“Dere goes dat famous Clarinetest, Pete Fountain, whom I've seen so many times on Johnny Carson,” I yelled to David Laroussini, my grade school buddy, as we were standing with many others on St. Charles Ave. enjoying Mardi Gras in the early 80s!
“And check dat out, Buckaro (David's nickname) – dat real priest, not a fake one in costume, with Pete - just led my Manresa (House of Retreats – Convent, LA) Retreat!” > joining Pete was Fr. Coco, SJ, a late Jesuit priest who could belt out Jazz songs so well in a duet with Pete Fountain, as well as with Al Hirt, Ronnie Cole and others!
David's mother had a condo at 3201 St. Charles Ave., where Rex takes one of its few cross-overs on the famous Green Streetcar Street, so we had the best vantage point to take in the world's greatest free show, as well as an easy place to get goodies nearby and take care of business when nature called on to that!
“I'm be right back, Dave; I'm going to get another Dixie brew and some jambalaya from Mr. Ignatius (flashback to a name who would become so synonymous with N'Awlins/da Big Easy: from John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces!), one of my then Audubon Street neighbors who always set up his BBQ and cooking gear right in the middle of St. Charles Ave. with many other folks.
“Okay,” Buckaro replied and added, “I'm going inside to get some of dat famous King Cake my mother always gets from Cajun land – definitely better than Haydells, McKenzies, and even better dan Randazzos!”
“Wait,” I blurted out … don't forget to get me a piece without da baby!!! - HA HA!”
A few years earlier, in 1979, how could Buckaro and me forget when Mardi Gras had been cancelled due to a Police Strike, and we joined Neal Hattier and Scott Vincent and saw the cool funeral, Second Line and other fun dedicated to lost Mardi Gras displayed on Bourbon Street, as well as with Pete and Fr. Coco and the Half-Fast Marching Club sashaying by!
What great memories indelibly etched in my heart, mind and soul…
And what great local musicians we lost in 2016, including Pete Fountain (July 3, 1930 – August 6, 2016) and in 2006 - Fr. James Coco, SJ (October 8, 1920 – September 7, 2006)!
So join me on Fat Tuesday (February 28th, 2017), right before Ash Wednesday, in honoring these saintly "Half-Fast (used be called “Half-Assed”) Marching Club" members who will still be taking their lubricated "Just a Closer Walks with Thee" in spirit from Commander's Palace, down St. Charles Ave., Canal Street to Bourbon Street into the French Quarter, and to end at the Monteleone Hotel – make more new wonderful memories!
Not long later, on Tax Day, Saturday April 15, Holy Saturday – sandwiched (“muffalettaed / poboyed”) between Good Friday and Easter – also join me and other musicians and runners in honoring past musicians like Fountain and Coco, and current stars like the Neville Brothers who perform at the Annual Fairgrounds' Jazz Fest (April 28 – May 7, 2017; I hope to get to see Tom Petty!), at the All State Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic (CCC) 10K (6.2 Miles)!
Many current musicians have difficulty in keeping their health care needs in check, as they may not have adequate health insurance. I have joined forces to help one of the CCC's Charity Teams, NOMC – a 501(c) organization - (The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and Assistance Foundation), which was founded in 1998 to provide primary care, comprehensive occupational care, and mental health/social services to New Orleans' musicians; the NOMC now serves 2500+ local performers - from vocalists to brass bands from Mardi Gras Indians to sound engineers.
There are also many other great not-for-profit organizations that you may also want to pledge for per the CCC, including Gleason Initiative Foundation, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Bastion Community of Resilience, Covenant House of New Orleans, Youth Run NOLA Inc., Northshore Community Foundation – DBA Kicken' Parkinson's, Second Harvester of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, Ochnsner Clinic Foundation, LA SPCA, Kelly Gibson Foundation, 50 Legs in 50 Days Inc.
Heartfelt Valentine's Blessings on all!!!