Kind of New Orleanian Interview: Rachael Kansas, New Orleanian (Part 2)

Hey guys!

This is the second part of my Kind of New Orelanian interview with Rachael Kansas. Check yesterday’s post to read my introduction to this new feature and learn what brought Rachael back to New Orleans, two years ago.

Part 2

You went to Ben Franklin High School. I know it’s a really big deal here which high school you went to and what that says about you. What’s the stereotype of someone who went to Franklin?

Nerdy.

Is it? It’s a public school, right?

It’s a public school, but it’s a magnet school. We were all over the news in the last 3 or 4 years—we were number 16 in the nation, so it’s a smart school. You have to test to get into it. It’s the best public school in the state, pretty consistently. We don’t have a really strong football team or anything, but we have some sports that we are good at. I know soccer is a big deal. But so is Mu Alpha Theta.

I know you’re a big Saints and Hornets fan, but there’s not a lot of Hornets fans out there. I feel like your family is really dedicated. What is it about the Hornets that you love?

I don’t know, it’s just something fun to do to mix up your week and go to a game. It’s really interactive. You’re a lot closer to the action. It’s a smaller, more involved experience to go to the game. Also, the sport is great, although I think the NBA shouldn’t have as many games in their season.

A lot of people say that New Orleans isn’t a two-sport town, it’s a one-sport city. But I’ve seen when the Hornets have been in the playoffs, how much enthusiasm people could have for it, so I don’t know—I think people are out doing too many other things to get excited. But, it’s a long season with a lot of games.

Speaking of the Saints, what do you think of the whole bounty thing?

It breaks my heart. On the one hand, I know it’s probably true that every team in the whole league does it to a certain extent. But it hurts that we’ve been doing it and got caught. It’s sad and I’m really upset that they haven’t been able to sign a contract with Brees. And, then, of course Sean Payton lied to everyone and Goodell.

In a perfect world I would love to see Goodell to have to hand over the Lombardi trophy to Benson in the Superdome next year, despite all of the scandal. That would just be the ultimate like, F-you man. We still did it.

Rachael loves Drew Brees.

It’s easy to see why the Saints are so beloved post Katrina and the Superbowl win. Do you remember it being as big of a deal growing up?

Growing up the rule was that if we didn’t sell out the Dome, they wouldn’t show the game on TV. It’s ridiculous to think of now tickets go for so much and we have a full, sellout season every year. But growing up, if we didn’t sell out they’d only play the games on the radio. It was like punishment if we didn’t buy tickets. We’d have to sit at home and like listen on the radio, which my dad always made us do. My family was always out fishing on the weekends so we didn’t go to games growing up until more recent years. But, yeah, we were always Saints fans.

What are some touristy things in the city that you’ve not done?

I’ve been plantations to before, for weddings, but I’ve never been on a plantation tour. I’ve never even been to Oak Alley. I know I’ve been to Jean Lafitte Park for something in elementary school. But I’ve never been on the traditional “swamp tour.” But I grew up going out in the marshlands with my dad on a boat and seeing alligators and nutria, and fishing and crabbing. It seems silly to pay to do something that I did all the time with my dad. But maybe it’s different to go on a swamp tour versus being out in the marsh.

There’s definitely a lot of places where growing up I never went to, but I go there now. Like, I never went to the Bywater growing up. And now I go there all the time.

One of the things I’ve been very preoccupied with is that New Orleanians have this kit of things they bring out with them, especially in the summertime.  They have a hat, their koozies and fold-out chairs. I know you keep koozies in your car! Is there anything else you don’t leave home without?

Bug spray. I am really prone to getting chewed up alive by mosquitos. I have one to two cans of bug spray in my house and my car at any given time. They come with me in my purse.

The bugs or the spray?

Both. If I were more responsible, I’d probably add sunscreen to that list.

Rachael's RE/MAX koozie.

What do you like about living in Mid City?

I love Mid City. I love that it’s a neighborhood that people are so proud of and a real community. I love all the little historic homes. The people that live here are just real local, been-in-Mid-City-forever types. When I moved in—and I’ve lived in a lot of addresses across the country— I got four housewarming gifts from different neighbors.

