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On the Same Page with Tom Piazza

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With hurricane season now underway, the Arkansas Educational Television Network brings author Tom Piazza and his latest book “Why New Orleans Matters”. Kane Webb interviewed Piazza at Lorenzen & Company Booksellers in Little Rock during the Arkansas Literary Festival.

Piazza, an award-winning author and New Orleans resident, illuminates the storied culture and uncertain future of this great and neglected city. He explores traditions like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and writes of the citys deep undercurrents of corruption, racism and injustice.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Piazza considers what will become of New Orleans and its people, as well as what this city and its people mean to the rest of the world.Piazza is the author of seven previous works, including the widely acclaimed novel My Cold War and the recent Understanding Jazz. A graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, he has written for The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Oxford American and many other publications. He is the recipient of a James Michener Fellowship in Fiction, and he won a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey.

Following the interview, OTSP host Tommy Sanders spoke with panelists Linda Caillouet, Deirdre Debose and Ted Ludwig. Caillouet, Paper Trails columnist for the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, was raised in New Orleans. She has devoted several columns to the loss of her family home and the relocation of her parents after Katrina.

Debose, of Little Rock, visits New Orleans frequently and is considering relocating to the city. Following Katrina, she helped search for a relative who was hospitalized in New Orleans when the hurricane struck.

Ludwig, a New Orleans native, moved to Little Rock after Katrina. A jazz guitarist who performed regularly in and around the city, he is now teaching guitar in Little Rock and plays at Vieux Carre for their Sunday Jazz Brunch.

AETN Presents: On the Same Page with Tom Piazza is produced in conjunction with the Arkansas Literary Festival. This two-day celebration of literacy, language and writing is held each spring in the heart of Little Rocks River Market District. Events include readings and discussions by celebrated authors, book signings, children's activities, musical entertainment, and an outdoor exhibit area. The festival benefits Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc. and 50 volunteer adult literacy councils.

On the Same Page has been called Good television for people who love good books.AETN Presents highlights a variety of arts and cultural subjects. Previously included in the series have been the Arkansas Acoustic Festival; On the Same Page with authors John Jeremiah Sullivan, Kenneth L. Smith, Buzz Bissinger and Patricia McKissack; and performances by the Kat Hood Trio, Hannah Blaylock and Lost & Found, Wildwood, Steve Davison and the Sara Thomas Band.

Transcript

TOM PIAZZA:  THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY FOR "ON THE SAME PAGE." I AM TOMMY SANDERS. TODAY IS ABOUT ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREAT CITIES, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA. NOW, POST-KATRENIA, SO MANY ASPECTS OF LIFE IS UP IN THE AIR. AND WE HAVE A BOOK BY TOM PIAZZA. IT'S TRUTH IN ADVERTISEMENT. IT'S HIS ARGUMENT OF WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS. TOM WAS IN LITTLEROCK A FEW MONTHS AGO TO SIT DOWN TO TALK WITH OUR KATIE WEBB AND HAD THIS TALK AT LORENZEN WITH OUR KATIE WEBB AND HAD THIS TALK AT LORENZEN BOOKSELLERS. ♪

WE'RE HERE AT THE ARKANSAS LITERARY FESTIVAL WITH TOM PIAZZA, AUTHOR OF "WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS."  IF YOU'VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS AND YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT, READ THE BOOK. IF YOU'VE BEEN THERE AND YOU MISSED IT, AND YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY IT SHOULD BE REBUILT THE WAY IT WAS, READ THE BOOK. IT'S A LOVE LETTER. IT'S A PLEA. IT'S A LINE IN THE SAND. AND IT SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR ANYONE I THINK WHO IS GOING TO HAVE A ROLE IN REBUILDING THAT CITY DOWN THERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US, TOM.

IT'S A PLEASURE.

WHAT WAS YOUR KATRENIA EXPERIENCE. LET'S START THERE.

IN AUGUST, I WAS UP IN VIRGINIA AT A PLACE JUST NORTH OF LYNCHBURG CALLED VIRGINIA CENTER FOR CREATIVE ARTS, AND I WAS WRITING A NOVEL, HOW I SPEND MOST OF MY TIME, USUALLY WRITING A NOVEL, AND I WAS UP THERE AND ABOUT TO COME BACK TO NEW ORLEANS THE SATURDAY BEFORE KATRENIA HIT. AND MY BETTER HALF, MARY, IS FROM SOUTHEAST MISSOURI, FROM COTTON FARMING COUNTRY THERE. PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN COTTON FARMING COUNTRY PAY A LOT OF ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER. I AM FROM THE NORTHEAST AND WE DON'T PAY THAT MUCH ATTENTION TO WEATHER. SHE WAS TELLING ME ABOUT A STORM THAT WAS COMING. AND MY DEFAULT REACTION WAS ANOTHER STORM, WE'LL EVACUATE, WE'LL COME BACK, IT WON'T BE ANYTHING. I WAS BLASE ABOUT IT. THE MORNING OF THAT SATURDAY BEFORE THE STORM I CALLED HER AND SAID I AM COMING ON DOWN. SHE SAID, NO, YOU ARE NOT COMING ON DOWN. AND SHE WAS EVACUATING. ANYWAY, WE ENDED UP IN MISSOURI. SO I DROVE ACROSS TENNESSEE TO MALDEN, MISSOURI, WHICH IS WHERE HER MOM STILL LIVES AND WHERE SHE GREW UP. AND WE WATCHED ALL THOSE HORRIBLE EVENTS UNFOLD ON THE TELEVISION IN MALDEN.

