EDITORIAL: Saying Goodbye to Anthony Bourdain is Nearly Impossible

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By Jesse Brooks

As I write this, we are at the end of the second day since we learned that we lost Anthony Bourdain, world-renown chef, television host and author. He took his life at the age of 61.

On Thursday night, I was preparing to go to bed and I was bored. My wife, a nurse, was working a night shift at the hospital and I needed to pass the time. I opened my laptop and decided to stream Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown. I watched an episode where he visits the wild picturesque southern coastline of Italy’s heel. The lasting image I had of Bourdain before I fell asleep was of someone incredibly alive, engaged and fearless.

Imagine the confusing shock when I woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning to read the terrible news. I checked every avenue to make sure it was not a social media hoax. In the most abrasive way, I was introduced to a new reality about someone I had felt connected to ever since the beginning of my self discovery period as an young adult.

There was a lot to unpack that morning emotionally. I had a day full of duties I had to carry out but I felt I was moving slower and out of step. I have seen celebrities come and go in my lifetime, but this one stuck with me.

I remember when Prince died a couple of years ago I found it sad, and I understood his status as an icon and the influence he left behind. But I felt a kind of grief for Bourdain I had never felt for someone I never actually met. Why?

I enjoy cooking, but I have never been a chef. I grew up rural and have never been a resident of a mega city. I have never had a drug habit that I needed to rehab from, and though I have been known to enjoy a drink or three, my consumption of alcohol has never resulted in an addiction problem. I have been outside of the U.S. on three short, very controlled trips. So how is it that I could ever see a version of myself in him?

I started watching a lot of things on the Food Network and Travel Channel out of boredom when I was high school if nothing was on MTV or Comedy Central. My family planned a lot of summer road trips, and I would be curious about possible new destinations. In the mix of programming, Bourdain was there. It felt like he was always there. In keeping in the spirit of my family’s “do as the locals do” road trip attitude, Bourdain’s narratives always stood out to me as better than ones found on other shows. Not only was he someone we got to know, he was someone we trusted.

So the more familiar with culture programming I became, the more I sought Bourdain out. As I began to develop as person, I was observing his techniques, his takes, his swagger and his narrative. I was a young garage rocker coming up in the post-9/11, post-Katrina South, that began to feel that there were social, economic and political rules that needed to be challenged. I found that freedom in Bourdain and I wanted it for myself.

Bourdain also loved my native state of Louisiana, a place my early 20s self wanted to run away from. His love for New Orleans was immense and it was not a “city after the storm” kind of love. He had visited The Big Easy as far back as his 2002-03 show A Cook’s Tour, in an episode that featured him staying in the rooms above the R Bar on Frenchman Street and ordering take out from the Verti Marte food store. When it came to New Orleans, he just “got it”. Bourdain also visited Louisiana’s Acadiana region on No Reservations, and it reintroduced me to the cultures I have grown up with and taken for granted in my life. Bourdain recently returned to Southwest Louisiana to film a Cajun Mardi Gras episode of Parts Unknown, again, he got it. 

I began to notice Anthony Bourdain, not the celebrity chef, but the populist. Through his populism, it was becoming abundantly clear that untold narratives are everywhere in the world. At the end of the day, no matter if you live on the bluest of coasts or in mid-land red, you will find that most of us represent shades of purple when we sit together and break bread. You will not experience this in a comments section or message board. Understanding requires entry into reality and experiencing the world of fellow human beings.

Many hipsters will compare him to Hunter S. Thompson, and I suppose that’s fair enough, but to me Bourdain and his narrative reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, if he were a less violent and balanced character with the charisma for the television screen. His tales of beating addiction were inspiring and made people feel hopeful about themselves. If he could do that, you can do anything. I watched all the shows and read all his books.

When I began writing professionally, I would relate everything I did back to him. I wanted my voice to have his rhythm because Bourdain sounded like smooth jazz, just enough improvisation to be interesting and enough control to hold attention. When I started writing about culture, I realized that I don’t have an awesome budget, but what is in my backyard can be interesting because it’s foreign and exotic to someone out there. I learned that from him.

