The Final Hours Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Students working with David Young, March 2016.

I’m finally taking a breather. Sitting in Community Coffee drinking my third cafe au lait today. I wonder if this has something to do with my trouble sleeping? I am taking a pause before some serious Mardi Gras Indian activity tonight,  as it St. Joseph’s Day; even though the date is more closely tied to the Sicilians, it is the Indians’ prime night for masking. That will be followed by some music and tomorrow, even a larger gathering of Indians. For now, I’ll enjoy the relative quiet of the coffee house.

About an hour and a half ago, I saw the 19 students and five student leaders cram their luggage, sleeping bags, beads, and themselves into four minivans for the 1600 mile trip back to New Hampshire. They’ll be leaving the warm weather of the past week for possible snow in Virginia and back home in New England. Many were wistful about leaving, but you could almost hear the gears switch from beignets to books and homework.

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Work at Flood Street, March 2016.

Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day, but celebration would have to wait; work assignments remained the same. The Zulus got more involved in construction on expanding David Young’s aquaculture system. On Friday, he took them on a tour of his organization’s gardens, orchards and ponds that are scattered throughout the Lower Ninth Ward. The crew working at the lowernine.org house finished much of the shingling of the damaged portion of the roof. Only the weather on Friday kept them from finishing the task. The Baratarians primarily continued prep work over on the home on Flood, but by the end of the week more of them had the opportunity to do some painting. The same held for the crew on Delery Street

Thursday night brought the Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We gathered at the intersection of Royal and Esplanade to watch this relatively modest, yet spirited parade. Afterwards, most of the students followed the parade into the French Quarter, while most of the leaders stayed in the Marigny. The air was heavy, yet thunder showers failed to chase revelers of fof Bourbon Street. Folks got to bed a bit later than most nights, but then, they had a partial day of work left and it was predominately a wash out.

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Backstreet Cultural Museum, March 2016

As the students crossed the Industrial Canal on Friday afternoon, they left the Lower Ninth, the taco truck, the sandwiches from the Arabi Market, and fine folks at lowernine.org. However, before they kicked around New orleans one last night, I took them to the Backstreet Cultural Museum, a Treme landmark just a couple of blocks from the community center. The museum holds dozens of beautifully crafted Indian suits and second line memorabilia. In addition, our guide had masked as an Indian for several decades and was a wealth of information about both the suits and the tradition.

While many students headed over the the Warehouse District, I met up with former student and leader Theresa Conn and her UNH roommate. We went to Adolfo’s, a highly regarded Creole-Italian restaurant on Frenchmen Street. We began with mussels in a garlic sauce. The entrees were magnificent, literally topped off with the chef’s “ocean sauce,” a peppery creation with a mound of crab meat, plentiful shrimp and crawfish tails.

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Kermit Ruffins, March 2016

After dinner we parted ways and I crossed the street to see trumpet player/vocalist Kermit Ruffins at the Blue Nile.He played a healthy collection of his best-known songs, but as the clock rolled past ten, I knew I had to go back and get some rest. More storms had rolled through so that I had to dodge showers while walking back to the community center.

Because the students had done most of the cleaning of the community center on Friday afternoon, there was little to do Saturday save packing the vans. Everyone went into the Quarter for one final time, mostly to finish shopping for souvenirs and visit the French Market. The Meters got a late start, because as

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The Meters, March 2016

winners of the scavenger hunt, they received a breakfast on me. I picked the Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop on the recommendation of Kyle Murphy. It is a funky place on  the edge of the Bywater at the intersection of Royal and Franklin. The service was a bit slow for a group our size, but I believe the students appreciated both the relaxed time and the resident cats, before getting back in the van for the trip.

I met all four groups back at the community center at noon to see them off. They left on time without a hitch. And now I can begin worrying about their well-being on the return trip. It will be great to see them in class on Thursday, but for the time-being, I’m going to enjoy a couple of days of down time.

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Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop, March 2016.

 

 

 

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Spring Break 2016 Tuesday, Mar 8 2016 

In a few days we will be heading to New Orleans to volunteer with lowernine.org during spring break. And I don’t underestimate the sacrifice that you are making when compared with what some of your fellow Wildcats will be doing at the same time. The work itself will be memorable. You will be tested. You will learn new things. You might for an instant wonder why you are there. But I can guarantee that you will come away with an appreciation of a great city, the challenges that it faces and, more than anything, a love for the people who live there.