THIS BOOK IS TWO PARTS ESSENTIALLY. THE FIRST PART TALKS ABOUT THE NEW ORLEANS THAT WE ALL KNEW, THE CULTURE, THE FOOD, THE MUSIC. EVERYTHING THAT MADE IT SUCH A UNIQUE PLACE. THE SECOND PART IS POST-STORM. NOW, DID THAT HAPPEN AFTER YOU WENT DOWN AND SAW WHAT HAPPENED THERE? WAS THIS SOMETHING THAT HAD YOU PLANNED ON DOING?

EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS -- THE BOOK WAS WRITTEN VERY QUICKLY. IT WAS WRITTEN IN ABOUT 4 1/2 WEEKS. SO EVERYTHING ABOUT IT WAS -- IT CAME VERY NATURALLY TO HAND, AND IN A SENSE IT SORT OF HAD TO BECAUSE THERE WASN'T TIME TO REALLY HAVE THAT CRAFTY PLAN ABOUT IT IN THAT WAY, YOU KNOW. INITIALLY I DIDN'T KNOW THAT I WAS GOING TO INCLUDE A PART ABOUT ACTUALLY RETURNING TO NEW ORLEANS. I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE JUST A BOOK ABOUT WHAT I REMEMBERED OF NEW ORLEANS, AND A KIND OF PLEA FOR, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THAT. BUT GOING DOWN THOSE TWO WEEKS AFTER THE STORM WAS SUCH A POWERFUL AND UPSETTING AND MULTI-LAYERED EXPERIENCE, I FELT THAT I HAD TO WRITE ABOUT THAT. THAT WAS PART -- I MEAN, AND ALSO JUST IT MAKE AS CONTRAST IN THE BOOK BETWEEN ALL OF THESE IMAGES OF LUSHNESS AND COMMUNITY AND, YOU KNOW, THEN THIS DEVASTATION AND THIS TOTAL LITERAL ABSENCE OF COMMUNITY.

ARE YOU BACK NOW?

YES, YES.

FOR GOOD?

WELL, WHATEVER FOR GOOD MEANS THESE DAYS ANYPLACE.

YEAH.

YEAH, WE'RE BACK. I MEAN, WE'VE BEEN LIVING OUT OF A SUITCASE FOR ABOUT SEVEN MONTHS, BUT WE FINALLY GOT BACK SIX MONTHS AGO, AND I GOT BACK INTO MY APARTMENT WHICH HAD A LOT OF STORM DAMAGE, BUT NO FLOODING. I GOT BACK IN THERE ABOUT A MONTH AGO. MARY'S HOUSE, WHICH DID FLOOD, WON'T BE READY PROBABLY UNTIL JUNE JUST IN TIME FOR THE NEXT HURRICANE SEASON.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE IN NEW ORLEANS RIGHT NOW? SEVEN MONTHS AFTER THE STORM ROUGHLY.

WELL, OF COURSE, THAT DEPENDS WHAT NEIGHBORHOOD OF NEW ORLEANS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. THERE ARE CERTAIN PARTS OF NEW ORLEANS WHERE IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW ANY BETTER, IF YOU DIDN'T LOOK TOO CLOSELY, IT LOOKS ALMOST NORMAL, LIKE THE FRENCH QUARTER, LIKE THE UPTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE I LIVE. IT'S SORT OF LOOKS MORE OR LESS THE WAY THAT IT DID. UNLESS YOU LOOK CLOSELY, AND YOU THINK WASN'T THERE A TREE THERE? OH, YEAH. THAT KIND OF THING. AND THEN IF YOU MOVE OUT TO AREAS THAT DID FLOOD, THOUGH, IN SOME AREAS THERE IS A LOT OF WORK GOING ON, LIKE MID-CITY, AND CERTAIN OTHER PLACES. IN SOME AREAS LIKE THE LOWER 9th WARD IT LOOKS LIKE IT DID FIVE MONTHS AGO.

I NOTICED THAT. I WAS DOWN THERE IN FEBRUARY, AND IT LOOKED AS IF THE STORM HAD HIT A WEEK ABOUT.  IT'S JUST REMARKABLE. IT'S REALLY A TALE OF TWO CITIES, IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT. YOU ARE A NATIVE NEW YORKER, RIGHT?

UH-HUH.

NEW ORLEANSIAN BY CHOICE. TELL ME WHY YOU CHOOSE TO MOVE DOWN THERE? YOUR FIRST VISIT THERE, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE CITY THAT GRABBED YOU?

