Friends with the owner

If you walked into Molly’s on Toulouse and thought that boasting “I’m friends with the owner” would give you any clout, you would be met with four out of five patrons raising their hands and saying, “Us too. What’s your point?”

The passing of Erin Churchill is devastating to so many people that she has touched over the years. Even as a casual acquaintance with Erin, you knew how much of an exceptional person she was. For those of us with a close relationship with her, it is deep personal loss.

It’s a great loss to the French Quarter, a successful business person and a wonderful soul is gone. I could write a thousand words praising her qualities, but they all would fall short of describing her remarkable character.

We are all fortunate to have even known her, we are better people for having done so. There will forever be a void in our lives and in The French Quarter without Erin Churchill.

Chris has risen (sort of)

Our block of Toulouse Street was the staging area for the (formally known as Chris Owens) Easter Parade. Just keep her name on it I say. One float had a life size cut-out of her. It creeped the fuck out of me when I first saw it. I thought they had dug her up. Be honest, you know she still probably looks the same now.

At work I spotted the last float had a sign on it that read “Happy Easter, the Cantrell Family.” I thought “Cool, some more grimacing Latoya pictures.” Nah, wrong Cantrell family. She wouldn’t allow herself to be the last float unless it was the biggest with brass marching band.

I was still in a prime location to get some pics of the set up. That means they climb up on a float and start working on a buzz. I sat up on a fire escape to take these pics. Smoking a bowl and sniping with the camera. A skill I learned playing GTA that I never thought would have real world application.

Sitting here going through the shots listening to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar. About the only tradition I have on this holiday. I always viewed the story through a purely political narrative. The backward corrupt time in human history when tyrants would discredit and arrest their political opponents. Thankfully we would never consider such things in our enlightened and progressive days.

Honored Guests

So, it’s a beautiful autumn day on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The press photographers gather outside of 520 Saint Peters Street waiting for the front-page shot. France’s President Emmanuel Macron steps out onto the second-floor wrought iron balcony festooned with the red, white and blue flags of our nations. Photos taken from behind him are views of the square and the historic Saint Louis Cathedral. The press is surrounded by street performers, musicians and artists with their paintings hanging on an iron fence topped by fleur de dis.

(Scratching record sound effect)
Nope, not this visit.
This is the first French President to visit France’s former colony in 45 years. In 1976 we were visited by leader Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and by Charles de Gaulle in 1941. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer the best view and accommodations to our special guest of such a prestige? The City of New Orleans did have such a place. It’s since been converted into “Teedy’s Boom-Boom Room.”

Just 10 years ago myself and a good friend, Robert Hotalen, were painting contractors hired by the Upper Pontalba property management to renovate that very apartment. We considered it to be quite a privilege, not just to be hired to work on a historic 1850s era structure, but also this particular apartment.

We gushed over the assignment and asked the property manager many questions. His response from what i remember:
“The mayor doesn’t actually live here, it’s primary purpose is to be a guest residence for visiting dignitaries and VIPs. The mayor may host parties here for special events or hold meet and greats.”
“Hold campaign fund-raisers and the like?”
“Oh no. He wouldn’t be permitted to use it for that since its a city owned property. It’s only for city affairs and special visitors.”

It’s not like Macron would be there for long. It would function like a base of operations during his brief visit. A secure location for him and his entourage. From the standpoint of security, it’s ideal. One main front entrance, a small courtyard only shared with the adjacent 522 Saint Peters Street location. The stairway only shared by two other apartments with full-time residents.

A short walk down Lower Decatur Street, (OK, maybe beef up the security on that route) to visit one of the few remaining statues in the city. A gift from France in 1972, the statue of Joan of Arc is still an impressive landmark. “Joany on a pony” as we locals like to affectionately refer to her. Show the people of France that we do still have it and mostly graffiti free. A majestic monument to transgenderism. Again, a magnificent photo opportunity for both the press and the city.

Maybe followed by a stroll up to the river, a city skyline as a backdrop to answer reporter’s questions and more pictures. A short walk back to the Pontalba apartment to return important phone calls and state business. Perhaps an overnight stay or probably just a quick shit and shower before he hops in a limo to the airport to jet back to Frogland.

