Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hanging in NOLA – Making Friends – Part Trois

 One of the best things about traveling to New Orleans is that you don’t really need a plan to have fun in the city. Mrs. S and I had a vague clue to eat good, enjoy staying at a first class hotel right in the French Quarter, and catch some music if nothing else was going on. In between all that, we visited a voodoo shop, bought me a hat, bought her some clothes, bought some French artisan utensils at a French artisan utensil shop, got lost in the casino, and took pictures of the entire city. Still, just letting those things happen to us resulted in some unusual experiences.

About to get down.
Like on the way to the voodoo shop. There was a line down the block of about 150 people to get into Preservation Hall. Not really known for its big name performers, and it being our first night and us still unsure of what music we were going to hear while we were there, I decided to find out what was going on. I walked to the front of the line, smiled at the scared looking ticket seller organizer guy and said, “Quite a crowd. Who’s playing tonight?” The guy got a look of consternation on his face (for some reason) and tried to brighten up and be enthusiastic, though he obviously was hoping we’d go away. Then he forced a smile and answered me, and I don’t remember what he said, exactly, but if I paraphrase what he said, it would go like this, “Well, we've got Eddie Whatsisname, who’s a famous  some-kind-of-musician locally, and he’ll be joined by Johnny Notspecial, and A Bunch of Nobodies.” I frowned, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Never heard of any of ‘em,” and me and Mrs. S walked off. Of course, Mrs. S goes, “What did he say?” And I had to answer, well I’m not sure, but it sounded like Eddie Whatsisname, joined by Johnny Notspecial, and the A Bunch of Nobodies. Anyway, I’m not paying what they’re charging to stand in a crowded hall with a bunch of tourists to hear unfamous musicians slug out some tunes. We can do that anywhere. Mrs. S laughed at my assessment and we continued waltzing away from P. Hall.

Getting down.
On our last night, we were wandering around St. Louis Cathedral and out of nowhere, these three kids come up, lay down on the sidewalk and commence to stare up at the cathedral. I walked over and pretended to be looking at what they were looking at and the girl says, “No. You've got to lay down and look up from the ground.” So, I laid down next to her. She goes, “There, doesn't it feel like your feet are part of the church?” which, I had not thought about before she said that, but yes, they did. The tower made me feel vaguely dizzy. Also, I somehow ended up in the exact middle, directly below the clock in the clock tower, and I pointed this out. “Isn't it cool?” I said, yes, and so is my back on the cold stone, which make me wonder about what was spilled and who spit on this particular ground I’m lying on. She said, “Ah, don’t worry about that. Just look.” I pointed out this was not exactly my plan for how to spend the evening of my birthday, and since I was getting cold, I told them thanks and got up. The guy wished me happy birthday, and I wished them luck with their steeple viewing.
The view from down under the St. Louis Cathedral
It was a different sort of trip for us. I expect we shall do more trips like this in the future. This one was more fun than most.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hanging in NOLA – Travel Log – Part Deux

There’s never a shortage of live music in New Orleans, however, finding the kind of live music or the artist that inspires you is not always easy. Thankfully, Mrs. S’s forte is figuring out what’s going on, finding what we are interested in, and then telling me so we can work on the logistics together. One of our favorite places to go is Snug Harbor, but the lineup for the three night we were there was not that attractive. Making things more difficult was the fact that we had reservations at three swanky places over the three nights, so logistics was going to be more of a challenge in any event. But Mrs. S found that Jason and Ellis Marsalis were performing at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, just a stone’s throw from our hotel, and starting at 8PM on a night when we had a 5:30 dinner reservation just ten minutes or so down the road. She even put our name on the guest list and told them to keep something down front available for us.

Piano mediocrity meets piano greatness (again): Me and Ellis Marsalis
After a fantastic dinner at August, we made our way to the club, where to our dismay and trepidation, they were turning people away at the door. No worries. As two couples did their about face, I told the woman at the door that we were on the list, gave her our name, and she smiled brightly and said, “Right this way.” She showed us a cushy table with padded seats and generous area, but right in front of that was a tiny table barely large enough for two drinks and two chairs on either side. I asked if we could sit there and she said sure. And there we were again, in the best seats in the house: front row.

The view from behind our table: That's our table right in front of the piano there.
Turns out our table was also right next to the Messrs. Marsalis’ table, so I went ahead and shook the elder Marsalis’ hand and had our picture taken prior to the show. The show was a captivating program of Christmas music, with Jason on vibes and his father playing piano (obviously), though Jason of course got behind his trap set for their rousing version of Little Drummer Boy. I don’t know if it was part of the act or what, but every tune, Jason announced as if nobody in the place had heard Christmas music before. It was really kind of laughable to hear somebody , in a deadpan serious voice, go, “That was a tune called ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. Now, here’s ‘Away in a Manger’.” Thanks, Jason. What was amazing was Jason would grab their CD, look at the back, call out a tune and a key signature, and Ellis would kick it off and away they went. Again, not sure it was part of the act, or what. The show was somewhat disrupted by a table of four in the front on the other side of the stage, who were yelling, laughing, and carrying on, and who had no idea who the Marsalis’s were. I wanted to tell them to shut up, but I figured if Jason wasn't bothered by them, neither would I be.

Drummer vibraphonist meets pianist vibraphonist (someday): Jason Marsalis and me.
The night ended paying $20 for a $10 CD so we could get it signed and have some more photos taken with the Marsalises, so it ended up being a night worth remembering in a lot of different ways. Hopefully Mrs. S can keep her concert going radar up and running during future trips to the Big Easy.