WELL, I AM A JAZZ FAN FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE, JAZZ AND BLUES AND A LOT OF INDIGENOUS AMERICAN, VERNACULAR AMERICAN MUSIC, RHYTHM AND BLUES AND ALL OF THAT KIND OF STUFF. IF YOU LIKE THAT MUSIC, NEW ORLEANS IS REALLY AT THE CENTER OF YOUR MAP OF THE WORLD. SO I ALWAYS WANTED TO GO THERE. I FINALLY DID IN '87 FOR THE JAZZ FESTIVAL, JAZZ AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL. AND WHAT WAS REMARKABLE TO ME WAS THAT THE ENTIRE CITY IN SOME WAY KIND OF EXPRESSED A LOT OF THE VALUES THAT I FOUND IN THE MUSIC. THERE IS A TREMENDOUS SENSUAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE AND THEIR SURROUNDINGS AND THE COMMUNITY IN THE SAME WAY THAT YOU HAVE THESE INDIVIDUAL VOICES IN JAZZ, AND THE SOUND OF THE ENSEMBLE THIS MARVELOUS BALANCE. NEW ORLEANS, IT SMELLED GREAT, IT LOOKED GREAT. HAD YOU THESE GREAT OLD GIANT SHIP-WRECKED WOODEN HOUSES, KIND OF COLLAPSING PORCHES, AND BANANA TREES, AND OAK TREES. IT'S JUST AN INCREDIBLY LUSH PLACE ON EVERY LEVEL WITH TREMENDOUS ATTENTION TO FOOD, TO PHYSICALITY, TO DANCE, TO MUSIC. I JUST RESPONDED TO IT VERY VISCERALLY.

AT SOME POINT WE'RE GOING TO START REBUILDING. WE'RE STILL CLEANING UP DOWN THERE, IT SEEMS LIKE. BUT IN YOUR BOOK, TOWARDS THE END, YOU DO A GOOD JOB OF DESCRIBING TWO APPROACHES TO NEW ORLEANS. ONE IS THE TOP-DOWN APPROACH, ONE IS THE BOTTOM-UP APPROACH. DESCRIBE THOSE TWO, AND WHY, ESPECIALLY THE TOP-DOWN SCARES THE HECK OUT OF ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS.

WELL, YOU HAVE THIS UNPRECEDENTED SITUATION A CITY THAT'S REALLY A KIND OF A CLEAN SLATE IN SOME RESPECTS. IN CERTAINLY THE POPULATION BEING SUCKED OUT OF IT FOR THOSE WEEKS. SO YOU HAVE A CHANCE IN SOME WAYS TO RECLAIM A LOT OF LAND, PHYSICAL AND NOT SO PHYSICAL, AND SO THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE CITY HAD SWITCHED TREMENDOUSL TREMENDOUSLY. AND IT'S LIKE A ROULETTE WHEEL THAT'S GOING AROUND, AND NOBODY IS QUITE SURE WHAT SLOT THE BALL'S GOING TO FALL IN. THE TOP-DOWN AND BOTTOM-UP WAS A SCHEMATIC THAT I'VE WORKED OUT THERE IN THE BOOK. IT'S NOTHING VERY PROFOUND, IT'S BASICALLY JUST TALKING MORE ABOUT A SET OF ASSUMPTIONS WITH WHICH YOU APPROACH ALL OF THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS THAT ARE INVOLVED IN REBUILDING. DO YOU APPROACH IT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF LET'S BRING BACK THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE IN NEW ORLEANS, ALL OF THEM RICH AND POOR, BLACK AND WHITE, AND TRY TO BRING THEM BACK TO THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD AND MAKE THAT THE FUNDAMENTAL THING THAT WE'RE GOING AFTER AND ASK HOW DO WE DO THAT? OR, WHICH IS WHAT I WOULD CALL KIND OF THE BOTTOM-UP APPROACH, IT STARTS WITH THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE, OR DO YOU TAKE A MORE KIND OF ARCHITECT'S-MODEL DRIVEN IDEA WHERE, OKAY, WE HAVE A CHANCE TO MAKE THE CITY INTO A DISNEYLAND VERSION OF ITSELF.

SO 15, 20 YEARS FROM NOW, REALISTICALLY, WHAT DO YOU HOPE NEW ORLEANS WILL BE? WHAT DO YOU FEAR THAT IT WILL BE?

WELL, WHAT I HOPE NEW ORLEANS WILL BE IS A THRIVING, BEAUTIFUL, SENSUAL PLACE THAT IS FULL OF THE JOY OF LIFE AND THAT GIVES ALL OF THE EVIDENCE OF ALL OF THE EXTRAORDINARY SPIRITUAL RESILIENCE AND CULTURAL RESILIENCE THAT HAVE DRAWN PEOPLE TO NEW ORLEANS AND HAVE KEPT PEOPLE IN NEW ORLEANS, AND THAT MAKES NEW ORLEANS NEW ORLEANS. I HOPE THAT NEW ORLEANS WILL BE DIFFERENT THE WAY THAT ANYPLACE CHANGES OVER TIME. BUT I WANT TO SEE THAT LIFE SPIRIT KEPT THERE. I GUESS YOU WANT TO SAY WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? I AM AFRAID THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF -- THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTS THAT I THINK WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT REPLACED WITH THE KIND OF PETRIFIED VERSION OF ITSELF WHERE PROFITS CAN EASILY BE MORE TAKEN.

WAS THE BOOK CATHARTIC TO WRITE? IT WAS CATHARTIC TO READ. I'VE BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS, AND IN READING IT I THOUGHT YOU DID A GREAT JOB TO EXPRESS HOW I FELT AND FAILED TO PUT INTO WORDS. DID IT HELP YOU?

