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Of Poor Boys and VIPs

I love po-boys, but I'm really not sure about the Po-Boy Fest on Oak Street. It's always so crowded and the lines are long. I thought about getting one of those VIP tickets this year, but it was pretty pricey, so I passed. Still, I went to the fest and had a pretty good time, but I'm not sure if I'll go back next year. What do you think, Dead Huey Long? Is the Po-Boy Fest worth the hassle, or am I better off skipping the lines and going to Quizno's instead? -Confused in Carrollton



Back when I was among the livin’, there wasn’t a thing in this world that ol’ Huey P. liked better than a crusty loaf of bread from John Gendusa stuffed full of whatever fixin’s I could find in the ice box.  Ham, roast beef, shrimp…Hell, I’d even roll up my sleeves and eat a sandwich of fried potatoes and brown gravy every now and again. May Penn Warren never write it any other way - a poor boy sandwich, as they came to be known , is a meal fit for a Kingfish.


I’m sure y’all have heard the story by now, about how those rascals the Martin Brothers—good boys, both—took it upon themselves to feed striking streetcar workers way back in 1929.  I’d be shootin’ the bull at the sandwich shop with ol’ Bennie and Clovis, when one or the other of ‘em would up and holler, “Here comes another poor boy,” and they’d fix the fella up with a hearty meal.


Bennie and Clovis were friends of the common man, doing their part for a brother in need.  I think about those two sumbitches every time I drag my corpse up to the counter at Parkway Bakery, or Domilise’s, or Liuzza’s By the Track.  See, the poor boy sandwich is not just a sandwich, it’s a working-class hero, though you’d have to be dumber than a bag of nickels to call it a hero, a hoagie, a sub, or whatever else they call it out yonder.  In New Orleans, it’s a poor boy, and down here the poor boy—just like every other man—is a king.


That’s why I’m just tickled pink to see all these folks comin’ out to Oak Street for the annual Po-Boy Preservation Festival.  Young folks, old folks, little-bitty babies, great big dogs, all crammed together in the street tighter than ham and Swiss.  Sure, it’s a little crowded, but ol’ Huey P. always liked a big crowd, ‘cause if folks ain’t sharin’, then folks ain’t carin’.  And with so many great sandwiches, you gotta share with somebody, else it’d be down-right gluttonous trying to taste them all.  Long lines?  You bet.  But this year the fine festival vendors brought plenty of food to go around, and though the lines were long, it’s a small price to pay, waiting patiently with a neighbor, enjoying a cold beverage, and then partaking of a delicious, reasonably-priced poor boy sandwich.


Except.  Except for those big spenders.  Except for those VIPs.  For a kingly sum of $200, the organizers of the Po-Boy Festival offered the chance to skip the lines and climb above the fray, where VIPs could be apart from the ruckus while still being a part of it.  I reckon some folks thought this was a good investment, though let me take this moment to remind you of the old sayin’ about a fool and his money.  To be a VIP at the poor boy party is to miss the point entirely, and to offer this luxury is a wrong-headed move on the part of organizers whose mission it is to preserve the spirit of the sandwich.


But you know why they did it, right?  Because you insufferable bastards won’t stop complaining about the crowds at Po-Boy Fest!  By now, everybody and their brother—even mine!—knows what to expect from the fest: solid sandwiches from the city’s best kitchens, great music, and a whole helluva lot of people.  There will be long lines, there will be crowded streets, and there will be some inconsiderate ninny with a stroller and a dog stopping in the middle of the street and blocking traffic both ways while he catches up with a neighbor lady.  Deal with it, New Orleans.  Just because every man is a king doesn’t mean y’all get to be VIPs, too.  Every now and then, even a king has to wait in line. 



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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


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