Happy Trails July 26, 2009Posted by The Typist in 504, Bloggers, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Austin, New Generation Brass Band, Ray Shea
We would lay in bed in the hot August night in our unairconditioned house in Detroit Lakes, MN under the humming fans I had installed and not be able to sleep for the heat or the distant, hollow sound of the last act of the WE Fest country music festival, what we not-from-around-here folk referred to as the redneck Woodstock, until we would hear this song on the distant PA across the lake and know it would soon be quiet, a song I also associated with the end of the MoM’s Ball, a festival of an entirely different sort far away, when the lights would come up and reveal us exhausted in our debauched finery.
I knew this song before then, before both MoM’s Balls in Arabi or those years sweating out an August festival night in the otherwise cold north. I would rise up every Saturday morning as a child and make myself a bowl of cereal while my parents slept in and turn on the old Roy Rogers movie reels that ran at 6:30 in the morning.
That was a more innocent age, when it didn’t seem to matter that Cookie drove a jeep or that the bad guys might try to make their getaway in a high wing single engine place as Roy galloped Trigger alongside to shoot out the tires with his pearl handled pistol. In a time when men flew rockets into space it did not seem incongruous that there would be a shortwave radio back at the ranch. In the early Sixties we were closer to our parents generation, the ones who sat around the radio with their decoder rings than we were to our own children at the same age, the electronic tentacles of the world that intrude on their childhood too soon.
This was the song that closed each episode and as I crawl out of bed a bit beer bleary with not enough sleep after an evening sending off Ray Shea back to Austin it seems a fitting thing to post up here. Ray was one of those who, like myself, moved back to New Orleans after the flood from a home he had established somewhere else. When the out-of-town reporters who found me asked if I knew anyone else who chose to move here after the storm, I always gave them Ray’s name.
He was one of the people I thought would never leave, as I plan to never leave. When the divorce decree came down and allowed his ex to take the children to Austin, he had no choice but to follow. None of us would do any differently even as leaving compounded the pain of parsing out a life to spit it into two piles, the pain of being at best a part-time father.
But the world rolls on unmindful of the pathetic specs that crowd its surface and the gods such as they are never tire of troubling us for their own amusement, so we the best we can do is throw a damned party (this is New Orleans; there will be a party) and get on with it. Last night’s went particularly well, with all the best of the gang crowded into a Marigny bar until someone came in the door and announced “there’s a brass band up the street” and we spent half the night on a little spit of concrete across from a house where the New Generation Brass Band played on a balcony.
We couldn’t have arranged it better ourselves and the happy accident of horns and drums, provided by some spirit that watches over this city and watches over us all who love it produced a band just when we needed it, a reminder to Ray (sadly) of what he leaves behind but also an omen: the city provided and will not forget him as long as he does not forget the city, that always somewhere there will be friends and a band when he returns.
So, Happy Trails Ray. Till we meet again.