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Does anybody happen to have an Everlasting Gobstopper handy?
Mayor Wonka and the Chocolate City

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Chris Rose

I wake up in the Chocolate City mad as hell.

It's like this: I'm supposed to be on vacation this week, cooling my heels, and then our mayor, Willy Wonka, loses his grip in public again and that's hardly headline news in and of itself, but this time he really lets one go.

I mean, he really gasses the place up, if you know what I mean. Now, how am I supposed to sit this one out?

First thing I do, I follow the mayor's lead and call Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, it takes a while to get through because he died in 1968 so he still has one of those avocado green rotary dial phones on his kitchen counter and no call-waiting.

As you might imagine, his line was pretty tied up Tuesday morning.

"King!" I holler when I finally reach him. "What in blazes are you thinking? You're writing speeches for Wonka, and the best you can come up with is 'Chocolate City'? Meet me at CC's Coffee House, bruh. Pronto. We gotta talk."

"I'm tired," he complains. "I had a big day yesterday."

"We all had a big day yesterday, King," I tell him. "Eleven o'clock. Be there."

Then I call God.

Of course, my call gets answered on the first ring, but it's some lackey working out of a phone bank in Singapore. We tangle a bit; she's giving me the runaround about him being busy and can she help me, and I'm wondering: What's with authority figures these days?

"Just who does he think he is, he can't take my call?" I say. "What, He's Dan Packer now? PUT HIM ON!"

I finally get him, and I calm down a bit because he's got that comforting voice, kind of like Barry White, but I'm still all dandered up and I tell him: "11 o'clock, CC's. We gotta talk."

He starts to make excuses, tells me he's got lunch at Ruth's Chris with Pat Robertson, but I'm all over him like white on rice.

Unless it's brown rice, of course.

I suppose it could be brown.

Anyway, I wear him down and he finally admits that he thinks Robertson is a lunatic blow-hard who's always asking God to take out some foreign leader or burn down a place like Oklahoma because there are sodomites reportedly living there, so he says to me: "All right. Chill, amigo. I'll be there."

So me, King and God all meet up and I'm ready to tear into these guys about the advice they're giving Mayor Wonka, who's gone all Shirley MacLaine on us and has had almost five months to compose himself since his multiple-meltdown and the best thing he could come up with was this?

We're standing in line to order, and I let loose: "All right, you knuckleheads, which one of you wrote the 'Chocolate City' thing?"

They are aghast at my strong language, "knucklehead" being the harshest term our mayor can come up with to describe the dirtbag, scumbag, dope fiend gangbangers who have run roughshod over this town for the past decade making us the Killing Fields of America.

Knuckleheads. Yeah, that's great, like they're the Three Stooges now. "Hey, I'm gonna cap yo ass with my 9. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk."

Anyway, King waves me off. "Can we order before we get into this?" he says.

The barista, one of those bright and perky UPTOWN people -- and I think you know what kind I mean -- says "Hey, guys, what can I getcha?" and sure, she acts all Ladies' Auxiliary toward us but we all know -- me, King and God -- that all this white girl really wants is to grab up as much property as possible in the Lower 9th and build a couples resort and day spa.

Me, King and God -- we're not stupid.

King orders first. "Coffee," he says. "Black."

Well, do I need to tell you: The whole shop is paralyzed into the most uncomfortable silence you ever heard.

"Jesus!" I mutter under my breath, and God pokes me in the eye. "Watch it, knucklehead," he says.

The barista, she goes, "nyuk, nyuk, nyuk," and I'm beginning to think I shouldn't have gotten out of bed; I should have just stuck to my original plan to meet Kafka for racquetball at noon.

Coffee. Black. This King guy, he just doesn't get it. Then it turns out he's just joshing around. Suddenly he breaks the uncomfortable silence and screams: "I'LL HAVE A CREAM!"

And he starts wagging his finger all around like he's back at the Lincoln Memorial, and he starts yelling: "And my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their coffee, but by the content of their character."

God, he cracks up at this. He starts nudging his elbow into my side and he's practically got tears in his eyes.

"What are you, Chris Rock?" he says. "That's hilarious, King. You are one loco dude!"

They do that knuckle-knock thing, and God orders. Café au lait -- who would have guessed?

So we sit and I ask them: "Guys, what's the deal? Wonka says he consulted with both of you before that blasted speech yesterday. Tell me you're not behind this Chocolate City thing. It's tearing us apart!"

King falls silent; he's eyeballing all the Uptowners like they're going to steal his hubcaps.

God pipes up: "Listen, hombre. Me and King, we had nothing to do with that speech. We told Wonka to go with a unity theme, black and white together as one. We did have this thing about Oreos in it, but we scratched that long before the final draft.

"Your boy, Wonka, that was all off the cuff, man. Extemporizing, you dig? He was off the script on that one. Completely off the reservation."

This gets King's attention. There's another uncomfortable pause as the whole place goes mute again.

"Sorry, cats," God says. "Poor choice of words. My bad. But listen: You people have got your race thing so screwed up down here that even I'm having trouble concentrating. You've got to get your house in order, folks. Your boy Wonka is walking around tossing matches on kindling. If you don't watch out, the whole place is gonna blow.

"And that will put us all out of work," he says, and he pushes his chair back and stands up.

"Gotta vamoose, bruh!" He says. "Been real, but there's mucho work to be done in the Chocolate City. Hasta la vista."

Silence again.

"All right, I'll take the bait," I tell him. "What's with all the gringo lingo?"

He looks at me like I'm crazy. He reaches into his wallet, grabs a card and hands me one before he rolls out the door.

The card, it says: "God & Sons Roofing. Reasonable Rates. Fully Insured. Habla Español."

I look at King. I stutter, "Did you know. . .?" But he's just shaking his head at me.

"Go figure," he says. "But it makes sense, when you think about it. His son's name is Jesus. The stepfather was a carpenter. All of them living in a Kenner hotel without electricity and running water like it's no big deal. It just goes to show, you never can tell. I guess you really need to be careful about what kind of assumptions you make about people."

We both take a sip and pause for a moment, and he adds: "And God, for that matter."

I nod at him over my tall glass of milk. "Now you're talking, King," I tell him. "Now you're talking."

. . . . . . .

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at; or at (504) 352-2535 or (504) 826-3309