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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New Music from New Orleans Class Friends Sunday, Jan 4 2015 

I’ve been reading reviews of new music by New Orleans musicians, most of whom I’m familiar with, but there are others I need to explore. As I was reading through reviews, I realized that students in the New Orleans class have met quite a few musicians over our eight visits beginning in 2007. And three of these artists have new recordings.

Left to right: Alex McMurray, Paul Sanchez, and Arsene DeLay, Gentilly Baptist Church, March 2012.

Left to right: Alex McMurray, Paul Sanchez, and Arsene DeLay, Gentilly Baptist Church, March 2012.

In 2012 and 2013, the class had the opportunity to spend an evening with an ensemble led by Paul Sanchez at the Gentilly Baptist Church. These concerts were especially meaningful because of Sanchez’s work as composer of songs drawn from Dan Baum’s book, Nine Lives, a class favorite. In addition to Sanchez, it introduced them to such talents as singer/guitarist Alex McMurray and singers Arsene DeLay and Antoine Diel. Sanchez’s latest, from independent label Threadhead Records is The World is Round Everything that Ends begins Again. In it, he explores his song-writing and acoustic skills, but also draws from his years in the rock group Cowboy Mouth. He has surrounded himself with a bevy of great voices and instrumentalists, but it is Sanchez, his guitar, and his song writing that stand out. Or as John Swenson, the grand old man of New Orleans music criticism puts it: “These very personal songs…are what makes this the finest moment in Paul Sanchez’s career.”

Big CHief Alfred Doucette at UNH, 2014.

Big CHief Alfred Doucette at UNH, 2014.

Just last year, the class had the chance to meet Big Chief Alfred Doucette on his visit to New Hampshire. In addition to being chief of the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indian gang, Doucette is a singer who frequents clubs on Frenchmen Street and elsewhere. This five-song cd, called Originals, is paradoxically a reworking of a number of classic New Orleans tunes; Doucette has added his own lyrics and occasional chord changes. According to Swenson, they work fairly well with a few bumps along the way. It includes his most famous song, “Marie Laveau,” which it to the tune of the New Orleans chestnut, “Little Liza Jane.” All in all, it sounds like a good, albeit short, party recording.

Glen David Andrews at the Rock and Bowl, 2008

Glen David Andrews at the Rock and Bowl, 2008

The musician with the most contact with the New Orleans class is clarinetist Dr. Michael White, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have a new recording. After our first meeting with him at Xavier University in 2008, the class went down the street to the old Rock and Bowl to hear Glen David Andrews. In addition to a fun-filled set, Andrews pulled student Teresa Ware on stage and sang happy birthday to her. It was the talk of the class that evening as we rode back to Waveland, MS. Andrews has had some personal travails in recent years, but he has literally redeemed himself with a new recording, Redemption, which the staff of Offbeat Magazine and John Swenson consider the top Louisiana recording of 2014. In his May 1, 2014 review, Swenson wrote: “Nothing Andrews has done prepares you for the complete breakthrough, the creative transformation he achieves on Redemption….The result is a career-best triumph for both artist and producer, an album that joins recent work by Trombone Shorty and Rebirth Brass Band in a new era of New Orleans jazz and R&B excellence.”

Needless to say, I’ll be scouting in the weeks before I head down in mid March. In the meantime, I’ll employ cds, downloads, and Spotify to “get out” and listen to some fine New Orleans music.

Louis Prima’s New Orleans Friday, Jan 2 2015 

A few days ago, I stumbled over an article in the Louisiana Cultural Vistasa journal sponsored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. It was by a fellow archivist and friend, Bruce Boyd Raeburn, director of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. It was about Louis Prima, a genre-bending singer and bandleader, who fascinates me. I knew he was Italian-American and from New Orleans. He is perhaps best known as one of the first big headliners in 1950s Las Vegas and for being the voice of Ape King Louis in the 1960s Disney feature, The Jungle Book. However, it was Bruce’s 2006 article that made clear how much of New Orleans Prima carried with him when he left his hometown in the 1930s.

