Hitting the Ground Running Tuesday, Mar 15 2016 

It has been about a day and a half since we collectively arrived in New Orleans. Is spite of flooding in the south and related thunderstorms, neither Southwest 737s or minivans, ran into weather delays. A burning tractor trailer in East Tennessee led to frustrating delays for of the two groups; however we were all safely in New Orleans by late afternoon on Saturday, March 12th.

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Kyle and Bill, Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade 2016

Two of the groups arrived in time to take part in the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade Uptown. And, as they would find out firsthand over the next 24 hours, in New Orleans participation in parades is strongly encouraged. Whether it catching throws or passionately engaging with marchers for St. Paddy’s or dancing in a second line, you are generally part of the event.

At 5:30 in the afternoon, all four groups converged on the North Rampart Community Center, which is tucked in the the northeast corner of the French Quarter. Director “Coach” Parker welcomed us and provided the students with combination tour, orientation, and history lesson. The class was impressed with the facility; it would take a while for them to realize how good the location is.

In what has become a New Orleans trip, first-night tradition, the students headed over to the Joint, in the Bywater, an excellent barbecue place in a town not famous for its barbecue. With our arrival, the line quickly went out the door onto Mazant Street. It took a while by the end of the line the choice of smoked meats began to dwindle, but everyone was seated, fed, and left quite full, thank you. A few students braved exhaustion and took a brief walk into the Quarter, but most took advantage of hot showers and the potential for a full night’s sleep.

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Jazz Mass at St. Augustine’s, March 2016.

The next morning, most students ventured two blocks into Treme to attend the Jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic. I warned them that it was long, but for me it is a “not-to-be-missed” part of any visit to New Orleans, and I guess it’s hard to hide that level of sentiment. The students immediately felt the community and faith of the congregation of this, the oldest African-American Catholic Church in the nation’s first black neighborhood.

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Students with Mardi Gras Indian, March 2016

It was the perfect start to a day that appeared focused on both Treme and New Orleans parade culture. After mass, the class gathered at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong. This spot was where African slaves were permitted to drum, dance, and sell their wares on Sunday. And in the process, contributed to the preservation of African rhythms that became one of the catalysts for the development of jazz. And while waiting to link up with this Sunday’s second line parade, students were treated to the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras Indians who had marched down from Bayou St. John.

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Second Line, Esplanade Avenue, March 2016.

The Keep ‘N It Real Second Line appeared to be more elusive, or at least, it took longer for it to make its way towards where we were waiting. We ended up walking over to Claiborne and St. Bernard. Students first appeared taken aback by the singing, dancing, twerking, horn playing crowd that enveloped us, but most second lined through the Seventh Ward and Treme, and a few followed it all the way back to Bayou St. John. It was a big hit.

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Li’l Dizzy’s, March 2016

Appropriately, we reconnected at Li’l Dizzy’s, an Afro-Creole restaurant on the edge of Treme. Once again, we were treated to the best gumbo in the City, along with fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, and bread pudding, all washed down with brewed ice tea. We tried valiantly, but the buffet won in the end. Some went back to the Center to rest after a full day of activities, while others followed the siren’s song of the French Quarter.

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Harry “Swamp Thing” Cook, Hot 8 Brass Band, March 2016.

At 10pm, we met up at the Howlin’ Wolf in the warehouse district for a performance by the Hot 8 Brass Band. Most had stereotyped images of brass band music, likely picturing a cross between marching band and traditional jazz. They were totally unprepared  for what hit them. In the end, most was stay through both sets to funked up music in a packed, brick room. For them a day of music, dancing, and traditional Creole cooking, would come to an exhausted, yet satisfying end. A day in which entertainment tested endurance and highlighted new and unexpected experiences.

And then there would be work.

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The Night Before Friday, Mar 11 2016 

Flying out in a few hours. Trying to remember the feeling ten years ago when I was flying down to volunteer months after Katrina. I was a 50 year-old, father of three, and I was terrified. Travelling alone. The prospect of working with people I had never met. And then, of course, what would I find in the ruins of a great American city?

