Exploring New Orleans – America’s Wildest City

Apr 13, 2024 1.2M Views 2.8K Comments

For someone to fully understand how different America can be, they need to experience New Orleans. Today, we meet up with a local who gives us a deeper look at what America’s wildest city is like.

► 🎞️ Video Edited By: Natalia Santenello

MUSIC USED IN THE VIDEO 🎵
► Ealot – Licorice
► Terin Ector – Cold World (Instrumental Version)

– Morning, guys. Here in New Orleans.
First impressions. Quite a wild place.
It’s my first time here,
so today, we’re gonna meet up with a local
who grew up here
and said, “Peter, I can
bring you on a tour,
show you a New Orleans that
most people don’t know.”
Christopher, you ready for this?
– I’m ready.
(Peter laughs)
– [Peter] So, what’s
living in New Orleans like?
– It depends on what decade it is, right?
So, in the 1980s it was rough,
but in the 1970s, it wasn’t.
In the 2000…
After Katrina, it was great.
So when? And for who?
Like, for me, it’s different
than a lotta the people that
maybe lived a block away.
– [Peter] So, that’s
how New Orleans works.
– Oh yeah.
– It’s just block by block.
– [Christopher] House by house.
– [Peter] “House by house”!
– Oh yeah.
– Okay, so, this neighborhood,
where are we?
Midtown?
– This is Esplanade Ridge.
– Mid-City?
– [Christopher] You could
call it mid city, yeah.
– [Peter] Okay, so, what’s the story here?
This is a nicer neighborhood?
– Definitely. Definitely nicer.
It’s younger. It’s 1870s up.
Probably was completely filled up.
You gotta remember this
town is, like, on an island.
Once you run outta room,
you’re done. You’re just…
There’s no more room.
You might replace,
but a lot of these houses
were like, for instance, this house.
This was a house
where somebody made a living
off of commerce that
took place on this bayou,
and this bayou connects to the lake.
The land kind of settled 6,000 years ago.
The best you can tell,
Native Americans started
to settle here 400 AD.
They called it the land of many tongues,
which is kinda cool,
because, from the very beginning,
all these different
people are coming here,
and it’s to that day.
To this day, it’s the same thing.
You’ve got many different
people coming here,
of all different kinds,
to trade, to do business.
This is one of the old buildings.
It’s called the Pitot House,
an ancient building built in 1761.
– [Peter] Rookie question.
Do I say New Orleans?
New Orleans?
– Ooh,
depends on the zip code.
– Oh.
– Oh yeah, so.
– How ’bout this zip code?
– Oh, this would be probably…
This area-
– You’re gonna get
yourself in trouble here.
– Oh totally.
This is probably New Orleans.
– New-
– New Orleans.
– [Peter] New Orleans.
– New Orleans. New Orleans.
– Okay, New Orleans.
– Some areas, it’s gonna
be more New Orleans.
Some areas, it’s gonna be New Orleans.
– New Orleans.
– That way.
– That’s, like, Deep South accent.
– I think it’s more of the Waspy areas.
– Okay.
Look at that. So many
gems here, Christopher!
– [Christopher] Oh, dude, wait.
– [Peter] Are they gonna
pave the roads next week?
Or what’s going on here?
– [Christopher] No, no need to do that.
Don’t wanna spoil people.
(Peter laughs)
– [Peter] Oh wow, what’s going on here?
– [Christopher] That’s an old hospital.
When Katrina came
through, it wiped it out,
and whoever owned it decided:
“Best leave it up to the drug addicts.”
– [Peter] Katrina was in 2005, right?
– [Christopher] Yeah.
You can almost break the history down
according to where we are.
Like, this area was only settled
because of pumping stations.
No pumping stations.
This is four foot underwater.
– [Peter] So we’re below
sea level right here.
– Oh yeah, you’re
about a good two…
– Four feet!
– Well, a solid two to
three feet right here.
My parents bought this
house right here in 1968.
– [Peter] Oh, beautiful.
– [Christopher] Yeah, and
this is the neighborhood
I grew up in.
Do you wanna knock on some
people that still live here?
You ready to meet people?
– [Peter] I’m ready. Let’s do it.
– Hobo Joe used to live here.
– [Peter] “Hobo Joe”?
– Yeah, he used to shoot off his AK-47s
for July Fourth and the 1st.
He was quite the character.
– [Peter] Bullets landed somewhere.
– Somewhere.
I haven’t seen this guy in a long time.
(door knocks)
(Shep barks)
Hey, man.
– Hey, neighbor, oh man!
– [Christopher] What up, bruh?
– Good to see you,
bruh.
– How you doing, Ken?
– Fine. Hi.
– It’s my friend Peter.
– How you doing, Sir?
– How you doing, Sir? All right?
– Good to meet you. What’s your name?
– Ken Powell.
– “Ken Powell.” Peter Santenello.
– All right, Mr….
Man, what you doing in
Mississippi now, man?
– Man, I like it. How’s your dad?
– My dad doing fine. You
know, he just made 83.
– Damn.
– Y’all wanna come inside?
Look, I don’t have nothing to eat
but nothing but something to drink.
That’s all I got.
– No, no.
– But I got something for you. Hold on.
– All right.
– I’ll be right back and get it
to you.
– All right.
– [Kenneth] Shep, get back. Get back.
– Ken is…
You ever seen these big cranes
that, like, take big cargo
stuff off cargo ships?
– [Peter] Yep.
– That’s the guy.
– Now, this is muscadine
and half strawberry wine.
– Ooh.
– Now, don’t drink it (indistinct).
Now, drink it sipping.
– I’ll be here today.
– Well, put it on…
Put you some ice in it,
but don’t drink fast, now,
’cause (indistinct).
– No. You’re sure to give…
This isn’t rare, huh? Your dad’s not…
This isn’t, like, the last one?
I’m not taking a-
– No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
No, no, indeed, man.
Don’t worry about that.
– All right.
– I knew his mother and father,
no, not the father that well,
but I knew his mother that well
because she used to sit on
that corner right there now,
doing her plants and stuff,
and I used to go outside,
and I’d walk down there and talk to her,
Miss Camille, and I’d just sit down
and talk to ya.
– Miss Camille.
– I would sit down and talk to her.
We’d just talk, you know?
And I like talking to older
people because ya learn a lot.
– [Peter] Yeah, that’s true.
– They have a lotta knowledge to give you.
– They have wisdom.
So, what do you think of New Orleans?
– Well, New Orleans is forever changing.
The older people are dying out now,
and the younger people come in.
It just a…
There’s a tremendous change.
– For the better or for the worse?
– Well, I would say-
– Depends, huh?
– It’s depends (indistinct).
Just like this neighborhood here,
we got a lotta older
people that is from here
all the way down to the end
that live in these, homeowner here,
but if they…
As they pass on,
give it to the younger
generation, it became…
It’ll start changing.
– You know, the problem is
when they sell it to these outta-towners.
– That’s right.
That’s right.
(Christopher chuckles)
– [Peter] The Yankees come in and…
(Christopher laughs)
– Change everything.
– Toss the salad.
– Right, toss the salad,
ain’t that a thing?
– Raise the taxes.
– That’s right.
Guess how my homeowner on this house is.
– Well, you’ll think you
told me this two years ago.
So, it’s like $1,500?
– No, 3,100
I pay.
– 3,100!
– [Peter] 3,100 in taxes?
– On this home alone.
Now, I got 34 acres in
the state of Mississippi
with a nice house on it, 34 acre.
My taxes were $390.
– [Peter] Okay, how many
square feet is this?
– This right here’s 1,700.
When I first bought the house,
my tax was like $900-some a year.
– Hey, I’ve seen your taxes
be put to work with the roads.
(Christopher laughs)
(Kenneth laughs)
I mean, it’s going right
into the asphalt. No?
