All aesthetics arises from life and ends up going home to the world of art, no matter how or where it started, in the church or the counterfeit palace of pleasure known as the cathouse. What was understood by jazzmen like Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong was of such profound importance to jazz performance that it has continued to influence every solid approach to the music, regardless of style.
During those few months immediately following the storm, when there was much concern about the city’s diminished population, any critical mass of people felt strangely victorious, a desperate grab at a handful of social fabric. O’Neil’s memorial was a loaded moment of many loaded moments in the new New Orleans, a place and time when everything you did carried meaning.
The text from my little brother came around six in the morning: we would meet for lunch at the Rib Room and then spend the rest of the day “filling our lungs with memories.” It was Tuesday, April 21, 2015, and a citywide smoking ban in bars was going into effect at midnight.
There’s a strong breeze from the South and petals are flying off flowering trees. We can smell the briny Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of new seedlings have been planted and braced so they can set roots. Audubon Park used to get the attention, but City Park’s spruced up and all promise. Covering thirteen hundred acres in Mid City, this has become everyone’s park.
The Country Club is a pale yellow, classic nineteenth-century Creole mansion with a grand front porch. Inside are fifteen-foot ceilings, polished hardwood floors, and palms in pots. People dine in the house’s rooms, and there’s a bar in the back near the pool where Anne, on her way to the bathroom, saw a naked woman ordering a drink.
A story from our Fiction Issue.
Full disclosure up front: I am a gay black man, a proud New Orleanian, thirty years old, five out of the closet, a decade on the down-low before that; bi-dialectal as every educated brother in this city must be, a code-switcher as needed; a poet in my spare time, in my unspare time a poetry teacher devoted to dead French guys and live black ones.
We sat cross-legged on the cement floor of a warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward, not far from the train tracks. In the center was a small wooden house with singing pipes built into its walls. This was Chateau Poulet, a musical shanty about to perform for all of us.