Sunday, March 31, 2013

Po Boy View


Phil LaMancusa

Made in the Shade


A.K.A. Jazz Fest

“Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends; we’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside!”

On the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s official website they’ll explain many things to familiarize visitors who are… neophytes. And rightly so. However; those of us that have survived past Fests unscathed know that stuff by heart through our experiences. For us older (and wiser) hands, there is no need to tell us that the weather is as unpredictable as Murphy’s cat. It just is. There’s also no need to tell us how to dress for unpredictable weather: a cool unrestrictive A-line skirt, lightweight cotton blouse and an open stitch cardigan tied to our dainty waist, comes immediately to mind. This year’s seasoned Fest attendees will also have enough of a durable SPF 30 sunscreen to apply every two hours to prevent burning and that ugly ‘c’ word.

Metrophiliac fashionista Fest goers also know that the perfect accessory to any fetching outfit is a pair of shrimper boots whether you’ll need them or not. A parasol, folding chair, floppy sun hat and Jackie O. Ray Bans are never out of fashion and our little miss or mister will have a small clutch bag to hold lip balm, iPhone, monogrammed hanky and our American Express Business Card. Oh, and staying hydrated is a must; we’re allowed to bring in our own chosen brand of totally Alpine glacier prehistoric spring water. Well, at least we were previous years (if the seal was unbroken). Naturally, there’ll be smart cocktails après Fest.

On the other hand members of the Krewe of Brew will wear flip flops, cut offs and Saints or vintage Jazz Fest tee shirts. One pocket will hold double sawbucks and a NAPA Auto Parts debit card. Another pocket will have a Harley Davidson bandana, Marlboros in a box and Zippo lighter. A’s or Cardinal’s baseball caps is de rigueur of course, as is enough tanning lotion (their own mixture of baby oil and iodine) to slather a Montana bison. It’s not a stretch to say that somewhere about their person is a pint of Jack or some such spirit. Also, an old plaid flannel shirt works well as a blanket to sit on, a towel to wipe the crawfish schmutz from the chin and flag to wave at the geezer rockers at the Acura Stage. Multiple beers will be consumed, maybe a little reefer and a couple of Cochon de Lait poor boys to boot. The Salt-of-the-earth contingent don’t stand in line for nothin that ‘the old lady’ can cook at home; so look for these bon vivants by the Fried Pork Rind demonstration. Said miscreants will laugh at the rain, the sun, the wind and mud and will leave a tad early to beat the crowd to Liuzza’s, where they started that morning with Jimmy’s famous Bloody Marys. They’ll go on to brave the line at Coop’s, party on Frenchmen Street and soldier on the next morning to do it all over again.

Jazz Fest is a wonderful time for the city at large, where visitors from around the world as well as Ohio rub shoulders with the usual suspects that inhabit our neighborhoods. The playing field is leveled by a mutual love of food, music and the great outdoors. It’s only a fool that tries to drive close to the track and look for parking spaces and neighbors guard their driveways and street spots like mother hens. We are fortunate enough to live within spitting distance from the gate, not that I ever spit at the gate of course (mama didn’t raise me to act common) and for the past few years I left my parking spot open for any Fester who was lucky enough to get there first. When I would leave for work on the weekends, I would pull out and by the time I returned home the Festers would just be leaving, something that worked symbiotically quite well. Here is where I tell you that last year, some thoughtless yayhoo got into my spot and stayed parked for the duration. Needless to say, I won’t be performing that service to mankind this year.

Wandering outside the gate you will find entrepreneurs lining the streets with trinkets, treasures and libations for the thirsty in mind and body. Musicians that will or will not someday make the cut to perform inside will perform outside for tips and practice. Handmade wares, puppet shows, exotic animals, batik wraps and even perhaps a wandering vegan selling yummers. It reminds me of an old fashioned country fair. A good time is had by all.

Here is where I tell you about the time our friend Marinnette bought a ticket for Jazz Fest from some dude on the perimeter only to find out that is was no good when she presented it at the gate. Caveat emptor, y’all

Festers are like minded in several areas: use of trash and recycling receptacles; patience in the Pot-o-Gold line; secret tricks for navigating the Fest experience; a ‘live and let live’ attitude for another person’s choice of music and a natural camaraderie that allows them to participate in discussions that start with the questions: “what are you eating, how is it and where did you get it?”

Festers, real Festers have another thing in common: the love of New Orleans and the symbol of the Fleur de Lis. On their clothing, as part of their accoutrements (“what separates us from inferior life forms is our ability to accessorize”) and in the brazen and permanent badges-of-courage: tattoos (some in the damndest places, too).

So, here’s to another year, another Fest: raise your ‘F’Lis’ flag high and let it wave! See you at Liuzza’s!

Po Boy Views


Phil LaMancusa

Jazz Fest Redux


Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Mea Culpa Maama Jamma. Wow, did I step in it or what? Last week (you didn’t read it, did you?), I wrote about ‘characters’ of the Fest and someone compared me to those older Brits that used to profile kids as either Mods or Rockers. “Not so” I retorted: “Listen, I get less than a thousand words to wax onward and I didn’t have room to pay tribute to all the other Festivalians you may see grazing at the Crawfish Monica zip code, let alone the workers!” Needless to say I, having been successfully admonished, have corrected my oversight.

