Rainy Monday Morning Monday, Mar 11 2013 

All Souls Episcopal Church, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2013.

All Souls Episcopal Church, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2013.

We’ve been in New Orleans about 36 hours and the weather has caught up with us. There are showers around this morning and there’s a good chance of thunderstorms in the area. It looks like our first day working at lowernine.org will be affected in some way or the other.

I’m sitting in a McDonald’s in Chalmette. The sun is not quite up. The service is friendly, but the term “fast food” is relative here. Fox is on TV; country is on the radio. One is reminded of being in Southern Louisiana when a patron crosses himself before eating his sausage biscuit.

Where to start: it has been an interesting and challenging weekend. Van number 2 got here first and settled into their accommodations at lowernine.org. I picked up my friend Kyle on the way in from the airport and got into the Lower Ninth about 6:00 pm in the evening. We went through the walk through at the All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center just as Van number 1 arrived. The third van came in a couple of hours later.

IMG_0167The accommodations should be a challenge. Cots and air mattresses in the common areas. The problem is, we have to stow all bedding and belongings during the day because it is a community center. And more challenging: 33 volunteers (including 12 from the University of South Carolina) and two showers with spotty hot water, to say it nicely. We worked out a schedule for showers and kitchen use with the USC folks and the work week will tell how well it works.

I appropriated the privacy of the small library, which seems right. Group 1 stayed back a while to orient the incoming group, while Kyle and I headed into the City. The first agenda item was something to eat; the food court at the airport was but a distant memory. He wanted a poboy I wanted the briny taste of a muffaletta. Kyle told me he had read of a “new age” poboy place on Conti off of Bourbon. That sounded kind of like “military intelligence” of “jumbo shrimp,” so I had to bite, so to speak.

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Queen of the second line, March 2013.

It was in the back of the Erin Rose bar; the dining room as about 10 X 10 feet and the menu was intriguing to say the least. I had a “Hot Muff”, a cross between a Cuban sandwich and a muffaletta and Kyle had something that involved sucking pig, I think, but it looked as delicious as mine tasted. While we were waiting with a group Asian twenty-somethings with Texas accents, when in walked this apparition; what I can only describe as a tricked-out, professional second line dancer named Jennifer Jones. As weird as that was, I had just seen her on a repeat of Anthony Bourdain’s “Layover” a couple of nights before. Kyle ate as I tried to talk to her and eat my sandwich at the same time. I took her picture and ventured forth to find the St. Joseph”s Parade — and lost. By the time we were ready to stop and watch it, it seemed to have melted away into the quarter and the after parade dinner/dance.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tipitina's, Uptown, March 2013.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tipitina’s, Uptown, March 2013.

While most of my students explored the French Quarter for the first time (with the few blocks on Bourbon to find eats I had pretty much reached my quota for the trip), Kyle and I headed uptown to catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Tipitina’s. And it did not disappoint. While the personnel had shifted slightly from the last time, the heart and soul remained the same. They started at 11 pm; right on time for a 10 pm show and played through to 1 am. Because of the time, I crashed on Kyle’s sofa in Broadmoor.

By the time got to the Lower Ninth, the students were slowly emerging from their sleeping bags. We went to the local Walmart to buy groceries and provisions. And things continued to move slowly. We finally headed out late morning, with two of the groups exploring Armstrong Park and Congo Square on the edge of Treme. Afterwards, we all met at the Parkway Bakery on bayou St. John. Yes, poboys again. This time we went old school. I studied the menu over and over to find something new to order. The choices were myriad, but when you’ve tasted near perfection it’s hard to waiver; I went with the shrimp, fully dressed and a Barq’s. The wait was long, but it was worth it.

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With New Orleans class veterans, Kyle Murphy (2009 & 2011) and Kendra Hanlon (2010 & 2012), second line, March 2013.

