We got into New Orleans Saturday evening.My first impression was horror.
No matter how many times you see the devastation on CNN you can not be prepared for the sight of all those houses with the big crosses on them spray painted with the date & the number of bodies found there....whole neighborhoods where people laughed and loved and played,now nothing but rubble. It looked like Beruit.
We traveled on to La Place, a small town 30 miles west, where my BIL and SIL live. MItch and Cheryl are the kind of people who make you feel like you are doing them the biggest favor in the world by coming to see them. They took us to a little restaraunt up on pilings over Lake Pontchartrain where the crabs are crawling around 5 minutes before they go into the pot. It was the kind of meal that makes you moan while you are eating it.
The next day, we were up and off to the Jazz Fest.
There is a history here.
29 years ago, Tom and I went to the JazzFest as friends and came back as lovers. I think I fell in love with him because I wanted a balloon & he bought me every one the guy had. We walked through the French Quarter tying balloons on porch rails, giving them to children & letting them float up into the sky.
The hotel we checked into was a little less than savory.They asked us how long we wanted to stay & winked at us when we said ,"all night". It didnt' have a tv, just a speaker and a book of juke box selections, but no matter what we tried to play all it would play was Barry White singing "Honey, Let's Make a Baby Tonight." The people nest door were banging on the wall and we kept trying to tell them, "It's not us!"
A train came by about every hour and the bed would dance all across the floor. No magic fingers needed here!
We used to return every year, but after Caitlin was born and was so wild no one could keep her, we quit that.
It was high time we came back to where our souls have been calling us.
We parked in City Park and walked about 3 miles to the Fairgrounds.The streets were clogged with partiers. People sat in front of their houses selling Bloody Marys and offering tours of FEMA trailers.We stopped a guy to ask directions and he said, "Hey, I'll just walk with you". Everywhere there was life and laughter. Houses with blue tarps for roofs and boarded up windows had new flower gardens planted amidst downed trees.Piles of debris were festooned with lights and mobiles hung from broken porch railings. There was such a sweet spirit in the air that you could touch it.People were playing guitars in their front yards for spare change & loving it.
It was like a family reunion.
After having my favorite traditional New Orleans breakfast of two Bloody Marys, cafe au lait and Crawfish Monica,we danced second line (which means you follow the performers) behind the Mardi Gras Indians (men in 10 feet feather headresses), watched Allan Touissant and Elvis Costello give and amazing performance, then settled in to wait for Bruce.
At first, it was claustrophobic standing shoulder to shoulder in the mud with so many people,but soon we met a guy who had seen the Dead in '77 in Tuscaloosa (we were there, too) and then talked to a woman who had seen Bruce in 74,so we were amongst friends.
Then Bruce came out & one of those miracles happens when a performer and his audience become one.He played old folk and protest songs and make them new again.
When he did"My City in Ruins" people were crying and hugging.
When he did "When the Saints Go Marching In"like a lullabye, we were all in the palm of his hand.
I think I will be telling this story all my life.
He didnt stop playing until about 8, when everything else was shut down.
It took us almost 3 hours to get to our car, because we had to talk to everyone.
There were no strangers anymore.
A crescent moon rose in the mist as we walked past the ancient cemetery where angels watched us over the mossy stone walls.
We kissed on an arched stone bridge over the pond.
The magic is still there.
In the city.
And in us.