The Entrance of Ethnography

 

Tourism’s ability to enrich, teach, and connect humans is intermingled with the responsibility to protect our environment, local cultures, and microeconomics. 

The downside is that tourism is a ticking time bomb for culture. 

Only $5 out of $100 spent in tourism stays in a destination. 

Municipal infrastructures are crumbling due to pressure on their resources. 

They are crumbling due to the evacuation - and at times, deportation - of the very citizens who helped draw visitors in the first place. Yet, tourism cannot be outsourced.

I realized this on a trip. 

As I climb up the temple steps to watch the sunrise that I am grateful. 

I scramble to the top of the temple as the sun begins to eclipse the mountain tops. I gasp at how beautiful this countryside is. Bagan, Myanmar is on fire. The gold and red and orange and purple light hit the trees and herders’ paths welcoming them to the day. The temples turn a fiery clay red or into a blinding golden beam. I am in my element. I sense the history of the area, the newness of it all to me, and my independence as a traveler.  

I walk back down to the horse cart to go home. My foot makes the first "crunch" off the temple steps as a girl and two young boys envelope me. I shuffle away from them as they push postcards and trinkets toward my torso. 

“You buy. You buy. You buy?” they keep saying. I push them away as I do most peddlers. I see them as an inconvenience in my experience of the sunrise. 

As I reflect on that scene I realize how wrong I am to see a division. These are locals who are forced into finding their own economic advantage with the influx of visitors.  

 

The "peddlers" try to make extra money as I do back home. The "peddlers" go to the place they know will be beneficial, as I do back home. Even if the scene looks different due to colors, geography, food, or transportation, the underlying theme of Life is still present.

The more we are different, the more we are the same.  Empathy for them is empathy for ourselves.

Tourism is not “I”, but “we”. 

 

Tourism cannot and should not stop. 

Yet, there is a different way to think about tourism as a business. 

That the basis of one of the world’s largest industries is human.

So, why does one that industry NOT protect its most valuable resource?

Quantifying tourism’s impact is hard, yet without the direct voice of the people who live in destinations and provide the very reasons why people visit there will be no progress. 

As of now, a lack of understanding the cultural, environmental, and social impacts on locals’ lives leave them defenseless and open to exploitation.  

This issue and question is not new, yet, nations have struggled for decades to make sense of the information. 

There is a need to analyze, regulate, and monitor tourism traffic. That starts with research into what the real issues are. Who better to ask than the people who work in and support the industry globally? 

Their first hand accounts can provide insight into accommodating growth.

Please join me as we work to document and increase the volume on the voices of locals around the world.

#LocalLife: A Tale of Two Jazz Fests

The weather is starting to get liquid hot at noon. Already we see the sun’s rays as electrifying not just warming. It’s that time of year again. No, not Mardi Gras: Jazz Fest.

It may seem like a time-old tradition now, but local festival-goers have seen it evolve for over four decades. Many people say it’s dead, dying, or has completely sold its soul. However, for the lovers of Jazz Fest, that simply isn’t so...

 

Jazz Fest musician, Brice Miller

Brice Miller, Ph.D, Scholar, Lecturer, International Jazz Musician

“Jazzfest has been an annual event my entire life. My dad, Dwight Miller, a saxophonist, has been performing at the festival since 1971. He was featured on the festival's 1978 poster. I have been attending since around 1978, according to my mother.”

I began performing at the festival with my dad's band, Pinstripe Brass Band when I was in the 8th or 9th grade. I began performing as a bandleader in 1991, while attending St. Augustine High School, leading my own band, Junior Pinstripe Brass Band, now Mahogany Brass Band; we have performed every year since! I also perform with other bands, including Pinstripe Brass Band, Treme Brass Band and Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra.

What’s the best concert you’ve seen there?

“This is tough because I've seen so many concerts. However, one that stands out was Al Jarreau. He was in the Congo Square Stage. In the middle of his performance, he stops the band, and goes on this extreme rant about race and racism, and how mean spirited White people are. The entire audience was in shock, gasping. I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ That performance changed my life as a performer. It showed me I have to use my voice on stage, and that platform to not only entertain, but to educate. That has become a hallmark of my performance.”