Afterwards, most of us caught the beginning of the Keep ‘n It Real second line. It was overcast, but warm. The music was hot and the growing crowd was fully engaged. The students, Kyle and I were joined by another former student, Kendra. We all went well beyond the turn onto Broad Street. The students eventually peeled off while the three veterans soldiered on to the first stop before turning back.

We took in some music on Frenchmen Street: the ceremonial first Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat. We sat in Washington Square Park for a while, taking in the playing children, passersby, and chatty homeless. We met the entire group at the Praline Connection where students were introduced to the Afro-Creole menu and warm service. Among the etouffee, the ribs, the fried chicken, the red beans, and jambalaya were many smiles and full bellies.

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Dinner, Praline Connection, March 2013

I dropped Kyle off and headed up to Gentilly where we had been invited to a concert by Paul Sanchez at the Gentilly Baptist Church. Sanchez, along with singer Arsene DeLay and a couple of others gave us an hour and a half of mostly his songs, including a number of tunes from his musical “Nine Lives.” The students were rocking with the message of love and renewal and I got here some of favorites like “Fine in the Lower Nine,” Rebuild, Renew” and “Foot of Canal Street.”

The students, of course, headed back downtown. I followed them only so long to take a short walk on Frenchmen. I was tired form the second line and the clapping and the people watching. But I was not hungry. I had wisely taken the key so I headed back to All Souls, took a shower that might have been a degree or two warmer than body temperature and took it easy until they returned. I have to pace myself.

Besides, today we start to work.

Warning: my posts during spring break are usually the product of short blocks of down time, combined with reduced access to the internet. Because of time limitations (and poor eyesight) I most assuredly do not catch all typos and misspellings the first time around.  I apologize and please bear with me. I do hope to get around to correcting them during a more leisurely period.

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Downtown St. Patrick’s Parade, March 17, 2009 Wednesday, Feb 27 2013 

UNH students at the Downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade on Frenchmen Street, March 2009.

UNH students at the Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Frenchmen Street, March 2009.

10 Things I Like About New Orleans Tuesday, Feb 26 2013 

St. Louis Cathedral from the Algiers Ferry.

St. Louis Cathedral from the Algiers Ferry.

OK, nearly in the “10 days to New Orleans” window. So much to do; so little time. Yet the anticipation is building.

So, let’s do a random, stream of consciousness exercise: name 10 things I like about New Orleans that are probably not on the radar of the average tourist. In no rational order:

1) The ferry to Algiers. You can hop on a free ferry from the end of Canal Street to Algiers, part of New Orleans, but more like a quaint village on the turn of the Mississippi.

2) Friday night fish fries during Lent. They are everywhere throughout southern Louisiana. The food is often great and the opportunity to meet and talk to locals is outstanding. Best combination ever: Friday night fish fry with my friends Bruno and Ani in Algiers.

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine's Church

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine’s Church

3) Jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Treme. Words can’t do it justice because you have to experience the sights and sounds for yourself. The sign of peace goes on the 15 minutes — and it ends too soon.

4) Grilled meat sandwiches at a second line parade. Never tried the grilled pork chop sandwich because the smell and taste of the grilled sausage sandwich is like heroin. Last year I found myself getting upset because the vendor did not make my sandwich fast enough.

5) Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. Traditional tunes by the Rites of Swing, with vocals by the lovely Yvette Voelker. The vibe is almost as good as the afternoon sunlight coming through the windows.

Jackson Square.

Jackson Square.

6) Sitting on benches people watching. Favorite spots: Jackson Square, the Moon Walk along the River, and Washington Square Park in the Marigny.

7) Abita Amber in “go cups” from Fritzel’s Jazz Pub on Bourbon Street. It is pretty much the only thing that brings me to the touristy part of Bourbon Street when I’m in the French Quarter.

8) Hole in the wall po’boy shops. Jimmy’s, a gas station near I-610, where you can get an enormous, wonderful po’boy for well under $10 bucks. This year, I’ll be staying across the street from a combination tire dealer/po’boy shop in the Lower Ninth. I expect it to be fabulous.