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Orientation with Laura Paul, lowernine.org, Lower Ninth, March 2013.

In addition, your leaders and I are planning activities to fill the time when you are not working. And we think you’ll like the results of our brainstorming. Here are some examples of what is store for you, that is, after that 1600 mile drive from New Hampshire:

Saturday, March 12th – arrive in NOLA early afternoon; go directly to Irish Channel St. Patrick Parade; check in @ Community Center afterwards; dinner with your group;

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Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade, March 2013.

 Sunday, March 13th – Jazz mass @ St. Augustine’s, 10-11:30am (optional); Keep ‘N  It Real Second Line (schedule TBA); dinner at Lil’ Dizzy’s, 5:30pm; Hot 8 Brass Band@ Howlin Wolf, 10pm (entrance covered);

Monday, March 14th – Arrive @ lowenine.org, 8am; lunch on the Mississippi River levee in Holy Cross; French Quarter Scavenger Hunt, 8-10pm;

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French Quarter Scavenger Hunt (finale), March 2013.

Tuesday, March 15th – Visit to Chalmette Battlefield @ lunch, weather permitting; and visit to Bayou Sauvage, after work:

Wednesday, March 16th – House of Dance and Feathers, lunch or after work; cookout at Laura Paul’s house, 6pm;

Thursday, March 17th – Downtown St. Patrick’s Parade, Royal Street, starts at 6pm; Rock and Bowl, Zydeco Night, 9 pm (entrance covered);

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Glen David Andrews with UNH students at the Rock and Bowl, 2008

Friday, March 18th – Backstreet Cultural Museum, after work (entrance covered) and St.Charles Streetcar to Carrollton and dinner at the Camellia Grill;

Saturday, March 19th – Cleanup at the Community Center; Bill’s breakfast with scavenger hunt winners (my choice); Saturday morning in the French Quarter in its glory; Congo Square Rhythms Festival, Armstrong Park, 11am (free).

Sniff, sniff. Head back to New Hampshire.

 

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    Members of the 2015 New Orleans class with Errol and Esther Joseph, March 2015.

Saint Patrick’s Day in New Orleans Sunday, Mar 18 2012 

Crawfish for our last dinner in Slidell, March 2012

A constant of our spring breaks has been St. Patrick’s Day, which runs neck and neck with St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans among the pantheon of “holy” days to rank behind Mardi Gras. It or some events related to it are always present. This year students traveled to Metairie for their big parade last Sunday. And a few of those in the City witnessed the Molly’s in the Market parade on Decatur, which is basically a moving block party. They enjoyed their last night in the Quarter, regardless, although the new 21+ regulations are making it harder for young people to go into clubs to listen to music. If they keep this up, it will be to the detriment of the music and its following and not to the sustenance of decency and decorum.

Courtyard concert, Historic New Orleans Collection, Royal Street, March 2012

I caught part of the Molly’s parade, but also had the chance to see Dr. Michael White and his quartet performing at eh Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street. The beautiful courtyard of this old mansion was filled with members and music lovers alike, and they did not disappoint. And the sound of tunes like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” with Gregg Stafford’s vocals reverberating off of the masonry walls, was fabulous.

Students learning about Mardi Gras Indian culture at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, March 2012

The late night in the City made for a slow departure from the Peace Mission Center this morning. And to some extent, I think it was a rebellion against leaving New Orleans more than chronic sleepiness. Bags seemed to roll slower. Packing decisions took longer. I found it easier to leave the process entirely and make my way into the City for our meeting at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, the source for the best information on Mardi Gras Indian and Second Line culture in New Orleans. Happily, all three groups fought through the New Orleans departure blues to hear museum founder Sylvester Francis

Sylvester Francis explaining the Second Line tradition, March 2012

expound on this unique culture. The Mardi Gras Indian costumes amazed and hopefully most came away with greater understanding of these New Orleans cultural artifacts.

Sadly, I had to part with students at 10 a.m. Most of them were heading across Rampart Street into the Quarter for what I feel is the finest New Orleans experience — the French Quarter on a weekend morning. There they would find a humming French Market, street performers, and New Orleans’ signature food fare; such will hopefully lessen the sting of a long journeyhome back to the second half of the semester.