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Gutting houses, home in Chalmette, LA, March 2006.

Long story short: I survived, even after being robbed as I slept in my hotel room. I hated parts of it, but the experience changed my life. A year later, I made the trip better by adding a healthy portion of UNH students, five of whom were from my initial New Orleans class. And I had the time of my life living through through their eyes and reactions to the experience. An ice storm in Boston cancelled my flight home and I had to stay over the weekend. As a result, I got to experience my first Mardi Gras Indian parade. I got home two days late, after three flights that began before daybreak in Jackson, Mississippi. I  ended up missing a Monday night class for a course I was teaching for the University of Rhode Island library school and I was worn to a nub. As we exited the turnpike to head to our home, my wife, sensing my exhaustion said: “Well, you don’t have to go back next year.” My silence said otherwise. And she knew it.

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Super Sunday, Uptown Mardi Gras Indian Parade, March 2007.

Somehow, I’ve spent one sixth of my life doing this thing year in and year out, and it hasn’t grown old. Ten years and some 250 students later, it remains just as fresh, just an exciting, and just as exhausting as it ever was. My wife, and my now adult children, and my friends have grown accustomed to it. It is a part of me and happily, they like me enough to put up with it and my conversations that begin with, “Well, it’s just like this or that in New Orleans…”

The students in this, the tenth New Orleans course are in the mid-Atlantic, passing through Pennsylvania en route to a sliver of Maryland and West Virginia, respectively. The day began with worried calls from parents, rightly concerned by reports of flooding in Louisiana. I too, have been worried, monitoring conditions continuously, calling friends in New Orleans, and was able to report that while New Orleans was soggy, things there were OK. And after hours of studying weather.com the 1579 mile route between Durham, NH and North Rampart Street appears strangely free from rain.

So, I go to bed. 3:45am will come soon enough. As always, I am worried for their safety, but confident that I will see them, perhaps wet and bedraggled, tomorrow afternoon, along the parade route of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade. If not there, we’ll reconnoitre at the community center that we will call home for the next week. And then we’ll embark on another one of those weeks in New Orleans, that messed up, enigmatic, magical place, that year after year manufactures experiences that none of us will ever forget.

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Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade (in the rain), March 2009.

UNH Museum to Celebrate Mardi Gras Early Tuesday, Jan 14 2014 

Mardi Gras Indian, Super Sunday 2013, New Orleans. Photo by Gary Samson.

Mardi Gras Indian, Super Sunday 2013, New Orleans. Photo by Gary Samson.

Mardi Gras does not come until March 4th this year, but the University Museum of the UNH Library is allowing the public to celebrate early…and in New Hampshire.

The University Museum, in part with grant funding from the New Hampshire Humanities Council, is hosting an exhibit and related programs entitled “The Beat on the Street: Second Lines, Mardi Gras Indians, and the Photography of Gary Samson.” The exhibition of photographs and folk art will focus on the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. This working class, African American tradition is distinctively part of New Orleans’s parade culture, and more broadly related to black Carnival celebrations throughout the world.

The exhibit will run from Monday, February 10th through March 28, 2014 with its formal opening on Wednesday, February 12, 2014. The opening includes the showing of the film, Bury the Hatchet, which traces the Mardi Gras Indian tradition through the eyes of three “big chiefs” or leaders of these Mardi Gras Indian gangs. The event will feature special guest Big Chief Alfred Doucette of the Flaming Arrows, who also appears in the documentary. He will answer questions about the film and this centuries old tradition in a discussion moderated by Professor Burt Feintuch of the UNH Center for the Humanities. Chief Doucette’s visit and the exhibition are underwritten, in part, by the grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Big Chief Alfred Doucette. Photo by Gary Samson.

Big Chief Alfred Doucette. Photo by Gary Samson.

