I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian environment surrounded by people who swore upon the power of prayer. My mother, who I love and respect deeply, has a powerful testimony about prayer in her own life. I, on the other hand, never took to prayer. Maybe I didn’t clinch my hands tight enough or shut my eyes hard enough or speak the optimized words, in order to hear God. The act itself felt like bargaining with some psychic reserve I sought out in hopes of a loan or a fix rather than a communion with the creator of the universe. In church, as a child, I often found myself looking around the room as others prayed. What were they seeking and would they find it, I wondered.
Last night as I walked through Chelsea Market’s narrow strip of shops, past a bakery, a charcuterie, and a clothing pop-up, a disconcerting question grabbed my mind. Where is the nearest exit? Twin bolts of urgency and paranoia thundered from the deep recesses of my subconscious. To my left, down a ramp, a door to 15th Street stood a 20-yard dash away. The thought of a situation where I would need to dash to the door seemed absurd, and yet somehow it didn’t. People walked past me, talking, observing the art on the walls. Others sat eating. No one made any sudden or loud movements. I continued on my mission to find my parents an anniversary card. The thought of sprinting, while under attack, disappeared all together as I stared at books I wished to buy.
I discovered the severity of the ISIS attacks in Paris Friday night while sipping a whiskey and ginger inside, of all places, the United Nations. A man sitting next to me on a couch informed a friend of his, “They killed everyone in the theater.” Prior to entering the UN, I read reports of a dozen or so casualties in coordinated restaurant shootings. Now Agence France-Presse’s official Twitter declared around 100 dead. The mostly young, mostly well-dressed contingent in the UN continued talking and laughing – their chatter creating a buzz across the expansive, open room that resembled an airport terminal minus the pretzel stands and news hubs. Amid the caterwaul of a thousand conversations, the plight of France, my ancestral homeland, weighed heavy on my heart and mind.
These days, my hometown rag The Times-Picayune is skinnier than an Olsen twin, and about as knowledgeable on New Orleans as Mary-Kate and Ashley combined. The paper’s sagging finances and decreasing news hole – similar maladies afflict old media enterprises across the nation – is no excuse for its editorial board’s recent brain fart, uh decision, to back Sen. David Vitter for governor.
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations! You are a 2014 journalism graduate!
You ignored the tea leaves and followed your heart straight to a degree as worthless as pigeon shit. Let that sink in. Or don’t. It’s kind of sad in a way that Lindsay Lohan’s career trajectory is sad, and your career hasn’t even started. The best you can hope for is to keep your nose clean from booga suga and maybe, if you’re lucky, have a seamless transition into the world of public relations.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 40 focuses on a case of mistaken identity at Popeyes in Spanish Harlem.
A pregnant, prolonged craving for biscuits – buttery, artery-clogging biscuits – motivated me to ride the subway two stops north earlier this week into the heart of Harlem to find Louisiana’s Kitchen. In the process of satisfying my Nickelback palate I became known as Bill Gates’s cousin at the Spanish Harlem Popeyes.
Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. This week’s topic: Describe a time you overcame fear.
We slithered south toward the Gulf of Mexico on a deserted two-lane highway – the sheriff’s spokesman, the Washington Post reporter, and I in the spokesman’s cruiser – dodging fallen tree branches crisscrossing the road. Power lines sagged into ditches. Water rested atop yards like sheets of paper. Darkness choked the land. Our headlights might as well have been the last lights in the world. In the backseat the reporter from our nation’s capital peppered the spokesman with questions about our area as he drove. I already knew most of the answers before the spokesman supplied responses, at turns playful and dismissive. We were deep in the heart of bayou country, among the first to lay eyes on the aftermath of the so-called “storm of the century.”