New Orleans…Not Your Average City
Amazing how much can take place in the space of 24 hours, so rather than try and tackle our New Orleans experience in chronological fashion I’m just going to post some random observations….
Is Erratic Simply Another Form Of Versatile?
In New Orleans, musicians are incredibly versatile…and sometimes erratic. As far as the versatility goes, many of the musicians can skillfully play two or three instruments. Dr. John is noted for his piano playing, but he can also acquit himself nicely on guitar. Trombone Shorty is obviously known for his skills on a particular instrument, but he can also wail on trumpet and play the drums. New Orleans musicians are also adept at different styles of music. Mischeya Lake, who was singing blues standards when we saw her at the Louisiana Music Factory yesterday, mentioned that she had been singing until 3 a.m. the previous night at a rock gig. When we went to Preservation Hall last night to hear classics from the New Orleans traditional jazz canon, the tuba player looked awfully familiar. Two songs into the set I realized we had seen Jeffrey Hill backing up blues/funkster trombonist -singer Glen David Andrews at the Louisiana Music Factory on our first full day in town. To make it as a full-time musician in this town, you have to know how to bring it several different ways in order to pay the bills.
Okay, those are the examples of the usual definition of versatility…now for the erratic. Since we had so enjoyed Glen David Andrew’s set at the LMF, we decided to catch his midnight show at d.b.a. — a small club on Frenchmen Street — last night. When we got there the joint was packed and Glen David had taken the stage with his band (including Jeffrey Hill on tuba, who had just arrived from his Preservation Hall set). But the Glen David from the Lousiana Music Factory gig was nowhere in sight. This Glen David, who kept announcing it was his 32nd birthday every five minutes, scarcely touched his trombone. And his singing, if you could call it that, largely consisted of exhorting the crowd to “put your hands in the air and scream!!!” and bellowing constant refrains of, “I will, I will, I will, I will, I will melt your ass like butter!” There were few songs actually performed — Glen David would launch into a tune and then lose interest or focus a minute into it, stop the band in mid musical phrase and just start talking…about the fact he was engaged, about how he’d known his sidemen for 25 years, about how he never expected to make it to his 32nd birthday — whatever seemed to strike his fancy. Then he’d start another song, lose interest again after a short time and make the same rambling remarks he’d made five minutes ago. Things got even more bizarre. Glen David brought up some elderly white couple that he pronounced his “future ex-parents-in-law” and had them dance around the stage while he cursed and then sang a rendition of Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon.” The brilliant pianist Henry Butler dropped by to sit in on a few songs and he could barely be heard above Glen David’s screams of “Put your muthafuckin’ hands together for Henry Butler, y’all!” The scene was as equally compelling (in a surreal way — I kept wondering, ‘what the hell is he going to do next?’) as it was horrific, but we finally bailed out just after 2 a..m., William and I saddened by what we perceived as squandered talent….
Café du Monde is deservedly world-famous for its beignets (fried dough with powdered sugar) and chicory coffee but another reason to love it is for its bathroom poetry. On the door of one toilet stall, in lieu of the usual ‘call so and so for a good time,’ people had scrawled several lyrical musings:
“And will you drink from that last offered cup?”
“Money is the crudest form of magic.”
“And though the sayings of the wise all teach submission/I will not submit/But with a spirit all unreconciled/Flash an unquenched defiance to the stars”
To Go Cups
I’m not a big drinker — my big alcoholic splurge has been one drink a night — but I do love the freedom of ordering my melon driver or Pimm’s Cup to go and sauntering through the streets of the city drink in hand. So let’s hear it for Einstein, Tesla, Steve Jobs and whoever invented the “to go” cup!
The Trees of New Orleans
New Orleans has truly beautiful trees — majestic magnolias, massive oaks, soaring Georgia pines. It also has an exotic species unique to this city — Mardi Gras Bead trees. Along a stretch of St. Charles Avenue, the major thoroughfare that runs from the edge of the French Quarter through the Garden District to Uptown, there are thousands of strands of glittering Mardi Gras beads hanging from the limbs of the oaks. The beads got there by being tossed from the floats that trundle down the parade route of St. Charles every year and catching on the branches…
Eccentricity Part II
We were wandering around uptown today, breathing in the jasmine and gardenia perfumed air while admiring the quiet streets lined with brightly colored bungalows and cream colored mansions and shaded by the canopies of massive oak and magnolia trees, when we chanced upon a man walking his huge land tortoise. When we stopped the man to inquire about his most unusual pet, the Sulcata, an African species bred here in the States, chomped on hibiscus flowers taken from its owner’s hand. None of the other pedestrians passing by batted an eye, although one woman did stop to let her tiny dog cautiously sniff the giant reptile.
All right, that’s enough for tonight. Since tomorrow is another relatively relaxed day (the only thing we have planned is to go to the Lousiana Music Factory in the morning to meet the cast of Treme) I’ll hopefully find the time to blog about Plum Street Snowballs — yes, we’ve discovered yet another way to travel with balls! — and its rival Hanson’s Snow Blitz as we sojourn far from the familiar pleasures of the French Quarter to search for the perfect cold treat that is first cousin to Hawaiian shaved ice. I’ll undoubtedly have other topics that come to mind when my thinking is a bit clearer…yes, I only have had one drink this evening, but then again, the bartender seemed to pour in half a bottle of booze when he was concocting my cocktail.
Travel With Balls, Y’all!
Peace & Blessings,