The film and discussion will take place from 3-5:00PM at the UNH Memorial Union Building, Theater I. An opening reception will follow the program at the University Museum, Dimond Library, Room 101, 5:30-7:00PM. The exhibit will feature Mardi Gras Indian suits and art work, as well as the photography of Gary Samson, chair of the Photography Department of the New Hampshire Institute of Art. The exhibit, film, and reception are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at the reception.

The New Hampshire Humanities Council nurtures the joy of learning and inspires community engagement by bringing life-enhancing ideas from the humanities to the people of New Hampshire. They connect people with ideas. Learn more about the Council and its work at http://www.nhhc.org.

For more information, contact Dale Valena, 603-862-1081 or Bill Ross, 603-862-0346. Dale.valena@unh.edu, bill.ross@unh.edu

The St. Joseph’s-St. Patrick’s Day Mash Up Tuesday, Mar 19 2013 

Camellia Grill, March 2013

Camellia Grill, March 2013

I hope my students had a chance to witness part of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade before they left on Saturday. It’s not important, or meaningful, or culturally significant, but it is New Orleans at its goofy, frivolous best. It is a good example of the ingrained parade culture; it is imprinted on these peoples’ DNA. But then, they had a 1600 mile trip ahead of them. I only had to brave breakfast.

I picked up Kyle and his roommates and we headed down Carrollton to the Magnolia Grill, a hoary institution that has been serving breakfast and sandwiches since patrons wore bobby socks. And from the feel of the place it wouldn’t seem out of place today. Being Saturday morning, there was a wait, but it was a beautiful sunny morning. It had been nearly twenty years since I have graced their marble counters, but my memory reminded me that it

Chef’s Omelet, Magnolia Grill, March 2013.

was worth the wait. It is seldom that you the chance to order eggs, sausage, toast and grits and feel virtuous, but when you are sharing breakfast with three 20-somethings, it makes it easy. I can’t truly describe what a chef’s omelet is; a picture does the job far better than I. And besides the Clover Grill, few places in New Orleans can serve a meal complete with entertainment.

We waddled out, picked up some liquid refreshments, and met up with some other City Year volunteers along Louisiana Avenue. Crowds were already lining the street, but we were able to snag some prime viewing spots in front of a police barricade on Prytania. We had to move for a couple of ambulances and an emergency oyster delivery, but we had prime spots from which to snag beads, cabbage and other assorted produce. Moon Pies, Ramen Noodles, drink koozies, and just about anything else drunks could throw from two story tall trailers. When it was over, we parted ways and I headed down to the Marigny for a couple of restful nights in a hotel in the Marigny.

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

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

New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling, March 2013.

New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling, March 2013.

After a short rest, I met up with another former student at the Spotted Cat. We walked and talked and caught up some more before settling in for some dinner, with traditional jazz at the foot of Frenchmen Street, right near the spot where a Spanish governor had five recalcitrant Frenchmen summarily executed; hence the name.

We finished dinner and Kendra offered that she was going to attend the finals of the New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling league with her roommates. I mean, who, on the heels of seeing a guy fondling a snake in a bar, could pass on that experience  so I accepted the challenge. She explained that it was largely good-natured spectacle staged to raise money for women’s charities. So we headed over to One Eyed Jacks in the Quarter.

It was almost too weird to describe. A cross between professional wrestling and “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” Muscle bound women, with great monikers, surrounded by themed entourages. My favorite bartender from Kajun’s backed up the eventual winner, “Seyonce” who bested “Mary Magdalene.” Seriously. After surviving that, I retreated to the quiet courtyard of my small hotel. Yes, there is such a thing as having too much fun.

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine's, March 2013

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine’s, March 2013

For some cleansing on Sunday morning I attended the jazz mass at nearby St. Augustine’s, probably my favorite thing to do in New Orleans. As usual, the singing of the “Our Father,” brought tears to my eyes and the sign of peace went on for ten minutes of more. Then Kendra and I headed uptown for Super Sunday gathering of the Mardi Gras Indians, which customarily takes place on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th), which is a major holiday for the New Orleans Italian population. No one is quite sure why the African-American Indians chose to piggy-back on this largely Sicilian holiday, but it makes for a wonderful cultural mash up.