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Prima, the son of a Sicilian grocer, grew up in the predominately African-American neighborhood of Treme. And while he was unquestionably Italian, it is clear that he absorbed the music, the Creole food, and the patois of his neighborhood. Undoubtedly, it served him well growing up and later in life, but it was the source of some confusion when he tried to launch his career in New York in 1934.

Prima came from a musical family; his mother encouraged him to learn the violin, which he played in St. Ann’s Parish. At the same time, Prima was influenced by local musicians, such as Louis Armstrong and his own brother, Leon, both cornet players. Leon and Louis left New Orleans for greener pastures and Prima eschewed the violin for the horn, jazz, and the club scene. In 1934, while playing in a dive on Bourbon Street, Prima caught the eye of bandleader Guy Lombardo. He thought so much of Prima’s act that he got the young entertainer a gig at Leon and Eddie’s on New York’s 52nd Street.

Prima made the trip to New York and introduced himself to club owner Eddie Davis. What Davis saw was a swarthy, jive-talking musician from New Orleans and retracted the offer because he thought Prima was black. Clearly, Davis could not comprehend the melting pot that is New Orleans and the power of neighborhood over ethnicity. In spite of the setback, Prima had the last laugh as he ending up launching his career at the Famous Door, just two doors down from Davis’ club. He took the town by storm and the rest, they say, is history.

Prima went onto fame in music, film, and later, in Las Vegas. In spite of the confusion at Leon and Eddie’s, Prima continued to draw from the music and musicians of his New Orleans. He went on to write such standards as “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which he recorded with his New Orleans Gang; however, the tune would become emblematic of the Swing Era, when Benny Goodman covered it in 1937. In addition , Prima became one of the first Italian-American entertainers to promote his ethnicity and it became an important part of both his professional identify and repertoire. And he continued to do so throughout World War II, despite increased anti-Italian sentiment.

Prima went on to fame as a performer at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas with his fourth wife, Keely Smith. He surrounded himself with a musical ensemble, the Witnesses, led by New Orleans saxophonist, Sam Butera. Years later, Prima and the band would record “I Wanna Be Like You” for Disney’s The Jungle Book. Both the recording session and the animation paid homage to the music and exuberance of the second line parades of Prima’s old neighborhood.

So, while Prima may have left New Orleans in 1934, it is clear that New Orleans never left him. For Raeburn’s article on Louis Prima, click here.

Rainy Days and Tuesdays Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

For the first time in years, we had a full bore, no doubt about it rainy day. Needless to say, our group did not go back to siding Steve’s house in Backatown. Instead, we went to John’s house on Deleray Street, literally across from Jackson Barracks. The other groups were already working indoors, therefore work would not be affected — or so we thought.

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John’s house

John has been renovating this house for about a year. He has done a loving and meticulous job at bringing out its beauty and promise. However, working alone, he literally hit the wall when it came to, we’ll, the walls. Between installing awkward sheets of board, taping, mudding, sanding, etc. it is extremely time consuming and not a one person job. And that is where lowernine.org comes in.

We were able to bring a group in of largely inexperienced students to do work that takes a while but is easy to learn. While the guys installed Sheetrock, the rest of the group worked throughout the house doing multiple layers of prep work. It didn’t take long to see substantial progress made. Both John and Bob, our crew chief, seemed pleased. The other grounds continued to work at tiling and installing Sheetrock in other parts of the Lower Ninth.

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Chalmette National Battlefield

And while we worked in poured. Clearly, this would not be a levee lunch day, so I proposed we meet at the Chalmette National Battlefield. Even in the rain, we could go through exhibits and drive around the site of the Battle of New Orleans. Inauspiciously my car was parked on the side of the street in what had become a five inch deep puddle. As a result, I had to remove my shoes in order to get into the car. The battlefield, which is marshy on the best of days, was not much better. We ate lunch; some walked around in the rain and mud; but evyone got a lay of the land, at least.

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Ronald Lewis with students

Everyone returned to their respective tasks and had productive and rewarding afternoons. About four we broke for the day to make our annual pilgrimage to Ronald Lewis’ House of Dance and Feathers. And just as in our visit to Kajun’s pub, it was useful that we had just finished reading Nine Lives. So, they got to meet Ronald AND gain a better understanding of the lace where they are working and staying.

