Alvin Coco agin… at the second line for Leah Chase in Treme, in New Orleans.

A little clean up time.

Sometimes pictures don’t make the final cut. They are close enough. I thought I’d show you a few from two second lines that missed the first cut… a little bit. Single Ladies. And the jazz funeral for Chef Leah Chase. I thought I’d stack them up all in one big pile. Didn’t Doctor John say something like, in New Orleans nothin’ is separate from nothin’?

He’s pretty much right.

Next?

Maybe a Sunday second line. The Perfect Gentleman roll for Fathers Day. At 3pm. The very hottest part of the day. This was the parade that just about killed me a couple of years ago. The temperature was 114 degrees on the street. The parade was supposed to roll at 1pm. It was postponed for some reason. First, to 2pm. Then, 3pm.

I took refuge on a very deep stoop, with about a dozen other people. I tried to stay hydrated. When the parade was organizing itself, I was standing on that very hot street. I realized that my vision was getting blurry. I felt like things were moving around in waves.

Some kind of heat thing.

I bought more water, sat down in a little bit of shade. I rested for a while and gave up. I walked back to my car, turned the air conditioning on and drank more water. I went home.

That closed my second line season.

That won’t happen this year. It’s nowhere near as hot. In fact, for us, it’s downright pleasant. It’ll get a little hotter by Sunday. I won’t be bad. I, like all, the rest of us, know what to do.

Housekeeping.

I really do like this new format. Funny thing about it. I was struggling to add the details. Like buttons. Social media buttons. Translator. And, like that. I found out why I was having a hard time. It was already done. Apparently, the minute that I activated this template, everything started to migrate. It just took a little time.

If there is something that bothers you. Something that I could do better. Let me know. This is still a work in progress.

Oh. The title?

Something Bob Dylan said about his infamous “Rolling Thunder” tour. He said there weren’t enough masks. That caught my attention since New Orleans is all about masking. He added, that when a man wears a mask, he’ll tell truth. Without a mask, he likely won’t.

Now, that’s something.

 

Leah Chase was Catholic. That didn’t stop representatives of almost every religion coming out.

 

 

 

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Not sure on a hot day.

We do it for the stories we could tell.

That’s what Jimmy Buffett said. He’s right.

I’ve come out of retirement from the street. Saturday’s events convinced me that there could be no other way. I came out for the Single Ladies Second Line.

It was hot. So hot.

It didn’t look like anybody was having any fun. Not, the ladies. Not the band. Not the second liners.

It was brutal.

After talking to a friend of mine today, I realized that we come out for a whole host of reasons. It really is like church.  It’s great to see friends. And, we tell stories about what we did afterward.

Today, we walk again. We make pictures. After a week of mourning, we lay Chef Leah Chase to rest. At 2pm. The hottest part of the day. We are suppose to have some overcast. That might help. No matter. I’ll work as best I can.

The work is the prayer.

Hanging out at the scene.


Music, inside out.

Before the fall.

A story about a musician.

I’m not even sure how to tell this story. It’s a story of greed. It’s a story of stupidity. It’s a story of loss. It’s the story of Ervin Mayfield.

Trumpet playing Mayfield was one of the pillars of the New Orleans jazz community. He is a Grammy winner. He is one of about five top trumpet players in a city that has a trumpet player on every corner.

In my picture, he is talking to his audience in Central City. He’s holding his instrument in one hand, and knowing him, he’s smiling as he talks to his musical fans. He is an outgoing guy.

Later, the roof fell in.

As it stands today, he has been indicted by the grand jury of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. It seems that he and his partner Ronald Markham, steered about $1.4 million from the New Orleans Public Library’s Foundation Board to themselves between 2011 and 2013. He also spent thousands of dollars in donations on travel expenses that were not connected to library business. He spent money on items like a 24 carat gold-plated trumpet that cost $15,000. Or, $2,000 at Harrah’s Casino, $23,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue. He spent thousands of dollars at big New York City hotels including a breakfast bill for over $1,300 for two people. That’s a lot of food. trust me. We like “hot cooked breakfasts.” We could never spend that much money in a hotel dining room.

This whole thing is sort of an old story, but the trial is coming up after many delays, so I thought I’d tell it to you. I’m sorry to do it.

But.