How do you incorporate that into your performance now?

“[When I play at Jazz Fest] it's my day to be both a spokesperson for the city and my culture, and also my day to be a celebrity. Media from around the world often interview me, some visit my house for more personal insight, and I've had some to follow me around the days leading up to the festival. Being able to utilize my talent to compete with the larger big name festival performers is empowering. Secondly, it's a family day. My entire family comes out, my parents, and all the band members families; it's a family day for us and we bring the kids on stage during the performance. It's funny because festival goers have commented that they've watched my youngest two kids grow up on the stage. My son's first appearance at Jazz Fest was when he was 1 years old, and he's been on stage every year since then! Now he's actually performing with the band, along with his younger sister.”

What are your essentials to bring?

“Firstly, dress comfortably! It's hot in New Orleans and there is absolutely no covering, no trees, no shade at the festival. Wear a big hat, loose fitting clothes, comfortable shoes, and bring lots of water. I had some friends from Birmingham come and I told one of the girlfriends to dress comfortably, [but] she passed out in the middle of my performance from heat exhaustion.”

Favorite area?

“My favorite area is the Norman Dixon, Sr. (my uncle) Jazz & Heritage Stage, which is the stage I perform on. Here, you'll find New Orleans brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians performing all day, which is that truly authentic cultural performance. After that stage, I'd say the Lagniappe Stage, which often has more experimental music, plus it's the coolest (temperature-wise) place at the festival and the only outdoor space with shade. Economy Hall is pretty cool too, lots of traditional jazz, lots of older people dancing, which is so cute.”

What is your after-Jazz Fest routine?

“After Jazz Fest, we have a tradition of heading to our house with friends, family, and even strangers and we eat crawfish, Barbeque and just relax while having a good time. Our house, which is in the historic Carrollton community has always been a party/gathering space. My wife and I have been hosting our pre/post Jazz Fest gathering since 2000. Actually, my band and their families come to the house the morning of our Jazz Fest performance; we eat and drink then head to the festival together.”

Where do you see Jazz Fest headed as a music festival?

“I personally feel it's becoming too commercial. People come to New Orleans for New Orleans music. I understand the big name acts draw people, but engaging the local artist with the big names would help build the profile for local musicians. Also, I don't feel any act should be allowed to perform with only a DJ. Last year, Mystical performed and used a live band; that performance was absolutely amazing!”

 

Jazz Fest original, Steve Hartnett, with his conquest map.

Jazz Fest original, Steve Hartnett, with his conquest map.

Steve Hartnett, social go-getter, old art seller/teacher, modified hippie

SItting down with Steve was like talking to the Buddha of Jazz Fest fans. Starting at the very first Jazz Fest at the Fairgrounds (1972) he was asked by the editor of the Figaro (an alternative newspaper in the 70s and 80s) to sell art from his gallery at the event in “huge red and white tents that looked like the circus.”

“I would invite all my friends and buy them the kid’s ticket for $3. No one at the gate looked at the tickets back then they just tore them and you walked through. As soon as they visited me I would say, ‘Hey, come here! Would you mind sitting here for a second so I can go see a band.’”

When I asked him how often he goes to Jazz Fest or what his plan of attack is Steve scoffs at the question. “I go every day, baby!” He starts his day with beignets, coffee and a prayer in the Gospel tent. Then, he looks at the line-up sheet which he has marked up to look almost like a football notebook. His best advice? If you don’t know who is playing go to Spotify, [Google, and Youtube, etc.] and listen to some of the bands you don’t know. “I want to go see someone called JohnnySwim. Well, it’s more than one guy.”

When pressed about what it was like in the early days of the festival the stories never stopped. Steve and his wife, Pam, would park their van in the infield and basically tailgate. Since they are vegetarians (living in New Orleans, geez) and didn’t drink they  packed sandwiches and bring a new backpack called a Camelbak for water.

