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.
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Happy days.

Two approaches.

One before. One after.

The news these days hasn’t been so good. In fact, yesterday’s news was downright bleak. Like anyone who is loosely called an artist, that affects me. As it does, us all. After yesterday’s picture, I thought I would publish something lighter. Something brighter. Something happy.

The top picture is of a magnolia. A southern thing.

Yeah. Right.

Yesterday’s news turned worse and worse and worse.

So.

I made another version of the top picture. In addition to cropping it, I made it very dark by stacking images. The bottom picture is the result. I like it less than the bright magnolia, but it represents how I’m feeling these days.

One friend, from Albuquerque, saw yesterday’s picture of the jet as what it is. Foreboding. Another friend, from Dallas said, after seeing all the news yesterday, that “this too shall pass.” Normally, I’d agree. But, appointing a supreme court justice is a generational thing. It will pass in about 40 years. Assuming I’m even alive, I will be around 105 years old. Likely, “I too will pass first.”

I’m starting to think the saying, “keep a full tank of gas and live close to the border,” is becoming real. What country wants American refugees?

Darker. Like life these days.


The Krewe of Zulu came out.
The Krewe of Zulu came out.

Jazz Funerals.

I’m really starting to dislike that term. They are funerals. They are about death. They are about mourning. They are about understanding that all things must pass. And, that we in New Orleans accept that death as part of life. We mourn. We celebrate.

If you are visiting and want to see our culture for real — not in the “neon zone” on Bourbon Street — you might consider yourself lucky if you learn about a jazz funeral and attend. Most are fairly small and uncrowded. For the most part they are in public view. On the street. If you decide to go inside, please remember to dress appropriately. I cringe when I see some guy in shorts, a flowered shirt and flip-flops wandering around sticking a camera in front of mourners faces during the formal ceremony.

Yesterday’s funeral was not small. Instead, it was huge. I’ll tell you why. It’s going to be a little hard so bear with me if I ramble around. Just know that almost every tribe, gang, club and krewe was represented.

This wasn’t one funeral. It was two. It probably should have been three. One day about a week or so ago, there was a shooting. A killing. That’s common in this city. Hell, there were four shootings and five victims on Christmas Day. One of those people died.

The shooting I’m talking about took three lives. Twenty bullets were fired. It was no drive by shooting. It was a hit. The shooter or shooters killed a young man, Big Chief Lionel Delpit III. He was 25 years old. His companion, Breon Stewart, was also killed. She was 23.  That’s sad enough. But, their unborn child, Lionel Delpit IV was killed in utero. He would have been born last week or early this week.

Big Chiefs call and response.
Big chiefs call and response.

I’m not exactly sure what more to say.

So, I’ll tell you about what I saw, heard and what the day felt like.

Everybody was exceptionally kind. The above picture of the unsuited and unmasked big chiefs was made because they pulled me into their circle. We don’t all know each other, but we recognize each other from the street. And, I have a helluva rhythm when they start playing and singing. I believe you can’t shoot pictures without really feeling what you are seeing.

“What I saw” is a weird phrase. You would think that if I saw it, you will see it. Not yesterday. The crowd was huge. I couldn’t physically drift from one place to another like I usually do. So, sometimes I saw things that I couldn’t photograph. I saw a lot of sadness. The way that a jazz funeral usually works is that it starts with a dirge and ends in celebration. Not so much yesterday. Sure. There were hugs, smiles and even a little laughter as Uptown indians found their friends in Downtown tribes. I saw a friend of mine who is a Baby Doll (the female counterpart to an indian). She smiled at me through her tears. I could have taken that picture. I didn’t. That was our moment.

Then there was the weather. The temperature broke all sort of records. It was 83 yesterday in Treme. It was steamy. Very humid. When the sun broke through the clouds, it was downright hot. And, when it didn’t, rain fell lightly. It was December 26th, but it felt like early summer.

It felt right.

Sadness.
Sadness.

This picture is just plain old hard to look at. He was the very first Mardi Gras Indian I photographed when I returned to New Orleans after my time in New Mexico. If you go to my Twitter feed and actually look at my page, you’ll see him as the background image. I was going to change that with the turn of the year. I don’t think that I will.

Big Chief.
Big Chief.

I was going to show these pictures to you one or two at a time like I usually do. I can’t this week. There is a big second line today. It’s the 20th Anniversary of The Lady & Men Rollers. I want to show you a few of those pictures on Monday. Then, like just about everybody else, I want to show you my best pictures of the year. There are three days of that. The culture. Stuff falling down. And, stuff I just saw. 12 pictures each day. 36. That’s pretty good year if you consider that Ansel Adams said that if you took ten great pictures in a year then you had an exceptional year. I doubt my year was as good as that. But, still…

All things must pass.
All things must pass.

