Revelator November 26, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Coco Robicheaux
“Come killy killy killy quick as you can/Come take a look at a natural man/Waste my time like a Simple Sam/Come take a look at what a fool I am/Oh, Revelator. Oh, Revelator, Revelator, right now.’
– Coco Robicheaux, “Revelator“
There is something Odd about getting up this early on Saturday morning to listen to Coco Robicheaux. Like early Dr. John much of it sounds like a music of the night, the place I came closest to knowing him, as a regular at the Apple Barrel bar. (No, Mark, it is not a good idea to put whiskey in your coffee this time of day) We would speak for a while, he always had time and a word for everyone, and that was about it. I think I was always a bit in awe of him, the genuine natural man of his song.
Coco walked a strange path, drawn into a world where his Indian heritage blended with his Cajun-rooted joie de vivre, into the syncretic religion of New Orleans, a blend of Spiritualist church and after midnight barroom, a spirit candle and a bottle of whiskey. A natural man, walking with the spirit. “I am a pilgrim” he sang to close his last album over a joyous banjo. “I’ve got a home in that yonder city…it is not been made by hand. I got a mother, a sister and a brother, who are gone to that sweet home. And I am determined to go and see them…over on that distant shore….cause I am a pilgrim, and a stranger, traveling through this wearisome land.”
I have walked a strange path of my own in the years since the Flood, a road that takes a high toll of great cost, forking from the path I took when I left New Orleans in my rear view mirror New Year’s Eve 1986, traveling into the life I thought expected of me, drawn by another kind of power that resides in buildings of cold marble, filled with self-appointed archangels in rich Italian clothes. I forgot in my youthful blindness that here by the river marble is the stone of the houses of the dead.
I don’t regret the choice I made then, or those that followed. It was a good life. I have beautiful children their mother and I would not know and love if I had not taken that other path, but all that time something gnawed at me inside with nutria sharp teeth trying to get out. It finally got loose, that late Monday afternoon in August I sat in my driveway in Fargo, N.D. waiting for my son to come out to be driven to football practice. It was then that string of mojo beads I had carried back from New Orleans, which hung from the rear view mirror of my otherwise respectable Ford Taurus station wagon, suddenly and spontaneously burst. In that moment I knew the radio was wrong, that something terrible was happening far away, that a great and terrible wave had crashed and the power of it had carried all the way to North Dakota from New Orleans, from home.
And I won’t regret the choices I make now. There are only so many hours and days remaining to me, Coco’s death reminds me, and I can either spend my every waking moment trying to get back to that path that ran through Washington and Fargo, or I can spend it developing the natural talent I mostly suppressed on that other road, give all my waking hours to studying the arcane magic releasing the spirit that lives in words. Somewhere on that path stands Coco, a natural man, and behind the large hat and shades I see him smile. And I know I am on the right road.