Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jazz Fest in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Jazz Fest Redux
Vinny’s Bruddah
And this year it’s Charlie; bon vivant, raconteur and all around good time… Charlie. This year it’s ‘slick as snot on a doorknob’ Charlie who made my Jazz Fest week one that would flummox a fatherly French faith healer.
Vinny (remember Vinny from last article?) thought he would make it up to me somehow for being such a canker last year; so, this year (in time for the second Jazz Fest issue) he sends his warmest regards AND… Charlie. The email went like this:
“Yo Philly, I was thinking that since you didn’t get to spend enough time with me last year on account of my ADHD and bum leg and all, and since I know that you was counting on my company at that thing that you was going to, and since I know that you probably get lonely down there with no family or friends, (at least none that I saw), I’m sending my bro down to keep you from getting lonely. Besides, he has to lay low for a week or so till this thing that he got mixed up in blows over. Love (the MEN kind of love!!!), Vinny “
Charlie looks a lot like his brother Vinny except he wears his hair longer, never takes off his sun glasses, wears real tight jeans and a perpetual smirk, chews violet gum, walks kind of sideways with his shoulders a little hunched and a visage that says ‘who’s watchin’ me and why?’ Also he didn’t bring no dog named Whodat and he ain’t no gimp. Other than that, they’re spittin’ images; they’re kinda built like a couple of spider monkeys, if you get my drift.
Charlie also keeps a toothpick in his mouth, a cigarette behind his ear and a bay leaf in his shoe. That’s right, I said a bay leaf in his shoe.
“Veritas Vos Liberabit” pronounces Charlie when asked about anything he doesn’t want or is not equipped to talk about. If you could mispronounce that saying in the worst possible way, you would be giving it far better justice than Charlie does. The first time that I heard him massacre it was when I asked him about the bay leaf in his shoe. When pressed, he told me that it was something that he learned in ‘the joint’; (it happens to be an old New Orleans superstition to ward away enemies; you already knew that).
Unlike Vinny, Charlie did not arrive by taxi by way of the Trailways bus station. He kind of just appeared outside my house leaning against that light post that comes on and goes off whenever it takes a fancy to. He was wearing a black hoodie and the dogs were on high alert. I was late coming in from my night gig and saw the glow from his cigarette; I put my hands in my pockets and prepared for the worst. The light post had flickered off.
Just then a car came down the street and illuminated him with it’s headlights; he didn’t move. He said….“Yo”. Keeping up my end of the conversation I replied…. “Yo”.
I couldn’t do nuthin’ for Charlie; Charlie did for me. On his first day in (Tuesday) the coffee seemingly made itself, likewise the beer was chilled, the pizza got delivered and my phone started working again. I asked him if he could fix my computer and he said “nah, your computer is over you.” And that became the source of my contention; I didn’t need my life explained in those terms. Black and white.
“Why did my alarm clock not go off?” -- “It hates you.”
“Awww, the flower pot fell.”--“Nah, it got freaked out and jumped.”
“My razor’s gone dull.” --“It’s just not into you anymore.”
“Where’d you get Brass Passes?”--“Some dude.”
Yep, Brass Passes, back stage passes and beer coupons; and here come my laundry clean, folded and delivered by a young woman.-- “She needed sumthin’ to do.”
Somehow Charlie made friends fast, it was he that had cars coming for him after the Fest to go to Tip’s and dropping him off at all hours of the morning. Charlie had women calling him; Charlie had the life. The neighbors loved him.
Charlie never seemed to sleep; he was up all hours, early, late and all the times in between. He never needed a shave, didn’t take up time in the bathroom, his bed was always made; he moved quietly and would usually approach me at some blind spot that he had created and tap me on the arm with the back of his hand. Charlie was the perfect guest, even my cat who hates everyone liked Charlie. Charlie was driving me crazy.
In return, I was determined to find out the secret to Charlie’s popularity; I found myself ignoring the good time that I was supposed to be having and instead I hung out with Charlie all weekend.
We had coffee, after the first day, at Café Du Monde or Croissant D’or. We had ice cream at Brocato’s, we perused the sculpture garden at City Park we had oysters at Acme and strolled the River Walk. We were up to the Maple Leaf for live local music after dinner at Jacques Imo’s and we went to book signings and gallery openings I never would have known about; plus, we went to the Fest every day.
And by Sunday night I had him grokked; by Monday morning Charlie was gone.
And this is what Charlie taught me. In life, to be an engaging person to be around, you have to engage in life. --“Life’s not a spectator sport, Sport.” Charlie draws live people to him because he is alive and living life instead of letting life pass by;--“y’aint getting’ any younger, Bud”. And lastly, things happen around Charlie because he makes them happen; --“if you don’t like the news, make some of your own.” I’m gonna throw rocks at Vinny next time I see him.
Monday morning on my desk there was a bottle of really good champagne with two glasses, there was a gift certificate for a cooking class at The New Orleans Cooking Experience and a note; --“P. It’s been real, you don’t get out enough, C.”
Oh, yeah, when I put on my shoe there was a bay leaf in it; “Veritas Vos Liberabit” and Happy Fest!

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