Since arriving in New Orleans Friday, several people have asked us what our goal is for the next six weeks here.
Depending on who it is, I might quip back that my goal is to have no goals — to just be, which is the opposite of hyper-achievement oriented New York.
But that’s not actually true. My biggest goal is to soak up the creativity and energy of New Orleans like a sponge.
So far, we’re doing pretty well.
Among other things:
Friday we arrived around noon, just ahead of Doug and Cara’s wedding that night. The reception featured a rather large jazz band called the Boogie Men that had more horns at the ready than a music store, then the bride and groom led an entourage down to live music venue dba for an afterparty. We called it a night around 2:30 a.m., but they were still going strong.
- Saturday was a day of grazing, both food and music. We took in the Roadfood Festival in the French Quarter, where we’d each buy a nibble of something good, then stop to watch the nearest band performing in the street, then get another couple nibbles and watch another band on the courthouse steps.
After we were stuffed, we took in some art — including having a chance conversation with artist Jamie Hayes, who was painting in a gallery on Royal Street, and meeting Ritchie Jordan, a former NYC chef who moved with his wife to NOLA after Katrina and has become an artist selling his works in Jackson Square.
- Sunday night after dinner, our group strolled past Jackson Square, where a busker Peter Bennett was playing glasses filled with water — complex tunes like Danny Boy and Yesterday.
One of the things I love about this city is how much creativity is part of life. You might have a brass band lead a parade when you get married, then again when you die. Musicians and artists and poets aren’t just set off in institutions like museums and concert halls, they’re outside where you’ll encounter them just walking about. Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall once told me he was in college when he realized everyone doesn’t have a costume room — just the good people of New Orleans, who take pride in their carnival costumes.
We have some of the same in New York. The caliber of musicians who busk on subway platforms is sometimes breathtaking, and one of our favorite artists sold her paintings on the street on Broadway for years.
I can’t yet put my finger on what’s different. Maybe it’s that New Yorkers often seem like the creativity they pass on their way from A to B is a distraction or inconvenience, where here, it feels celebrated.
Our lunch waiter on Monday was just wrapping up the midday rush when he called out to some other restaurant staffers that he needed to go give the sax player a dollar. Here’s a guy hustling for tips who values street musicians enough to share one of the dollars he just earned.
I’ll be stewing in more of that creativity until mid May and trying to figure out why it feels so danged good. Or maybe it’s just enough that it does?