While we were in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, NY in 2021 we resided (lived?, stayed?) in a neighborhood of locals. Many of the locals had been there for well over 30 years. And, while it took a couple weeks to fully integrate, we were incredibly successful. JDT has stayed in contact with a few, and likely will.
New Orleans is different. First, there is little doubt that community is incredibly important to NOLA. They are very intentional in discussing the commitment AND make huge effort to be inclusive. It is a community that will let you in easily, I believe to a point. And yet, the area we are in is different. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderfully situated on the edge of the Quarter and right next to the neighborhoods Treme and Marigny (pronounced MAR-eh-nee). Clearly this neighborhood is home to a very different group of people.
I was reading a local publication yesterday. A few articles on the upcoming JazzFest. By the way, the first since the onset of the pandemic. AND the community is so excited and anticipatory for its return. The free magazine has an article which is an interview with Ivan Neville – he of the iconic NOLA family, the Nevilles. Ivan is Aarons son; Art, Cyril and Charles’s nephew and Ian’s cousin (Art’s son), to only name the famous among them. I have been a fan of the Neville Brothers since the late 70s, early 80s. A regret is I never saw them perform live. Ivan and Ian are part of Dumpstaphunk. While I am less familiar with their work, I am incredibly excited to see them perform at JazzFest 2022. Another interview in the magazine was with Alex Wasily, the “bone” player for Dumpstaphunk. He resides most of the year in LA. In the interviews they are asked some common questions. Among them, where do they like to eat in NOLA. You see, food and eating is an incredibly important component of the NOLA culture. And Wasily kind of chuckled and said a Mexican food place in a part of town we had not ventured. JDT and I, being third generation Californians strive for variety in our dining. NOLA can be a bit “single note” for food if you let it. Doesn’t have to be, but it can be. So, I suggested we go to El Pavo Real. AND you know what, we just found our very first Mexican food place in the South that we REALLY enjoyed.
The Thomas family (JDT, Blair and Niels) has a thing about busses. They really do not like to use them. Let’s just say it is complicated. For me, it brings up wonderful remembrances around my Grandma. You know I have posted about Grandma extensively. She never had a drivers license. AND, while living in Oakland, she worked at Hunters Point Naval Yards during WWII. This was during the pre-BART, pre-phone app days that make it relatively easy to navigate public transit journeys. Grandma was very smart and very determined. While I never ventured out past Oakland on busses with Grandma, we did use AC Transit whenever we ventured together outside of the Diamond District. Grandma always made me feel safe, comfortable and confident on the busses.
So we jumped on the bus system to get to El Pavo Real. What took us 15 minutes to navigate back via Uber, took us 90ish minutes on the busses. Yes busses. We took the 88 to the 28. There were a number of great things about the journey, among them the fact that we had to walk less than 1/4 mile in total. One of the less great things is there can be, and was, some time between busses (about 30 minutes). The place that we transferred, Duncan Plaza, is a hub where many bus lines come together. What you get there is a peek into the bus riding community. Yes, it is low on the socio-economic ladder (read Rick Bragg for a wonderful southern author and his take on the connection between transportation. and socio-economic classes). After all, given choice, who would take 90 minutes to do what you could do in 15? Certainly not a sane person. With a little effort, people will connect. For ease of pain purposes, I seek out benches. I’m not the only one. Make a little eye contact. A self deprecating bit of humor. These are my tools I use to try to open a communication door. I do realize I am the fish out of water.
So, what is my point? What ever is my point? More than anything I want to say how full life can be when a bit of effort is made (more than anything this likely is a reminder and nudge to ME!). And that community can be found in the most unforeseen locations.