In 2016, I started a column as a staff member at the Amite Tangi Digest newspaper called “Hwy. 51: Revisited”. It focused on non-interstate highway travel from where I live in Tangipahoa Parish all the way to Memphis, Tennessee. All of these stops, mere hours away from my home, had surprising moments in the great timeline of American history. It was a journey of the bygone timber industry, development of the railroad, food, civil rights, blues and rock-n-roll. It was the story of us. I received a third place mention for the Sam Hannah Award for this column at the Louisiana Press Association Awards Ceremony the following summer. The project was completely inspired by the Jackson, Mississippi episode of Parts Unknown. 

I am completely aware that Bourdain motivated me to work. As I started to get recognized professionally for the first time in my life, people noticed this, mostly friends and readers, and I wore that badge proudly.

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Now in the wake of his passing, the void feels odd. Everything reminds me of him. In my small town of Hammond, Louisiana, there are now two pho restaurants, an Indian restaurant (in a gas station) and a ramen restaurant currently in construction. I honestly believe this incorporation of culture, once seen as foreign, in Small Town, U.S.A. does not happen without him. He changed the way we eat, and he changed the way we saw each other.

I feel losing him is different because it probably scares the hell out of all of us that saw a version of us in him. We wanted have his life that seemed to be free from darkness. However, as much as we may see our selves in him, or strived to be him, we need not to fear to live life with freedom and the understanding and care for others that he possessed. Bourdain fought a problem privately that is more common than we are willing to admit in America. To honor him, we must have empathy for those dealing with depression and advocate for them as he always did with cultures in need.

His mark on the world will live on. The best gift he gave to the world was confidence in his narrative, the outsider’s inside view, and may it stay alive for those seeking adventure.

“I don’t know any other way and by now I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bourdain said in his last interview with Fast Company. “Life is good. Why settle for anything less?”

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Pelicans’ Mirotic gives back to local charity

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WINNING LOOK- New Orleans Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic hosts free shave and haircut event at the New Orleans Mission. Photo submitted.

By Jesse Brooks

NEW ORLEANS- Nikola Mirotic, a forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, has already kicked off a busy offseason in the Crescent City by giving back to local charities.

On Wednesday, May 23, Mirotic teamed up with The New Orleans Mission and Gillette to host a free beard shaving and haircut event for those in need. The event also provided food and clothes for homeless individuals.
The New Orleans Mission is a charity organization that was founded in 1989 and they provide food, shelter, clothing and spiritual guidance to the city’s homeless population.

Mirotic made headlines this season after shaving off his instantly recognizable beard moments before an April 4 matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies to breakout of a scoring slump. Magically enough, the turnaround was instant as he went on to average 25.8 points and 12 rebounds in the five games that followed while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.

Mirotic’s improved beardless play continued on throughout the Pelicans’ first round sweep of the Portland Trailblazers in the opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs, and it landed him an endorsement deal with the Gillette shaving company.

Now thanks to the recent charitable event, the guests of the New Orleans Mission also get to enjoy the feeling of Mirotic’s winning shave as they spent a morning with the Pelicans’ hot shooting big man.

Mirotic, a native on Montenegro, was traded to the Pelicans on February 1 in exchange of Omer Asik, Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen and a 2018 first round pick and is largely credited for help saving his new team’s season after All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins went down with an achilles injury. Since arriving in the Big Easy, Mirotic has enthusiastically participated in the New Orleans community.

“This has been an incredible year. I want to take a moment to thank everyone. Mrs. Benson, the front office, my coaches, teammates, staff, and especially the fans for welcoming me and my family to New Orleans with open arms!” Mirotic Tweeted earlier this month. “I’m very proud to be a part of the New Orleans Pelicans organization and look forward to building on what we accomplished this season!”

Additionally, Mirotic also took time to visit patients at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans on Thursday, May 24 as part of an unannounced appearance.

