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Music in The Parking Lot

It's a balmy Sunday, I'm out in my back yard, the Saints won their playoff game last night vs. the Detroit Lions, cat Maggie is stalking (but not catching, thank God) a squirrel, and the Lone Trumpeter is loudly going at it somewhere behind the church.

I just love the Lone Trumpeter. I have no idea who he is, but assume he's an amateur whose family prefers him to practice outside. He's been heard here for the last two years, always at about this time when Mardi Gras parades are on the verge of rolling and marching bands are much in demand, and it's possible he's a high school student getting ready. Thing is, he's good and getting better. Playing riffs or whatever musicians call those bluesy trills, up the scale then down, snippets of songs, and he's always on the move. Dopplered music floats into my left ear and then again into my right, getting closer then farther away, and two years ago it was sort of cute but annoying. Last year he was competent. This year he's Kermit Ruffins.

Sometimes I get to my feet and stroll around the block to see if I can get a glimpse of him, but no dice. He seems to prefer the alley or the rear church parking lot where he can play unseen, unlike the Obvious Tuba-ist of two summers ago--a sturdy young man sweating up and down the sidewalks in front of our houses, tuba-ing his little heart out. Or the Visible Trombonist, sometimes marching over on Hillary Street. I guess when you're a student musician, practice space is at a premium and Momma doesn't always enjoy an up-close-and-personal concert in the living room, so you flee to the good ol' outdoors and take it to the streets...

But DAMN, this kid's getting good. Someday he might make money at this, and Momma'll let him have the back bedroom or whatever he wants.

Music sprouts like mold spores here. Ridiculous. A former occupant in my own little Creole cottage was "Miss Pearl" Jackson, younger sister of Mahalia, and whenever Mahalia Jackson visited town to stay with home folks, she'd sleep at this little house and sing gospel at the church next door. Local car dealer, Ronnie LaMarque, sings "When The Saints Go Marchin' In" on commercials for his business and it'd be more hilarious than it is if he was bad at it, but he's not. He actually sounds like Sinatra. Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard plays the trumpet. Former D.A. Harry Connick is a vocalist, and his son Harry Connick Junior took a casual piano skill learned as a child from local musicians like James Booker on to international fame. My friend Lolo's whole family is musical, one of them a noted professional jazz guitarist, three others at least making money at what they love. Totally normal people, the mom a concert pianist/organist for her Christian Scientist church, not a shred of self-celebrating bohemianism in them anywhere, just living their normal lives but which in New Orleans seem to frequently include musical talent out the ying-yang. --Okay, the (bassist) young son of the family is dreadlocked down to there and is currently touring Europe with a gypsy/klezmer band living out of a van, but for him that's utterly normal. He doesn't even have to try to be bohemian. He just is what he is. His older sister has a four-month gig in China singing jazz at a Shanghai hotel but her Facebook postings are so normal that you'd swear she's in Biloxi...

My mother was a pianist and former music major, a one-time aspirant herself to the concert stage, and she too was relatively normal. Whereas I myself probably possess more loose screws than Home Depot and can't play "Row Row Row Your Boat" to save my soul. Maybe if I had suspected by age eight or nine that someday I'd wind up in this place, maybe I would've let her teach me piano and I could've been just as normal as my neighbors. But no. I resisted all lessons.

At least I can appreciate what I hear, and what I'm hearing today is a normal slice of a young man's life. Bound for glory, or at least a Carnival parade.
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