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Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 at 2:22 pm  |  32 responses

N’AWLINS..

Duality Redefined

By Khalid Salaam

Never been to New Orleans before but I can easily see
the charm that people always talk about. I’ve always been into historical information and NO
was always one of those places you read about in school.
In history class I was a beast and was open eyed when I learned about Creoles and Octoroons,
needless to so I was extra amped to make it down to New Orleans. The accent
alone has made the trip worthwhile. When the locals say baby they pronounce it with a drawn out “eh”
sound. Not sure how to type into words but its
something like behhy-bahhy. All I know is
that I’m fascinated by it and every time someone says
it I shake my head in happy approval. Not in mockery
though, I am really blown away by how dope it sounds.
I’ve obviously heard the accent on television and
movies and I recall a couple of New Orleans kids in
college. But it’s really impactful when you’re around
it all the time. A woman at the Marriot restaurant made me an omelet Saturday
morning and I almost fell out. Really. They seem to use more vowels than consonants
when they speak and every sentence in condensed down to a single word. There are no
breaths or spaces in between the words just rhythmic sound drenched in a supremely unique accent.

On Saturday afternoon my good friend and one the
smartest dudes I know Tino Pasquier, took me, Sam and Lang to
Uptown New Orleans and we ate at a restaurant called
Zea. Sam and Lang had Shrimp Etouffe and I had roasted
Trout with sautéed corn, mango lemonade and pecan
bread pudding. I’m a big fan of bread pudding, always
have been. I usually get mines from the Whole Foods
store but what I had on Sat was next level good. I was
smiling and eating at the same time. You guys have
already been briefed on the party scene that happened
on Friday and Saturday night but I’ll add one more thing. As I’ve come to expect during All-Star Wknd the ladies are very open to any dance floor ambitions I have. But it was even more so this time. I somehow
created a new way of entertaining myself by redefining
the term “makin it rain”

On Sunday after we had lunch at Napoleon House (I had a turkey po boy with creole mustard. Bangin!) before former Slam Radio Dj Toney Blare and Slam contributor Aggrey Sam took Ben and I to the real New Orleans. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to the NO without checking out the still effed up areas. Because of travel delays we didn’t get a chance to participate in the NBA Cares projects on Friday but I felt obligated to at least acknowledge the real deal. So we go to New Orleans East first I was struck by the desolation. There are still huge buildings, warehouse buildings that can house a Target or Wal-mart that are just standing there skeleton-like. This went on for blocks upon blocks. There were windows blown out and walls crumbled enough to expose the guts of these buildings. There were countless front porch steps sitting there without neither a front porch nor a house behind it. We saw gas stations with pre-Katrina prices and plenty of destroyed stores and businesses and empty streets where there were no people. Toney told us that there are only a few hundred people living in this part of town and that its common to see one house on a block with no other houses within eyesight (we did see them. Weird). I’m like just take everything down. There might not be money to properly take them down but why not just burn it down? Safely of course but still burn it. These ruins must be hell psychologically, why allow people to live in constant reminders of what happened. As I learned from Agrrey and Toney, the city politics in place are keeping the city from totally recovering and that all of the money that the gov’t gave them was used in the clean-up but rebuilding will cost millions more. They simply need more.

Additionally, the money that was promised to people from FEMA has either not been allocated yet or if it was the amount was thousands less then what was promised. We also went to the 9th Ward and Gentilly a racially-mixed middle class neighborhood that was also hard it but didn’t get the attention of the poorer, Black neighborhoods. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, NO Mayor Ray Nagin and the city council have all seemed to drop the ball. It is both disgusting but also confusing as to why. We also stopped by Lake Pontchartrain, the body of water that flooded the city after Katrina destroyed the levee system. It looks like the ocean. Just a massive body of water that seems endless. It gave me a great perspective and remembering that the city is low-lying to begin with, you begin to understand the magnitude of what happened. Now, thats not to say I understand what happened in great detail at all, In fact I would say that I was blown away at times and struggled to comprehend what my eyes revealed to me. What’s going on down there in fantastically complex and will require the greatest minds this country has in order to fix it. I was humbled.

After the All-Star game I went to Bourbon St. Just walked it and reveled in all is debauchery. There were scantily clad women, really scantily clad women and then there were whores. The distinctions are not obvious but I tried hard not to mentally mislabel anyone. People drinking from open containers, music blasting (jazz, hip-hop and metal), men on corners playing instruments, people running around in costumes and police on horses galloping around. It was awesome. I went to the media hospitality suite in the hotel in hopes of grabbing a snack and winding down. Monday morning I was awaken to the thoughts of missing out on a Café Du Monde beignet. I had heard so much about them and wanted to get over there but hadn’t had time. So I got up and showered and went over there. Down mysterious side streets with eye-catching architechture it seemed like i was entering another world. But it was only the French Quarter (or Freynchh Quada) which was actually pretty close to where I was. They cost 3 for $1.82 and they are really really good. No joke, no bs. They’re donuts but extra soft and shaped like pastries. And covered in powdered sugar. Ridiculous. I sat down a bench behind the café and listened as a guy sang Amazing Grace. He was singing it like his life depended on it. I got caught up in the rapture of the moment and sang along with him. My face and beard was covered in sugar and i sang off-key but I didn’t care (“ how sweet the sound… to save a wretch like meee”….) it was chilly out but I didn’t care. It was a special moment. A couple of hours later I convinced Sam and Lang to go and I had 2 or 3 more (not sure really because I was eating them so fast) before we bought some souvenirs from the pralines shop next door. From there it was back to traveling and home.