First things first: from the voice of Larry McKinley (in the box) at the gate telling you “Welcome to the 43rd ….”

“ Remember, for your fun as well as safety the following are strictly prohibited…”

leading you to the gamut of bag friskers and ticket takers and outward (or inward), the Fest is staffed with an army of workers and volunteers from ushers, trash gatherers and them darn people in yellow shirts that blow their vehicle crossing whistles to stage crews, beer slingers, gospel singers, swingers, good news bringers and bell ringers. There’s a lost and found, Post office, ATM, General Store and posters galore. Also a first aid station and wandering security folks among the Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands and fans of every food and music genre.

Boys that fear no noise crowd the stages eager for some Honkey tonk badonkadonk; hometown heroes with angel backup singers and stars playing on ‘lectric guitars. Old bats herd brats while Cats in hats with rug rats have spats. Frats and Y’ats. Teens with hormones ragin’, Cajuns, Asians, and two stepping amazin’s at the stage they call Fais Do Do. Craft sellers, California swellers, gals with their fellers and strollers and men in buffed bowlers gently jostling with writers, liars, tea swillers and mango freeze spillers; oyster shuckers and down on their luckers. Stage hands, brass bands, Gospel Tent prayers, old school harmony slayers, Hip Hop ‘Players’, second line partner-searchants eyein’ wares of Congo Square merchants. Restless Electric Slide dancers, hip twitchin’ prancers and ebony romancers eager for some Frankie and Maze. The Dixie Cups are onstage singing “The Chapel of Love” while a guy in tight jeans is schmoozing a young blushing dove. Without embarrassments, Impromptu assessments of body inkments in tents and on pavements; a cold one up to my smile and sunglasses, freshly baptized in Old Sol’s shine.

Outdoor shepherds with cane fishing pole signposts flying pigs and flags and waving their charges toward safe haven outposts in crowds thick with smoke, sweat and beer; girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes and “peanuts!, get your peanuts here!”

Gospel tent rockin’ with spirit so thick you can taste it and robed choirs sway for the Lord like seaweed moving in a sea of harmony, joy and salvation. The Lord is holding down this corner of the track and throw your hands in the air, get up on your feet and raise your voices in praise of His Name until holy exhaustion overtakes you like the ebb of a wave in the sea of Galilee. Hosanna, Amen, “I know that’s right!” and a joyful noise up to heaven powerful enough to convert both hustler and hussy.

The Jazz Tent regulars jockey for prime seats to languish in notes created on premise from old salts to young lions grabbing solos saluting past masters from Monk to Dizzy and Duke dished up by Mayfield, Blanchard and Harrison. The ghost of Coltrane floating beside Charlie Bering smiling at what they had wrought upon the audience devoted to going no further into the fray; for once again, in their element, home at last. Sighing and nodding, toes keeping a time subjective in a love supreme to a crescendo of applause and standing ovations. Only to give way to the younger generations that amaze, astonish and astound with fresh found fugues repeated and varied with accompanying contrapuntal lines. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.

Past the kids area with games, story tellers and Mac-n-cheese. Tykes in rapt wonder while the likes of, The Wiggles, Imagination Movers or Choo Choo Soul spin smiles, songs, stories and young ideas to thirsty minds in small bodies while older, yet not any more mature, children crowd Economy Hall to see Chris Owens, The Goddess of all things New Orleans; Dixieland at its finest and handkerchief waving gravy trains around the tent.

Mardi Gras Indians chanting from the Heritage Stage speak to our innermost senses with rhythms of Shallow Water, Indian Red and Big Chief with a Golden Crown followed by brass bands that get us dancing down and dirty. While indigenous Americans remind us through song and crafts who the original citizens really are.

Lagniappe Stage, by the oyster bar with surprises a bit shy of big-time but no less admired, more prized, localized, idolized, less simonized but soon to be proselytized semi-marginalized musical masterminds. Surprised?

Food, food, acres of food. Red beans, white beans and BBQ ribs; there’s a place to get PB&J for the kids. Crawfish bread, bisque and boiled and beignets; PoBoys: gator, duck, soft shell. Cochon de Lait. Jambalaya, quail gumbo, cous cous and Jama Jama; catfish pecan, almandine or trout Baquet for your mama; boudin balls, fried chicken and fried green tomatoes; spinach and artichokes and poned sweet potatoes.

