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Ain't That A Shame?

I was lying on my love seat this Sunday, recuperating from setting up a veggie garden for my mother-in-law and other sundry family errands, and I saw a PBS special on Antoine “Fats” Domino and his performance at Tipitina’s, post-Hurricane Katrina. Commentators, including New Orleans musical greats Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, talked about how devastated he was by and after Katrina, to the point that he couldn’t bring himself to perform at the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival after Katrina. This from a man who decided he was no longer going to tour and leave the city he loved so dearly. When he took the stage at Tipitina’s, it shook me out of my afternoon malaise to the point that I was not only rooting for Fats, I got up and did the dance my mom, SWIE, used to do whenever a Fats Domino song came on – the stroll. Or at least my version of it.

My mom loved her some Fats Domino. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm!

After he performed “Blueberry Hill” and “Walking,” I believe, I was at a loss as to what else he had to perform. Little did I know that, prior to Lennon and McCartney and other songwriting duos of the 60’s, Domino and his writing partner, David Bartholomew, were the most successful songwriting duo in the U.S. I pulled out my BlackBerry and Googled Fats Domino. When I saw his song catalog, I thought, “Well, damn! If I had that many hits, I wouldn’t tour any more either.”

It got me thinking about New Orleans, or, as my college classmates from the area called it, “N’awlins.” I visited once over 11 years ago for a weekend to attend a conference. To this day, I have never eaten as well as I did there. I can’t even tell you what I saw or where I ate, but I remember I ate real good, back-to-back meals mind you, so much so that I ditched the conference in search of the next good meal. I literally ate my way through New Orleans. I could have starred in my own movie: The Thing from California That Ate New Orleans.

If you eat a bad meal in New Orleans, you’re either a fool or just stupid. There’s just no excuse for bad food in New Orleans when just about everybody there can throw down in the kitchen.

When I started thinking about New Orleans and all that it has given us – jazz, zydeco, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, the Marsalis family, Harry Connick, Jr., the Neville Brothers, beignets, CafĂ© du Monde, Galatoire’s, Dooky Chase, po’ boys and more – I thought: Where is New Orleans’ bailout?

I mean really. I have never owned a GM or Chrysler car. I have never banked at Goldman Sachs and the like. I have never bought insurance from AIG. If these corporate behemoths survive, I won’t know the difference.

But I have savored the sights, sounds, and tastes of New Orleans. If New Orleans were swept off the map, that WOULD matter to me. If I had a vote as to where my federal tax dollars would be going, they would be going to New Orleans. And not just to rebuild it, but to protect it. This city existed before this country was even a country. It deserves to be respected and protected.

I remember watching a “60 Minutes” broadcast in which the rebuilding of New Orleans was discussed. They examined another city that lies below sea level, Rotterdam, and the technology used to protect it – a surge protection barrier that closes off the city and, I’ve read, is strong enough to withstand a 1 in 10,000 chance surge, a high level of protection. Why can’t we do that with New Orleans?

We could, if we had the will.

To borrow from a Fats Domino song, ain’t that a shame?


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