My friend Clay Franks is a true Louisianan. I’ve been hounding him to write something ever since he finished his ethereal urban prose set to My Bloody Valentine. So, he recently wrote a lovely piece on New Orleans and the Preservation Hall Jazz band, and what with New Orleans being the center of attention during this late summer weather, it feels like the right time to share it here with you.
In New Orleans, we spend a lot of time remembering. Remembering a certain meal, a certain place. Remembering what restaurant used to occupy such and such block, remembering what it was like before the storm disemboweled the city. We can spend long afternoons remembering lovers we’ve lost and longer ones still trying to remember the best way to make a particular cocktail. How much sugar. How much rye. Just a roll of absinthe and only a single kind of bitters. In a city so aged, so storied, nostalgia can be the most heady libation.
So for any son or daughter of this place, any child of this Creole dirt, that high honk of horns is one of the most enduring memories. It’s an echo of every walk through the Quarter, every wedding and every funeral. Every sight of old black faces playing under the jazzman’s hat. Of names like Olympia, Algiers and Treme. It’s every time you ever got caught up in a Second Line and completely forgot where you were supposed to be. Of hot nights and smoky clubs. Sweat-sticky bodies dancing closer and closer together.
One note of a New Orleans horn is a shout out to generations of a cityâ€™s collective experience. It doesn’t matter if you hear that horn in Paris or New York City, the first bars of old standards like “Eh La Bah” will put you firmly in the holy city of New Orleans. Drunk on every ounce of the history. Every moment of the experience. It’s an understanding that once this place gets in you, you will never be able to see, able to taste, able to hear a place quite like you did this one. Go anywhere else in the world, and the smallest remembrance of New Orleans will make your eyes light up. As sure and steady as jazz rolling through the night, that’s a promise.