THANK YOU. IT WAS CATHARTIC IN SOME WAYS, AND CORROSIVE IN SOME OTHER WAYS. I MEAN, WHILE I WAS WRITING -- I WAS WRITING THE BOOK IN THE MIDDLE OF WATCHING ALL OF THIS STUFF HAPPEN. AND IN THE MIDDLE OF TREMENDOUS, TREMENDOUS UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE OF THE CITY WOULD BE, AND EVEN WHAT THE FACTS WERE OF THE CITY. BECAUSE THERE WAS VERY LITTLE REAL COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION COMING OUT BECAUSE PEOPLE COULDN'T GET IN. AND THE NEWS REPORTS WERE CENTERED IN DIFFERENT PLAYS. -- PLACES. SO EVERY CHAPTER THAT I WROTE ABOUT FOOD IN NEW ORLEANS, OR WHAT MARCH DESGRAW LIKE, OR WHO THE MARDI GRAS INDIANS ARE LIKE, OR THE CLUBS THAT PEOPLE LIKE, OR THE PARADES, EVERYONE OF THOSE THING I WAS SUMMONING SOMETHING THAT WAS SO CLOSE TO THE CENTER OF MY HEART AND TO THE HEART OF ALL NEW ORLEANSIANS AT THE SAME TIME BEING AWARE THAT THEY MIGHT NOT BE THERE THE NEXT TIME THAT I WENT BACK. SO IT WAS VERY PAINFUL TO WRITE THOSE BEAUTIFUL -- WELL, IF THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL -- BUT THE BU PUT THINGS THAT I LOVE LOVED. IT WAS CATHARTIC, BUT EXTREMELY PAINFUL.

I DON'T WANT TO SPRING THIS ON YOU NOW, BUT IS THERE A CHANCE THAT YOU COULD READ FROM THE BOOK BEFORE WE FINISH UP? AND WHILE YOU FIND A PASSAGE -- OKAY. LET ME ASK YOU THIS, WHAT'S NEXT FOR TOM PIAZZA?

WELL, WHAT I'M DOING RIGHT NOW IS WRITING A NEW NOVEL. I AM ALSO ASSEMBLING A COLLECTION OF MY PIECES ON MUSIC. BUT THE MAIN THING IS WRITING A NOVEL. AND THAT'S WHAT CLAIMS MOST OF MY ATTENTION THESE DAYS, WRITING FICTION.

DO YOU SEE A NOVEL SET IN NEW ORLEANS AT SOME POINT?

NO COMMENT. (LAUGHTER)  LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY, I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT THAT I WOULD WRITE A BOOK LIKE "WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS," BECAUSE I WILL TELL THAT YOU NEW ORLEANS WAS ONE OF THOSE PLACES, AS YOU KNOW, OF COURS COURSE, FROM HAVING LIVED THERE, WHERE PEOPLE -- YOU ARE CONSIDERED AN OUTSIDER, YOU KNOW, IF YOUR FAMILY WENT BACK LESS THAN EIGHT GENERATIONS. SO I WAS INTIMIDATED BY THE PROSPECT OF WRITING ANYTHING FICTIONAL, OR NON-FIX REALLY THAT WAS ABOUT NEW ORLEANS. THIS BOOK WAS LIKE BEING PUSHED OFF A CLIFF AND BEING FORCED TO FLY OR SOMETHING. BUT IT ALSO MADE ME LESS INTIMIDATED ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF WRITING FICTION SET IN NEW ORLEANS.

WELL, THERE IS THE MYTH THAT NEW ORLEANS IS A BOURBON STREET AND SADDAM AND GA MORA DOWN THERE. IT'S A FAMILY-CENTERED PLACE. AND YOU MENTION THAT FOLKS HAVE NEVER LEFT FOR GENERATIONS, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN WERE SCATTERED TO THE WEST. THERE IS A TOTAL MISPERCEPTION ABOUT THAT.

THAT'S RIGHT. WELL, MAYBE I WILL READ SOMETHING ABOUT MARDI GRAS, I GUESS, BECAUSE WE'RE JUST GOING THROUGH IT, AND ACTUALLY I FOUND -- I FOUND IT -- I FOUND IT TO BE A VERY KIND OF PROFOUND EXPERIENCE ACTUALLY. IF YOU ARE LUCKY AGAIN, VERY LUCKY, YOU MIGHT END UP AT SOME PLACE LIKE CRESCENT CITY STEAKS. THIS IS AT THE END OF MARDI GRAS DAY, OUT ON BROAD STREET, AN OLD-FASHIONED STEAKHOUSE WITH AN OLD-FASHIONED MULTI-COLORED NEON SIGN FROM THE LATE '40s, AND OL OLD-FASHIONED BOOTHS WHERE YOU CAN DRAW ANCIENT CURTAIN FOR PRIVACY, OR SIT AT A TABLE ON THE SMALL-TILED FLOOR UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS WITH TELEVISIONS GOING IN THE CORNER, AND REVELLERS POURING IN, SOME STILL IN COSTUME, AND HAVE SOME DRINKS AND EAT A STEAK AND LYONNAISE POTATOES, AND BE SO GLAD THAT YOUR FRIENDS ARE SITTING ACROSS THE TABLE FROM YOU ONE MORE TIME. AND ALL ACROSS THE CITY IN LIVING ROOMS AND DINING ROOMS AND CORNER BARS, IN DIVES AND HIGH-CLASS PARLORS, IN DENS AND ON PORCHES, AND IN BEDROOMS IN THE 9th WARD, IN THE 7th WARD, MID-CITY, AND BACKTOWN, CARROLLTOWN AND THE IRISH CHANNEL AND BROADMORE AND THE GARDEN DISTRICT AND GIRT TOWN, THE FRENCH QUARTER, AND THE BYWATER, AND FAUBOURG, EVERYONE IS SAYING THANK 4 THIS BEAUTIFUL DAY. THANK YOU FOR ONE MORE DAY. THANK YOU FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL FOOD. THANK YOU FOR THIS WINE COOLER THAT MY BROTHER-IN-LAW BROUGHT OVER. THANK YOU NOR BED BECAUSE I CAN'T STAND UP. THANK YOU FOR PASSING THE POTATOES. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

