Po Boy Views
Jazz Fest Firstin’
Onward Into the Fogger
Let’s just say that in the over twenty-five years of me living in New Orleans (off and on) I have never missed the occasion--where time and tide would allow me--to attend The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, stretching back into the early seventies. Most of you haven’t. That should give me cred, right? I mean, some of you weren’t a gleam in your Mama’s eyes when I was groovin’ to Booker and/or Fess; I have traveled that track more times than Sea Biscuit; I have eaten my weight in gumbo, cochon de lait and crawfish; I have perfected my Electric Slide, disregarding those looks that say ‘I told you white boys can’t dance’ through countless years of Frankie Beverley and Maze. I have climbed that indomitable Grandstand stairway to heaven in search of the perfect bathroom facility; I’ve seen Bob Dylan booed and sang along with the Dixie Cups (“Goin’ to the… chapel and we’re… gonna get maaarried…”). I could comfortably rest on my Laurels (and my Hardy’s too). Instead, I chose to impart my (half) wit and wisdom to those who may benefit. Please… permit me to share the fruits of many years of experience; allow me to deliver unto you (drum roll) a Greenhorn Guide to the Goodness--for those who need it and those who need reminding--(and those who need nothing at all). Enjoy.
First the weather forecast: sun, wind, showers, fog, heat, cold and overcast with patches of crowd. Mud, sweat and beers. Dust, grime, grease and good will abound. Rays of sunshine like the universe’s approval will rain upon you and should you get blinded by the light, get ye to a misting tent. Yea, though you walk through the valley of Port-o-lets and pot smoke, fear no evil; all blessings are present and accounted for. Be thou anointed, you are here and they are not, dress accordingly and pack as lightly and sensibly as possible.
What to bring: As far as I know and indeed, up until last year, it was permissible to bring in a bottled water as long as it was sealed and unopened. Figure on traveling as light as you can because anything you schlep in, you’ll be schlepping out; Dick always brings blankets, tarpaulins and something screwy on a tall stick so others can find him. Instead, take a small bag (which will be searched) with a wee towel to sit on, sunscreen, cheap sunglasses, camera and extra napkins to be on the safe side. If you have a small folding umbrella, dat be cool. To avoid the ATMs bring cash; unless you’re gonna make a major purchase leave the cards at home. Take a plastic bag for valuables and some Tupperware if you want to take some goodies home. Big Red would also bring makeup because “you never know if you’ll meet a millionaire in the midway”.
What to wear: do not go barefooting! Consider that a thousand racing animals with their entourages of insects that have been kept under control with military strength poisons resides in the ground that you’re trodding. Do have protective headgear, neck gear and foot gear that can stand the elements. A bandana for your neck, a wrap for your shoulders. I don’t advise going ‘commando’. Usually I have a smallish satchel and I wear shorts and an abbreviated tee under some overalls and a flashy short sleeved shirt and I dress and undress according to the prevailing weather; some folks wear rain boots and that seems to be tres Festy. Judy Day advises to “bra up, so you don’t be lugging them girls around for eight hours in the elements”. Wearing anything that you can’t let be ruined may be a mistake.
What to eat/drink: Short answer: everything! Personally I don’t treat the Fest as an alcohol ‘throw down’, so try the iced beverages for a change and leave the inebriation for later--I do have a beer on the way in to wake up but after that—remember it’s not a sprint to the finish. Allan Toussaint’s advice is to eat “anything with crawfish” and I’ll take that to the bank. Look for long lines and find out why; peep over shoulders and ask folks what they’re having, how the taste and portion is in comparison to the price. Really. Look for things that are of a Jazzy and Heritage-y nature; with over seventy food booths there’s lots to choose from. It is hard to recommend any one or more things because, actually, there is nothing at the Fest that I don’t want to eat. I very rarely have the same dish twice in one year, that way I can sample things that I haven’t tried in years past. Visit the food demonstrations and watch local chefs strut their stuff. One thing I do do is to only bring only a certain amount of money (excluding traveling expenses), that way I am forced to really only purchase what I cannot live without. Oh—one thing though--if you pass up the praline stuffed beignet, I will be thoroughly sorry for you and your loss.
Attitude: Now, there are those out there that consider going to the Fest is like “Cutting a path through this wall of human flesh with a mountain goat under my arm, dragging my canoe behind me” and abstain from the experience; obviously, you’re not one of them. The best advice is just to relax, take it easy and have fun. As Girlfriend points out “you’re in the Holy Land”; consider the rest of the world an insane asylum and you’ve left that crazy life you live in there--out there; you’re home now, all is well.