New Orleans–Music Everywhere !

Levee Jazz Band

One of the pleasant surprises of New Orleans each time I come here is the music.  Between trips, I tend to forget that music is everywhere.  It is pleasantly inescapable.  Our new found friend Larry Talerico, who we are renting our temporary apartment from in New Orleans, is a member of the Levee Jazz Band (click here for sample).  Larry plays the trumpet (see photo at left) and sings lead vocals.  It is quite an impressive group and plays at a lot of local events.  Larry occasionally jams with others around the city when he has the opportunity.  A former music teacher from Ohio, Larry is a kindred spirit from the teaching world and has been the most welcoming of hosts on our vagabond travels.

Deacon John Moore

Larry and Patti, during our first week in New Orleans, invited us to a party celebrating the grand opening of a new real estate office.  The party featured New Orleans legend, Deacon John Moore and The Ivories.  Deacon John is well known in and around New Orleans and is the subject of an NPR segment (click here).  At the age of 75, Deacon John is going strong and is still in high demand.  It was a rare treat to be able to hear such a talent live–an opportunity we would not have had without Larry’s and Patti’s thoughtfulness in inviting us.  We were even treated to an honest-to-goodness fight that broke out literally right behind me.  It would appear that one of the neighbors near the real estate opening had a little too much to drink, or participated in recreational pharmaceuticals, and took exception to the volume of the outdoor music (duh!!!).  He walked over, obviously under the influence as near as we could tell, with his German Shepard.  Not only did he send the dog into the yard where outdoor tables were setup and people P1010851were gathered enjoying drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and listening to the music.  The dog panicked and started darting from table to table looking for a place to hide, get away from the people, and in the process caused a bit of panic among the guests.  The guy also threatened the hostess, choked the skinny waiter who tried to intervene, and even though the guy had 40 pounds on the waiter, the waiter tossed him to the ground directly behind me on the sidewalk before the police were summoned.  In true professional fashion, the band played on as if nothing were happening.  I, on the other hand, thought “Holy cow!  This is great!  You can’t get tickets to this kind of entertainment!!!!”

While waiting for the streetcar near our temporary apartment one afternoon, we noticed an attractive, well-dressed young lady strolling toward our stop on foot about three blocks down.  With no one seemingly watching, she spontaneously broke into dance–body swaying, arms rhythmically moving in the air above her head with a few pirouettes thrown in for good measure as she walked.  She was clearly in her own zone and thoroughly enjoying the music in her earbuds–oblivious to all around her.  As she got closer to the streetcar stop she halted the dance and casually got in line like all was perfectly normal.  In any other place, you would have thought she was high on something.  In New Orleans, it seemed as natural as breathing

T.S. Lark on the Saxophone on the levee with the Mississippi behind
T.S. Lark on the Saxophone on the levee with the Mississippi behind

Heide and I have been walking all over New Orleans (about 3-5 miles each day or more) and I find it remarkable how music permeates the culture.  Not only are there street urchins who serenade passersby and tap dance their hearts out in the hopes of getting some “bread in their jar,” but bands are playing everywhere in the streets.  Funerals are famous for jazz bands accompanying the dearly departed to their final resting place, celebrating the life rather than mourning the death.  It seems no event is immune from live music.

We decided to stroll along the levee holding back the Mississippi River one afternoon and encountered a guy playing the saxophone.  He was quite good.  I dropped some money in his sax case, and he immediately struck up a conversation (I think he smelled an easy mark).  He sang a special song to Heide (about what a scoundrel I was as it turned out!).  Before I knew it, we were the proud owners of a T.S. Lark CD of his music and were $20 lighter.

P1010868Many bars have live bands but some of the best gems are the scattered street musicians who are quite talented and seem to draw small crowds all over.  Not playing an instrument is no impediment to sharing your talent.  The picture on the left was a guy that just setup on the street with nice acoustics between the buildings and started singing.  He was pretty good and worth a stop to listen to for a few minutes.

Don’t listen to the news; listen to all the music you can find.  In New Orleans, it’s everywhere.


The Politics of News…

americanflagTo paraphrase Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week among other works, “…don’t listen to the news; …listen to all the music you want.”  Wise words to be sure and I must admit that my life has been more stress-free since I took his advice to heart.  For quite some time now I have consciously avoided the news.  From my viewpoint based on the ancient philosophy of stoicism, there are a set of things in this universe over which I have no control and I don’t want to spend precious time in my life worrying about them.

I almost always avoid political discussions; I have my own personal views and opposing views are simply wrong.  It’s not my mission in life to correct them.  But, the wisdom of Tim’s advice was driven home yet again as I was (forcibly) catching the evening news while eating my dinner at a restaurant last evening.  The restaurant had a TV blaring the latest horrific tragedy right on the wall by my table–I couldn’t avoid it.  The news was saturated with coverage of that day’s shooting where 14 people were gunned down at an office party hosted by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health in California.  You could clearly see bullet-riddled cars and dead bodies on gurneys.  The news was the shootings; the dead bodies were simply for effect.  I believed them when they said 14 people died.  Did I really need to see the corpses while eating?  There was nothing I could do about the shootings.  I could not bring those people back to life nor could I punish the perpetrators.  I could have just left the restaurant.

Of course, the gun control advocates were already calling for stricter gun control legislation claiming that if only we banned guns these things wouldn’t happen.  Banning handguns is about as realistic as deporting 12 million illegal immigrants.  Yet the very same logic they apply against deportation (i.e., there are too many to make deportation practical) mysteriously does not apply to banning literally millions of guns already in circulation.

I really am not sure who is the bigger, more shameful opportunist:  the gun control lobby who is using the tragic deaths of 14 people to promote there own ridiculous agenda again (gun control works really well in Chicago, right?) or the idiots in the news media who are doing the very same and feeding off the sympathy of the American people.  You will be seeing the same video on TV for the next two weeks and ultimately will know how many nose hairs each suspect has.  The exploitation by both groups sickens me.  On average, there are 44 murders per day across the United States (not all by gun by the way).  What of the other 30 people who lost their lives that day?  Since they were likely not spectacular, the news media doesn’t seem to care.

The news is simply a string of tragedies purposefully selected and presented to tug at the heart strings of the American people.  It has become less about fostering a well-informed electorate and more about promoting political viewpoints and commercial agendas on both sides of the aisle.  There is no real civil discourse in this country anymore as most people gravitate toward the news outlet that is most consistent with their own views (e.g., Fox for conservatives, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR for liberals).  They are simply looking for confirmation that their view is correct and the other side is wrong creating an even more narrow minded view of events and issues.  We aren’t well informed.  A broadcast that presents both sides of any issue and allows us to draw our own conclusions simply does not exist today.  Perhaps it never existed.

One might wistfully wish for another Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite but both had their own political agendas and used the public airwaves to drive it.  Murrow railed against communism and socialism; Cronkite used his chair to sway public opinion to end the Vietnam War and remove Richard Nixon from the presidency (be honest, aren’t today’s politicians at least as bad as Richard Nixon or worse and yet all keep getting re-elected?).  The “Most Trusted Man in America” had his own agenda, selected news items that promoted his views, and admitted to doing so after retiring.  Consistent with Tim’s advice and my own belief that there are things over which I have no control, I am renewing my resolve to not watch any television news.

Where have truth, justice and the American way gone?  If only Superman was here to tell us…