Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2nd week JazzFest 2015

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Shallow Water, Oh Mama
Thank You, Jimmy, Once Again
Liuzza’s By The Track (1518 N Lopez St.) is presumably if not ostensibly the unauthorized New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival command post, since it’s spitting distance from the Sauvage Street entrance gate and a frequent rendezvous before and after the days events; don’t take my word for it, take my word for it.
We live in the neighborhood, blocks away, and it IS our second home as only the by-choice-beloved, more-than-comfortable, watering-hole-that-has-adopted-you, could ever be in anyone’s life. If you’re anything like us (and who isn’t?), wherever you find yourself, in the world, you latch onto a piece of real estate that becomes your anchor and refuge from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Every citizen of our unique city has such a place, from a nightly booty shaking at Vaughn’s to meetings of Bill’s Friends at Fair Grinds coffee house (sometimes both). It’s in our blood, possibly from drinking Mississippi river water, or maybe because most of us didn’t have a proper home when we arrived here and still are not comfortable chez-nous---I don’t know—it’s moot for now; catch me over drinks and we’ll talk.
Back to Liuzza’s By The Track (LBTT), we know the staff by name, age and temperament; we know, likewise, the regulars that we encounter upon our arrivals and they, in turn, know us. We celebrate birthdays, game days and theme days (Karen’s going away party was a classic). LBTT is known for its stellar sandwiches (all meats cooked in house), its gumbo, daily specials and legendary BBQ shrimp po-boy which, I’m sure, will be served in Heaven, if/when I get there. Cozy in size, large in stature, comfy, quirky and intrepid in operation; a classic New Orleans gem.
The kitchen rocks into the lunch and early dinner hour (food stops at 7:00 pm) and regular bar clients tend to drift in to watch Jeopardy, commiserate over world events, local doings and Vanna White’s choice of wardrobe for the evening.
And every March, come hell or high water, before any of you swinging Richards have even made reservations or purchased tickets, Jimmy Lamarie begins preparations for the annual Greeting Of The Festers at Liuzza’s. Scheduling, ordering, organizing and coordinating above and beyond what’s been accomplished all year by the gallant and valiant staff.
Now, somebody reading this is sure to have had the life (bordering on near death) experience in preparing for an impending onslaught of activity and the need for all bases being covered. Contingency for correcting errors that involve planning, and the solutions to unexpected challenges requiring experience, imagination and intelligence become essential ingredients for success. Slalom skiing, wrestling alligators, French kissing sharks and driving getaway cars come to mind here. 
In other words, being ready when Murphy raises his ugly head (when the fit hits the Shan) and being ready to make snap decisions, turn on a dime and roll with the punches. Multiply that. In New Orleans, being able to perform this way, shooting from the hip so to speak is elevated to an art form. You have to anticipate the party and its attendees, choose the best people for the appropriate jobs and then give them rein. Back away and only step in when necessary. Jimmy’s job as owner of LBTT is as much hands on as hands off.
You’ll see the welcoming sign painted in the asphalt outside the iconic location and inside will be the same madcap crew that, as neighbors, we see all year long; like a well oiled machine; before, during and after Jazz Fest hours offering  Bloody Marys and other libations, signature menu items and very cold beer, reasonably priced.
The chairs and tables become a banquette gathering place, music on street corners, sidewalk vendors selling, and swirling drinks swilled. Old friends greet each other and acquaintances that were made last year and in years past specific to this celebration embrace as long lost co-conspirators in the happiest event this side of Paradise.
Very few people will spot Jimmy, he’s a person who has the ability to be unobtrusive but he is a force of nature that is used to getting things done his way; quietly (okay, sometimes not quietly), quickly and competently. Period. It’s a job that I wouldn’t want and suspect that I couldn’t do. He does it.
That being said, say “Thank you Jimmy” and if you’re of a mind to find (what we would consider) an affordable rent, register and participate in our voting processes; observe our recycling programs, rules of the road and land; if you’re willing to accept the things you cannot change and change the things that you can; if you can accept our funk and not our failures, be ready to yell “Who Dat!” and blaze a trail of fried chicken bones through our neighborhoods, write letters to the editors, swim in our public pools, dance in the streets and fall in love with our sass and sassafras: y’all stay.
If not, we’ll see you next year. I’ll keep your bar stool warm.

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