And, finally. This year ends as it started. With a big, huge jazz funeral. The first one was for Bo Dollis. He lived a life. A good life. He brought the music of the Mardi Gras Indians to the world. The last one, as I wrote, was for two young people. And, one yet to be born. They never had a chance.

That, my friends, has to change.


Paris
Prayers.

I don’t know what to say. We pray for peace.  Always. We pray for the dead. More dead. We stand united with France. Again.

I live in New Orleans. We were born of France. Our oldest neighborhood is call the French Quarter. That ought to tell you something. My heart is heavy. Again. Dammit. Between one thing or another, it’s been heavy all week.

There’s not much I can do.  I can work. Tomorrow and Sunday. On the streets. Because the work is the prayer. And I can listen to this song.

“There’s a whole lot of magic
When you’re in Paris
And I swear I’ve never seen
So many pretty women go by
And I can’t stop from dancing
I’m spinning ’round like a clock
That’s wound up too tight
I want to tell you ’bout all I see
Stars in my eyes that you would not believe
I’m a little funky wearin’ out my shoes
Don’t mean anything unless I’m dancin’ with you
Midnight, midnight in Paris

Well, we’ll have another bottle
Monsieur Luigi
So we can toast the autumn
Since it’s all around
And I’ll always remember
Singing in the park when the rain came down
I want to tell you ’bout all I see
Stars in my eyes that you would not believe
I’m a little funky wearin’ out my shoes
Don’t mean anything unless I’m dancin’ with you
Dancin’ with you
Midnight, midnight in Paris
Midnight, midnight in Paris
Midnight, midnight in Paris
Midnight, midnight in Paris
When you’re in Paris”

— Performed by Stephen Stills. Written by Donnie Dacus & Veronique Sanson


 

I Went Down to the River
The Mississippi River

Two Thousand posts. One a day.

That’s how many posts I’ve made on Storyteller.

That’s a lot.

Or, to put it another way, 5.479 Years. Or, 65.75 Months.

It wasn’t always Storyteller. And, it wasn’t always on WordPress. It started out on eBlogger. It started out as a New Mexican blog. Because that’s where I went after the storm.

But, as many New Orleanians have found out, you can’t really leave. I came back at every possible opportunity. Holidays. Mardi Gras. Celebrations. Just because. It doesn’t matter if you are from here. That really takes some time and effort. Like being in New Orleans for a couple of generations. Or, if you adopted this place once. If it gets inside you, you have to come back. I came back.

I’ve seen a lot. I’ve photographed it too. Happiness, Joy. Sadness. Rain. Water. Hurricanes. Floods. Dancing. Mardi Gras. Second Lines. Funerals. Music. I can’t even begin to list it all.

So. What to do to celebrate two thousand posts?

I really had no idea.

Then, it came to me. I’ve been back for four years. The actual return date was July 8. Close enough. Two anniversaries in one. Now, what to do? It came to me again. Pictures. Doh! But, how many? The best? The  most storytelling? The most colorful? Well, my best, most colorful and most storytelling are different from yours. Besides, they change a lot depending on a lot of things.

So. I created some rules or conventions. No broken stuff. No pictures from outside of the city. No “out on the road” pictures. No pictures that didn’t weren’t about New Orleans. No nature. Sounds pretty negative, huh?

How about this?

The pictures had to be about the sense of place. The feel. The color. The sound. The heat. The people. The energy. The music. They had to give you a sense of what I feel. What I see.

These are them.

Oh yeah. Some technical issues had to be overcome and a few boundaries set. How many pictures? One for each month that I’ve been back in the city. So, 48. I had to mess with WordPress to see if I could actually publish 48 pictures at one time. Yes, I know that I have really been publishing this blog for about 66 months, but I wanted the pictures to be about New Orleans. I also tried to display these pictures as a gallery. It can be done, but you have to open them since they are no bigger than about 1800 pixels wide. That’s not very user-friendly. And, I couldn’t write enough to explain what you are seeing. So…

One more thing. These aren’t the best of four years work. Be my very definition they can’t be. I made some pretty good pictures — I thought, anyway — away from the city. These are the best 48 pictures that tell you my story. In my city. Because… all art is autobiographical. They say.

I hope this works. I hope you like it.

