Walking through the Bywater is like walking through a small Havana neighborhood. If the cars weren’t here, it would look exactly like Havana. New Orleans neighborhoods possess the beauty of “neglect and decay.” Some houses are so run down they look beautiful. Some houses are just plain beautiful. Each house is an extension of the occupant’s personality. The Bywater is full of housing gems. Colorful houses, large commercial venues that have be turned into houses, small businesses that occupy former residential homes. Small Shotguns. Small setbacks. Small alleys. Large dogs. Chickens crowing at sunrise. I find these morning walks a wonderful way to start the day. I must take pictures of the neighborhood this weekend.
I knew full well coming to New Orleans in the summer there was always a chance of a tropical front forming in the gulf. This weekend, New Orleans and the greater Louisiana coast will be host to Tropical Storm Bonnie. She may make landfall sometime Sunday afternoon. I don’t believe it will get any stronger than a Cat 1 hurricane, so we’re standing pat. I just need to look in Rhonda’s yard to see what needs to be tied down for the storm. But that pretty much is the “icing” on the cake for this long visit back home. Not only are we being treated to all the delights the city can present—we are also going to experience our first Tropical Storm since leaving for Katrina. The last “Cat 1” we rode out was Cindy in July 2005. Cece and David were spending the week with us then as well. The winds were modestly strong (75mph), the rain was relatively light for a Hurricane, but the damage was significant for a storm this “small.” To a certain extent it was a dress rehearsal for Katrina. Cindy made a direct hit on New Orleans, and she tore up trees and electrical lines like I had not seen before. A transformer blew out in our neighborhood causing a loud explosion sound just down the block that brought Cece out of her room and into our bedroom. She spent the night with Susan and I (I believe I ended up on the couch). New Orleans would be dealing with the damage and the electricity outages for weeks to come. By the time we had cleaned up after Cindy, Katrina came knocking on our door.
I looked up Hurricane Bonnie this morning and discovered that she last wreaked havoc in North Carolina in 1998. She was a Cat 3 storm, causing over $1 billion in damage to the North Carolina coast. I hope THIS Bonnie remains a smaller, insignificant version of it’s former self. But I am thinking about how much “oil” will find its way to the streets of New Orleans as the Storm picks it up in the gulf. Right now, the track of the storm puts it right over the oil leak! If there is a god, she is a cruel bitch to treat us this way.
I spent a good day at work yesterday. I was able to sit down for more than two hours and answer messages, deal with student issues, and make certain decisions about course offerings. I also graded papers, though I am still behind in that area. Once I finished my morning work, I headed home to prepare for my show on WWOZ.
I used to spend hours prepping for my shows. I found myself falling into the same pattern this afternoon. I use the current Jazz charts to get an idea of what is popular for the week. I choose from that list those artists I know and whose work I really enjoy listening to. Then, assuming that they won’t be at the station, I begin to actually listen to those recordings and make a decision on what to play. I choose 10 contemporary cuts, and then download them to my computer. That completes my “contemporary” jazz set. Next, I select some New Orleans musicians’ music to play. Again, about 10 albums should do the trick. If I have time (and I didn’t have time today), I will take a look at the World Jazz charts and find another 10 cuts to listen to and record. I don’t spend much time with the Classic Jazz cuts because I will bring in all of my best cds to the station and select from them once in the studio.
I spend the next three hours prepping for my show….
And I am loving it….
I’m fully prepared for the show, but I still get in about 30 minutes early to see what current cds ARE on the shelves at WWOZ. It also gives me a chance to catch up with old friends at the station. Scott is there, just back from a well deserved vacation. Mr. David Torkanowsky is hosting his “Blues Bash” show—one of the best shows on OZ. I choose to start the show with John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” It will give me 8 minutes to settle into my first set. Cece and I work on how she will promote her new project on the air—she needs volunteers to be interviewed about their pre- and post-Katrina experiences. Humidbeings.com is going to use the interviews (stories, pictures, and videotape) as part of their 5 year Katrina anniversary collection. Cece and I settle on a focus, and we are ready to go.