Though Mirotic has only been with the Pelicans for a short time so far, his impact on and off the court has been positive. His contributions helped elevate a team from falling out of the Western Conference race to becoming one of the most talented. As of now, signs point to Mirotic being a great fit in New Orleans.

“I love the city, the community is great,” Mirotic said in statement to Will Gillory of NOLA.com on May 14. “I want to be a part of a playoff team, and I want to be part of a team that really has fun. This has been like a family for me, and I’m looking forward. This is the place I want to be.”

A message from owner Gayle Benson to Pelicans fans

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While we are heartbroken by the loss of my husband, we are also tremendously grateful for the overwhelming love and prayers we continue to receive. Tom Benson’s love for his teams was rooted in his love for the fans. There was nothing he enjoyed more than greeting fans on game days, driving around training camp practices to shake hands or seeing so many loyal fans welcoming the team back from a road trip- win or lose. He felt a special connection to our incredible fan base because he truly felt like a fan himself -a hardworking, passionate New Orleanian who loved everything about his city. Following the Super Bowl victory, his first order of business was figuring out how he could share the Lombardi Trophy with as many of you as he could. He vowed that our trophy would be the most traveled, touched and photographed in the history of the NFL and ordered that a tour of the Gulf South be scheduled so that as many fans as possible could have their turn with it.

To his very last day, Tom Benson’s greatest hope was to bring more championships to our fans. I want you to know we are more committed than ever to make his hopes a reality. We will never forget his belief in what truly powers our teams- our fans. I would like to assure you that we planned carefully for this day and, while my husband could never be replaced, I am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful leadership team and staff and we will move forward successfully together. We cannot thank you enough for all of the joy you gave my husband and will continue to do everything within our power to make you proud of our teams and city.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support as we celebrate my husband’s extraordinary life. Most of all, thank you for your unwavering devotion to our teams and city. I look forward to sharing many more special times together.

Gayle Benson
Owner
New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans

MUSIC CALENDAR – February 2017

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ARTIST OF THE MONTH- The Angry 88 are original Hammond City punk rock for bring a CBGB style noise to South Louisiana in modern times. Catch them at Mad Maiden’s in Ponchatoula on February 16. Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook.

HAMMOND

2/17 – Casey Saba @ Red White & Brew: 21+ 8 p.m.

PONCHATOULA 

2/16 – The Angry 88, Shadow Giant and McQueenery: 21+ 10 p.m.

2/24 – The Telegraph Salesman @ Mad Maiden’s: 21+ 10 p.m.

2/24 – Webbie w/ Sassy D @ 1111 SW Railroad Avenue: 21+ 8 p.m.

BATON ROUGE

2/23 – Cory Branan w/ The Weeping Willows @ Manship Theater: All Ages 7:30 p.m.

2/24 – Alejandro Escovedo @ Manship Theater: All Ages 7:30 p.m.

MADISONVILLE

** OPEN MIC EVERY FRIDAY @ Abita Roasting Co.: all ages 7 p.m.

MANDEVILLE

2/17 – Alex Bosworth w/ Hank Mackie @ The Lakehouse: 7 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS 

** Rebirth Brass Band @ The Maple Leaf EVERY TUESDAY: 21+ 10 p.m.

** Percy J @ The Maple Leaf EVERY WEDNESDAY: 21+ 10 p.m.

2/16 Green Mantles @ Checkpoint Charlie’s: 21+ 10 p.m.

2/16 – Lilli Lewis @ Little Gen Saloon: All ages 7:30 p.m.

2/16 – Noisewater @ Le Bon Temps Roule: 21+ 11 p.m.

2/16 – Struthers @ Maple Leaf: 21+ 11 p.m.

2/16 – Lenny Zenith @ Portside Lounge: 21+ 8:30 p.m.

2/16 – Vox and the Hound @ Three Keys: 21+ 9 p.m.

2/17 – Kermit Ruffins @ Little Gem Saloon: All Ages 9 p.m.

2/19 – St. Vincent @ Civic Theater: All Ages 8 p.m.

