We should all support St. Roch Market on St. Claude Avenue. It isn’t hard to want to do. The food is good; the ambiance is festive; the mission (to revive a neighborhood) is worthy.

We also need to take a stand so that the creeps of the night don’t win.

There were once several public marketplaces around town. They were envisioned as neighborhood locations where farmers and artisans could bring their products. Eventually they all closed, victims of the age of the supermarket as well as the expanding suburbs. Now there has been an effort to bring these places back. What they once were can never work again, but they can be places where small vendors can sell their prepared food and drink, and customers can pick and choose in a common space.

When I was there last Wednesday night the crowd was big but not unbearable. The mix included mainline folks, the tattooed set and various races and ages. It had a good community feel. We began at the bar with a couple of Old Fashioneds and then picked and chose from the various counters. We sat at an inside table, which was just as well because the seating area outside was full. You could sense the energy of the St. Claude revival.

But then there are the creeps. A few nights earlier four people dressed in black with knit caps down to their eyes broke several windows and spray painted the side of the newly scrubbed building. I know how they were dressed because a video surveillance tape was shown on TV. Two of them might have been young women. By Wednesday their graffiti had mercifully been painted over, though they apparently made some reference to “yuppies.”

My guess is that they were white because “yuppiedom” seems to be a rebellious white people’s hang-up. Related to gentrification, the stereotype is that of professional white people sitting on their porch drinking merlot. The stereotype overlooks that black people, and those of all races, symbolically want merlot, too, as well as the right to live in a decent middle-class neighborhood where they can experience markets and snack on kale salad chased by a merlot. They also want their neighborhoods to be free of vandals, including those who would deface other people’s property.

In its last days the former St. Roch Market was a depleted building noted as a place to buy Cowan turtles and garlic-rich boiled crawfish, but the times were against it. The new market fits in with the reality of today’s world.

There should be a special place in hell for those who do graffiti. They should spend eternity confined in a room where each night they’re forced to spray paint a wall, but where each morning they wake up to discover that someone with even less talent than them has sprayed over their work. We can only hope that one day they will mature and realize the wrongs of their reasoning and their deeds. Then we can celebrate. A glass of merlot would be nice.






BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book websites.