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.

 

 

 


Second lining to honor Chef.

We all came out.

Zulus. Chefs in their whites. Indians. Voodoo priestesses. Priests and ministers. Political leaders. And all the rest of us.

We walked. We talked to each other. There was a lot of kindness in the crowd. We came to celebrate a humble woman who believed the food could bring us all together. Who was far more than the queen of creole food.

Leah Chase.

I’ll leave the real writing to Ian McNulty of The Advocate.  https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/food_restaurants/article_3a7f93c4-8ba9-11e9-99da-6fbd07f978ac.html

I’ll let my pictures speak for themselves.

By kind. Be good to each other. Help your brothers and sisters when they need it.

 

From voodoo.


Portrait
Giant smile.

A portrait.

To be more specific, a street portrait. It’s hung around in my portfolio for a few years now. Depending on who is looking at my work, I often start with this picture. If this doesn’t catch your eye, I don’t know what will. If it’s printed, a 20 inch deep version of this picture stuns even the most jaded of viewers. Like me.

I hope you realize that last few weeks of pictures are from the past. Most of you have never seen them. A few of you might, if you’ve been here a while.

This picture was made during the jazz funeral of Uncle Lionel. His family name is Baptiste. He was kin to almost every musical Baptiste that came out of New Orleans. If you watch Late Night with Stephen Colbert, you know one of his family members. Bandleader and musician, Jon Baptiste. Yeah. He’s one of us.

Uncle Lionel’s funeral took forever. Nature didn’t want to let him go. It was rained out twice as I recall. The third time was a charm. It was for me too. I was energized. I was everywhere. I made about four or five portfolio pieces. I was beat afterwards. After all, July in New Orleans. 90 degrees with about 90% humidity. Staying hydrated was the key.

I’m not so sure that I could do it today. I could try. But, it would only be for somebody like him. We’ve had massive second lines after this one. Some were for David Bowie, for Prince. Like that. I get wanting to mourn and to celebrate. But, that’s not what I’m about. I’d rather photograph the culture. The things about New Orleans. The people who make the city what it is. Today.

Maybe tomorrow. If we are lucky.

Apparently, New Orleans has actually lost some population. This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina. There are a lot of theories about it. Some say it might be because of simple migration to Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish. Taxes are lower. Services are better. Crime is less.

Another theory says that the folks who are the culture have been leaving because of gentrification. Where one building was divided into two or three apartments, now it is one house.

The final theory — at least among the ones that I heard — is that the gentrifiers themselves are leaving. It’s hard to live in New Orleans. It was made a little easier by Air BnB. But, now that they have been restricted, especially in The Bywater, the folks who moved here post-Katrina, are leaving.

I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, they brought  a lot of money to a city that needs it. Even if it was just for allied businesses. On the other, they are the leaders in killing the culture that brought them here in the first place.

It’s interesting to watch. This is my twentieth year here, with a break in New Mexico after the storm. I came here because I liked it. I never wanted to change anything.


Dancing and celebrating.

It was the first song I heard this morning.

It stunned me. It’s an old Brian Wilson song called “Love and Mercy.” He more or less gave it to the Miraculous Love Kids/Girl with a Guitar. Not only did he approve it, but he reworked it by singing with the girls. They were in Afghanistan. He was in Los Angeles.

The project came to be when two young Afghani girls were killed by an IED that was meant for U.S soldiers.  Innocents killed. Again.

Note. I tried to give you a link to it. I’m not very good at that, which is why I normally don’t share the music I sometimes talk about. Even when I manage to do it, I have no idea how to do what many of you do and attach the link to words on your page without showing the link. You click on a word and takes you to wherever. Not for me.

Today it got worse.

I did what I was told. I pasted the link to my clipboard. I couldn’t transfer it. I typed it in by hand. When I tested the link, Google got involved and said it was a suspicious site and blocked it. I am so damn tired of technology trying to run my life. I’m not very smart about this stuff. Nor, am I any good. But, when I follow written directions I expect it to work.

Isn’t it funny how technology can spoil a wonderful moment? A moment of giving?

If you want to actually hear the song, it’s on YouTube. Type in Brian Wilson — Love and Mercy — you will see a number of versions of the song. Just scroll down about six or seven versions and you’ll see it. I hope it moves you as it did me.

A little housekeeping.

This picture is a couple of years old. I liked it a lot then. I like it a lot now. That’s Julie Jones, “The Dancing Woman of New Orleans.” She makes most of her living dancing and busking in the French Quarter. But, she always turns out for important events like a jazz funeral, where this was made. She’s about my age. I don’t know how she does it. She wears dancing shoes and performs on broken streets. I wear running or hiking shoes and can barely walk on those same streets.

That brings me to a couple of choices.

I maintain two separate sites. Storyteller and my more commercial site; Laskowitzpictures.com. I don’t want to keep both in 2019. As you know I started to move Storyteller to the commercial website. But, unless I can figure out how to transfer all of you, I lose my community. That matters. A lot.

So, maybe I stay here, and create a static website page with Storyteller inside of that, like many people do. Once again I run into technology problems. I really don’t know how to do that. I’m just not that smart. I tried building portfolio pages and that was a disaster. It confused you and it made my page look poorly designed.

