Tourists From the Future

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”
― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey New Orleans, Louisiana

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey
New Orleans, Louisiana

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey New Orleans, Louisiana

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey
New Orleans, Louisiana

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey New Orleans, Louisiana

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey
New Orleans, Louisiana

Clyde Casey: A New Orleans mobile percussionist

A Roving Percussionist On The Big Easy’s Busy Streets

“Party lights hang over the street, yellow and red and green. Sadie stumbles over someone’s chair, but I’m ready for this and I catch her easily by the arm.

“Sorry, clumsy,” she says.

“You always were, Sadie. One of your more endearing traits.”

Before she can ask about that I slip my arm around her waist. She slips hers around mine, still looking up at me. The lights skate across her cheeks and shine in her eyes. We clasp hands, fingers folding together naturally, and for me the years fall away like a coat that’s too heavy and too tight. In that moment, I hope on thing above all others: that she was not too busy to find at least one good man …

She speaks in a voice almost too low to be heard over the music. But I hear her – I always did. “Who are you, George?”

“Someone you knew in another life, honey.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63

Tears Were Warm, And Girls Were Beautiful, Like Dreams

“Even so, there were times I saw freshness and beauty. I could smell the air, and I really loved rock ‘n’ roll. Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Abby Magill, of Home By Hovercraft Klyde Warren Park Dallas, Texas

Abby Magill, of
Home By Hovercraft
Klyde Warren Park
Dallas, Texas

NOLA Cherry Bombs

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!
—-Shakespeare, The Tempest

Nola Cherry Bombs Dance Troupe

performing with
Daria & The Hip Drops
Bayou Boogaloo Festival
New Orleans, Louisiana

NOLA Cherry Bombs

NOLA Cherry Bombs

NOLA Cherry Bombs

NOLA Cherry Bombs

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 12 – King of Jazz

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Twelve – King of Jazz, by Donald Barthelme

Read it online here:

King of Jazz

When I was a little kid I played trombone for a while. Actually, I think I was beginging to be pretty good at it. I can’t complain – it has given me an understanding of music that has served me to this day. After a couple of years we moved to a place that had no brass bands open to me and I made the discovery that it is impossible to play a trombone by itself. Probably for the best; it was about this time I learned to type.

So today we have a very short story (as is his wont) about a trombone player by Donald Barthelme. The trombone player is named Hokie Mokie and he is the new King of Jazz… now that Spicy MacLammermoor, the old king, is dead.

I remember when I played trombone in the school band, the most frustrating thing was the challenge system. Anybody could challenge a higher seat and if he won, he would take the place. I was first seat but I had to constantly contend with a bevy of lesser players that would game the system. The fact I was a young freshman made me an especially tempting target. They would practice one single piece until they had it cold, then challenge me with that piece. I was a better player, so I would usually win, but they kept coming and all I had to do is make one mistake and down I went. The bandleader would encourage me to challenge back as soon as possible, but I tired of the game pretty quickly.

In this story Hokie Mokie is challenged right off the bat by a Japanese Trombone player named Hideo Yamaguchi and the title King of Jazz is suddenly up for grabs.

I came upon the writings of Donald Barthelme in an odd, backward way. I stumbled across an article in the New Yorker (Good Losers, March 8, 1999) written by two of his brothers, Stephen and Frederick. It was an eloquent piece about an extremely successful family, the father a famous and influential architect and three sons that were noteworthy writers. The article was about two of them, Frederick and Stephen, who had become terribly addicted to gambling. It was fascinating and horrifying to read how these enormously talented and intelligent men were destroying their lives by driving down to the cheap casinos along the Mississippi coast and blowing all their livelihood on blackjack binges.

During the course of the article the brothers wrote about their older brother, Donald, and his revolutionary genius as an author. That interested me enough to do some research and to start to read his stuff.

Most of what Donald Barthelme writes are very short stories, flash fiction. They are unique and unusual bits of text – not what you are expecting or used to reading. They give up on a regular plot arc and make the reader figure out the meaning from a series of seemingly unrelated, often ridiculous statements, occurrences, or facts.

It’s a bit of an acquired taste. At first it was attractive to me because of its short nature – I figured I could read these little morsels of tales in some spare seconds here or there. But their simplicity turned out to be an illusion. The stories were more complex and deeper than they appeared on the surface. It took longer than I expected and were more work than I was prepared for – the tiny things had to be re-read and thought about.

“What’s that sound coming in from the side there?”
“Which side?”
“The left.”
“You mean that sound that sounds like the cutting edge of life? That sounds like polar bears crossing Arctic ice pans? That sounds like a herd of musk ox in full flight? That sounds like male walruses diving to the bottom of the sea? That sounds like fumaroles smoking on the slopes of Mt. Katmai? That sounds like the wild turkey walking through the deep, soft forest? That sounds like beavers chewing trees in an Appalachian marsh? That sounds like an oyster fungus growing on an aspen trunk? That sounds like a mule deer wandering a montane of the Sierra Nevada? That sounds like prairie dogs kissing? That sounds like witchgrass tumbling or a river meandering? That sounds like manatees munching seaweed at Cape Sable? That sounds like coatimundis moving in packs across the face of Arkansas? That sounds like – “
“Good God, it’s Hokie! Even with a cup mute on, he’s blowing Hideo right off the stand!”
“Hideo’s on his knees now! Good God, he’s reaching into his belt for a large steel sword – Stop him!”
“Wow! That was the most exciting ‘Cream’ ever played! Is Hideo all right?”