It seems that Steve is doesn’t fuss over much, but he cringed when I asked if he stayed at one stage. “Do not be a camper. It defeats the camaraderie.” (Jazz Fest supposedly has a very, very low arrest record. Most likely due to the jovial spirit shared by all?) When Professor Longhair said ‘Gonna make it my standin’ place’ in his song “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” he spoke Steve’s language; “God gave us the ability to stand in 2 square feet.”

Where to go afterwards? “Jazz Fest used to continue on The President”, a 1924-vintage cruise boat who saw all the great names. Seriously, they had the best. Now Steve and his wife go home to rest up for the next day.

Well, where should I go if I want to stay out? Everyone wants to know where to see a big name or secret show.

Know that the bands in Jazz Fest can’t play together outside the Fairgrounds that weekend so the beautiful culmination is a mix-match of talented artists going to see their record labels, local musicians of interests, and friends. The best plan is to pick a local band you want to see and watch the magic of Jazz Fest unfurl. If you’re a little too rigid for that order a ticket to Preservation Hall’s Midnight Preserves. It lasts all seven nights and features a headliner with the band every night. You never know who it will be, but again, you are guaranteed magic.

Finally...#Locallife

The travel industry is expansive and in this modern world more and more tourists are becoming "explorers". They are hungry to dive into the culture of a place: to eat what locals eat, to barter at a market, or drink a classic cocktail. 

Unfortunately, not everything is created equal in this scheme. The cycle of economics in tourism drives many decisions in a destination: the city derives income from the increase of tourism dollars, those dollars are spent on more marketing for the destination and also for infrastructure to support future endeavors, local people and jobs are created to support tourism, and then what is earned by individuals is kept in the destination as economic stimulus. This is also a very simplistic way of describing the immense industry that touches almost everything.

What new behaviors are exhibiting (using Airbnb over hotels, Uber and taxis to reach places further away from a traditional downtown, etc.) is the visitors' excitement to experience a place "like a local". What is a local's life like? Well, typically nothing glamorous. Even in a city of extremely good living like New Orleans the everyday is mundane. Locals need groceries, run errands, go to work, but they also go out to eat, go to festivals, and give the destination its uniqueness. 

There, in those words -- "locals make the destination unique" -- is the answer. Instead of continuously writing list of top restaurants or art fairs you should go to why not ask the actual people who will be around you (whether working or joining into the festivities) about what they do?

Give a destination a face. Give locals their voice to protect and rejoice about their city.

Find out about a destination's #LocalLife.

Pay Attention: A Look at #LocalLife in New Orleans

If you are a visitor here you may wonder, how do people really live here? And if you are a resident, you may often find yourself saying, “For God’s sake, don’t these people know we live here?”

 

Our city, like many great destinations, attract visitors looking for a slice of life they can’t find anywhere else. The humor in this thought, however, is that our lives are fairly similar to theirs except for minor divergences here and there. We color our days in glitter and food and booze more than others, yet we still go through similar actions to get there.

 

At the base of the tourism pyramid (which supports so much in this city) lie the people who put in hard work with not only their bodies and minds but their lives. You have to own it to be in it. The service industry is rough and most of their time is spent thinking about others’ needs while trying to deal with their own. However, we rely so much on their expertise and opinions. They are the front line for marketing other companies as every visitor--yes, everyone--will ask their server, bartender, valet, concierge, etc. where to go once inside the city.

 

Like all great secrets, they can’t be kept for long. Those trusted opinions leak out in innocent conversations to then become the next hot spot. So, read and learn everyone.

 

---------

 

Allie Porter gives off a misleading demure sensibility while underneath is a tenacious soul who loves conversation, great food and drink, and showcasing her abilities. She epitomizes a front of house server. Allie recently moved here from Maryland but has canvassed and learned about this city’s service industry more quickly and thoroughly than I dare say, even I have. She knows every special or deal (listed or otherwise) in and around the city and I’ve only benefited from her wealth of knowledge - $3 martinis at RFs, anyone?

