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In the Ninth Ward

Thursday night. New Orleans. The moon’s in the last quarter. Outside Vaughan’s in the Ninth Ward, a white Mercedes rolls up, the doors open and a plume of pungent smoke billows in the air. Two skinny kids get out and head inside, soon returning with steaming bowls of butter beans. Word got out that Chris was cooking. 

Inside, prayer flags and tinsel flutter from the ceiling. Fat stringed lights twinkle and sag under the a/c, the lousy unit sputtering cool air, losing its battle to the rising steam. Thick varnish glazes the bar, nicotine-stained from a bygone era when smoke hung like fog over the river.

The band’s mostly there, warming up, easily finding their groove, the crowd already f - e - e - l - i - n - g - i - t. They’re shaking their asses, waving their arms, spinning invisible webs. They know what’s coming. Believe me, they know. 

Amid the swell, a hero arrives, holding a gleaming trombone over his head--an incarnation of Jason with the golden fleece. The energy sizzles as he stirs the crowd with a call and response, inviting everyone in. Into this moment and into this space. Into the air we collectively breathe as it transforms to vibration and sound, spiraling around and through us, carrying us to an extraordinary world. 

An ecstatic world filled with music and joy. A pure world, like no other.

It’s Thursday night in New Orleans. 


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