New Orleans needs all of the positive press it can get at this point. Most images hash tagged #Neworleans lately have been those from blurry security camera stills of hooded figures pointing firearms at crowds. It’s a tourism downer to be known as the deadliest city in America. It’s about optics, something our mayor has no clue as to the meaning of.

Back when I was painting the 12-foot-high walls I imagined what the finished room would look like. Adorned with valuable fine art on loan from collections, antique furniture that wouldn’t see daily use, only for very special guests. I hate to think how it must look now. I envision bean-bag chairs and a day-glow poster of Snoop Dog hanging over the marble fireplace. The apartment probably smells like the VIP room at a strip club by now.

Maybe the city can book him a room at the Four Seasons on Bourbon Street. After all, it’s where the old French Opera House use to stand before it burned down. President Macron can stroll Bourbon Street for the international press. Toss a few Euros to the bucket kids, toss a couple more Euros to the dude who knew where he got his shoes. We’ll even comp him a Fishbowl drink.

The local press giggling at Macron’s security getting jumpy at the sounds of gunfire from Rampart Street by people who never even heard of Macron. Thanks Latoya. We really wish to be seen as a world class city, not a worldstar city. A chance to polish the image of the city in eyes of the world and you blew it like, well, you know, a cop.

Local writer faces national backlash after harassing Asian man in bar

On April 8, local freelance writer Thor Benson proudly tweeted: “I just ran into Andy Ngo at a bar in New Orleans. I politely told him he’s a ‘garbage person.’ Lol” Andy Ngo is a journalist from the Pacific Northwest who has gained notoriety from his extensive on-the-ground reporting of antifa protests and riots over the past few years. Mr. Ngo is often a target of verbal and physical abuse from far leftist ideologues.

Mr. Benson was mistaken as to the identity of the individual in a New Orleans bar that he approached and insulted. Mr. Ngo responded to the Benson tweet by stating that he was not even in the country at the time in question. Mr. Benson evidently mistook a random Asian bar customer for the journalist.

In an effort to be fair to Mr. Benson, I’ll attempt to give him some wiggle room. In his defense, I doubt it ever happened. It was probably one of those fantasy “it never happened but I’ll say it did” tweets. The person who will post a fictional self-righteous tale about their virtue for likes and shares from their tribe.

“I was on the bus when a woman got on wearing a TRUMP shirt. I called her out for being an evil racist and bad person. I shamed her so bad she got off of the bus before her stop. All of the people of color stood up and applauded me for being so brave and righteous!”

Or the other spin on fantasy tweets “My 2 year old came up to me and his very first words he ever spoke were ‘Mommy, I’m trans!”

I’ll take “Things that never happened” for $500.

You’re Thor? I’m tho thor can hardly even walk!

I tend to think this is how this started. Thor was sitting in some pretentious hipster bar in the Marigny scrolling through his phone getting pissed Mr. Ngo has more fame and clout than he ever will. As he sipped his pickled herring flavored IPA, he fantasized about what he would say to Andy if he walked in this bar right now.

The professionally trained writer from The Daily Beast carefully and eloquently composed a brilliant and scathing comment for his more established media peer, “You’re a garbage person.” Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde would be envious of making such a burn.

Mr Benson, unaware that he had possibly just insulted a random Asian neighbor, later doubled down with a second tweet. He boasted that the Asian man he called a “Garbage person” had just left punctuated by a “LOL”

If a tobacco chewing redneck went up to the only black patron in a bar placed his hand on his shoulder and told him that he was garbage forcing him to leave the establishment in fear, we would have a name for such an awful person. Especially after the redneck goes back to his buddies bragging about how he bullied out “their kind.”

I won’t claim to be a journalist, but I thought I should investigate a story here in New Orleans before I make a comment on it. Let me connect with my local Asian acquaintances to get feedback. Plus it was an excuse to order take out.

I asked the delivery guy if he had ever heard of Andy Ngo. “SHIT! I had an asshole approach me on a delivery yelling that name at me.” I asked what did he look like as the bag of beef and broccoli was handed to me. “I dunno, just another hipster asshole with a beard. He said he was a writer or something.” I tipped him well for the interview.

Coincidence I am sure.