Willie Mae's Scotch House, Treme, March 2012

I left the museum to head out to the airport to pick up my wife. And as frequently as I go to New Orleans, it was the first time we have been together in the City since 1993>And we had quite the New Orleans experience: fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in Treme; part of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade; dinner with a smartass waitress; the Downtown St. Patrick’s Parade; music on Frenchmen; watching 100 year-old Lionel Ferbos perform with his band at the Palm Court; and walking through the Quarter on a warm Saturday night that happens to be March 17th. It makes me tired (and smile) just to think of it.

St. Patrick's Day, Jackson and St. Charles, March 2012

I am heading offline tomorrow and will not be adding to my blog for a week or more. I’m sure I’ll Have plenty of observations, commentary, and pictures when I get back and the events of the past week have sufficiently sunk in. At that time, I will also begin a new thread in which I invite students to contribute blog entries related to New Orleans, the trip, and to the class. So, stay tuned, there is good stuff yet to come.

Things to Do in New Orleans — Part 2 Saturday, Mar 3 2012 

Preservation Hall Stars at Preservation Hall, March 2010.

Tuesday, March 13th will be our first day on the job. Expect to be on the road and ready to report for work before 7:00am. Breakfast and lunch makings will be provided at the Peace Mission Center. Remember: close toed shoes are required. At the end of the day, we’ll return to the Center to clean-up and have dinner. For that evening, I would suggest a trip to Preservation Hall, where Shannon Powell and the Preservation All Stars will be playing. It’ll require $10.00 and a substantial wait in line. And if that is not your cup of tea, Frenchmen Street is a musical smorgasbord where you can wander from door to door to hear what’s playing. And I suspect a few will end up at Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets.

Dr. Michael White

After work on Wednesday, we’ll be heading out to Xavier University to hear Dr. Michael White and his quartet, drawn from his Original Liberty Jazz Band. White holds the Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities of New Orleans Music and Culture, but he is best known for his clarinet and musical compositions in the traditional style. This will be the fifth year we’ve had the pleasure of working with him to learn more about the origins of New Orleans jazz. (Thanks to the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Jazz for sponsoring this event.)

Thursday offers diverse choices. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Mark Braud on trumpet is downtown, while Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie are Uptown at Rock and Bowl off of Carrollton Avenue. A trip to Rock and Bowl is a must and zydeco is a great way to get your feet moving.

Friday will be our last day on the job and our last night in Louisiana. And it offers some great choices for entertainment.If you’d like to hear multiple trombones playing covers of Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers tunes, then Bonerama at the Rock and Bowl is a must. They are unique, to say the least. If you’d rather stay downtown, I’d suggest Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. Kermit, one of the founders of the Rebirth Brass Band, is a regular on the HBO series Tremehe is a party waiting to happen. Kermit will be at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen. And of course there are the usual attractions in and around the French Quarter.

Sylvester Francis at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, June 2011.

On Saturday morning we’ll return to New Orleans to visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Curator Sylvester Francis has accumulated an incredible collection of Mardi Gras Indian suits and second line memorabilia. He is a walking encyclopedia of those traditions. (Thanks to the UNH Discovery Program for sponsoring this visit.) It will also give you a chance to visit Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States. For your remaining hours in New Orleans, I’d suggest a visit to the French Market near the river and a walk down Royal Street. The former is a great place to by gifts and souvenirs. And on Royal Street, late Saturday morning brings street performers and musicians. And be sure to grab a po’ boy or muffalletta before you hit the interstate

A Very Treme Day Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

St. Joseph's Altar, St. Louis Cathedral, March 2011.

In most parts of the country, March 19th has little importance other than being just short of the first day of spring. But in New Orleans, it is the feast day of the patron saint of the Sicilians, Saint Joseph. It has something to do with ending starvation with fava beans, but suffice it to say for the people  who 100 years ago made the French Quarter “Little Sicily,” it is in the words of our Vice President “a big f**king deal.” And for reasons that have not been fully explained, Saint Joseph’s Day has resonated within the African-American community, as well.

The day began rather disjointedly. I left about the same time as the Los Islenos group, but the other two were still very much asleep. I thought I would see them around the French Market or Royal Street, but I didn’t have a chance to see them off. I did run into a few of the first group, but that too, is dependent on a rather crowded  piece of acreage. It was a spectacular Saturday morning and I spent it walking, my ailing Achilles tendon notwithstanding. I walked the French Market, spent some time watching street performers and, in what is getting to be something of a test, looked for photographic angles that I have not seen before. And I went to the St. Joseph’s altar behind the cathedral to register my prayer intentions, to get my lucky fava bean, and to snag some wonderful Italian cookies for breakfast. Cafe du Monde was way too crowded.