It’s a New Orleans thing. Corruption and the city go hand in hand. Congressman Bill Jefferson was found to have $90,000 in cash in his freezer. He had no idea how it got there. He’s in prison. Mayor C. Ray Nagin — the mayor who went nuts on television in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — is in prison for fraud and a couple of other charges.

Corruption appears at every level. Once, when I first arrived in New Orleans, I needed a city business license. I was told it would take at least six weeks to process. But, the clerk said, if I needed it quicker it could be processed in one day with a fifty dollar cash payment to him. When I complained to his boss, he shrugged his shoulders and called it an “expediting fee.” Indeed. I expedited it right out of the city. I registered my business in Jefferson Parish, where it still lives today.

New Orleans has always been a rough port city. If you are “from here” you know the stories. You also know that many of those little illegal side businesses are coming to an end. If you read what I had to say about all the newcomers to the city you would think it is all bad.

It isn’t.

There’s a flip side to that. They come from places where the city government actually works without bribes. Where potholes are repaired before they can swallow a car. Where the water company is actually efficient. Where people don’t worry about crime taking place in your front yard.

So, the very people who are tearing at the fabric of New Orleans culture are also demanding government transparency. There’s two sides to every coin, isn’t there?

On one hand, I want to protect our culture. The Mardi Gras Indians, the Baby Dolls, and every social and benevolent society matters to me. So do the street musicians, the brass bands and the kids who hope to follow them. It’s one of the reasons I moved to New Orleans, and one of the reasons I came back after Hurricane Katrina. But, I’d be willing to trade a little of that for a fully functioning city government. For safe streets. For solid infrastructure.

It must be my age. I probably didn’t think twice about most of this when I first arrived. Now, I do. I’d like to see our street repaired and repaired before I die. Of old age. At ninety. That’s 25 years. Is that too much to ask?


Beads, beads, beads.

Sometimes…

I forget stuff. Current research says that if you do that, you might be brilliant. That’s all well and good if you are young. But, if you are older…ho, ho, ho. Either you are just plain forgetful. Or, you are showing signs of early dementia.

I’m older.

I forgot these two pictures. You see these folks at almost every street event. They are selling something. Beads. Water. Jello Shots. Little cloths. I’m not sure, but some of them make a small living working one or two days a week. For sure, some of them supplement some kind of government aid. Like the guy in the wheelchair.

In case you’re wondering, people in this house bought some of the beads. They are well strung and very suitable for every outdoor event. None of us bought jello shots. Even if I drank, yuko. Way too sweet for me.

The pictures. Here’s a little thing that I do. I could make a fairly tight photograph. A facial portrait. To me, that’s meaningless. Sort of like making a full moon picture with no context. So, I use a wide lens. I like to see what’s going on in the background. I want you to see where I’m working. Where these folks are working.

Oh yeah.

I made these pictures a week ago. On Super Sunday. Even if my main subject — Indians — isn’t around, I am always seeing. Always working.

Jello shots.


Dressed for Super Sunday.

Working.

We all have to make a living. Somehow. I’ve seen her before. I saw her on Sunday. Super Sunday. She’s really a sweetheart. Check her out. She may be working. But, she’s dressed for the day.

I never mask. Maybe I should. She’s inspired me. After all, there are all sorts of Mardi Gras themed inexpensive clothes at Wal-Mart. You know. The place that you go to buy things for walls. Ah ha.

The picture. It’s a great example of what I do. A kind of photography that I find to be very fulfilling. I go to an event. I use that as a spring-board for something else.

Like making an environmental portrait of somebody not directly a part of the day. This picture is also an example of not getting yourself so focused on one thing. Keep your head in the game. Photograph what you see. Don’t self edit in the field. Just keep looking and seeing. You’ll have plenty of time to edit at home, after the fact.

It’s Friday. I’m glad. This has been a long and strange week.


On the way.

Yes. A New Orleans thing.

Where else do you see a musician walking on city streets carrying his instrument? A drum and a cymbal. This is about as New Orleans as it comes. It happens all over the city. This picture could only get better if he was carrying a horn. A trumpet or a trombone.

This picture was made on both of our ways to someplace else during the Super Sunday events.

There is one more New Orleans thing to this picture. I would never make fun of anybody. But, it speaks to the city as being one of the most unhealthy cities in the country. We drink too much. (I don’t drink.) We eat too much. We eat too much of the wrong things.

