Archive for August 26th, 2006



It rains here even when the sun is out, and the sky is blue with big white puffy clouds. Crazy.

Last night Pam’s daughter Becky’s boyfriend bought us tickets to hear the Rebirth Brass Band play at a club called Tipitina’s in “Uptown” New Orleans. (Uptown is… actually as far south as you can go–it’s right along the Mississippi river, in a scary warehouse district south of the Garden District.)

Tipitina’s is a favorite of the locals, and Becky told us that we had to go before we left. And, since we’re leaving in a week, yesterday seemed like a good time to go. Rebirth Brass Band is a really popular band around here from what I’m told–they were nine guys who did brass band music with… hip hop undertones. Two saxes, three trumpets, three drummers, two trombone players, and a tuba player. (I know that adds up to more than nine but some played more than one instrument.) They played for two hours non-stop. And by non-stop I mean it was all really one song with lots of movements. They didn’t break and have an end to any of the songs–they all just blurred into each other. Their endless energy and lung capacity were incredible. (Especially the tuba player who never stopped.)


It really was a crazy experience. I went to a jazz club in Columbus with my friend Jeff once and there were all of eight people in the bar. Tipitina’s sold out last night. And everyone was young–it’s not like the jazz culture is a thing of the past–it’s a part of the city.

I was struck last night by the spirit of this town. On one hand there is a real loneliness and hopelessness down here that you sense when you talk to people. And on the other hand, they also have a strong desire to stick it out and see New Orleans rebuilt. The people who are here are the people who love this town and are willing to suffer through the aftermath of Katrina–even though it will take years (five? ten?) until this town is on its feet again.

Rebirth announced that they will be playing next Tuesday to celebrate the one year anniversary of Katrina. Mario, on Tuesday, told me where he would be: on his knees thanking God that they made it through another year. There’s a slogan around town I see on bumper stickers, yard signs and tee shirts: Rebirth, Rebuild, Re:new Orleans.

I think it’s appropriate that Rebirth Brass Band will play on Tuesday. Before I left to come down here, people would ask me what I thought–should they rebuild New Orleans or just bulldoze it. It made me pretty angry to be honest. I mean, why would we quit our jobs and move down here for three months if we just thought the whole place should be plowed over? But I’ve seen the same attitude even in people who come down here to gut houses with us. They ask “Why do people live here? Why don’t they just leave?”

But… I see that after they work here for a week and meet the people and meet the town, they get it. This city has a soul and the people who live here aren’t ready to just give up and move to Houston or Baton Rouge because it’s easier. This city is a part of who they are. Which is why I am rebuilding New Orleans. Because I think it’s worth saving.

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