– No.
– Not happening.
– (indistinct) one has been-
– No, but it’s helping
a lotta-
– But hey, your road’s
not bad actually.
– But look, you got…
Look, you know, this is when
you get into these issues.
Like, your taxes are paying
for the fact that, our bigger government,
you know, they haven’t invested.
– Right.
– They never paid for schools,
never paid for anything.
– You’re right.
– You talking
about the federal government?
– Yeah.
– That’s right.
– My son just graduated
from college, December.
– UNO. Engineering.
– He got a degree.
– Aw, congrats.
– He finally…
Believe me, this last one.
– Congrats.
Are you a proud father?
– Of five.
– [Peter] Wow.
– Three girls and two boys.
Now, I don’t have no
problem with the boys.
It’s just them damn girls.
(Peter chuckles)
– Yeah?
– “Money, boyfriend. Dad, I’m short.”
– [Peter] Wait, boyfriend’s…
That means they’re supposed to be paying.
Boyfriend’s supposed to be paying.
– Yes, it’s changed.
– Wait, you’re saying
the boyfriends aren’t paying for dates
these days?
– No,
the girls are paying now.
– What’s up with that?
– The girlfriend.
– It’s a flip flop.
– That’s not right,
no.
– See, when I dated my wife,
I had the date.
– Where’s the style?
– Oh, no style.
– No way, I thought, in New Orleans,
that would be still going on.
– No, when I dated my wife,
I had the pure date.
– Oh yeah.
– Yeah.
– The flowers.
– Knock on the door
and everything,
meet the mother and father.
I don’t even know the guy.
Hey, don’t even meet ’em.
– How do you feel
when, say, a guy comes up in
a lowrider car, bass pumping,
6’7″, muscular.
– I can’t say nothing.
I have to be quiet ’cause guess what.
If I don’t be quiet,
that’s the one she’ll want,
so I don’t say anything:
“Hey, how you doing?”
keep my mouth… (laughs)
(Peter chuckles)
So, you have to learn all that.
– Reverse psychology.
– Yeah, your reverse psychology,
you have to learn all-
– Jedi mind tricks.
– Right, right.
– Okay, I don’t have kids,
so I don’t know what I’m talking about.
– Wait till you get ’em.
Good talking to ya. Good to see ya.
Tell your wife I said hello.
– All right, man.
– Yeah, and the kids, yeah.
– Thank you, man.
Thank you.
– Say that we still surviving.
– Ken.
– I’ll be in the country.
– Nice meeting ya.
– Not this weekend, next weekend.
– [Christopher] Text me.
– [Kenneth] I will text you.
– I got something for you.
(Kenneth laughs)
Hold on.
When you moved here…
– Ha ha.
Oh, thank you, man.
– That’s the street you…
That sign was up when
you bought the house.
– This house here?
– Yeah.
– Thank you, man.
Don’t drink and drive.
– No, not too much.
(Peter chuckles)
– All right (laughs).
All right. (indistinct)
– What a great guy.
– All right, man.
(contented funk music)
(contented funk music continues)
You see all these
differentials in this city,
one place, blocks apart;
some cases, houses apart.
– [Peter] Wow, look at this architecture.
This is impressive.
– [Christopher] This is a doctor.
This used to be my
grandmother’s doctor right here.
– [Peter] What is that?
– [Christopher] That’s the Brown Mansion.
I’ve been in that monster.
It’s owned by a lawyer.
– [Peter] Okay, interesting,
even in the rich neighborhood,
they’re not paving the roads.
– No, they’re not paving the roads,
not a concern.
– Isn’t that, like, 101
as a politician?
No matter how corrupt things might be,
if you keep the roads paved,
you sorta keep people happier
’cause they’re on the roads every day?
– Yeah.
– It’s something they notice,
right?
– It’s kinda, like, schools,
police, and roads, you know, basics.
We prioritize different things.
You know, the problem when
you talk about this place
is every sentence has to
end in the word but, okay?
“This is a fact, but
there’s an exception.”
The unofficial tagline of New Orleans
is the city that care forgot.
We were forsaken, but this
is where the wealthy live.
– [Peter] Yeah, I can see.
– And it’s a sliver.
This is dry ground.
If we go this way, it’s not dry ground.
– [Peter] So when Katrina
came through, this was not
getting flooded.
– This was not
getting flooded.
– [Peter] Okay.
– [Christopher] This one’s up for sale.
This is modeled after Tara,
the plantation.
– What do you think
that’s going for?
– [Christopher] Three million,
relatively cheap compared
to a lot of other places.
– [Peter] Oh yeah.
Yeah, that would be a fortunate
in some of the other city.
– This woman used to run
the archives in the city,
and she’s been there quite some time.
This is a fun one right here
we should just kinda take a look at.
They call this the Wedding Cake House.
That’s a beauty.
– [Peter] That is a beauty.
– [Christopher] That’s one
of the real special houses.
– So, as someone
that doesn’t have much
experience in the South,
even though I live in
South Florida, which is…
As they say, the more south you get
the more North it is, right?
– More North you get, yeah.
– The history of all these homes,
were they all plantation owners?
– No.
– Or where did that wealth
come from?
– Oh, that’s a good topic.
– [Peter] ‘Cause that’s what I hear a lot
in my Southern videos.
– Merchants, merchants,
these are Merchants.
– “Merchants.”
– [Christopher] New Orleans,
not a single shot was fired
during the Civil War,
because these merchants didn’t
want anything messed up.
– [Peter] With their trade.
– [Christopher] Yeah, they
figured: “Look, we’re gonna…
Once all this settles,
we’re going back to work.”
And in fact, the city
became more prosperous.
– So, who worked for the
merchants? What demographic?
Was it the immigrants? Was it the Blacks?
– It was immigrants.
It was all people from
Philadelphia and New Jersey.
– Seriously?
– Yeah.
Yeah, in fact, there’s a section of town
we’re gonna go through
where they literally named the streets
so that Americans would understand ’em,
like Camp and First St.
– [Peter] Because all the
names were French before?
– Yeah, a lotta these names were…
This is the area where
we’re on Saint Charles.
This is State St.
There’s streets that are
named after the Muses.
We have a Mardi Gras parade,
in fact, that deals with that.
– So, when people talk
about safety in New Orleans,
it’s always been one
of the technically most
crime-ridden cities
in the country, right?
– Oh yeah, yep.
– Most homicides per capita
or in the top five, something like that.
– It was founded upon lotta trouble, yeah.
– Okay, so, neighborhoods
like this are immune to it?
They’re safe?
– Car break-ins, robberies.
I had a childhood friend who
was shot and killed near here,
and here’s a good point.
Here’s the big Catholic
university, Loyola.
– [Peter] Wow.
– [Christopher] Lot of
outta-towners coming here,
and they’ll leave the car unlocked, right?
– Okay.
– And then right next to it,
Tulane University, at least 50% Jewish.
Not always was the case.
They used to be a lot that lived here
when it was a merchant city
and not so much anymore.
This is our only private street
in the entire city right here.
– [Peter] “Private street,”
okay, you’d need to go
through a gate.
– Can’t go in here.
– [Peter] So what’s down there?
Just really wealthy places?
– [Christopher] Yeah, Bob Dylan lived
in this neighborhood one time.
Drew Brees lived here.
– [Peter] It’s very class-orientated here.
– Yes, absolutely.
It’s centered a lot
around Mardi Gras krewes.
Like, let’s say this.
Let’s just put it this way.
You can get into some Mardi Gras krewes.
You’d be allowed. Just pay your dues.
You can go in the krewe.
Harry Connick’s krewe,
he’ll more than welcome you.
You know Harry Connick, Jr.? Musician?
He has a really…
Orpheus, it’s a really successful
very positive great krewe.
You and I can get in that.