Coming back from Jackson Square I ran into one of my neighbors that I often say hello to. The asian guy who chain smokes as he scrolls through his phone in front of the Foot Massage Place.

He laughed hard when I asked. “A couple of weeks ago some fucker called me a racist and told me to go back to Portland. He kept calling me Andy. He wouldn’t leave me alone so I made a fake martial art stance with an “EIYEEE!” He backed off and said I couldn’t hit him since he was a journalist or some shit. He ran off down Chartres street like a little bitch.”

“Can you describe him?”
“Pasty ass hipster with a beard. Kind of creepy looking. Tough to say since you know how all hipsters look alike.”

Another coincidence certainly.

Today at my favorite sandwich shop I was almost to inquire the same to the guy at the grill. He turned around to greet me and take my order when I saw his t-shirt with large writing that said “NGO! I AM NOT ANDY”

I pointed to the shirt and asked, “Let me guess, pasty white hipster with a beard?” “Well, yea, he said he was a writer for something. What can I get you?”

Mr. Benson, allow me to lump you into a group. I place you with the white progressives who call Candice Owens a ‘Coon.’ Those who call black conservatives ‘Uncle Toms.’ I have known many hard core conservatives and not one has ever boasted about harassing a random Asian person over Pearl Harbor.

You may be too little to remember this: Back in the 1980s there was a Television minister grifting off of the evangelical crowd. Jimmy Swaggart use to preach about the sin and perversity of pornography. The evils of lust and fornication. He was busted with a skanky hooker in a Baton Rouge motel.

You are the hypocritical minister, and that tweet was your skanky hooker.

Someone is Thor.

Guns for El Chupacabra – PART 2

“Jose? What do your people say? Your folklore say about them?”

I’m an open-minded guy and in my 39 years on the third rock from the sun, I’ve seen some strange and unexplainable things. I’d heard the stories, seen some video footage about how a couple of supposed chupacabra had turned up dead or shot by landowners, turned out to be coyotes with sarcoptic mange, skin rot. East Texas wasn’t that far away.

Lil Jose sighed and leaned forward, his beard stubble silver white in the flickering firelight.

“Some say they were experiment, by US Army, in the 70s-80s, biowarfare, created in secret lab by white coated bastards, secret labs, south of the border, where not too many questions asked, I’ve heard they killed the scientist and guards and escaped into jungle?” he said.

“Others say it was deliberate? Turned loose on the rebels by El Presidente?” I was getting shivers, Lil Jose had style, I hit the joint again.

“I’ve also herd that they were…how do you say? Genetic mutants, caused by toxic waste dumps?” He continued. “The old ones say they are demons? Set loose by El Diablo himself, to punish the Wicked.”

Fire was dying down, getting late, the women began to gather up items and move them into the house, taking the lanterns with them. It grew darker. A log popped and crackled, flaring up briefly. Temperature had dropped from mid 50s to high 40s in the couple hours I’d been there, eating tacos and drinking beers, blazing a couple of joints. I was tired and dirty and pleasantly buzzed. A bit of a drive home to the Garden District apartment I shared with my girlfriend. I needed to head that way soon. Zero cell phone signals here, towers still down after Katrina. Might as well be on the moon.

The Jose’s walked me around to my truck, we briefly discussed their sweet little minivan; when I went to start the Bastard, there was no sudden rumble, just solenoid click of the starter. My dumbass had left the auxiliary on?! I popped the rusty hood on the Bastard and fished my jumpers out of the toolbox. The Jose’s jumped me off with the van and the Bastard’s engine rumbled to life. Some good ole boys had tuned and basic overhauled it for me in Tennessee before I left. That truck was a beast!

We were discussing how I should get back to the I-Ten when the night was pierced by a sharp high-pitched trilling sound! VERY close by! In the darkness to my left! The Jose’s exchanged looks and said, “see you mañana Amigo!” and quickly departed to the warmth, light and safety of their home. I dropped the Bastard into gear, feeling vaguely like Mad Max about to navigate the ruined badlands back to the Ten. I had a bit of a buzz but chilly damp air coming through cleared my head.

Defrost and high beams on, I drove along slowly for awhile, dodging downed utility poles and trees, couldn’t see lights of hear traffic from the Ten, couldn’t be but a couple miles West? Felt like The Last Man on Earth.

