Why I love New Orleans, Part 1

I moved here in 2002 – the goal was to get a degree and pull out. Now, a few degrees later, I’ve mixed in some hurricane skin, two spicy fur-children, a new vocabulary, some grits, and the occasional bottle of Abita which is a requirement for stoop-sitting… and I find myself having these “I love New Orleans” moments.

They happen most often when I find myself thinking of moving somewhere else – which will happen soon as I decide on a PhD program (in ethnomusicology).

Today I’ve got Gottschalk in my head. He’s one of my favorite romantic era composers and happens to be from New Orleans. His life story could be an “I love New Orleans” moment. Born in the early 1800’s, his dad was a Jewish guy from London, and his mom was a Haitian Creole from New Orleans – the guy defines musical gumbo. Can you imagine the music he was brought up listening to? The beginnings of brass band traditions, spirituals, the pre-jazz era – and of course he went to Europe when he got good. His music is just full of the roots and soul of New Orleans. As an aside, my personal favorite piece of his to perform is ‘Tournament Galop’, which is a really interesting march that defies the rules of early American marches. Okay there is no point to that. But listen …

I was walking to work the other day, which takes abut 15 minutes from my house in the Marigny to the center of the French Quarter, and this dark-skinned man with tattered grey slacks and a torn shirt was riding a royal-looking Arabian into traffic on the corner of Elysian Fields and St. Claude – not the most affluent of neighborhoods (I know because it’s my own). He has no reins on the horse, but a black western saddle and red velvet blanket adorn where he sat. I looked again and realized he’s going to the walk-up window (on the horse) of Gene’s Po-Boy and Daiquiri Shop… only in New Orleans.

In fact, that entire day was full of odd moments. Despite the fact that eight hours of my day were spent indoors selling local art, South African pottery made by a botanist, and doormats in the guise of manhole covers, the day was beautiful. After work, the evening began with a parade of musician-pirates in the streets and an $8 bloody mary from a Chinese restaurant owned by Mexicans. It ended as I walked home from work and handed my cocktail to a gutterpunk asking sweetly if I could “spare a sip”…

Ahh I love New Orleans.

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