By Lolis Eric Elie
We could go on telling stories about New Orleans and its culture, our characters and their foibles, for years to come. But you know what they say about all good things…
In New Orleans, we are rather famous for our funeral tradition of leaving the body behind in the graveyard while the living dance their way back, proof that life goes on, even after death. Think of this then, as a jazz funeral. A chance to remember Davis McAlary and his series of second chances at WWOZ. A chance to remember Antoine Batiste and his difficulties finding cab fare. Think of Janette Desautel and her struggles to get the food and business parts of her restaurant in sync. Of Toni Bernette, her noble causes and insatiable will to fight the good fight. Of Big Chief Lambreaux, the beauty of his suits and the iron of his will. And even ol’ Creighton Bernette who, before exiting too soon, left us with colorful rants about this insane world and the inmates in charge of it.
Pull those memories out and dance them around the room, all the while hearing Delmond Lambreaux’s trumpet or Annie T’s violin or Sonny’s guitar playing just for you.
One of the things we tried to do with ‘Treme’ was celebrate some of the kings and queens of New Orleans rhythm and blues, musicians whose contributions have too often been forgotten. Much like those musicians, there’s a traditional New Orleans dish that almost fell into obscurity: The calas, a rice fritter traditionally sold on the streets by black women, enslaved and free, for generations. As street vendors gave way to restaurants, the calas died away.