Only in N’Awlins

This weekend and next are Jazzfest, the annual blowout at the Fairgrounds Racetrack that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year at this time. Almost any one of the headliners would fill the New Orleans Arena at big prices, but for 50 bucks you can see every one of them. It’s the bargain of the year—if you don’t mind wading through a hundred thousand of your closest friends. (Last year’s festival drew 350,000 paying customers over the two weekends.)

Today, Friday, for example, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss entertain from 3:30 until 4:50. At the same time, acts are taking place on ten other stages throughout the Fairgrounds area. Sheryl Crow will follow Plant and Krauss. Stevie Wonder will be in town. Billy Joel, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Buffett, Frankie Beverly, Al Green, Randy Newman, Widespread Panic, you name it. (I have no idea who that last group is, but you’ve gotta love their name.) Hundreds and hundreds of bands and acts and choirs and programs. Like drinking from a fire hydrant.

Go to for complete information. Next weekend, the program begins on Thursday and goes through Sunday. If you are coming, pay close attention to details on how to ride public transportation to the fairgrounds. You won’t find a parking place anywhere near there and police patrol it full-time writing tickets.

Church choirs get into the act, too. Franklin Avenue Baptist Church’s choir does that incredible thing they do from the AIG Gospel Tent today at 5:55 pm.

“We want to bring a whole year’s worth of music here in a week,” said organizer and promoter Quint Davis. “We have a great national lineup.” He says this festival is different from all the others, including Austin City Limits. “We’re a festival for grownups.”

Whatever that means.

Interestingly, most of the groups on the programs are from in-state.

The front page of Friday’s paper tells the story of Rosalie ‘Lady Tambourine’ Washington. “She’s one of those only-in-New Orleans institutions. To some, she’s a star; to others, a nuisance. Either way, she has been a constant presence for more than a decade to those crowded under the Gospel Tent at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell.”

What she does, and has done for all these years, is stand in the crowd and play her tambourine along with the choir on stage. “Her scene-stealing, enthusiastic turns with her tambourine aren’t universally embraced. Last year, a police officer barred Washington from performing during a Gospel Tent act.”

The article continues. “Washington, who regularly turns up at New Orleans churches, nightclubs, and other festivals, is a 5-foot-6-inch dervish, bobbing to the rhythm and as singer and fan Charmaine Neville puts it, ‘beating the hell out of the tambourine.'”

So, this year, they put her on the program. She has her own slot on the Gospel Tent stage, backed up by the Greater Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church choir. In addition, she will “sit in” with other acts that request her, and avoid those which do not.

Lady Tambourine is “a marvel to watch. Her fist, elbow, and knee all take their turns pounding the tambourine head until it pops. She has gone through 30 so far this year, saving her spent tambourines to sell as souvenirs.”

Only in N’Awlins.

Now, some local stuff of a less fun nature.

The Jefferson Parish Council–they administer the government for nearly 400,000 residents in unincorporated parts of this parish such as Metairie and River Ridge–has been requesting bids for the next 5 year contract to pick up garbage and trash from our city streets. Problem is, they made a requirement that no company in business less than 5 years could submit a bid. That just happened to cover Sidney Torres’ SDT company which is cleaning up the streets of New Orleans better than anyone has ever seen. People say they’ve never seen the French Quarter without trash in the streets, but SDT is pulling it off.

A big article in April 24’s Times-Picayune blew the whistle on the council. It turns out that most of the council members have relatives and other close friends in the trash removal business and they’re looking out for their interests (as opposed to mine). So, today, Friday, we have this letter to the editor from Kenner resident Nancy Nobles: “Thanks for starting my day with an article that reads like a comedy routine from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It seems nearly every member of the Jefferson Parish Council has a friend, cousin, or ex-husband who owns a garbage-related business. I’ve lived here all my life, and the only contact I’ve developed is the guy in the orange vest whom I slip an extra $10 to pick up those nasty palm branches with the killer thorns. Too bad none of our elected officials has a brother-in-law with an interest in recycling. We could cut that $59 million garbage contract in half.”

Yesterday, we reported on Jesse Bryant, the Raceland guy who was taking possession of “abandon property” in St. Bernard Parish, and got charged with criminal trespassing for his troubles. New Orleans resident Grace T. Perrine writes: “As a homeowner, I would welcome someone who would stake out the blighted, decaying, weed-infested, absentee-landlord-owned property next door to me–and repair it or tear it down!”

Columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes: “If Jesse Bryant was going to walk around with hand-lettered signs staking his claim to other people’s property, he couldn’t have picked a more fitting place to do so than St. Bernard Parish.”

“According to one sign: ‘I, Jesse Bryant, do take possession of this abandon property at 3304 Oak Drive.’ That’s the best piece of signage since ‘license apply for’ and about as legally valid.”

This week GAMBIT magazine–that freebie which covers local goings-on and can be picked up in super markets–speculated on who might run for mayor in 2010 and they got the FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge in big trouble. The editor thought that SAC James Bernazzani would make a good mayor. After all, he’s been a real take-charge guy–age 52, Harvard-educated, tough-talking, scoping out public corruption anywhere it exists–and may be just what we need.

A couple of television stations rushed over to the FBI building a few blocks from our associational offices and interviewed Bernazzani. “I might run for mayor,” he said. “I have a certain skill-set which would work in that situation.” I was fascinated by this interview. Here is a new thought–electing the FBI to your mayor’s office. Boy, the rats would run then, wouldn’t they! The other thought I had was–hey, can FBI guys talk like this?

We found out Friday.

Bernazzani was sacked. I mean, the big man in Washington, D.C., got him on the phone and said that will be quite enough; pack your bags and move to the D.C. office. Now. Today. The official news release said fighting public corruption in this city is so important, the FBI cannot afford to have its work compromised by even the hint of a conflict.

From the first news story, it appears that Bernazzani is trying to decide if he plans to resign from the Bureau and hang around or obey the director. “This city is so worth saving,” he is quoted as saying.

Methinks the FBI has just made him a local hero and our next mayor.

Never a dull moment down here.

Pastor Duane McDaniel and his wonderful church members from Hawaii are in town, holding a block party tonight in a neighborhood off to the side of the Baptist seminary. Then tomorrow, Saturday, a large group of Alabama folks will join with Louisianians in prayer-walking selected neighborhoods of our city. We welcome these and all who come to help us.

Even those who just come to hear the Tambourine Lady.

1 thought on “Only in N’Awlins

  1. I would loved to have seen Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, I grew up listening to bluegrass, and Robert Plant, and various other genres of music, good stuff! I really liked your comment of “drinking from a fire hydrant” and agree, but where else can you see such big names, and talented musicians for $50, right? We sure do live in a great city!


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