THANK YOU. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL BOOK. IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT BOOK. AND THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US TODAY, TOM PIAZZA. AND THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US TODAY, TOM PIAZZA.

IT'S MY PLEASURE. ♪

ALL RIGHT. WE'RE BACK AND READY TO GO WITH PART 2 OF OUR SHOW "ON THE SAME PAGE." WE'RE COMING TO YOU FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS CLINTON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE READY TO TALK TO OUR PANELISTS, AND JUST AS NEW ORLEANS IS A UNIQUE CITY, WE HAVE A UNIQUE SET OF PANELISTS. IT'S DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE USUALLY DO, USUALLY ALL ARKANSAS FOLKS, BUT NEW ORLEANS IS SO CLOSE THAT WE HAVE A COUPLE OF NEW ORLEANS NATIVES ON OUR PANEL AS WELL AS AN ARKANSAS PERSON. WE'LL BEGIN WITH DIEDRA, A PINE BLUFFS PERSON, WHO HAS ALWAYS HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS. WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT, AND WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE BOOK. AND LINDA, IF YOU READ THE "ARKANSAS GAZETTE", YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH LINDA, AND HER PAPER TRAILS COLUMN WHICH IS THREE TIME AS WEEK. LINDA IS A NATIVE OF NEW ORLEANS, AND HASN'T LIVED THERE IN SOME YEARS. BUT MANY OF THE ACCOUNTS OF YOU AND YOUR PARENTS WHO STILL LIVE THERE MOVING NOW TO ARKANSAS WERE GOOD READING IN THERE, AND VERY TOUCHING. AND TED, A NEW ORLEANS NATIVE, PROFESSIONAL JAZZ GUITARIST IN THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, AND NOW LIVES IN THE CITY OF LITTLEROCK. TED STUDIED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS, GOT HIS MASTER'S DEGREE THERE, AND STUDIED THERE, AND HAS AN IMPRESSIVE RESUME, AND A LOT OF EXPERIENCES OF NEW ORLEANS TO TELL US ABOUT. WHEN WE LOOK AT THE BOOK, WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS, THE TITLE, YOU ARE EXPECTING SORT OF AN ARGUMENT TO BE PUT FORTH OF WHY NEW ORLEANS SHOULD BE BROUGHT BACK. AND WHAT WAS WORTH SAVING ABOUT IT? WHAT SHOULD NOT BE LOST? I WILL START WITH YOU, DIEDRA, IS THAT WHAT YOU FOUND THE BOOK TO BE ABOUT? WAS IT SUCCESSFUL IN ADVANCING THAT ARGUMENT?

AT FIRST I THOUGHT THE BOOK WAS -- YOU KNOW, IT STARTED MORE OR LESS LIKE A TOUR GUIDE PRETTY MUCH. IT HINTED ON A LOT OF THINGS THAT PERTAINED TO COMMUNITY EVENTS, YOU KNOW, ANNUAL EVENTS, AND AS I GOT INTO THE BOOK HE STRESSED HIS POINTS AS AS FAR AS THE IMPORTANT THINGS THAT MATTERS. NEW ORLEANS IS ALMOST LIKE A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE. YOU TAKE NEW ORLEANS OUT OF THIS COUNTRY, AND YOU ARE DOING IT AN INJUSTICE. THERE IS A PIECE OF HISTORY, A CULTURE THAT'S THERE WHERE THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE IT IN MY BOOK. I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIND FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS THE WORDS TO DESCRIBE NEW ORLEANS. AND THERE'S NO ONE WORD. MYSTERIOUS. LOVABLE. YOU JUST CAN'T PUT IT TOGETHE TOGETHER. IT'S JUST UNBELIEVABLY HARD TO DESCRIBE. BUT NEW ORLEANS SHOULD BE PUT BACK TOGETHER. IT'S A NO-BRAINER IN MY BOOK.

