This year they tell us, yes, that we're really gonna have a real, live, and in-person Jazz Fest—the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2022. Come one, come all, we're having a fest to beat all festivals. Let the tents go up. "Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor" (Groucho Marx).
And you, yes you, the not-from-here folk, will walk into the Jazz Fest like you are walking onto a yacht. You've traveled miles, paid a premium, and you're here to take it in, to absorb. You deserve this. You're saucy, you're sassy, and you're sexy. We smile.
You're impressed that all this can go on in one place. You rock it up, rip it up, shake it up, and ball it up. You get some fun, sun, mud, food, festivities, and maybe some flirting. You feel fulfilled—full; filled. And then you are outside the gates and lo, the party's still going on. We go on smiling. Who are we? We live here.
We don't get here early and stay late; we're here 24/7. Like I told you, we live here. When you go back home and wish you could stay, we do. We're the folks on the porches sipping a cold one, watching you dance your way back to where you stay and are seen smiling—still smiling. We're the guys who wouldn't live anywhere else. This is our spot. Now is our time.
We look forward to Jazz Fest all year, every year. We buy our tickets early, receive residential parking passes, and get the local's discount on Thursdays. We bitch about the parking, guard our driveways, and wait in longer-than-average lines at the grocers, restaurants, and public transportation for you to enjoy for a spell what we have full time. We even pick up the trash you leave, sell you a little something extra on the road, and think y'all are cute as bugs.
We queue up next to you, behind you, with nothing but a small bag and a water bottle; too much baggage is counterproductive, I say. We're on a budget. We only carry the cash we intend on spending (hell, no credit cards). We already have our posters, apparel, and souvenirs from years' past. If we want something else (from this year), we'll bring extra money tomorrow and get it.
I'm a hiccup away from the action. I'm fortunate enough to stay mid-way between Liuzza's by the Track and the Fair Grounds itself. I've been in this neighborhood for over a dozen years. I have seen people come and go. I know the merchants, minors, mutts, and miscreants. During Jazz Fest, I go the whole nine yards, as well as the entire eight days. My friends come by and we stoop, there's a brass band right outside our front gate, and we're on a first name basis with the policeman directing traffic. It doesn't get much better than this.
We're also those folks taking tickets, slinging beer, directing traffic, and emptying the cans of used styrofoam containers (to go into our landfill) that once held your stuff from food and drink booths. We're here at the first aid station, console your lost kids, and set up and break down this whole affair, so that all you have to do is come and enjoy.
On the whole, this is a pretty quiet neighborhood the rest of the year with friendly feral felines, a variety of birds, bees, beers, bubbas and broads, the young, the not so young, and the very young. We have cook outs, second lines, crawfish boils, street festivals, get our kids off to school, and our breadwinners off to bring home the bacon, you know, like people. We walk our dogs and pick up their poop just like you.
Only we may have a little more pep in our step, glide in our stride, and a little extra gut in our strut. We smile a little easier, nod to strangers and neighbors alike. We're not shy about talking to each other or you. There are no strangers here, only us strange folks that go about our lives and look forward to that time of year when we see the tents going up and the sounds of setting up that is music to our ears.
Of course, no bed of roses is complete without the thorns, and by no means is this utopia, but we get along and look out for each other. You know, like neighbors. We celebrate each new addition to families (especially critters) and mourn our losses. We gossip, fret, complain, and console. We shop locally, go to fish fry's at the church, and walk up to the bayou to chill on fine Southern weather days.
We're also the ones who feel it the most when they threaten to, and then do, cancel Jazz Fest, which they did three times in the last two years. What did we do? Well, we held Festing in Place celebrations. We decorated our houses; the radio re-broadcast old Fest shows for us on the days that would have been the live performances. We had a Jazz Fest-in-exile and we smiled.
Am I looking forward to it? Did I buy my tickets in February? Am I planning my food forays? Is a bear Catholic and does the Pope…? Care will be left at the gate, my phone will be left at home, time will be suspended, and I will live in and for the moment. Do I know who I'm going to see? Yes. I'm going to see you having the time of your life as I watch who you're watching. I'll be objectively and subjectively having the time of my life. See you there.
That Weird Smiling Guy.