well, I ran into one of my old childhood buddies recently. That would be Lebo Centanni. Hadn’t seen him since we were kids in Kenner except very briefly in 1972 in Anchorage, Alaska when I was getting out of the Air Force, and Lee was flying C-130s out of Elmendorf AFB. Evidently, poor Lebo had been consumed by this top secret thing ever since we were kids and now some sixty years later he asks me, “Lane, I have to know. Back when we were kids you were working on this ‘Top Secret’ project with your mother. What in the hell was it?”

Wow! Sixty years and not knowing about Mr. Hubwumpus has been eating Lebo up all that time. For a brief moment, I considered stringing poor, eaten-up Lebo along and saying it was still “classified” but decided to finally spill the beans about Mr. Hubwumpus.

I think he was disappointed, but at least he can sleep at night now.

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Stupid Stuff

As I look back on my life (I am 73 as of 24 July 2017), I sometimes wonder how I survived some of the stupid things I did. Many of those I don’t even wish to recall much less speak of. Yes, they were that dumb. I assumed, with advancing age and its associated experience, I would get better at avoiding that. Maybe not. And maybe it is advanced aging that is reversing some of my “learning”.

I recently had one of those “stupid stuff” experiences, and it was a real first for me. We were traveling by car to Florida with some friends. There were enough of us that we took two vehicles. I was driving my Ford F-150 crew cab with Janis and one passenger. It was lunch time, and we stopped at a gas station outside of Mobile, Alabama, for something to eat. The station had an attached Wendy’s hamburger joint. Unfortunately, parking was unusually limited for a station and restaurant combo as large as this one and finding a parking space was difficult. I finally found one at the end of a row and the ensuing conversation concerning whether or not the other car of friends also found one distracted me.

We got out and went inside, ordered lunch and had a relaxing meal. I informed Janis that I needed to go to the restroom before getting back on the road and sauntered off to attend to same. On the way, I happened to stick my hand in my pocket and discovered my truck key was not there, and I always lock my truck! Rats! No problem. I always give Janis the extra key when we travel—only this time I forgot to do so.

After attending to business I rejoined our group and asked—hopefully—if Janis had, by chance, grabbed the extra key out of the drawer when we left home. Nope. Still no problem. I have that key pad entry system on the truck, which I never use. I knew (hoped) the card with the code on it that Ford gave me when I bought the truck was still in my wallet. Half expecting my truck to be stolen, I immediately decamped for the parking lot with the rest of the crew in hot pursuit.

Upon arriving at the truck, I discovered the doors were not locked thus no need to search for the code card. I also discovered my wallet was in the console next to my pistol, the key was still in the ignition, and — AND — the engine was running!

That is the first time I have ever done something like that.

When I related that story to my friend Mike, he told me a story of a similar event he experienced. Mike does graphic installations both inside and outside of buildings. For outside installs, he often uses a lift trailer which will extend up to 30 feet. He drags that long trailer behind his Suburban when he has an outside installation to do a job that day. One day he needed to swing into Walmart to get something. She slipped the Suburban into a slot and went inside. About a half hour later he came out to discover he had forgotten he had the trailer that day. His suburban was in its parking space with that long lift trailer sticking out in the drive between the rows of parked cars. Whoops!

Inside installs often require the use of a ladder, and Mike sometimes pushes the envelope a bit too far. One night he was doing an install in a grocery store over the dairy section. He leaned out a bit too far and tipped the ladder over. He landed in the yogurt.

“Clean up in aisle seven!”

Sometimes I wonder if we will survive old age. Probably not…

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SCUBA — Part 3

Didn’t expect a P3, but I was cleaning out a storage building in preparation for tearing it down and found a treasure trove of “Memory Lane” stuff, everything from my old Air Force papers, to art I did as a kid, and some old mags and photos. Among the photos was my “missing” picture of the Porpoise returning to Grand Isle on the last day of the NOGI Spearfishing Tournament mentioned here.

Sadly, many in the picture are gone now.

Porpoise NOGI R

 

I am the second from the left, handling the rope. Moving right, Dee White is next, partially hidden behind the ladder. Buck Roy is standing on top of the cabin with Mickey Rodosti (SIC?), who is sitting and gazing into the harbor. Dee, Buck, and Mickey are gone now. Al Easterling is standing in the cabin door, and I think he is also deceased. I can’t remember the names of the other two “rope handlers.”

Long time ago and so many good memories….

And what do we learn from that? Life is short—I didn’t think I would grow old so fast! And we need to spend more time with friends, because there comes the day when they may not be around any more—or you may not be around any more. Get together, crack open a brewski, and swap “lies” and laugh while you still can.

