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In October 2005

A comment here pointed out this sad news: the Mother In Law Lounge, captured in an essay in Letters From New Orleans, is evidently closing. Gambit:

This afternoon, we spoke to Betty Fox, the daughter of Antoinette K-Doe, who has been keeping the family’s Mother-in-Law Lounge open for a year and a half since her mother passed away unexpectedly on Mardi Gras 2009. Betty sounded exhausted down to her soul.

“I really have to do this. It’s actually overwhelming,” she said. “Everybody has a certain niche for something. My mama’s niche was this place, but it’s not mine. It’s just not mine. I been doing this a year and a half and I’m just tired.”

Full item here.

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toussaint2_001Friend of no notes Alex Rawls has a great piece about Allen Toussaint in the current Offbeat, check out the whole thing here.

I will of course just share you with the “SJI” moment:

He hadn’t performed any of the songs before including “St. James Infirmary,” despite the song’s status as a standard in New Orleans. “I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but it’s an easy song to remember,” Toussaint says. “I didn’t give it much thought, but for some reason the intro came to me like that. It was something I had done before on the piano, but never used.”

In that intro, he teases the melody with a little trilled, morse code-like figure before playing the melody as a series of single notes played only with the right hand. With each pass through the verse, he adds levels of complexity. “As far as my part is concerned, that’s the most unique thing about the song by this pianist—the intro and the interlude. That song is a good song on its own and is easy to remember. You just try not to ruin it.”

First: Rather charming modesty.

Second: I’ve always thought I could hear what sounds an awful lot to me like an “SJI” cameo within Toussaint’s “Tipitina And Me.” I thought I’d written about that once on this site, but I can’t find it in the archives, so maybe I just thought about it.

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Friend of no notes Cynthia J. passes along news of this documentary airing on PBS stations next month.

Lolis Eric Elie, a New Orleans newspaperman, takes us on a tour of the city – his city – in what becomes a reflection on the relevance of history folded into a love letter to the storied New Orleans neighborhood, Faubourg Tremé. Arguably the oldest black neighborhood in America and the birthplace of jazz, Faubourg Tremé was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South during slavery and a hotbed of political ferment. Here black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor cohabitated, collaborated, and clashed to create America’s first Civil Rights movement and a unique American culture. Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans is a riveting tale of heartbreak, hope, resiliency and haunting historic parallels.

While the Tremé district was damaged when the levees broke, this is not another Katrina documentary. Long before the flood, two native New Orleanians—one black, one white—writer Lolis Eric Elie and filmmaker Dawn Logsdon, began documenting the rich living culture of this historic district. Miraculously, their tapes survived the disaster unscathed. The completed film, Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, which critics have called “devastating”, “charming”, and “revelatory” is a powerful testament to why New Orleans matters, and why this most un-American of American cities must be saved.

There’s a trailer on the film’s site.

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A place in Reno

445 California Ave., Reno, NV

445 California Ave., Reno, NV

Interesting to discover that there is a bar called St. James Infirmary … in Reno, Nevada. BrooWaha describes it as a “bit of New Orleans in Reno,” and suggests that sazeracs are among the drink selections. (On the other hand, a rundown of what’s on the jukebox mentions no New Orleans musicians … or versions of “SJI.” Hm.) Apparently several of the owners are musicians, so I can only assume they have some affection for “SJI,” the tune.

On the off chance you’ve made your way to this site from BrooWaha (which links here) please note that the right version of my “SJI” essay to read is this one (which you can also, of course, read in more pleasurable book form).

Anyway, I’ve never been to Reno, but if I ever have reason to go there I’d certainly check this place out. If you go, let me know what you think.

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Coastlines and culture

Wow, so I’ve let a lot of time go by between posts. I have several things to share in the next couple of days, not sure where to start so I’ll go with this one.

Facing South notes another bit of cultural fallout from hurricanes and the failure to do anything about coastal erosion:

Hurricanes, flooding, and coastal erosion continue to threaten many indigenous communities across coastal Louisiana. Albert Naquin, chief of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians on Isle de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, says it’s time for the island’s remaining residents to move farther inland, surrendering their way of life to the twin threats of storm surge and coastal erosion.

News to me.

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In the comments to one of the posts below, AnimaMundi brings the sad news that the very popular New Orleans blogger Ashley Morris has passed away.

Those of you in New Orleans may want to know that the funeral is this Friday. (“Attire is either formal or SAINTS (or combination).” Further details here.

Also: An open thread about Morris, and news of a memorial fund.

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