The Tipsy Librarian: Reading More Than Books


Hi ho, the Tipsy Librarian here, just days away from the onslaught of Mardi Gras 2014. Technically Mardi Gras = March 4, but Mardi Gras is also “holiday season” here in New Orleans, which was kicks off in mid-February with the only non-motorized Mardi Gras parade, Krewe du Vieux.

I’m an aficionado of reading a hardcover that I can hold in my hands, but even this librarian has had to change with the times and take in more information than what’s just found in books, because some stories are found elsewhere. Some have to be pieced together with books, blogs, and in New Orleans, even parades.

Yep, here in New Orleans, we also read parades. How so? Well I’m about to teach you how to read a parade with Krewe du Vieux as our prime text. The story? An oil spill that much of the national media has forgotten.

Every krewe, or social club, has a parade during Mardi Gras season, and every krewe names its royalty. Krewe du Vieux, arguably the most overtly political and ribald krewe, has named a serious badass as their 2014 king: John Barry.  His name rings bells for many New Orleanians who keep up with the ongoing saga of Louisiana’s wetland loss due to a long political legacy of conservation-averse, oil-and-gas-industry camaraderie (some would say dysfunction).

For most of the country, the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, malfunction, and subsequent oil spill (the largest in U.S. history) is a vague CNN memory mash-up, involving the rotund Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser pleading and demanding that the feds pay closer attention to the devastation wrought along Louisiana’s sinewy coast, James Carville blasting Obama’s slow response (“We’re about to die down here!“), and Anderson Cooper maintaining his signature good natured calm as he attempted to narrate countless pictures of what was actually happening in the Gulf. (Remember illustrations of the mysterious “containment dome” with animated black oil spewing out?)

Well, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon, molecular biologist, or a resident in one of Louisiana’s many towns along what we’ve dubbed  “Cancer Alley” to guess that after almost four years, the toxins in the water and air (due to the spill cleanup and nearby petrochemical industries) are still here, the regulations for safer and less intrusive drilling are uneven, offshore workers are still an unregulated section of the American workforce (we’ll regulate the heck out of teachers with each new pedagogical fad, but we won’t place limits on how hard corporations will work people to procure and refine our oil and gas), and that Americans still would prefer to buy cheap gas rather than take a long, hard look at our dependence on this unsustainable set-up.

Krewe du Vieux’s “King” and New York Times best-selling author John Barry championed a lawsuit on behalf of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East, which is basically a local government limb, against the biggest oil companies in the world for messing up the Louisiana coast, which is our flood protection as well as home to people, animals, and aquatic life that accounts for one quarter of America’s seafood intake.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is against the suit, and for this reason Barry was removed (or made ineligible) to continue to serve on the Flood Protection board.

This story isn’t contained in one book–though there are a few that do admirable work on it–it’s a story that pulsates in investigative reporting, blogs, video footage, and even in drunken, celebratory parades in the French Quarter, one place outside of Vegas that Americans usually go to forget our stories, and laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll).

Suggested further reading, which spans a variety of media and cocktail suggestions, based on what’s on my nightstand, bookmarked on my iPad, and out my window.

Book: Rising Tide, by John Barry

Pairs Well With A Sazerac Cocktail:


Website:, Public Investigative Journalism

Pairs Well With A ‘Gin And Sonic’

322014gin and sonic recipe

Parade: Krewe du Vieux

Pairs Well With A ‘Hurricane’

322014 hurricane cocktail recipe

Video: Gulf Restoration Network’s Video Collection

Pairs Well With A ‘Mudslide’

322014 new orleans mudslide recipe

Alison Barker

Alison Barker

Freelance Writer at Nola Studiola
Alison Barker, or Ms. Barker to the legions of young minds she’s shaped during fourteen years as a primary, middle school and college teacher, is a writer and critic who currently lives in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in Switchback, Monkeybicycle, Fwriction: Review, Ravenna Press’ Anemone Sidecar, Front Porch, Columbia Journal of Art and Literature, dislocate. Fiction, nonfiction, and theater reviews appear in Bitch, Paste Magazine, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Reader, Rain Taxi, Bookslut, and soon in Los Angeles Review of Books. She enjoys new places and faces, indefatigably drawing connections between people, places, ideas, and good coffee.
Alison Barker
Alison Barker
Alison Barker