There’s another issue.

I’m pretty toasty. I was invited to partake in another gallery show. I’m suppose to hang the work on Sunday. I haven’t even printed it or started framing it yet. I suspect part of this is my pain meds which really don’t make me high or anything like that. But, my motivation is in the dumper. Or, I’m just done with spending money with little or no return. I don’t know.

This week was hell week. It all has to do with retirement, benefits and my little local drugstore closing overnight and transferring everything to Walgreens. Without going into any detail, if you ever have to go to Walgreens, run — don’t walk — as fast as you can to someplace else. But, not CVS.

Having said that, I also haven’t really been motivated to make new work. Most of the images you’ve seen in November were made with my new phone — which is also too technologically advanced for me — on dog walks or while running errands.

Maybe I should take a break for the last month of the year and regroup. My yearly numbers are down, way down. Down in the basement. In theory, the more subscribers you have, the more you should grow. Wrongo. A lot of my friends have been discussing that. Also a lot of my old WordPress friends are missing in action.

On the other hand, a lot of people sort of sweat out a blog post. I don’t. I usually have a new picture in mind. I read a lot during the day, sleep on it, let it spin around in my brain and out it comes the next morning. The doesn’t work for writing books. But, for doing this, it is just fine.

I don’t know.

Maybe, you should tell me.


With all due respect.

It seems that y’all are getting to see my firsts. First picture in New Orleans. First Mardi Gras. And, now first pictures of Mardi Gras Indians.

Even though I was living in New Orleans for about 5 years, I wasn’t out on the streets. In July 2005 that changed.

Looking back, it seemed like everything changed in about six weeks.

In mid-July Mardi Gras Indians Chief of Chiefs Tootie Montana, made a dramatic plea to the New Orleans City Council to live and let live. The New Orleans Police were cracking down on the Indians. They broke up two Super Sundays for no real reason except they thought the crowds could get out of hand. That word, “could.” They didn’t.

So, Tootie spoke before the City Council live on all the local television stations. As he spoke, he suffered a massive heart and died right there. Anybody watching the news was horrified. Word passed around the city in sort of a coconut telegraph, well before the advent of social media.

It was time to plan his funeral, in the streets and in the church. Everything took place in the heart of Treme, at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.

I decided to attend and to photograph.

Spyboys meet.

And, so I went.

I arrived a little early. I parked at friend’s house just around the corner and walked over. I was stunned. There was a massive crowd.  There were Mardi Gras Indians, friends, family, spectators and photographers.

I had no idea of what I was looking at.  I saw a legendary photographer, Syndey Byrd, who I knew a little and she pointed me in the right direction.

I sort of jumped into the fray and started making pictures. You know that I like to work close, so close I went. The Indians would toss my out of their scrum. Back in I went. Back out they tossed me. After about four or five times, they realized I was the real deal and let me stay. Even Syndey was shaking her head in laughter.

These are the pictures that I made. The very first ones. I think that I worked better back than.  These are the kinds of pictures that I should be making now. Looser, with more suit and scene in the pictures. Looking at them after thirteen years helps me to see that.

Big chiefs pay their respects to Tootie Montana.

This all happened in July 2005. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. The rest is history. I don’t know about you, but I truly believe that with the passing of Tootie Montana the city lost something. Call it whatever you like. Soul, heart, or juju. I like juju.

Even as we continue to heal thirteen years later, for those of us who went through the storm and early recover, something is missing. I can’t put my finger on it. The new people, who are gentrifying the city, don’t know or understand this. And, that’s really too bad.


A little crowded.
A little crowded.

A visit to my vault.

I’m a little jammed up so I thought I might show you a few pictures from the past. I came to this picture because I was looking for an image for another project. You know how it goes. I don’t care how well your back-end systems are organized with key words, meta data and such, things just pop up sometimes. Usually, for the better.

I’ll tell you a secret. No matter what the picture,  usually I don’t look at my own older work. I bought a pretty nice scanner so I could scan old black and white negatives. Do you know how many pictures I scanned? In about a year? Maybe 25. Do you know why? I don’t usually like the pictures. I figure my best work is somewhere out there in the future, not back in the dimly lit, dusty  past.

Generally speaking, the memories of taking them are better than the pictures themselves.

So.

This is the second line and jazz funeral for Uncle Lionel Batiste. According to the local newspaper, he passed on July 8, 2012. He was 80 years old. His wake was held on July 19. That’s when I should have taken this picture. But, according to my day books, the skies opened up and that rain poured down in buckets. So, the second line was postponed until July 23. At least that’s what the metadata attached to the picture tells me.

For me, actually getting there was a really good trick. We were on the road for about 160 days that year. I was home for the wake, left again and flew back for one day from somewhere in Texas. In fact, if memory serves, I arrived in the morning and left at night.

Sometimes getting there is the hardest part of taking a picture.

