nolab

“What are you afraid of?”
“To stop being me.”
“How would that happen?”
“Just… get caught up in something. Some people hang with people who change you, your personality… they’re a bad influence.”
“So how do you make sure that you can keep being you?”
“Choose your friends wisely. Choose good people that don’t put you down.”

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Bring some Sunday into your Monday. ❤️ NOLAbeings. #nolabeings #neworleans #princeofwales #secondline

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“My grandmother was a person that do everything from scratch. Homemade biscuits and pancakes and cornbread and fresh bread out the oven and stuff. She taught me how to do a lot of little stuff. I remember when I first learned how to make pralines. I was like about 10. You know I’m short, I’m not that tall. So when I was 9 or 10 I was a little short thing. I used to tell her ‘I wanna learn how to make pralines.’ And she said 'You’re not tall enough to be stirring the pot on top the stove!’ So she said 'Get that lard can over there!’ So I was standing on top of a lard can when I first started making pralines. Now they call me the Praline Lady.” #nolabeings #neworleans #wwnobeings #wwno –
Editors note: Today is the three year anniversary of NOLAbeings! I have found so much meaning and joy in connecting with new people as I wander the city with my camera. Thank you to the thousands of beings that have shared their personal stories, insights and little glimpses of their lives with me, in person and online. This week, I challenge you to strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to :)

“My brother died in 2011. He got killed just two months from graduation from college. It was so sad. He was almost there. He was in Baton Rouge studying criminal justice. I remember we used to go to the snowball stand a lot and he would get sour apple and grape. That was his favorite snowball. And we used to just chill - regular bro stuff, play games, hang out. Ever since then I said I’m gonna make him proud - do something with myself. I’ve learned to live life to the fullest because you never know when your time is going to be up. So I just started doing everything. I do more art now - started getting out of my comfort zone, started painting. I want to do something amazing with my life.”
#nolabeings #neworleans

A few weeks ago, some teacher friends told me about one of their students who was passionately pursuing photography with a new camera his teacher had given him (this teacher happens to be a NOLAbeing too). I offered to give him tips on photographing people if he was interested, and he followed up actively. We went on a photo walk last week. This is Lou. Lou is a NOLA born and bred high school senior and the first budding photographer I’m taking on as a contributor to NOLAbeings. Some of the portraits and stories coming up will be through his lens (we’ll let you know which ones) - and personally, I can’t wait. -Claire/NOLAbeings

“I tell my nine year old daughter I’m out helping Santa Claus - that’s why Daddy’s been working late. All December I’ve been working Sundays. Even on Christmas we’ll be out delivering packages. The Post Office gave me this hat last year and to keep with the spirit and make people smile, I started wearing it. I love this. I love what I do.”

“When he was three months old, there was a CD that was in my car, and it was nothing that I would ever listen to, but I put it in. He was crying and as soon as the music started he stopped crying. Then I just started noticing that he had very particular songs that he liked, as I played different genres. Like I could play him rap, but he wanted the Pimp C, UGK, Jay-Z, Young Jeezy song only! He’s just been taking to music as I bring him around… he goes into a trance.”

“I mime for the church. When people are going through something, my job is to show them that everything is going to be alright - mimicking the words with strong movements, so they gonna feel it. […] You telling a story to someone else that it’s gonna be alright, but you’re also telling yourself. It goes through you to them. I’m getting tingly just thinking about it.”

“Met a piano player once and enjoyed being around the music. It was a several year long process of running into that piano player randomly, never set up or anything like that. And then one night, I got in a conversation with him and we never left each other’s sides for seven years until he died of cancer. The first year we were together we got in an argument and he said something I’ll never forget. ‘In every relationship, somebody does the adoring and someone is adored, and I adore you.’ And never, from that day forward, did we ever speak another angry word ever. How could you?!“

“A lot of people are interested in what race I am. Everyone guesses Filipino, [but] my father is Dominican and my mom’s Vietnamese.“

"Do you feel like those cultures have influenced your identity?”