This was my fifth Super Sunday and the biggest I have witnessed by far. Of course, I remember my first in 2007, only a year and a half removed from Katrina, the resilience and new energy that it represents is, I believe, a very positive sign for both the City and

Super Sunday, March 2013.

Super Sunday, March 2013.

its cultural foundations. We walked the entire route through some of New Orleans’ most challenged neighborhoods. The sights and sounds and smell of street vendors’ wares were indescribable. We had sausage sandwiches before the parade started and ended the parade with a couple of pounds of boiled crawfish. We stayed an additional hour. Indian gangs continued to return to the park where they performed once more before taking off feathered and beaded costumes that can weigh more than a hundred pounds. And while our fatigue could not match that of the Indians, the sun and activity had taken their toll. We parted ways and I headed back to my hotel and ate carry out for dinner.

St. Patrick's in the Marigny, March 2013.

St. Patrick’s in the Marigny, March 2013.

I swore I would ignore the Downtown St. Patrick’s Parade, but tired or not, I walked the few blocks to Royal Street and watched as the much-smaller parade wound through the Bywater and Marigny. it was fun to watch with the crowds from the neighborhoods. And while far from sedate, it carried with a local charm. But afterwards, with the sun setting, I finally took refuge in my small hotel courtyard.

It had been a busy, sometimes frenetic, but thoroughly rewarding multicultural weekend.

Mardi Gras Redux Wednesday, Feb 13 2013 

In spite of my obsession with New Orleans, I have never made it Mardi Gras. A couple of years ago, I got there four days after the fact, but folks Uptown were still ready for the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s not the drunkenness or debauchery or “Girl’s Gone Wild” atmospherics that I miss; it is the cultural and social affects that I miss. The Zulus, the Mardi Gras Indians, the dogs in the Barkas Parade, and the neighborhood-centric goofiness of the St. Anne’s Parade. These are the things I long to see. And thankfully, nola.com provides me with photos and video to give me a glimpse into what those there are experiencing.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

Mardi Gras Indian, February 2013.

One of the things I used to put me in the spirit was the Times-Picayune’s JacksonSquareCam. Right now it probably shows people milling about and getting their palms read in the plaza between the Cathedral and Jackson Square, but during Mardi Gras it was abuzz with costumed revelers. And even from the distance of the camera, some appeared threatening and many of the rest, just plain weird and/or scary.

However, many of the photos and videos put on display by the Times-Picayune really capture the history and culture represented by Mardi Gras. And yeah, people are still having fun. Among my favorites, i.e. the ones that help me experience the celebration from afar:

The Skull and Bones Gangs — For some reason, these guys terrify me; however, there is a beautiful photo collection of the Northside Skull & Bone Gang waking up Treme on Mardi Gras day.

The Mardi Gras Indians processing in Treme under the I-10 overpass. I’ve seen it on St. Joseph’s Night, but not during Mardi Gras. One day. Here are photos and a video.

One of the things I’d most want to experience is thew history and tradition of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, 104 years old and going strong.

The Mardi Gras Day reopening of Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge by Kermit Ruffins.

To witness the neighborhood spectacle that is the St. Anne Parade that stumbles through the Marigny.

OK, I have to finally admit it. I have found a krewe that surpasses the 610 Stompers: the Laissez Boys Social and Leisure Club.

And, finally the ceremonial NOPD sweep of Bourbon Street at midnight after Mardi Gras.

I love it from afar, but one day I will actually experience it.

James “Sugar Boy” Crawford (1934-2012) Saturday, Sep 15 2012 

Rhythm and blues composer and singer James “Sugar Boy” Crawford died in New Orleans early today, following a brief illness. He a few weeks away from turning 78.