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Joey Giammalva

Last night Janis and I ran into Beverly Giammalva at a function. She is the widow of a very dear old friend, Joey Giammalva. Joey and I grew up together in Kenner, and we go back as far as I can remember, like when I was around six. I lived on Sixth Street near the corner with Williams Street. Joey lived on the same block as me but facing Minor Street, and just so happens right across the street from my future bride, Janis Cristina.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953Joey, Manard Lagasse, and I were the closest of friends in those days and remained so through high school, even though I went to East Jefferson, and Joey went to De La Salle. We kind of drifted apart after that, simply because we were separated by schools. Both Manard and Joey were two years younger than I was. Joey and I reconnected a bit, when I transferred to the University of Southwest Louisiana, and he was attending there.

As I was talking to Beverly, my emotions were flooded with memories of Joey and me as kids. What came to mind?

For one, his home on Minor (in which Beverly still resides). I can still picture every room. I would show up there on Saturday morning and find Joey watching TV in their den, a smallish room at the back of the house. He had a back porch that was initially only screened, and then Mr. Giammalva added jalousie window glass. We were not allowed in the living room. The sofa was even covered with plastic. No, I’m not making that up. I think they used that room only once a year, Christmas.

And, of course the kitchen.

Mrs. Giammalva (Miss Mary) was a fantastic Italian cook and somewhat tradition bound, because they had the same meal every Sunday at noon: spaghetti and meatballs and fried chicken. I’m not sure, but I don’t think fried chicken is very Italian? Whatever, it was great fried chicken! I must confess that I sometimes managed to be around the Giammalva house about lunch time on Sunday a bit more often that perhaps I should have been, and naturally, they invited me to eat with them.

Mr. Giammalva was an ice peddler for my future wife’s family business, Cristina Ice in Kenner. He delivered ice (some of us still had “ice boxes” then) to homes and businesses in his red, stake-bed, Studebaker truck. I will never forget that truck.

And get this! His helper was none other than Lloyd Price, before he became a famous recording artist. Some of his hits: Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Staggerlee, Personality, and I’m Gonna Get Married. A resident of Kenner who made good.

Mr. Giammalva also was a part-time trapper. He ran a trap line somewhere west of Kenner and brought in muskrat and little animals I think were mink. He treated the skins and hung them to dry in his two-car garage.

I spoke elsewhere of Joey and me having Red Ryder BB guns. Did you know robins were good table fare? I didn’t either, but the enterprising Mr. Giammalva did. Robins migrate and in the fall stopped on the way south in his hackberry tree to feast on the little hackberries, often filling that tree with robins by the hundreds. Mr. G and Joey’s Red Ryder BB gun were waiting for them. Many robins went into his freezer after getting their fill of hackberries. And no, that wasn’t legal. But, hey, it was Kenner in the 1950s.

Joey was a bit chunky when we were young but slimmed down as an adult. He suffered from flat feet, and I mean flat as pancake. We often played with the hose on the summer and Joey’s feet would make flatulence sounds on the wet concrete. Funny what you remember. And that one brought on the tears.

We also had go-carts, and we were often chased by the Kenner Police for running them on the streets of Kenner. I wrote about some of those adventures here and here.

The photo above of (from left to right) me, Manard Lagasse, and Joey was taken by Mrs. Giammalva in Joey’s back yard. He carried that old photo around in his wallet for decades. Finally about twenty years ago, he made 8×10 copies for Manard and me and presented them to us. It hangs in my home office. I am sorry to say that both Manard and Joey are gone now.

I miss them both, and unfortunately, we often don’t realize how much we miss someone until they are gone. If you have friends you love, spend time with them, because they won’t be here forever, and neither will you.

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He be deid!

By all rights, my friend Buck should have been dead in 1969 when he was involved in a bad accident on his motorcycle. He was working in Morgan City and commuting to NOLA on his days off, spending those with friends Al Bartlett and Sam Hopkins, who were living the bohemian lifestyle in the French Quarter.

It was winter and cold, and Buck’s sole means of transportation was a Harley Sportster. He bundled up in his shepherd’s coat, the kind made out of sheep’s skin with the rough leather on the outside and the wool side facing inward. For added insulation he lined the inside his coat with newspaper, which makes excellent insulation, by the way. Thus bundled up, he headed for NOLA.

As he topped the overpass over I-10 where Airline Highway becomes Tulane Avenue on the New Orleans side, he saw the South Carrollton Avenue light was green for him and laid on the gas to be sure he made the light.

But, someone ran the light, and Buck t-boned them. The Harley came to a complete stop, but Buck didn’t. He flipped over the car, landed on his back, and slid down Tulane Avenue thusly, his fists still firmly grasping the Harley’s handgrips, which he had pulled off when he “disconnected” from the bike. He came to a stop abreast of an elderly black man who had been making his way towards Carrollton on the sidewalk along Tulane.

And Buck lay there motionless.

The old man hobbled over to Buck and bent over him for a closer look. Satisfied with his examination, he looked up towards the gathering crowd near the motorcycle and car crash scene and yelled, “He be deid!”

Buck opened his eyes and said, “No he’s not.”

And he wasn’t. Surprisingly unscathed, he had only a few scratches and a ruined coat, which, with the newspapers, had contributed to his lack of significant injuries. He got up, called his dad, who showed up with his pickup, into which they loaded the mangled bike, and went home.

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