Louis Armstrong statue, Louis Armstrong Park..

Louis Armstrong statue, Louis Armstrong Park..

9) Walking the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. I don’t think my students get it, but I love walking the battlefield where a rag-tag army under Andrew Jackson defeated the British Army in January 1815. The adjacent cemetery, which mainly hosts the remains of African-American soldiers from the Civil War, is equally peaceful and moving.

10) Louis Armstrong Park. Recently reopened, it contains monuments to New Orleans cultural icons, from Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong to “Tootie” Montana. And then there are the ghosts of Congo Square.

I could come up with more, but it is time to go to bed. And I’m sure that in a few weeks, I’ll be able to come up with 10 more.

Friday Evening at the Spotted Cat Friday, May 4 2012 

Panorama Jazz Band, Spotted Cat, New Orleans, March 2009

New Orleans Music — It’s hard to know where to begin Friday, May 4 2012 

In the weeks since returning from New Orleans, the thing that has been sticking with me the most is the music. During the week I experienced brass bands, traditional jazz ensembles, reggae, trumpet players on park benches and more. Everywhere we went, the music seemed to find its way out of doors and into my ears. Not only did I love hearing all the music, but I loved how everyone else seemed to love it too. From kids not even out of high school to 70 year old men, everyone enjoys and soaks up local music.

Left to right, Alex McMurray, Paul Sanchez, and Arsene DeLay at the Gentilly Baptist Church, New Orleans, March 2012.

I’m kind of jealous of the way music is such an ingrained part of New Orleans life. I love listening to music, playing music, and just experiencing music. Unfortunately, I think that for a lot of Americans, music is a very passive listening only experience. New Orleans certainly doesn’t follow this idea. People are expected to get up and move and be a part of the music. I fell in love with the music culture in New Orleans.

In the months leading up to the trip, we listened to our regular song of the day in class. I enjoyed these songs, but they felt somewhat disjointed. From Big Freedia to the Wild Magnolias, to Louis Armstrong, to Louis Moreau Gottschalk — it was all interesting and I enjoyed the somewhat new sounds, but it was very abstract.

Once in New Orleans, I began to see, hear and understand how it all fit together in one place. We heard Paul Sanchez sing about the city, about its struggles and its love for life. His voice, paired with fantastic guitar reminded me a little of folk singers up north. The themes he sang and spoke about reminded me that we were far from there. He’s been a part of a musical adaptation of the book Nine Lives, and a song telling the story of Orleans parish coroner Frank Minyard repeats the line “Where are the bodies?” – a bit shocking, startling and very effective in its message. He was accompanied by Arsene DeLay, whose voice was incredible beyond words. It was sweet and smooth, yet at the same time striking and powerful. The concert made for a fantastic evening for the first full day in the city.

Brass band performing on Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, March 2012, Madelyn Ball.

We found that the clubs on Bourbon Street played popular dance music that spread far beyond the walls of the buildings and saturated the humid air. It was loud and it was crazy, but that seems to be the New Orleans way. The clubs nearby on Frenchmen Street host more authentic New Orleans music. It was there that I experienced my first live brass band. New Orleans musicians put a cool in brass that I didn’t know existed. The sound was less like playing an instrument and more like singing through the instrument. There was nothing refined, and everything exciting and soulful. I loved it. The part that I’m the most amazed by though is the ability of these musicians to memorize and improvise — there was even a student from Indiana University who seamlessly jumped in and played with the band for the night. The sound shot out of their instruments and filled the room. The energy was amazing and I couldn’t sit still. It was a really wonderful night — I felt like I was really experiencing New Orleans.

