Chris's Diary

Thurs 17th Feb Beautiful clear day, watched Ohio river move solid, grating. Chèle gave me ride to Louisville, met Mrs Stokes & played her Steinway piano and old German wooden flute.

Took me further to service station. Sweet goodbyes. Sat there for ½ hr playing harmonica and singing the blues:

“I’m sitting here on the corner, trying to flag a ride”
“I’ve a woman in Ohio I love that gel but I had to go” etc

Guy in truck cab from Alabama picked me up. Said he knew Debbie Smith, I said I didn’t believe him and we left it at that. He bought me a root beer and we talked about everything from wine women & song to politics (South Kentucky, Tennessee & North Alabama, rolling hills like a semi-tropical England), stopping off for a gross American tranny caf meal at which I took part in Bar B Cued chicken smeared with tomato ketchup & I made a phone call to Cincy stating my great lift. Privately got into:

He dropped me off by a caf in Jackson, Alabama, where he lived, about midnight. I had a coffee and met a black guy called Tommy loading the jukebox for funky sounds.
Walked down the road getting into:

A Smokey stopped for me, submitted my identifying particulars to HQ, sussed I was OK and started taking me down the road. Had to leave me while he chased a drunk going the other way, came back & picked me up again. The drunk (very, “enough to go to jail”), had told him he’d pull over and sleep it off. A few minutes later he had a description (over his radio) of a car belting along without lights – all he said was “he must’ve woken up” and took me to the edge of his patch, chatting about CB’s to me and talking incomprehensible CB talk into his mike in between times, punctuated with “Hot damns”, and telling his HQ he’s giving him a ride, they said holidays are only on weekends, he said “Hot damn.” Walked another two miles or so, sat down to write this by a phone box, getting up & running to the road whenever I heard a car or truck. That’s how busy this road is. Slept on a roadside bench, couldn’t understand why it (the bench) was so cold, incredibly clear night.

Fri 18th Then ‘beep beep’ and it was almost daylight with another smokey asking how long I’d been there and to see my “Ah Dee”. “Yew the bouy state troopah gave rahd tew erliah?” “Uh,hu”. Another day dawned! I’d been sleeping on a stone slab last night! Walked a few miles down that road, sun beating down! Ended up in just a t-shirt. Eventually got two short rides to the N.O. road, one with a real drawler with a C.B, and another with a real white man in an old Mustang who drives trucks and wants more than anything to go to Africa to shoot a water buffalo. After 20 minutes, old USAF in a 77 Buick he’d just bought stopped. Started off quiet, but eventually got talking about himself as he worked his way through a 6-pack. He got retired from USAF for getting his own way out of jams in action instead of following orders to the letter. After flying in WW2, Korea & Vietnam. If they couldn’t change his ways, no one can, least of all his wife, etc etc. Dropped me 5 miles from Downtown N.O. Walked along the highway a bit, getting into:

Resigned to walking on highway, no thumb, when some guys who’d just driven from Cincy stopped for me, gave me Beer & J and dropped me near Canal St. Bought toothpaste and asked directions for bus to Matairie, walked about a bit & phoned Charles Trufant, who was at his office. Got buses to there (at the hospital), thinking how Jazz had left its mark on the buildings of the town. Roads bend like London. This place has got feeling! Warmest greeting, like he’d known me for years, coffee and shower, introductions to all at office, then back to his home & wife & 3 daughters, Jane, Sally & Mary. Archive Jazz record, beer and stewed chicken & rice. Went out to a Mardi Gras parade with floats & youngsters dancing along, drums & loads of budding musicians holding flutes, saxes, clarinets & occasionally playing marching tunes. Plastic necklaces & coins thrown from floats. And this is just a warm-up! Then French-style donuts with powdered sugar & coffee in Fat City. Called Cincy but call not taken as Chèle was out. They’ll figure from the call that I got here. Came back and looked at Bill’s (their son’s) many aquaria, feather dusters, shrimps, sally lightfoot, lion fish, etc etc etc. Played flick football & table tennis, then a shower & long-needed sleep in Bill’s room. In anticipation, out like a light.

