Spring Break 2016 Tuesday, Mar 8 2016 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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French Quarter Scavenger Hunt (finale), March 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sniff, sniff. Head back to New Hampshire.

 

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

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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.

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

Last Day on the Job Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

I headed out to my Marrero office (McDonald’s) to check my e-mail and blog while 36 students awakened, got ready, and prepared lunches. All of this likely takes place in the span of 15 minutes.  It’s like making sausage – you enjoy the finished product, but it’s only possible because you don’t witness the process.

As I drove across the bridge, it was foggy and humid. Downtown New Orleans looked like San Francisco in June. I knew it was going to be a hot and sticky one. But we couldn’t complain. The weather has been spectacular this week. And humidity and New Orleans go together like beans and rice.

Last day on Hickory Street, March 2011.

We did hit a speed bump as our brushes ended up at another site, so Molly and I went back to St. Raymond’s for some others. When we got back, the painting at both homes was in full swing. After waiting all week, I got to break into the trim paint.  It was great for the students to see the result, as the trim really enhances the color of the siding. And even though we were only able to complete the first coat, they had a chance to get an idea of what the finished home would look like. And the wooden, often hand-carved embellishments on many of these old homes make the job even more fun.

Painting trim, March 2011.

As has become customary, we planned to work through lunch and break off an hour or so early, so that we could go for sandwiches and/or snowballs to celebrate a good week’s work. And by the time we finished at 2:00pm, students and owners alike could appreciate our accomplishments. The couple who owned our home came out to admire our work. The wife, who I assume is the captain of this ship, was thrilled at how the colors looked. Her husband took one look at the yellow and fern green and quietly opined: “this is going to take some getting used to.”

We designated a couple of groups to head over to St. Ray’s to wash brushes, but prior to that we went over to the Parkway Bakery and Tavern for some of the best po-boys in New Orleans. Most of us walked a block to Bayou St. John where we enjoyed them and a Barq’s root beer – again, I have to use the beans and rice analogy. We savored everything from hotdog and a lovely Caprese po-boy to the the more traditional roast beef and fried seafood varieties.

Po-boys on Bayou St. John, March 2011.

After our late lunch we went our separate ways. Some to finish cleaning brushes, others to find a much ballyhooed thrift shop, and others to a snowball stand. I took the opportunity to head back to Marrero for the first shower of the evening.

Afterwards, I went over to Frenchmen Street to catch the first set from the Washboard Chaz Trio, a traditional favorite of mine. I met a young couple from Boston who were down to sample some of the music and sites that they had enjoyed on the HBO series “Treme.” They were headed out to the Rock and Bowl to see Kermit Ruffins, where I was to meet the three groups from my class. So the three of us headed Uptown for an evening of good, decidedly New Orleans entertainment. I had not made to the new Rock and Bowl before (I was a big fan of the original) and didn’t know what to expect, but I was not disappointed.

Nikki and Sam with Kermit, March 2011.

The space was much bigger than before, but without losing any of the atmosphere. The food was much improved. And Kermit was, well Kermit. The students ate and danced and soaked up the sounds of their last night in New Orleans. The girls were invited to dance on stage, get their pictures taken with Kermit. All in all, I think everyone had a fun and memorable time. A couple of groups left there to go back into the City. Although I didn’t have a 25+ hour drive back to New Hampshire facing me, I’m old and  I went back to Madonna Manor to get at least a few hours of sleep. And after a week of working in the sun, I wasn’t aware when the others wandered in from their last night out. But…I know it was late.

Suggested Live Music: New Orleans Wednesday, Mar 9 2011 

Kermit Ruffins, March 2008.

There’s a ton of music in New Orleans while we are there. I have picked a variety of acts, ranging from traditional jazz and New Orleans brass bands to zydeco. The following acts will give you a good taste of what New Orleans brings musically. And none of these venues are 21+, a major consideration for college students. You can decide as a group where you want to go. And you can check with me or your group leaders when seeking advice.

Sunday, March 13th, Tipitina’s: Cajun Fais Do Do Featuring Bruce Daigrepont, 5:30pm, $7
Howlin Wolf : Brass Band Sundays with Hot 8 Brass Band, 9:00pm, $8

Monday, March 14th, Preservation Hall: St. Peter Street Playboys Featuring: William Smith, 8:00pm, $12

Mitchell Player (bass) Michael White (clarinet), Detroit Brooks (banjo), and Gregg Stafford (trumpet and vocals), March 2009.

Tuesday, March 15th, Xavier University: Dr. Michael White Quartet, 8:00pm, mandatory & free

Wednesday, March 16th, Preservation Hall: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Special Guest: Shamarr Allen, 8:00pm, $12

Thursday, March 17th, Rock and Bowl: Zydeco Night, Leon Chavis, 8:30pm, $10
Preservation Hall: Tornado Brass Band, Featuring: Darryl Adams, 8:00pm, $12

Friday, March 18th, Rock and Bowl: Kermit Ruffins & the BBQ Swingers, 9:30pm, $10
Preservation Hall: The Preservation Hall Jazz Masters, Featuring: Leroy Jones, 8:00pm, $12

And there are plenty of other options but, in general, check with me or the group leaders when making plans.

Musical Musings Thursday, Feb 17 2011 

New Orleans is arguably the best American city for live music. I know, cities like Austin and Memphis and Chicago, among others, can make a case, but my money and my heart are with the Crescent City.

And it’s that time of year. I’m heading down with my class in a little over three weeks, so every few days I’m sneaking a peak at the music listings. On one hand, I’m looking for musicians that I know and like; but then again, I’m looking for venues that are friendly for those under 21. And then, you have to factor in those intrinsic values such as: place (the stark reverence of Preservation Hall); showmanship (two words: Kermit Ruffins); or kinetic inspiration (OK, let’s get it out there: zydeco).

At this point, the musical possibilities seem to be coming together pretty well. On March 12th, the day we get to town, Preservation Hall is featuring trombonist Lucien Barbarin in a tribute to musical and familial ancestors, drummer Paul Barbarin and banjo/guitar player Danny Barker. On Sunday night, the Hot 8 Brass Band is at Howlin’ Wolf and Cajun Fais Do Do featuring Bruce Daigrepont is at Tipitina’s. Either way, people are going to be moving uncontrollably.

"Kid Chocolate" Brown, March 2010.

During the week, Shannon Powell and Preservation Hall-Stars are at – oh, you guessed it. Powell, can be something of a showboat, but he often surrounds himself with musicians like trumpeter “Kid Chocolate” Brown and pianist Steve Pistorious. And the venerable Rock and Bowl offers great entertainment value towards the end of the week. Clearly, nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like zydeco night. And on Friday and Saturday, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers take their feel-good sound uptown to Carrollton Avenue.

We’ve got papers, and readings, and a mid-term (them to complete; me to grade) before we head south, but musically, we’ve clearly got something to look forward to.