Dr. Michael White Quartet,Xavier University, New Orleans, March 2012

Later in the week, we went to see Dr. Michael White and his quartet play traditional New Orleans jazz at Xavier University of Louisiana. The band consisted of jazz clarinet, trumpet, banjo, and bass and all four players were incredibly talented musicians. They played a number of songs, and spoke about the development of jazz before each one. The history and evolution was so interesting and made each tune all the more interesting to me. The band was tighter and the sound more refined but without sounding flat or repetitive. They improvised together, and I was in awe with their skill. My favorite was when the trumpet player Gregg Stafford  sang “Basin Street Blues” in his raspy yet smooth voice, adding things about our group and that very night. I loved it.

Crowd listeing to brass band, Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, March 2012

We experienced each ‘sub-genre’ of New Orleans music in its place in New Orleans and it all began to make sense. The people in New Orleans are of such diverse backgrounds and cultures and the music is likewise. I know that during my week in New Orleans, I only experienced a small portion of all the music there is. It pulled me in and, now that I’m hooked, I’ll be able to explore more New Orleans music and better appreciate it. Dr. John next to Galactic won’t seem quite so strange anymore, but rather pieces of the whole New Orleans picture.

-Maddie Ball-

The End of the Week Friday, Mar 16 2012 

Los Islenos and Baratarians in Slidell LA, March 2012

You can take all of the cliches about returning home after spending a week away and boil ’em up in a pot and pretty much get the point of this post. Between Thursday night and Saturday morning, the students here are already preparing for the separation; the trip, the thing they’ve looked forward to since pre-registration is about to be over. No matter how much we talk about their experience in an effort to place this great, yet peculiar City in context; it won’t be enough. And then they’ll get to drive the 26-28 hours back to Durham NH. I think they’ve really begun to understand this place, warts and all. And they understand the small contribution that they’ve made to the lives of the people in this region. They’ve certainly gotten the food. They’ve adapted to the slow pace. And they understand that this place sweats music. And they have already begun ignoring the sunburns, and blisters, and the aching muscles that they never realized that they had.

UNH Students on the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry, March 2012

Thursday night, everyone got up from dinner and a surprise birthday cake from home, and ventured into the City. One group had already gone in to eat at the Praline Connection on Frenchmen. I met the other two groups for a round-trip on the ferry to Algiers Point. I didn’t even get off the boat. The night was balmy, almost summer-like. We’ve enjoyed it immensely, but I’ve heard several locals worry aloud: “if it’s this hot in march, what is it going to be like in July?”

Young Fellaz Brass Band, Frenchmen Street, March 2012

After the ferry ride, the groups went their separate ways, although most ended up listening to some sort of music. I caught the up-and-coming Young Fellaz Brass Band for a short, yet-spirited set at the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen, before ducking into one of the nearby clubs for a set of cafe jazz. I had early morning plans to visit with the group working across the Parish, so I returned before most of the students.

Friday brought the last day of work and the last night in the City. I drove through the morning fog to meet up with the Wild Magnolias, who are putting the finishing touches on a couple of homes outside of Abita Springs. Both are scheduled to close before the end of the month. In the process, they have picked up such skills as pouring cement, building steps, and playing with local canines. They have plans to work through so that they can go to Uptown New Orleans for a Parkway Bakery po’boy. I would be jealous, except for the fact that I have found a couple of very, respectable po’boy shops right here in Slidell (As of this writing: Jocko’s and Kenney’s Seafood. I’m sure if I return in the future, I’ll discover others.).

Wild Magnolias, outside of Abita Springs LA, March 2012

The Los Islenos and Baratarians continue to toil away on Maple and Tupelo Streets,  painting and laying flooring. And they so without the benefit of the shade enjoyed by their cross-Parish classmates.The volunteers next week will be left with a nice platform upon which to erect walls. Yup, students from UNH-ABC did that. Nevertheless, you could feel the energy level drop like the air released from a balloon. And the fact that it was humid and above 80 degrees before 11 a.m. didn’t help. They too, were heading out for po’boys, but I warned them to leave room for dinner (fried catfish, okra jambalaya, salad, etc. And I’m throwing in 10 pounds of boiled crawfish, so that everyone will have a chance to try them).

