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Tunnel of Love December 16, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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I took my wife and son down to Fulton Street to see the Xmas spectacle Harrah’s Casino and Hotel have put up there, in part from my own foggy memories of the snow tunnel at the Fairmont Hotel, the place old-timer’s still think of as the Roosevelt.
The tunnel of light was dark when we arrived around six, even though the published times are 4-8, so we wandered around and found the bar, where the pours were generous enough to keep the evenings encroaching chill at bay. At the far end of that block of Fulton right off Poydras, Big Al Carlson and the Bluesmasters were set up on stage and getting ready, so we settled in. Rebecca has been interested in seeing him, although I have an aversion to all bars in the busy strip of Bourbon except the Absinthe House, and always make a point of entering from the Conti Street side. I remarked walking up that I hoped to pass the rest of my life in New Orleans without darkening the door of Harrah’s Casino, and I tend to feel the same way about the tourist bars on Bourbon. The last time I had a drink on Bourbon was at the Famous Door and more than 20 years ago, when it was perhaps the last venue for trad Jazz, before it had become a karaoke bar (shudder).

Big Al is a consummate showman who works the drunks and out of towners the way his tight, Chicago-style blue band works the familiar repertoire. Given the setting (and that, like any working band in their circumstance they have a set of Xmas songs at the ready), they traded off a Robert Johnston for a Rudolph, a Muddy Waters for a Silent Night.

At one point in the show, Big Al sent the band off, and said there was one song he wanted to do on his own. He spoke about his band being a local band, and about the people of New Orleans, those who were home and those who were not, in whatever circumstance. He dedicated the song to the latter, those who have not made it back. He then launched into a throaty “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, his normally strong vocals cracking a bit as I had to rub away the hint of tears behind my own glasses.

Thanks for that, Big Al.

During the breaks, the tunnel was lit and the bubble “show” began to fall and my wife had her own, slightly teary “home moment”. After ten years (for me) and much of a life for her in the north, seeing even something that looked sort of like snow was enough to pluck at the heartstrings.


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