So, is this your first weekend of the second week, or the second weekend after your first? Are you walking in with your nose in the air like a bird dog, sniffing the wafting aromas of the hunka hunka burning love portions number nine, 10, and 11: “I smell ribs … gotta go!” Or have you arrived with your nose to the ground like a hound dog on the trail of beer, barbeque, buddies, and blues. Who’s on first?
Your look is familiar; don’t I know you from anywhere? Haven’t I seen your face before? I’m familiar with that wry swan smile, those Army scout eyes, that sunburned shoulder (you forgot your PF30 again), that hungry, desperate, surreptitious, tuck-and-roll glance; that furtive insecurity, exhibiting the inner knowledge of one who is aware that it’s almost over!
I know that look of longing love at the end of an affair when you want to devour everything about your lover—the sights, smells, sounds, and spice; the gaseous miasma of flirting food just beyond your reach; human smells in the air: sweaty pits, sun tan oils, hair goop, after shave lotion, and all of it. That’s true for me also, so, I’m feelin’ ya. I want to be a sponge soaking up everything about the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) as well, for I have loved her and she has loved me back.
Leapin’ lizards! It’s the second weekend and I’ve got to take it all in, all that I can absorb! My bucket list: have I had my cochon de lait po-boy; soft shell crab; pheasant, quail, andouille gumbo; praline-stuffed beignet; and trout Baquet? Check list: I’ve had my oysters, at least a half a gallon of strawberry tea, a huckabuck, café au lait, messy BBQ, spring rolls, and jama jama; seen and hugged a dozen people. But it’s not sufficient for this heart of mine, I want more! What haven’t I had, tried, tasted, begged, borrowed, or browsed upon? What’s goin’ on? Who’s holding out?
I liken it to an affaire de coeur; even when storm clouds roll in, you’re gonna give it your best shot. Word to your mother: “The worst day at Jazz Fest is better than the best day any other time of year!” The anticipation of Jazz Fest’s arrival is like an incoming train bringing you your lost love; this year, I even brought flowers for my first date, I mean, first day. I live close, so I hear them, see them, setting up the fest, and it’s music to my ears: the roustabouts and the tent slingers, beer trucks, sound checks, ice men, Indians, and buses bringing bands.
They open the gates and I’m standing there early, music fills the air, cooking fires are lit, and the grand march-and-linger begins. Seats are filled, lines are formed, blankets laid, and golly, if someone hasn’t brought a beach ball to bat around! It’s a sensation candy store, and the kids are in charge; there is no sorrow, no grief or pain: it’s Christmas, and the medics have aspirins, Band-Aids, and armchairs!
I thirst, that’s why I’m here. I’m a wanderer, a high relater radiator, sweet potato commentator, instigator investigator, nirvana spectator, see-ya-later-alligator, man about this ad hoc, al fresco percolator, drinking it all in! Elusive at best, appearing and disappearing, here and there and hear, and left wondering if I was ever here at all. Who did you see? I don’t know, I saw them all, heard them all, ate and tasted it all, and had a ball, seeing and sawing as much of all as y’all standing tall. Mama, I’m home!
I wax prolific and expansive about my love of this venue, this time in my life and yours where and when we could come apart together in peace, music, food, and the facilitation of our own standing, sitting, walking, talking, singing quietude of mutual atmospheric melodic meditation—protected witnesses, all. Sure, the weather has been hot, cold, dry, wet, dusty, and muddy. There’s nothing unexpected in that; I’m down with that, ready Teddy. The mister has sprung a leak above my head in the Jazz Tent; so, why do you think I brought this here folding umbrella, just to keep the sun off me? Well, that too. I’ve also brought cash in small untraceable bills so that when I get to the front of the line and have exact money (plus tip), I can hit it with hot sauce and saunter smartly back into the stream of strangers, somehow symbiotically connected to me.
There are those who think that the tariff is too steep, the crowds are at best congestive, the toilets are an olfactory mugging, the price of the food is up, and the portions are too small. I’m not sure if we’re at the same festival. Like Arthur Dent, I’ve brought in my towel and openness to whatever will happen. I shy away from whatever doesn’t suit me at the moment, ready to split on or stick out the experience coming at me. Whatever, I’m here for the joy of it all, smiling because it’s happening again for the first time. I’m at Jazz Fest again; let me wallow in the wonder, for this too shall pass, leaving another notch on my memory wall.
It’s the second and final weekend this season, and it will soon be over until—if the universe is willing—next year. There will be so much that will happen to each of us in the interval until next time, we’ll be older and perhaps wiser when we meet Jazz Fest again. May we all take with us the serenity and tranquility that we’ve had with this uplifting and exciting time. After a while, crocodile.