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Black and Gold Forever July 27, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Updated with many more details Sunday evening.

The Ashley Morris benefit seemed a great success from out in the crowd, which was easily a hundred. It was a mix of bloggers, roller girls and some familiar faces from neither group I think run in the Defend New Orleans/Dirty Coast crowd. People dressed in Saints’ black and gold, or in Defend New Orleans or FYYFF t-shirts from Dirty Coast were clutching fistfuls of raffle tickets and prizes won at auction, including clothes modeled by burleque girls. I took home a Trinidad cigar ashtray of Ashley’s.

Much drink was taken, and there was a cloud of cigar smoke from a few of us at the blogger tables, as it should be. I picked up a couple of nice maduras from the Cuban exile’s shop just up Toulouse Street from One Eyed Jacks. Don’t ask the brand as I lost the band from the one I smoked. The second I laid across a glass of Jameson’s and left on the foot of the stage. I took a sip and sprayed a bit on the stage in the fashion of voodoo, and blew a large waft of smoke over the glass and the stage.

That bit of gris-gris did not prevent the first band from playing. An odd sounding improvisational group of cello, keyboard and drum I think must have been the Other Planets sometimes sounded like bad outtakes from Bitches Brew. Someone wondered aloud if Ashley spirit was hovering over the scene asking in a loud voice that only he could here, “what the fuck is this?” Still, they donated of their time so I shouldn’t be so harsh. In another setting I would have listened closely and perhaps been more interested, but most people don’t listen to Sun Ran or Pharoah Sanders or Miles Davis wild Bitches Brew.

Andrew “The Reverand Psych” Ward, the emcee for the evening, had an excellent cabaret shtick and watching him work with the two burlesque girls from Fluer de Tease during the auction and raffle was highly entertaining. The guest appearance by the mysterious Supa Saint, playing a wild and weirdly melodramatic, Phantom of the Paradise-styled eyboard riff over New Orleans Saints videos while the two Fleur girls danced at either end of the stage let the evening it’s critical Saints football component.

Ray Shea read his eulogy again, which I particularly appreciated as I had to leave the service in April early to meet the band at the cemetery and so missed it. Oyster was on stage as well, but had to run to the men’s room and missed what he said (but I dear hear his eulogy in April). I got back in time to her Hana speak, introducing herself as “I’m Soviet Block, and I will kick your ass,” to uprorious hooting from the Roller Girls and the rest of the crowd. I somehow missed that author John Barry, who will be our keynote speaker at the third annual Rising Tide Conference was there, and Lisa brought over Huey Lewis after his his local show at HoB.

Most of us started to drift off just as the second band (which sounded excellent) started but by that point must of us were wrung out by drink and the evenings excitement. All credit and Hail to Loki of Humid City who got the Ashley Morris Foundation benefit rolling, and to everyone else who helped: Blake from Dirty Coast, the musicians who played and the artists who donated to the auction and raffle, the Big Easy Roller Girls and One Eyed Jacks for hosting us.

As I sit here bleary from drink and too little sleep, it seems following Maitri and Derrick to Fahys for drinks after midnight was a mistake, a beer too far. Still, I felt a compulsion to go. We sat in the same narrow space at the back where the first of the post-Katrina NOLA Blogger meet-ups occurred, the nucleus from which Geek Dinners and the Rising Tide conference eventually came. Back in early ’06 I put out the word on the Yahoo mailing list I started that I would stand drinks for any of the NOLA bloggers who could drag themselves to a French Quarter bar on Ash Wednesday.

Ashley was a large presence in that small crowd. It was the first time I met him in person, his traveling humidor tucked under his arm. Last night, I kept glancing over the shoulder of the person I was talking to, almost expecting to find him huddled in the corner with Troy Gilbert and John de Fraites as he was on that night. I think it was that evening over two years ago I first heard the phrase “armor the levee with their skulls” uttered, but I don’t recall if it was Troy (who latter blogged it) or Ashley who first said it. It could have come from either of them, but it surely sounds like something Ashley would have said.

It was a satisfying but eerie end to the evening, sitting in that spot where the NOLA Bloggers story began. About halfway through my second Smithwicks I had that feeling like a man on a sinking ship who knows that the water has passed some point, and the thing will soon head down. It was time to abandon ship, so I had the bartender call me a U-boat and left. Overall a very satisfying evening for a good cause.

Maitri has a few pictures and more details, and I know Dereck of bags, bugs, leaves and lizards was carrying his cameras. (You cancheck his excellent photos from Ashley’s funeral here). I’m off to check Google reader to see who else has posted anything else up.

Sinn Fein, New Orleans. We will never let the fire go out.

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