Going Home July 16, 2012Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Frenchman Street, Lionel Batiste, Marigny, second line, Uncle Lionel
When I pitched face down on the floor of The Barrel with no assistance from the tricky step up to the bar, I knew it was time to go look for the second line. Sam and I split a sandwich from the grocery across the street earlier, I think, but clearly I needed movement, fresh air in my face. “Purpose,” I shouted as people helped me up from the floor. “I’m going to scout for the second line.” I glanced at half a Jockamo on the table but decided I was fully prepared to reconnoiter over the broken sidewalks leading to St. Claude and Elysian Fields. “Are you su..?” “YES. I’ll text you when I see them.”
Outside the overcast broke for a moment, a good omen for Uncle Lionel’s sendoff I thought. The glimpse of blue, the air on my face as I moved up Frenchman, focused on Royal Street just ahead, my artificial horizon, a dancing bear balanced on the balls of my feet, I moved through a lucid dream, wide awake and walking through an invisible gelatinous substance. Right at Frenchman, a glance at the old folks’ apartments where Uncle Lionel spent his last days at which the second line would stop soon, then a left at Elysian Fields, St. Claude just ahead. Purpose, I thought, walk with purpose, my internal gyroscope, leaning forward at the precise angle that converts the lifting of feet into momentum, a swagger stagger as straight as a swizzle stick.
At St. Claude there were hot sausage and cheese po-boys $7, two women waiting for the bus and no sight or sound of a second line. When I came to a stop purpose got all wobbly and I leaned against the newspaper machine, shielding my eyes. Someone switched on the sun the moment I stepped out onto St. Claude. Nothing. I sent a text back to The Barrel: “638 no sifn od daocid/or/Wnd/lon @ Stclaude/and/ukusian.” The newspaper machine did not seem particularly steady so I crossed the street into Walgreens and bought an energy drink, and took out some more cash. I was on the route and I knew the second line was somewhere down St. Claude so I crossed to the neutral ground and headed in their direction. Purpose, gyroscope, horizon, movement.
The worthless sun-sensitive lenses in my glasses finally adjusted and I could hear but still not see a band in the distance. I stopped and sent another text: “Indinana hwew ehwy comw.” I managed the two blocks down to Touro and saw the second line, police in front. “Police comin 2ns line c”5 +3 %!e+32&8”#,” I wired back to The Barrel. “Drums comin’,” I managed two minutes later. The second line had come to a halt at Touro Street, the scheduled end of the route. “Srtopped at tojro,” I sent back at precisely 7 p.m.. The parade was to come up to Frenchman Street, past the bars where Uncle Lionel spent the last evenings of his long life, dressed in smooth, perfect suits, diamond stick pin and cane, a sharp hat. Everyone was waiting on Frenchman Street not realizing the parade permit had expired at seven and the police forced a stop, that the second line had managed six blocks in two hours and was over. I noticed a group of tubas above the crowd turning down Touro. A piece of the crowd peeled off and followed and so did I. It didn’t matter that the official second line had shutdown at Sweet Lorraine’s and the police didn’t seem to notice the impromptu parade escaping on a side street.
I lost my artificial horizon but was caught up in the flow and the music, just another fish in the school, swinging and swaying in time with the crowd, and no thought of how or where to go. No point to counting blocks or moments. What thought does the fish give to the river except to drink deep and follow the current? I took a few camera phone pictures and three seconds of video. Later I liked the ones of blurry feet dancing in second line in particular, and the two that are upright and in focus. I had abandoned the thought of another text message. We would be there soon enough, the high, bright tubas trumpeting the herd toward Frenchman.
No one expected a parade to come up Kerlerec and hook down Chartres. We were coming from the wrong direction and found no one on the street but the usual crowd you might watch from the Barrel’s bench. The now silent tubas moved as a group toward d.b.a, the crowd scattered and dissolved into the bars. I lurched toward the Apple Barrel where, according to the one reply text message I stopped to read, there was whiskey and Herbie and the umbrella I’d left behind. I arrived just in time to save tee totaling Herbie from the devil whiskey and recover my umbrella, apparently not as attractive as the vanishing Zippo I’d once left on that bar for a minute. I managed my way to the table without another fall and someone slapped a Jockamo in front of me. The Marigny had their parade for Uncle Lionel and no one noticed, except the lucky hundred-and-some who followed the tubas home.