Everyone went back and cleaned up. We ate our first dinner at Camp Hope which was not bad. After dinner everyone descended on a small Baskin Robbins in Chalmette where they overwhelmed the poor young woman running the place alone. They were patient, and from what I understand, tipped generously. Some went back to Camp Hope to chill while the rest of went into the City.

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Aura Nealand and the Royal Roses

I walked about for a while before settling in for a couple of sets at the Spotted Cat. It has become so crowded I don’t get there as often as I used to, but one of my favorite New Orleans musicians, Aurora Nealand, was performing. It was crowded, but not wall-to-wall people. Her band was tight and she was her bright and exuberant self on the clarinet and soprano sax. A wonderful close to a day that some might call a washout, but to us, it was anything but.

New Orleans Music Saturday, Mar 1 2014 

It’s that time of year again. I got excited today because the March 1st temperature in New Hampshire climbed above freezing. I eat well, actually too well, on a regular basis, but the food I normally eat is nothing like that found in New Orleans. But the magnetic pull that I feel in the week before I head to the Crescent City is not the warmth or the red beans and rice: it is the music.

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

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

This is when I WWOZ’s Livewire daily to see what will playing while I’m there. I look at Nola.com, Gambit, and sites for individual music venues to see what will be happening. Te tragedy is that it will be more than I can take in; but that is the beauty of music of New Orleans. It is an embarrassment of riches.
I hear the drums and tambourines of the Mardi Gras Indians. I hear the funky growls of the brass bands. I see the nonverbal glances that jazz musicians pass to one another as they hand off the next solo. I am swept up in the joy of locals two stepping to zydeco at the Rock n Bowl. I see people twerking on front porches and dancing on roofs. And it makes me want to be there even sooner.

Most visitors to New Orleans miss the real music. They are to busy accepting that the crap on Bourbon Street is what there is to hear. They never experience Frenchmen Street because it is three blocks outside of the French Quarter. They miss out on Rebirth at the Maple Leaf. Kermit at Bullet’s. Big Freedia at Siberia. Or John Boutte at d.b.a.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

As tragic as it is, I will not lose any sleep over their ignorance. I know it that as they are crowding some bar on Bourbon Street, drinking a watered down drink out of a plastic green hand grenade, listening to bad classic rock; I will be somewhere somewhere else. Listening to some of the best live music America has to offer.

You Ought to Be in Pictures Friday, Mar 15 2013 

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Mateen, cutting tile on Tupelo Street, March 2013.

As the work week waned, the student volunteers are just hitting their stride. Van 2’s sheetrock work on Royal Street is amazing. Even though it seems that every time I pull up to the house they are taking a break. They guys have been working with Tim to measure, cut and hang the board, while the girls have been mudding nail pops and seams between boards. It can be painstaking work, but they will likely be leaving before the next crew is left to mud and sand several times over.

Front room, Royal Street, March 2013.

The Van 3 crew on Delery seems to be settling into work on a mess of a house. A lot of it has involved removing and dumpterizing rotted and termite-eaten boards and studs, cleaning an overgrown lot, and listening to crew chief Darren yelling at them. A Ninth Ward-native, Darren works like a demon, and it took a couple of days for the students to realize that he wasn’t usually angry with them, he just had one notch on his volume control — eleven. They’ll come away with some great memories of week of work in the Lower Nine.

My group continued to cut and set the cement-like underflooring and laying tiles, although the lack of buckets and trowels or having a dedicated tile cutter slowed us down considerably. I took care of the former with a trip to Home Depot; for the latter, we worked out a deal with the South Carolina Gamecocks working with James on Tupelo, taking turns on lowernine.org’s only tile cutter. A couple of the guys take the measurements and walk over with the tiles to make the cuts. It is not the most efficient, but it’s what we got and it works. We had another breezy lunch on the levee and returned to laying floors.

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Post lunch rest on the levee, March 2013.