I love that I can walk to a couple places. I love taking the streetcar. I’m a big streetcar rider for Saints games, for Red Dress Run, for Running of the Bulls, for Mardi Gras Day. Basically any time I know I’m going to have a couple of beers, I’m going to take the streetcar downtown.

What do you do with your Mardi Gras beads?

I don’t bring them in the house. Every year I only physically walk in my car or my house with something unique. I’ll catch a lot of beads, but I’ll leave them at my friend’s house, or put them on other people or on someone’s gate. You know, the gates on St. Charles that will all have beads on them anyway. At my friend’s house she’ll put out trash cans and I think she recycles them.

What’s your favorite Mardi Gras parade?

I like Muses because it’s like the beginning of the big weekend. It’s fun to see women partying at night. My dad’s in Endymion, so that’s my favorite. It’s always a good time to be out at the parade or at the Dome. There’s something different because it’s such a big parade, the floats are incredible, it’s the only one in Mid City and my dad’s in it. I get like, real excited. Real crazy. Endymion is definitely my favorite.

What do you hope for the city?

I hope for the same thing everybody else wants… better education and less crime.

What about recycling? People in San Francisco would judge you for not saying that.

More recycling! How could I forget? And, also, I hope that real estate prices continue to go up and up and up.

Does anything in the city surprise you anymore?

Um, not really. Last year I saw a guy in costume in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. He was waiting at the busstop and I just thought “Eh, New Orleans.”

Actually, I’m surprised when people are rude! I’m like, “Why are you being so rude? There’s no reason to be rude!”

I feel like people here are really assholes on the road. Why is that?

Yeah, they are. See, I’m not surprised by that because we’ve always been notoriously bad drivers.

I always wonder– if everyone here is so nice, why are they dicks in the car? If you put your signal on, they speed up!

I know, people are so rude in the car. It’s weird. But if you were stopped in traffic for two hours, you would roll down your window and become best friends with the same guy you were calling an asshole ten minutes ago.

This interview has been edited for length.

Living in a Tourist City

A scene from the basketball obstacle course. I went through it once. I was horrible.

Last week, I volunteered with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation during the SEC basketball tournament. The volunteers were stationed in an open area outside the Superdome,called Champions Square. There, amidst games and activities hosted by several different organizations and sponsors, the GNOSF volunteers helped facilitate what were deemed “interactives,” — a marketing word for basketball activities: free throw contests, dunking contest, etc. I co-ran a little obstacle course, in which participants tipped the ball out of some sort of basketball-holding-contraption, dribbled a basketball around some poles, threw the ball off a taught net and then took a lay up. The woman co-running the obstacle course with me was a chatty, bright spot on a cloudy day. I was also eager to be very accommodating to the families, making conversation with moms and dads as their kids were occupied. “Where are you staying? Need any recommendations?”

Kentucky fans spill out of the Dome, after beating LSU.

Most of the people we encountered were Kentucky fans. In fact, all last week blue shirts clogged up downtown.  I heard a few people complain about their presence, mostly about traffic they caused, but I  surprised myself with how much I wanted to play a good host. (A rival SEC fan base!) I kept thinking, “OHH I hope they have a good time, spend money and come back.”

My volunteering experience got me thinking about what’s it’s like to live in a city that attracts tourists regularly. Tourists in D.C. annoyed me constantly. I encountered them on the metro where they disrupted Washingtonian metro protocol: stand on the right of the escalator; walk on the left. MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE METRO CAR. Peace be with you if you are stuck behind someone attempting to feed their paper metro cards into the machine.

My beloved Gators, pulling out a close one over Alabama. (Not pictured: losing to Kentucky the next day.)

Still, these tourists brought money and attention to the capital city. Why did they annoy me more than tourists to the Crescent City? Is it because tourism is the number 1 source of income to the New Orleans economy and GNOSF’s mission is “to attract and manage sporting events that have a positive economic impact on the Greater New Orleans area.” They make it clear that attracting sporting events to the city creates a windfall of financial beneficiaries. The complaints I’ve heard (thus far) about tourists in New Orleans is that they cause traffic and that they make drunken spectacles. (However, it’s hard to argue that New Orleanians themselves don’t do the latter.) Am I a victim of southern hospitality, or am I just grateful for the cash these people bring in?

