Thursday, June 14, 2012

DEMISE OF THE TIMES-PICAYUNE: ADAPT OR DIE


The New Orleans Times-Picayune has ceased daily publication. It’s a sad commentary on the current state of affairs.

I know. Every major city considers its daily newspaper unique, a treasure. Rightly so. But New Orleans is a special case. Seriously. There was a time when I would have pooh-poohed the concept. No longer.

The Southern Woman That I Married (TSWTIM) is a New Orleans native, born in the Touro Infirmary. Although she was raised in Texas, her family maintained a foothold in NOLA and she was a frequent visitor throughout her youth. My first visit with her was over 40 years ago. Subsequent visits have taught me a great deal about why NOLA holds a special place in the hearts of its residents as well as people around the United States and throughout the world.

You know about the French Quarter, its clubs and its architecture and its crazies. You know about the blues and the jazz music. And then there’s the food. Oh, yes. The food. From iconic oyster bars like Casamento’s to great neighborhood eateries like Mandina’s and Pascal’s Manale to some of the finest restaurants on the planet like Antoine’s and Commander’s Palace, the dining experience in NOLA is unique and satisfying. Put it all together and there’s no doubt that there really is no place in this country that’s quite like NOLA.

Believe it or not, this brings us back to the Times-Picayune. If food is a quintessential ingredient in the life of the city, the Picayune has been an active participant in that food scene for decades through its publication of recipes and restaurant reviews as well as the essential Picayune’s Creole Cook Book – the original edition, not the abridged version that’s touted on Amazon. It’s a valuable resource for TSWTIM, the more so because it was given to her by Uncle John, a New Orleans native and something of a God-like figure in the family, with an inscription that touts TSWTIM as the best cook in the family.

Perhaps another reason that NOLA is such a special place is its timelessness in the face of a changing world. The Mississippi River, though constantly changing and challenging, is an ever-present force. If the dives in the French Quarter have gotten seedier, the rough-edged coffee and powdery beignets at The Morning Call remain the perfect early morning antidote for a night of revelry, even if it has moved from Decatur Street in the Quarter to trendier digs in Jefferson Parish. And now, though the Times-Picayune still exists, it has been forced to change as well, from a daily publication to, basically, a weekend rag.

Who am I to criticize? I’ve purchased a Kindle, changing my daily reading habits forever, taking the food out of the mouth of the dour woman behind the counter at my local used book store. But just as the Kindle isn’t a book, doesn’t feel like a book or sound like a book when I turn the pages, so breakfast several times a week won’t be the same in New Orleans without the feel and sound of the Times-Picayune playing accompaniment. I figure that in the not too distant future, I’ll wake up in the morning, put on my wifi, voice activated goggles with the heads-up display, and stare blankly at my morning ‘paper’ while I’m slurping my morning coffee.

Adapt or die.

They promised me flying cars. Where are the flying cars?

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