I don’t think there’s a soul who’ll stay put or retire early tonight. Most plan to meet up at the Blue Nile to see Kermit Ruffins and his band, the Barbecue Swingers (Kermit is know almost as much for his cooking as his effervescent music). I might try to catch Dr. Michael White, who is playing over in the courtyard of the Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street a little before. From the Blue Nile, I suspect they’ll fan out to have cafe au lait, listen to more music, or just enjoy walking the streets on a warm night. And again, even though I don’t have a long drive ahead of me, I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be among the first back in Slidell.

Or, as the old crank in “It’s a Wonderful Life” said: “Youth is wasted on the wrong people!”

“Scruffy,” Abita Springs LA, March 2012

“Root Beer,” Slidell LA, March 2012

On Site Wednesday, Mar 14 2012 

Painting a porch on Maple Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

After weeks of anticipation, the students and leaders were excited to finally get to work. I went with the Baratarians and Los Islenos groups to work with East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity in Slidell. The Wild Magnolias had a 45 minute drive to St. Tammany West. It would have been an early day, even if it weren’t their spring break. The morning yielded slapped together lunches, yawns and sleepy eyes, and a 6:45 a.m. reflection time, all prior to heading for the the work sites.

Cutting floor joists, Tupelo Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

After some struggles to find work placement for the class, it was heartening to see them all put to work within a few minutes. In a fine example of self-selection, the ones who wanted to use power tools and build a house went to once site; the ones who were just fine with prep work and painting porches went to another. While it proved to be a fine day weather-wise, the preceding rainy days left yards of wet sticky clay and mosquitoes the size of sparrows. A quick run to the store for bug spray and the emerging sun  solved the mosquito problem. The clay didn’t go anywhere — besides footwear.

Home site on Tupelo Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

The third group, was over north of Mandeville; it split into two groups. The larger worked on the punchlist for a house outside of Abita Springs. The smaller group stayed behind at Habitat and their adjoining ReStore to work on small projects.

The students seemed very satisfied with the day, clay and all. And it was clear from the Habitat folks that I have talked to that they are quite pleased with the students’ work ethic. As a result, the students will be given more and  more complicated projects to work on as the week rolls on.

Stephanie, making cookies for St. Joseph's Day altar, March 2012

For me, there were mixed feelings. Even after seven years, the prospect of students using power tools terrifies me. They receive great training, are eager to learn, but… In addition, I am nursing a bad shoulder that is going in for surgery later this month. Thus painting, hammering, and much lifting are out of the question. And that is driving me crazy. I can only watch the students working for so long. To make up for it, I’m volunteering in the kitchen at the Peace Mission Center. It’s fun working with Stephanie and work like chopping and paring doesn’t generally require holding your arm above shoulder level. And, I might learn something new.

"Uncle Lionel" Batiste, bass drummer for the Treme Brass Band, Frenchmen Street, March 2012

After a meatloaf dinner (as much as I cook, I’ve never had the opportunity to put my hands in thirty pounds of ground beef), students gathered for a trip into the French Quarter. They had taken the night before off, and there was shopping to be done on Decatur and Royal, music to e listened to, and beignets to be eaten. I had the chance to see the Treme Brass Band at d.b.a. on Frenchmen. The music was great, especially their versions of “I Ate Up the Apple Tree,” “Big Chief,” and “Bourbon Street Parade.”  The crowd seemed well lubricated, as well, which offered entertainment driven by somewhat morbid fascination. A couple of women, in particular, seemed to defy gravity as they lurched in front of the stage. However, by the time I left after the second set, they were still, amazingly, upright.

Treme Brass Band, d.b.a., Frenchmen Street, March 2012

Most of us were back around midnight. And lights did not stay on long. Morning, and another day of hard work, would be coming soon enough.