You and I can get into Bacchus.
Might take a little bit of
work, but we could get there.
Maybe before this video,
I could get into Rex,
maybe.
– (chuckles) We killed it.
(Christopher laughs)
– But both of us-
– You’re not going anywhere now
after this.
(Christopher laughs)
– Both of us have no chance of getting
into Comus, Momus, blah, blah, blah.
– I don’t even know what
you’re talking about.
These are like fraternities?
(Christopher laughs)
What is this?
– They’re Mardi Gras krewes.
– “Crews”? Like, so your
pack that you’re with sorta?
– Your gang.
– “Your gang” so you’re rat pack.
And then you go and eat
at night together?
– And we’re gonna…
Yeah.
– And you have a celebration together?
– Yeah, kind of like-
– I’ve never seen Mardi
Gras, so I don’t…
– I would encourage-
– I’ll have to come back
for it.
– I would…
You know what would really be something
is to get your viewers to go
watch the Rex-Comas Ball video.
Takes about three hours,
and the real challenge
is to stay awake for it.
– Okay, so you’re trying
to kill my channel
is what you’re doing.
– Yeah, if you’d kill
the channel, yeah.
– Okay, thank you.
I’ll kill your ability to
get into different camps,
and you can kill my channel:
“It’s him!”
– [Christopher] I don’t
think I have any chance.
That’s my grandmother’s.
She and her husband bought that in 1930.
He was an indentured
servant to his brother,
and they were an arranged marriage.
– “Indentured servant to his brother.”
How did that work out?
– He had to pay the shipping.
You had to pay for shipping back then.
– [Peter] So his brother was the boss?
– Yeah, Serafino Dominici.
– [Peter] Italian heritage.
– And that house is a
bargeboard house built in 1858.
– [Peter] “Bargeboard,”
what do you mean by that?
– [Christopher] Well, this is a barge.
This floated down the river.
– Oh, okay.
– And then
when this house was
finished being a barge,
they cut it up, and they
turned it into a house.
– Okay, very interesting.
Okay, so, you’ve lived
here most your life,
and you’ve moved out recently.
– Yeah.
– Where to?
– Brookhaven, Mississippi.
– Why?
– It just got to be…
I would say this.
The problems went like this.
The fun went here.
It used to be the problems
were here and the fun was here,
and this is a fun place,
but it just got to be too much,
and come on, I’m not…
You know, how many times
can you go to Mardi Gras?
How many times can you go to Jazz Fest?
It was just got to be “let’s
go do something different.”
Life’s short, right?
– Okay, so you just wanna
be in the countryside?
– Yeah, so we have a farm, an old house.
It’s 150 years.
– Ah, that’s great.
– And it’s…
My front yard is about half a mile,
and I look out, and I
see cows and donkeys.
In the morning, you see
turkeys and rabbits.
– But you’ve always been a city boy.
– Yeah.
– Isn’t that…
Is that a tough adjustment?
– No, it was easy. Was incredibly easy.
I tell you what really got
me that was a breaking point.
We ran away from the
ever-latest hurricane.
When we came back,
I had to try to do business
without power to my house.
It had been five weeks.
No, we ran seven times in two years
and had no power for five
weeks during those two years,
no power, running on a generator,
charging your phone, trying
to keep a refrigerator alive.
It just gets to be like,
“Okay, I have to somehow make money.”
– [Peter] You’re working
in business consulting?
– Yeah.
– You make your money online.
– [Christopher] Yeah, but
it just got to be too much.
In reality, I think that
where I’d like to get to
is to be able to have something here
and then something there.
– [Peter] You’ve only been
gone a couple years, right?
– Yeah.
– [Peter] This is a great neighborhood.
– [Christopher] This
is our Commerce Street.
This is more locals. People live here.
They come here. They shop here.
– It’s really nice.
– This is local.
– [Peter] Very creative.
– [Christopher] And it goes
on for about six miles.
– [Peter] I’m sorry, who owned this?
– [Christopher] Nine Inch Nails dude.
– [Peter] Trent Reznor.
– Yeah, right here.
– Aw, nice.
“Pretty Hate Machine,”
remember that album?
– [Christopher] Yeah. This
is the Garden District.
Now we’re in the 1830s.
This was the second
subdivision of the city.
Look at this one.
This one’s getting fixed up.
– [Peter] Oh, wow, beautiful.
So, people are moving in?
– Yeah.
– Or what’s going on?
– Oh yeah. This is…
It’s expensive to live here.
For the most part, a lotta
these are single-residence.
There’s a lotta of cities
where this would be carved up,
turned to apartments.
This was Anne Rice’s house.
She used to write up in
that room right there.
When she lived here, I
remember going in it,
and yeah, she wrote
some of her classic books
were written in that house.
You’ve been seeing,
honestly, a lotta the same
for well over four miles.
Now it’s time to…
We’re downtown, and we’re
gonna go into a different part.
We’re entering into what’s
called the Warehouse District,
a lot of it built by
people from the Northeast.
That will then lead us
to the French Quarter.
We’re very close to the Quarter now.
Whoa, urgh.
– [Peter] They’re working
on it, Christopher.
– Oh yeah.
– They’re working on it.
That changed pretty quickly.
– [Christopher] I mean,
isn’t this kinda everywhere?
– [Peter] Yeah, it is, really.
– [Christopher] This is
the Warehouse District.
There’s still some machine shops.
Used to be warehouses.
This is once a cigar factory right here.
– [Peter] Is shipbuilding a thing here?
– Used to be.
There used to be a place
right up the river,
a major, major Navy shipyard.
Yes, ships used to be
made here. Not anymore.
There were some neighborhoods built,
but more or less, this is…
I wanna say 1820s.
This is the former Economy Iron Works.
I mean, they used to do ship parts.
– [Peter] What’re the big businesses here
in these high rises?
– [Christopher] So, let’s say this.
55% of the economy is tourism.
– [Peter] For the whole city.
– For the whole city.
– Oh my God.
– In the ’80,
it would’ve been 60-70% oil-related
or at least something high like that.
Oil’s gone. That went to Houston.
We had a population of
about 700,000 in 1962.
Today, it’s 350, half the size.
All of this infrastructure
was built for twice as many people.
It was a, mindset-wise,
very results-driven place,
very focused on business,
the opportunities of the river.
And then it kinda shifted
into what it is today,
which is more empathetic,
hospitality-driven, more social.
(water burbles)
This is ground zero, in theory.
This is where the Native
Americans set up camp to trade,
somewhere long, long time ago,
and the reason why is…
Remember Bayou St. John
early on in the video,
where you’re staying,
near-
– Yep.
– Right?
Right behind that big church,
which is called the St. Louis Cathedral,
you go back 20-30 blocks.
You now are the entrance to the lake.
This is the river that drains
1.5 million square miles.
I know you’re gonna love,
you know, stats, right?
Every 18 seconds,
the weight of the Empire
State Building rolls by us.
– [Peter] Wow.
– So you’re draining, like,
a third of the country
all the way from…
This water comes from Canada.
It comes from Ohio, Pennsylvania.
So does the products that are…
Right?
Think about the products
that are coming from it.
– Sure.
– If you put the city
further down, it’s unstable.
If you put it further upriver,
somebody else owns it,
and we’ve gotta think
back to 1700s, right?
The American Indians
knew this was important,
so the French said,
“Thanks, we’ll take that,”
put some cannons up:
“We got it.
Now we own it.”
They understood this massive river.
It’s draining something important, right?
It’s pretty big. It’s
bigger than the Rhine.
It’s bigger than the
Seine. It’s important.
That way about 100 miles
is the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s the entrance to the world,
so you’ve got this massive breadbasket
meets the world right here.
– [Peter] And the next big
city is Memphis would you say
with the Mississippi?