And for those of us that sport a sweet tooth, we’ll find Brocado’s gelato by the next booth; or cobbler, cheesecake, turnovers or tarts; or strawberry shortcake to share with sweethearts. But the best thing of all, to top off this list, is when we get kissed in a tent filled with mist. It’s damn near poetry.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sunday NY Times

Po Boy Views


Phil LaMancusa

Sunday’s Single’s Solaces


My Kinda Town

Sunday. We are truly ourselves without the weekday commitments to the world that we’ve made; the good faith mantle that we take up again each Monday morning. Sunday is the day when we are truly, sometimes tragically, ourselves; the leftovers of who we were on Saturday night. This is Sunday. We can linger over coffee, the newspaper, or mass at church. Sunday dinner can be a crawfish boil, roast beef with mash and gravy or crackers and cheese. Then off to bed, to sleep off the weekend before the alarm clock rings in another what the fuck week. That, of course, puts us into Monday.

In several languages Monday translates to ‘Moon Day’ (Lundi, Lunas, Lunis and Lunae dies) those that afflicted by the moon are called ’Lunatics’ and that’s what most of us are at the beginning of each new week. Monday we’ll get back to our jobs, kids, mortgages and responsibility to taking care of food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and others. Ah, but Sunday…

Most of us just follow our noses on Sunday. Sunday is the day of excuses that work: sleep in late, stay out later or step up to the straight and narrow. A bench in church or a barstool at Cheer’s (where everybody knows your name). Up to suit, shower and shave in an attempt at normalcy at week’s end or contra wise, a Bloody Mary, Mimosa, Ramos Fizz with brunch. Possibly, a hair of the dog from a brown paper bag, another hit, a bump or “roll me over, lay me down and do it again”. You’ve paid your dues and you make your choices.

My Sunday morning ritual is to get my sorry ass over to Matassa’s for the New York Times; “All The News That’s Fit To Print” (but not necessarily all the news that’s fit to read). The street sweepers are collecting last night’s detritus in anticipation of the spray from the morning lemonade truck: go cups, grenade tubes, cigarette butts and the sad ends to Lucky Dogs. Someone’s sleeping it off on a doorstep, the contents of their stomach is picked over by pigeons as a tour guide hurries his herd past; they hang on to his every word, doe eyed and mesmerized. Black and whites on bikes hurry to their brunch shifts. Punks and drunks hassle tourists and young girls on the corner of Saint Peter and Royal Street. Tenacity and Audacity. A cook from up the street stops by Rouse’s for orange juice to compliment cheap champagne as musicians stake out their corner claims with kids, canines and cumbersome trappings in tow. A zip code of almost artists set up behind the cathedral; a teen texting a BFF back in Texas. A girl in retail slipping through the crowd; a little weary, a little bleary, stiletto heel shaky on her way to sleep, perchance to dream. Lunacy and Truancy. .

Streetwise nomads in brown clothed invisibility, curious today on how growing up is working out for them. Likewise a balloon salesman, face painter, human statue, street magician and a juggler of knives and bowling balls. A lonely banjo picker, wandering alcoholics, sleepy psychic readers, card carrying homeless beggars. Another one bites the dust.

The Bourbon Pub has its doors open wide as last night amnesiacs practice voluntary bar crowd segregation: the merry makers in the front and the maudlin in the back. Up the street a choir runs through scales. Art galleries and shops that are not open but lit from within are fair game for rubberneckers who normally would hurry by. Harouni, Blue Dog.

Outside the gate of the Café Amelie, patrons await admission while the Cornstalk Fence Hotel looks on coolly, having seen it all before. This architecture that is moored and mooned over daily has been witness to centuries of dramatics, deceits, indiscretions and emotions. Fealty is promised; lovers entwine; a bottle breaks; another man done gone.

Coffee shops flourish with everything bagels and Super Grande Mocha Skinny Soy Lattes and baristas with a why bother attitude and demeanor wait for regulars that know what they want and how to tip. Rubes asleep in pickup trucks with Oklahoma plates, ‘grip the road’ tires and Huge Ass Beer cups on the dash board. Me and my Sunday Times; Black eyed Susie with another shiner and a morning forty selling Mardi Gras beads to nuclear families; the sun rises on sinners and Saints fans impartially. The Blacksmith shop is opening to mules with buggy behinds, all the booze that’s fit to mix; can’t buy a stamp across the street today and the wine shop that’s been shuttered for decades; a little red schoolhouse where imported students will raise decibels on the morrow, today as silent as a sunken ship.

The ghosts of neighbors past still sit on stoops and porches, old friends wander by walking dogs, abandoned heart circuses and other poetic mysteries abound on a short walk for the NYT. Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you.

Through the midway of miscreants and muses (and outnumbering them) come early beignet eaters, Baton Rouge beauties, pastel matching parents of bored and unruly offspring, thirty something morning cocktail carriers, bicycle taxis, birthday boys, double parking brunchers, service veterans, baby strollers and assorted retirees. Hunks and chunks. That cute couple from Des Moines holding hands. Mamas and Papas, grandkids and gay pride. Seersuckers, sweatshirts, sweethearts and sunglasses in all shades, shapes and sizes. The American Dream in a backpack passing through; bachelorette bevies; breakfasts delivered; directions given; Midwestern mullets; Manhattan mommies; buzz cut bucks in muscle shirts and some geezer named Phil coming back from getting his Sunday news. Anyone else want to ask me why I live here?