“I think so. People really want you to take the side of one. I didn’t grow up like everyone else. I had both sides - two totally different cultures. I’d say I appreciate things more because my parents told me how they grew up so I know I have stuff handed to me and they had to earn everything they have now. […] Other than my dad I’m the first one in my family to go to college.”

“I play drums. I started right here on Frenchman Street when it was only three or four places. […] My friend says ‘You don’t get tired of this scene?’ I say ‘No, I love it, I came up in this scene! I love to play music for the people!’ You get to the point where you get a feeling for the people who come here to listen to you and listen to what you do and what you play and what you perform. So how can you feel bad about that? No way! In 2010 I suffered stroke, so I lost my left side. I thought ‘Would I be able to play again? Would I be able to do the things that I do?’ Leon, a trumpet player who use to play with us, he had paralysis on his face from anesthesia, and he said he felt terrible playing the trumpet. I said, ‘You know you cannot give up. You gotta keep trying keep trying keep trying until one day you overcome that.’ And that’s the same way I gotta do with this.”

“When I was in third grade, I started thinking about how boring our shoes are, so I started painting my shoes, kinda like cars with racing stripes and eyeballs and all those things. Then I started painting on my pants, then on my shirts. It was a Catholic school so there were no art classes! So I would sit there at my desk and I would have my little drawing pad during every class - every single class - whether it was religion or English or math - I’d be just drawing and drawing and drawing. They put me in the closet, I drew in the closet. I was kind of addicted to doing this. Of course everybody wanted to get in a fight with me - I’d get hassled all the time for doing what I wanted to do. So gradually I’ve figured out a way to be who I am and do what I want to do without being hassled.“

"How did you do that?”

“Well, I actually liked to fight, so if I could paint my clothes and people would bother me, then I could kick their ass. I didn’t have to have a reason! They’d come up to me and be like ‘Man you’re gay. You think you’re special?’ and I’d be like ‘Yeah, do you want to fight?’ And then I’d kick their ass.“

“I’m in the process of selling my house [to the current tenants]. That house was literally almost three years of blood, sweat, and tears, and every penny I had in order to renovate it. It was my first house out of a dozen houses I’ve bought in New Orleans. It set off so much for me in life. I met my wife through buying that house, I’ve grown that into a really nice little real estate thing, and I learned a million lessons there.” 

“So, why are you selling it?” 

“Just saying goodbye to the house and putting it on the market and selling it to some stranger for the highest price you can get was not what I wanted to see for this house. But the people in that house are such good people - they’re perennial renters - if I [put that house on the market], those people aren’t going to be in the neighborhood anymore. The truth is, a lot of tenants have what we say is ‘no visible means of support.’ They don’t have a fucking job, you know? But they pay the rent every month and they’re awesome people. I live in an amazing, funky, fun, artistic, creative [neighborhood and] city, and I’m not really very interesting or artistic or creative myself. But the way I feel that I can contribute is making sure that those people have a place to live, you know, that they’re not pushed out of the neighborhood. That’s my contribution.“

“I cook. They call me Cooky. Pots and pans. I cook my butt on and off, because it ain’t going nowhere. I love okra. Smothered okra. Okra gumbo. Filé gumbo. Yakmein. Everybody says I’m a beast in chef-ing. […] I do parties: stuffed eggs, deviled eggs, stuff like that. I love to cook, that’s my passion. Cooking and dancing.”

“After the storm, everybody was ordered to put their refrigerators out on the sidewalk because it’s a health hazard. It was like sentinels: you came down the street and you saw this whole long road, like little soldiers going down the street. But nobody just put their refrigerator out—we had to make editorial comments, because it’s the way we are. So you’d see this one said, ‘Really disgusting gumbo in here. This one’s for you, George Bush!’ or ‘Thanks Corps of Engineers, we really appreciate the bath!’ This very peculiar sense of humor we have here: It’s one of the coping mechanisms. We just find things amusing that other people don’t find that amusing.”