Knowing What It Means To Miss New Orleans

Posted: April 19th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, JazzFest, Music, New Orleans | 3 Comments »

Already consumed with the stark reality that my upcoming week was going to be considerably different than planned, I did not need a reminder.

There it was nonetheless when I sat down at my computer Sunday morning.

The Reminder: JazzFest tomorrow.


Not that my favorite thing to do in life, the gravitational pull of my year, started Monday. The festival wouldn’t have begun until 11:00 in the morning Thursday.

Just sayin’. Hearing some hot New Orleans outfit, like, say, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, or Flow Tribe, before noon on a workday, while savoring a frozen latte, is among life’s most endearing pleasures.

But Monday’s the day I start the trek down. At least since I’ve been driving instead of flying. No matter to explain, but I’ve got my reasons, and it works for me.

Stay overnight along the way in Mississippi. Get to the Crescent City around noon Tuesday. Check in and let the burg’s quintessential vibe wash over me. Take a jog through the Quarter. Dine with long time pals that night at, say, Clancy’s or GW Fins.

Spend Wednesday hanging out in the Vieux Carré, listening to in stores at Louisiana Music Factory, where I always hook up with similarly minded friends I’ve made through the years. Make a stop at Meyer the Hatter on St. Charles. Maybe drive up Magazine for more gratuitous shopping.

Annual night before Fest dinner with a varying group of good friends from home and hither and yon at Galatoire’s, or, more recently, Mosca’s on the Westbank for chicken a la grandé.

Thursday through Sunday: Festin’ in the day. Feastin’ in the evening.

That’s been what this coming week in April has been for me.

Every. Year. Since. 1991.

And several years before that, starting with my first Fest in ’76, when I went for a weekend, and ended up staying almost two weeks. Thank you, Marc, for the intro, thank you forgiving bosses, for your forgiving.

 * * * * *

A quick history, with my apologies to those who have been with me for awhile, who have heard the chronology too many times, such is my obsession.

I just need to get it out. I just need to vent.

First time, like I said, ’76. First JazzFest concert on Riverboat President. Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Gatemouth Brown.

Fell in love with the whole deal.

Not sure why I didn’t make it back until ’80. Work obligations. Lack of funds. ??? Stupidity. Getting caught up for some reason with Derby Fever. I dunno.

By then, my life was unraveling a bit. Drugs. Alcohol. Got clean and sober in late ’82. And it took awhile before I felt comfortable returning.

New Orleans is . . . well . . . you know . . . New Orleans.

In ’88, that college chum who first introduced me to the whole thing demanded I return. Little Feat reunion was the hook.

After hearing Aaron Neville sing “Arianne,” I vowed never to miss JazzFest again.

Which I haven’t since ’91. Was there in ’89, and ’90, but was recovering from an accident in spring ’91, and c’est impossible.

(What helped me get through missing that year was a gift from a couple friends, who were working on a series of musician interviews for a Public Radio series. Sometime in the early spring of ’91, they interviewed Aaron Neville and had him tape a personal message for me. Which included a rendition of a song of hope he’d just written. I’ve still got the cassette, but, alas, no cassette player.)

I didn’t like missing it a bit.

I was back in ’92.

This year for obvious reasons I shall not be.

It hurts. It hurts so bad.

 * * * * *

As I write this, I’m somewhat calmer than earlier in the day.

I’m listening to WWOZ online, where the incredible New Orleans public music station is playing past sets from French Quarter Fest, another rave up down there, which always precedes JF by a week or two.

Ellis Marsalis from 2004. Panorama Jazz Band, including the amazing Aurora Nealand on alto sax from ’19. Astral Project with Johnny V on the traps from ’16.

The station will be running a Festing in Place musical cavalcade, during days and hours Fest was scheduled the next two Thursday through Sundays.

It shall have to suffice.

There won’t be any Crawfish Strudel.

There won’t be any of AJ’s sublime chocolate snoballs, to which I have a an addiction. There is no Chocolate Snoballs Anonymous of which I’m aware.

(I do have the memory of my moment there years ago with Allen Toussaint, my favorite musician of forever. That’s him and me in the attached photo.)

I won’t be at Marc and Jill’s next Sunday night for their annual crawfish boil.

But I shall abide.

JazzFest will be back.

The Good Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, so shall I.

— c d kaplan



3 Comments on “Knowing What It Means To Miss New Orleans”

  1. 1 Patti E. said at 8:51 pm on April 19th, 2020:

    Just talking to Bette about you recently….knew you would
    be sad about now. But hang, brother, and remember: stay at home and and stay tame so da COVID don’t call yo name! You’re welcome. xoxo

  2. 2 Dennis Hummel said at 11:17 pm on April 19th, 2020:

    Very emotive expose on what it be like to be rollin in N’Orlen’.😊🎷🎺🎶

  3. 3 David leibson said at 11:45 am on April 20th, 2020:

    Phyllis and I spent several JazzFest with CD and all we can do is thank him for finally convincing us to go. It is a truly wonderful experience which Chuck captured in his post. Hopefully it will return sooner rather than later

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