A Quiet Day in Slidell, LA Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

I have probably driven through the Slidell area a dozen times, but only stopped to buy gas once or twice  — that is, until this past Saturday. Since then, I have joined my class as guests of the Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Slidell, Louisiana. Initially, the impulse for us to beat a path to the City, but the long van trip trip and late nights caught up with the group on Monday.

Students boarding the boats swamp tour, March 2012.

Some of the other groups began working for various agencies in the area, but our work week starts on Tuesday. After a somewhat slow start, students gathered for breakfast in the dining/meeting hall; then we went through orientation. Afterwards students had a couple of hours to go online, write in their journals, or just chill after three hectic days. I advised them to take advantage, because the next six days would bring hard work AND the long drive back to New Hampshire.

Our intrepid and extremely knowledgeable guide, Pearl River, March 2012.

We all got together in early afternoon a few miles east of Slidell along the banks of the Pearl River. There, we embarked on a swamp tour of the Pearl River basin. It was overcast and showery; the water high from spring rains and still a bit chilly for optimum sightings of large, scaly aquatic reptiles, i.e., the main reason we were there.

Time would prove that we were in the hands of knowledgeable and skilled guides. Over the next two hours, we were enlightened about local history, culture, and the insights of folks who are the antithesis of the fanciful caricatures presented by “reality” shows like “Swamp People.” And we saw some magnificent scenery, centuries old cypress, wild blue iris, and, most importantly, swamp critters.

Great blue heron on the Pearl River, March 2012.

We passed turtles trying to squeeze some sun out of the showers, water snakes, egrets, ibis, a broad winged hawk, and great blue herons. We took a narrow bayou up to an oxbow, the former, now bypassed  channel of the Pearl River. There, the water was warm enough for some gator activity. Not monsters by any means, but large and lively enough to entertain a bunch of students from New England. Our guide, with tremendous eloquence called them to the boat. A hot dog on a stick helped in the task, but only after he got there attention with his gatorese. Each alligator ate and swam back enough to get a good view of our departure. A fun and highly educational way to spend the afternoon. And certainly not something that I can replicate in the classroom.

Pirate's Alley, off of Jackson Square, after a rain, March 2012.

We returned to the Peace Mission Center for traditional Monday fare: red beans and rice prepared by Chef Stephanie. They were delicious and we did our part to make sure they did not have to deal with leftovers.

The students clearly took me seriously about resting up. They retired to the lounge for movies, quiet talk, and relaxation. The guys’ quarters are, to say the least, not lounge-worthy, and I did not want to infringe upon their social time. For that reason, I was forced into town to listen to music, walk about, and take some pictures of the rain-drenched streets. Nonetheless, it was still an early evening for me , too, as our work day on Tuesday begins at 6:45 a.m sharp.

Again, something of a public service warning: these daily posts during spring break are often done on the run, usually in a McDonald’s. I generally don’t have the time to review or edit them as I might usually, and the chances that I’ll go back and catch things is limited. In advance, let me apologize for typos (especially this year since I am using a netbook) and missing words. It goes with the territory, but if I can, I ‘d rather post as often as time allows, albeit imperfectly.

We’ve All Landed Sunday, Mar 11 2012 

Before I begin, a public service warning: these daily posts during spring break are often done on the run, usually in a McDonald’s. I generally don’t have the time to review them as might usually, and the chances that I’ll go back and catch things is limited. In advance, let me apologize for typos (especially this year since I am using a netbook) and missing words. It goes with the territory, but it I can, I ‘d rather snatch the time to post as often as time allows.

Shrimp boats on Bayou Bienvenue, March 2012.

Now: yesterday was a roller coaster of a day. I started at a motel overlooking Bayou Bienvenue in Chalmette, Louisiana. I had a leisurely breakfast at the cafe of the casino attached to the motel. In this case, a couple of dozen video poker machines constitutes a casino. After a quick visit to the docks and shrimp boats behind the motel, I headed into the City.