Orange
Very First Second Line
KVD-2
Mardi Gras. Crew Du Vieux
The St. Louis Cathedral has become a magical place for me, especially when I am chasing light and weather.
The St. Louis Cathedral has become a magical place for me, especially when I am chasing light and weather.
Satchmo Second Line dancers.
Satchmo Second Line dancers.
The French Market, normally a busy place, is closed for the night.
The French Market, normally a busy place, is closed for the night.
Magic
The French Quarter
My favorite building in The French Quarter.
My favorite building in The French Quarter.
One night in the French Quarter.
One night in the French Quarter.
Motion & Color
Motion & Color
On a bright Sunday
On a bright Sunday
It was wet.
It was wet.
Flambeaux
Flambeaux
Another Mardi Gras Indian Portrait
Another Mardi Gras Indian Portrait
From the front. St. Louis Cathedral during magic hour.
From the front. St. Louis Cathedral during magic hour.
Pictures in the house.
Pictures in the house.
Big Chief Juan Pardo
Big Chief Juan Pardo
Interstate 10 heading into New Orleans.
Interstate 10 heading into New Orleans.
Summer light in the residential side of The French Quarter.
Summer light in the residential side of The French Quarter.
A very gentle street portrait I made at a second line parade.
A very gentle street portrait I made at a second line parade.
Walking, rain or shine.
Walking, rain or shine.
Mardi Gras World and the skyline.
Mardi Gras World and the skyline.
Vaughn's at dusk.
Vaughn’s at dusk.
Second line music.
Second line music.
Details. Tuba. Stickers.
Details. Tuba. Stickers.
Dance Two
Dance Two
Big jazz funeral yesterday. Huge, in fact.
Big jazz funeral yesterday. Huge, in fact.
High School Marching Bands. Krewe of Druids and Nyx.
High School Marching Bands. Krewe of Druids and Nyx.
Brass band member taking a coffee break at CC's.
Brass band member taking a coffee break at CC’s.
Stuff. For Sale. Used. Cheap.
Stuff. For Sale. Used. Cheap.
Keeping It Real
Keeping It Real
Spy Boy Dow
Spy Boy Dow
Buried in color.
Buried in color.
Making music... a tight portrait
Making music… a tight portrait
A little dancing and eating lunch.
A little dancing and eating lunch.
A big storm blew through the city.
A big storm blew through the city.
Mardi Gras Indian
Mardi Gras Indian
Young Prince
Young Prince
Sean's.... again.
Sean’s…. again.
Blue
Blue
French Quarter
French Quarter
Leading the band...
Leading the band…
The brass band prepares.
The brass band prepares.
New Orleans from Algiers Point.
New Orleans from Algiers Point.
A little leveling, the king and his fellow paraders.
A little leveling, the king and his fellow paraders.
A light tight.
A light tight.
Purple Big Chief
Purple Big Chief
It was hot.
It was hot.


A few thoughts before the funeral.
A few thoughts before the funeral.
The second line begins.
The second line begins.

Two moods. Too many pictures. Can’t show them all to you. Not to worry. Book coming.

We are headed into Mardi Gras parade season. We’ll begin with pictures tomorrow. From Krewe du Vieux.


They all come out to play.
They all come out to play.

Going home. Flying away. Sadness. Celebration.

A Jazz funeral. If you’re ever in New Orleans and you are lucky enough to see one, be sure to remember one thing. It may by big, bright and bold. But, somebody passed. For all the wonderful music, all the joyous noise and the well and brightly dressed participants… Somebody is sad. Somebody’s loved one passed. He ain’t der no mo’. Not coming back.

I doubt most of New Orleans knew about this one. A trumpet player called Porgy Jones passed. Although the procession took place in Treme, it was just a little neighborhood thing. The weatherman said there would be some rain. Some rain. As we started to walk, the skies opened up. Oh, it rained, alright. Over, under sideways, down. That didn’t stop us. Despite the original tenor of this parade, life goes on. The weather won’t stop us. It hasn’t before…

The pictures. Just four sketches of what I witnessed. I think that’s why I do it. I don’t need to stand out in the heat. In the humidity. In the pouring rain. We don’t have snow (much) so I get a pass on that. I do it to bear witness. I do it because I still believe the work is the prayer. I believe I’m paying my respects by working.

The loading... going home.
The loading… going home.
Walking, rain or shine.
Walking, rain or shine.
Carrying him home.
Carrying him home.


There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it "ain't der no mo'."
There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it “ain’t der no mo’.”

Neil Young was right. Rust never sleeps.

You know this place.

I’ve shown it to you a few times. Well, not this scene. There are broken bricks and bits of glass in this picture. There used to be a graffiti covered building here; made of concrete, brick and iron. Homeless people took shelter here. Sometimes they lived here. They even cooked here. One of them offered me a meal. How’s that for irony? Me? I have stuff. A house. A car. A computer. Money to spend. That guy apparently had nothing, but a little bit of food. He wanted to share it with me.

That’s a whole other line of thought. Not for today.

There used to be a building here. As we say down in New Orleans, “It ain’t der no mo’.”

When I got to this location I was confused. I usually find my way around by local landmarks. Like buildings. When I realized where I was, I got a little bit angry. Then, I got a little bit sad. I liked that building. It could have been restored. Gentrified. Sheesh, hipsters could have turned it into expensive condos. Or, it could have be repurposed to give people living on the street a home.

But, no.

It’s gone.