I’m obviously skipping a lot of stuff. Only because so much happened that it’s hard to concentrate. I am still processing much of it but this was superior in every way to last years All Star Wknd. Vegas is exciting and modern but somewhat antisocial. NO is warm and complex and emotional. My life is different now.

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  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Good stuff Khalid. But, there has been some progressin New Orleans East, I live out there actually. My neighborhood, off Bullard Road, has seen a lot of rebuilding and many, many people out there are back in their homes. There are patches of desolation and patches of building. It really depends on your personal financial situation.

  • http://www.tasa201.wordpress.com Tariq

    Khalid:

    Your description of that unique accent is great. I don’t know if you actually captured it, since I’m not familiar with it, but I appreciate your enthusiasm regarding the nuances of the sound. Nice.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I sincerly need to make it out to NO in the near future. History indeed.

  • Sara

    Allenp, you’re in my neck of the woods. I live across the street from the old bowling alley, now long gone. Glad to hear you guys had fun down here. Khalid, did you buy some beignet mix to take home with you? CDM sells it by the box.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    i wanted to buy th beignet mix but i don’t have a deep fryer. i didnt want to mess it up

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    For the record, I’m THE smartest guy Khalid knows.
    Good sh*t, man.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    The NBA should have stepped up past the photo op repair work and written a $30 million check–$1 million per team. That’s what, the veteran’s minimum? How much good could that have done?

  • http://whitehoteboysworld.blogspot.com white hot eboy

    Great work, Khalid. The Amazing Grace thing got me, my man. I stayed in New Orleans for 3 weeks after high school (a LONG time ago) and I still love those memories more than most other places I have visited in our country. I went back to NO last summer for a week, and I hated what I saw. It’s a helpless feeling. But the soul of that city is unconquerable. It is still great, but one day will be even greater from the good people that are there that will help in the (still) huge undertaking. The Lord’s Blessing on you, New Orleans.

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Hear, hear Russ. Nice Khalid. I am so sorry I missed visiting this fascinating city before Katrina. The history and character of the city certainly has changed, but I wonder what it will be like in the next 10 years. I hope people who were forced to leave will have the opportunity to return.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I second that Cheryl. I have never been and now wish I had been there pre Katrina. Then again, you cannot take away a city’s history. I’m looking forward to seeing this city firsthand soon enough.

  • Captain America

    Khalid, I’ve been waiting for this commentary to drop. thanks

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Sara, I know exactly where that is. I used bowl there when I was a kid. I live up between Morrison and Haynes back by the St. Simon Peter Church.

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    I somehow
    created a new way of entertaining myself by redefining
    the term “makin it rain”

    Explain please.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Co Co, I may have already said too much.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Dammit Khalid, that answer is not gonna fly. We need details!

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    Nah Slick, that isn’t good enough. Details!

  • Elena

    Khalid, I’ll have to get you a pronunciation guide…and a “How To Spot A Creole” booklet for Aggrey. As for Allenp, my old block off Morrison (btwn Read & Bullard) is coming back slowly but surely.

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    wow Khalid… you put yourself out there by telling that story. Looks like the people demand to know…
    Nice piece though.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    I didn’t use dollar bills to make it rain. Hows thats?

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    So what do you use? Quarters? Dimes? I’m confused……

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    when i hear “make it rain”, i think of chappelle’s RKelly parody.
    nice piece otherwise, Khalid.

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    I REALLY hope that is not what Khalid meant albie. I’d be tremendously disturbed.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    lol..

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    Don’t make me have to draw my own conclusion Khalid.

  • Question

    Nice piece Khalid. I’m making the trip to N’Awlins for a wedding in April… never been there… in fact, I’ve never even been to the US… I can’t wait to check it out

  • Harlem_World

    Nice piece Khalid. I was there too, got held up on transfers and subsequently missed the Friday Day Of Service, so was pissed that I never got to see the real deal. Would have liked to see more of the real NO, rather than that which was carefully selected for us to look at. Co-sign on Bourbon St. Wild, wonderful, edgy, electric mix for all the senses. You don’t have to look too far to find the soul of NO, it’s in the people. French Quarter is a little down, but not out. The spirit of the people is what I most enjoyed from the weekend. The dunk competition was pretty good too.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Agreed harlem world, agreed.

  • http://pitlanta.blogspot.com Maurice Garland

    man, im glad you got to your soft powdered donuts…you feenin’ for those things. call me lame, but the best meal i had was some pizza on bourbon after a night of heavy drinking…

  • http://slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Maurice you funny lol

  • http://Slamonline.com O

    Kha’s like a director when he writes sh*t like this. Like my man Big Pun said, “Spike Lee couldn’t paint a better picture.” I’m talking about early 90′s Spike btw.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good stuff, Khalid; sorry it took me so long to read it…I think I came down with the “Katrina cough.”

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Also: i love how you contrasted Vegas and N.O.

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