It was kind of a gray day as I crossed the Ninth Ward and headed down Elysian Fields to the Marigny neighborhood.  I strolled down sleepy Frenchmen Street (it would be an entirely different story 12 hours later). It was one of those aimless mornings that I look forward to, especially in front of hectic week with work and events planned. I walked a lot and found nice places to pause and people watch.

Line at Cafe du Monde, March 2012.

I strolled through the French Market. I passed the University of Kentucky basketball fans lined up a half block to get a seat at Cafe du Monde (I guess I’ve never had a cup of coffee that good). I visited Jackson Square and the Cathedral and headed north to Treme. I crossed Bourbon Street without glancing either way and ended up in the newly refurbished Armstrong Park.

For a music lover, it was like a trip home. Before Katrina it was reputed to be to dangerous to visit and after Katrina, it was closed for years. So I jumped at the

Louis Armstrong statue, Armstrong Park, March 2012.

chance to walk across Congo Square where Africn slaves were permitted, every Sunday, to relive their dance and musical traditions. A statue to Mardi Gras Indian chief of chiefs Allison “Tootie” Montana, the Mahalia Jackson Center for the performing arts, statues of Louis Armstrong, pioneering cornetist Charles “Buddy” Bolden, and azaleas and magnolia trees to boot.

I returned to Jackson Square where I was to meet some friends later. There I stumbled on the other end of the New Orleans musical timeline. I got to see the Roots of Music band, the brainchild of Rebirth Brass Band’s snare drummer, Derek Tabb. After Katrina, when the future of New Orleans’ musical traditions were in question,

Derek Tabb conducting the Roots of Music Marching Band, Jackson Square, 2012.

he conceived of a program to pull inner city middle schoolers off of the mean streets and into the band room. There they would have a few precious minutes away from the drug deals and drive by shootings, incentive to keep up with their studies (they receive tutoring before band lessons), and they would later populate a long list of competitive high school bands in New Orleans. It has been such a success that they are having to turn hundreds of kids away each year.

But this 150 were as good (or better) than many high school bands. They performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd to raise money for a trip to the Tournament of Roses Parade, to which they have been invited. Tabb directed them through several spirited numbers (including a very challenging Rebirth tune) before they passed the bucket. And with a few more days like this, and they should be on their way to Pasadena.

Mena's Palace, March 2012.

I met my former student and New Orleans trip group leader Kyle, and his roommates. They have paused in New Orleans before heading over to Texas to visit friends for spring break. I took them over to one of my mainstays, Mena’s Palace at Chartres and Iberville, for their Saturday special of fried chicken with red beans and rice. Eight bucks — add fifty cents for white meet. We walked back towards my car so I could head up to Slidell to meet up with arriving students.

The Peace Mission Center, in Slidell, LA, was about a forty minute drive from downtown, including a trip across Lake Pontchartrain. Two groups arrived in the afternoon, unpacked and showered off over 24 hours on the road. The third group did not arrive until after night fall, long after we had headed into the French Quarter. Groups fanned out across the Quarter, some to test new dinner fare, while other took in the Italian Marching Club parade to honor St. Joseph’s Day. Well nominally.

610 Stompers, St. Joseph's Parade, March 2012.

The lure of beads has long worn off for me, but it’s fun to see students at their first New Orleans parade . However, this year’s parade fielded a surprise: the 610 Stompers. They performed at the Macy’s Parade at Thanksgiving and the normally-gratingly, talkative parade hosts were speechless. Basically, they are a bunch of New Orleans schlubs who decided to learn some dance moves so that they could get into a Saints game to perform. They did this during the Saints’ Super Bowl season and the rest, as they say, is history. There motto is “Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Moves.” And they did their routines, danced with the crowd and my students. It was all in good, weird fun.

Brass band and crowds on Frenchmen Street, March 2012.

I ended the evening listening to some music on Frenchmen Street. And the place was humming like I’ve never seen it. I stayed for a couple of sets and listened at several doorways, but the day and the crowds finally took their toll and I headed back across the lake.

 

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

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