Thursday, April 20, 2006

Observations From Exile, Part 1

A couple of things….

As many of us “adjust” to life away from New Orleans, I wanted to point out my own observations.

First, I find that I miss New Orleans “more” during certain events. For example, for weeks on end at the beginning of the year (when we first relocated to Killeen), I found myself “religiously” listening to OZ (www.wwoz.org). Part of this was the fact that I was missing OZ in general. But I realize that part of this was the fact that I was missing being in New Orleans for the pre-Mardi Gras festivities. Those of us who know the “season,” there is so much going on in the build-up to Mardi Gras. The music, for me, is an essential part of this. Tom Morgan had some incredible shows showcasing the music and history of the Mardi Gras Indians. George Ingmire had some great interviews with Monk Boudreax on his thoughts post-Katrina in not only making a new suit but organizing a new group to carry on the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, all the while also trying to repair his house. These were very important and insightful programs—something many of us have come to expect from OZ.

As Mardi Gras passed, my “need” to listen to OZ every hour of the day also waned. I now listen to the afternoon shows (11-2) nearly everyday, but I’m finding that keeps me “up to date” on music and happenings in the city. As I write this, I also realize that there is no radio station like OZ in the universe and that I should be listening more….

With French Quarter Fest and Jazzfest just around the corner, I know that I will be plugging into OZ on a daily and hourly basis to help me “imagine” that I am back home. This feeling is becoming a bit more tolerable these days as Susan and I continue or work around the house to recreate the “feel” of New Orleans in the home.

Which brings me to my second point….

Two things that are essential, beyond the music, to “recreating” the life of New Orleans.

1. FOOD
We can’t find New Orleans food anywhere.
Now, I don’t mean we can’t make the food ourselves. For the most part, I’ve been pretty good at making everything from Gumbo to Jambalaya, from Muffellata’s to White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Margarita’s, Mint Julips, and Mojito’s also fit here, but that’s a different topic…. So, I can cook the food—that’s ok. I was talking with a fellow evacuee here in Killeen the other day and we both lamented on the situation where we can’t find the food so we’ve had to begin cooking more. But what we miss are the incredible restaurant experiences in New Orleans. From picking up a po-boy at the Rendon Grocery, to dinner at Jaq-imo’s, to a “to-die-for” burger at the Quarter Master, or Austin Leslie’s (RIP) fried chicken. We miss the food—we miss the food experience. I was reading on Jazzreview.com that Chris Isaak will be posting messages there on his Jazzfest experience. One of the first things he recommends for tourists is “bring your fork.” He means that no matter where you go in New Orleans, even if it is to hear the music, you will be carrying food with you on the run. And it’s all good. And I couldn’t agree with him more. But it’s more than the food—it’s the shared experience among friends and others that is important in New Orleans culture. We like to share our food experiences with others. Which brings me to the second point….

2. Interaction
New Orleanians like to do things with others.
Human beings are a social animal, but New Orleanians move this to a higher level. We love to interact with each other. We love to talk, and sometimes loudly. We love to discuss and argue politics (and no better time for it that right now in the Mayoral election—listen to WWL late at night and see what I mean). We love to “complain” about all sorts of things (Sandra Hester, by the way, is part of a lecture series at Dowling College in Long Island http://www.dowling.edu/news/news.php?eventid=42. Now THAT should be something to see for those who have never experienced her in a public forum). Ever experience a “conversation” with J Monque ‘D? Or Bob French for that matter.
New Orleans love to talk, and we love to talk with each other. Each of our experiences—the music, the food, the daily life, includes talking to each other. It is important.

As we all settle into our “diasporic” experiences, I am thoroughly convinced that we must seek each other out and make these connections again. It will be important for our own mental health. At the same time, it is an opportunity for us to share our culture with others who are not New Orleanians. It is a way for us to “share the gumbo” of our lives.

I’m heading out to see the Iguana’s on Friday night at the Continental Club. I am sure I will see other New Orleanians there. And we will enjoy the music, and we will talk with each other, and we will complain, we will laugh, and we may even cry. It is part of what life is now in the “outside” world. But at least we will be sharing with each other.

That’s what New Orleans is about—and what many in the “other” world could learn from.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bad Dreams, but Good Music....

I’m playing with a few things right now. First, I’ve updated my “music” on the Stickam. Click on the Music Icon and you will hear one-hour of Jazz mixed through my collection by Music-IP (http://www.musicip.com/). It doesn’t have my “voice-overs” yet, but as I get used to putting this together, it should soon have that. For right now, it’s just one hour of what I would have put together for a Tuesday Morning Jazz Set at WWOZ (www.wwoz.org).

Second, if you haven’t heard already, my last trip to New Orleans really threw me for a loop. Bad dreams every night during the first week back about flooded out houses, people wandering the streets aimless and lost, with me caught up in the middle of it. The dreams have stopped, but I get “beyond” melancholy these days whenever I think about New Orleans. I can’t shake the images I have of the city when I first got back in October. It dominates my mind when I think of New Orleans. Not good. Not good at all.

Finally, Susan, Devin and I won’t be heading back to NOLA for French Quarter (or Jazz-) Fest. We “overindulged” during our last trip, but, hey, we did our part to support the local economy. We aren’t happy we can’t go, but we know we’ll be back in New Orleans a few times before the year is out.

More to come later. Click on the Stickam and let me know if you like the music.