 

On her nights off you can find Allie singing jazz, Janis Joplin, or French songs that I don’t know at the Bourbon O or the Apple Barrel. She is never listed as a featured act, but secures these performances through friends in the band and becomes a local find. Much like the happy hours only she knows about.

Allie Porter's #locallife

Allie Porter's #locallife

 

With such late nights and a job which demands a lot of facetime, Allie typically takes the morning to relax and decompress from the night before. She either has coffee at home or at Stumptown on the way to work. A light lunch can be eaten at Satsuma but typically it’s running up to Doris 30 minutes early to catch a staff meal.

 

The nightlife is where front of house truly shines. The Black Penny has excellent cocktails and a great pop-up for the reveler, but that is typically outshined by a night by someone’s French Quarter courtyard pool or a more quiet night at home….with champagne.

 

Adrienne Miller, our bartender who everyone wants to either be or be best friends with. When I first started hanging out with bartenders it wasn’t the hipster-youth with too many ingredients to make a recognizable drink. They were the outcasts, those with hard livers and even harder limits. They rule the roost they sit in but recognize their role in the establishment. Adrienne fits the type of bartender I like. A garbage mouth (by self-proclamation as she was eating hot Cheetos and hot sausage sandwich when we met up) in consumption, but not in conviction. She knows solid cocktails (try her Bacon Bloody Mary) but also how to appreciate the people in her life. To me, that’s what a bartender embodies.

Adrienne Miller's #locallife

Adrienne Miller's #locallife

 

On a typical day you will find her guiltily ordering special order lattes at Solo Espresso on Poland Avenue or buying growlers of coffee from Stumptown for her workers. Eating habits are not the wheelhouse for someone who works from 8am until midnight everyday. Given the opportunity for an eating excursion (in which she would like to include Aaron Sanchez) she instantly mentioned Salvo’s, “Where I would go and eat all the damn crab legs and garlic.” or Doris Metropolitan for a nice meal out. Just know, she will be wearing her signature cut off jean shorts and tank top.

 

“Being a Southerner, you are in a different country. Being a Southerner means finding new wonders.”, Adrienne passionately laments when I ask her what she does in her free time. Short answer: she explores. Whether riding her scooter through City Park, trying out the track in Avondale, or visiting the smaller cities on the Northshore it doesn’t matter. She will use her precious and rare free time exactly how she fits.

 

John Hunington, our steadfast new dad, back-of-house chef and overlord. “Dogs, work, and baby.” That’s what comprises John’s life at the moment. As one of the more modest chefs in the industry it is no surprise that John is completely relaxed in the interview. He is interested in things that are quick, convenient, and to the point. His favorite coffee? Solo Espresso or Stumptown for the ride into work shared by his wife, Katie Darling of the ACE Hotel.

John Hunington #locallife

John Hunington #locallife

 

On his off days don’t expect to find John searching for the limelight at festivals or out with friends. Walks through the Marigny and French Quarter with his family are what recharges him...plus the cocktails and conversations he has with friends at bars and restaurants littered throughout the area. A typical route?: Crescent Park and Satsuma, walk into the Quarter and meet for a drink with Nick Detrich at Cane & Table, a bite at Felipe’s and a quick stop over by work at Marcello’s or the Aquarium, then a possible (almost inevitable) stop by Cafe Henri on the long road home.

 

Who he wishes to spend an evening eating dinner with? Jo Ann Cleaver of Upperline and numerous other operations. “She pulled me aside one day before I even knew her to tell me, ‘Cento tomatoes are the best.’ I have thought she is amazing ever since.” he recalls.



Finally Accomplishing Your Holiday Wishlist (As An Adult)

The holiday season has a certain gravitational pull compared to other times of year. Condensed into six weeks are celebrations, food and family that are inimitable at any other time. No matter what holidays you actually end up participating in, there is truly no other time of year that helps people come together over common jubilations (well, except for Mardi Gras).