2/19 – The Porter Trio @ Maple Leaf: 21+ 10 p.m.

2/22 – The Revolution (Prince’s band) @ Joy Theater: 21+ 8 p.m.

2/24 – Tab Benoit @ House of Blues: 18+ 8 p.m.

2/25 – Cory Branan @ Portside Lounge: 21+ 8 p.m.

2/25 – Joywave @ Gasa Gasa: 8:30 p.m.

BILOXI

2/16 – Daughtry (acoustic evening) @ IP Casino: 21+ 8 p.m.

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS

2/24 – The Underhill Family Orchestra @ Government Street Grocery: 21+ 7 p.m.

An open letter to DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins at Pelicans Media Day. Photo by Jesse Brooks.

By Jesse Brooks
From @BourbonStShots

You don’t know me, but I have probably seen almost every game you have ever played while wearing a jersey with “New Orleans” or “Pelicans” across the chest. Occasionally, I may miss a game here and there because of working on other assignments, but even then I’m streaming games, following play-by-play on Twitter or even watching game film if I can’t be in the Smoothie King Center or in front of my television.

What I’m trying to say is that…

CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Pelicans Davis and Cousins selected as NBA All-Star Western Conference starters

PELICAN PAIR- Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, who make up the starting frontcourt of the New Orleans Pelicans, have been named Western Conference starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game that will be held in Los Angeles on February 18. File photos by Jesse Brooks

By Jesse Brooks

The NBA has announced its starting lineups for each conference in the NBA All-Star Game, and New Orleans Pelicans big men Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins will be in that lineup on February 18 in Los Angeles.

Despite an up and down season for the Pelicans, Davis and Cousins have flourished together in a NBA that is trending towards smaller lineups. Davis and Cousins rank Top 10 of all NBA players in both scoring and rebounding categories. Davis averages 26.7 ppg and 10.5 rpg while Cousins is putting up 25.3 ppg and 12.7 rpg.

Davis also currently holds a player efficiency rating of 28.81, the NBA’s fifth best just under Steph Curry.

The selection is the fourth of Cousins’ career, and a fifth for Davis. In 2014, Davis was chosen to replace an injured Kobe Bryant in what would be Commissioner Adam Silver’s first action since taking over for David Stern.

I tried Cameron Jordan’s new favorite New Orleans restaurant and it was worth the hype

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THE HUXTA BOWL- The Gert Town restaurant Kin is a ramen joint on the rise, and the city’s stars are taking notice. Photo by Jesse Brooks.  

By Jesse Brooks

Recently in a MEET THE CITY piece for UPROXX, Pro Bowl New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan listed his Top 10 favorite hangout spots and activities in the Crescent City.

Many of Jordan’s selections are staples locals and visitors are familiar with, but his declaration of gourmet ramen restaurant Kin as his “Favorite Dinner Spot” may come as bit of a surprise. As Jordan notes, it’s typical to call a local creole or Cajun spot as your favorite restaurant in New Orleans, but something about Kin just captures his attention.

As a personal fan of anything involving hot bowls of Asian noodles, Jordan’s endorsement put me on a path of purpose on a cold winter’s night in early January.

In what is arguably one of the greatest food cities in the world, it is still easy to see how Kin stands out in a crowd. Sitting in a triangle cross-section in Gert Town on the streets of Cilo, Clark and Washington, a small restaurant owned by Hieo Than resides.

When the restaurant opened in March of 2015, it was a fine dining Asian-fusion establishment. It was converted into full-time ramen shop two years ago with the goal of making the Japanese dish in their own image.

In my observation, Kin was the type of place that is easy to get excited about because it quickly became apparent after entering the door the food served up is as much about artistry as it is just great down home cooking.

The dining area is a small room with a couple of tables and there is a bar in front of the kitchen area so immediately you are face to face with the sights, sounds and smells of your dinner being prepared. The space is warm an invite and fits an atmosphere of anywhere between casual to semi-formal, an ideal place for a desired intimate setting.