Courtyard, Hotel St. Pierre, March 2011.

After noon, I ventured over to Mena’s Palace at Chartres and Bienville, for my annual fried chicken and red beans and rice lunch. Chased by an ice cold Abita Amber, it did not disappoint. I then went to my car and drove over to the Hotel St. Pierre on Burgundy. Remarkably, I was able to check in and find a parking spot in their minuscule parking lot. I mean, it is the French Quarter. And that changed the trajectory of my day.

The Hotel St. Pierre is an old hotel and lacks many of the modern amenities of the colorless chains and therein lies its raffish charm. And after a week in group housing with 36 students, it has private and functioning bathroom facilities. And in all fairness, it has many other attributes, the primary one being its location — it is in the quieter, residential part of the French Quarter. And it is only two blocks from Treme.

Backstreet Cultural Museum, Treme, March 2011.

After working in the Carrollton neighborhood, I had planned on venturing Uptown to see the Mardi Gras Indians as they venture out on St. Joseph’s Day. The Carrollton Hunters tribe reportedly gather near where we were working on Hickory Street and I had all intentions of driving out there. But, my parking situation and the proximity to Treme changed my plans. Once again, I as going to head out to experience St. Joseph’s Night with the downtown Indians.

Downtown Indians, St. Joseph's Day, March 2011.

I left about 4:00pm and headed over to the  Backstreet Cultural Center, the epicenter of New Orleans parades, second lines, and Mardi Gras Indian culture. The presentation is somewhat amateurish, but it does it lovingly and with the most local knowledge available on the subject. The Indian suits on display are incredible, but static displays don’t do them justice. There was a woman from Arizona there, who was hell bent on seeing St. Joseph’s night on her own. And because it is Lent, I offered to accompany her to the suspected spot where the Indians gather. Oh Lord, why are you testing me me so?

Littlest Indian, St. Joseph's Day, March 2011.

She never stopped talking. And there are parts of her life’s story that are indelibly etched on my brain. I was so distracted that we overshot St. Bernard and I had the opportunity to watch her harass an antique merchant from whom she had no intention of buying anything. We were way ahead of schedule of nightfall, so I suggested we go to Sidney’s Bar on St. Bernard, which is owned by Kermit Ruffins. We went in, the only white faces within blocks, and she never stopped talking and opining about the music, peoples’ dress, etc. I ordered a Bud Light, in honor of the owner, and before I had taken a second sip, the man himself arrived to get “primed” for his second night at Rock and Bowl.  I talked to him briefly, but we had Indians to see.

Indian suit, St. Joseph's Day, March 2011.

After walking a bit, we encountered some Indians and her cluenessness was evident from the start. She had an uncanny knack for getting in the way of every possible situation and I marveled at the fact that no one stood her up and said: “cut it out, lady.” We eventually became separated in the growing melee; I tried to find her, but to no avail.

Indians under a full moon, March 2011.

On the whole, it was far different from last year. I suspect that the police were actively trying to keep the tribes from uniting on St. Bernard, Instead, they were in tight, poorly lit spaces. This limited their activities and viewing opportunities. And it seemed to increase the overall  tension of participant and spectator alike. It is nevertheless a singular spectacle and the enormous full moon only added to the mystery of it all.

I gave one last look for my partner, but could find her no where. I cut over to Elysian Fields and walked down to Frenchmen. The Spotted Cat was wall to wall people, so I went over to d.b.a. And to complete my Treme night, John Boutte was playing his weekly gig. I saw him briefly a few year’s back and have never been a big fan, but he was great

John Boutte, d.b.a., March 2011.

live and his band was fabulous. A lot of energy, a hint of Sam Cooke, but with a style all his own. I think his sister was passing around the tip jar and she made a point of catching my eye and shooting me a big smile. I was a little puzzled until I realized that I was wearing an old WWOZ hat — she thought I was with the station. And then it hit me that several times during the day that locals had assumed I was from New Orleans. Now I know the secret of passing in New Orleans.

It was getting late, so I headed back to Burgundy Street and the Hotel St. Pierre. And I enjoyed a soft bed and sheets for the first time in over a week.