Vitality, Decay and Decadence
The city is full of energy, live music and joy, coexisting with mounds of uncollected trash, dilapidated and abandoned buildings, huge potholes and large numbers of homeless. There are bustling crowds along with mask and “show me your papers” covid mandates which my eldest son describes as “theatre.” New construction and gleaming towers are adjacent to trash, graffiti and pothole-strewn moonscapes. New Orleans, one of the oldest cities in America, colonized and contested by the Spanish, French and English, Mississippi port and strategic transport gateway to our agricultural/industrial heartland, is simultaneously a first world city and a third world slum.
The Superdome, refurbished after Katrina lifeboat duty, has been rebranded the Caesars Superdome, in honor of Casino and gambling interests (take note Bangor/Hollywood Slots). The Superdome is the home of the New Orleans Saints, and my older son notes the Roman irony that occurs when the Saints host the Detroit football team. Who will prevail in the domed Coliseum, the Christians or the Lions? Will the Big Easy’s musicians play “When the Saints Come Marching In”?
Jackson Square and The WWII Museum
We visited Jackson Square, where the statue of Major General Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, still presides…but for how long? Andrew Jackson, who defeated the British two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent ended the war of 1812, may still be revered, but his record on race and the Trail of Tears doesn’t suggest long persistence in an increasingly woke cancel culture America. It seems a close bet as to which will disappear first, his statue, his eponymous square or his likeness on the $20 bill. With Brandon inflation, I expect the $20 bill to vanish first, but it is a close call.
We also visited the WWII museum, which made for an emotional afternoon. Starting with an exhibit laying out the timeline and events from the end of WWI and the Versailles Treaty through the rise of Hitler, Hirohito and the Axis powers, the multi building Museum takes visitors on a time travelling journey from Pearl Harbor (a special exhibit for the 80th anniversary) through both Pacific and European/North African theatres, with an unsparing look at the home front, including Japanese internment, the arsenal of democracy and the Manhattan Project.
New Orleans Gastronomy
My New England based and oncology altered palate was wary but hopeful. Sweet powdered beignets and coffee are ubiquitous and a welcome change from Dunkin. The warm Gulf of Mexico, unlike the warming Gulf of Maine, has a healthy shrimp fishery, and harvesting bayou crawfish is apparently not a threat to whales like harvesting lobsters allegedly is. Jambalaya is delicious, if sometimes a bit challenging in a spicy sense. I still prefer Helen’s fish chowder. I declined alligator meat, although continuing inflationary pressures on beef, pork and chicken might change my mind.
Gas Prices and Brandon Policy
Gasoline is about 15% cheaper than Maine here in the refinery and pipeline capital and terminus of the country, despite President Brandon’s best efforts to curtail American energy production and empower OPEC and Russia. I had thought the Brandon energy policy ratcheting up gas and oil prices was to please the climate alarmists and make “green “ energy less unattractive, but my younger son, a progressive DC swamp denizen argues that it is more about manufacturing a Saudi/Iranian détente and Middle East Peace. I have little doubt that the Obama/Clinton alums running Brandon foreign policy actually believe that. In the interest of family peace, I do not utter the phrase “Iranian appeasement” or mutter an opinion about the consequences of Iranian nukes for Israel.
Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].