One of my great pleasures, in the wake of reading Dan Baum’s wonderful Nine Lives, has been meeting and getting to know JoAnn Guidos, owner of Kajun’s Pub in the Marigny. Kajun’s is the place where all patrons, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are welcome AND made to feel welcome. And JoAnn is the person to enforce that notion. In addition to meeting with the 2014 New Orleans class, JoAnn allowed me the opportunity to see progress on the renovation of her early 19th century Creole cottage behind Kajun’s, of course. I snapped this shot during a visit in June 2014.
JoAnn Guidos Monday, Mar 7 2016
A Door on Tricou Street Tuesday, Jan 27 2015
In June 2011, I was scheduled to speak at a conference in Baton Rouge, LA. I flew down early and met up with a student advisee, Kendra, who was in New Orleans researching Mardi Gras Indian traditions. In the two days before my conference, we decided to volunteer for Operation Helping Hands, an offshoot of Catholic Charities that my class had volunteered with for three straight spring breaks. The first day we did some work on a home in Treme, but on the second day we worked on a home in the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was my first day of many volunteering in the Lower Ninth.
It was a non-descript shotgun house on Tricou Street, about halfway between St. Claude Avenue and the river. We were working on the punchlist for the home that was being turned over to its owners the next day. Most of the tasks were fairly mundane and towards the end of the day, Kendra and I were asked to paint the front door. Kendra, who had spent the previous summer volunteering with Operation Helping Hands, walked me through the process. As I painted the base coat, the door revealed itself to me. It had designs carved into the door panels, and I as I worked I began to see the chisel marks where a craftsman, perhaps even the original homeowner, had hand-carved them, one by one. And, as I applied the trim coat, I realized that I was not just painting a door, I was working on a living, functional piece of folk art.
2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Poster Tuesday, Jan 20 2015
Herbert “Wizard” Gettridge Wednesday, Jan 14 2015
On June 6, 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Herbert Gettridge, a retired master plasterer who built his own home on North Roman Street back in the 1950s. In February 2006, he was the first homeowner to move back into the Lower Ninth Ward — by weeks. A 2009 episode of Frontline, entitled “The Old Man and the Storm,” chronicled his struggle. In June, we talked about his life, his work, and the assistance volunteers provided to help get him and his late wife back into his home. When I told my friend, Errol Joseph that I was going to talk to Mr. Gettridge, he said: “You mean ‘The Wizard’?” I asked why he called him that and he responded: “Oh, the things that man could do with plaster.” Mr. Gettridge died on October 31, 2014.