ALL RIGHT. LINDA, AND THE AUTHOR GETS INTO IT, AND DIEDRA MENTIONS IT, HE STARTS WITH HIS EXPERIENCES. SOME PEOPLE MIGHT CALL IT SUPERFICIAL, WHAT PEOPLE COME OUT OF TOWN TO ENJOY ABOUT NEW ORLEANS, THE MUSIC, THE FOOD, THE CULTURE, THE EVENTS LIKE MARDI GRAS AND JAZZ FEST, BUT ALSO HE MENTIONED THAT IT'S MOSTLY ABOUT PEOPLE OF MODEST MEANS WHO HAVE BUILT A CULTURE UP OVER 8, 10, 12 GENERATIONS IN SOME RESPECTS. AND I TELL US WHERE YOU ARE COMING FROM, AND HOW WELL HE ADDRESSED THOSE PEOPLE IN THIS BOOK? HE TALKED ABOUT THE WORTH OF THAT PART OF NEW ORLEANS.

WHEN I THINK OF NEW ORLEANS, I THINK OF A CRAZY QUILT OF THE LATE 1800S. ALL OF THE EXOTIC PIECES OF MATERIAL STITCHED TOGETHER, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. THE MULTICULTURAL FABRIC THAT MAKES IT UNIQUE. THE FOOD, THE ARCHITECTURE, THE MUSIC, ALL OF THAT FLOWS THROUGH THOSE ITEMS AND IT COMES FROM THE PEOPLE, AND IT HAS TO DO WITH THE SPIRIT AND THE SOUL OF THE PLACE. IT'S A VERY UNIQUE PLACE.

DO YOU THINK THAT THE AUTHOR DID A GOOD JOB OF DESCRIBING THAT QUILT TO US, THAT CRAZY QUILT?

I THINK THAT HE DID, ESPECIALLY IN HIS PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. AND TIMES WHEN HE NEEDED HIS HELP, WHEN HIS EYEGLASSES BROKE, NOT TO GIVE AWAY THE BOOK, BUT IN ANOTHER SECTION WHEN HE NEEDED MORE HELP, THE PEOPLE, THE INTERACTION THAT HE HAD WITH THE INDIVIDUALS, JUST STRANGERS THAT HE MET. THAT'S THE HEART AND SOUL OF NEW ORLEANS.

NEW ORLEANS IS A BIG TOWN. I MEAN, A MILLION PEOPLE PROBABLY IN THE METRO AREA, IS THAT A GOOD GUESS?

RIGHT.

AND PEOPLE CAN BE INTIMIDATED, AND LIVES CAN BE DEHUMANIZED IN A BIG TOWN. BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT ONE OF HIS POINTS IS THAT THERE IS A HUMANITY THERE.

VERY MUCH SO.

AND FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU HAVE TO LOOK OUT FOR, THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE -- A LITTLE MORE WILLING AND ABLE TO LOOK OUT FOR YOU, THIS PERSON TO PERSON, IF YOU GET THAT PART RIGHT.

THEY ENFOLD YOU. IT'S A WARM AND WELCOMING PLACE.

TED, HOW FAR DOES YOUR FAMILY GO BACK IN NEW ORLEANS?

OH, WOW, AT LEAST SIX GENERATIONS. IN NEW ORLEANS. WE'VE ALL, YOU KNOW, MY GRANDFATHER'S SIDE OF THE FAMILY COMING FROM THE WEST SIDE OF THE CITY AND THE RIVER PARISHES, AND ALSO IN NEW ORLEANS IN MY GRANDMOTHER'S SIDE OF THE FAMILY COMING FROM AREAS LIKE ENGLISH TURN. BUT THEY ALL GATHERED IN NEW ORLEANS. NEW ORLEANS WAS OUR HOME. I LIVED THERE ALL MY LIFE, 31 YEARS. AND I DO -- I REALLY LIKE THE WAY THAT HE WROTE THIS BOOK. I THINK THAT HE REALLY HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD WITH THIS BOOK. I THINK THAT AS FAR AS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CITY AND WHAT MAKES NEW ORLEANS NEW ORLEANS, IT'S ALL OF THE THINGS THAT HE HAS MENTIONED. IT'S THE FESTIVALS, IT'S THE FOOD IT'S THE MUSIC, THE ART, THE CULTURE, THE HISTORICAL VALUE, BUT THE COMMON DENOMINATOR IN THE WHOLE THING IS THE PEOPLE. THAT IS WHAT MAKES NEW ORLEAN ORLEANS, NEW ORLEANS. THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL.

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD IS ARAB ARABI?

YES.

HAD YOU TO EVACUATE. YOU LEFT AND WOUND UP HERE IN ARKANSAS.

UH-HUH.

AND I UNDERSTAND FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE YOU ARE GOING TO BE HERE IN ARKANSAS.

I AM GOING TO BE HERE, THAT'S RIGHT.

SO YOU DON'T THINK THAT YOUR PART OF TOWN IS READY TO START BACK THE WAY IT WAS AGAIN. WILL IT EVER BE THE WAY IT WAS AGAIN?

WELL, I MEAN, IF OUR TOWN -- I DON'T THINK OUR TOWN WILL BE READY FOR YEARS. THERE ARE STILL CARS ON TOP OF ROOFTOPS. THERE ARE STILL BOATS SITTING ON TOP OF TELEPHONE POLES. THERE IS A VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE ON ONE OF THE STREETS THAT'S BALANCED ON TOP OF A CHAI CHAIN-LINK FENCE. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? I DON'T KNOW HOW THE FENCE IS STILL UP, BUT IT'S SITTING ON TOP OF THE CHAIN-LINK FENCE. SO MY HOME GOT KNOCKED OFF ITS FOUNDATION. IT SLID INTO MY YARD. I DON'T KNOW IF IT WILL EVER BE TOGETHER. I DON'T THINK THAT I WILL EVER MOVE TO ST. BERNARD. I LOVE ST. BERNARD. I HAVE A PLACE DEAR IN MY HEART FOR ST. BERNARD PARISH. IT'S JUST THIS PART OF NEW ORLEANS AS NEW ORLEANS IS I LIVED FIVE BLOCKS FROM THE CITY LINE. BUT I MOVE BACK IT WOULD PROBABLY BE TO THE WEST -- EXCUSE ME, TO THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CITY.