Sat 19th Got up, surprisingly enough, about 9. Coffee & corn muffins & sugar cane syrup for breakfast, Isis & Shazam! on TV, interspersed with loony cartoon adverts (they called then messages, like you really want to know about them). Lift to Airline bus stop, buses to Canal St. Walked toward river and stopped for beer at a sort of shack. That was unnecessary. A few blocks back and north and the French Quarter. Bourbon St! Wow! First music was a heavy metal band called Butch Mudbone, really heavy southern blues, though they were young & did a Rolling Stones number. Then the Dixie bars. You may pay through the nose for the beer, but at least you can walk through the door for free. Trouble is you have to buy liquid. First a smootchy sound (40’s?), layed back version of Misty, then she brought me beer and asked me for $5.20, so I apologised and split. Next one: An approx 70-year-old Trumpeter called Thomas Jefferson playing the tunes really simple, with just so much embellishment. He was so cool, like he’d done it all, he never took a solo, leaving them to trombone, clarinet, piano, bass & drums. Two beers was $5.20 here but I mentally shrugged my shoulders and handed over. Chatted to guy Steve from Missouri who [was] waiting for his friends to return & had no idea of time owing to a yellow dot he’d located. Great talking about England like it’s a foreign country, met Tom Jeff in the loo who opened conversation with “Allright?” I told him what I thought of N.O. music and he said he’d played in England in 74 & 75. Another set: a tap dancer tapped outside with a top hat on the sidewalk in front of him, joined later by a tap-dancing bird who looked 10 years old & knocked everyone out. The manager dragged them both into the bar for a couple of numbers. I wondered on into the “Maison Bourbon Society for preservation of Jazz” that was more casual – hung around while they finished a set, without being asked to buy something wet. The trumpeter & singer was a big sort of Latin or Italian looking guy who blew hard and had a sense of humour: passed the mike to a young lady with a fake trombone kazoo for a few bars, yelled “I don’t care if y’all from Pittsburgh,” jumped onto the bar for a solo, etc. Finished with a 12 bar that went into shake rattle & roll and had everybody jumping. One guy fell off his chair backwards and didn’t stop dancing after that. Drum solos in this town are like a continuous Zutty Singleton [accented?] roll. Solid. The band was all Latins except a 90-year-old Negro pianist who chewed gum and accompanied lunatic remarks from the singer as he soloed. I don’t know if this is the red light district, but there is a lot of organised entertainment in that line all up this street. Folks throwing beads out of windows all along – a guy on a balcony playing ‘My Favourite Things’ Coltrane- style out of a soprano, swaying about & sounding perfect.
Wandered the rest of the French Quarter. Burgundy Street was nothing, but turned me on just to walk down it. Bourbon St seems to be the only music and flesh street. Royal St, the next one towards the river, was full of posh antique shops & other French stuff.
Wandered into a ritzy hotel where Sam somebody was going to play (tenor) sometime, not really expecting much as the price of liquid would have to be exorbitant to compare with the ‘cheap’ bars down the street. Found myself in the roof (15 stories) where there was a pool and a great view of Mississippi River and a bit of Downtown. Felt a bit spaced out & decided I was hungry having had two corn muffins and a heap of beer all day (it was about 4.30) so bounced down the stairs and found a stand that sold pizza & also later a couple of 10c donuts. Phoned Charles & arranged to meet for the Endymion parade. Sat in a one-beer bar and heard a set of washed-out Dixie played by competent but washed-out geriatrics.
Saw Butch Mudbone again with a singer and harp player sitting in with a gutsy version of key to the highway. Then they started honky tonk women, very solidly, but I remembered my appointment and moved on. Crossed over Perdido Street (these names mean so much to an out of towner like me who only knows the city by recordings) and eventually found the designated spot, which I forgot the name of half way through asking directions a couple of times & can’t remember now, hung out and found Charles & a daughter & friend buying toffee apples & cotton candy. We sat in a parking lot eating sweeties & waiting for it to happen. After a pile of police vehicles & sand buggies, an electric funky band with an absurdly simple but antipodal riff with a horn or two joining in every 4 cycles or whatever. Then an electric Dixie band came marching down – electric bass & guitar, drums & miked tenor and trombone and a bugged clarinet playing ‘When you’re smiling’ then ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. A tenor solo was faultless and sufficient but unremarkable. It made me feel good and funky to think I could have done something else with it. Coming to this city has set me on music, having had a lot of rubbish knocked out of me in Cincy.
Then a chick in a van called me over and asked me to kiss her, in a way that could get her into trouble some day. I ran down the street doing just that and she thanked me kindly and gave me a stuffed dog.
Then the floats came by, interspersed with high school bands doing ultra-corny marching tunes. I don’t know how many, but they each represented countries, with tons (really) of beads and special plastic coins called doubloons being flung to yelling outstretched hands. The costumes & set ups are beyond my powers of description which maybe doesn’t say much, I’m just being lazy. It finished with USA and outer space, then a greasy-haired rock n roll band that really laid it down. The pianist danced while he played, somehow.
The two youngest daughters & their friend & I had fun with the dog on the way back. He needed a massage to get straw into a front knee joint, which I administered amongst giggles from the others, then we played Puttets with him and a fake oversized toothbrush which their friend got from the parade, over the seats. I put a plastic (of course) Endymion medallion on his collar and we decided that’s his name.
Stopped off at a Dunkin Donuts during which the 1” wall-tile pattern, mostly white with a few interspersed colours, got me into:

Then drove home. Charles, Sally & I walked Sally’s friend down the street, rather skipped her home, all holding hands. Charles felt whacked, so Sally & I skipped back. It’s nice playing around without the responsibility of having to get it on. She must be about 14. Good clean fun, really. Finally, hitting the sack & writing this in bed. What hospitality! They didn’t know me from Adam. What’s so good is that Chèle’s daddy must have said something pretty darn nice about me over the phone. I love these Trufants, all of them.