Crawford grew up in New Orleans around LaSalle Street and played trombone for the Booker T. Washington High School Band. He formed a singing group while still in high school and one of their demo discs caught the ear of Leonard Chess of Chess Records as he passed through. He made a demo recording and gave Crawford five dollars, which Crawford recalls he spent on “some wine and red beans.”

Crawford gained some notice for several r&b tunes during the fifties before he drifted off into obscurity in the early 1960s. He record such tunes as “I Bowed on My Knees,” “Morning Glory” and “She’s Gotta Wobble (When She Walks),” but it was one recording early on that cemented his importance in New Orleans music and culture.

In 1953, when Crawford was 19, he pieced together a couple of Mardi Gras Indian chants into a tune he sang as “Chock-a-mo.” He recorded the tune at Cosimo Matassa’s studio on Rampart Street, but the record was distributed by Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records. Back in Chicago, Chess listened to the recording and christened it “Jock-a’mo,” the name under which it was released. It became a minor hit during the 1954 carnival season, but it would become more famous in the hands of others.

Fast forward to 1965. The Dixie Cups, a female vocal group which grew out of New Orleans’ Calliope housing projects, were recording for Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller at Red Bird Records in New York. During a break, they started singing a version of Crawford’s “Jock-a-mo,” which they remembered others singing during their childhood. For rhythm, they played ashtrays using drum sticks. Lieber and Stoller still had the tape running and caught the group’s “clowning around.” The producers listed to the tape, added bass and percussion and under the name “Iko-Iko,” the Dixie Cups had another national hit. The Dixie Cups successfully sued for exclusive rights to the song, although Crawford got a 25% for public performance in the United States.

Since 1965, “Iko-Iko” has been performed and/or recorded by the likes of Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, the Grateful Dead, the Radiators, Cyndi Lauper, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Crawford’s grandson, Davell Crawford. And not by accident, Louisiana’s Abita Brewing Company has named one of its beers Jockamo IPA.

Crawford resurfaced to record with his grandson in 1995 and most recently sang gospel in church and at JazzFest with Jo “Cool” Davis. Crawford will be missed, but clearly, his signature tune will be with us as long as Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans.

Katrina, Hushpuppy, and Isaac: Seven Years Later Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

Hurricane Issac

Oh, my mind is reeling. On Friday, I learned that my New Orleans class was going to be working in the Lower Ninth Ward next spring. In eight trips to New Orleans since Katrina, I’ve only had the chance to work in the Lower Ninth for one wonderful day. After a brief celebration, I’m now riveted to the Weather Channel and hoping for the best,as Hurricane Isaac approaches.

As I have noted before, I was in New Orleans a few days before Katrina hit. It was my third visit to New Orleans and the one in which I fell madly in love with this complicated and dysfunctional city. And that is what fixed my attention to Katrina and its aftermath. I watched from 1500 miles away, but I took it personally. Forget the architecture, the food, and the music (all of which I love deeply), I watched as the most gregarious and generous people in America took a direct hit from a storm and then the governments that were supposedly established to protect them. I, a 50+, overweight, college professor vowed at that moment to help try to make it right.

I have been back numerous times since then. In the grand scheme of things, it is an anemic effort, but I have gutted homes, cleared lots,  put up walls, scraped paint, painted homes, and cooked for volunteers.  I know it’s not much, but in recent years I’ve brought my students. And I’d like to think that this has made some small contribution to the rebirth of New Orleans and the Gulf. And just this year, while walking through the diverse neighborhoods of the city, I had the sense that New Orleans had finally rounded the bend in the river. While there is much to be done, especially in places like the Lower Ninth, I have begun to think that New Orleans has found its mojo.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

A couple of weeks ago, after much anticipation, I finally saw “Beasts of the Southern Wild,”  a post-Katrina, apocalyptic  film. I found it anarchic, dystopian, and difficult to watch. My wife left the screening after watching what she rightly considered abuses upon a child. I stayed.  The ending strove to pull this messy allegory together towards a meaningful conclusion. I left vaguely satisfied and much confused, and it took days for me to see the brilliance of it all. To me, it represented that in the midst of chaos, the forces of family, no matter how dysfunctional and ill-defined, and community, no matter how strange, can come together for the benefit of all. And the government or society cannot rightly legislate either.

