I haven't written in this space in almost a year and a half. I guess it was because I got away from what I originally intended for this blog. Instead of writing about living life in New Orleans, specifically; I was writing about life, in general. The first and most basic piece of advice given to someone who aspires to write is "write what you know". The problem with this being that "what I know" often involves other people who may not want their business broadcast on a public forum. I found that I couldn't be truthful in writing about the trials and triumphs of my daily life without also exposing the lives of others. So, I decided to leave it alone. Writing, even in this, oh-so, basic and remedial capacity is not always easy. Sometimes the words just come to you, others you can't even put a sentence together. Taking a break was nice. But I knew it was still sitting here. And I missed it. I decided I could get back to it, but in the way originally intended: highlighting all of the cool, eccentric, fabulous, fun, interesting, sometimes challenging, people, places and things that are New Orleans. After deciding that I was going to start again, actually getting started was another matter. The words wouldn't come. It seemed incredibly stressful for something that was supposed to be for enjoyment! It has taken a couple of months but, today, it feels like the words will come. I'll give it a shot.
They say that in New Orleans the four seasons are Carnival (Mardi Gras), Festival, Sno-Ball (Summer), and Football. We are well into Sno-Ball season, but there are still festivals to be found. In just a couple of weeks we will be enjoying Satchmo SummerFest. But first, even though I'm a little late in getting to it, I want to talk about Jazz Fest. The topic of Jazz Fest can inspire passionate debates(arguments) among locals, many of whom balk at the corporate sponsorship, daily pricing, or the influx of mainstream acts over homegrown talent. Others enjoy it when they can go. And then there's the die hards....who go all day, every day. Weather (extreme heat or rain) be damned. I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, it can be pricey at $70 a day. BUT, that's for 8 hours of fantastic music! There is literally something for everyone's musical tastes AND room for you to hear something new! And, yes, there are a lot of major acts, many that I don't care for. BUT, I personally don't go to a lot of arena shows anymore and if an act that I would like to catch comes to Jazz Fest...even better. I get to see them along with all of the others on the bill that day! Instead of paying 100 bucks to see one band at an arena, I pay 70 and see lots of bands. Sounds good to me. This year I went to Jazz Fest 5 of the 7 days and had a great time. Being out at the Fairgrounds in the heat amongst a crowd that smells of patchouli, suntan lotion, and beer, dancing to the music....well....I didn't want to be anywhere else! The crowd is so chill and happy to be there that there were good vibes everywhere. I know how clichéd that sounds, but, I swear, it was true! Some highlights for me: MUSIC Rumba Buena (new to me!), Boutte Family Gospel, Davell Crawford, Robin Thicke (pre-begging) who had to end his set early because the heat go to him, poor thing, his shirt was soaked!, Marcia Ball, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Tricia Boutte & Paul Longstreth, the whole second Saturday Acure Stage line-up: Marc Broussard (new to me!), Allen Toussaint, Voices of the Wetlands Allstars, and Mr. Bruce Springsteen. FOOD cochon de lait po boy (more than once), Ms. Linda's ya ka mein, panne'd chicken po boy, Cuban sammich, strawberry shortcake, peach cobbler....the list for both could go on and on. Now, I'm going to be honest here and say that I've never faithfully gone to Jazz Fest, I've always preferred French Quarter Festival. This year converted me. I just found it really enjoyable and can now say that I highly recommend it. It's worth the price. And even better if you get a Brass Pass during WWOZ's fund drive ($500). Even if you don't attend every day, you can rest assured that the money went to a good cause. Some helpful tips if you do go: dress for COMFORT, not cute. It can get extremely hot out there or it can rain, be prepared for both! Sun hat, suntan lotion, sunglasses, eye drops (for the dust), plastic rain poncho, bandana (for the sweat), sensible shoes that you won't miss if ruined, etc.; bring cash, smaller bills; be prepared to try new things. If you are a seafood eater, you will be in heaven!; prepare for crowds on Sat. & Sun and when there is a huge act. If you plan on seeing someone like Springsteen and want a good view, get to the Fairgrounds EARLY to get in and make a run for the stage. Then be prepared to set up camp and enjoy all of the acts on that stage for the day and to make friends with the people around you. You are going to be there for a while. If you plan on wandering, make sure you have marked your spot and will be able to find it when you get back. The scenery will definitely look different and it will be difficult to pick your way through the crowd. I'm not usually willing to forego moving around all day, but I did it for Bruce. Luckily, I was stuck next to cool people and liked the music line up for the day. It was hot and a bit uncomfortable at times, getting to the "bathroom" was a hassle, but I'm glad I did it. Felt like a warrior after I made it through the day! lol! Again, I had a really nice time and am so grateful to the people who helped me make it happen! I strongly suggest you make your plans and go! It's like New Orleans, in general, you should go once at least once in your lifetime.
Some other things I've been grooving on lately:
Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue, I just love this band and try to see them when I can. Kinda country, kinda rockabilly, kinda swing...just all around good stuff. And Vanessa Niemann's voice is sublime. Check out their CD's "Set Two" and "Last to Leave".
Meschiya Lake, One of the best singers I've ever heard. Fantastic personal style too. Her lastest is "Fooler's Gold".
"Oh New Orleans, Here I Come!", Great song written for Tricia Boutte to sing when she's missing her hometown over there in Norway. On the CD of the same name.
Aresene DeLay, Another member of that super talented Boutte family. To my ears, Arsene has a voice like Ella Fitzgerald! I love her new CD "Comin' Home" and you should rush out and get it. She can be seen around Frenchmen at the Spotted Cat (w/ the majorly awesome Antoine Diehl), Café Negril, and BMC. Go get you some!
"That's It", The latest by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, their first of all original compositions. And I really dig it! Especially the title song.
And now for a non-music selection, The Cake Café (corner of Chartres and Spain in the Marigny), Steve Himelfarb used to be known as "The Cake Man" when he walked through the streets of New Orleans with a huge tray of homemade cake slices for sale. I guess he is still known as "The Cake Man" in his cozy restaurant where he serves those cakes and more. My buddy Mike and I went out there for brunch two days ago and enjoyed it, immensely. The atmosphere is informal, you order at the counter and they call you when it's ready; and the food was tasty! I ordered the corned beef hash w/two eggs special. So good! The hash was homemade and the corned beef was tender without being too fatty, eggs were cooked as ordered. Also came with a fresh biscuit that was stellar. ($9, I believe.) Mike had those same biscuits with sausage gravy. And there was a superb cream cheese danish involved in our dining experience too. With drinks and tip, around 30 bucks for a lot of food in a nice neighborhood joint. We'll go again.
So, there it is. My first blog post in a year and a half. I'm rusty, so please excuse the typos and bad form. I'll edit as I go along. And I'll be making an effort to get out more in order to have things to write about.
Live life to the fullest, tomorrow isn't promised.