Playing up a storm

Everyone knows. Everyone in the street bears the marks of Katrina. The streets themselves hum with it. This city was treated with contempt and left to drown. People thought it was the end of the Big Easy. I remember watching the news.

But not so.

I love this city more than anywhere I’ve yet been, and already I know my only regret is going to be that I didn’t see enough of it. Even writing this (on a tiny EEE PC donated by a nice Australian girl), I can feel the time burning down. But I have to write!

I arrived yesterday, crossing the huge causeway over the Ponchatraine, so vast that, unlike the English channel, you can’t see the other side. We had driven a long way, through three states, over miles of elevated wetlands road and straight through the middle of a vicious Mississippi thunderstorm. I could dedicate a post to the trip alone, but I shall have to settle for thanking Jon and his family profusely.

The place we rolled up to, India House, was somewhere I immediately felt at home. Open only to students and foreign travellers, the hostel is a bohemian, carefree oasis of communal lounging and pheremones. As I trundled up the steps a man strumming away on a guitar bid me hello with all the sincerity of an old friend. The House is literally one of the coolest places I have ever been.

I had a definite objective. It was seven thirty pm and I had nightlife to sample. I ran into a Londoner, Rich, and the aforementioned sheila, Bree. They took me under their wing and we set off on foot into the French Quarter.

If you’ve not been, it’s everything you’ve heard and more. Not three minutes into the achingly beautiful streets and we’re listening to an energetic street band playing superbly. I have videos of a lot of this stuff btw, but that will have to wait until I have more time.

I could write about the French Quarter for a long time. It is absolutely unique, like nowhere I’ve been before. Men and women stand on balconies showering the throbbing street below with bead necklaces whilst live music pulses, swings, and blasts through the stifling night air. The place frequently smells awful, there are about a hundred strip clubs, you can’t move without ramming into someone else and everyone seems either crazy, drunk, lost, or all three.

It’s marvellous.

We checked out a few places and saw some good acts, but eventually found an awesome place with a traditional live jazz band of astonishing skill. In the interval, I approached the trombonist(?). I was stunned to find that he had only played with the group once before. I asked him how he did it.

‘This music… this music is a language, you know?’ he said, eyes shining and drink flailing in his hand. ‘If you speak it, it doesn’t matter, you can just play. I know some songs that Charlie doesn’t know, he knows some that I don’t know, but it’s a language, that’s the only way I can describe it!’ He swung past me to get back to the stage and then winked over his shoulder with a grin. ‘Plus, it’s a great way to meet cute girls, yeah?’

I later found out he had been there two years with no job, and didn’t often get a cut of the jar. He just plays every night for the love of music and free drinks. Some people seem to be able to find completely different ways of living.

I could go on. There’s so much to say! But I need to go. I just don’t have enough time, and I want to get to cafe du monde for a beignet.

1 Response to “Playing up a storm”

  1. 1 Adam (Melkster/Melkor) 26/07/2009 at 11:52 am

    I feel like a broken record, but you are a seriously amazing writer, especially considering how little time you had to throw this together.

    Write a book about this whole experience, imo, and make millions.

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