– Baton Rouge would argue
(chuckles) it’s the next,
(Peter chuckles)
but yeah, the next big
one was Baton Rouge.
After that is Memphis, but
remember my grandmother’s house.
It was a barge, just like
these are barges over here.
They would come down the river,
and before steam power,
they couldn’t get ’em back up the river,
so they cut ’em up and make houses.
That’s how important the cargo was,
and that cargo is warehoused here.
This, in a way, is a big Amazon warehouse,
you know, if you wanna
think of it that way.
You’re putting all the food, the pelts…
All these things that come from upriver
are brought here, organized.
And then they’re put on sailing ships,
and they go to distant lands.
– Okay, these days, does New
Orleans benefit from the river?
– Yes.
– Because there’s not,
like, a tariff.
So, there’s a barge coming
from Memphis, right,
let’s just say, for example?
And it has to go through New Orleans
out to the Gulf of Mexico,
and it just goes right through.
What does New Orleans get outta that?
– Oh no, the barge can’t go in the ocean.
Look at this ship right
here. See this barge?
– [Peter] Everything
has to go on the ship?
– [Christopher] Yeah.
– [Peter] And that’s
controlled in this area?
– That’s controlled here.
– [Peter] Got ya.
– (indistinct) All right.
– [Christopher] Oh yeah,
we can’t pass this up.
This is where slave
trade really takes place.
Remember we talked about merchants.
Up until 1807 when it
was declared illegal,
before then, this is
where you brought people.
– But there were a lotta
freed Blacks too, right?
– Oh, that’s a good one.
Under the French and Spanish rule,
you can earn your freedom.
You could buy it, give it, be granted it.
In New Orleans, about
19% of the population
were free people of color,
and that’s about double the
normal rate in the South.
Now, I think that does…
What’s interesting, it
does impact the politics
even to this day
that there were people
that were just better off.
(boisterous music)
This is Pirates Alley.
Look at this natural drainage system.
(boisterous music fades)
(touching music)
These are all the flags
that flew over New Orleans.
(touching music fades)
So, Louis XIV, king of France,
he led a lot of crusades
to the Middle East.
That’s him up there.
He’s a saint, but he
was also king of France.
(intense music)
Here is Joan of Arc.
She freed France as a 16-year-old woman.
She was captured and burned alive,
but she’s a French hero, French saint.
(congregation applauds)
– Christopher, clapping in
a church, never heard that.
– Well, we’re New Orleanian Catholics.
There’s a few rules we don’t follow.
Ever since 300 years ago,
the religious people
that would come from
France would complain.
I mean, ya gotta realize:
who did they send over here?
They sent over-
– Just the pioneers and
the riffraff, right?
– Whoo, it was bad.
So, Catholicism, even to
this day, in New Orleans
is maybe a little different
than it is, say, elsewhere.
It’s more relaxed.
It’s more easy.
– [Peter] Christopher, what
is this design style called
with the porches up there?
– Well, this is really from the Spanish.
This was all rebuilt
because the whole place
burned down in 1788,
and here we are.
– [Passerby] One that was
older than me in here.
– [Peter] The famous Bourbon Street.
– Yeah.
– [Peter] So, at night,
it’s just pumping here, huh?
– I have literally stood here
and, during Mardi Gras, picked
up my feet and kept walking.
That’s how packed it was, how dense.
– [Peter] So this is
the tourist zone, right?
– Yes.
– This is the Strip
of Las Vegas.
– [Christopher] Yes.
(ardent metal music continues)
Yeah, it’s what people know.
It’s fun to walk down.
– [Peter] Yeah.
– At night.
This is owned by a family I
grew up with, the Karno family,
and the Karno family
financed Louis Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong kept the Star
of David charm around his neck
all his life.
That was his homage to the
family, the Karnofsky family,
because they got him out of being bad
and gave him the
opportunity, financed him.
– [Peter] (laughs) Look at…
In the middle of the drinking section.
– Yeah, that’s a ouch.
– So most tourists are coming in,
flying in, staying in a hotel near here,
French Quarter, going home, right?
Is that the majority of tourists?
– They might take a house
tour in the Garden District,
where you went,
or they’re coming for one
of our 150 different events.
We actually even have more than that now.
There’s something like
over 10 million people
come to this city every year,
and it’s a city of 350,000 people.
– The greater metro’s…
What? 1,200,000?
Something like that?
– Yeah,
but you’re not going there.
– You’re not going-
– You’re not, as a tourist.
– Yeah, yeah.
– [Christopher] Every
one of these buildings,
I keep thinking
we’re walking right by things
that we really should walk in,
but you gotta draw a line.
– [Peter] That’s a whole
nother video, for sure.
– There’s so much, like, even
just walking down Bourbon.
– Yeah.
– It’s when you take the turn
and you walk down the courtyard
or you walk down something
and it’s just…
This is one of the oldest
restaurants in town.
Antoine’s is quite nice.
It has a lot of these rooms
that are designed for the Mardi
Gras krewes to celebrate in.
– [Peter] Okay.
– And it’s another one of those things.
Like, we could do a video
of Mardi Gras restaurants.
(Peter laughs)
(Christopher laughs)
– [Peter] They don’t go away, huh?
– [Christopher] No.
– [Peter] They just fall from
random trees and balconies.
– They’re trying to do away
with them, which is kinda good.
Be nice to have better throws
than plastic beads from China.
– Maybe I will not have (indistinct).
– [Peter] Look at this guy.
– [Christopher] He’s been here forever.
– [Passerby] Right,
how ’bout (indistinct).
– [Peter] He’s good.
Just in freeze mode, huh?
– [Christopher] Yeah.
– [Peter] Hello, Sir.
– Hello, take one. Leave one.
– [Peter] I will. I’ll leave a few.
– Okay. I like that (censored).
(Peter laughs)
(Christopher laughs)
– [Christopher] How long
you been doing this?
– [Statue] ‘Bout 35 year.
– [Christopher] 35 years, oh yeah.
– [Statue] And this (censored) hard.
Make it look easy.
– You make it look easy, yeah.
(boisterous music)
(music stops)
So, the movie industry’s
pretty big here, huh?
– Yeah, it was even bigger at one time
when they were giving tax credits,
but yeah, you got content here.
– Yeah.
(boisterous music)
– [Christopher] You know.
(music stops)
(passerby laughs)
– [Passerby] I’m sorry (indistinct).
– I can remember when I
first used to leave town,
and starting in about 1996-’97,
I would go to Austin, San
Francisco, New York, Chicago,
and people would say, “Where you from?”
“New Orleans.”
Go, “Oh, why?”
I remember getting that a
lot and being like, “Damn.”
But after Katrina, it was
the millennials that…
I remember the first
time I was in New Jersey
and I said, “From New Orleans,”
and I got, “Cool. Really?”
And I went, “What?”
– “Huh.”
– It’s never stopped.
– It changed at that time.
– 2005-2006, something happened.
– Because there’s a vibe
here, there’s fun here.
– I think, generational.
I think it was generational.
(rejoicing music)
(rejoicing music continues)
(brakes squeak)
(window squeaks)
– [Driver] Did you check your
door? Is it locked right?
(latch clicks)
– Oh, man.
– Thank you, Sir. Thank you.
– Oh, we’re at that point?
– Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– You know, I went through that.
– I know. I went with it through you.
You know, we went by your
dad your mom together,
boss, come on, bruh.
– Aw man.
– I know, bruh. I know.
– [Peter] Dwight, how do
you guys know each other?
– I met boss from another guy.
– Christopher.
– Who I know.
Boss seen me next door and asked me…
He said, “Well, you
cleaning up over there.”
He said, “Well, when you finish,
you want do a job for me?”
I said, “Hell yeah.”
I left him and stuck
with him the whole time.
– 20 years.
– 20 years, bruh.
– [Peter] Christopher’s boss?
– Yeah.
