Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday at the Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak St.
Just after Midnight
New Orleans, La.

Dear Family and Friends--

Last night, when the Rebirth Brass Band's drummer walked through the door 30 minutes late, no one batted an eye.

"They need you," the bouncer said.

Rebirth is worth the wait. They began at 11:30 for a 10:30 show, administering their instant injection of pro-New Orleansness to a mixing pot of college kids, hipsters, brothers, sisters, barbie dolls and senior citizens.

The senior citizen part is true. They enter at their own risk, with no guarantee of replacement if a hearing aid breaks.

The Maple Leaf bar is positioned on a road out of a Jack Kerouac novel. The store fronts have character because the proprietors have character. Oak street is stuck in a time warp, but has installed wi-fi and bikram yoga spots to suit the needs of our 21st century quest for information and spiritual centering.

Its music hall is small, and fire codes are broken. People file in and in and in. At the end of the herding and beginning of the brass player's craft, your shoulder is next to a person whom you don't know but don't mind bumping into. Two vintage ceiling fans are doing a terrible job of circulating air. Fifty-watt light bulbs are off and the collective bounce of the crowd makes the little metal chains attached do their own jigs.

Everyone sweats. I'm talking man my clothes are sticking to me and I'm wiping my forehead every 30 seconds sweat. I bet girls hate this, especially the ones that put stuff in their hair to make it "volumous." The light is just dark enough so the condensation factories we call our foreheads aren't on display.

The light is so good in fact, that a goofy guy bobbing unnaturally and wearing a bass fisherman's hat looks cool.

I love this place.

You can do anything and have no fear that about people watchers sizing you up. I've found several places like this in New Orleans-- places that don't wholly follow trends or fashion labels or attract women who've bought into the one-look man.

Outside, my friend Cole and I meet a French girl. She says New Orleans isn't anything like the European or American Cities she's visited.

Her response solidifies what many transplants from around the world have been suspecting-- there is no place like New Orleans. I know you've heard it a hundred times, but it's true and you must see it for yourself.

You can stay on my couch.



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