The Inevitable Katrina Question, 10 Years Later


Among New Yorkers, there is no such thing as a rude or intrusive question. One’s salary and/or monthly rent is icebreaker fodder, as my friend and fellow NYC transplant Amalia discussed last night. People get down to business here, about other people’s business, because everything is a race to size one another up.

When I tell people I am from south Louisiana the inevitable Katrina question arises.  The conversational “leveebreaker” goes something like this: Hi, I know I just met you but can we skip the pleasantries and go right to tales of human suffering and vast leadership failures? My perspective, I warn them, comes from that of someone attending college 70 miles southwest of New Orleans in August 2005. Seventy miles southwest in the context of Katrina might as well be another planet – one far away from the death and devastation that befell New Orleans when the levees broke.

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Two Subway Nightmares, Two Very Different Responses

Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.

Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.

This weekend, as I entered the grounds for Afropunk Fest, a man patted me down from shoulders to ankles. I opened my bag, showed him its contents and received entrance. This process, I imagine, happened to thousands of people, all in an attempt to prevent gun violence, or any form of widespread violence for that matter. This is not a procedure unique to festivals. The same goes for sporting events – NFL, MLB, etc. We willingly encounter these safeguards, in order to ensure the reality of modern-day America – our frightening gun violence epidemic – doesn’t interrupt our mass entertainment.

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Chance the Rapper – “Paranoia” on Windy City Live

“‘Paranoia’ is about the paranoia that plagues the city and perpetuates violence and causes people’s minds to be a little askew … The horns that Donnie plays between the chorus and verse represent a memorial for the people who passed away.” ~ Chance the Rapper

It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve watched this performance two dozen times this past week since discovering it while searching for video of Chance headlining Pitchfork Music Festival. Originally released two years ago, “Paranoia” is social commentary, reportage, nursery rhyme and love letter to one’s native land packed into one gripping song. Chance’s performance on Windy City Live, in the week before his Pitchfork set, is more animated and heartfelt than that show, its hosts or its deadbeat audience deserves.

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True Detective Season 2 Episode 6: 10 Thoughts

Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) goes knives out at an orgy in this week's True Detective. Photo: HBO/Lacey Terrell

Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) goes knives out at an orgy in this week’s True Detective. Photo: HBO/Lacey Terrell

Spoiler Alert: Old white men popping Viagra like there’s no tomorrow up ahead.

I found myself in a conflicted, possibly nonsensical head space after watching “Church in Ruins,” the sixth episode of True Detective‘s oft-criticized second season. I still don’t give a damn about any of the main characters outside Velcoro (Colin Farrell) yet with two hours left in this season I am invested in how the story ends. That doesn’t mean I am expecting some form of redemption depicted on-screen but I am no longer expecting my time will be wasted, either.

Don’t let me down, Pizzolatto. (Show creator/lead writer Nic Pizzolatto, that is.)

Below are 10 thoughts from True Detective Season 2 Episode 6.

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True Detective Season 2 Episode 4: 10 Thoughts

Taylor Kitsch, master thespian.

Taylor Kitsch, master thespian.

Spoilers Ahead: If you are not caught up on HBO’s True Detective, you might want to arm yourself … to the teeth.

Old Testament bloodbaths. Green and Black auras. Baby talk involving men who have trouble getting it up.

Tonight’s True Detective episode titled “Down Will Come” took its protagonists’ already shitty existences, shook ‘em up and sent them free-falling toward hard truths about themselves and the case they’re investigating, all the while killing the equivalent of half Vinci’s population. What a bloody spectacle.

Here are 10 thoughts from True Detective Season 2 Episode 4:

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Review: Leon Bridges, Green With Nostalgia, Serves Brooklyn Soul

Leon Bridges and Brittni Jessie perform "River" inside Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Leon Bridges and Brittni Jessie perform “River” inside Music Hall of Williamsburg.

A week ago, at my roommate’s insistence, I sat through Terminator: Genysis, a film whose migraine-inducing, clustercuss of a time-traveling plot made zero sense to my bayou brain. If you told me Texas soul-singer Leon Bridges, whose live show I witnessed in Brooklyn two weeks ago, accessed the Terminator: Genysis teleportation chamber in order to travel between the 1960s and now I would believe you. At worst, this explanation of Bridges’ retro voice, stage mannerisms and fashion sense would make more sense than the movie.