The picture. My memory isn’t often all that good. But, my visual memory is very, very good. And, that alerts the rest of my memory. I remember this… I worked the streets and made some fairly good pictures. But, I couldn’t get the right picture. So, I decided to walk up the on ramp to Interstate 10 and shoot from there. I was the first one. Pretty soon, a lot of other people — photographers and spectators — thought that was a pretty good idea so they joined me. When the Louisiana State Troopers saw this, they used their heads. Rather than make us move or issue tickets, they just closed the ramp.

The other thing that I remember? Even though there was no rain, those umbrellas weren’t just for show. It was hot. So hot. And, goopy humid. It was Mid-July in Southeast Louisiana and the direct sun was just radiating heat off all that concrete.

Not only is getting there sometimes the hardest part of taking the picture, but often times staying there is hard too.


Mardi Gras celebration.
Mardi Gras celebration on Royal Street.

Well, well, well…

There is a backdoor. It’s not quite where some of you suggested. But, it’s nearby and it got me to the so-called classic desktop. However, it took a lot of time to use. That’s fine. But, I’d rather spend my time taking pictures, working on pictures and planning my next shoot. If I’m not doing that, there is other stuff I’d rather be doing than mess with formatting Storyteller posts. After all, pictures are what I do. Not coding. And, I have no idea how long this will last. WordPress could de-link it at any time.

This experience has also been quite humbling. So many of you either offered suggestions about formatting or asked me not to leave.  As I wrote yesterday, I’m not burnt out. I’m energized. I want to show you New Orleans. I’d rather do that than argue with WordPress. I’d also prefer that WordPress would actually treat us — the supposedly important content creators — like human beings.

Even my gallery partner, Robert Moldaner, added to the mix. He suggested this kind of material should be our next show. Actually, yesterday’s material. I don’t know about that. Yes. I like the pictures. Apparently, so do you. But, even though the actual picture is very simple, making it is very hard. I have to be in the right place. The light has to be right on. The moment has to be special. And, so on and so on and so on.  As NGS’ Jim Richardson says, “If you want better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.”

I’ll tell you a little about each picture. But, there is a caption hiding with each picture. You have open the picture that you like and the caption will open with it. Admittedly, the captions are short, but they’ll tell you a little something about the picture.

First.

You can go to every one of these places while you are visiting. Of course, the timing for seeing a real jazz funeral is a little iffy, but that’s it. If you come early for Carnival, you can see people dancing in the French Quarter streets for Krewe du Vieux. Or, if you are here on Mardi Gras Day, there is plenty of French Quarter dancing going on.

“Low Sunlight,” “Through the Fence,” and “Motion and Color” are really a matter of being on the scene when the light changes. Again, even though they were made in the Quarter, I still like the images. And, they weren’t taken on Bourbon Street.

If you are roaming around the city, you can go to the 9th Ward and turn right towards the river levee, drive through Holy Cross, climb up the levee and see, “From Holy Cross.” I can’t  predict the light. But arrive as dusk falls and you might see something like the picture. The same thing with, “Crescent City Connection.” Drive across the bridge towards Algiers Point, follow the signs to the levee and you’ll see what I photographed.

Visitors tend to forget that we have a fairly vibrant business district. If you are staying in the Quarter, walk to Canal Street, catch the green streetcar (the last picture) and get off around Lafayette Square. Wander around and you’ll see our version of big business. If you are here in spring and early summer there is plenty of music at Lafayette Square. By the way, this square was the American version of Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The neutral ground on Canal Street divided the two neighborhoods.

That’s it. Happy Sunday.


Trumpet player walking in Treme.
Trumpet player walking in Treme.

In New Orleans.

I read a lot of blogs. A lot of them are traveller’s musings. Since New Orleans has a lot of panache, there are a lot of first timers to the city. They mostly stay in the French Quarter and rarely get out to explore the rest of the city. That’s too bad. There is a lot to see in all of New Orleans.

After exploring Bourbon Street, maybe seeing one of the commercial second line parades in the Quarter, eating some Oysters at Acme, and having an order of beignets and chicory laced coffee at Cafe Du Monde, they usually close their post with something like, “Only in New Orleans.”

That’s all well and good. And, hopefully, next time they’ll get out into some of the other neighborhoods that make up the city. Despite the rough patch we are going through with a severe uptick in violent crimes in the city, each neighborhood is about as safe as another. So, you might as well explore a little. Go to Magazine Street, one of the longest shopping streets in the country — one that is largely composed of small, local shops and businesses. You can bring home something really unique to the city, not just a plastic go cup. Ride the streetcar (not trolley — that’s in some other city) around and enjoy St. Charles Avenue, pretty much from start to finish. Go to our two main art museums. Go to our two huge parks; City Park and Audubon Park. Explore the Mid-City area. Take the ferry across the river to Algiers Point. For better local music, go to Frenchman Street, although that’s starting to become French Qaurterized. I could go on and on and on.

But.

Go see stuff that is really, “Only in New Orleans.”

Like this picture. How often to you see a trumpet player walking down the street carrying his instrument just as it is starting to rain.? Yes, there are other great music cities in the country. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco come to mind. But, musicians in those places are a little more buttoned up. They put their instruments in a gear bag. To keep them safe and out of the elements. Not like this guy, whose trombone is out and ready to play at the slightest moment. In case an unplanned second line breaks out.