What about you? Do you live in a city that receives thousands of tourists? Do you welcome them?

Is there a Jazzfest “Season?”

On my bike the other morning I noticed a house with a Jazzfast flag flying. Behind Rouses, a Miller Lite truck proclaimed itself “The Official Drink of Jazzfest.” (Granted, that sign could’ve been on the truck all year) With Carnival Season parading off into storage units does that mean we’re in Jazzfest season? And is there such a thing? Carnival Season involves costumes, king cakes, parties and parades. In the months leading up to Jazzfest are there related celebrations? (I should note that some years Mardi Gras Day is later in the calendar, so the time between Mardi Gras and Jazzfest is truncated.)

The Seasons of New Orleans
I’ve written about how I miss the changing weather of D.C. Growing up, I found the eternal spring-summer cycle in my hometown of Miami dulling. However, New Orleans makes a slightly more differentiated spring-summer cycle by creating seasons of its own, marked by festivals and extended holiday celebrations. My blog-post hypothesis is that these festivals and celebrations create a rhythm to the year and mark time in a way that the city’s slightly colder winter and brutal summers do not.

Fall through start of Winter: Football and Christmas
September in New Orleans reminds me of living in a college town in that the whole city is galvanized by a sporting event. People here are nuts about LSU and the SEC. As a Gator I am always ruffled by LSU-ness of the celebration around here, but am grateful to be around a community that enjoys college football (and the SEC!). It’s a welcome reprise from living in D.C., which is more of a pro-sports town.

I’ve written about the Saints excitement many, many, many, many, many, many times. But this year marked the first time I watched a LOT of the NFL. It feels like you have to here, or you’re left out of cultural conversation and references. I used to only spend Saturdays at the bar to catch my college team. Now it’s all bar, all weekend… and I guess that’s New Orleans in a microcosm.

New Orleans also does a great job creating a festive Christmas atmosphere. The French Quarter Festival and The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation organize Christmas New Orleans Style, an annual citywide celebration of New Orleans holiday activities. The festival started 27 years ago, as way to attract visitors to the city at a time when tourism traditionally dips. Throughout the month there are events around the city that remind you of the season. And even though we have had a mild winter, walking through the French Quarter in December felt like Christmas.

January-February/March
Carnival Season

March-May
March is marked by St. Patrick’s Day, April by the French Quarter Festival and then Jazzfest in April/May. That’s more than enough, but I point you back to my hypothesis: Is there something that unites the season?

Summer
Now that I’ve nearly lived here a year, I recognize summer as the city’s downtime. The summer, like the spring,  is punctuated by festivals and regular events, some of which I’ve blogged about here: 610 Stompers, Satchmo Fest and White Linen Night, but there doesn’t seem to be one element that captures the city’s excitement.

Update: Seasonal Beers 3/1/12
Upon relaying this post’s topic to my boyfriend, he reminded me of seasonal beers. We are lucky to have a number of great local breweries, including LA 31, Covington Brewhouse, Tin Roof and Lazy Magnolia. However, Abita is the line I’m really familiar with, and the release of their seasonal brews always mark the season for me.

January-March: Mardi Gras Bock
Spring: Strawberry Harvest
March-May: Red Ale
May-September: Wheat
Summer: Satsuma Harvest Wit
Fall: Pecan Harvest
September-November: Fall Fest
November-December: Christmas Ale

When my boyfriend and I moved into our Uptown sublet in June, our summer landlord was kind enough to leave us some Strawberry ale in the fridge. When we moved out we bought a pack of Satsuma ale for her– a remnant of the New Orleans summer she had missed.

NOLA Brewery also releases seasonal beer, but I’m not as certain about the seasons they’re out because they’re a relatively new brewery. As far as I can tell:

Fall: Smoky Mary
Winter: Irish Channel Stout
January-March: Flambeau Red Ale (for Mardi Gras)
Spring: Hurricane Saison

Follow Up Files: Sucre Gets Saints Cupcakes Right

A few weeks ago I wrote about unappetizing Saints-themed cupcakes I’d seen around the city. Just yesterday I was chatting with a friend who administers social media strategy for Sucre (the tasty sweets boutique–did you guys know they have a location by the Lakeside Mall?) and when I mentioned the post I did about Saints cupcakes, she whipped out her phone and showed me this picture.

