Notes from New Orleans: Part 3

The world doesn’t need another wanna-be writer penning a paean to the city of New Orleans. So I’m bringing together a mish-mash of notes, memories, scenes, vignettes, stories, and quotes from my trip to the Crescent City. The third in a series:

John Boutte closes his set with a few bars from the “Treme” theme, and it’s positively electric. The crowd claps and sings along, getting lost in the relentlessly joyous vibe. Boutte wraps up, and he’s thanking the audience when he remembers a special request.

With that, he launches into Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Well maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen in the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

It’s as tender, heart-breaking, soulful, and emotional as anything I’ve heard all week. Eyes closed, Boutte’s face contorts and twists with every mournful lyric. He doesn’t sing as much as the words just roll off his lips. The crowd sings back-up on the chorus; beyond that, it’s pin-drop quiet in the otherwise boisterous crowd. Boutte owns the room for those seven minutes.

The only thing more perfect than John Boutte closing with the “Treme” theme? John Boutte closing with “Hallelujah.”

———

Minutes into our bike tour of New Orleans, we learn about the man for whom the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood is named. He inherited millions of dollars and much of the city’s land at a young age after his parents died in the 1800s. This upstanding young man blew through his millions and spent much of his life selling off parcels of land to sustain his lavish lifestyle of drinking, gambling, and womanizing. Somewhere in there, he went off to college in England, returned home, and introduced the dice game Craps to America.

We’re pulling away from the street corner, off to the next stop, when an Englishman named Matt pulls up next to me. We’re taken aback by how he managed to squander such a fortunate in such a short amount of time. But this being New Orleans, “I bet he had a good fuckin’ time doing it,” Matt says. I don’t disagree.

———

I’m sitting at the mostly-empty bar, waiting for the Stooges Brass Band to start their set a few feet away. I nurse a beer and converse with the bartender. She asks me if life back in Portland really resembles “Portlandia.”

“It hits close to home, I’ll say that.”

“It only makes sense when I’m on acid,” she tells me. “It’s hilarious.”

She takes a smoke break, so I start talking to the man next to me. We’re making small-talk when I find out that he’s a business-owner — and that I wrote the LivingSocial deal he ran a few months back. “I loved it,” he tells me. A small world gets a little tinier.

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