– [Peter] What d’you hire him for?
– Man, we’ve been doing all kinda shit.
– We do all kinda stuff.
– Moving.
– Move.
– Painting.
– Painting.
– We made a table.
– Oh man, I painted
his whole house.
– That’s right.
– Painted this whole place?
– No, his house.
– No, no, no.
– [Peter] Oh, okay, okay.
– But we did a whole lotta stuff.
We built a lotta chairs,
and we built a whole
lotta stuff, huh, boss?
– Yeah. Tell me about
that time in Katrina.
Remember when you went to-
– I went to Arkansas.
– Arkansas!
– Oh, man, ouch, it was bad, Brother.
It was real bad, but the
people out there, they was…
They wasn’t all that. You know, they…
Wouldn’t nobody try to
help nobody, you know,
but anyway, if it wasn’t
for this man here,
I wouldn’t have got back home.
– [Peter] Okay.
– I couldn’t find a job out there.
– [Peter] In Arkansas.
– In Arkansas.
– Right after Katrina.
– Right after Katrina, in Little Rock.
– [Peter] Did this flood out here?
– No.
– No, none of this flooded.
– “None of this flooded.”
– We’d get the wind
and trees blowing down and all that.
– Okay, does Katrina still
weigh on people here?
Or is it distant memory?
– Yeah.
– [Peter] You don’t think about it anymore
it’s, like, so long ago?
– Well, it’s been long,
but you think about it all the time
because, you know, you miss your friends,
your people that you-
– Some people died.
– Don’t hear a lot,
or lotta people died.
– [Peter] Just a lotta
people left town, huh?
– Right, but a lotta people stood,
and a lot of ’em just not
here in they mind no more,
you know, and it’s real bad, bro.
– They went to Houston, Dallas.
– Dallas, right, but
all my people went to…
Most of ’em went to Texas, and
right now, I barely see ’em.
– [Peter] Ninth Ward, still,
you can see the aftereffects
of the hurricane.
– Oh yeah, yeah.
Man, that’s really bad out
there, well, and most ports.
Now, they’ve
fixed some of the ports up.
– Some are fixed up, huh?
– Yeah, what that guy name is, bruh.
– Brad Pitt?
– Brad Pitt, he fixed up
most of the houses out there.
He fixed up a quite few of ’em.
– [Peter] Really? Brad Pitt did?
– Brad Pitt, yeah, he
put up a lotta money,
built houses out there for the people.
Most of it is still not
too tight out there,
but a lotta people just like the East.
That’s not too whacked out.
That’s all messed up, you know. It is.
– [Peter] East Side?
– Yeah.
– Out East, New Orleans East.
– New Orleans East.
– [Peter] What’s out there?
– Well, ain’t nothing
too much out there now.
You know, they have low-income
people living in houses,
but now they can’t…
Now they fixing different houses up,
and they can’t afford ’em now, so it’s…
– [Peter] Real estate’s going up?
– Yeah.
– [Peter] Okay, okay.
– Buying up the houses,
kicking out Grandma.
– Kicking out Grandma.
– [Peter] “Kicking out Grandma”?
– Yeah.
– Yeah.
– [Peter] Where’s Grandma go?
– With the kids.
– West Bank,
out East, huh?
– With the children somewhere.
(Dwight laughs)
She good. She gotta go somewhere.
– Mississippi with Christopher?
– Yeah.
– No.
– Yeah, somebody gotta take care of her.
(Christopher laughs)
Somebody got to.
I never forget about…
They didn’t have no gas one time,
and it was the storm.
– Who?
– Remember you told me to go in the yard,
but the lady cross the
street (indistinct).
– Sian? Yeah.
– But they had one left.
You said go in there
and see if-
– And take it.
– You still got it, and take it,
and that gas lasted me for a whole week.
No gas stations or
nothing wasn’t filled up
or nothing, bruh.
It was tragedy.
– I had some-
– Katrina time,
there’s no gas around.
– No gas.
– No, this was
a different (chuckles) hurricane.
– That was Isaac.
(drumsticks clack)
– [Christopher] Band
practice starting, school.
(Dwight speaks indistinctly)
– [Christopher] From Caledonia, Ireland.
Whoa, died in 1844.
(drumsticks clack)
– [Peter] So it’s just
because of the flooding
they have to keep everything above ground.
Nothing can go below, right?
– The water table’s so high
that, if you put a coffin, right,
that’s reasonably sealed up,
it’s going to pop up.
You can’t weigh it down enough.
You can use the real estate
a lot more efficient.
I hate to say it. How
gory do you wanna get?
The bodies are gonna
deteriorate real fast.
And then what they do is
they push it into the crypt,
and after a year, you can
have a new body placed-
– [Peter] Push into the what?
– Crypt. You can push ’em down.
You can push ’em…
Because of the humidity and temperature,
the coffin wood’s just gonna deteriorate.
So’s the body, sorta, within a year.
Ya open it up.
You have a new body a year later,
so you take the old one,
and you take a rake,
and you push it down,
and there’s a hole in the back,
and you go-
– In the back of these?
– Yeah, and it…
And there’s gonna be a bottom.
There’ll be a opening in the bottom,
and you push the bones to the bottom,
so now you can put a new coffin in.
– [Peter] So there are multiple people
that are each one
of these gravestones.
– Oh, we passed one…
Well, you could see right here ya got two.
That’s nothing.
You got some of these that’ll have dozens.
– [Peter] So, it stays within the family?
The rules are that you have to be…
The owner…
The owners can decide who can go in.
– Oh, okay.
– The owners can say no.
The owners can say yes,
but if you’re blood relative,
you’re guaranteed yes.
– Okay.
– So you can’t come into my family tomb,
but if I said, yeah.
– Maybe.
Will you let me one day,
Christopher?
(Dwight laughs)
(Dwight speaks indistinctly)
I mean, I got some time,
but you know, maybe.
– So yeah, it’s…
I think it’s just, say,
land is hard to get, right,
in this city.
There’s not a lotta land.
You gotta remember 18…
Well, up to 1915, the flooded areas flood.
There’s no pumps.
If it floods, it floods,
so real estate’s a premium.
This is not productive real estate,
but given that it’s a very Catholic city,
you have the need,
just like they have in
Southern Europe or France,
many places where they’re
gonna respect the dead
and they’re gonna put you in a nice spot.
(sirens shriek)
(engine whirs)
(road murmurs)
(engine buzzes)
– [Peter] How much of the city
do you think’s living
off government money?
– 50% on the high side.
– [Peter] “50%”!
– Well, okay, so let’s
think about it this way.
How much did the government…
My tagline for New Orleans
is you bought it in 1803 and
realized you owned it in 2005,
ya underinvested everywhere you could;
whoops, can’t park there;
(horn honks)
you did not pay your
bill for over 200 years.
There’s certain states
that are getting more money
from the federal government than others.
Like, New York probably pays a lot more
to the federal government
than it gets.
There’s a lotta poor people here.
It’s a service-based economy,
so nobody’s really getting ahead,
making minimum wage or
slightly ahead of minimum wage,
so you’re making ends meet.
You’re kinda working in
the tourism industry.
It’s an up-and-down industry.
You’re not getting ahead.
There’s zip codes here
where the average wage
is gonna be $20,000.
– Yeah, and you’re paying…
You’re spending every cent.
– And you’re going to get
government assistance,
and you should.
And when you look
at how much the country
invested in education here
prior to Katrina,
it was low, very low, shockingly low.
Where it comes from,
it’s a trading economy.
Like, when we saw Ken earlier today,
he works in the business of the port,
things that flow through the port.
We saw the guy in the
French Quarter, you know,
that stays still for so long,
obviously living off of tourism,
and the person we’re
gonna meet, Mardi Gras,
mixture of tourism.
