Made in the shade or A.K.A. Jazz Fest

18:00 April 28, 2015
By: Phil LaMancusa

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends; we're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside! On the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's official website, they'll explain many things to familiarize visitors who are...neophytes.

And rightly so. However: those of us that have survived past Fests unscathed know that stuff by heart through our experiences. For us older (and wiser) hands, there is no need to tell us that the weather is as unpredictable as Murphy's Law. It just is. There's also no need to tell us how to dress for unpredictable weather: a cool unrestrictive A-line skirt, lightweight cotton blouse and an open-stitch cardigan tied to our dainty waists come immediately to mind. This year's seasoned Fest attendees will also have enough of a durable SPF 30 sunscreen to apply every two hours to prevent burning and that ugly "C" word.

Metrophiliac fashionista Fest-goers also know that the perfect accessory to any fetching outfit is a pair of shrimper boots, whether you'll need them or not. A parasol, folding chair, floppy sun hat and Jackie O. Ray-Bans are never out of fashion, and our little miss or mister will have a small clutch bag to hold lip balm, iPhone, monogrammed hanky and our American Express Business Card. Oh, and staying hydrated is a must; we're allowed to bring in our own chosen brand of totally Alpine glacier prehistoric spring water. Well, at least we were in previous years (if the seal was unbroken). Naturally, there'll be smart cocktails apres Fest.

On the other hand, members of the Krewe of Brew will wear flip-flops, cut-offs, and Saints or vintage Jazz Fest T-shirts. One pocket will hold double sawbucks and a NAPA Auto Parts debit card. Another pocket will have a Harley Davidson bandana, Marlboros in a box and Zippo lighter. A's or Cardinal's baseball caps are de rigueur of course, as is enough tanning lotion (their own mixture of baby oil and iodine) to slather a Montana bison. It's not a stretch to say that somewhere about their person is a pint of Jack or some such spirit. Also, an old plaid fl annel shirt works well as a blanket to sit on, a towel to wipe the crawfish schmutz from the chin, and a flag to wave at the geezer rockers at the Acura Stage. Multiple beers will be consumed, maybe a little reefer, and a couple of Cochon de Lait poor boys to boot.

The salt-of-the-earth contingent don't stand in line for nothin that "the old lady" can cook at home; so look for these bon vivants by the Fried Pork Rind demonstration. Said miscreants will laugh at the rain, the sun, the wind and mud, and will leave a tad early to beat the crowd to Liuzza's, where they started that morning with Jimmy's famous Bloody Marys. They'll go on to brave the line at Coop's, party on Frenchmen Street, and soldier on the next morning to do it all over again.

Jazz Fest is a wonderful time for the city at large, where visitors from around the world as well as Ohio rub shoulders with the usual suspects that inhabit our neighborhoods. The playing field is leveled by a mutual love of food, music and the great outdoors. It's only a fool that tries to drive close to the track and look for parking spaces, where neighbors guard their driveways and street spots like mother hens. We are fortunate enough to live within spitting distance from the gate, not that I ever spit at the gate, of course (Mama didn't raise me to act common), and for the past few years, I left my parking spot open for any Fester who was lucky enough to get there first. When I would leave for work on the weekends, I would pull out, and by the time I returned home, the Festers would just be leaving, something that worked symbiotically quite well. Here is where I tell you that last year, some thoughtless yayhoo got into my spot and stayed parked for the duration. Needless to say, I won't be performing that service to mankind this year.

Wandering outside the gate, you will find entrepreneurs lining the streets with trinkets, treasures and libations for the thirsty in mind and body. Musicians that will or will not someday make the cut to perform inside will perform outside for tips and practice. Handmade wares, puppet shows, exotic animals, batik wraps, and even perhaps a wandering vegan selling yummers. It reminds me of an old-fashioned country fair. A good time is had by all.

Here is where I tell you about the time our friend Marinnette bought a ticket for Jazz Fest from some dude on the perimeter, only to find out that it was no good when she presented it at the gate. Caveat emptor, y'all.

Festers are like-minded in several areas: use of trash and recycling receptacles; patience in the Pot-O-Gold line; secret tricks for navigating the Fest experience; a "live and let live" attitude for another person's choice of music, and a natural camaraderie that allows them to participate in discussions that start with the questions: What are you eating, how is it and where did you get it? Festers, real Festers, have another thing in common: the love of New Orleans and the symbol of the Fleur de Lis. On their clothing, as part of their accoutrements (what separates us from inferior life forms is our ability to accessorize) and in the brazen and permanent badges of courage: tattoos (some in the damndest places, too).

So, here's to another year, another Fest: raise your "F'Lis" flag high and let it wave! See you at Liuzza's!

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