WHICH WAS SPARED MORE SO THAN THAT PART OF TOWN.

RIGHT.

WHEN PEOPLE READ THIS BOOK, AND, OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT SOME OF THIS BOOK IS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR PEOPLE WHO COME TO NEW ORLEANS FOR ONE CONVENTION, STUCK THEIR HEAD OUT THE DOOR, LOOKED AT BOURBON STREET, AND DECIDED THAT THIS PLACE IS NOT FOR ME, WHO CARES?  WHO CARES WHAT HAPPENS TO NEW ORLEANS? DO YOU THINK THAT THIS BOOK WILL HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT, IF ENOUGH PEOPLE CAN SEE IT? DIEDRA, DO YOU THINK THAT IT WILL HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT IS? WILL IT REACH THOSE PEOPLE THAT HAVE THIS PRECONCEIVED NOTION OF NEW ORLEANS?

MOST PEOPLE WHEN THEY THINK OF NEW ORLEANS, THEY THINK OF A "SIN CITY."  AND THIS IS NOT DESCRIBING SIN CITY. OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, THE REALITIES OF NEW ORLEANS ARE TYPICAL TO ANY LARGE CITY. THERE ARE GOOD AND BAD IN EVERY CITY, AND THIS BOOK, AS LINDA SPOKE, TOUCHES ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. THERE'S NO WAY IN THE WORLD THAT YOU CAN READ ABOUT WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN THE MIDDLE OF A MARDI GRAS PARADE AND SOMEBODY HANDING YOU A NICE COLD DRINK WITHOUT WANTING TO EXPERIENCE THAT. IT'S ALMOST LIKE A LOVE THAT IS AVAILABLE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO EXPERIENCE IT. IF YOU ARE WALKING DOWN THE STREET, EVERYBODY THAT I'VE ENCOUNTERED IN NEW ORLEANS IS EXTREMELY NICE. OF COURSE, YOU HAVE TO LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER DEPENDING ON THE SIDE OF TOWN THAT YOU ARE ON, AND THE TIME OF DAY OR NIGHT, BUT I DON'T GO TO NEW ORLEANS EXPECTING SOMETHING BAD TO HAPPEN. I REFUSE TO DO THAT. MAYBE I AM GULLIBLE ON THAT POINT, BUT THIS POINT GIVES YOU SOME KIND OF DIRECTION OF THE VALUES THAT THE PEOPLE IN THE CITY HOLD, THE FAMILY VALUES. YOU KNOW, THEY ARE REALLY STRONG ON FAMILY VALUES AND IN KEEPING A SENSE OF TOGETHE TOGETHERNESS AND LETTING EVERYBODY KNOW THAT THEY'RE WELCOMED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. SO I THINK THAT THE BOOK REALLY HINTS ON THAT IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT AREAS. A COUPLE OF POINTS THAT HE MADE IN REGARDS TO NOT KNOWING -- OR BEING UNSURE OF BEING IN A CERTAIN NEIGHBORHOOD. I THINK THAT ONCE HE GOT THERE HE DIDN'T REALIZE THAT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AFRAID. (LAUGHTER)  I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, I LAUGHED WHEN I READ THAT. YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE AFRAID. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO EMBRACE AND ENJOY THE CULTURE AND THE LOVE THAT'S AVAILABLE, YOU KNOW, TO EVERYONE.

SURE. WERE YOU WANTING ANYTHING ELS ELSE? WERE THERE PARTS THAT HE MISSED? ANY OVERSIGHTS?

I THINK THAT HE HIT ALL OF THE HIGH POINTS.

TED, IN YOUR MIND, DID YOU SEE EVERYTHING THAT YOU WANTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT? OBVIOUSLY THIS GUY IS A JAZZ MUSIC WRITER, SO, OF COURSE, HIS DESCRIPTION OF THE MUSIC SCENE AND THE HISTORY I AM SURE YOU ENJOYED, OR DID YOU?

I DID VERY MUCH. YOU KNOW, ELLIS MARSALIS MARSALIS MENTIONED MR. PIAZZA, AND I RESPECT HIM VERY MUCH. I STARTED TO READ A FEW OF HIS BOOKS. BUT I REALLY LIKE THE WAY THAT HE COVERED THE MUSIC IN THIS BOOK. HE TALKED ABOUT MANY OF THE MUSICIANS THAT ARE PASSED, AND GUYS LIKE PAPA SELES STEIN, AND JOE "KING" OLIVER, AND LIEU'S ARMSTRONG. MANY BOOKS DON'T TALK ABOUT THESE GUYS, JELLY ROLL MORTON, AND KID ORY, AND SOME OF THESE TYPES OF MUSICIANS. AND, OF COURSE, HE BRING IT IS INTO THE MORE MODERN WITH DR. JOHN, OF COURSE, PROFESSOR LONGHAIR. SO I REALLY LIKE WHAT HE DID WITH THE MUSIC PART OF IT.