– [Peter] Would this be considered
a middle-class neighborhood
here?
– No, this is poor.
– [Peter] But some old big homes.
– [Christopher] Old big homes.
– [Peter] Well, okay, I see
that place is all boarded up.
That’s definitely not…
– I mean, they’re nice homes.
They were in their day. Not anymore.
Now, you are starting to see changes.
Like, here comes a house.
Okay, you’re holding out a Jazz Fest flag.
Okay, you moved here from somewhere.
You got a Jazz Fest flag.
Ya came from outta town.
You got a good house price.
Grandma got kicked out.
You’re doing okay.
– [Peter] That’s a pump station
right there.
– Yeah, it’s pumping water,
yeah, out.
– [Peter] So, they’re going full time.
– No, no, dry spells.
Here’s a house that’s got…
You know, some hurricane
knocked the roof off,
and nobody’s put the roof back on,
but people are living there.
– [Peter] So a lotta
people don’t have insurance
on their homes, right?
If they’re owned outright?
– If they’re owned
outright, you might not.
Yeah, there’s a good chance you don’t.
Can’t afford it. Too expensive.
– [Peter] Home insurance
is spendy here, huh?
– Oh my gosh, yeah, it’s
ridiculously expensive.
– Like, how much on a,
say, $300,000 house?
– Oh man, I don’t know.
4,000-5,000 a year.
– ‘Kay.
– More.
– Just to close that conversation out,
you were saying, your
friend who taught here,
they had to close down the school.
You were saying off-camera.
Because of what?
It was crazy story.
– Oh, it was just…
Yeah, he had…
He would run into situations
where, when the kids just
got tired of being in…
Now, this is pre-Katrina,
where it was a little bit more wild,
but there would be holes in the ceiling,
so you wanna shut…
You wanna go home, you
wanna get outta school,
like, just go pee through the hole.
Why go to the bathroom?
– And they’d shut down the school.
– Shut down the school.
You got pee raining down through
the holes in the ceiling.
(Peter huffs)
Also, too, why show up?
So that’s not…
Like, okay, whose fault?
And then if ya somehow break
out of it, where’s work?
Where we working?
Where is Peter going to
get a job in eyesight?
– Look, I was in Jackson, Mississippi.
– Oh yeah, true.
– And I said, “You know,
if the person has the education
and the skills and the work ethic,
even if they’re living”-
– You’re fine.
– “In the worst part of town,
they can take a bus and go five miles.”
– They’re fine.
– They’re fine, but if they
don’t have those things,
which a lot don’t,
then you’re screwed.
– Yeah.
– Right?
– And it just keeps repeating.
– And it just keeps…
It’s on repeat.
– And do they want it? No.
Does anybody here want that?
No.
– And at a federal level,
I feel like it’s not a problem
that’s being addressed
at all or talked about.
– No.
– It’s like, “Eh, just let it be.
Let those cycles continue.”
– I’m not an expert on this,
but I know, like, Louisiana
gets a certain royal…
No, we don’t get royalties
for all the oil that’s
pumped out of our waters.
That would fund fixing
a lot of these problems.
– But then again, what I’ve
realized in this video-making,
it’s not just money.
– Yeah.
– So it has to be like,
“How do you”-
– It’s gotta be a bigger…
– It’s a bigger…
– Bigger, yeah.
– Bigger than that.
– You have to create an industry
around it at this point.
– Yeah, but a lotta people just need…
I think we’re all lacking,
everyone, is just leadership.
We don’t have much leadership
going on right now,
and there are a lot of kids
that need that leadership.
– And if you’re not
living in this,
how much do you care?
Are you coming here?
Are you gonna be here? You’ gonna try to-
– You stay in your…
You do your best to get in
your bubble and stay there.
– Ya stay in your bubble, yeah. Tough.
– Tough, but to be
devil’s advocate on that,
you’re raising a family.
You’re working your butt off
to pay all the bills, your
mortgage, the schools, whatever.
Like, you’re not gonna be coming over here
trying to help anyone.
You’re just trying to survive
yourself.
– You’re trying to survive.
– Even if your income
is upper middle class.
– Oh yeah.
– Yeah, you’re just trying to make it.
– Yeah, that’s a lot of us.
– All right. All right, let’s do this.
– [Walter] Doing, Brother Chris?
– [Christopher] Look at this place.
How are ya, man?
– Good to see you, man. Good to see you.
– That’s my friend Peter.
– How you doing, Sir? Peter.
– All right, Brother.
– Nice to meet you.
– There he is.
– I’m the big chief of the
Beautiful Creole Apache,
Mardi Gras Indian.
As a Mardi Gras Indian,
we became what we became
because we wanted to
participate in Mardi Gras.
During those days, we
weren’t allowed to do much.
Anything we did, had to do it secretly.
Had to sneak and do it.
Mardi Gras existed in Alabama first.
And then it came to New Orleans,
and when it came to New Orleans,
we just wanted to participate,
and since they didn’t allow
to or didn’t want us to,
a group of guys said,
“We gonna create our own Mardi Gras,
but upon creating our own Mardi Gras,
we gonna use the regalia of another group
of people who were
oppressed by the white man,”
which was the Native Americans.
So what we did,
we made suits and sew with
their hand, sewing, beading.
As you can see, that’s
a new-style something.
I’m putting stones on.
This stuff is done by hand.
It takes time.
Those are seed beads.
It takes time to bead things like that.
– [Peter] Big chief, who’s doing this?
– Well, community, family, friends,
you know, whoever willing to
help you put together your suit
to keep preserving the culture
because it was a culture
that was driven from being oppressed.
And so we keep it and continued it going
to let people know that we had to fight
to become a part of this,
like, society around the world,
and here in New Orleans,
we had to fight to become
a part of Mardi Gras.
Yeah, so we just continued it going, man,
and even this shirt,
it commemorates me masking for 30 years
without missing a year.
I haven’t missed a year
since I started masking.
This culture saved my life.
It took me off the streets.
I was a bad guy at a young age,
and a guy said, “Man,
lemme show you how to sew,”
and guess what.
I haven’t been any trouble ever since.
– That’s great, man.
– This was two…
This was three years ago.
– [Peter] Beautiful.
– [Walter] Yes.
Notice the, like…
Everything is done by
hand, no sewing machine.
– [Peter] Yep.
– [Walter] Even the
ruffles are made by hand,
no sewing machine.
Everything is stone for
stone, bead for bead.
That’s exactly how-
– [Peter] This is your store.
– Yes, it is.
I’m the big chief of the
Beautiful Creole Apache.
This is a dream I had.
10 years ago, like, when
I started moving around,
I saw that everybody else was making money
off the Mardi Gras Indians
and not compensating us
like they should have.
– [John] Hey, boy.
– Hey, John.
How you doing, John?
(John speaks indistinctly)
Yes, it is.
So what I decide to do,
to make money off myself.
– So Creole Apache,
is that connected to Mescalero
Apache, other Apaches, or?
– This was a name that I came up with
because I love the Apache war spirits.
– They’re the warriors.
– I love the warriors.
So what happened
was I did my research
before I claimed the name.
Apache’s normally from out West,
but bands of ’em traveled to Louisiana,
so that’s why I felt
it okay to use Apache.
You see what I’m saying?
– Yeah.
– Because remember
we are Mardi Gras Indians.
We’re not per se…
We’re not trying to be Native American,
even though we have it in our blood.
We’re not trying to be this and that,
but you can make up for be a Mardi Gras,
and you can create a name.
– [Peter] This is great
artwork. Is this…
Who’s doing this?
– [Walter] Yeah, I’m doing
the graphics and everything on everything
you practically see.
– You’re doing all of that.
– [Walter] I do the
graphics on everything.
I press my own T-shirts and everything.
– [Peter] Yeah, but the
design and everything.
– Yeah, yeah, I do
everything. I’m self-made.