It doesn’t take long for a three hour show—time passes very quickly. I get phone calls from friends who used to listen to the show. I get one in particular call, though, that really makes me feel great. My friend P. J. calls in from Baghdad. He’s a true New Orleanian who is currently stationed there with the Army. It is great to hear his voice. They are 8 hours ahead of us, so he’s listening in at 1am his time. We formed a New Orleans bond in Killeen, and he came over to the house often to enjoy the Saints march to the Super Bowl. He was deployed in January 2010, but I could see the big smile on his face when the Saints won the Super Bowl. I bet he was “second-lining” with all of us in his barracks that day!
I get a call from Ms. Dana Abbot who wants me to announce that her band (the Something Something's) is playing at BJ’s Lounge in the Bywater starting at 10pm. I would later go and hear the gig since it was only 6 blocks down the street from where Cece and I are staying. Sandy calls from Houston. Keith calls in, stating how much he misses hearing Cece’s voice on the air. He also says I helped shape his love and appreciation for jazz music. Tarik Hassan comes in to promote his new self-titled CD. He will release it on Sunday at Snug Harbor. It sounds good and I hope to get over there on Sunday to see the show. Damn storm might get in the way of that, though.
Cece does a very good job announcing her project and her need for volunteers. One of her co-workers calls Cece to say they’ve taken a few calls after Cece’s announcement. I can see Cece is happy to hear that her announcement worked.
Once the show is done, we head out to the Quarter for a walk and some food. I’m still a bit keyed up after the show and I find walking is a great way to come down. Summer Thursdays in the Quarter are slow, so we walk the streets as if we own them. I remind Cece of our times coming down to the Quarter on Christmas Day, to find the streets all to ourselves just like this. I know New Orleans needs the tourist dollars to survive, but I do enjoy these times when the city is all ours. We finally settle in to Fiorella’s for dinner. I need me some Fiorella’s fried chicken. Towards the end of the meal, I show the waiter my picture of the neon Fiorella’s sign that is in our house. He takes the picture back to show his manager. They are amazed that I have the sign. Still, they aren’t asking for it back.
After dinner, Cece and I go to Frenchman Street to hear some music. Traffic here is starting to look like a weekend, and weekends do start early here in New Orleans. After about an hour, we head back to the house. Cece turns in for the night, but I end up going to hear Dana Abbott at her BJ’s Lounge gig.
BJ’s Lounge is the “home” of Little Freddie King. They just threw his 70th birthday party a few weeks ago. You have to ring the doorbell to get in, but that’s not atypical for small neighborhood bars in other cities. Dana’s band consists of four members, including herself, and plays a mix of rock/folk covers and original material. She has a great voice—its deep and heavy. The bar is moderately busy, making it a very comfortable place to hear music. The man next to me looks like Santa Claus, with one tooth missing. He is just as jovial as Santa, and he informs me that he comes to New Orleans often. His name is Art, and it looks like he’s been in BJ’s for a few hours. The music and the company entices him to buy a round for the bar! I thank him for his great generosity, and I buy him a drink as well. Of the many things I miss about New Orleans, I miss these truly unique neighborhood moments. We don’t have a bar in my neighborhood in Harker Heights. We don’t have a neighborhood grocery store, nor do we have a neighborhood book store. We really don’t have a neighborhood in the sense I am most familiar with. People just live there. Suburbs miss out on so much there is to offer in a real neighborhood. Unfortunately, most of America lives in suburbs….
After one set, I head back to the house. I’m reminded that tomorrow will be Friday in New Orleans—with a storm knocking on the door. Though I have lots of work to catch up with, I might just take the day off and enjoy the bounty of the city. It is, after all, Friday in New Orleans.
Yeah You Right!!!