LET ME ASK YOU, TED. HE MAKES A GOOD POINT WHEN HE MENTIONS THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE RHYTHM AND BLUES REALLY GOT GOING. 90% OF OUR POPULAR MUSIC IN AMERICA COMES FROM NEW ORLEAN ORLEANS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

WE DON'T HAVE A NEW ORLEANS. WE DON'T HAVE A MUSICAL COMMUNITY LIKE WE HAD BEFORE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US AS A SOCIETY? IS IT GOING TO -- ARE WE GOING TO LOSE SOMETHING IMPORTANT?

WE'RE DEFINITELY LOSE SOMETHING IMPORTANT. NEW ORLEANS HAS A CERTAIN RHYTHM AND SOUL THAT CAN ONLY BE GOTTEN THERE. I HEAR MUSICIANS WHO ARE TR TRYING TO DO A SECOND LINE, BUT HAVE NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS AND IT DOESN'T SOUND THE SAME. I THINK MUSIC HISTORY, IF NEW ORLEANS WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE TO BEGIN WITH, I DON'T THINK THAT THE MUSIC WOULD HAVE GONE DOWN THE SAME PATH. I THINK THAT AMERICAN MUSIC WOULD BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. HE DOES MENTION IN THIS BOOK, AND HE MENTIONS IT BRIEFLY, BUT HOW NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS CAME OUT OF NEW ORLEANS AND WENT TO CHICAGO. AND THAT'S REALLY HOW IT STARTED, HOW EVERYTHING BRANC BRANCHED OUT FROM CHICAGO, WENT TO NEW YORK, AND SO FORT FORTH. BUT FOR NOW I THINK THAT IT WOULD BE A HUGE LOSS FOR NEW ORLEANS MUSIC TO DIE. MANY MUSICIANS WENT TO THE GREATEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO LEARN JAZZ.

WE ONLY HAVE A LITTLE TIME LEFT, BUT AT THE END OF THE BOOK, THE AUTHOR TOM PIAZZA HAS A LOT OF RESERVATIONS OF HOW NEW ORLEANS MIGHT BE REBUILT. HE WAS CONCERNED BY WHO AT THAT TIME AND STILL IS THE MAYOR, RAY NAGIN, WORRIED ABOUT HIM TAKING A LAS VEGAS OR ATLANTIC CITY APPROACH TO BUILDING THE CITY BACK AGAIN. THAT BOOK WAS WRITTEN RIGHT AFTER IN OCTOBER AFTER ALL OF THE EVENTS TRANSPIRED IN SEPTEMBER. KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW NOW, AND WHAT THE VISION IS FOR THE CITY NOW, ARE HIS WORRIES STILL VALID? IS THAT WHERE THE LEADERS SEEM TO BE TAKING THE CITY?

RAY NAGIN WHEN HE PROPOSED THAT IT WAS JUST A DAY AFTER. PEOPLE RESPONDED VERY VOCALLY. I THINK THAT HE KNOWS THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY ARE AGAINST THAT.

DIDN'T GO FOR THAT.

I AGREE WITH LINDA. THEY'VE GOT TO PUT THE POLITICAL, YOU KNOW, GLOVES DOWN, AND EVERYBODY HAS GOT TO COME TOGETHER AND WORK FOR A BETTER NEW ORLEANS AND STOP POINTING FINGERS. IT'S TIME TO GET TO WORK.

TED?

I THINK THAT HE MENTION IT IS VERY CLEARLY IN CHAPTER 5 WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO REALLY MAKE NEW ORLEANS TO BRING IT BACK UP TO GREATNESS. YOU KNOW, WE HAVE TO HAVE CHILDREN WHO ARE EDUCATED PROPERLY. THAT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. IF WE DON'T EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN, NOTHING CAN HAPPEN. AND IT'S THE TRUTH. AND I THINK THAT MAYOR NAGIN NEEDS TO DEFINITELY BEGIN TO PROMOTE THE HISTORICAL PARTS OF NEW ORLEANS, THE PARTS OF NEW ORLEANS THAT NOT GO INTO THE DIRECTION OF VEGAS YOU KNOW, THAT'S NOT WHAT NEW ORLEANS IS ABOUT. THE CASINO THERE, AND MR. PIAZZA MENTIONS IT, AND THAT'S THE TRUTH, THAT CASINO IS NOT SMOKING. IT STRUGGLES.

IT HAS FROM DAY ONE, RIGH RIGHT?

IT HAS FROM DAY ONE, ABSOLUTELY.

NEW ORLEANS HAS A LOT OF WORK AHEAD OF IT. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE IT WAS BEFORE AND WHAT ONE PERSON HE'S VISION OF IT IS, I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK, TOM PIAZZA'S "WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS," AND THAT'S BEEN OUR BOOK FOR "ON THE SAME PAGE." THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING IN HERE AND READING AND TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOUR BOOK IS ABOUT, AND YOUR INSIGHTS. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING "ON THE IS ABOUT, AND YOUR INSIGHTS. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING "ON THE SAME PAGE."

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