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 fifth in a series:
I’ve already seen them in concert four times, but when the Rebirth Brass Band takes the stage to close out the first day of the French Quarter Festival, I’m there.
It’s a bit more than mere entertainment with me. I first saw Rebirth perform at the NBA All-Star game in 2008 and thought “Who are those guys? They’re good.” That led me to cop a Rebirth album, which served as my introduction to other brass bands and New Orleans artists. So I’m here to pay my respect as much as I am to shake my ass on the Mississippi waterfront.
And Rebirth delivers. They always do. When the band members are blowing their horns, I feel like I’m about to be knocked over. It’s as powerful and joyous as anything I’ve ever felt in concert. It’s part of why I keep coming back.
A man next to me starts the show stoic, tight-lipped and arms crossed; within two songs, he’s dancing a few feet in front of me and smiling wide. A few beach balls get bounced around. The one-two punch of “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” and “Do Whatcha Wanna” closes the set. By set’s end, the crowd has swelled and stretches as far as the eye can see. The sounds of Rebirth will follow me home and stay with me all night.
I can still feel those horns the next day.
I’ve arrived in New Orleans far too late to catch a show. By this point, I’ve been in flight or shuttling between locales for 10 hours. I feel a weird mix of excitement for the week ahead and an overpowering sense of lethargy after flying cross country. As much as anything, I’m ready to crash.
But I can’t. My time in New Orleans is limited, and I must do what I can to embrace my brief time here.
So I hop in a cab. “Cafe du Monde,” I tell my cabbie.
The street musicians who normally play for the throng of tourists have packed up and gone home for the evening. Fellow tourists gabbing about the day provide my soundtrack. I order three beignets and a cafe au lait. It’s been an exhausting day; a little caffeine will go a long way tonight.
It’s been more than two years since I’ve sat under the overhang at Cafe du Monde. I think back on how life has changed so much in those two years; I think about the professional opportunities that could have taken me to Turkey, Morocco, San Antonio, and even New Orleans. I think about the people who have come into and left my life. I think about how I’ve changed, grown, and developed. I think about all those life changes that have made me who I am today.
But mostly, I think about the upcoming eight days — and how to keep the powdered sugar off my shirt.
I can literally see my apartment from the plane as it descends into Portland.
Between my plane and the arrivals area, I’m going through a bit of culture shock. Random strangers aren’t saying “hi” to me anymore. I can’t start conversations with travelers waiting for their baggage. I can’t grab a pint from Laurelwood to-go. I spot a pair of Birkenstocks.
I’m starting to understand what people mean when they describe it as “emigrating” to America from New Orleans.
Only when I come from New Orleans does Portland seem normal.