For instance, for Catholics, it is the Lenten Season. A lot of fish is eaten everywhere in the city. It’s not broiled, or poached or boiled. (For crawfish.)

Oh no.

It is deep-fried. Along with everything else on the plate. A typical meal might include deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried catfish, french fries and hush puppies. You could eat that every day of Lent. Forty days, forty pounds.

I’m not a deep-fried eater. Nobody in this house is. The most we usually eat is fried chicken. We may eat that every six months or so. Sure it is good, but we’d like to live a little healthier lives.

The picture. When I say on our ways to some place else, I mean on Super Sunday. Often locals take side streets when we can, rather than fight the crowds. I saw him coming. I stopped and started following him with my camera. You can see the progression in my RAW files. As he got closer I smiled and said, “Carrying musical instruments in the street is sort of a New Orleans thing.” He laughed. We talked for a minute and that was that. F 5.6 and be there.


What it’s really about.

Happy Spring.

It struck me that with the Mardi Gras Indians showing of their new suits around the first day of spring, this whole thing is about rebirth. Shedding old skins — their 2018 suits — and showing their new finery, just like a butterfly bursts from its cocoon.

It’s also about the joy of reunions. Even though New Orleans is a fairly small city, we don’t see each other all that often. We are busy. We are working. We are doing family things. We are running errands.

Sure enough.

Sometimes we run into each other. If we are part of a group who photographs every second line we might see each other weekly.

As I back away from weekly second line coverage, that is the one thing I loath to give up. The camaraderie. As a friend of mine says, “it’s like going to church.” In many ways it isn’t. But, in most ways it is. Going to church on Sunday has many components. One is community. Another is prayer. What do I say about working? “The work is the prayer.”

Anyway.

I think I’m done with Super Sunday for this year, except for some oddities.

Enjoy these pictures.

The back of the suit.


Queen Tahj.

Super Sunday.

All the pretty suits. All the pretty Indians.

I didn’t plan it this way, but today’s post is all about the next generation of Mardi Gras Indians.

The top picture may be the most important. Queen Tahj is a senior at Tulane University. She is truly becoming the leader of her tribe, while paying the utmost respect to her Big Chief. She is starting to change the look and feel of Indian suits. Her’s are lighter. Easier to walk miles and miles. This suit pays homage to the women in her family, especially her grandmother. She is so popular that when the time is right, she could possibly become the chief of chiefs. At a young age. And, assuming her career doesn’t take her away from New Orleans.

The rest. Wow! So many young Black Masking Indians. Most are unofficial, but their interest is already there. The little girl playing the tambourine in two pictures is so sophisticated at about 5 years old that she asked to see my camera’s LCD monitor to see how she looked. Figures. Her dad is a big chief.

You know the rest about the pictures. F/5.6. Be there and shoot.

Me? I’m better. What I believed was something terrible, was a relapse of a cold that I thought I’d defeated. I’m far better today. Tonight is St. Joseph’s night. I’ll go out again. And, probably get sick again. Oh well. Life is short.

Smiling portrait.
Coming to the main parade.


Mardi Gras Indian suit detail.

On Super Sunday.

I told a friend of mine that I was toast from chasing Indians around Central City. That’s not true. It’s worse. I’m toast because I’m really sick. So, I’m later than usual. Much later.

I did manage to download, back up and edit everything. But, I am not ready to finish many pictures.

I selected an image that likely most of you won’t see, even with my work. An extremely close detail of the labor intensive work that goes into making a suit. Everything you see in the picture is done by hand. Each bead is strung and sewed by hand. The velvet is hand sewn. As were the feathers.

That’s why each new suit takes about a year to make. For sure an indian takes a break from time to time. Life gets in the way. But, this is an almost daily labor. A labor of love.

Because.

For the most part, after all this work is done and the suit is debuted on Mardi Gras Day or Super Sunday, last years suit is destroyed. A few are preserved through various museums, a few indians have large enough spaces to save them. But, most suits are either burned or cut to shreds and tossed in a dumpster.

It’s hard to imagine that art like this is worthless. But, it is. Even if a suit can be sold, it’s likely the return will be much less than the investment.

What can I say?

Unless you are at the top of the art ladder, it’s hard to make money doing whatever your art may happen to be. The photography world has been decimated by “everybody is a photographer.” I get that. I don’t agree with it. But, I get that.

But, not everybody can sew like this.