I’d changed Johnny out for Dwight and he was wailing about that fabled last ride in that Long White Cadillac and I turned onto a really dark, desolate street that still had some trees standing. Making it even darker, the Bastard’s headlights barely keeping the gloom at bay. Rolling at 5 mph, motor idling heavy and burbling. Dwight had segued into I Sang Dixie. I was feeling copacetic when off to the right, on the edge of the street, something stood up! Startled by the highbeams, its fucking eyes!? Reflecting back red?!?! Demonic red!?

It threw something down in the tall weeds, screeching that horrible trilling and it ran in front of me, leaped onto a pole, swiftly scaled it, jumped onto a power line, did a hand-to-hand back across the street and jumped into a tall pine!

Branches creaking and snapping, I heard a loud thump and it screeched again, fading away into the dark. It was leaping from roof to roof, thumps fading, out distant.

I threw the Bastard into park, 45 in my lap; I don’t remember drawing it. I’d only actually seen it maybe 15 seconds?! It was squat, three-to-four feet high, muscled, wiry, matted grey fur over green scaly looking skin and several tube-like appendages hung from its upper back; fucking red demon eyes!! No visible tail.

They say curiosity killed the cat? But the cat died…quite satisfied. I stepped out of the truck, 45 in hand. Thinking better of it, I holster the pistol and drag the 590 Mossberg from its sheath on the bench seat. Thirty-six inches of cold steel and sex appeal! I thumb off the safety and its hot, nine fat buckshot rounds, with eight .32-caliber pellets per shell. When you absolutely, positively gotta kill bloodsuckin’ demonic fucks!

I grab my four-cell Maglight from the seat, beat to shit like everything else I owned but with fresh Duracells inside. Flick it on and a reassuring cone of light. With the 590 on my hip pointed skyward, I walk into my high-beams, Bastard’s engine the only sound, what had the slimy looking fuck thrown down?

In the harsh glare of the mag light laid the desiccated, mummified carcass of a cat! Looked like it had been dead for a long minute? But the fresh wound on its throat glistened red and wet, like it had all the good juices sucked out of it?! Steam was coming off it it in the damp, chilly air.

All the hair on the back of my neck stood up and cold chills ran up my spine, suddenly that goddamned trilling call erupted! From all around! Lil Jose’s words came back to me, like a Latino Obi Wan Kenobi: “They can take down a man in numbers.”

Fuck that!! I touched off a round skyward, it was deafening! “Goddamn ya!! Goat-sucking, cat-killing ain’t getting me!! I’ve got the boomstick!!” I said.

Walking around the hood to the drivers side door I fast pump four rounds into the dark, muzzle flashes lighting up the street, buckshot clattering hard off empty houses and cars, spent shells clinking on the pavement, I laid the 590 and Maglight on the seat, jump, 45 in lap and gun the Bastard hard, doing a fast K-turn. Think I hit a couple of flooded-out cars doing this but I didn’t give a fuck!! I’m getting out of this fucking hellhole!!

I rammed a burned-out dumpster on wheels, out of my way. The Bastard finally getting to cut loose after idling and weaving all over hell and half the lower 9th Ward! My buzz long gone, I was riding a wave of adrenaline dump. I thought of going back and burning out their nest if I could find it?

I had a full five-gallon gas can in my truck, plenty of ammo and some road flares. The more I thought about it, I decided not to, not at night and no backup.

I probably hit a hundred mph all the way back to our Lower Garden District apartment. As soon as I walked in she started in on me.

“It’s midnight! You should have been home at 8?!” she said. “Are you drunk?! You smell like weed and gunpowder?! What the fuck, Jay?! Have you been fucking that slutty blonde bartender at Igor’s?! I’ve seen her making eyes at you!! Fucking kill that bitch!!”

“You wouldn’t believe me if…” and it went on for a goddamned hour. I went toe-to-toe with el chupacabra, in no man’s land and survived. Was kind of wishing they had killed me at this point, I KNOW what I saw!! She’s probably still convinced I was cheating?!


We split up a year later. I never did bang that slutty bartender at Igor’s. Had another run-in with el chupacabra but that’s another story.