I do everything on my own, basically,
but the thing is, in the earlier days…
Let’s just say, when the
Europeans first came to America,
honestly, they saw a group of people.
They called them Indians and named them,
or the Indians told, no matter how it was,
but the history books say
that their color was lighter-skinned
when their color was this skin,
but that’s history.
I don’t dwell too much on that.
I move forward in life,
but actually, we were being able to…
When we ran away from…
Let’s just say, like,
the transporters of us.
When some of us ran away, we ran away,
and we were coveted by the
Indians, or Native Americans.
They showed us the ways of the land,
and they gave us an opportunity
to learn to be able to hide from them.
– Did you learn from the Chitimacha?
– Well, they’ve let…
There were many different names.
There were many different
names which there are.
There’s some names not
even in the history books,
but the key is to know that
there was a relationship
from slaves and the Native
Americans who were here,
no matter what color they were,
that displayed, “We gonna help you.
We gonna show you the way
of the land. We gonna…
Let’s keep you to be
free,” so on and so forth,
and that was most important.
So from that era, came to this era.
That’s why, when it came to
Mardi Gras Indians, we decide
use the regalia of the Native Americans,
because they helped us when
we first came to the land.
– [Peter] Okay, sorta paying
respect to them.
– We say homage. That’s right.
– [Peter] “Homage,” yeah, great.
– There you go, my man (laughs).
Watch this here, young man.
I’m just gonna…
Watch this. We’ll take
a tambourine, and we’ll.
(Walter sings in foreign language)
♪ Sing, everybody ♪
(Walter sings in foreign language)
♪ Mardi gras moment ♪
(Walter sings in foreign language)
♪ Make no (indistinct) ♪
♪ Make no hour ♪
♪ Lord, have mercy ♪
♪ We gon’ have our fun ♪
♪ Have our fun ♪
♪ Nobody kneel ♪
♪ Say, “Nobody run” ♪
♪ Creole Apache ♪
♪ Say that that’s my gang ♪
♪ Say the big chief’s beautiful ♪
♪ Say, “That’s my name” ♪
♪ Jump and (indistinct) ♪
We’ll basically pick up a tambourine,
a bottle, or can, or anything
and just beat on, make some
noise, and sing some songs.
– [Christopher] Think about how that comes
from Congo Square.
– That’s right, exactly. In the…
Before Mardi Gras, everyone
came to New Orleans.
Black Indians were
already just masking up,
meeting up in Congo Square, just on…
And on a Sunday, they did that,
but when Mardi Gras came,
they wanted to be more involved,
and that’s when we got a
little bit more elaborate
with the bigger plumes and the shiny stuff
and more hand-sewing.
We got more out-developed,
but they started singing.
Even today, on a Sunday,
you can go to Congo Square and catch…
A drum circle they call it,
not many Indians
but guys who played the
djembes and things like that
just beating on the drums
and shake tambourines,
just having a little fun
because that’s definitely what we are.
We are definitely
a entertaining community culture,
and whatever you think of ya sing about.
– Okay.
Christopher, you were saying
there’re 100 native tribes
here doing this.
– How many tribes?
How many Mardi Gras tribes?
– It’s about from 30 to 40, honestly.
– Wait. That’s it?
– Yeah, but remember, every Mardi Gras,
all of them don’t mask.
For various reasons,
some of ’em don’t mask,
but I make it my business to mask
in order to preserve the culture.
– Just to understand, all these tribes,
these 30 to 40 native tribes,
they’re not native blood.
– They could be, oh yeah.
– But they’re paying homage
to the natives.
– No, no, no, no, no.
– Right, but I’mma say this here.
History won’t tell us this,
but I’m gonna just tell ya.
All of us have Native in our blood,
because a lot of us wasn’t born in Africa.
We were born here. You
understand what I’m saying?
– Yep.
– But beyond that fact
is you don’t really have
to be native in your blood
in order to keep the Mardi
Gras Indian tradition going.
– Explain spy boy.
What’s spy boy?
– Spy boy is a position in every tribe.
In every tribe, there’s a
spy boy. There’s a flag boy.
There’s a gang flag,
a wild man, big queen,
chief scout, little chief.
There’s different positions,
but the spy boy, like he explained…
Once we start walking the
streets to hit the street,
the spy boy is the first
Indian out of our tribe
that anyone sees,
and he also spies.
He lets us know if he see another tribe,
’cause some tribes, like
mine, is aggressive,
and when I say aggressive,
we see a feather,
we wanna meet those guys.
See, it’s all about a competition,
but you wanna meet every feather you see,
so when we’ll meet another tribe,
spy boy gon’ meet the spy boy,
flag boy gon’ meet their flag boy,
big chief gon’ meet their big chief,
so on and so forth,
when it comes to position,
because, what we do, we challenge nowadays
who could dress the best,
who’s the prettiest,
who could sing the best,
who can dance the best,
who can jump the best.
You know what I’m saying?
That’s what they do.
We challenge in those areas.
You know what I’m saying? It’s the fun-
– [Peter] It’s competitive.
– Yes, it is!
Yes, it is,
but the key is to be
able to share the culture
with people around the world
and the youths, as well,
here in locally and around the world.
– Okay.
– When you come to New Orleans,
you come see Big Chief Beautiful.
You know what I’m saying?
– Yeah.
– You’ll be purchasing
a feather, if it’s nothing but a feather,
from the chief himself, you know?
But there’s something I want ya to see.
I wanna give you a sight on something,
you too, Chris, ’cause
you ain’t seen this here.
Come. Excuse the place ’cause
I’m all over the place.
I’m always creating.
I beaded this over 20 years ago.
This is the true story right here.
Look at that story.
– Oh, wow. What is…
Remember when I said that the red-
– [Peter] That’s not glue?
– No, oh, listen, it’s beading.
– Beaded.
– Yes, indeed.
See, what that story says-
– Look at this.
This is the Indian.
– What is he doing?
What he doing? He’s doing what?
Freeing the what?
– [Peter] He’s freeing the slave.
– That’s right.
– [Christopher] Cuffs.
– [Peter] Breaking the chain.
– That’s the story.
That’s our true story,
in correlation, the reason
why we use the Indian regalia,
showing homage and giving thanks to them
no matter what color they were.
You know what I’m saying?
No matter what color
history tell yous they are,
we showing homage, thanking them,
and we’re continuing it.
(tambourine clinks)
(tambourine bangs)
When you come back to New
Orleans, Peter, we gonna hook up.
We gonna sing some Indian songs.
One thing about it,
you gonna haves a lotta fun
and get deeply enriched in
the Mardi Gras Indian culture.
It’s a pleasure all the time.
– Pleasure.
– You take care, Walter.
I’ll see ya soon.
– All right, my man.
– [Peter] There it is.
– 3,400 South Claiborne
Avenue in uptown New Orleans,
next to the Chicken & Watermelon.
(engine wheezes)
– I’d love to see that
shop in the Quarter.
– Oh, it would blow up, right?
– Yeah, especially if he put on things.
– I mean if all the tourists
are going by that and him.
He’s so charismatic, you know?
– [Christopher] Tourists
aren’t coming here,
but he’s getting started, which is great.
– [Peter] Was this heavily flooded?
– Yeah.
– In Katrina?
– [Christopher] There’s worse.
– [Peter] So the Ninth
was the worst, and that’s
where we’re going,
right?
– That’s where we’re going.
The reason why it was so bad
is because the levee broke here
and so this flooded bad, really bad.
Out here flooded really, really bad.
This is 15 feet underwater.
So, this area,
there was a break right
here that got really bad.
Clearly, that house never
came back from Katrina.
(siren wails)
– [Peter] Yep.
– [Christopher] Yeah. That one did.
– Oh, that one did.
– That’s probably new.
– [Peter] Yep, “for sale.”