This is also the season to capitalize as an adult on the time to recreate or finally accomplish the wish list you had as a child. No one is here to put you on a “Naughty or Nice” list. You have financial independence and free time! It’s time to reclaim the holiday spirit.

There is something about slapping on a pair of ice skates that brings back memories of holding onto our parents' hands on the ice rink. Or drinking hot chocolate (now spiked with booze) while we wait out the oh-so-frigid weather in Jackson Square to sing carols. Some of the memories are unrecoverable (RIP Al Copeland and his bedazzled Metairie mansion), while others are relocated (honestly, who wants to ice skate in the Convention Center?) 

In order to kickstart your holiday list of errands, throw in some food and activities that you actually want to take part in.

Far and above any other spectacle in the city of New Orleans are the hotel lights. Maybe it’s their proximity to cocktail bars, but whatever is the case, New Orleanians love their hotel lights. Check out The Roosevelt for white twinkling lights that may dazzle even more after a hot buttered rum from TheSazerac Bar. Or, visit The Royal Sonesta, with its multi-colored lights strung across the lobby. With so many new hotels built this year and upcoming in 2017, this tradition is on track to get bigger and brighter. Note: these are great destinations after some caroling in Jackson Square (this year on December 18) with hot buttered rum beforehand. It’s a win with kids or without.

Following the lighted path towards Christmas is a Cajun tradition of watching the bonfires on the levee on Christmas Eve. Rumored to light the path to Midnight Mass, Santa Claus’s approach, or helping families find the houses with Christmas Eve dinner, this tradition has fortunately carried through to present day. A kid may love to watch the spectacle of bonfires and enjoy an evening outside, but as an adult, the fun can be magnified with heartwarming drinks, gumbo and new friendships. 

Many native New Orleanians can remember ice skating in City Park (or sneaking around on high school dates). Unfortunately, the ice skating has moved into the Convention Center for the Christmas Fest. Everything about this production gives me the creeps, although, as a child, I did attend a Girl Scout function just like this. I learned my lesson then: find something else to do. It’s really just for kids.

Instead, continue on to City Park for the festive lights of the Celebration in the Oaks. Don’t come for the odd Mister Bingle (created for marketing purposes, thank you, Christmas) or the Ferris wheel—honestly, that line is forever long—but for the feeling of ultimate childhood holiday spirit. This attraction is now a mainstay for all ages. I dare you to go and not feel the twinge of lightheartedness of the season or the magnificence of New Orleans’s perpetuation of tradition. Even if that’s not your fancy, I still encourage a visit, as a few alcoholic—or, eh hem, natural substances can make this more magical than you could’ve ever imagined. There’s the weird Cajun Christmas Noel story told through lit-up lawn decorations, Who Dat lights in the trees, the Poinsettia Tree, and on and on.

This is all fine and dandy, but what if adding things to your to-do list is not in your holiday wheelhouse? Not a problem. We’re in New Orleans. So there’s food and drinks, and drinks and food.

Pop into Arnaud’s French 75 or Galatoire’s for a milk punch because, honestly, New Orleans just does cocktails better than anywhere else. Nobody has time to get weighed down with gross, thick egg nog. Milk punch, on the other hand, is brandy, half & half, nutmeg and vanilla simple syrup. I think I’ll have one now.

To keep you satiated throughout the season of family planning, go to participating restaurants for a Reveillon dinner. The old-school Catholics used to party hard after Midnight Mass and eat and drink until the wee hours of the morning, but now restaurants have taken up the tradition in more useful hours. Expect it to be super French, super Creole, super traditional, and very easy to obtain through prix-fixe menus. 

Holiday Tea at Windsor Court. Ah, how the other half lives. Bundle up against the wet winter weather to make it into the Windsor Court’s updated downstairs cocktail bar for Holiday Tea. More of an upscale affair, it is still quite fun to partake in an old tradition or try something new for a change. You get a cocktail, tea, scones, desserts, sandwiches, etc., in the price, but I typically bring three other friends who enjoy splitting a bottle of Champagne in the process. 

Previously written for Where Y'at