Tuesday, March 22, 2011

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Divine Inspiration?

Louque--"Cry, Cry" (mp3)
Louque--"Time Will Take" (mp3)

You know, we are coming up on our 1-year "Blog-a-bration (yes, good seats are still available, but we don't know where it will take place)," and I would be remiss not to dip my toe at least a little bit into the pool of our inspiration.

Billy and I have been friends for years, and way back when, I was even his teacher and he was my student. But, that was a long time ago, and those roles have changed sometimes, become blurred sometimes. I admit, for example, that I knew nothing about Hanson until I read of Billy's hero-worship for those land-locked boys from the Midwest.

But the idea for the blog came to me in New Orleans, that greatest of American cities. It was down there on our annual pilgrimage that I thought, 'Ya know, Billy and I might be able to make some beautiful music together.' Beautiful or not, here we are almost a year later.

I feel like New Orleans hovers in the background of almost every post we write. It has probably been six months or more since Billy and I took stock of the blog, and he said,"And, you know, we haven't even talked about New Orleans yet." That was when we wondered if we would have enough topics to keep going.

I was at a concert the other night, a Dan Crary concert, at a strange little venue just down the street from school. Sidebar: Dan Crary is one of the great flat-picking guitarists of the last 40 years, and it was quite an honor to experience the range of his abilities (For those keeping track of my New Year's Resolutions, that is Concert #2 in 2009--I've got to do better). Anyway, I ran into a friend there, a woman whose conservatism is currently consuming her like a fatal disease, and among her many rants over a 10-minute monologue was the anti-Global Warming rant, which centered on her visit to New Orleans this year, where she argued that it was ridiculous for us as a country to spend one dime on a city like New Orleans that is not "viable." I wanted to punch her in the face, something I have rarely done to a woman (or a man). In fact, never.

New Orleans holds such a place in my psyche that I cannot imagine it not existing. I cannot imagine people existing who don't want it to exist. When I think of going places, it is the place that I want to go to. During Katrina and the aftermath, I never turned on the television to see the devastation. Neither did any member of my family. We heard, but we didn't want to see. We bought a book a couple of years later and were amazed at what we saw. But, I guess what we should have realized is that floodwaters and tragedy merely (and I don't mean to suggest lighty, but rather matter-of-factly) add another layer to the city that evolves more overtly and quickly than any other place I've been.

There is a temptation to say that New Orleans is most like a European city and that that notion explains its charm. I disagree. While it has some of the age and the history of a European city, New Orleans' own qualities are unique because in some ways there has been more of a compression of time, so that not only have all of the different layers of culture followed more closely upon one another, sometimes they have not even followed, but existed concurrently. This is why the food, the music, the architecture, the people, the outlook are so different from anywhere else. Unlike, say, New York, which will have its Italian sections and its Russian sections and its Middle Eastern sections and every other section, in New Orleans, everything has always blended together. There is no Chinatown in New Orleans. If and when there is a Chinese, or as is currently the case, an Hispanic influence, it will almost immediately be assimilated into the other influences already in place. Which is not to suggest any particular tolerance or acceptance, since races have struggled against each other in New Orleans since the start, and, in many ways, that still continues.

Somehow, when I'm in New Orleans, I feel more alive. I never hang out in my hotel room; to do so feels like I am cheating myself and wasting life. Even the very basic decision of where to eat lunch can be a crucial decision, a chance for enlightenment, a reach for transcendence. Perhaps because of the quirks of its history, New Orleans seems like a place that, paradoxically, never takes itself for granted while also resigning itself to forces and changes beyond its control. And, I've come to realize that like every other thing of beauty, New Orlean's beauty is dependent upon that very transience and fragilty.

If you are coming to this post a little late, by the time you read it, with any luck, both Billy and I will already be in New Orleans. Rest assured that whatever happens there, we will have stockpiled enough posts to see us through those days and until we return to this outer world with its washed-out colors and muted tastes and sameness of days.


Louque's one and only CD (that I know of) is availabe at Itunes. They are a contemporary band from New Orleans.

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