And this, I believe, is a metaphor for New Orleans. Whether it the Uptown establishment or the Creoles of Treme or the working class folk of the Lower Ninth, they have a bond of proximity and purpose and they form a community. And in their own way, however slow-paced and impractical, they move to make things

St. Joseph’s Night, March 2011.

better. I look to the resurgence of the Mardi Gras Indians as yet another symbol of this. It represents a unique cultural affect that was nearly lost with the attack on working class, black New Orleanians, but bead by bead, drum beat by drum beat, they have collectively come back stronger than ever. And it was because they were forced to look extinction in the eye. They said no. And they responded. And from their example, and that of the social aid and pleasure clubs and the musicians, New Orleans learned a powerful message. You not only pick-up, you grow, and you move forward.

Hushpuppy, the pint-sized force of nature in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” survived and so will her neighbor, New Orleans. It has come too far not to. It’s spine is stiffer and more resilient than before. And while it is far from perfect (it wouldn’t be New Orleans if it were), it will withstand Isaac and, once again,  move on.

And I will be happy to add my small part to the process.

The REAL Spirit of New Orleans Monday, Apr 2 2012 

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn…” –Jack Kerouac

Bead work from Mardi Gras Indian outfit, House of Dance and Feathers, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2012

Looking back to the weeks before my first trip to New Orleans, I remember being nervous and wondering what to expect from a city known for its indescribable culture. After spending one day in the city, I was hooked. Our first day experiencing New Orleans as a class helped me to understand the spirit and culture of the city that Bill had been trying to describe to us for the first half of the semester.


Our first full day in New Orleans, we started off by heading to the Lower Ninth Ward to visit Ronald Lewis at The House of Dance and Feathers, the museum located behind his house. The bright colors from the Mardi Gras Indian costumes filling the room made it difficult to look away. Each costume was created with beautiful beadwork and details. It is one thing to see them in photographs or videos but it is a completely different story to see them in person.

Lower Ninth Ward, March 2006

Once everybody had settled into the museum, Ronald shared some of his experiences with Hurricane Katrina. While I had heard a lot about Katrina before visiting New Orleans, I didn’t truly understand how it affected the city and her people until hearing Ronald talk about his experiences. He helped me to understand the depth at which the people of the city were affected. One thing he said really stuck with me. When asked about the response to Katrina and the progress that has been made over the past few years he said, “It not the hot story, but it’s an ongoing story”. This was a really great thing to hear right before we started our work with Habitat for Humanity. Living in a world filled with daily disasters and news stories, it is hard to remember that the problems that occur from these events persist long after the hype goes down and volunteering is not longer the popular thing to do. This concept resonated with me and was something I carried with me as I volunteered and hope to remember now that I am back home and far away from the damage of Katrina and the people of New Orleans. So often people jump on the bandwagon to support issues but forget about them shortly afterwards. It makes sense, but it is a shame.

New homes, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2012. Gabby Chesney.


After having spent a little time in New Orleans, I know I won’t forget. I am excited to explore ways I can get involved and support the amazing and spirited people affected by Katrina from a distance. Ronald’s words were inspiring and so truthful. His spirit and passion were contagious. I love people like that, those are the ones who stick with you and change your outlook. 
 
I think many of the people I met in New Orleans embody this spirit. A city is nothing without the people who fill it. The people of New Orleans, so filled with the spirit of life and music and resilience, are the heartbeat of the city. Throughout the week we heard stories of people who suffered greatly after Katrina but returned to the city with a strong spirit and sense of hope.

Gabby and Ronald, House of Dance and Feathers, March 2012. Gabby Chesney.

Those are the stories that made the week we spent amazing. Without the people, New Orleans would just be a picturesque city by the water. Once you add these eclectic and passionate people, you have a place that is impossible to forget and sure to change you in one way or another. 

–Gabby Chesney–

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

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