– [Christopher] Yeah.
– [Peter] So, how far
under were these homes?
– Oh, to the roof, 10 feet.
– So, this is where…
I remember the footage at the time,
boats-are-going-through-the-streets-type
stuff.
– This is it. This is bad.
– This is where it was happening.
– [Christopher] Yep, you see
how the houses were raised?
The government paid to raise your house.
– [Peter] FEMA came in heavy here?
– [Christopher] Oh
yeah, and they raised…
You can see the air
conditioning’s up high.
They raised the houses.
It just means that, when the
next time it happens and-
– [Peter] You get a little better chance.
– [Christopher] You got
a little better chance.
This is the Musicians’ Village area.
– [Peter] Oh, wow! Okay.
– [Christopher] Something I did not know.
“The People of Qatar.”
– [Peter] Wow.
– [Christopher] “Dave Matthews Band.”
– [Peter] “Texas Roadhouse.”
– [Christopher] So they paid for this.
It’s still unfortunately
something of a food desert.
– [Peter]
Chips-at-the-mini-mart-type food?
– [Christopher] Yeah.
– No grocery stores?
– I do not know
where the nearest grocery store is.
– [Peter] Yeah.
Wow.
Some homes, bars on the
windows; others, not.
– [Christopher] Yeah, high crime.
– [Peter] But not all of ’em.
– Well, no bars,
you’re probably sufficiently
protected in other ways.
If you look at a crime map,
it’s pretty intense,
and it’s violent.
Doesn’t mean that everybody’s like that.
It just means that it’s something
that’s not getting the
right kind of attention.
(Christopher laughs)
(Peter laughs)
That was good.
This is the levees that
broke when you look-
– [Peter] Oh, right over here.
– [Christopher] Yeah, yeah,
this is the stuff that broke.
– [Peter] And it was just gushing, rushing
through here, huh?
– Oh yeah,
’cause this water’s connected to the lake.
This is 15 feet. This is bad.
– [Peter] “15 feet.”
– This is people dying in their attics.
Can’t afford to leave.
Can’t afford to go get
a hotel room in Memphis.
You know, they’re sticking
it out. Levees break.
The water comes rushing in violently.
In fact, I had a distant
relative that died like that,
who was in a bed, disabled.
He and the mom died in their house.
These are the houses
that Brad Pitt paid for.
The guy had a good heart.
Think there’s real controversial topic.
This is not an ecosystem.
There’s no groceries.
There’s not a lot of opportunity here,
but culturally, people wanted to be back,
and this was their land,
and here comes a lot of
goodwill, good-meaning,
to go build this area back.
It is now…
I think there’s lawsuits.
There’s stuff about that these buildings
were built defectively, shoddy, too quick.
– [Peter] There’s one right there?
– Yeah, that’s one, and
that’s not getting built
high off the ground
either, like this one is.
This one’s prepared for
the next flood, right?
But you look at the rot. Hold on.
So, this building right here was built
right after Katrina in a hurry.
– [Peter] Okay.
– Look at that porch.
– [Peter] So the water’s
come up there again?
– [Christopher] No.
– No?
– No, that’s just…
It’s shoddy construction, poor materials.
– [Peter] This street looks nicer.
– [Christopher] Yeah. Yeah, this is…
This actually looks much better.
– [Peter] This looks way better.
There’s a lotta space
here in the Ninth Ward.
– Well, there was once lotta houses.
– [Peter] Okay, so, they just
removed ’em.
– They just didn’t come back.
– [Peter] And put the grass back.
– This is the levee that failed.
– [Peter] Okay.
– [Christopher] This failed.
Now, picture, okay?
I don’t know how well it
optically shows up on video,
but you know, our heads
are a solid 15 feet
above the top of that wall.
That water was coming over the top.
It was already brimming.
– [Peter] Oh, wow.
– [Christopher] Yeah. Oh, here we go.
Here’s a nice little marker.
– [Peter] “The breach of the
industrial canal and others
during Hurricane Katrina
created a pivotal moment
in American history
when flood walls
designed and built by the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
failed.”
– “Failed”!
(Peter laughs)
Yeah.
– [Peter] So, these are all rebuilt.
And they’re done right this time?
– Yes, so, this is
when I was talking
about investment, right?
So, you didn’t invest in the schools.
The levees that existed here,
the pilings did not go down
to what they call refusal.
They were put in the ground,
but the minute the water pushed here,
they just bent over.
Today, in theory, this
piling goes down to a soil
where, even though you might
bring the water to the top,
it’s not going to just bend over.
The old ones were kind of optical levees.
As soon as you put ’em
under pressure, they failed,
and that’s what happened here,
and boy, that particular sign
really does lay the blame, right?
(Peter chuckles)
You know, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers failed.
– And they’ve done some amazing
engineering in this country.
– Yes, they have.
– Like the Intercoastal.
– Just not here.
Oh yeah.
– In Florida?
– Hoover Dam, right?
Can you count that as theirs?
– Right.
– I don’t know.
– I dunno.
– “Issue new guidelines
in levee-building.”
“Improved safety for residents
all across the country.”
So, over 1,000 people died.
A lot of ’em died here,
because this happened so abruptly so fast
that ya didn’t see it coming,
and there was…
The poverty here…
Oh, look at the mildew on that one.
– [Peter] Yeah.
– Yeah, there’s something really bad.
Like, that’s not good.
– [Peter] Yeah, you
don’t wanna breathe that.
– Nope, and it’s gonna
be inside the walls.
I can see rot.
You know, hopefully,
that person didn’t pay
for that building,
they got it for free.
– [Peter] Your mosquitoes
are like birds here.
– Yeah, right. Look at that one.
– [Peter] I gotta say
the roads are better here
than in the nice neighborhood.
– True.
– That’s interesting.
– [Christopher] Yeah.
Look, a little garden.
Good intention. That didn’t happen.
(brooding music)
(brooding music fades)
The guy that wrote
the book “Midnight in
the Garden of Good Evil,”
he said there were 12 characters in…
Was it Charleston?
Then he did the book in Venice,
and he says it was about 100,
and he says,
“I am so confused on where
to start in New Orleans.”
He says, “They’re on every corner.”
– Right?
– And it…
He never finished the book.
He got an advance.
Never finished the book,
and he moved here,
and his intention was
to move here for years to figure it out,
and he never did.
– And that’s what keeps a
lotta people here, I’m sure.
– Definitely keeps about
300,000 here, for sure,
but it keeps 10 million
people coming every year,
because they’re going,
“I want to sample a Mardi Gras Indian.
I wanna sample Mardi Gras.
I wanna sample Jazz Fest.”
And when they come in for Jazz Fest,
which takes place right
over that fence line,
they come in and sample something.
They might go to the Quarter for a night.
They might go to…
They’ll touch on it
for three or four days.
And then they’re gone for a few years.
But then that’s their version of the city
and very little chance
that they’re gonna walk
into Walter’s store
or walk into some of these neighborhoods
or meet some of these characters,
and yeah, there’s quite a lot of ’em.
– Yeah, lemme put this down
’cause I wanna shake
your hand and thank you.
Christopher, that was awesome.
Thank you so much.
Appreciate it.
– No problem, man.
– No way I would’ve gotten that on my own,
and I’m gonna have a lot to think about.
My head hurts a little bit.
I took in a lot of information today, so.
– There’s certain things
you need to come back for.
– Yeah, fact, all right.
– Thank you for doing this, too,
and giving it a fair shot.
– Guys, this is part of a
Greater Louisiana series,
actually only Southern Louisiana.
I was out in Cajun country and now here
so would love you to see those videos.
I’ll have those down below somewhere,
and also the businesses
today, links down below.
Thanks for coming along on that journey.
Until the next one.
(rejoicing music continues)
(rejoicing music continues)

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