Preserve New Orleans, Tip Big, Help The Dedicated Army Of Hospitality Industry Employees
By Danny Valdez

The fishermen will be fine. There is an immense source of money going to them, if not now, in the future. I love the passion people have in helping out the region, and especially New Orleans. I just think that the effort needs some redirecting. I won’t bore you to death with all of the details on the horrible repercussions of “the Deepwater Horizon.” You have all been bludgeoned to death with all of the details because of our overly connected society. Which on a side note, I and tons of ADD kids love by the way.

We are overlooking something very important. There is a small but dedicated army of waiters/bartenders/cooks/etc who sell the fish coming from the gulf. We cannot forget them. We found out the hard way that the talent pool in the city is hard to replenish in all facets. I know that the service industry has always been, to some, a way to bridge their life’s choices. Whether transitioning from college or jobs or making extra money while they chase their dreams. To others this is and always will be their lives. They live and breathe to serve people. Unfortunately there isn’t much money in it for the most part. Terms like “nest egg” or “savings” don’t become second nature until later in their careers. To most they learn it too late.

In the immediate aftermath of the spill, I went to work and saw this horrible look in the eyes of my coworkers. I moonlight at a popular New Orleans restaurant for brunch. Nothing fancy, just mostly a bunch of career waiters who get off on making people smile by sharing tradition. Unfortunately most of them don’t make much money at all. The look I saw was horrible because it was a look of a person who has lost one too many times. Everyone had the same look. It was a look of uncertainty. As a city and as a community we were just starting to get our “swagger” back.

To some of us the “big reset” back in 2005 was a way to fight and start anew. To others it was a long fight that brought nothing but pain and hardship. To the career waiters/cooks/bartenders it meant working harder and longer for less money. The city’s people had been beaten one too many times and that’s what this is about. Health insurance is prohibitively expensive. Homeowner’s insurance is raised every year. It has become harder for the army in “black and whites” to make a living. Those who couldn’t keep fighting the fight have left. The jaded and clueless still pepper the industry. But for every person who fits those descriptions, there are ten who care and will remain.

I think instead of raising money for fishermen, we should start raising money for the service industry. If you think of unemployment and collecting “food stamps” as a relief, I think you have wasted your time by reading this far. I wrote a book years ago titled,”The City of Lost Dreams.” It was a celebration of our different culture in New Orleans. Not of the obvious, but of the lives of the “black and whites” and handling the velvet rope. About the decadent youthful lifestyle which once was. It was about living paycheck to paycheck yet living the life of celebrity. To some it hasn’t changed much. Except the money is less, rents have tripled and the atmosphere has become a touch more gloomy. Although this extreme makes up a small portion of our workforce, it is a perfect example of how our city gives us a chance to live life to its fullest.

We can’t make people more responsible. Part of what this city offers is an escape from the real structured world. There is still money and success to be had. Love and hate is still an option. I don’t want to change any of it. I would just like to have more help for those who have chosen this profession.

So here’s a call to help preserve what we call New Orleans. Without the people weaving magical tales/food/etc there would be no soul. I speak not for the wealthy, even though some always find a way to get a cut, but for the working classes of all ages behind the curtain. Let’s keep the skilled working and city smiling. In a corrupt city where tourism is the only industry, we need to help maintain the morale. Tip big and trust me, the fishermen will be fine.