Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Livin' the dream

I complain a lot, but actually, I live a charmed life. When I decided to move back to New Orleans after the storm, there was no telling what the city would be like five years later. The traffic lights weren't even working, many of the restaurants were just hanging on and it was almost impossible to find a mechanic to fix the car. It was anyone's guess if local musicians would move to Houston and New York and never come back.

Now, the city is bustling with activity, conventions have returned and the music scene seems more vibrant than ever. Two nights in a row, I've been down to Frenchmen's Street and it was crowded with music lovers, even in the rain. At Mimi's, after lindy-hop class tonight. people kept pouring in after 10 p.m. I don't remember any such interesting little clubs when I was in my 20s. I recall pick-up bars and icky smoky dens.

Tuba Skinny was playing and there were a dozen dancers on the floor strutting their stuff. The female vocalist, Erika Lewis, sings in the style of early jazz singers Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. The washboard player uses a bunch of other noise-making devices, including a tin can and bells that help keep the tempo up. Of course, there's a tuba, like in every New Orleans band and a trombone, trumpet and guitar. You can listen to a sampling of Tuba Skinny on the Internet.

I asked my companion about other bars in the Bywater neighborhood where he lives. He goes to Kajun's Pub to watch the games, which is frequented mostly by transvestites. The owner is a former football player, now a transvestite. But it's a friendly place that welcomes all and serves free shots when the team scores.

So, in the past week, I've sat among the press corps for a federal trial, done some marketing for a college, gone bike-riding atop the levee, to see an indy film, hear a music lecture, visit a museum, po-boy festival and swing danced. Where else can you do dat?

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