Mid afternoon I received a call from my UNH colleague Burt Feintuch, who is here working on a book of interviews with New Orleans musicians. He brought with him Gary Samson, former UNH photographer, who is providing photography for the book. The day they arrived, we attended Kermit Ruffin’s Tuesday night show at Bullet’s Sports Bar. They were between photo shoots for the book and Gary wanted to take some photos of UNH students hard at work during spring break. And who could deny a photographer between photo shoots with “Deacon John” Moore and John Boutte? We were able to get a few shots of students on two work sites before quitting time. Even though I try to document events with my compact Canon, I can’t wait to see Gary’s work.

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The uneasy intersection of college students and spicy crustaceans, March 2013.

After cleaning up, we went for a cookout at Laura’s house, deep in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the Lower Ninth. It included lowernine.org staff and long-term volunteers, students from UNH and USC, and some of the home owners that lowernine.org is working with. Laura had a huge pot of gumbo, rice, and salad. One of the homeowners brought two enormous poboys. Van 3 brought several pies for “Pi Day,” March 14th — it’s great travelling with nerds. I added 15 pounds of fresh boiled crawfish. She had a beautiful and over-sized backyard with a view towards the levee. We ate, talked, laughed, played volleyball, and stood around a fire pit that James had fashioned out of a dryer drum. And most importantly  we got meet and talk to the folks that lowernine.org had helped get back into their homes.

After dark, about half of us went to Rock ‘n Bowl, off of Carrollton on the other side of New Orleans. It is one on the few music venues that is not 21+, which is good when you are travelling with a majority of first and sophomore students. And most important, it is the only place that I know of where you can listen to a Grammy nominated act while bowling. As usual, it reflected well on this idiosyncratic city, where college students meet with tried and true two steppers. Where zydeco and gutter balls commingle. The students’ bowling games appeared slightly better than their two stepping, but nevertheless, they had a great time. And so did I.

Guys vs. the girls Rock 'n Bowl, March 2013.

Guys vs. the girls Rock ‘n Bowl, March 2013.

Mr. Lewis’ Neighborhood Wednesday, Mar 13 2013 

Putting in walls on Royal Street, March 2013.

Putting in walls on Royal Street, March 2013.

We woke up to a much clearer, albeit chilly morning. We huddled, shivering again in the yard of lowernine.org, but this time with sun on our faces. All three groups were sent to their previous locations. Van 2 to work on Royal Street to work on insulation and sheet rock. Van 3 to reinforce floors, rebuild walls, etc. for a sad shotgun house on Deleray Street. I returned with Van 1 to work on the floors of a home on Gordon Street.

We encountered some bottlenecks in work because we had to lay special board to serve as a foundation for a tile floor throughout the home. The board is like woven concrete, which means we do not to lay cement for the base. But is heavy and needs to be cut to fit in many places. Through the lack to tools, extension cords, goggles, masks, etc., there were some delays, but spirits remained intact. The long-term volunteers working with us provided a certain international air. Liam, the workhorse, from South Korea; James, the heartthrob, from England; and we’ll add the wise and acerbically funny Eileen, from the nation of Nevada.

Installing flooring on Gordon Street, March 2013.

Installing flooring on Gordon Street, March 2013.

To the eye, Van 2 probably made the most headway, as it is easy to follow the progression of installing insulation and walls. And Van 3 clearly had the grimiest work situation as they were working with old rotten and termite chewed wood.

Our group, Sam and Casey’s Van 1 also suffered from the fact that we had to take Van 1 to the shop to get the windshield installed before the trip home. A previous replacement was clearly not properly sealed. And given the realities of post-Katrina New Orleans, the nearest Ford dealership on this side of New Orleans is in Slidell. Casey made the trek across the City to Metairie and I followed to pick him up. And because this is New Orleans, a simple windshield replacement will take a day; well, as it turns out — more.

IMG_0303While I was out getting much needed Ibuprofin, James packed all of the vanless students into the back of a pickup and took them down to where the Industrial Canal flows into the Mississippi for a picnic lunch. The hazard did not escape me; however, the fact that I missed it was quite annoying. They had a memorable lunch, snoozing on the levee, although many returned with distinct pink patches of skin.

At 4:00pm our group walked one block to Ronald Lewis’ House of Dance and Feathers. The rest caught up with us and we spent the next hour being educated and entertained by the unofficial mayor of the Lower Ninth Ward. From a childhood on Deslonde Street to his current home on Tupelo Street, Lewis roots in the Lower Ninth grow deep. From laying streetcar track, to union organizer, to community leader, Ronald’s passion and determination flow throughout Dan Baum’s Nine Lives. Meeting him will make reading the book all the more meaningful.

The New Orleans class and the Lewis family, March 2013.

The New Orleans class and the Lewis family, March 2013.

The House of Dance and Feathers is Ronald’s collection of Mardi Gras Indian and second line paraphernalia from groups in the local nine. Again, it reflects Ronald’s gritty pride in his neighborhood and the distinct African-American culture that it holds. Ronald took half of the class into his museum (although it had climbed into the mid 60s, he had the heat on), while his granddaughters entertained the rest in the backyard. Then we switched. Afterwards we took pictures and said our goodbys until next year.

As I left the yard, I encountered a French-born anthropologist from Brazil. She is studying the relationship between the Indians and similar neighborhood groups in Brazil. I gave her a ride into the City so that she could catch the streetcar to Mid City. I showed her the location of the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, where Sylvester Francis maintains a larger collection reflecting the traditions of his neighborhood. I dropped her off in the Quarter and suspect that we’ll cross paths again on Super Sunday or St. Joseph’s Night.

IMG_0324In the evening, the students feasted on spaghetti and salad and returned to the French Quarter. I joined up with friends Burt Feintuch and Gary Sampson, who are working on an illustrated book of interviews with New Orleans musicians. Appropriately enough, we met at Bullet’s Sport Bar on A.P Tureaud Street in the Seventh Ward, for Kermit Ruffins’ longstanding Tuesday night gig. From Kermit’s showmanship  to some fabulous guest vocalists, to the grill of barbecued meats outside (yes, I did), it did not disappoint. In addition to neighborhood folk and tourists, the audience contained Derek Shezbie, trumpet player for Rebirth, and actor Wendell Pierce, the hapless Antoine Baptiste on HBO’s Treme. Gary, who has never been to New Orleans, was clearly living a photographer’s dream. Hopefully, I will get to talk to him at some point during his visit. As it approached 10:00 pm, we left the Tuesday night revelry and headed our different ways.

IMG_0321Between work during the day and too many options for entertainment at night, one has to pace oneself.

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.

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.

2013 Jazz Fest Posters Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

After all of these years, nothing in New Orleans should surprise me. Seeing Brad Pitt and former President Bill Clinton in the Lower Ninth Ward. Running into James Carville and Mary Matalin while waiting in line at the Acme Oyster House. Any time you spy Mardi Gras Indians, at night, on a darkened side street. Having an old pair of jeans, sneakers, and $70 stolen from my hotel room — OK, we’ll try to forget that, although it still strikes me kind of weird.

Jazz Fest 2013 poster

Jazz Fest 2013 poster

But today, here in frigid New Hampshire — we did eventually climb to eleven degrees, for ten minutes, not including the wind chill — I was still reminded of the wonders and magic of my adopted City. I got to work, cranked up my e-mail, and my blessed Spotify started up. It notified me of a new Aaron Neville cd. And even though he has once again left his brothers for solo efforts I had to listen. I mean, I still side with Charles, Cyril, and Art, they are HIS BROTHERS! But who can resist that voice, even if it’s coming out of a body better suited for a Saints’  linebacker? And it was great music to work by. Solid renderings of pop and r&b classics; warm and not over produced. It really hits a crescendo with his covers of “Tears on My Pillow” and “Under the Boardwalk,” but the rest was quite enjoyable, as well.

Congo Fest 2013 poster

Congo Fest 2013 poster

OK, back on track. I’ll blame it on the cold. SO! I went online at lunch to check some headlines and Facebook and I see a story about this year’s Jazz Fest and Congo Fest posters — and lo and behold, the angelic visage of one Aaron Neville graces the Jazz Fest poster. It is the work of veteran Jazz Fest artist James Michalopoulous. There are iron gates, snow white doves, with Neville’s powerful form front and center.

And that is not to detract from the Congo Fest poster of Buckwheat Zydeco. By artist R. Gregory Christie, it is as folksy as the Neville poster is ethereal. Like all New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival collectibles, both are available online from Art4Now.

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