21 Jan 2011

Diary of a Billsticker – New Orleans, USA

21 Jan 2011

Who Dat?

We took off for New Orleans on Boxing Day. Americans don’t have Boxing Day really. They tend to want to gravitate to the malls so that the whole shebang can start up again.  Straight after Christmas, they are selling Valentine’s Day products.

Anyway, there was a huge snow storm and news was that many flights were cancelled, but that some were still getting away from Philly. Airports are dismal places and it’s just kind of a given that if your flight is to be ‘postponed,’ then you won’t get notice of that until a few minutes before the scheduled time. Obviously, this is to bring about the maximum possible heartbreak. Kurt Vonnegut understood these things well.

In management (in airlines and elsewhere) these days, it’s just an order of the day that one mustn’t be too vital as someone may benefit from that somewhere down the track. Airlines are just turgid and swampy affairs and one hopes that some day someone will catch on and things will be dynamic again. But watching how Barrack Obama is getting along, that won’t be anytime soon.

So we managed to catch another flight and arrived in New Orleans fifteen hours later having gone via Salt Lake City, Utah. That’s kind of like going to the shop and wanting to buy a mutton pie and ending up getting beef jerky.

New Orleans is a wild and free town and everyone knows that it has risen above many tragedies and has stormed on through to express itself again. And it does that well. But, on the night we arrived, the weather was unusually cold (near freezing point) and eight kids died in a warehouse fire. Many young kids (‘railroad punks’) jump trains and head for the Crescent City because they’ve given up on the dream and the hypocrisy and they want to live out the notion of ‘Hope’ in their own way.

In New Zealand we’d say “good on you” or just simply “on ya”, and this means that we approve of the basic principle of people following their own dreams in exactly their own way. Music expresses this all best and most of these kids play music and damn good it is too. A person who plays music best has no barriers between her and the audience. So I saw kids in New Orleans (playing on street corners) who should be on major labels, but that would end up ruining their lives entirely. Next thing they’d want to save Africa.

So, the very best thing about New Orleans is the number of people playing music in the streets and there ain’t a force on earth (like a City Council) that can stop them. There are posters everywhere and, of course, I like this. I like to see evidence that people can express themselves in a clear and coherent way. That’s why I detest political correctness. I reckon that the notion (political correctness) has done in more peoples’ heads than aspartame.

So New Orleans is a city where people (well a lot of them anyway) shake off the surly bonds of earth and just enjoy themselves. Ain’t a government on earth likes that. And we must feel real sorrow for those kids who died in that fire. They wanted what all of us want, they wanted to be free. And we all know the feeling of ‘fuck it, I’ll go somewhere else….’ And that feeling is often (but not always) right.

So we postered (in sadness for the kids) with at least half a dozen New Zealand poetry posters. Poets included Sam Hunt, Frankie McMillan, Janet Frame, Tusiata Avia, Mariana Isara and Brian Turner. I see putting up each poster as a kind of individual hit for freedom. We postered around the French Quarter (of course) and there’s another particularly funky area close to there, it’s called Faubourg Marigny but no one who’s not a native can pronounce it, and then we postered the Treme and also around Congo Square. Congo Square is where a couple of hundred years ago they used to let the slaves dance for a couple of hours on Sunday (mighty big and white of them eh?) and from that little bloom of freedom we eventually got Wilson Pickett.

I loved New Orleans because there is a feeling of hope springing eternal and I’ve needed that feeling in my life. I could spend all day telling you about the very clever people who lived there or who were born there. The city, with all its feelings of ungovernability or freedom, has nurtured these people. Hell, the airport is called “Louis Armstrong International”. No matter where you are in the city a tour will go past and someone will be saying over a megaphone to the tourists: “On that corner, over there, that’s where Truman Capote and Lee Harvey Oswald went to school and that’s where they played hopscotch at lunchtime.”

I could say all of this (and plenty more) but I just reckon we should think about those kids and listen to the Pine Leaf Boys.

Let freedom ring.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

42a 42c

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