Bicycle Second Line

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle 'Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle ‘Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line, Pausing on Rampart Street New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line, Pausing on Rampart Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

In New Orleans for Tulane’s graduation last week… when I rode past the terminus of Bayou Saint John on my way to City Park and the Parkway Tavern I saw a Xeroxed poster on a telephone pole. Bike Easy, an organization that promotes cycling in New Orleans, was having a bicycle second line on Sunday.

What a great idea.

For those of you not familiar with New Orleans’ traditions, a second line is a special type of parade, unique to the city. The origins of the term is that the main participants in a parade, followed by a brass band are the “main line” or “first line”. The informal group that forms, following the band, is the second line.

The second line parade has taken on a life of its own and has become a hallowed tradition of the city.

The comedian Hannibal Buress did this bit on Jimmy Fallon’s show that explains the second line and how it works.

So, when Sunday rolled around I begged out of my other obligations and set off on my bike across the city from the Garden District to Bayou Saint John. This was the third day I had ridden this way (after going to City Park and Parkway, then to the Bayou Boogaloo) and I finally had the route pretty well figured out.

I arrived early and hung around talking to a few folks as the crowd grew and grew. I was wondering how they would work the band (walking would be too slow… you can’t play a trombone and ride a bike) and that was answered by the arrival of a truck pulling a trailer.

Everything took longer than anticipated so the ride didn’t get started on time, but that didn’t matter. The crowd had swelled to around six hundred cyclists of all types and abilities. I talked to a few folks that had bought new bikes and were going on their first rides and, of course, there were plenty of strong cyclists too.

Compared to, say, a Critical Mass ride in Dallas there were a lot more cruiser/commuter/comfort bikes and a lot fewer road bikes and fixies. That’s not surprising considering the rough roads, shorter distances, and general relaxed attitude in the Big Easy compared to my city.

Everyone piled into the street and the parade was off.

Waiting behind the band at a stop on the Bicycle Second Line. New Orleans, Louisiana

Waiting behind the band at a stop on the Bicycle Second Line.
New Orleans, Louisiana

I’m not actually sure of the entire route we rode – I think it was Desaix Avenue to St. Bernard and Rampart Street. There we took a break in Louis Armstrong Park for water and hot dogs before we rode down Esplanade to Decatur and through the French Quarter. We wound through the Central Business District and then out Canal back to the start. The route was an easy eleven miles or so, but caught some of the most interesting parts of the city.

Bicycle second line parade, downtown, Poydras Street. New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle second line parade, downtown, Poydras Street.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Six hundred bicyclists of varying speeds and abilities can stretch out for a long way. The ride had a motorcycle police escort that would blare down the opposite side of the street – all sirens and lights – to get ahead of the parade and block the streets. It was a complex, rolling dance of motorcycle cops, helped by volunteers on bikes that would help block smaller residential streets.

It was an operation that could only be done in New Orleans. It was obvious that the police knew how to organize and escort a parade – that they had done this many times before. We shut down traffic on some large and vital arteries, but again, New Orleans is used to this and everyone smiled and waved.

I fought my way through the crowd to ride near the front. I wanted to hear the band. We would stop at strategic places to allow the straggling riders to catch up and that was a great time. People clapped and danced along to the music. The band was really good – and had the stamina to keep playing the whole time.

The best thing about a bicycle second line is that when the parade pauses to let the slower riders catch up - you can dance in the streets.  New Orleans, Louisiana

The best thing about a bicycle second line is that when the parade pauses to let the slower riders catch up – you can dance in the streets.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Going down Decatur through the French Quarter, I noticed a ride volunteer standing in the middle of the street. The flow of bicycles was splitting on either side of her. I wondered what she was doing there until I went by. She was standing astride the biggest pothole I had ever seen. A bike wheel would plunge down there and disappear forever. You have to think of everything with a ride like this. Another tricky obstacle was the streetcar tracks on and around Canal. These ran parallel to the ride – and would swallow an uncareful wheel.

As we headed out of the Cetnral Business District a guy riding next to me shouted out with glee and enthusiasm, “We’re shuttin’ down Canal!”

The ride ended back where it started with everyone dispersing, either to the Bayoo Boogaloo or off into the neighborhoods. I checked my phone and my folks were getting together at the Columns Hotel, so I borrowed a bike map and planned another route across the city.

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Banjo Player in the Farmer’s Market

Banjo Player, Farmer's Market, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Banjo Player, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

I seem to always be taking pictures of banjo players.

John Pedigo of the O's. From a photograph taken at a beer festival, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas.  (click to enlarge)

John Pedigo of the O’s. From a photograph taken at a beer festival, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas.
(click to enlarge)

and there is my favorite – the banjo playing woman singing on Royal Street in the French Quarter, in New Orleans

Banjo Player on Royal Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans

Banjo Player on Royal Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans

Banjo Player on Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

Banjo Player on Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans