The Jester - Mardi Gras Museum
New Orleans (that's New Awlins - sometimes Nawlins - but never New Orleens). The Big Easy. NOLA. The Crescent City. The City of Dreams. The City That Care Forgot.
The city with something extra.
Which brings us to our word for today - lagniappe.
Lagniappe -pronounced "lan-yap" - from the Creole to mean a gift given to customers at the time of purchase (like the 13th donut when you buy a dozen). Derived from the Spanish "la napa (please add the
tilde over the n, for you linguists in the crowd) or simply, "the gift".
So, lagniappe? Hold that thought for a minute.
went ostensibly for the Final Four. Yes, we did go to the championship game but frankly, that was the least interesting part of the whole adventure. The game itself wasn't much and we had to sit through an hour plus of hideous canned hip-hop/commercial
overtures (regrettable attempts to elevate a sporting event to a matter of metaphysical importance) played at ear-piercing levels. I will say the Superdome does look all spiffed up after Katrina blew its roof off in 2005.
Anyway ... .
We were at the aquarium and since my purple and gold LSU t-shirt distinguished me from the blue (Kentucky and Kansas) and the red (Louisville and Ohio State)
fans from the Final Four schools, one of the volunteers at the place said hello. I gave her the instant biography (I went to LSU law school, Class of 1975) and allowed how much we loved the city and had been down 5 times since I got out of school.
Her response, delivered in a voice used to gently correct a child, left me humbled, if not downright ashamed:
"Five times in 37 years? That's not so many."
The "lagniappe"? Well, if you're in love with a place or a person or something/anything, try to pay a little more attention than once every 7 years or so. No, as one of my friends once told me, you can't do everything.
But you can do a lot more than what you're doing.
Walking around in the French Quarter we saw a little boy, maybe 10, playing a trumpet (not a little boy's toy - a man's trumpet) with a
small band of adults. No, he wasn't a virtuoso and needed to be coaxed. But when he responded he did a more than passable job of exchanging musical phrases with the clarinetest.
the same place (same band) the next day, a girl of roughly the same age, dressed in her Catholic school plaid skirt was playing the drums. No minature Gene Krupa but she could keep time - no small task when most kids her age can't concentrate for more
than 15 seconds.
We were eating breakfast after Mass on Palm Sunday at the venerable (since 1894) Old Coffee Pot, when, for no apparent reason, one of the waitresses broke out in song. The
song was the old children's hymn/rhyme, "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know". The waitress, in a different lifetime, could have been a professional singer. But the audience that morning was a little girl, perhaps 7 or 8, eating breakfast with her family.
The little girl was rapt. She just stared at the singing waitress. When the song was over, the room burst into applause.
This wasn't staged. It wasn't related in any way to those
fake events when the staff comes out with some cheap piece of cake and sings, "Happy Birthday." This was pure. Simple. Just an aging waitress who could sing and a little girl.
night we went to a tiny club and listened to Ellis Marsalis, Jr. and his quartet. Mr. Marsalis, who is well into his seventies, is the pater familias of the renowned Marsalis family (Wynton, the trumpeter, Branford, the saxophonist, Delfeayo,
the trombonist and Jason, the drummer - that Marsalis family). Ellis brings his band (no, not his family - although Delfeayo makes regular appearances at the same club) to the same place every Friday for two shows which are generally sold out.
So, sandwiched in line waiting for the second show, once couldn't help but over hear a woman talking to her friends, speculating what it must be like at the Marsalis house at the holidays or whenever they
all get together.
The answer, lady, is that it's exactly like a thousand other households in New Orleans - bursting at the seams with piano players, trombonists, saxophonists, trumpeters, members
of the church choir, kids in the drum lines of a dozen high school bands and waitresses who sing to little girls.
Some famous. Some nearly famous. Some not famous at all.
But all of them in a straight line from the tiniest little musicians to Louis Armstrong and everyone who ever blew a horn or tickled the ivories or let out a song.
That's The City That Care Forgot.
That's the place I love.
You should go. I should go more often.
Remember, lagniappe is always free.
Gary and Cindy.
Gary Growe copyright 2012.