Monday, September 05, 2005


is it time for a second line yet?

after hearing harry shearer's le show on npr sunday afternoon, i discovered that besides being a wry political commentator and the voice of half the characters on the simpsons, he's also a long-time resident of new orleans.

his recollections had me thinking about the distinctive traditions of the second line (surprisingly left off this otherwise right-on list of new orleans favorites).

As you already know, New Orleans is a parading kind of town. Think of an occasion, and we celebrate with a parade. The folks in the parade are considered the "first line," and the groups of dancing spectators who follow the procession are the "second line." Now, that's a very simple definition because "second line" also has other meanings. Second lining is also a special kind of street dancing that came from traditional African-American parades.

After the Civil War, it was easier to get musical instruments, so African Americans began to form brass marching bands. Throughout the city there were fraternal groups and burial societies who often competed with each other to see which group could send off a member in the greatest style. When the service was over, and the procession moved from church to cemetery, the band played sad hymns and dirges. On the way back, the music became more joyful. The band played high-spirited tunes such as "Didn't He Ramble," and the second liners danced with wild abandon. The second line, usually sporting umbrellas and handkerchiefs, became traditional at these jazz funerals.
even when someone dies, in a time of extreme sadness and grief, it is just as important to celebrate that person's life, as it is to mourn their passing.

if this is true at a jazz funeral for one person, is it even more necessary at a time of national mourning?

with this question in my head, i read the following account in the sunday ny times:

In the midst of misery in New Orleans, there were lingering signs of a fading vivacity. About two dozen people gathered in the French Quarter for an annual Labor Day gay celebration, the Southern Decadence Parade. Matt Menold, 23, a street musician wearing a sombrero and a guitar, explained: "It's New Orleans, man. We're going to celebrate."
is it ever too soon for decadence in the big easy? and how about celebrating that some of the animals in the audubon zoo and aquarium have so far managed to survive the ordeal?

rays of hope within the darkness

Hey Brian! Its been a long time, good to hear from you. We'll talk more, but 2 thoughts on the subject.

1 - The news media was focusing on the looters because they were amazing. Somehow, they were able to justify taking 14 pairs of shoes and 4 guns and ammo because they didn't think the government was doing enough. Now we can argue about the government doing enough, but does one person who doesn't think the government is doing what it should, entitled to just take anything they want. I mean, they had guys stealing TVs - this was purely for cash. No basic needs to be met. Honestly, no one would criticize them for taking diapers or food or something for shelter, even medicine. But it is hard to feel sorry for someone with a TV on their back.

2 - I heard (on NPR) a commentary from a reporter who was in war zones and also covered the tsunami and he was amazed at how fast and effective our aid arrived. The question for him was not how fast aid got there, but compared to what? He was impressed at how much was done.
i heard a sad, but somewhat funny, observation recently that any looters who took tvs must have been either really clueless or were "really planning ahead" since noone anticipated there being electricity anytime within at least the next two months...
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