When I had first arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday night at Celebration Hall, there were rumors about a second-line being held on the following Sunday. Ultimately, they proved to not be true, but the second-line activist Big Red Cotton sent me a Facebook message that indicated that there would be a Stop The Violence Picnic uptown at A. L. Davis Park sponsored by the Kings of Kings Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and that brass bands would likely appear. So after breakfast, I headed out to A. L. Davis Park, formerly Shakespeare Park, which is the scene of the annual Uptown Super Sunday at which the Black Indian tribes appear. I found that there was a picnic going on, with basketball under the pavilion, youth football games in progress, and a DJ, but no brass bands, perhaps because there was also a heat emergency, and the temperature was near 100 degrees outside. Still, some little kids were having fun playing football and basketball, or watching the others, and the event called attention to the problems New Orleans has been having this summer with street violence.
As I headed back toward the CBD, I drove through the Central City area, and with the weather blazing hot, when I saw a snow-cone sign on Washington Avenue, I took a detour onto the side street and found a snowball stand called The Red Rooster. While New Orleans people are familiar with snowballs, I need to point out that New Orleans-style snowballs are quite different from the snow cones that are sold elsewhere across the country. Not only are the flavors different, but so is the ice, which at the better snowball stands is shaved. This particular stand also serves food, and has a shrimp po-boy on the menu that I will have to try on a future visit. The street where the stand is located looked familiar to me, and might have been the location where I visited Eddie’s 3-Way Records back in the 1980’s. I recall that it was on a side street off of Washington Avenue, that it was a block from a housing project (likely the Magnolia Projects), and that there was a snowball stand nearby that served po-boys. Further down in Central City, I came to a number of inspirational murals, which are common in New Orleans. One listed the Zulu Nation Laws of Success, as well as a number of famous men and women and was attributed to the Central City Art Project. Another one stated “Be The Change You Seek.” One of the things I love about New Orleans is the prevalence of public art, official and unofficial, even in the roughest neighborhoods.
After the late afternoon listening session at Cutting Edge NOLA, I was in the mood for a burger, and after looking at all the various burger options, I decided to try Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar uptown on Magazine Street. Charcoal’s is a large two-story restaurant on Magazine at Jackson, with a downstairs that seems to be a to-go location, and an upstairs bar for the dine-in customers. The upstairs bar also has balconies on its Magazine and Jackson Street sides, but the late afternoon had seen a line of thunderstorms, so everything was wet outside. The menu at Charcoal’s is interesting, and offers a choice between a number of predesigned specialty burgers, or the option to build your own . Meat choices include elk, antelope, turkey, bison, akaushi, shrimp, and even a vegetable burger for those who don’t want meat. There are also choices of cheeses, other toppings, Benton’s bacon, and freshly cut french fries. Prices are not cheap, but the charming space, attentive service and unparalleled burger options make Charcoal’s worth the price.
Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar
2200 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70103
From Pop’s House of Blues, the second-line made its way down Dryades to the corner of Second and Dryades, where it disbanded in a huge crowd in front of the Sportsman’s Corner, an Uptown lounge that I have heard is a location for Black Indian practices. The music continued for some time after reaching the end of the line, and the groove is kept up not only by the band, but by the ad hoc percussionists from the crowd who are playing empty bottles with sticks, or cowbells that they brought with them. One such man tells me that he is the “Bottle Man”, but I suspect there are numerous “bottle men” in this second-line and every other. Unfortunately, as things were breaking up, I faced a dilemma, as this was my first second-line that disbanded at a different place than it began, and in fact, four miles away. Already I was dead tired, and the prospect of a four-mile walk back to the Calliope projects didn’t particularly appeal to me. But this proved to be one of those seeming problems that often has a simple solution in a magical city like New Orleans. Since I knew some of the Stooges Brass Band members, I asked them how they were getting back to the Calliope where they began, and one of them told me that they and their instruments would ride back on the tailgate of his truck. So in beautiful, late afternoon 66-degree weather, instead of a long, tiring walk, I got a ride back to the projects (and my car) with members of one of my favorite New Orleans brass bands. The day could not have ended any better.
After we left Silky’s, we had a brief unscheduled stop about a block away in front of a boarded-up building, the purpose of which I never figured out, but the Stooges Brass Band kept playing all the way through it, and soon we were on our way again, to the corner of 7th and Dryades, where I learned that the old Joe’s House of Blues has become Pop’s House of Blues, and is apparently under new ownership. An older man had set a lawn chair directly on the point of the club’s roof, and was sitting up there in the sun. When we arrived, he got out of his chair and began dancing right where he was up on the roof.
It probably doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the more exuberant second-liners still end up on the roofs of buildings, as a good place to dance and perhaps to also be noticed by the crowd, as two young men did at the intersection where Silky’s bar was, one of the scheduled stops on the second-line. One of the men scaled a fence and ended up on the roof of a small garage behind a residence, where he wowed the crowd with his moves, before proudly yelling to us all that he represented the CTC (Cross The Canal) Lower 9th Ward. A girl near me said “That boy reppin’ by himself, way uptown here”, and her friend replied, “You gotta respect it.”
From the S & S Club, our parade worked its way down sidestreets to a club called Silky’s, where the largest crowd of the afternoon so far was gathered, and also where some of the most exuberant dancing broke out.
Like most second-lines, the Lady Jetsetters’ parade picked up a lot more people as it made its way down Martin Luther King to a scheduled stop at the S & S Club, where another hundred or so people were gathered.
Along the route of the Lady Jetsetters second-line last week was a church whose sign proclaimed it Second Zion Baptist Number One. On an earlier post today, I noted the commonly-encountered “Second” prefix in New Orleans church names, but how a church could be “Second” and then also “Number One” somewhat escapes me. I’m sure someone from the city can give me an explanation.
Another charming fact about New Orleans is the tendency to run into well-preserved anachronisms everywhere, such as this remarkable 1930’s or 1940’s era service station, that has held up remarkably well despite Hurricane Katrina. Properly restored, it would make a wonderful coffee bar or restaurant.