Yeah, I live in luxury…what of it?
This is the last night of a holiday trip Nicole and I have saved up for and taken the last three turn o’ the years. We start by caravanning with my parents to Frisco, Texas, to see my aunt and cousin for a night; proceed by driving Mom and Dad down to see my brother and his ladyfriend in Dickinson, Texas, over Christmas Eve and Christmas; leave my parents in Dickinson (they fly back to Dallas to get their car in Frisco) and motor to Lafayette, to sup on great Creole and Cajun food and drop some ducats at the amazing Lagniappe Records (where I snagged some nice items by Dickie Landry, Dead Moon, Feufollet, and Tsege Mariam Gebru); then, finally, ensconce ourselves in a nice hotel in New Orleans for a week (the last three years, the literary landmark The Hotel Monteleone) and explore the city, which can be done without exhausting its bounty for a lifetime, I imagine. I’d share our recent adventures, but I just started this diary yesterday, our last day in NOLA, so I’ll have to leave you in suspense (except to say that it is essential if you’re in the area to visit the Whitney Plantation–where you will learn about the lives of enslaved humans in detail, and walk where they walked).
When it’s time to pack up and head home, we always do what we did this morning: get up early, jet over to Elizabeth’s for breakfast (how about fried potatoes and poached eggs in spinach Hollandaise, encircled by eight fried fresh oysters, and topped off with a Bloody Mary?), then find I-10 West and dial in 90.7 FM New Orleans for the great community radio station WWOZ! ‘OZ is an amazing experience; I always fantasize that travelers crossing through NOLA have their audio magically re-set so they can hear the cornucopia of music forms that was born right where they’re passing over–thanks for nothing, Robert Moses! Old-time New Orleans jazz may be considered moldy fig music by some, but the stuff still jumps. I listen to a healthy portion of free and experimental jazz, and in the interaction of musicians playing Nawlins style I can hear the same eye and ear contact and inventing in the moment I treasure in Tyshawn Sorey’s or Roscoe Mitchell’s stuff, even thought they may be as different as cheese and chalk otherwise. As we motored down to I-55 and headed north (the signal begins to give out as you’re about midway across the bridge over that area’s section of Lake Ponchartrain), the DJ on duty was spinning tracks from young groups who are injecting new blood into those old forms, and they were lively enough to keep me out of a breakfast coma. Unfortunately, I was too close to comatose to take note of the bands’ names, but click the ‘OZ hyperlink above and experience it yourself.
To get us the rest of the way to Memphis, our last stop before finally reaching our home base of Columbia, Missouri, we play a massive iPod folder of NOLA and Memphis music that I prepared for Nicole, who’s as much a nut for that stuff as I am (and that’s saying something), close to a decade ago. We never tire of its 600+ tracks, which we put on shuffle. Some highlights you might find enjoyable: Johnny “The Tan Canary” Adams’ insane whistling on “Johnny A’s Blues” (Guess what? It’s not on YouTube, so you’ll have to resort to buying or downloading Ace’s More Gumbo Stew–all three volumes, which document the rise and fall of NOLA’s AFO records, are well worth your time and money.); Buckwheat Zydeco’s wrenching, heartbreaking post-Katrina version of George Perkins’ “Crying in the Streets”; Memphis’ transcendentally weird answer to ZZ Top, Mudboy and the Neutrons, doing the crazed “Money Talks,” in the middle of which Neutron James Luther Dickinson commands you to lay hands on your radio during a truly Memphian recitative; and among the first Mardi Gras Indian chants ever recorded professionally, on the Jazz A La Creole album credited to Baby Dodds (listen, just below).
We just slammed some delicious Central Barbeque–BBQ bologna sandwiches are to Memphis what muffalettas are to the Crescent City–and, now that I’ve waited for an hour, I need to go swim off these calories in the Peabody’s heated pool. Then, as you will soon see, we’ll be back to our usual humble living.
Player piano at The Peabody playing Elvis hits.
Mystikal. Such a troublesome road for the Howlin’ Wolf of hip hop.
Al Green (and Lou Rawls!!???) dominating the sound system at Central BBQ.