The menu is minimal with some appetizers and about 4-6 bowls of ramen to choose from. The menu is constantly in flux so the living nature of what’s available provide a certain thrill for an adventurous eater.

For their starters, dumplings or chicken wings can be ordered. How they are prepared is determined by daily selection. In general dumpling may have pork, beef, veggies or creole shrimp on any given day. On the night I visited, the “Fat Boy” wings were available, chicken smothered in pork and beef fat.

When it comes to ramen, Kin has been criticized for not being “authentic”, an attribute the establish is quite proud of. Regardless of whether their ramen is experimental or not, the quality and craftsmanship is undeniable. The food is always fresh, and it is just flat-out delicious.

A mainstay at Kin, is The Huxta Bowl, a pork based broth in a bowl full of ground pork shoulder, miso corn, greens, a soft boiled egg, roasted garlic, cream, bok choy and lemongrass. What I find remarkable about a dish like this as evolving as it is supposed to be I find it incredibly American, Deep South even. Yes, its full of fine flavor but it also has this quality of what I like to call “grandma food”. It was created simply, but what superior instincts based on available resources. The vegetables are earthy, broth is rich and there is plenty of meat to go around.

Also regularly available for ramen there is chicken fried with a panko crust, brisket, pork belly and a vegan option. As I stated before, the menu is constantly changing so it is best to dine with an open mind.

The surprise element Kin offers will leave you hooked and awake curiously and creatively.

Benefit concert to save birthplace of jazz to be held Thursday night at Joy Theater

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RETURN TO FLIGHT- The Eagle Saloon Initiative aims to raise funds for renovating the unused New Orleans landmark located on the 400 block of South Rampart Street that is credited as the birthplace of jazz music. (From bringbackeaglesaloon.com.)

By Jesse Brooks

On Thursday, December 28, a group known as The Eagle Saloon Initiative is hosting a benefit concert at the Joy Theater in New Orleans to raise funds for the planned renovations of a building that many historians credit crucial site in the development of jazz music.

It was in between the years of 1900-1907, Charles “Buddy” Bolden and his band performed in halls on the 400 block of Rampart street in Downtown New Orleans, then known as “Back of Town.”

Witnesses and critics say the cornetist introduced a loud improvisational style to ragtime music, also adding elements of the blues and African-American gospel to the performances. Though some parts of Bolden’s life are well documented, his musical development and upbringing remains somewhat of a mystery. Though he was rumored to have made audio recordings, none of them have been discovered. Bolden also suffered from mental illness and was institutionalized for the remainder of his life by the time he was 30 years old.

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The Bolden Band around 1905 (top: Jimmy Johnson (bass), Bolden (cornet), Willy Cornish (valve trombone), Willy Warner (clarinet); bottom: Brock Mumford (guitar), Frank Lewis (clarinet). From Wikipedia.

The level of myth around Bolden makes his life and contribution to jazz comparable to Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson, who is highly credited with the early development of rock-n-roll. Now, The Eagle Saloon Initiative hopes to bring historic legend into our breathing present.

Headlining Thursday’s concert is the The Perdido Street Legacy Band, featuring an all-star city lineup of musicians including: Donald Harrison, Delfeayo Marsalis, Germaine Bazzle, Charlie Gabriel, Sasha Masakowski, James Andrews, Detroit Brooks, Brandon Lewis, Joe Dyson, Sullivan Fortner, John Michael Bradford, Jasen Weaver and Bolden’s great-grandson Big Sam Williams. Dr Michael White & The Liberty Jazz Band are scheduled as the opening act.

The Initative, a collaboration with The New Orleans Music Hall-of-Fame, has a goal of raising enough funds to return the saloon to its former glory as a live music venue, and add a musuem space and youth education center on the second and third floors. If accomplished, not only will a building built in 1850 be credited as the ground floor for Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and others, it will be the producer of the future generations of New Orleans musicians.

Doors for the show open at 8 p.m. with a show start time at 9 p.m. on Thursday night, and ticket prices range from $30-$150. They are available for purchase at bringbackeaglesaloon.com. All ages are welcome to attend.