Thursday, August 14, 2008

Even More Festin' in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Festers R Us
Pleased To Meet You
Call me a fool; but I’m thinkin’ that there’s some repeat Festers that only get to read my column once a year. Call me nuts if I didn’t think that there’s also some Festers comin’ home to New Orleans for the first time and for the best face this city ever puts forward (and we gots some faces!) that have never read me. Call me irresponsible if I don’t have words for all y’all, and call me a blackguard if I don’t impart some wisdom for the novice and the veteran.
Let me, please, introduce myself. I’m not a man of wealth and of questionable taste. My gracious editors allow me to express my views monthly, hence the name of the column. This issue is about you and ‘The Fest’.
First of all, during the Fest (to be precise, The New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival) you are a citizen of New Orleans! And get it straight: we are a small and fiercely independent third world country that has been at war with the United States of Amerika for some time now. And as a citizen and fellow plantation-er/ess there are duties for you to fulfill above and beyond Festing, and we’ll go into that later.
First though, let’s go through a Fest checklist. It’s all well and good that you’re here, but an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of sunburn.
1. Get your tickets early. The object being to avoid standing in line on a Fest day when you should be inside the gates, kissing the sky (s’cuse me?).
2. Have your transportation planned. I advise public transportation, it’s cheap, it’s easy and the only downside is the pain in the ass getting back to town. Really, I hope that they’ve worked on that, but I doubt it.
3. On Fest days make sure that you breakfast well. If you’re like me, you’ll be pigging out all day so, believe it or don’t, Fest food tastes best on a full stomach. It’s all about overload. Plus you’ll be more selective in your purchases.
4. Pack light. The more you lug in the more you’ll have to schlepp back. Sunscreen, dark glasses, do rag, a towel and cash with a small shoulder bag is plenty for me. Also, every year there is a dilemma on bringing in your own huge bottle of drinking water. Can you or can’t you? Every year I bring one and I get in fine. Just make sure that the seal isn’t broken.
5. Dress for success. I usually wear shorts and a big tee shirt under overalls and a sport shirt. When it’s warm I doff clothes (remember that shoulder bag?) and when it cools off I don. Make sense? It will.
6. Know where you’re going. If you’re really jones-ing to hear some of the big names, get your place between sets. There’s some folks that take up entire zip codes in front of stages and everyone else can screw themselves if they don’t like it (bad form I say). You on the other hand just take up a bitsy space and during the break (between sets) find a place big enough for your towel and sit. Just make sure that you void your bladder beforehand.
There’s a basic six pack of sound advice to get you off on the good foot for Festing. Welcome home.
Now, as a citizen, here’s your Katrina update. It’s a year and a half plus since the Thing and whatever has gotten done has been done by volunteers. Gutting, hauling and rebuilding. No one knows for sure if our replaced levees will withstand the next one and there’s lots of areas that are still decimated from the last one. If you’re going to be here throughout the week consider doing some volunteer work. If not that, make sure that you go see what fifty two billion gallons of water can do to a city even after all this time of cleaning up.
Talk to the natives, hear them out and get an ear of what it’s like to be here 24/7. As a city, we have memorized a lot of facts and figures, we have much to talk about and say. It hasn’t been easy keeping up our game faces on and our memories are not fading fast enough. Not many of us feel sane or anywhere near normal even at this juncture. Ask us what we think of our administration, our safety, our economy, and/or our future.
Read our newspaper, look closely at our city and then go back and tell everyone that you can about our abandonment and the despair. Tell them of our hope and how we are coming back, we are open for business and how we are still as full blown bat shit crazy as ever. AND, that we welcomed you and fed you. How we gave you music and warm days.
Tell them what you know, tell them like I’ve been telling you all along. New Orleans is like taking a warm bubble bath with a martini and a snake and a radio perched precariously on the side of the tub; except now it takes place inside a gutted house.
Back to the Fest. Every year on the first day of the Fest, this is what I do. I go get me a dozen of those freshly opened, chilled, oysters on the half shell and the biggest beer that is available at the oyster bar. Naturally I tip big.
I then take a quiet moment and dedicate my oysters and my beer to all those people that I know (and those that I don’t know) that, for one reason or another, can’t be here at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The oyster bar was closed last year. This year I will have two dozen oysters and two beers to make up for that. And then I will join you in seizing the day. What more can we do?

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