Never Talk Politics With An Indian

Especially not on an empty stomach. I blame K. The woman could coax a mute into a conversation. It was about 5PM and I thought we had finally gotten a plan for the day, having spent the first half wrestling with technical issues to put up my first post on this blog (see the previous magnum opus). We were in post-Fest recovery mode, trying to figure out which day it was and whether our legs would still function.

The day’s main accomplishment had been to get to Louisiana Music Factory to see K’s boyfriend at a free in-store performance. That would be Tab Benoit.

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I’d say 80% of the women there were in a swoon, and not because Tab is a gifted guitarist and showman. It’s those modeling school good looks and a melodious voice that has you convinced that he’s whispering in your ear only when he talks about those early morning wake-up calls.

In-store performances between the 2 Jazz Fest weekends at Tower Records and the Music Factory (both in the Quarter) are some of the best Fest lagniappe. It’s a fine way to introduce yourself to someone you’ve wanted to hear, without the commitment of a 10PM show or a $20 cover. And at the Music Factory, you get coupons for $2.50 Abita drafts at a bar across Decatur St.

But back to the Indian. So, at 5PM we found ourselves in front of R. Wyche Metal Crafters and Midnight Gallery, on Tchoupitoulas. I’d always wanted to stop in to this place, a metal Quonset hut adorned with a large, probably 6-8 foot steel spider crawling down the front. No problem. K walked in and next thing I knew, we were talking New Orleans politics, blacksmithing, the pros and cons of being your own boss, and the various jobs that Rob and Becky had executed for their mostly local clientele. And it was just the most fantastic workshop, a fantasy amalgam of bugs and lacy ironwork and whimsical wine racks and furniture and decorative pieces, surrounded by huge machinery and scraps and parts.

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Of course we go to storm stories, too. Scratch just under the surface with any New Orleanian and you’ll expose the swirling mix of pain, anger, doubt, depression, optimism, and black humor that’s permeated the souls of the people who stuck it out or came back after Katrina. Ron, a friend of Rob and Becky’s who was part of our afternoon gathering was a former Chalmette resident. He did not evacuate and was caught as the water rose up to his second story. For 4 days he waited, until finally he saw someone with a boat pull up to the high school which had been across the street, but was now across a lake. Ron said he shot out the window and waved a red flag to get the guy’s attention, which of course made him duck and cover, but eventually, it was clear that he just wanted to be rescued.

This was all fine until Rob mentioned that he and Becky are Native Americans, and K, being the polite southern woman that she is, decided this was the next avenue of conversation. Having been involved in several stories involving Indians, I know there are certain subjects you just plain avoid… the federal government, settlement offers, who was where first, casinos. Too late. Next thing I know we’re hearing a discourse on the forced migratory patterns of the Alabama Coushatta, and all I can think about it the 2 po’boys out in my rental car that are now getting cold while I go into hypoglycemic shock.

K is merrily discussing the Black Warrior River and the burial mounds it exposed, I think, but I don’t really know because I’m now seeing stars, having ingested nothing but a bagel, part of an orange, some yogurt and a few Abitas in the last 8 hours.

At some point we did finally tear ourselves away, I think, because I do remember eventually inhaling the now soggy po’boys before we headed out to a crawfish boil given by our friend Derek (who’s gigging plenty with his band the Iguanas this week) at a place they call the Batture, I think.

Anyway, it was on the other side of the levee in the riverbend area, and I knew we’d have some trouble finding it, but luckily, a Levee Authority policeman directed me. New Orleans really is a different world. I pulled up to the top of the levee and rolled over to the cop, asking him if he knew how to get to some houses on the river. He said, oh, are you looking for the party? Directed us there, just like that.

We got there just as the sun was setting over the Mississippi, and stuck around for a few hours, stuffing ourselves with crawfish and meeting many many nice people. At about 10:30 we headed out to the Rock and Bowl to see Snooks Eaglin, a New Orleans institution. The crowd was surprisingly light, but then again, it was a Monday night. Snooks is something to behold – an 80-something year old bald, blind black guy who brings Ray Charles to mind. Sweet and smooth singing voice, and skilled, skilled hands. He strummed and picked out R&B and rock and roll classics and blues, eagerly responding to every shouted-out request, satisfying a clearly devoted fan club.

It was a shockingly early night for us, ending about 12:30. We decided to end it on a high note – clutching roses fashioned out of Bev naps by a rather large man who was sporting a custom-made leather holster on his belt that held, no, not a knife, and not a cellphone, but a **Tabasco** bottle.

5 Comments so far

  1. Jenn (unregistered) on May 5th, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

    Alicia-
    Just got back to L.A. from LA. and the Fest. Thought you might like to know that it’s because of Derek that we ended up at the Fest this year. The Iguanas were playing a New Years Eve show in Chicago, and my husband and I ended up deep in conversation with Derek, who assured us that not only was Jazz Fest happening, but it was going to be great and we absolutely had to come. And so we did. And it was great. I think that despite the INSANE crowds, this was the best year we’ve had, and this was year 12 for us.
    Many thanks to all of the fabulous New Orleanians who put aside a whole lot of pain to welcome us in. We wouldn’t think of missing another Fest.


  2. Todd (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    You actually had po boys in the rental car getting cold?!? You were in Louisiana, right?


  3. Alicia Ault (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

    Todd — technically, it did not get “cold.” You are correct. It did, however, become SOGGY. An even greater gastronomic catastrophe. Thanks for your concern.


  4. Todd (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

    Y’know… chalk it up to a smart ass moment. I can count on one hand the times I’ve reply posted on here and for some reason this particular sentence called out to me.

    Might have been the sweat on my fresh from outside brow.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    T.


  5. Jill (unregistered) on May 21st, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

    Great work!
    My homepage | Please visit



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