As I wrote in my review of his Music Hall of Williamsburg concert, Leon Bridges is a green performer despite what his classic sound might suggest. His smooth voice offers a fine facsimile of R&B legends but his stage presence does not inspire the same awe. One would guess, when his time-traveling act returns to NYC in the fall, that many of the wrinkles in his show, much like those in his high-waisted pants and polo shirt, will be ironed out.

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True Detective Season 2 Episode 2: RIP Ray Velcoro?

Am I dead or am I not? Answer the damn question.

Am I dead or am I not? Answer the damn question.

Spoiler Alert: If you are not up to speed on the second season of HBO’s True Detective you might want to avert your eyes.

On Saturday night at the tail end of a game of drunk UNO I witnessed grown men drop atomic shade on one another over a disagreement about the second season of HBO’s True Detective. One combatant remarked he saw no way this season wouldn’t suck given the action movie director who helmed the first two episodes – and a few other reasons that were lost in my mind’s surf. His opponent called bullshit on him for not seeing the first episode before desecrating the show. Pretty soon people were red in the face and yeah, our UNO game went to shit. Shame too because I was one card away from calling UNO.

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The MTA and the Odyssey

The cover of this week's Village Voice featuring a great and maddening story on the MTA.

The cover of this week’s Village Voice featuring a great and maddening story on the MTA.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 58 titled “The MTA and the Odyssey” highlights my train ordeal this morning, in the wake of a Village Voice cover story about the subway system’s shortcomings.

In this morning’s wee hours, after attending a dud rap show featuring hacks, wacks and lame MCs, I boarded a train from Manhattan’s Lower East Side returning to Astoria, Queens, unaware I had set into motion my own epic henceforth known as “The MTA and the Odyssey.” My six-mile trip northeast lasted longer than most feature-length films, as garbage on the tracks, a Queens-bound subway line ending its route prematurely in Manhattan and a Times Square station clusterfuck conspired against my desire to pass out in my bed. At least my ride included a drunk white guy dispensing invaluable knowledge on why ordering chicken fried rice is a pro move. Gotta look at the bright side while waiting for the MTA to investigate why gigantic chunks of filth litter the train tracks.

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True Detective Season 2 Episode 1: 10 Thoughts

True Detective's real hero: Colin Farrell's 'stache.

True Detective’s real hero: Colin Farrell’s ‘stache.

Noted New Jersey nihilist, uh former journalist, Lloyd Nelson suggested I write about the second season of HBO’s True Detective for shits, giggles and page views. Told me, I would have to pay him for his next good idea. Alas, I am waiting for the hedge fund millions to roll in, not to mention Good Idea Numero Dos, before I fork over any bit coin.

In the weeks leading up to its premiere, the True Detective Season Two Kinda Sucks narrative became all the rage among critical types. Stories circled about creator Nic Pizzolato’s insufferable auteur act, this season’s lack of compelling characters and its predilection for flyover shots of L.A. instead of anything plot-related. This critical piling on served as a stark contrast to the critical love fest that showered Season One.

It’s too early to brand the show DOA. I mean, Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle from the first season is not coming to save it with his unique brand of nihilism but Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro, he of the impressive ‘stache and bolo tie collection, will find me and break my face if I write this season off too soon. Ah, yes. Living in fear of crooked police. That’s not anything we’ve heard about in 2015.

Here’s 10 thoughts from True Detective Season 2 Episode 1 ranging from the inane to the profound (uh, maybe not). Here’s a good time to stop reading if you haven’t watched the episode because spoilers will rear their heads.

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Bobby Jindal is Stannis Baratheon of GOP Field

Where is Melisandre when I need her? Wait, she rode off too?!

Where is Melisandre when I need her? Wait, she rode off too?!

NOTE: Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.

Surprising absolutely no one, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced today on social media his intent to run for the Republican presidential nomination. Did anyone actually think Jindal, after years furthering his own White House ambitions with hundreds of campaign trips designed to grow his national brand, refusing anything that resembled a tax even if it plunged his state into a billion-dollar deficit and making controversial speeches about gays and Muslims, would inform the media and the electorate he had decided NOT to run?

Bobby Jindal is Stannis Baratheon, or at least finds himself in a similar predicament as the would-be king found himself on Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Jindal faces extremely long odds of achieving his White House goal but at this point is in too deep to retreat. He’s spent years telling anyone who would listen he possesses the gravitas to run the nation. He must ride forward even if it means his campaign will be routed and serve as a future cautionary tale. C’est la vie.

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From the bayou to NYC and beyond, cher.

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