Holy cow, Y-U-M. Not only do they look beautiful, but just looking at them makes my stomach growl. White icing with gold sprinkles, plus a chocolate fleur de lis? Sucre, you nailed it.

Runner Up
In the original cupcakes post I referenced a friend who suggested that bakeries use white frosting with the colored sprinkles of the team. On my recent road trip I stopped at Publix in Atlanta and found these cookies.

These are obviously Gator cookies, given that they are blue and orange and I was in Atlanta. There were red and black Georgia cookies, but I did not take a picture because I considered those unappetizing.

So, (as we already know about this fine grocery store chain) Publix gets it done too.

Who Dat Going to a Saints Game?

My dear friend offered my boyfriend and me a pair of Saints tickets for tonight’s pre-season game vs the Titans! I have never seen the Saints play in a home game. I know it’s pre-season, but as I’ve mentioned before, Saints fans get up for all games, pre-season or not. I went to my first NFL game last year, in Baltimore, where I saw the Saints lose to the Ravens. It was sad and it was COLD–football is not supposed to be played in the cold!

All five of these parked cars sport Saints regalia. This is not unusual.

It does seem like everyone here loves the team. Miami and D.C. (the only other places I’ve lived) are  filled with transplants who already have a team they follow or people who just don’t care about football (granted, I haven’t been to Green Bay.) At the 504ward dinner the other night, I asked the New Orleanians at my table (in this case, I’ve defined them as people who were born in the city) if they were Saints fans. Somebody responded, “Do you have to ask? Everyone is a Saints fan!”

I think there are so many fans because the Saints are the oldest pro franchise in the state and New Orleans has so many Louisiana-born citizens. Becoming as Saints fan is part of loving the city and adopting it as your hometown. That’s easy for me to say though because it’s only in the past handful of years that I’ve followed the NFL. I like the Dolphins to do well, but I don’t care if they don’t (although I feel sad for my brother, the biggest Dolphins fan in the world.) I’m ripe for the picking!*

There are other cities, such as Chicago or New York, where if you move there you might purchase a  Cubs or Yankees hat as a sign of city pride, but not really follow the team. You’ll pick those teams because they are the media favorites, ignoring the much more exciting White Sox or the down-on-their-luck-now-but-I-still-love-them, Mets. But I haven’t seen that here. If you own Saints gear, you are a fan. Because why wouldn’t you be? In other cities I’ve encountered the accusation of becoming a bandwagon fan, since their 2009 Championship, but here no one thinks of that (as far as I’ve seen). A New Orleanian IS synonymous for being a  Saints fan, and they are both welcome you and encourage you to join the community.

*It wouldn’t be a post written from me if I didn’t mention that I will NEVER become in LSU fan. Go Gators!

Saints are in the Air

As I walked in the CBD with my boyfriend and his visiting family, we all felt some vibrancy in the streets. “It’s Friday,” one of us realized. Between me and my unemployed boyfriend, his retired father and mother on summer break from teaching, it took us a moment to realize it was Friday. Ah, yes,I thought.”The joy that comes with the end of a long work week.”

But that wasn’t all there was. There’s was a little something extra in that joy. A little lagniappe, if you will. The Saints. In a just a few minutes, the Saints take the field at the Superdome for the first game of the preseason.

It’s not unusual to see Saints gear around here, but this was the most excitement I’ve ever seen for a preseason game. Up and down the streets of the Warehouse District and inside the exhibitions at the World War II Museum, we all spotted black and gold. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool college football fan, so I can definitely appreciate the electricity that comes with the first week of football season… but I’ve never felt such enthusiasm for a preseason game. Maybe there were so many people out because the  Superdome is located in the middle of the city and I was downtown. Or maybe because people are relieved the NFL lock out didn’t hold. But it’s probably just because New Orleanians want a glimpse of their beloved team.

In Miami or DC, I would’ve given this game a miss. But right now I’m going to change into my “Who Dat” shirt and follow the devotees to the bar. Just for a glimpse, anyway.